I have my hands full taking care of my little sister and covering for my uncle as ranch foreman. The last thing I need is a Texas princess like Callie Llewellyn getting up in my business and messing with my head.
All I can think of is getting up close and personal with those curves of hers. And being on the edge of discovery makes our quick-and-dirty encounters twice as hot. And that’s all they are—quick and dirty—there’s nothing deeper going on here.
There’s only one rule to keeping my job and a roof over my sister’s head: stay away from the boss’s granddaughter. But I’m not always great at following the rules.
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By Candace Havens, Heidi Shoham
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Candace Havens
All rights reserved.
One month earlier
"I can't breathe." I laughed as Bethany, my roommate, danced around our dorm room. There were clothes strewn about, so she'd fallen more than once. My stomach hurt from giggling.
"Callie, dance with me!" she screeched, and did a weird bow like she was inviting me to some eighteenth-century dance.
"Fine, but I'm the girl this time."
Bethany rolled her eyes. "If anyone is a girl here, it's me." Point made. The first day I met her, she reminded me of a Barbie doll, or Elle from those Legally Blonde movies. While the rest of us schlepped around in sweatpants and hoodies, she always appeared ready to walk the runway. She reminded me of my grandma that way. And like my grandma, she might be drop-dead gorgeous, but she was also kind. Oh, and the girl could party better than any frat boy I'd ever met.
She'd made the last two semesters a blast.
I didn't get that gene. I was no schlep, but I really had to work at looking decent.
"I'm going to miss you this summer."
"Awww. Sad face. Don't talk about it," I whined. "The real world. I'm just not ready for the real world. We have such a perfect life here. We should have gone to summer school."
"Not," Bethany said quickly. "Girl, my brain needs a break. I'm ready to sit by the pool and kill a few brain cells with muchas alchohalas."
"And you got a C in Spanish. I can't imagine why."
We both snorted.
My phone beeped and a reminder popped up.
"Holy shit! I forgot about my advisor appointment." On my way to the door, I stumbled over the pile of clothes we'd been packing.
"Halt." Bethany ordered.
"It is summer, but all you're wearing is a Timbaland T-shirt you probably owned in junior high, and a thong."
She dug through my suitcase. "Here. These jeans make your ass look like Jesus made it special. And this red Theory blouse might make Hot Craig think about you as something other than one of his students. Does awesome stuff to your boobs."
Hot Craig was my advisor. Most of the students and teachers, male and female, had a thing for him.
After dressing, I pulled her into my arms. "You are the best friend ever. I can't wait for fall so we can do this all over again."
"Me, too." She hugged me back. Then she slapped my ass. "Hurry up and go see him so we can get our summer on."
* * *
"Academic probation? But, but ..." I stuttered. "I, uh. I have As. Several As." Holy hell. This could not be happening. What would they think? Oh my God. I could not go there.
"Callie, you have three As, two Ds, and an F, and your first semester grades weren't exactly stellar." My academic advisor pushed his glasses up his nose. He was young, probably only five years older than me. And he had that cool, bookish nerd thing down.
You're thinking he looks hot. You have a fucking F, and you're sitting here checking out your advisor.
Hell, I'd never even had a B. Anything less than an A wasn't allowed in my house.
"I don't understand. How could I have worked so hard and made such a bad grade? Professor MacDonald knew I was having trouble. I told you I was having trouble. You said to stick it out. That I could do this." I pointed an accusing finger, but it didn't make me feel any better.
"This happens," Craig, the man I used to think was the coolest advisor ever, said. "I had faith in you. So did Dr. MacDonald, but you flunked the final, and with the other low test scores ... You struggled with all of your business classes."
Squeezing the arms of my chair, I did my best not to screech. Craig had set up my schedule from hell. Eight a.m. classes and nineteen hours a week for a freshman? And to be honest, I'd worked my ass off. Okay, so maybe I'd slept through a few weeks of the eight a.m., but I'd worked hard to make all of that up. With Big Mac's finance class, I'd kept telling myself that eventually I would catch on. That I could make up those early test scores, but it had never happened.
