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Authors: Victoria James

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BOOK: Rescued by the Rancher
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“One night. No commitments. No strings.” Her breath caught at the sound of his voice, low and filled with…want. For her. His gaze settled on her lips and she couldn’t help but lick them with nervous anticipation. It occurred to her that she was salivating more than when she was alone with a pint of French vanilla ice cream. Now that she had Gage agreeing to this, she had no idea what to do with him. Gage would undoubtedly be more man than she’d ever encountered. On the other hand, that would be exactly what she needed, and there wasn’t another man she trusted more than him.

“Meredith?”

She nodded.

“Why does it look like you’re plotting?”

“I’m not,” she said, shaking her head and staring into his eyes. “Maybe we should shake on it, like a deal. That way we don’t have to worry about either one of us backing out.” She stretched out her hand.

The grin that he gave her made her toes curl and her insides quivered. It was a sexy,
I’m-laughing-at-you-but-not-in-a-mean-way
grin. It was one she saw on a weekly basis from him. “You don’t have to worry about me backing out.” He reached out, but instead of shaking her hand, he grasped it and tugged her into him. Her breath caught as her body came into contact with the hard contours of his. All her senses exploded. She hadn’t been this close to Gage since the night she’d met him, and she knew exactly how he looked under his shirt—ripped, bronzed, and lean. He smelled of fresh, crisp outdoors and clean soap. And he felt like hard, hot man beneath her hands.

He leaned down slightly so that his lips were close to hers. “One-night stands don’t usually start with a handshake.”

She tried to maintain eye contact, but she couldn’t peel her gaze from his mouth. “How, um, do they start?”

“Like this,” he said, bending his head to take her mouth in his. His hands cupped her face and she stood there, soaking in the moment and the feeling of being in Gage’s arms. His mouth was gentle, not nearly what she expected, until he lifted his head slightly to look at her. It dawned on her that he wanted something, a confirmation that she wanted this, too. So she grasped the nape of his neck and pulled him down, needing to feel his mouth on hers, needing him to claim every insecurity she had ever had, needing him to make her forget everything before him.

And he delivered. His hard mouth pressed against hers and she heard herself whimper. He gave a low groan and his tongue tangled with hers, explored her mouth, and claimed all her last thoughts.

Gage lapped her up like she was one of his coveted pieces of chocolate cake.

Chapter Four

Gage unlocked his front door and held it open for Meredith. He resisted the urge to pull her into his arms right away. Something happened on the drive back to the ranch. From the moment he ended their kiss, she pulled away. There was no doubt in his mind that she felt the crazy sexual chemistry they had. He knew it in the way she kissed him back, in the sexy noises she made, in the way her knees had given out, in the way she held on to him. He knew it, he felt it, and he was blown away by it, by her. He’d had his suspicions, known it would be good with Meredith. He’d underestimated how good, though.

He locked the door behind them and turned on the table lamp, lighting the small entry and family room. He studied Meredith’s expression as she took in the space. She’d never been here. The main family ranch where she lived with Cole and Melanie was grand, spacious, and much more like the life she was accustomed to living. While the foreman’s house was nice, it was simple. Small. For him, this place had been a palace, a far cry from the shithole he’d grown up in. But he knew a place like this would never be good enough for Meredith. No matter how much he wanted her, he had to make it clear this was one night only. He had nothing to offer beyond one night.

He dropped his keys on to the table and crossed the room into the kitchen. “Can I get you a drink?”

Her hands were clasped together and her face was expressionless. He didn’t know how he felt about the fact that he actually gave a shit if Meredith thought he wasn’t good enough for her.
He
knew he wasn’t good enough, but if she knew that, it would alter everything. If there was ever a woman to make him want to reveal his true lineage it would be Meredith, but he wouldn’t do that for anyone, no matter what. Nothing was worth compromising his principles in order to claim a life he didn’t want, in order to impress a woman.

“I would love a drink, thank you, Gage.”

He knew she was a wine drinker but he didn’t have a damn bottle. He would’ve had one, if he’d known he’d be bringing Meredith home with him. Of course, then again, if he’d had the time to think this thing through, it would’ve never happened. “I have beer and…” He coughed, “Beer. Oh, I might have a bottle of whiskey.” Thankfully, Cole gave him whiskey at every major holiday.

She chewed her lower lip for a moment. “I think I’ll try a beer. And I’ll drink from the bottle,” she said with a resolute nod of her head.

He ducked his head in the fridge, smiling, and grabbed two beers. A minute later he joined her with the open bottles

“Cheers. To one-night stands,” she said, clinking her bottle against his.

She took a long gulp of beer, and then another. “That’s very…refreshing,” she said, even though she scrunched up her cute nose. He took a step toward her, noting the way it looked like she wanted to bolt. Not exactly the usual reaction a woman gave him. So he took a swig of beer and went to stand by the breakfast bar in the kitchen, noting the way the tension visibly drained from her body. That was fine. Now that they had gone down this road, he could wait.

