Born a man, Kit always felt cheated out of the life he was meant to live. Growing up in Arkansas, Kit was forced to hide behind the masculine clothes and haircuts favoured by the other boys in the small community. The minute Kit graduated high school, he pushed away the male way of life then reached for her dream of living as a woman. With newly augmented breasts, Kit arrives in Cattle Valley in hopes of gaining acceptance.
Gabe 'Hawk' Hawkins is in search of more than a place to lay his head when he too comes to Cattle Valley. He's on the hunt for his son. When he meets Kit at the local gym, he's knocked sideways by her incredible body and big smile.
It soon becomes clear that there's more to Kit than meets the eye. Luckily for Hawk, he's an equal opportunity lover and won't let the sassy blonde push him away no matter what others say about him. People may not trust Hawk's motives for being in town, but he hopes Kit will look past his mistakes to see the man he longs to be.
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Stretching the morning kinks out of his back, Gabe Hawkins stared out of the second-floor window of the Apple Valley Inn Bed and Breakfast. He groaned at the falling snow. What the hell had convinced him to ride his Harley from Malibu?
He'd arrived late the previous night nearly frozen to death. Thankfully, he'd already made arrangements at the B&B or else he would've been screwed. According to Addie, the sweet little proprietor of the Inn, the only other place to stay in Cattle Valley was the ski lodge.
Hawk put his hands on his hips and twisted his upper torso from side to side. Whether it was the long ride or the nerves crawling up his spine at the thought of meeting his son, he wasn't sure, but his muscles were as tight as hell. After pulling on his last pair of clean jeans, Hawk grabbed a T-shirt and shoved his feet into his boots.
Before leaving the room he gave himself a quick once-over in the mirror. He'd taken a nice hot shower before he'd bedded down for the night, but he'd gone to bed with his hair still wet. Grabbing his brush out of his dop kit, Hawk tried to tame his shoulder-length hair. Giving up, he reached for the small black elastic band he'd worn the night before and pulled his hair into a low ponytail.
Walking down the steps, he heard singing coming from the kitchen. "Hello?" he called to announce his presence as he walked down the hall towards the back of the Inn.
"Mr. Hawkins?" Addie appeared in the doorway, drying her hands on a faded red dishtowel. "Good morning."
"Can I make you something for breakfast?" Addie asked, her hand rubbing the side of her very pregnant stomach.
It was a simple gesture but one that reminded Hawk why he'd come to town. "No thanks. I was wondering if this town had somewhere I could work out?"
"Sure. There's The Gym. It's only about six blocks north of here. The first building when you get to the industrial park."
"Thanks. That was easy enough. How about a laundromat?"
"No need. We've got two washers and dryers right through those doors. Feel free to use them."
Hawk wasn't used to such honest hospitality. He'd stayed in the most expensive hotels in the world and had still had to pay for laundry service. "I can pay," he said out of guilt.
Addie laughed. "I do loads every day. I doubt another one is going to break the bank. As a matter-of-fact, if you bring your dirty clothes down I'll get them done while you're out."
"Thank you, but that's not necessary. I'll do them later if that's okay?" As pregnant as Addie appeared, Hawk hated the thought of her doing extra chores when he was perfectly capable of doing them himself.
Addie smiled. "I've seen underwear before, you know. Why are men so sensitive about that?"
It was Hawk's turn to chuckle. "Didn't bring any with me, so that's not the problem. I could be here a while if things work out, and overstaying my welcome isn't on the agenda."
The blush that began to work up Addie's face caught Hawk's attention. "Forgive me if I embarrassed you. I guess that's probably too much information, huh?"
Addie waved away Hawk's apology. "You didn't. It's these damn hormones. It's nice to talk to a straight-shooter. I think we'll get along fine."
"Well, I'd better find that gym before my muscles start seizing up on me again. Thanks again." He'd started out of the kitchen when Addie called after him.
"Supper's on the table at six if you're interested. Right now you're our only guest so it'll be something simple. Mel asked for meatloaf if that's okay with you?"