How could I have been so stupid? I was an adult. I could sit here and blame Craig all day long. But the truth was I never wanted to admit there was a possibility I might fail. I never failed. I was the one who'd wanted to take nineteen hours. I was the one who'd said those early classes were no problem.
But I'd set up that stupid schedule when I'd thought I was going to be the next Bill Gates. What I hadn't known back then was I kind of hated the business classes. Like, "bored out of my skull" hate. Finance was a living nightmare. Never in my life had I doubted I could learn anything from a book — until that stupid class. It broke me, in a way nothing else ever had. Self-doubt had become my new best friend. And I'd spent so much time on that one class that the others had suffered.
I sighed. "So what does this mean?"
Craig sat back in his chair and shoved his reading glasses on top of his head. "It means you go home and rest. It means we're going to need to make some adjustments in your schedule. And ..." He paused.
"What?" I leaned forward. There was something else. His eyes said it all. "Just tell me."
"You need to decide if finance really is your thing. I spoke with your creative writing professor. He believes you have talent, and he doesn't say that about everyone. I believe" — he flipped through a notebook on his desk — "yes, I wrote it down. Professor Klein said, 'She's the most talented writer I've had in my class in more than twenty years.'"
Professor Klein, the man who'd marked so much wrong on my stories that I'd considered buying stock in red ink, had called me talented?
What the fuck?
"He's promised to write you a letter of recommendation."
A pain shot through my right eyeball as if a dart had been thrown at it. "A letter of recommendation for what?"
Craig's eyebrow shot up. "The creative writing program here is one of the best in the country, Callie. Students wait years to get in."
"No." The word came out as a cough. "I can't be a writer. Are you kidding me?" I coughed again. "I — that's not a real job. I just have to work harder. You were right. Maybe we should tweak the schedule. I can make up the finance class in summer school, and maybe some of the others. And we should knock me down to sixteen hours. That might be more manageable."
"I'd like you to at least think about the writing program."
Dude. Not going to happen. My grandparents would flip into an early grave. No. I was being groomed to take over the family business. I couldn't even imagine the disappointment they would feel if they found out I was on academic probation.
Fuck. It would kill them.
It would kill me to have to tell them. They expected so much and had done everything they could for me. This was on me. I had to fix it.
"Thanks. I have to go. Have a happy ... um, summer and all that." I waved as I stumbled out of the office.
I'd just stepped out into the cool Massachusetts wind when arms wrapped around me. "It's the fucking summer. Lose the sad face." Bethany squeezed me tight.
She jumped up and down, forcing me to do the same.
"I take it you passed your political science final?"
"Yes." She giggled, only loosening her arms a little. "So what did Hot Craig say? Why the look? You have that same expression you had when slimy Ronny touched your ass at the Lambda Chi party yesterday."
That guy had been the bane of my existence the last few months. Always leering. Ugh. I got along with most everyone, and I'd always been nice to him — until he'd tried to feel me up. The heel of my shoe had found his instep, and he'd limped away calling me nasty names.
Bethany frowned. I couldn't tell her I'd failed finance. I'd been talking smack to her all semester about how if I survived Big Mac, she had no excuses in any of her classes.
But I hadn't survived. I'd failed miserably. I know, first-world problems and all, but success was paramount when it came to my family. We did not fail.
"Callie?" Bethany tugged my hair. She wore a bright pink jacket over a vintage T-shirt, a tiny skirt, and six-inch heels. Right out of the fashion magazines, this one.
"Oh. Uh. He just wanted to discuss my schedule for next semester." The bell on the clock tower chimed. "What time is it?"
"That's why I was coming to get you. It's almost five. We're supposed to be at the hangar in about a half hour. I packed your bags for you. They're in the car. And the moving guys came just as I was leaving. They gave me the keys to the storage place. So we're all set."
