Jobless, broke, and struggling to support herself and her invalid mother, paramedic Sophie Miller doesn’t have time or energy for a relationship. Especially with her mother’s clock ticking down. So when the sexy cowboy she meets at a carnival proposes a no-strings, one-night stand, she’s all over it. Until her one-night stand shows up again and turns out to be everything she’s ever wanted.
Tucker Haywood has his hands full running Paint River Ranch and trying to deal with all the changes pulling the rug out from under him. His past has taught him it’s better to keep women at arm’s length, for their sake. Stubborn and temperamental, Tucker doesn’t have a clue how to deal with a city girl who’s scared of squirrels and dirt.
So when Sophie gets under his skin, he has to do whatever it takes to push her away. Even if it means losing the part of himself he never thought he’d find.
(Tucker and Sophie meet at a carnival, and she’s just, very unsteadily, gotten off a ride that has made her feel really sick. This is their first meeting.)
She grimaced. “I’m dying.”
Tucker grinned. “You’re not dying.” He nudged her arm with his hand, her skin warm and silky to the touch. The ride next to them dotted her hair and dress with bright polka dots of multi-colored lights. “Can I help you up?”
Her eyes widened. “Are you crazy? I’m dying here!” The left side of her mouth tugged up in what might have been a smile trying to bloom. A zing of warmth shot straight through him. Pretty and feisty—a dangerous combination because he liked both.
He tipped his hat back and shrugged, giving in to the urge to tease her a little. “It was just a ride.”
She pulled her arm away from her face and pushed up on her elbows. Color seeped back into her skin. Thank goodness. But just when he thought she was on her way to recovery, a sudden frown clenched her face and she lay back down.
“That ride is the devil. I need some Zofran.” She flipped off the six-armed, silver Scrambler that swirled in a tangled mess of chairs and bodies. Tucker chuckled at the unexpected gesture. Dimples curved beautifully in her cheeks when she managed a small smile.
“Hear that?” He tilted his head toward the ride where shrieks and giggles rang out. “I think those four-year-olds are laughing at you.”
She groaned with a furious twist to her pretty lips. Well, look at that little hellcat, Tucker thought with an appreciative flutter in his stomach Yep, there it was. She riled up real nice, and dang if he didn’t like the fire in her eyes.
“See how well you do in the hot seat, cowboy.” She nodded toward the ride. “Go on.”
Tucker reached a hand out and to his surprise, she took it. Her fingers were soft and warm. She trembled just a little as he carefully guided her up and his thumb swept the back of her knuckles, her skin smooth, her nails daintily curved with white tips. Not the hands of a ranching woman, that’s for sure.
“I’m smart enough not to get on a ride like that,” he teased with a wink, watching her closely.
She pulled her hand away, cocked of her head, and smoothed the front of her dress. “Meaning?” she asked, swallowing hard and picking grass from her shoulder-length hair. Her hair was two-toned, the ends a few shades lighter than the rest, like they’d been dipped in light blond paint. He swept his gaze over the length of her, drinking in the bracelets dangling on her right wrist, the bright red polish on her toes, and the shiny little blue purse slung over her shoulder. Everything about her screamed city girl. Tourist, most likely. She was the complete opposite of the women he was usually attracted to, but it was there. Attraction—pure and insistent.
He flicked his toothpick. City girl or not, she had his attention. All of it.
He smiled wide. “Meaning, I’m smarter than you, apparently.”
Her arms crossed. “Are you smart enough to get lost before I punch your wise-ass mouth?” There was humor behind the challenge and, with just a little more ribbing; he might coax a full smile out of her. He liked spirited things for the most part: hard-to-handle horses, ornery cows, and the unpredictable Montana weather. It made life interesting and kept his restlessness in check.
He never was one to back down from a challenge.
“Honey, anything you want to do with my mouth is fine by me,” he drawled, giving her a once over that he wouldn’t have been able to avoid if he’d tried. Which he didn’t.
Elizabeth Otto grew up in a Wisconsin town the size of a postage stamp, where riding your horse to the grocery store, and skinny dipping after school were perfectly acceptable. No surprise that she writes about small communities and country boys. She’s the author of paranormal romance, and hot, emotional, contemporary romance, and has no guilt over frequently making her readers cry. When not writing, she works full-time as an Emergency Medical Technician for a rural ambulance service. Elizabeth lives with her very own country boy and their three children in, shockingly, a small Midwestern town.
Elizabeth Otto will be doing giveaways from her Facebook page throughout the month of May.