Authors: Fran Lee
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright © 2015 Fran Lee Romance
Cover art by Dar Albert
Edited by F. Romney
Extracted from the Men of Calder County box set.
The box set will still be available on Amazon through May 2015.
Electronic book publication September 15, 2014
Fran Lee Romance publication date April 5, 2015
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Fran Lee Romance.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and are used fictitiously.
To my daughter, who I miss terribly...
To a beautiful life cut far too short by tragedy...
To the grieving people she left behind...
And to her son who misses her the most...
God bless and keep you, Christina.
Flint had figured his life was just fine...until a gold-eyed little spitfire of a female broke into his motel room and threw his whole world into a tailspin. He'd never met anyone he wanted this desperately.
He didn't believe in love at first sight. Lust at first sight? Yeah...that worked for him. But love was something that happened to other damn suckers...not Flint Calderon.
He was as hard as his name...until he met
. He was blind-sided by a tiny female with a black eye...and he never knew what hit him.
Flint Calderon rolled his head on the thin pillow with a groan. He wasn’t sure which was worse…his hangover, or the pains from the way that fucking bronc had done a tap dance all over him after his nice clean dismount. He ached from the ends of his hair to his toenails. The slight noise that had awakened him stopped with his groan.
He cracked one bleary eye open to see who dared disturb him at this ungodly hour, ready to send the bastard scurrying for cover. He couldn’t see anyone in the dim light from the parking lot filtering in through the crack between the curtains of the motel room, but he was certain that he’d heard someone open the door and close it quietly. He let his eye droop closed and drew a deep breath in through his nose.
It sure as shit wouldn't be Curley
. The elusive scent wafted up from the floor was definitely soft and gentle. And it was way too early for maid service.
Shit! If Curley has given his room key to another fucking rodeo bunny, I'm gonna kill his dumb ass.
“That you, Curley?” His voice sounded like he had a wad of whiskey-soaked cotton stuck in his throat. No one answered, but he heard a slight scuffling noise coming from the direction of the floor. Suddenly tensing despite his pounding head and bruises, he stealthily lifted his head and surveyed the room. If Curley had found his way back to the room he’d answer, hangover or no. But his friend wasn’t flopped across the empty bed. The only clothes he could see strewn around the other bed and the chair were the ones he’d stripped off as he’d fallen into the sack a few hours back. He listened carefully, and heard a soft thump as someone bumped into the underside of his bed.
He moved quickly, rolling over and snagging the miscreant with one long arm as he hung out of his bed. From what his hand caught, he was damn sure the intruder was a “she”. The trapped female gave a squeal of shock and struggled like a fish on a hook as he dragged her up from the floor between the beds, rolling her over his body and then under him, pinning her flat on her back as he settled his weight firmly over the little wildcat.
“Okay, sweetheart…you want to explain why you’re crawling around my floor in the middle of the night before or after I call the cops?” He swore as the little hellcat tried to poke his eyes out and make a break for it. He jerked both wrists over her head and secured them there with one hand and reached for the lamp switch on the night stand with the other.
A shaky, muffled voice came from the face that was pressed against his chest as dim light flooded the room. “I was just trying to find a place to hi…” She corrected herself and went on. “Sleep…”
“So you broke into my room?” he growled, shaking sleep from his muzzy head.
“I didn’t break in! The door wasn’t locked. I didn’t know anyone was in here until you made a sound. I wasn’t trying to steal anything. I just wanted to keep warm and dry." The warm breath that fanned over his breastbone brought his bone-tired body right back to life. "Just let me go and I won’t bother you any more.”
Her lips moving against his nipple woke him up a bit more. Goosebumps spread over his chest and back. Holy shit!
He pulled away a bit to see what he’d caught, and his gaze met a pair of topaz eyes half-hidden by a rumpled rain-damp blonde mane. “You damn well could have put my eyes out, woman.” He inhaled again, and the smell of rain, female and fear invaded his head. “Who are you hiding from? You steal somebody’s wallet?” He’d caught her switch of words and wasn’t about to let it pass unquestioned.
“I didn’t steal anything. And it’s none of your business what I’m hiding from.” She blew at a strand of wet hair that lay across her eyes, and glared up at him in irritation.