Lovely, OCD Bethany. My adoring roommate was as OCD as they came. I wasn't surprised she'd already packed my stuff in the thirty minutes I'd been gone. I hadn't known what to think of her that first day when she'd offered to reorganize my closet, desk, and everything else on my side of the room. There were moments when I wanted to punch her face, but most of the time, I was just grateful she put up with my crap.
"Wait. You packed my bag?"
She rolled her eyes. "Don't worry. I threw in some jeans, your favorite shorty shorts, and even a couple of hoodies for when the air conditioning is too cold in your grandma's house. I thought of everything. Besides, you know there will be a new wardrobe for you when you get there. Every time you go home, she's got a closet full of clothes waiting."
Grandma Helen did love buying clothes.
Linking her arm in mine, she half dragged me down the sidewalk. "Come on."
I followed her, glancing around at the campus as she pulled me toward the town car that would take us to the hangar where one of my grandfather's private jets was waiting. The flight plan included dropping her in Ashville, North Carolina, where her parents lived.
Then it was on to Texas. I had to get my shit together. If I didn't make the grades next semester, I'd be out of here for good.
Shame fell over me like a wet blanket.
I'd have to lie to my grandparents. Tell them everything would be wonderful. Pretend like I loved every moment of the business classes my grandpa was so excited to hear about. I blew out a breath. I could do it. For two months, I would lie and retake the classes. Then I'd come back to campus and fix my mistakes.
I'd be the best fucking business student ever.
* * *
Jerking awake when the jet landed, I yawned. After three all-nighters in a row, I'd slept during most of the five-hour flight. The plane stopped, and one of the pilots came out of the cockpit. "Miss Llewellyn, we're here," he said as he shoved the hatch door open. "Is there anything you need?"
I shook my head. "No, thanks. That was fast."
He grinned. "I think you fell asleep before we took off in Ashville. College is hard work."
I flinched a little.
Stop it. You can't do that shit here. Get it together.
"Yep. I can't believe Grandpa made you guys come get me. I could have taken a commercial flight."
"Not a problem. We dropped one of the board members off in New York, so it was just a small skip to pick you up before we headed back."
He stood by the open door, waiting for me to climb down. I hesitated. Taking a deep breath, I straightened my shoulders. Little Miss Perfect was about to give an Academy-Award-worthy performance. Lifting my chin, I gave him a quick smile as I climbed down the steps.
The wind was warm, nothing like it had been in the Northeast. I shifted my backpack on my shoulders as I took the next step, and it caught on the railing. "Shit," I said as I toppled to the right, nearly falling off the stairs.
A hand reached up, caught my thigh, and then slid up to my hip. The pack shifted again, and this time I did fall, but I didn't hit the ground.
Strong arms held me tightly to a rock-hard chest. "Umph," the chest said.
"Sorry. So, so sorry. I ... uh." I glanced up and the rest of the words caught in my throat. A pair of chocolate-brown eyes stared down at me. Even in the darkness, with just the light from the interior of the jet, the brown eyes had golden flecks and thick, dark lashes that framed them. My hands itched to explore the abs underneath his button-down shirt.
What is wrong with me?
"Are you okay? Did you twist anything?" he asked as he set me down on the tarmac. I was sad when his arms fell to his sides. They had felt so good around me.
"Embarrassed," I blurted out.
He cocked his eyebrow. The man wore jeans and boots, in that comfortable way guys who wore them all the time did. A cowboy. Damn, if I didn't have a soft spot for cowboys. Though, I'd stayed far, far away from them while growing up on the ranch. They were trouble with a capital "T." And I'd been too busy for boys. I'd always been too busy. Even in college, I usually went out in groups with only the occasional drunk make-out session.
I realized he was trying to make sense of my comment.
"Make that klutzy, embarrassed, and not-so erudite."
