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Princess In His Bed
By Leanne Banks
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePrincess Michelina had bought herself a black Ford truck.
Exhilaration at her newfound freedom, however, was tempered with a sliver of uneasiness. She was somewhere in Wyoming, but she wasn't exactly sure where, and she had a sinking sensation she should have purchased a mobile Global Positioning System.
The skinny road wound through the darkness with a few token signs. It was bad enough that she didn't know where she was, but Michelina constantly had to fight the urge to veer to the left side of the road.
Why did Americans drive on the wrong side of the road, anyway?
She turned a corner, and her headlights flashed across a cow standing in the middle of the road. Panic sliced through her. She veered to the right and barreled through a fence. Before she could catch her breath or regain control of the truck, a barn loomed in front of her. With a cry of panic, Michelina slammed on the brakes.
Too late. She plowed into the barn. The last thing she saw was the steering wheel before her head slammed into it. Everything went black.
* * *
"Truck hit the barn! Truck hit the barn," Gary Ridenour yelled as he burst into the foyer of Jared McNeil's quiet home.
Jared kissed his chance for an hour of evening peace goodbye and stuffed the newspaper into the magazine holder as he stood. He fought an undertow of dread. "What do you mean,"truck hit the barn'?"
Breathless from his sprint, Gary shrugged and waved his arms. "Some truck came out of nowhere and ran into Romeo's barn."
Alarm sliced through Jared and he immediately grabbed his keys and headed for the door. "Romeo!" Romeo was his prize bull, and raked in the bucks with stud fees. Jared stomped through the front door and down the steps with Gary at his heels. "What happened?"
Gary shrugged again. "I'm not sure. I thought about checking on Romeo, but decided I'd better come and get you first."
Jared nodded and climbed into his truck. "Damn, if anything happened to that bull, whoever ran into the barn is going to learn the meaning of the word trouble."
Gary scooted into the truck just as Jared started the engine, shooting his boss a wary look. Everyone knew how important Romeo was. "That bull's tough. Maybe he slept through the whole thing."
"Romeo's a big baby," Jared corrected, scowling as he turned onto a dirt road. "He's probably bawling his head off."
Jared didn't need this. Besides being the owner of the largest ranch in southeastern Wyoming, he was interim everything at the moment. The local mayor had quit ranching and retired to Florida, so Jared was filling in until someone's arm was twisted hard enough to persuade him or her to take on that position, and since his sister and her husband were recovering from a serious automobile accident, Jared was filling in as caretaker to his two young nieces. Rounding the curve in the road, he pulled to a sharp stop and stepped out of the truck.
The night was black as pitch, and the first sound Jared heard was a bull bawling for all he was worth. Just as he'd predicted. He scowled. "I guess that's a good sign. At least he's not dead," he muttered as Gary joined him and they walked into the barn.
Romeo was alternately pawing the ground and bawling as he lifted his head toward a black truck in the barn. Jared felt a sliver of relief that his prize animal appeared to be physically unharmed. Ready to tear a strip off the reckless driver who'd crashed into the barn, he walked toward the truck. "Hey, buddy!" he called. "You better have damn good insurance -" He broke off when he saw a woman slumped over the wheel. Swearing under his breath, he pulled the door open. "What the -"
Gary raced to his side. "What is it, Mr. McNeil? What ...?" Gary gawked. "It's a lady."
Jared tentatively reached out to touch the woman, and she moaned, sending a trickle of relief through him. "She's alive," he murmured. "Miss?" he asked, reaching for her hand and patting it.
"Should we call 911?" Gary asked.
"Let's give it another minute or two," Jared said, still patting her hand.
She lifted her head slightly and moaned again. "Mon dieu," she said under her breath.
Jared couldn't hold back a wince at the furrow of pain between her dark eyebrows. Her dark silky hair sweeping over her cheek couldn't conceal her finely sculpted bone structure and velvet-textured, tanned complexion. Her eyelids fluttered, her eyes slowly focusing on him.
The intense, light-gray, almost silver color of her eyes took his speech for a full moment. He blinked, and of its own volition, his gaze traveled down the rest of her. She wore a fitted T-shirt that emphasized her small, round breasts and didn't quite meet the top of the low-slung jeans that hugged her hips and long legs.
Her eyelids fluttered again, and her dark eyelashes provided a sexy peek-a-boo fringe that concealed her exotic eyes.
Jared inhaled and caught a whiff of a scent that combined French, forbidden and expensive. He had the uncomfortable feeling that this woman was going to be trouble.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
She nodded slightly, then winced. "I think so, but my head hurts like bloody hell."
Trying to place her accent, which had traces of French, British and American, he pointed his finger at her forehead. "You're going to have a goose egg."
She glanced past the steering wheel. "What about the damage? How bad is the damage?"
"I think the bull will be okay, but you knocked out most of this side of the barn."
"I was referring to my truck," she said in a regal tone.
Jared raised his eyebrows. "I haven't inspected your truck. As long as you have good insurance, you should be okay."
She looked at him with a blank gaze, and Jared felt his stomach sink. No insurance. He would bet half his acreage on it. He narrowed his eyes. He was done helping wealthy damsels in distress. If Miss Silver Eyes didn't have insurance, then she could fork over the money. "I'm Jared McNeil and this is my barn and my ranch. What's your name?"
"Mi -" She broke off, and a sliver of panic crossed her face.
"Mi - what?"
"Mimi," she said with conviction. "Mimi what?"
She paused a half beat, her gaze flickering away from his. "Deer -" she looked at him again " - man. Deerman. Mimi Deerman. Please accept my apologies for running into your barn."
Excerpted from Princess In His Bed by Leanne Banks Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.