“No?” he chuckled, grinning down at her. “Sweet thing, you made it my business the minute you came into my room uninvited.” He shifted a bit to let his swelling dick find a more comfy niche in the valley between her damp, jeans-clad legs, and then used his free hand to move the rest of her mussed hair out of her face. His grin faded as the big purple bruise on her left cheek came into full view.
“Who the fuck hit you, woman?”
Her eyes widened as his callused fingers gently brushed over the lump on her cheekbone, and he caught her chin before she could turn her face away to hide it from him.
“I ran into a door jamb,” she mumbled into his now-damp skin.
“With a little help…” he swore softly under his breath and loosened his death grip on her slim wrists. “Don’t try to claw me again, or I’ll tie your damn hands with my belt.” His voice was gruff even to his ears. Once both hands were free, he caught her face between his large palms and made her turn this way and that to check that bruise.
She winced, and he swore again as he backed down her body a bit and tugged her collar open a couple of inches to stare at a larger bruise shaped a lot like a handprint on her throat. “Somebody hurt you, woman. Tell me who did this.” He felt like pounding someone’s face in. “Did he rape you? Do you need a doctor?” His anger boiled out of his mouth before he could stop it. There was nothing lower than a man who would hurt a child or a woman and from the size of that hand print, he could tell that the bastard was one hell of a lot bigger than his victim.
There was never any excuse for cruelty.
Lily Thomas was terrified of telling this man what had happened to her. She didn’t feel like telling a total stranger that her step-dad Jacob Proctor was a low-life, murdering prick. And it wouldn’t do any good to call the cops, because the bastard had the whole damn world convinced that she was a liar, a thief, and a suicidal drug addict. They would simply arrest her for running away again, and hand her back over to the son-of-a-bitch, who’d had himself appointed her legal guardian after she’d
tried to kill herself after her mom had died of an overdose of sleeping pills.
The man my mom had so trustingly married was Lucifer himself.
He had hoodwinked her widowed mom into thinking he cared about her. Had taken her over to the county recorder’s office and had her put their home in his name. Had gotten his hands on her dad's insurance, their bank accounts, and he’d gotten full control of all the things her dad had left for her when he’d died.
The safe deposit box where her dad had put all their legal papers was opened, all its contents removed and hidden somewhere else by Jake. Everything...including her birth certificate, the deeds to the house and land, and the insurance papers that named her as full beneficiary if her mom ever died. He’d even taken away her wallet and ID so she couldn’t run off.
The rotten bastard had made her mom’s death nearly three years earlier look like an accidental overdose instead of premeditated murder. And then he’d made Lily's own “suicide attempt” look realistic enough to get the judge to appoint him as her conservator once they’d let her out of the county hospital after three months of psychiatric “observation”.
It certainly hadn’t been
idea to stir a whole bottle of sleeping pills into her orange juice and force it down her throat. The man had waited until it was almost too late before calling an ambulance and telling them he’d barely found her, along with a suicide note telling folks that she just “couldn’t go on living without her mom”.
No one would listen to her when she told folks about her conniving step father. He had them all convinced that she was mentally ill…a troublemaker…and a habitual liar. He’d kept her a virtual prisoner in her own home for the past couple of years.
So many years of hell being controlled by a man so cruel and perverted had left more than a few superficial bruises on her...far deeper hurts that couldn’t be fixed with liniment or bandages. These new bruises had come when she’d finally managed to escape the prick…when he’d tried to rape her…and she’d hit him over the head with a wrought-iron candle stick that had split his skull.
She’d grabbed a bundle of clothes and the little lock box that held what she thought might be her wallet and the papers from her dad’s safe deposit box. Jake had hidden it in the top of his closet, behind her old school books. She hadn't tried to open it...there had been no time.
She’d first found it a couple of weeks ago, when he was out getting roaring drunk again, but she’d never found the key. And night before last, when he’d looked for it, and had found it gone, he’d gone ballistic. He had accused her of “stealing” it from him. Had tried to choke the truth from her. Had hit her with his fists. But it hadn’t been until he’d told her he would fuck her in the ass until she screamed that she had panicked and fought back.