“Second thoughts, Mer?”

Her hand flew to her chest and she shook her head, and then downed half the bottle of beer. He sighed, placed his beer on the counter, and this time did walk toward her. Not to pressure her, but because he wanted to ease her discomfort. He didn’t like seeing her nervous, but she kept on backing up until she hit the door. “Oops, forgot that door was there.”

“Talk to me,” he said in what he hoped was a gentle voice.

Instead of meeting his eyes, she stared at his shoulder. “There are just a few things that I think you should know about me and some rules I’d like clarified.”

He immediately thought of what she’d said, or almost said, outside the bar about not having. And hell, if she had been trying to tell him that
douche-bag-Ron
had never given her an orgasm, he was going to lose it, or lose it internally.

He tried to look solemn and serious, and not at all like he was plotting what he’d do if he ever met Ron. Or how he was going to make damn sure Meredith’s perception of herself was going to change after tonight. He cleared his throat. “Shoot. What is it?”

She finished off her beer, wiped her mouth primly, and handed him the empty bottle. He raised his eyebrow before setting it down on the hall table. She gave him an embarrassed little smile that tugged at his heartstrings. That reaction happened a lot when he was around Meredith.

“So these things,” she began and then stopped. Her face turned an unnatural shade of red. He reached and placed the palm of his hand against one of her soft cheeks, his thumb grazing her cheekbone.

“You can tell me.”

She glanced up at him. “Okay, so one of the rules we haven’t established is
after
. Um, there isn’t going to be talking, right?”

“Talking?”

She nodded, over and over again.

“After?”

She nodded again. “Like. Um. About things.”

He dropped his hand and rubbed the back of his neck, wishing he had opted for whiskey. “I’m not following.”

“Like talking about if it was good or not.”

He grinned. “It’ll be good.”

His declaration didn’t seem to ease her nerves. “No, that’s not what I mean.”

“Okay. So tell me.”

“There are things I can’t…
do
.”

“As in sexual things?”

She nodded, looking slightly more relieved.

“I’m not going to make you do something you don’t want to do, if that’s—”

She shook her head, cutting him off. “No, no, I know you wouldn’t. I mean, things I can’t do, or haven’t done, and that may be disappointing.”

“You can’t disappoint me.”

“You don’t know me. Trust me.”

“Trust
me
.”

“I don’t do orgasms, Gage. I mean, um. I can’t have them.”

He didn’t breathe as she confirmed what he’d thought. She did some sort of arm flail and then covered her face with her hands, and then peeked through them.

He sighed and tried to focus on making her not feel like an idiot, which she obviously did, but what he wanted to do, again, was hunt down that POS ex of hers. But when he stared into Meredith’s eyes, through her fingers, he knew that wasn’t what she needed. Somehow he needed to make her feel better. Unfortunately, he was going to have to start with words when he’d rather just show her how wrong she was. “You’re wrong.”

Her arms fell to her sides. At least she was looking slightly pissed at him. “Excuse me? How would you know?”

“I know lots of things, and this is one of them. By the end of tonight, Meredith you’ll be screaming my name.”

Her jaw dropped open. “That’s another thing I don’t do. I don’t scream.”

He scrubbed his hands down his face and swallowed every single expletive that came to his mind.

“See what I mean? I’ve already disappointed you and we haven’t even started.”

“Then let’s get started,” he said, and lowered his mouth to hers.

She placed her hands against his chest. “Let’s just say one of us is…disappointed, we’re not going to talk about it, are we?”

He didn’t move a muscle for a moment. This was a first. This was going down in Gage history. He took a step into her and braced his hands on the door, on either side of her head. He could smell the flowers, the spring, Meredith. He leaned down, placed a kiss just under her earlobe, and felt her body sigh. “Trust me, darling, you won’t be leaving here disappointed.”

She grasped the front of his shirt and he pulled back just enough to look down at her. “Not
me
, Gage.
You
. If you’re disappointed in me, I don’t want to know about it. I don’t want you to criticize me or make fun of me or…”

“Never. That’s bullshit,” he whispered, trying to remain calm and keep his anger in check toward Ron. “You can’t disappoint me. Impossible.”

She stopped looking at his chest and her gaze flew to his, surprise and doubt in her green eyes. He never wanted to see that doubt. It was that doubt that was about to make him break all the rules. Every single Gage Mackenzie one-night stand rule. For her.

