He knew better than to lust after the hired help. But Ramsey Westmoreland's new cook was just so delectable…it was enough to make the Denver rancher rethink his rules. When temptation got the best of him, he discovered Chloe Burton was just as hot in the bedroom as she was in the kitchen.
Though their affair was growing steamier by the minute, Ramsey couldn't help but question Chloe's true motives. And when he discovered her ultimate betrayal, he was set to satisfy himself with cold showers. Until he realized his fatal mistake: never underestimate the power of the human heart, especially a Westmoreland's.
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Chloe Burton pressed her face to the windowpane as she watched the man sprint across the street. Her heart began pounding in her chest. He had to be, without a doubt, the most handsome man she'd ever seen.
She stared as he stopped to talk to another man in front of a feed store. He was tall, dark and every inch of sexy from the Stetson he wore on his head to the well-worn leather boots on his feet. And from the way his jeans and western shirt fit his body, it was quite obvious he possessed powerful legs, strong arms, taut abs, tight buns and broad muscular shoulders. He had everything it took to separate the men from the boys.
And when he pushed back his hat, she saw dark eyes and a medium skin tone. Then she looked at his mouth and she couldn't help licking her lips at the sight of his. His lips were full, firm and luscious. She could imagine those lips and his mouth doing other things.
Just looking at him was enough to corrupt a woman's mind, she thought. Even from this distance, her body felt flushed, hot and unsettled. Nothing like this had ever happened to her while ogling a man in all her twenty-eight years.
Actually, over the past year the only male who had gotten her time and attention had been her e-mail. And that was mainly because her last relationship with Daren Fulbright had been totally unsatisfying, a complete waste of the year she'd put into it, and she was in no hurry to get into another. No doubt there were some who thought she'd given up on love much too quickly, and perhaps that was true since these days she much preferred curling up with a good book during her free time than with someone of the opposite sex. And now, here she was practically drooling at just the sight of a man. He might be major eye candy, but the man was a complete stranger to her. Even so, the way he was standing with both hands in his jeans pockets, legs braced apart, was a pose she would carry to her dreams.
And he was smiling, evidently enjoying his conversation. He had dimples, incredibly sexy dimples in not one but both cheeks.
"What are you staring at, Clo?"
Chloe nearly jumped. She'd forgotten she had a lunch date. In fact she had forgotten everything once her sights had landed on the sexy man across the street. She glanced over the table at her best friend from college, Lucia Conyers.
"Take a look at that man across the street in the blue shirt, Lucia, and tell me what you see. Would he not be perfect for Denver's first issue of Simply Irresistible or what?" Chloe asked with so much excitement in her voice she almost couldn't stand it.
Chloe was the owner of Simply Irresistible, a magazine for today's up-and-coming woman. The magazine had started out as a regional publication in the southeast, but had expanded to a national audience during the past few years. By far the magazine's most popular edition was the annual "Irresistible Man" issue. The feature included a cover shoot and an in-depth story on a man who the magazine felt deserved the honor because he was simply irresistible. As the magazine had expanded, Chloe had convinced Lucia to come on board to manage its Denver office.
When Lucia didn't say anything, Chloe's smile widened. "Well?"
Lucia glanced across the booth at her. "Since you asked, I'll tell you what I see. I see one of the Westmorelands, and in this case it's Ramsey Westmoreland. And to answer your other question as to whether he would be perfect for the cover man on Simply Irresistible, my answer would be a resounding yes, but he won't do it."
Chloe raised a brow. "I take it that you know him," she said watching her friend closely.
Lucia smiled. "Yes, but not as well as I know the younger Westmorelands. There's a lot of them and he's one of the oldest. I went to school with his younger siblings and cousins. He has several brothers and male cousins who look just as good. Maybe one of them will agree to do it, but you can forget Ramsey."
Chloe glanced back out the window and knew two things. First, there was no way that she could forget him. Second, from the sound of things it seemed that Lucia was interested in one of those "younger" male Westmorelands. She could hear the wistfulness in her friend's voice.
"He's the one I want, Lucia," she said with both determination and conviction in her voice. "And since you know him, then just ask him. He might surprise you and not turn you down. Of course he'll get paid for his services."