Hawk stopped in the doorway and glanced over his shoulder. "Meatloaf sounds good. I appreciate the invitation."
He stopped just inside the front door and put on his heavy, black leather coat before picking up his helmet from the nearby table. He really could kick himself for riding the bike instead of driving one of his cars. Maybe he could find something used in Sheridan that would get him around while he was in Cattle Valley.
As he opened the door, a blast of wind hit Hawk in the face. Yeah, he definitely needed something else to drive.
* * *
Kit Bromely tossed her purse behind the juice counter before going to the back to clock in. She spotted Mario wiping down machines and smiled. The man had been so nice to her since she'd started working at The Gym. "Good morning."
Mario glanced up from the black vinyl bench he was cleaning. "I hope so," he said with a smile on his face. "You're in a good mood today."
Kit shrugged. "Why wouldn't I be? I have a place to live and a job I enjoy. What else does a person need?"
"I can think of a few things." Mario chuckled and moved his eyebrows up and down.
Refusing to travel down that road, Kit shook her head. "Men are trouble, at least the ones I seem to be attracted to."
"Then you just haven't met the right one, but don't worry, you will. Cattle Valley's full of nice, eligible men."
Kit sighed. "If only it were that easy ..." she said over her shoulder as she continued through the large workout room. After clocking in, she went into the employee restroom to wash her hands.
Although Rio had told her to wear whatever she wanted to work, Kit had decided to err on the side of caution and go with jeans, sneakers and T-shirts as her normal uniform of choice. Sure, the jeans were low-rise and the T-shirts tight, but at least she tried. More than anything Kit wanted a friend. She wasn't greedy — one would do.
Before leaving the restroom, Kit fluffed her long, blonde hair, which was in dire need of a cut. She needed to find a stylist. Although she'd been in town for over four months, she rarely ventured anywhere but home, work and the grocery store. It was just easier than suffering the stares she often received. Even in a town as friendly as Cattle Valley, there were still people who didn't understand her.
Joining Mario at the juice bar, Kit pulled a bottle of water out of the fridge. "Slow," she commented.
Mario nodded as he finished drinking a glass of orange juice. "Mondays typically are. Which is why I'm going to get my workout in early."
He started to wash his glass, but Kit waved the effort off. "I'll take care of it."
Kit rinsed Mario's glass and opened the dishwasher. Shit, she'd forgotten to empty the damn thing the previous night. With a sigh, she set Mario's glass in the sink before starting the neglected chore. She heard the front door open and glanced up. Goosebumps immediately broke out on her skin at the sight of the tall, broad shouldered man who'd just stepped inside. "Can I help you?" Please, God, let me be the one to help you.
After taking off his motorcycle helmet, the handsome man shook out his mane of black hair as he walked towards her. Kit swallowed around the lump in her throat. Rarely did she have trouble controlling her body. Few men turned her on enough to warrant the hurt that usually came with the inevitable rejection, but that didn't seem to be the case with Mr Tall Dark and Sexy.
"I was hoping to speak to someone about a day pass? I'm not sure how long I'll be in town, but I'd like a place to work out while I'm here." Mr Sexy set his helmet on the bar.
"Ummm ..." Kit was at a complete loss for words as she stared into Mr Sexy's light green eyes. "I'm new, but I can find out," she finally managed to say. She gathered her courage and held out her hand. "I'm Kit, by the way."
"Hawk," Mr Sexy replied. Instead of shaking Kit's hand, Hawk lifted it to his lips and kissed it.
Oh fuck, she was in trouble. Kit gave Hawk her best smile. "Can you wait here while I find out?"
Kit brushed the front of her jeans, hoping she wasn't about to embarrass herself with her body's reaction to the new arrival. She hurried out from behind the juice bar and quickly found Mario doing his morning routine. "Do we have day passes?"
Mario glanced up. "You mean like a trial membership?"
Kit shook her head. "He said he didn't know how long he'd be in town and wants to work out while he's here, so I don't think he has any intention of joining."