He took her hand and placed it on his heart, which was racing a mile a minute. “You walk into the room and you turn me on. You look at me, you smile at me, you laugh, and you turn me on. I have thought about you, about making love to you, every single day since you arrived at the ranch. And before you even dismiss that by thinking I feel that way about any woman, you’re dead wrong.” He gently grasped the nape of her neck, burying his hand in the heavy, silky weight of her hair, and then leaned down until his lips were almost against hers. Her pupils had dilated and her breath was coming out in short little gasps.

“A year ago, you fell into my arms and I felt some crazy connection to you. I’m sure as hell not good enough for you, and I’m sure as hell not making any promises, but I’m damn sure you were worth waiting for.”

And with that, he took her mouth against his and tasted her, explored her until she clung to him. He felt the second whatever doubts she was having left and she molded herself against him. She wrapped her hands around his neck when he let his hands roam her body, up the sides of her waist, the curves of her breasts. She shivered as his hands grazed the sides of her soft breasts, and she kissed him, her tongue tangling with his, and then her hands were on the buttons of his shirt, clumsily opening them. He helped her and in a second it was tossed to the ground. Her soft hands tentatively traced his shoulders, his chest, and then trailed down his stomach to the top button of his jeans and stopped.

He took her hands in his and kissed her palm, slowing things down. He wasn’t going to rush a damn thing. He had one night with Meredith, and he knew that even though it was one night, she wasn’t a one-night stand. Before she could object, he leaned down and scooped her up in his arms, just as he had the first night he’d laid eyes on her.

“I can walk.”

“I know you can. I like the feel of you in my arms, Meredith.” He gently kicked the door shut to his room and lowered her to the ground. Meredith was peering around the room like she wasn’t trying to look nosy.

“You’re so neat.”

He shrugged. “Don’t like messes.” Of course, it could have something to do with the fact that growing up he’d had nothing. The first time he’d ever had anything, he’d earned it with his own money, and when you came from nothing, the second you had something you learned to guard it with your life. Meredith walked over to the window that overlooked the mountains. He joined her, standing behind her and placing his hands on her arms.

“One of my favorite things about Tall Pines is how you can feel so perfectly safe, completely part of a community, yet still so isolated. Like if you had to run, you could, and no one would ever be able to find you again.”

He didn’t say anything for a few seconds, and then he took that last step to her, wrapping his arms around her, wanting to capture whatever was left of the fear she had. “I’d find you,” he whispered against the sweet spot below her ear. She stiffened in his arms for the tiniest moment and then melted against him, letting her neck fall back, giving him full access. He put his hands on her hips, slowly turning her, kissing her with a need he’d never experienced.

Minutes later she was under him on the bed, wriggling out of her jeans as he unbuttoned her shirt and tossed it to the ground. “You’re beautiful.”

He took in the swell of her breasts in the delicate pink lace bra, the smooth, flawless skin that was highlighted by moonlight streaming in from the window. His gaze wandered over her, wanting to slow things down. His hands trailed down until they rested on a thin scar and a tiny tattoo. He hadn’t expected that, but Meredith quickly gasped and covered herself. He bent his head, nudging her hands away until she relented and then he kissed the scar, the tiny rose tattoo, and every single inch of her glorious skin. “By the end of tonight, you’ll have no doubt how much you’re wanted. How beautiful you are, how special you are. And you’ll have no doubts about any of your abilities.”


Meredith woke up sometime during the middle of the night and glanced at the man beside her. Gage, sleeping soundly, half on top of her.

Hot, hot Gage
.

Giver of multiple orgasms and the only meaningful sexual experience in her life, which made no sense because this was supposed to be one night only. And one night only could not be meaningful.

She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to take a deep breath, but that was impossible because he weighed a ton. What she needed right now was space before she made a fool of herself. She didn’t dare breathe, and slowly tried to extricate herself from his arms. Except the second she did, his heavy arm reached across and wrapped around her waist like a belt. She would have smiled if she didn’t feel like bawling. He was beautiful. In everything he did, in the man he was. His body was hard and corded with lean muscle, bronzed with a scattering of small scars, most of them the wear and tear of physical labor. But there were some she wondered about, which made her curious about his life before Tall Pines. Small, round puckered scars on his tanned, taut skin. She resisted the urge to touch his mussed dark hair or bend down and kiss him. He had been…incredible.

Hold it in, Meredith. Don’t wake him up.
So she squeezed her eyes shut and took as deep a breath as she could. She knew she wouldn’t cry in front of him. She didn’t cry in front of anyone. She’d learned that lesson long ago. She kept her eyes closed, and then a rapid play-by-play of the evening paraded through her mind. Gage kissing her, everywhere. She remembered every sound he made, every kiss he placed on her mouth, her body. The fierce look in his eyes right before she’d come undone the first time. And then the second. He had made her feel everything. She drew another breath, this one shakier than the last. She had wasted so many years of her life, her best years, on being with a man the opposite of Gage.

BOOK: Rescued by the Rancher
7.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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