Authors: Callie Croix
This is a work
of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to
actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is
2011 by Callie Croix
rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewilderroses.com
Scarlet Rose Edition, December 2011
Published in the United States
To Katie, Diana and Trish,
for helping me bring Dillon to
PRAISE FOR AUTHOR
loved that Callie Croix really took her time to build up the chemistry between [Deacon
and Jessica,] because it is a full boil by the time you are done and what a
delicious treat it is.”
“If you enjoy a sensual,
well crafted contemporary erotic romance you may well like to give
a try. Ms. Croix has a
new fan, I am so looking forward to reading more of her work.”
~Lea, Book Lovers, Inc.
a remarkable mix of sexy, vulnerable, and a touch of kink.”
~Vicky, Sizzling Hot Book
Dillon Dumen walked into the ranch’s
back office on Friday afternoon to find two of his three younger brothers
waiting for him. With one look at their faces, he knew something was up. He
raised a brow at Deke, his closest brother, standing beside the desk. “Problem?”
“Ask him.” Deke jerked his
head at Dustin, the youngest, seated at the computer.
“Well?” Dillon prompted,
setting the walkie-talkie down on the desk, along with his work gloves and keys.
“You said you wanted to talk to me about one of the guests coming for the
Dusty nodded. “Just thought
you should know there’s been a last minute reservation.”
Most of the guests had arrived
the night before, but what did he care if more showed up now? “And you couldn’t
have just told me over the radio?”
His brother kept staring at
Annoyed, Dillon leaned over
his shoulder to stare at the computer screen. The name of the last minute guest
jumped out at him like it was written in fucking neon lights.
Charissa Myers. Lake blue eyes
he could drown in. Long, dark auburn hair he could bunch his hands into, gripping
tight while he held her still for his kiss. Soft, sweet lips that trembled
beneath his. And a deep, unquenched yearning hidden inside her delectable,
curvy body. Those things had kept him awake night after night, his hand wrapped
around his hard, aching cock for relief from the erotic torture of wondering what
it would be like to finally claim her.
Yeah, you wish,
the derisive voice in
his head scoffed.
Careful to keep his expression
impassive, he tried to ignore the sudden leap of his pulse. Charissa’s addition
to the guest list shouldn’t have come as a total shock. She was, after all,
related to some of the women coming to the ranch for the bachelorette weekend. But
he was surprised she actually wanted to come in the first place. She had to
know by now that he’d taken over managing his family’s guest ranch. Did she
care about seeing him at all? God knew she’d made it clear she wanted nothing
to do with him when she’d bolted like a scared rabbit last time they’d seen
each other almost a year ago.
Deke shifted to lean against
the jamb, a big shit-eating grin on his face. “So you do know her. Is she
single and hot?”
touching that one. “Did you get that water pump fixed yet?”
Deke rolled his eyes. “Yeah,
but I couldn’t salvage most of the parts and wound up having to replace them
all. And I patched that section of fence you asked me to check, but it’ll need
some new posts.”
“I’ll take care of that.”
Along with the hundred-and-one other things on his to-do list. The perks of
having a truckload of responsibilities that came along with his job title.
At the computer, Dusty drummed
his fingers on the desk and frowned thoughtfully. “Her name’s familiar. Isn’t
she a friend of Shay’s?” His tone dripped with sarcasm.
Dillon nodded, wishing he’d
let it drop.
Deke snapped his fingers. “That’s
right, now I sorta remember her.” He turned laughing blue eyes on Dillon. “Looks
like you’re in for an interesting weekend, bro.”
Scowling, Dillon reached past
Dusty to shut down the computer then grabbed his keys and work gloves off the
desk. “We’ve all got work to do, so let’s get moving.”
Deke laughed under his breath.