He’d beaten her until she’d rolled into a fetal ball to avoid his fists, and then he had straightened up to unfasten his belt and unzip his jeans. She’d scrambled to the night stand and had grabbed the first thing she could get her hands around…a tall old black iron candlestick her mom had thought was pretty. And when he’d come staggering toward her, she’d whomped him so hard on the skull that it had hurt her arms. He’d dropped like a rock onto her bed, taking her down under him. It had taken a couple of stunned minutes to drag herself out from under his heavy, limp body.
In a total panic, she had felt his neck for a pulse, and after finding a weak one, she had raced through her bedroom picking up clothes...a couple pairs of jeans, two shirts and her jacket, a pair of running shoes and some underwear…stuffing it all into her back pack. She’d shoved the small lock box into the top of the back pack, and had dumped her little stash of cash from her piggy bank into a baggie, and added it to the lot.
As an afterthought, she’d pulled Jake’s wallet out of his jeans and emptied it of cash and his credit cards, taking his truck keys hoping the cops might think someone had come in and robbed him. Before leaving the house, she’d gone around back and had smashed in the kitchen window with a big rock, leaving the rock on the kitchen floor.
If they assumed he was the victim of a robbery, it might give her some extra time to get far away.
She’d put on a pair of old work gloves and had taken his truck, driving it Southeast on I-35 until it had almost run out of gas, before parking it in the lot of a used car dealer just before dawn. She’d pulled the license plates off, and had tossed them into a huge dumpster behind a supermarket about two miles down the road. She’d buried his credit cards in thick mud down in the creek bottom and had dumped a heavy old rock on top of them. Then she’d turned back the way she’d come and had hoofed it all morning until she’d managed to catch a ride North with an elderly trucker who thought she was a boy, from the way she was dressed.
She hadn’t minded him calling her “young man” at all. He’d dropped her off at a big truck stop off I-35 in Austin, the closest one to the Event Center. There would be a lot of people coming and going with the rodeo going on, and she could hide in plain sight. She could rest for the night then catch a bus north to Fort Worth. She barely had enough cash to buy a ticket and maybe a night in a cheap room. It had started to drizzle as she walked toward the motels nearest to the Event Center.
But the room rates for even the cheapest motels were a lot higher in Austin than she’d expected, and she’d made the mistake of trying car doors and motel room doors searching for a place where she could doss down for the night, at least until the damn rain stopped.
And now here she was, pinned under an over-helpful…
man going on about her damn bruises when all she wanted to do was get the hell out of there and find another unoccupied hidey-hole.
Shit! The last thing she needed was for him to call the cops. But it looked like that was what he was about to do…unless she could talk him out of it.
She should be utterly terrified, being held down on his bed, his warm naked flesh wrapped around her thin, cold body. She felt him lift a bit to adjust the solid ridge of meat that was shoved hard against her belly, yet he made no move to do what Jake had threatened to do. He smelled of whiskey and soap, and mint…sorta like he’d actually brushed his teeth. And his body warmed her cold skin.
And he was concerned about
That was a new feeling. And as scared as she was, she felt
for the first time in years…
“Please, mister…don’t call the cops. I didn’t do anything wrong. Just tried to get dry and warm. Just let me go, and I’ll be outta your hair.”
She swallowed the heavy thickness in her throat as he stared down at her, his dark brown eyes narrowing in disbelief. He wasn’t buying any of it.
Maybe she needed to make him feel sorry for her?
“Okay…so I got the shit kicked out of me by a guy who tried to take my money, but I fought him off. Does that satisfy your need to be a damn old snoop?” She hoped she sounded sincere enough.
“Why didn’t you call the cops? Why are you so afraid of calling the cops, darlin’?”
Damn, but he was too fucking perceptive!
She wiggled to get away, but he simply lowered his weight and pinned her harder under him, which shoved that…
…ridge harder against her inner thighs.
“Are you a runaway?” he asked softly. She felt her heart skip a beat or two as she fumbled for something to say. What was it they always said? The defense is a good offense?
“I’m twenty-four frickin’ years old. Do I
like a runaway?” She tried to sound exasperated, but she knew her voice was shaking.