Kane Hawthorne has no ties, nothing to anchor him, which is essential in his line of work. Except for a truck and a few horses, the bounty hunter has never found anything worth claiming. But that’s before he lays eyes on the person he has been hired to find. Elizabeth Lawson, the wife of a shrewd bank president is missing—and her husband wants her back. But now that Kane has her in his sight, he doesn’t think he can deliver on his promise, because the woman he is supposed to return to Boise has stolen his heart.
After three desperate and lonely months in hiding, Elizabeth Lawson isn’t sure what to make of the man who offers to trade his skills fixing up her rundown ranch in exchange for room and board. But she finds she can’t say no to the dark and handsome Kane—despite the inherent risk of taking in a stranger. Elizabeth is immediately and intensely drawn to the Native American journeyman, but the secrets each of them harbors could be their undoing.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: The Devil’s Thief, Paradise Café, and The Perfect Catch.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
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Read an Excerpt
“Find my wife, and I’ll make sure you never want for anything in your life.”
Kane Hawthorne studied the bank president seated behind the large mahogany desk: Tailored pin-striped suit, tailored haircut, tailored smile. Everything about Sam Perkins was calculated to elicit trust. Calculated being the operative word. In Kane’s world, trust was a rare commodity that had to be earned.
“My fee plus expenses will be enough. Half now, the rest in a secured account in another bank, paid on delivery.” Kane’s attention remained fixed on the smaller man. Something wasn’t right. Kane’s focused intensity had been known to unnerve most men. He’d used it to his advantage often and never took it for granted. But Perkins’s gaze didn’t waver, nor did he seem to mind being scrutinized. His expression was faintly smug, superior.
“I’m going to need more information,” Kane said quietly.
“Whatever it takes. I just want her found and brought back to me before something happens to her.”
Kane went on full alert. “You said she ran because you cut off her line of credit. You think she’s in danger?”
Perkins smiled. “Elizabeth may be beautiful, but … well, you know how women are with money. She thought that because I run the bank, I’m loaded. I simply wanted to make a point, but Elizabeth is impulsive. She can be very temperamental when she doesn’t get her way. I’m afraid she’ll do something foolish to spite me. I want her back safe and sound before she gets mixed up in something she can’t handle.”
“Sounds as if you’d be better off without her,” Kane observed, his voice flat, devoid of emotion.
An odd light flickered briefly in Perkins’s eyes, and it struck Kane that it was the first honest emotion he’d detected in the man.
Passion. It existed in Sam Perkins. But what inspired it? His young wife? Was that why Perkins was so hot to have her back? A bed could get real cold at night in Idaho. Kane felt a distinct chill.
“All the facts, Perkins. Or I walk.”
“Fine. I need her back. Without her, I’m nothing.”
Kane glanced at the blond woman smiling gaily up at him from a gold-plated frame on the desk. His gaze moved to Perkins’s hands. White knuckles showed against the strain of gripping the edge of that same desk.
No, this was a man with a score to settle. He wanted his lovely, money-grubbing wife back so badly, he’d give up anything to get her. Why? What difference did it make?
It was just another job.
He looked Perkins in the eye. “You’ve got yourself a bounty hunter.”
“Preserved by Ann.” Elizabeth Lawson sat back on her heels and mopped the sweat from her neck. “No,” she muttered to herself, “sounds like a weird embalmer.” She shoved the damp bandanna in the rear pocket of her jeans and reached for another bristly vine. “Ann’s Jams. Nah. Even dumber.” She plucked three plump raspberries. One went into her mouth, and the other two into the basket sitting in front of her knees.
“Eating the profits isn’t good business.”
Elizabeth shrieked and lurched forward, dumping over four hours of back-aching work onto the dusty ground. The strange deep voice had come out of nowhere, making her forget her usual wariness. “Look what you made me do!” she cried, scrambling to her feet. “Do you have any idea how long it took me to fill—”
Her tirade died on the light summer wind as she looked up at her unexpected visitor. She had to look higher than the late-afternoon sun before her gaze connected with his.
“I apologize,” he said, his tone more flat than sincere.