"After what happened when Jack tried to join, I'd call Rio to be on the safe side," Mario told her.
"Okay." Kit returned to the juice counter where she'd left her phone. "Sorry. My manager wants me to call the owner," she explained, pulling her purse out from under the counter.
"Sorry to be a problem," Hawk said.
"No problem at all. I'm just too new here to give you an answer, which is probably my own fault." She knew she was starting to ramble, something she often did when nervous. What was it about Hawk that affected her so much? She hit the third number in her contact list and turned slightly away from Hawk.
"Good morning," she greeted her boss.
"Hey, Kit, everything okay?" Rio asked.
"I have a gentleman here ..."
"Gabe Hawkins," Hawk supplied before Kit could continue.
"... Gabe Hawkins, who would like to know if we have day passes. He isn't sure how long he'll be in town." Kit smiled at Hawk, aware he was listening to every word.
Rio was quiet for several moments before answering. "Twenty bucks a day. If he's not planning to join, he can pay a premium."
Kit couldn't believe Rio was planning to charge so much. She wondered if Hawk would be offended when she told him the amount. "Okay."
"I'll be in by noon," Rio said before hanging up.
Kit held the phone to her ear for several seconds, trying to figure out how to break the news to Hawk. Lowering the phone, she turned to face Mr Sexy and caught him looking at her tits. It wasn't the fact he was looking that bothered her, it was the way he did it. Most men and women who stared at her C-cup breasts did so out of curiosity. Some were even rude enough to come right out and ask if she'd had augmentation or if they were prosthetics. Hawk was different. There was no curiosity in those gorgeous green eyes — instead what she saw was desire.
Once again, her body began to respond. She set her phone on the counter. "Day rates are steep," she came right out and said.
"How steep?" Hawk asked, finally lifting his gaze from her breasts to her face.
"Twenty a day," she stated.
Hawk grinned, and Kit knew it was the sexiest thing she'd ever seen in her life. "Screw the new guy in town, huh?"
Kit shrugged. "Sorry."
Hawk shrugged in return. "Not your fault." He leaned his forearms on the bar, putting himself even closer. "Do you work every day?"
Kit licked her lips, tasting the dab of lip gloss she'd put on before work. "I'm off Wednesdays. We're closed Sundays."
"Good. Now I know which day to save my money." He smiled again. "Is there something I should fill out?"
So lost was she in Hawk's eyes, it took Kit several moments to respond. "Oh, yes." Kit pulled open one of the cabinet drawers and retrieved a membership application and a pen. She wrote Daily Pass App at the top. After sliding it across the bar, she held out the pen.
"Thanks." Hawk's hand closed over the pen, trapping several of Kit's fingers under his in the process. He slowly pulled the pen out of her hand with a heated smile.
With her heart beating a-mile-a-minute, Kit knew she needed to get away or run the risk of making a fool of herself. Men like Mr Sexy didn't go for people like Kit. They may dabble for a night or two, but they always ended up leaving her in the dust. "I'll go tell Mario you've signed up. A tour is required for all new members."
"Can't you do it?" Hawk asked.
Biting her lip, Kit shook her head. "I'm not trained on the equipment. I'm just the receptionist and juice bar girl."
"I have a feeling you're a helluva lot more than that," Hawk said, his voice dropping even lower.
Run! Her brain told her as her body begged her to stay. "Thank you." She backed up until she'd cleared the end of the bar. "I'll ... uh ... go get Mario."
She heard Hawk's deep chuckle as she practically ran from the room. She caught up with her boss as he was headed to the locker room. "Would you mind giving him a tour?" she asked Mario.
Mario wiped the sweat from his bare chest with the towel in his hand. "I'm about to shower. You can do it. I think you've been here long enough to know the basic rules. If he's interested in a day pass, I'm sure he already knows how to use the equipment."
Kit shifted from foot to foot. "I really don't think that's a good idea. He makes me uncomfortable. Would you please do it?"
Mario's brow furrowed. "What's going on? Did he say something to you?"