Dillon ignored the jab about
his former rank and headed out to his truck. He and Deke were both ex-military—him
Army, and Deke Air Force Special Operations—but since his younger brother had
come home to recover from a serious back injury sustained in Afghanistan, they’d
locked horns on quite a few occasions. Alpha male sibling rivalry at its
finest. He knew his brothers all saw him as overly serious and uptight, but as
the eldest, he’d naturally assumed the role of family drill sergeant a long
time ago. And right now with their parents away on an extended vacation, his
word was law.
Exactly the way he liked it.
When the others left, he
jumped into his pickup to start his work day. Yet, all throughout the morning
perimeter check and afternoon chores, Dillon couldn’t quite keep his mind on
task. Memories of Charissa kept surfacing and getting in the way. Even the
platonic things they’d done together, before crossing the friend barrier with
those insanely hot kisses had sent her running from him. Little details of the
time they’d spent together that had obviously meant more to him than to her.
She must know coming here
would mean seeing him. Was she staying this weekend only for her cousins? Or
was there an ulterior motive at work? The way he saw it, her reasons didn’t
much matter. He intended to find out why she’d shut him out so abruptly. She’d
severed the connection between them without so much as a goodbye or
nice-knowing-ya and hadn’t returned any of his calls or e-mails. She’d frozen
him out completely. He’d lost sleep over her for weeks afterward, trying to
figure out what the hell had gone wrong. Whatever the reason, something about
them had scared the shit out of her. It had taken months to lose the bitter
taste in his mouth over that.
Coming through the gate after
he’d made the repairs to the fence line, he drove up the long, winding road to
the main lodge. His heart beat just a little faster when he saw Charissa’s sleek
silver sedan parked out front of the two-story stone and timber building.
He parked the pickup around
back and headed inside, catching a glimpse of her walking out the side door and
down the cement path toward the guest cabins. Her long, dark auburn hair was
tied back into a ponytail that swished against the middle of her back. The
almost saucy movement drew his gaze to the snug jeans that hugged her shapely
ass and long legs as she rolled the suitcase behind her.
Tugging the brim of his hat
down, he headed over to intercept her. Better to get this over with now and find
out what her reaction to him would be so he knew what he was up against. Maybe
she’d shut him out before, but the way he saw it, she owed him some answers.
She was on his turf now. As far as he was concerned, that made her fair game.
Standing in front of the small,
wooden cabin’s door, Charissa tightened her fingers around the key when she saw
the man’s shadow appear on the sidewalk to her left. Tall, wide-shouldered, wearing
a cowboy hat. He’d moved so quietly, she hadn’t even heard his footfalls on the
pavement, and now he stood close enough that she could smell the subtle scent
of his aftershave. Every muscle in her body tensed. As the achingly familiar scent
teased her nose, the keychain jangled softly in her stiff hand.
Her heart knocked against her
She would never forget the
sound of that deep voice. Sometimes she still heard it in her dreams. That low Texas
drawl sent a shaft of longing arcing through her, lighting up her whole body. Her
nipples tightened inside the lace cups of her bra even as she berated herself. Damn.
She’d known the probability of bumping into him this weekend was high, but she
hadn’t expected it to happen so soon. Would have been nice to have more time to
prepare herself before this confrontation.
Time to face the music, lady.
Straightening her spine, she
steeled herself and turned around.
At five-ten she was tall, but
even in her boots, she had to tilt her head to look up at him. When she met his
gaze, a burst of unwanted heat rippled through her veins, along with a bolt of anxiety.
He was even hotter than she remembered.
A lock of his rich brown hair
hung across his forehead beneath the brim of his black hat. The navy
button-down he wore accentuated the slate blue of his eyes and the breadth of
his chest and shoulders. The fabric stretched taut over the hard planes of muscle
she remembered so well and still featured in all her fantasies. Her mouth went
dry, but she forced a smile. No matter what he thought of her, she had to make
sure she appeared unaffected by his presence.
“Hi, Dillon. Long time, no
see.” The rehearsed line came out with surprising ease, considering how tight
her throat felt.
He slid his hands into his
back pockets, the move emphasizing the powerful muscles in his arms. Despite
the awkward situation, he remained utterly at ease, in perfect control. “Too long.
