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Sabella knew that she was the rightful owner of the Lindo Vista ranch. But her legacy had been stolen by the father of Burt Burnett. So she vowed to seduce and marry Burt. But Sabella hadn't counted on falling in love. Now Sabella could only hope that Burt wouldn't discover the lies she had told him. Original.
A ranch six miles south of San Juan Capistrano, California—sunset on a perfect spring day in 1880
A slender young rider sat astride a dancing chestnut stallion outside the whitewashed fence boundaries of one of Southern California's largest working cattle ranches. The rider, squinting against the lowering sun, was dressed in the unique garb favored by the Mexican charros—leather trousers, white shirt, scarlet butterfly necktie, scuffed ankle boots, and a broad-brimmed straw sombrero.
The rider's narrowed, unblinking gaze slowly lifted to the hammered silver sign mounted from the tall crossbars above the rancho's main gate. The shimmering silver letters spelled out simply Lindo Vista—beautiful view. The rider, whose dark eyes quickly turned as hard and cold as onyx, had no doubt that the view from inside the imposing ranch house located on an elevated rise was indeed beautiful.
Soon, very soon, the rider would know for certain.
As unmoving as a statue, the long-legged, leather-trousered rider stayed resolutely in place for the next hour. It was not the first time the rider had been there. It would not be the last
Since arriving in San Juan Capistrano, California two weeks ago, the slim young rider had ridden El Ranch Lindo Vista's vast expanse daily, exploring every far-reaching acre, systematically becoming acquainted with every unique landmark.
The rider eagerly learned the location of each hidden trail or secret footpath or abandoned silver mine and all the towering trees and rich grassy ranges and sandy desertlands and towering mountains and rushing streams and rugged coastline.
Carefully keeping out of sight, and avoiding the legions of ranch hands working the big spread, the rider ended each long tiring ride at this same well-concealed vantage point in front of the huge white ranch house. Field glasses raised. Watching. Waiting. Hoping for even the slightest glimpse of the rich, powerful man who called the white, red-tiled roofed house home.
The young one.
Not the old one.
The rider had seen the old one that very first day in California. A frail, sickly old gentleman with silver hair, he'd been out taking the afternoon sun on the southern flagstone patio. He had been there most days since, slight shoulders and thin arms covered with a bulky sweater, knees hidden under a lap robe.
No, it was not for him the rider restlessly hunted. Through the powerful field glasses, the rider's dark gaze searched anxiously for a strong, vigorous, totally healthy man who at thirty-one was but seven years the rider's senior. It was for him the rider waited. It was for him the rider watched.
For the ailing old man's idolized only son. And sole heir to Lindo Vista.
Burton J. Burnett.
The rider didn't give up the fruitless quest until the blood-red sun had slipped below the western horizon and into the sea behind the imposing many-roomed ranch. Finally, disappointed once more, the rider lowered the glasses, turned the chestnut stallion about and rode away.
The rider put the stallion into an easy lope for the six-mile journey back to the sleepy village of San Juan Capistrano. The rider lifted a hot, sun-reddened face to the cooling evening breezes.
The wind soon picked up, pressing the tight leather trousers against the rider's lithe long legs, billowing the blousy white shirt out in back, and tossing the ends of the scarlet necktie up against a full-lipped, but set, unsmiling mouth.
The rider laid big roweled silver spurs to the chestnut stallion's flanks and the powerful beast instantly shot into a fast, ground-eating gallop.
Hugging the galloping stallion with leather-clad knees, the rider solemnly resolved to come back again tomorrow. Back to the vast rangelands known as Lindo Vista. Back to stand sentinel at the hidden command post behind a towering oak across from the whitewashed ranch house on the cliffs. Back to hopefully see the elusive Burton J. Burnett.
Beginning to relax and enjoy the ride, the determined young rider raced the dying sun back to the village.