He jutted out his chin just a tad. "Well, not-so erudite, how about I help you with that backpack before you injure yourself or some poor hapless soul who wanders by?"
He reached out and lifted the pack off my shoulders.
"Nice. Kick a girl when she's down."
"Oh, I have no intention of kicking anyone," his voice purred over me. He waved a hand. "Your chariot awaits, Miss Llewellyn." I glanced over to see the golf cart that was used to transport people from the landing strip on my grandparents' ranch to the big house. So called because there were lots of houses on the property for the staff and ranch hands, and that it was thirty-five thousand square feet. One of the biggest houses in the county. And that was saying something in this part of Texas.
I grunted. "Please don't call me that. It's just Callie."
A tiny shiver slid along my spine as he said my name. Since when did that happen?
"Let's get you out of the heat." He gave me a lopsided grin that was oh so sexy.
Holy shit. Gut tightening, I felt my breath catch — again. What was it about this guy?
"And you are?"
"Just another ranch hand, ma'am. No one to you."
What the fuck did that mean?CHAPTER 2
Damn. She was fucking beautiful. I hadn't expected that. When she'd fallen against me, her body had been soft in all the right places. And that strawberry smell from her hair was fucking sweet, and those tits ... they were real. A lot of the women around town had fake ones. But I'd always been fond of the natural kind, no matter the size.
She sat there next to me on the golf cart as we made the long drive back to the house, and all I could think about was what it would be like to be skin to skin with her.
My uncle had told me two things when I took over as temporary ranch foreman for him. The first was not to fuck around with the boss's granddaughter. The second was if I even looked at Callie Llewellyn cross-eyed, I'd get my ass kicked. That was a joke, since he'd been in the hospital at the time and was still in recovery from his leg being crushed by a tractor. Now, if that had been my dad, the joke would have been a threat, one he would follow up on. I had the fucking scars to prove it.
I was here to do a job, to help my uncle, and take care of my sister. That meant leaving the princess alone. And that was okay, since I wasn't much for relationships or anything much more than one-night stands. I had a list of women in Amarillo I'd never call back on my phone. Someday, I'd get around to deleting them. Anything more than once and they tended to get clingy.
She might think I'm an asshole, but I answered to her grandfather, not her. Best to keep my distance. Her grandparents had been talking about her arrival for weeks, like it was the second coming of Christ.
"I can't wait for you to meet her," Mrs. Llewellyn had said. "She's a sweetheart and absolutely brilliant. Someday, she'll take over the empire. We've been grooming her since she was a babe."
I couldn't imagine being groomed for anything. My sister and I grew up hard. We lived day to day. Things were good right now, but one wrong move, and we'd be out on the streets.
No way would I jeopardize my family's future for a piece of ass, didn't matter how fucking hot it was.
Excerpted from Branded by Candace Havens, Heidi Shoham. Copyright © 2016 Candace Havens. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I liked the story overall but the characters are younger than I like to read about. Not much sex. Liked the family parts and HEA.
At first I thought that this book was for YA, but after a couple of chapters I found "Branded" such an enjoyable read that I read it in one sitting. It was a book for anyone that loves hot cowboys, a sexy story, misunderstandings and a HEA. Callie came from a privileged background but a snob she was not, while her grandparents was much more a part of the storyline than first appeared. Cole was one hot cowboy foreman who was trying to raise his younger sister and trying to keep his 'just sex' with Callie a secret. Cole and Callie were from very different backgrounds, but when they came together there was such a connection between them. Overall this was a sweet and sexy read for all of us cowboy lovers. Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Pub. for gifting me with "Branded" and asking for my honest opinion. This is mine. 4 Stars!