You look great,” he added, his gaze sweeping the length of her, leaving heat in
its wake. “How’ve you been?”
“Fine. Busy with work and all.”
She fought the urge to shove her hands into her own pockets to keep from
He nodded, studying her so
intently it made her want to squirm. “Ranch keeps me busy.”
“I’ll bet.” The effort at
making small talk was already starting to wear on her.
“I was surprised to see your
name on the guest list.”
Her stomach muscles clenched.
Resentment swirled up, hot and bitter. God, he wasn’t seriously going to
confront her about the past right here and now, was he? “Bridgette’s my cousin.
Of course I wanted to be here.”
He didn’t say anything for a
moment, just watched her with those knowing eyes. “Then why did you only decide
to come at the last minute?”
She opened her mouth, then closed
it. If he assumed his presence had anything to do with her decision to come to
the ranch, he had a lot of nerve. “I wasn’t sure if I could sneak away from
work in time to get here tonight,” she lied. The real reason she’d left so late
was so that Dillon wouldn’t have any warning of her arrival. Little good that
precaution had done her. One of his brothers had probably told him the second
her e-mail had shown up in the Dumen Ranch inbox.
“So you’re here only for your
cousin.” His expression remained neutral, but she thought she detected a hint
of annoyance in his voice.
Isn’t that what she’d just
said? The man was starting to piss her off with his cocky attitude. “Of course.
Why else would I be here?”
He nodded slowly. “Yeah.
Right.” His tone held an almost bitter edge, and those gorgeous blue eyes were
filled with questions she had no intention of answering. Not now. Not ever.
An awkward silence settled in
as he stared her down. With so much left unsaid between them, crowding in on
her until she felt suffocated, she put on a polite smile and quickly filled the
void. “Place looks great. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend here.”
About as much as she’d look forward to sticking pins in her eyes, but she’d get
“Glad to hear it. I hope you
have a good time.”
Why did that statement have
such strong sexual overtones? She fiddled with the key, wanting to escape him
and his intense gaze, that hard body reminding her of all she could have had
and never would. Fighting the guilt and longing eating at her, she decided to
make her getaway. “Well, I’d best get unpacked and ready for dinner. It was
good to see you.”
His eyes chilled at her sudden
dismissal, but he gave no other outward sign that she’d offended him. And he
wouldn’t. He had far too much control over himself to show any kind of weakness,
especially in front of her. “Yeah, you, too. Guess I’ll see you later, then.”
The words held the hint of a promise
and sent a shiver of warning through her. “Sure.”
Turning away to shut out the
sight of him, her damp hand fumbled to get the key in the lock. The door
finally opened just as his footsteps faded into silence. Shutting the door
behind her, Charissa leaned her back against it and closed her eyes for a
moment. She took a steadying breath. God, her stomach was in knots, but at
least the worst was over. Now that she’d seen and spoken to him for the first
time, the rest would be easier. With any luck, she’d be too busy with the girls
this weekend to worry about coming face to face with Dillon again.
She unpacked, eyeing the cheery
yellow quilt-covered bunk bed tucked against the far wall of the tiny cabin. It
looked comfortable enough, and she’d have her own bathroom all weekend.
In the midst of freshening up
in the bathroom—something she told herself had absolutely
with the chance of running into Dillon again—someone pounded on the cabin door.
“You’re here!” Bridgette cried,
throwing her arms around her when Charissa pulled the door open.
Charissa smiled and hugged her
cousin. “How’s the bride to be?”
“She’s ready for an awesome
weekend with her favorite girls.” Her eyes twinkled. “So, what do you think of
“It’s exactly what I imagined
it would be.” Dillon had painted a vivid picture of it for her while they sat
on that hilltop in Austin, gazing up at the bright stars. That night he’d shown
her the true meaning of desire, of physical need so strong she’d almost given
in to temptation and asked him to take her to bed. The way he’d held her,
kissed her, had shaken her to her foundation, and she’d never been the same