As the young rider on the chestnut stallion thundered northward toward San Juan Capistrano, a train snaked toward the very same destination, moving steadily southwestward.
In the very last car—a private Pullman—on the slow-moving train, a lone passenger was sprawled comfortably on a plush, pearl-gray sofa. He lounged lazily, his dark head resting on the sofa's plush back, his long legs stretched out before him, booted feet propped carelessly atop a gilt-inlaid rosewood table.
He held in one tanned hand a tall crystal goblet of iced Kentucky Bourbon, half full, and in the other a fragrant Cuban cigar, blue smoke curling up from its glowing tip. Totally relaxed, pleased with his successful business trip to Chicago, and even more pleased that it was ended, Burt Burnett was smiling.
Burt smiled a lot.
People who knew him well said that they had never seen him without a warm smile on his face. The men of the village swore that even when conducting business, no matter how hard a bargain Burt drove, his engaging smile never left him. The town's older ladies said that Burt had an adorable, boyish smile, so guileless and open it made them want to give him a big warm, motherly hug.
That famous Burnett smile had a similar effect on younger women. They, too, had a strong desire to hug him, but not in a motherly fashion. Burt Burnett had been, since he turned eighteen, San Juan Capistrano and southern California's most eligible bachelor. A good- looking, sensual man with warm humorous gray eyes, that compelling, ever-present smile, and a natural easy charm made him a favorite. And not only with the local girls, but with women down in sunny San Diego, up in lazy Los Angeles, and as far away as the bustling Bay city of San Francisco.
Burt Burnett was playful, irreverent, and incredibly attractive. With the upbringing of a gentleman and the charm of a rogue, he knew how to show a woman the time of her life and keep his mouth shut afterward. Never one to kiss and tell, he was a sought-after lover, a man who was as discreet as he was passionate.
And Burt Burnett was indeed a passionate man. A fact of life which had been attested to by more than one beautiful, starry-eyed, well-sated woman who couldn't keep from boasting about her own unforgettably torrid trysts with the amazingly ardent, darkly handsome lover.
As the train wound its way homeward in the setting California sun, Burt Burnett smiled with guilty pleasure, recalling the pair of fun-loving twins he had met in Chicago.
The gorgeous Todd twins, Hope and Faith, had shown him unlimited charity. The girls were identical. He couldn't tell them apart, so he never really knew which one he was with. But then it hadn't mattered. Not to him. Not for them. Both were fantastically gifted in the finer points of lovemaking.
For Burt it was his swan song. The final romp before settling down to domestic bliss. So he had made the most of it. Thanks to the accommodating, acrobatic Todd twins, his last hurrah had been memorable.
The train was beginning to slow.
The tiny depot was coming up in the near distance. Burt took another swig of his iced bourbon, swirled it around in his mouth, and swallowed. He drew on his cigar and blew a well-formed smoke ring. Then he set the goblet aside, snubbed out the cigar in a crystal ashtray, and lowered his booted feet to the carpeted floor. He rose, moved unhurriedly to the window, lifted the shade, and looked out.
The lights of Capistrano were twinkling on, one by one, as the sun disappeared completely leaving only a wide ribbon of red-gold light in the far west behind the ocean. Smiling as he studied the familiar landmarks of home, Burt's attention was suddenly drawn to a slim, sombreroed rider galloping headlong toward the approaching train.
Burt's smile broadened.
He knew exactly what the dashing, leather-trousered vaquero intended to do. He knew, because he had done it so many times himself.
It was the kind of senseless, daredevil stunt wild young men enjoyed. Only the most experienced horseman would attempt such a dangerous feat. It took a great degree of bravery and was considered a true mark of manhood.
Burt had been just fourteen the first time he had tried it.
Burt raised the window all the way and stuck his dark head out. He whistled and applauded as the brave, foolish rider raced his chestnut stallion across the tracks just a split second before the train's engine, whistle blowing loudly, reached the crossing.