Cassie Llewellyn is home from her first year of college. She loves her grandparents. They are always there to support her. She's afraid to tell them that she failed a finance course. Their disappointment would break her so she plans to keep this a secret. When she arrives at their Texas ranch, she meets Cole Keller. He's the temporary foreman and very handsome. He's working there until his Uncle recovers from a serious injury. He's a hard worker and very smart. He needs this job to take care of his sister. He's attracted to Cassie but he won't approach her. Her grandfather would fire him if he did. Can he do what's smart? Cole is a player. He doesn't want to settle down. He's overwhelmed by his responsibilities. Cassie is a down to earth woman. She and his sister, Adina, become fast friends. Cassie feels protective of the younger girl and admires Cole for putting family first. Their chemistry is overwhelming and they secretly become involved. Cassie won't let Cole be hurt by their affair. I admired Cole. He cares for his sister and is determined to take care of Ads. He even left college to help his family. He looks down at Cassie until he realizes that she isn't a spoiled princess. She's a hard worker and a compassionate woman. I hated that they felt the need to hide their relationship. I wanted them to trust others. I enjoyed Candace Haven's writing. Her characters are passionate, the dialogue is realistic and the ranch is an interesting setting. I was pulled into the story and couldn't stop reading until I knew that Cassie and Cole would get their HEA. They deserved happiness. I received a copy in exchange for an honest and unscripted review.
When something is branded, extreme heat is applied between the two items until a mark is permanently left. Candace Havens couldn’t have chosen a more perfect name for this book than BRANDED. The story of Callie and Cole was one of transformation that unfolds before our very eyes. They started out with some humorous misconceptions about each other but they began to right the ship, so to speak, almost immediately and the story had my heart beating right along in time. Callie is funny, loving and smart-assy, just the right combination to push all of Cole’s buttons. Cole is every bit a cowboy—strong, hardworking, and handsome as well as a man of well-chosen words. Having the notion that they could never have a real relationship, their chemistry quickly evolves into something majorly hot and in a sense, hidden. I was really taken by surprise by how much their families factored into the storyline. That added an additional layer of warmth and emotion that helped balance out some of the near-constant uber hot sex Callie and Cole eventually engaged in. And that’s all I’m going to say on that matter. ::grin:: You’ll just have to read it for yourself. I loved that the author told the story in dual pov's. It helped me feel like you are able to get the real thoughts and feelings of each character and really feel more involved in their journey. I liked the fact that it was a fast paced, easy and hot read, and although I found it somewhat predictable at times, a good book by a well-known author still equals a book well worth reading. ****4 Stars**** ***ARC kindly provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***
Callie was in jail because she had lied. Callie’s roommate was Bethany - at college-. Callie had never failed a class in high school but she had failed one this semester and she was put on acedemic probation. She had never even had a B before much less two d’s and an F in in finance and she was going for a business degree. Her grandparents had built a empire and were waiting for her to take over. But in he rheart Callie wanted to be a writter.Now it was summer break and Cllie was to go home. One of her grandfsther’s workers met her at her grandparent’s private plane her grandfather had sent to pick her up at college. Callie learned his name was COle and he was hot. Callie had stummbled and fell into Cole’s arms. It turned out Cole was taking over as the ranch’s manager as his uncle Charlie had gotten hurt and was in the hospital and this way Charlie would have his job when he was released to work again. Cole was raising his fifteen year old sister Adina. He had quit college when his mother got very sick from cancer and then passed away. After his mother had died Cole had Adina to worry about. Cole was attracted to Callie but she was the bosses granddaughter and he was a one night stand kinda guy. Callie had never reacted to a man before like she did Cole but he acted like he didn’t even like her. I really enjoyed this story I absolutely loved it. A Cinderella type story only more Cinderfella to a degree vibe no evil steparent though. The plat was great as were the characters , I loved them all. The story just grabbed me right from the beginning and kept me until I had read the last page. I liked Adina’s part in thiss tory pulled it all together and Adina was so sweet. The story made you feel good or at least it did me. I was rooting for Callie and ZCole all the way through the story. I loved the ins and outs of this story and highly recommend. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
When I first started reading this book, I almost stopped. I realized that Cole and Callie were late teens/early twenties. This is not usually my cup of tea. But something about the story made me want to give it a chance. The characters along with the writing were very mature, not too young and they had their head screwed on their shoulders pretty well. I lived the interactions Callie had with her grandparents along with Addy, Cole's sister. They were all very sweet normal down to earth people, despite being rich. Cole was very independent and ran a little hot/cold at times. But in his defense that was to be responsible. Their story flowed quickly and easily and was not too over the top in getting to their happy ending. I was very surprised how much I did end up liking it and would read more from this author. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through Netgalley.