Elizabeth was staring at him, too overcome by his sheer presence to speak. Long hair black as midnight, eyes even darker. His face and forearms were the even color of a man who was likely bronzed all over. He wore a red bandanna tied at the throat, an open-collared blue chambray shirt, battered jeans, and dusty boots that had seen better days. She skimmed back over his rough-hewn frame to his face, unable to tamp down the idea that this man looked more savage in beat-up ranch clothes than any other man would in a breechcloth.
His gaze was fixed on her, its concentrated energy a bit rattling. She couldn’t tell if her close perusal bothered him, or if he’d even noticed.
“I’ll replace the loss.”
His deep, even-timbred voice snapped Elizabeth from her thoughts. Heat from an inner source colored cheeks already reddened by the sun. Where had he come from? Why hadn’t she heard him approach? She hadn’t even heard his truck.
She didn’t respond to his offer. “Who are you?” she demanded, her tone wary. “What do you want?”
“Kane Hawthorne,” he responded immediately, though his expression remained unchanged. “And if you’re Ann Fielding, then what I want is to help you.”
Ann Fielding. She still wasn’t used to that name. Suspicion flooded Elizabeth’s mind. She fought the sudden tightening of her chest and willed her hands to stay relaxed at her side. Trapped. It was a feeling she’d become intimate with over the last three months. She didn’t like it now any more than when she’d fled Boise in fear of her life.
“Help with what?” She hoped he didn’t notice the slight tremor in her voice.
“Dobson down at the general store said you might be needing help with your barn. Said you were thinking of renovating it so you could expand.”
Elizabeth wanted to believe him. Being suspicious of everyone and everything went against her nature, and she was plain sick and tired of it. But trust was a luxury. A life-and-death matter even. Hers. And as much as she would have liked some help, she couldn’t afford it—or take the risk of hiring an outsider.
“I’m sorry if Dobs misled you,” she began, “but I’m not hiring right now.”
“You are Ann Fielding?”
She shaded her eyes and looked straight at him. “Yes. But I’m not hiring. Sorry.”
He didn’t say anything, simply bent down and began picking up the berries that hadn’t rolled in the dirt.
Surprised as much by his actions as by the image of those delicate red berries being plucked by thick, work-roughened fingers, Elizabeth didn’t speak right away. After a moment spent watching him, she almost crouched beside him to help, but quickly decided against it. She might never have a height advantage over him again, so she figured she’d make the most of this opportunity.
“You might try the Double Y,” she suggested, struggling to sound casual. “I heard Dobs say that the Yancy brothers are looking for someone to help wrangle.”
“He told me,” he said, still gathering stray berries.
She stared at the dark hair that fell well past his collar as he continued picking up raspberries. Her patience began to fray. “What, you don’t like cows?”
“I’ve got nothing against cows.”
She waited a beat, then said, “Well?”
He stood. The motion was fluid with a grace she wouldn’t have attributed to someone his size. He faced her. “Figured you needed me more than they did.”
Before she could respond, he turned and headed toward the ramshackle barn about a hundred yards away.
She watched his easy gait for all of ten seconds before she realized exactly which part of his “gait” had captured her attention. “Hey, wait a minute,” she called, then hurried after him when he showed no signs of slowing. “Stop!”
He did. But not until he’d reached the barn doors. Or what was left of them. They were both rusted and warped with a space between them barely wide enough for her to squeeze through. He grabbed one side.
“Don’t bother pulling. I’ve worked on that for weeks. It needs to be dismantled, I guess.”
Kane spared her a glance, then bent to the task at hand. One mighty yank and the door squealed back far enough to allow both of them to enter side by side if they chose.
Elizabeth spent a second longer marveling at the abundant strength he carried along with that quiet demeanor. It must be nice to have that sort of power to call upon whenever the need arose, she thought, a bit annoyed. She knew if she let him see her irritation, he would somehow turn it around as a testimony to her need for help. She swallowed another portion of pride and pasted on a smile. “Thanks.”
His lips remained a flat line, but she could have sworn there was a hint of a twinkle in his dark eyes as he nodded and motioned her ahead of him with a low swept arm.sk why he wanted to see inside her barn in the first place.
She wandered inside before it occurred to her to ask why he wanted to see inside her barn in the first place.
It was musty and dank. The weathered boards had warped allowing long slivers of light to cut across the hay-strewn dirt floor. She’d only taken a few steps, but it was enough to stir up dust motes, and she paused to wave her hand in front of her face to clear the air.