Her heart melted at the concerned expression on her boss' face. "No. Nothing like that." She wondered how much to divulge to her new friend. "He makes me ... want things. Things I can't have, and it'd be better to just stay away from him."
Mario crossed his arms. "Why can't you have them?"
Instead of going into her past relationship failures, she simply shook her head. "I could count off the reasons, but right now Hawk's waiting to start his workout."
Mario grabbed the T-shirt that was draped over his shoulder. "Fine, but we're not finished with this conversation."
Yes we are, Kit said to herself as Mario walked off.
* * *
After two hours in the gym and a long, hot shower, Hawk made his way out to the parking lot. He wiped the snow off the seat of his bike and settled his helmet on his head. His back wasn't nearly as stiff after the workout, but being around the cute little thing with the amazing tits had made something else stiff as hell.
He'd spent the majority of his time in the gym trying to catch glimpses of Kit. Rarely, if ever, had his body responded to a man or woman the way it had to Kit. He'd briefly wondered if it had something to do with the fact that Kit appeared to be both sexes wrapped in one deliciously sexy package. From the moment he'd laid eyes on the thin blonde, all he could think about were those soft-looking lips, smoky hazel eyes and perfectly rounded breasts.
Hawk started up his bike. The motor's vibration did nothing to minimise the erection trapped behind the fly of his jeans. Maybe getting his fucking head back on the reason he was in town, along with the stupidly cold temperature, would cool his ardour.
He flew out of the parking lot and headed towards his first meeting with Bo and Rance. The closer he got to the diner where they had agreed to meet, the more nervous Hawk became. He was still more than hurt that the two men refused to bring his biological son with them, but he probably would've been just as protective had he been given the chance to raise Joey.
Hawk prayed they'd be able to come to an agreement without getting lawyers involved. Although he hadn't a doubt he could win custody of the boy, putting all concerned through a lengthy court battle was the last thing he wanted.
Reaching the diner, he managed to find a narrow space left by some jackass who didn't know how to park, and turned off his bike. With his helmet tucked under his arm, Hawk entered the diner and looked around. It was only ten, too early for the lunch crowd, but there were more than a handful of men and women enjoying coffee and a late breakfast.
A woman came towards him with a casual smile on her face. "Just one?"
"No. I'm supposed to be with Bo and Rance. Can you tell me if they're here yet?"
The woman put her hand on her hip. "Depends. Are you the one who put that scowl on my sweet Bo's face?"
"Probably," he admitted. He knew going in he'd be seen as the bad guy, so the question hadn't surprised him.
"I got it, Deb," a man said, approaching the front of the diner. He stopped in front of Hawk and tipped his black Stetson. "You must be Hawk."
"Yeah. And you are?"
"Rance." He gestured towards the back of the diner. "We're back there." Rance turned and walked away.
Hawk had little choice but to follow. He'd hoped to break the ice between them right away, but from the expression on Rance's face, the man wasn't going to be easy to crack. As he reached the table, it was pretty damn clear to see Bo wouldn't be any easier. He held out his hand. Despite Bo's stony stare, Hawk tried to remember how much the man had done for Joey. "Nice to meet you."
Bo looked from Hawk's hand to Rance before accepting the handshake. "Have a seat."
Hawk sat across the table from the two men, feeling very much like he was being put in front of a firing squad. Maybe if he started things, the conversation would be easier. Before Hawk had a chance to say anything, Rance started in on him.
"I don't know where the hell you've been for the last two and a half years, but if you think you're just going to ride into town and take our boy, you're sadly mistaken."
"Whoa." Hawk reared back and held up his hands. "I never said anything about taking Joey from you. And I'm sorry I wasn't here before, but I just learned a month ago of Joey's existence."
"Lynda and Jim had no right to tell you," Bo mumbled. He clenched his fists where they rested on the table. "Jan was my wife, dammit!"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Hawk's Landing"
Copyright © 2011 Carol Lynne.
Excerpted by permission of Totally Entwined Group Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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