The slim, charm-clad rider yipped joyfully as the chestnut's rear hooves cleared the railroad tracks a half second before the big black steam engine reached the crossing. The train roared past with its whistle blowing frantically, and its heavy wheels screeching and grinding on the steel tracks as it attempted to stop.
Burt laughed as the rider disappeared from sight.
The rider galloped on, ignoring the raised fists the ashen-faced engineer shook out the window from his perch at the engine's throttle. Never looking back, the rider cantered directly to the little village's stables as total dusk descended.
Dismounting, the rider threw a long leg over, dropped to the ground, and patted the winded chestnut's sleek neck.
"That's a mighty fine stallion you have there," said Paxton Dean, the stable owner, again admiring the mount.
"The best," said the rider. "Trained him myself. He does anything I ask of him."
"You'll be wanting him again in the morning?" asked Paxton Dean, as he took the reins and began removing the lathered chestnut's bridle.
"By all means. Look for me around sunup." Patting the big stallion's velvet muzzle and cooing to him, the rider said, "You are the best, aren't you, big boy." The chestnut whinnied and blew, answering his master. The rider laughed and gave the stallion's jaw a gentle slap, then heading for the open door, said, "See you both tomorrow."
"I'll have him saddled and ready for you," said Paxton Dean. "Night now."
"Good night." The rider walked away, but stopped suddenly and paused in the doorway, pondering. Then turned back and said, "I've changed my mind. I won't be needing my horse tomorrow."
"No. I won't be riding after all."
The rider immediately stepped outside, looked both ways, then crossed Camino Capistrano, the village's main thoroughfare. Casting a covetous glance, as usual, up the street toward the stately white Mission Inn, that grand, obscenely expensive hotel built on the cliffs adjacent to the old Spanish Mission, the rider went directly to the much more modest little Inn of the Swallows.
A small, unimpressive hostelry sandwiched between the silent undertaker's parlor and the noisy Balboa Saloon, there was nothing grand about the inn. All the small, colorless rooms were identically furnished with iron bedsteads, washstands, an armoire, a small round drum table, and a worn horsehair sofa. No pictures graced the plain white walls, no curtains covered the window shades.
But the place was clean and the price was right.
The rider climbed the stairs to the second floor and threw the door open to a pair of connecting rooms at the end of the hall.
"I'm back! Where are you, Carmelita? I'm finally back."
A short, stocky Mexican woman with dark flashing eyes and thick black hair shot through with strands of silver entered from the adjoining room, her hands on her spreading hips.
"Do you know what time it is? I was ready to send out the sheriff to look for you!"
"You worry too much," said the smiling rider and swept off the big sombrero, allowing an abundance of luxuriant long blond hair to cascade down around slender shoulders.CHAPTER 2
Burt was still laughing when he pulled his head back inside the train window. The wheels ground to a screeching halt while he buttoned his half-open white shirt and reached for the dark suit coat lying across the pearl-gray velvet sofa. He shoved long arms into the jacket's dark sleeves, reached up behind his head to adjust the stiffly starched white shirt collar, then shot his arms forward to display an inch of snow-white cuff.
The train stopped.
A uniformed conductor jumped down, reached up for the set of deboarding steps, and placed them on the ground. Then he stood aside, hands folded before him.
Smiling sunnily, Burt swung down from the train and spotted Cappy Ricks waiting beside the black, open carriage. Cappy's roan gelding was tied to the back.
Cappy Ricks, Lindo Vista's head ranch foreman, had turned sixty-six on his last birthday. His full head of hair was totally gray and his six-foot-two frame stooped a mite, but he was still a remarkably strong, fit-looking man.
Burt called to the aging ranch foreman.
Cappy's craggy features tightened into a brief smile and he started forward. The two men shook hands warmly.
"Good to have you back, Burton." Cappy affectionately patted Burt's muscular shoulder.
"Good to be back," Burt said. Then he asked immediately, "How is he, Cappy? How's Dad?"
