When she’d agreed to accompany her aunt Fay to Seven Devils Ranch, Lyric hoped that the invitation was at the request of Trevor Daltona man who had stirred her desire from the moment she’d laid eyes upon him. But from the instant she arrived in Idaho, the independent Texan knew her hunch had been utterly wrong. Trevor would hardly acknowledge her existence!
Lyric had always mesmerized Trevor, but shehad pushed him away before for a fiancé that he hadn’t even known existed. Could Lyric make him understand the truth behind her deceitand unleash the passion and love that burned in them both?
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A Kiss In The Moonlight
By Laurie Paige
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLyric Gibson felt the headache as a throb centered behind her eyes. She tried to consciously relax the tension that tightened the muscles of her forehead and those across her shoulders. That worked as long as she concentrated, but she was looking for road signs, and her attention was on that task.
"Have we passed it, do you think?" her great-aunt, Fay Gibson, asked in slightly querulous tones.
Lyric flinched as guilt joined the other emotions that swirled through her innermost self. She should have stopped in Boise for the night. Her aunt was sixty-eight years old and, although usually cheerful and persevering, much too tired from the long hours they'd spent on the road.
But it had been early afternoon - not quite four - so there'd been hours of July daylight left when they'd driven through the city. The mountain town of Lost Valley was only an hour north of there, according to her information, so she'd pushed on. They'd found the town without a problem.
The Seven Devils Ranch, their hoped-for destination, was supposed to be less than an hour west of Lost Valley, so they should have arrived by six at the latest.
It was now half past eight.
She had no idea if they were any closer to their destination now than they'd been an hour ago.Glancing at the western sky, she fought worry and the headache that accompanied it. She was no longer sure where they were. The back roads of Idaho all looked the same, and she'd obviously taken a couple of wrong turns. Or three or four.
Maybe this whole trip was a mistake. She'd been stunned when her great-aunt had delivered the invitation that had included her. Then she'd been elated. Now she was simply unsure.
"It'll be dark soon," Aunt Fay said, then gave an impatient tsk. "I'm sorry, Lyric. I shouldn't have said that. I know you're concerned about me, but this wouldn't be the first time I've been lost and slept in a car."
Lyric managed a confident laugh. "We'll find it. We're bound to be close. We passed a sign that said He-Devil Mountain was thataway." She pointed toward the west. "The ranch is supposed to be within sight of the peak. We're just taking the scenic route."
A shiver ran over every nerve in her body as she recalled a dark-haired, blue-eyed, tall, handsome cowboy who'd once told her about his family's ranch and its splendid view, its crystal streams and lakes, the majestic sweep of the land.
She'd longed to explore the mountains and valleys with him, but fate had intervened, temporarily at any rate.
Trevor had listened to her rushed, disjointed explanation of why she'd had to leave, first in disbelief then with growing anger. With his jaw set as hard as stone, he'd nodded as if he understood, but then he'd left. Without a word. Without a backward glance.
That had been almost a year ago.
During the endless fall and winter, through storms that brought floods to much of the southwest, she'd waited, sure he would write. But he hadn't contacted her, not even when she'd sent a note that explained more fully. She'd given up hope. Then out of the blue came an invitation to visit the ranch. That had to mean something.
She put the shaky elation and haunting doubts aside to concentrate on finding the right road. She didn't want to make another wrong turn.
"I see a trail of dust," she said, peering through her driving glasses at this welcome indication of another vehicle. It was on a side road off to the right of the county road they traveled, which was also a gravel surface. The other driver had probably seen her dust, too.
The earlier concern eased a bit. "We can stop the driver and get directions."
"He's coming awfully fast. Be careful. He may be a rustler or something."
Lyric cast her aunt a partly amused, partly exasperated glance at this bit of advice.
Rustlers? Ask her if she cared.
She slowed in anticipation of flagging the oncoming vehicle at the intersection of the two roads. "At present, I'd face down the devil himself if he would help get us to our destination."
Her aunt laughed at the quip. The older woman was like a grandmother to Lyric and her two younger brothers. Aunt Fay had never married, but she'd taken in her nephew, Lyric's father, years ago when his parents had died in a traffic accident. She'd always treated the family as if they were her children.
"Oh!" the spinster gasped.
Lyric swung the steering wheel hard to the right as a truck tore out of the gravel side road at breakneck speed and nearly hit them. She felt the compact station wagon graze a large rock as they careened into a shallow ditch at the side of the road.
The back tires slid sideways. She turned into the skid and took her foot off the brake. The rear skittered back and forth on the loose gravel. As the tires regained traction and she had the car under control once more, a pile of stones encased in a section of fence to form a corner post loomed before them.
"Oh, no," she said.
They hit the stones with a resounding thud.
Air bags blossomed on each side of the front seat. Lyric spared a worry for her relative as the bag hit her face, smothering her for a few seconds and pressing her glasses painfully onto her nose.
Dizzy and frightened, Lyric remembered to turn the engine off, then she thrashed her way free of the collapsing air bag and turned to her aunt. After pushing the plastic aside, Lyric searched the older woman's face for damage.
"Aunt Fay?" she said.
The other woman didn't answer, didn't move.
"Hey, are you okay in there?" a male voice asked.
"My aunt," Lyric said. "I think she's hurt." She snapped open the seat belt and reached for her aunt's wrist to check her pulse.
"Don't move her," the man ordered.
He went around the station wagon and opened the door. With a competence that was reassuring, he checked the unconscious woman after removing her glasses, which by some miracle weren't broken, and sticking them in his pocket.
Excerpted from A Kiss In The Moonlight by Laurie Paige Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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