I have my hands full taking care of my little sister and covering for my uncle as ranch foreman. The last thing I need is a Texas princess like Callie Llewellyn getting up in my business and messing with my head. All I can think of is getting up close and personal with those curves of hers. And being on the edge of discovery makes our quick-and-dirty encounters twice as hot. And that’s all they are—quick and dirty—there’s nothing deeper going on here. There’s only one rule to keeping my job and a roof over my sister’s head: stay away from the boss’s granddaughter. But I’m not always great at following the rules. Review: This is a sexy, fun, easy read. You have two young adults from totally different backgrounds who find themselves in instant lust, but fight that attraction for different reasons. One of the things I liked most about the two characters is that even though they are young, they take responsibility for themselves and others. Callie is trying to live up to her perceived grandparents expectations and Cole has taken on not just caring for himself but his younger sister and uncle. Callie and Cole's chemistry is extremely hot and I liked that Cole was a little on the kinky side. I have read mostly this Author's paranormal romances, but I thought she did a good job with this ranch romance. It was a quick read and it is a stand alone title. New adult is not normally my preferred genre but Ms. Haven did a good job of drawing me into the story and characters. 3.5Stars *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
With a book that begins with one of the main characters in a jail cell, you know you're going to be in for an interesting ride and this book definitely did not disappoint! Callie finds out right before summer break that she has failed her Finance class and is now on academic probation. This wouldn't be that big of a deal if she wasn't meant to take over her grandfather's business when he's ready to retire. How can she possibly tell her family that she's not meeting their expectations? Cole has too much on his plate filling in as foreman for his injured uncle and taking care of his teenage sister. He knows that the boss's granddaughter is 100% off limits, even if he did have the time. Too bad the chemistry between these two missed the memo. For as much as these characters thought they were completely different, they had more in common than either would realize. They both are intelligent, strong, and selfless. Once they gave up trying to fight the pull between them, they were able to help each other with the obstacles facing them. This was my first book by this author but it definitely won't be the last. I was immediately connected to the characters and wanted to see both achieve all of their goals and dreams. Fingers crossed that Bethany gets her own story!! *I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
I really enjoyed this one! Sweet romance, sizzling hot chemistry, nice pace and interesting characters. Callie was a bit whinny for my taste but overall she wasn't too bad. Cole more than made up for her! It was interesting to see how their first impressions of each other were disproved as they got to know each other. He had her pegged as a rich girl who never worked a day in her life while she marked him as a no goals cowboy, happy to spend his life on the ranch. Reality was far different and once they were being honest with the people around them it became clear how perfect for each other they really were. A great read and one I would definitely recommend.
For me the draw of a first person narrative is the opportunity to get inside the head and feel what space an individual is in when they make some of the most important choices of their lives. With Callie and Cole, Ms. Havens gave her readers a sense of insecurity but Branded is not just a romance. It is about confronting fears and becoming a better and stronger version of who a person is meant to be. Outwardly, Callie has a great life. People who love and encourage her, a career path waiting for her and the means to hone her smarts and skills. Underneath the pluses in her life lies the guilt and insecurity that she can never succeed and will let down the people who mattered most to her. When she meets Cole, she sees someone with a chip on his shoulder but willing to work hard for himself and the people who rely on him. Branded tackles social prejudice, the value of being true to yourself and the wisdom gained from some of life's many lessons.