"Holding his own," Cappy assured him. "Actually, he's been feeling a little better for the past couple of days."
"Good! Any chance he'll feel like attending the big shindig Saturday night?"
"He's not feeling that good, son," Cappy said. "But don't be worrying about that. I'll stay home with him Saturday night, keep him company."
"You're a good man, Cappy Ricks," said Burt with gratitude and affection.
"Well, now, I don't know about that." Cappy ducked his head, half embarrassed, yet pleased. Clearing his throat needlessly, the aged ranch foreman looked up again. "So how did it go up there in Chicago? Your trip worthwhile?"
"In more ways than one," Burt said, and winked, his sunny smile broadening mischievously.
Reading his meaning, Cappy shook his gray head, clapped the younger man on the back, and warned, "All that's behind you now, my boy. I hope you fully realize that and are willing to—"
"I do and I am," Burt said, nodding. "So stop your preaching. From here on out, you won't know me."
Cappy looked skeptical. He had known Burt Burnett since Burt was just a year old. He knew Burt as well as Burt's own father knew him, maybe even better. He knew Burt's strengths as well as his weaknesses. One of his weaknesses was women. Cappy didn't blame Burt, knowing the fault wasn't entirely his.
Since back when he was just a young strapping boy of fifteen, Burt had drawn women to him without even trying. And the strangest thing was that Burt was not some soft, suave, insincere ladies' man. He was a man's man. As rugged and rough as the toughest California cowhand, and he never lied or made deceitful promises to woo a woman.
But then, he didn't have to. They were willing to take him any way they could get him and then savor the memory of the brief encounter ever after.
"I believe you really mean it," Cappy finally said, idly patting Burt's back again.
"I do, my friend. You'll see. I'll walk the line."
"Well, that's a load off my mind," Cappy said and meant it. "Your daddy's gonna be mighty glad to see you, boy."
"He'll have to wait 'til tomorrow." Burt grinned.
"Yep. He knows." Cappy inclined his gray head to the waiting carriage. "I did what you asked, Burt. Brought the open carriage in for you. I'll ride Dusty on home and tell your daddy you made it in okay."
"I sure appreciate this, Cappy." Burt nodded yes to the uniformed porter. While the porter loaded the matching leather valises onto the floor of the carriage, Burt shrugged his wide shoulders and, smiling, said to Cappy, "You know how Gena is about horses. Can't stand the smell of them. If I rode Sam over to see her, she wouldn't have anything to do with me."
"Now ain't that a heck of a note," said Cappy, frowning. "A gal that'll be spending the rest of her life on Lindo Vista and she don't like horses and cattle. Why, she don't even like the land or the sun or the—"
"She likes me, Cappy," Burt smilingly interrupted the older man.
Cappy laughed then. "Lord, I guess she does." He shook his gray head. "I'll have to hand it to Miss Gena. She's shown the patience of Job, if you ask me."
"Yes, siree," Cappy continued as if Burt hadn't spoken, "waiting around all these years for you to settle down and finally marry her. She's one understanding and tenacious gal."
"Gena's been a good sport," Burt agreed, nodding. "And she'll be a good wife, you wait and see."
"I suppose," admitted Cappy dubiously. Then—"But you better be getting on over to her place. The train was two hours late getting in, you know."
"Was it?" Burt sounded surprised. "So Gena was expecting me at "
"Six p.m. It's almost eight."
Burt climbed up onto the carriage's leather-padded seat and took up the reins. "I'm off then. See you tomorrow. Thanks again."
"Say hello to Gena and the senator."
Excerpted from Because You're Mine by Nan Ryan. Copyright © 1995 Nan Ryan. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted September 23, 2014
Posted June 19, 2006
I was not able to put this book down! Read it in 24 hrs. Very good storyline and kept you interested during the entire time. Author made it easy to picture the people and settings in this story. I am going to surely read more of her books!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.