In a Cowboy's Arms - Chapter 1 (Harlequin Extras)


At eighteen, all Sandi Drake wanted was out. Out of the little Texas town that suffocated her. Out of her father’s ranch that didn’t appeal to her bookish interests. And out of the influence of the sexy and irresistible Travis Moretti, the one thing she regretted leaving behind.

Twelve years later, her father’s death brings her back to the Broken T ranch. Back to Travis. Back to the sparks and to the fire that she could never deny—and in her heart of hearts could never forget.

Travis hasn’t forgotten either. Not the way she made him laugh, and not the way she hurt him when she left. Now that she’s returned, they have a second chance. But is it a second chance at love, or another opportunity for her to break his heart?

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Copyright © 2008 by Harlequin Books S.A.

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Chapter One

"Look what the cat dragged home," Travis Moretti muttered from his horse’s saddle when he spied the vehicle speeding along the gravel road leading to the Broken T Ranch.

He spurred the horse forward, cutting across an open field. Caesar loved to run. "Here’s your chance, boy." He loosened his hold on the reins, a signal the stallion responded to. Hooves pounded the Texas terrain, eating up the sun–baked rocky ground and the distance between them and the car. Veering left, the stallion cut through a cluster of live oaks and burst onto the road fifty yards in front of the vehicle.

Caesar reared, pawing the air, and it was all Travis could do to remain in the saddle. The driver hit the brakes, sending the shiny silver Mercedes fishtailing and into a three–sixty spin before skidding to a complete stop twenty feet from the horse and man.

"Good boy," Travis assured the stallion, who’d stood his ground. If there was one thing in his life he could depend on, it was Caesar. The horse never let him down—unlike the woman fuming behind the car’s steering wheel.

The driver–side door flew open. One calf, encased in a sleek black high–heeled boot, appeared beneath the door. Then the other. Then a blond head popped into view. Sunglasses concealed her eyes but not her pursed pink mouth. He didn’t need to see the bright blue orbs behind the shades to know Sandi Drake was pissed. "Nice stop, brat," he complimented her, using her teenage nickname. There wasn’t an ounce of country girl left in the thirty–year–old woman. Her expertly applied makeup camouflaged her freckles, and her long blond hair had been shorn into a sleek bob—jelled and sprayed to Cover Girl perfection.

Shoulders stiff, back ramrod straight, she marched forward, her stride shortened by a tight, above–the–knee black skirt. The strong wind plastered her cream–colored silk blouse to her breasts—breasts he remembered all too well…their size, shape and softness. The corporate getup was a far cry from typical ranch attire—jeans and T–shirts. Boot heels plunged deep into the gravel, spitting bits of stone into the air. She wobbled once, her ankle rolling when the ball of her foot landed on a large rock, but she managed to keep upright by flinging her arms out to the side. He’d always admired her spunk, and for some stupid reason beyond his comprehension, he was glad corporate life hadn’t subdued her fiery spirit.

She halted in front of his horse, raising her pink–tipped fingers for a sniff. "How’s my Caesar?" she cooed, then rubbed the white blaze across the animal’s nose.

Her Caesar? It was his damn horse! The way the stallion snorted and snuffled, you’d believe Sandi had been the one to spend hours and hours training the animal. Then she lifted her head and slid her glasses down her nose, where they balanced precariously on the tip. Blue—the color of the clear March sky above—glared.

"You haven’t changed much," she accused, a hint of humor in her voice.

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

"Still like a good race."

Her words propelled him back fourteen years to the day they’d raced the ranch trucks along this very road. He hadn’t expected her to be so fearless. In her determination to win, she’d nearly lost control and had driven into the ditch. His heart had stalled and he’d lifted his foot from the accelerator, allowing her to edge him out across the finish line. That day he’d realized he was falling hard for the boss’s daughter.

He forced his face to remain impassive—refusing to hand this woman a reason to assume he’d pined away for her all these years. Because he hadn’t pined. Hadn’t given Sandi Drake more than a two–second thought for the past twelve years—never mind that those thoughts occurred at regular intervals seven days a week. Month after month. Angry that she’d riled him, he snapped, "Took your time coming home."

Read the rest of Chapter One of In a Cowboy's Arms here on Harlequin Extras.

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