Lucia laughed and shook her head. "Getting paid isn't the issue, Clo. Ramsey is one of the wealthiest sheep ranchers in this part of Colorado. But everyone knows what a private person he is. Trust me, he won't do it."
Chloe hoped she was wrong. "But you will ask him?"
"Yes, but I suggest you move on and find another man."
Chloe glanced back out the window. The man was the epitome of what she was looking for in her "Irresistible Man" issue and she was determined to have him.
"Um, I don't like that look on your face, Chloe. I've seen it before and know exactly what it means."
Chloe couldn't help but smile. She could only blame her smile on her father, Senator Jamison Burton of Florida, the man who'd raised her alone after her mother died of cervical cancer when Chloe was three. Her father was the one man she most admired and he'd always taught her that if people wanted something bad enough, they wouldn't give up until they got it.
She glanced out the window and watched as Ramsey Westmoreland ended his conversation and entered the feed store with a swagger that almost made her breathless. She would be seeing him again.
"I can't believe you're not posing for the cover of that magazine, Ram."
Ramsey Westmoreland didn't bother to look up from arranging a bale of straw in the lambing stall. He'd figured his youngest sister Bailey would show up sooner or later, because news traveled pretty fast within the Westmoreland family. And of course, Bailey made it her life's work to know everything about her five brothers, down to their every heartbeat.
"I'm not going away, Ramsey, until you tell me what I want to know."
He couldn't help but smile at the threat because he knew if he gave her an order to leave that she would follow it. She might like to express her emotions and display her defiance every once in a while, and God help him when she did, but when it was all said and done, Bailey knew how far to take things with him. He would be the first to admit that she had tested his limits plenty, especially during those years when she and their cousin Bane had been almost inseparable. The two thought getting into trouble was a way of life.
Since then Bailey had finished high school and was now attending college, and Bane had surprised everyone with his decision last month to join the military with the goal of becoming a Navy Seal. All was quiet on the Westmoreland front and Ramsey would be the first to admit, but only to himself, things had been a little boring.
"There's nothing to tell," he decided to respond. "I was contacted about doing that cover and I turned them down."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that." He figured she was probably glaring at him right now.
"Why, Ram? Just think of the exposure."
He finally decided to look up and the gaze that sharpened on Bailey was so keen, had it been anyone else they would have had the good sense to take a step back. But not twenty-one-year-old Bailey Joleen Westmoreland. Of his three sisters—Megan, who was almost twenty-five and Gemma, who was twenty-three—Bailey was the boldest and could test the patience of Job, so to try the patience of her oldest brother was a piece of cake.
"I don't want exposure, Bailey. I think the Westmorelands got enough exposure all those years when we had to deal with the trouble you, Bane and the twins got into."
Not an ounce of regret flared in her eyes. "That was then. This is now. And this would have been good exposure."
He almost laughed at that one. "Good exposure for who exactly?" he asked, getting to his feet.
He had a lot to do and little time for chitchat. Nellie, who'd had the responsibility of preparing the meals for him and the ranch hands for the past two years, had to leave suddenly yesterday when she'd gotten word that her only sister back in Kansas had emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. She intended to stay and help out and it would be at least two weeks before she returned.
Ramsey understood and supported her decision, although Nellie's absence left him in a bind. Today was the start of shearing and with over twenty or so men involved, he was in desperate need of a cook to take Nellie's place. He had placed a call to one of these temporary employment agencies yesterday afternoon and was told they had just the person who would be perfect as a fill-in and the woman was to show up this morning.
"It would be good exposure for you and the ranch. It could put you in the public eye and let everyone know how successful you are as a sheep rancher."
Ramsey shook his head. Being in the public eye was something he could definitely pass on. He was close to his family, but when it came to outsiders he was basically a loner and preferred things that way. Everyone knew how much he enjoyed his privacy. Bailey knew it too, so he wondered, why was she harassing him?
"The ranch doesn't need that kind of exposure. I was asked to pose for some girly magazine, Bail." He had never read a copy of Simply Irresistible, but the name alone made his jaw twitch. He could just imagine the articles that were between the covers.
"You should be flattered they want you on the cover, Ram."
He rolled his eyes. "Whatever." He then checked his watch for two reasons. This was Monday and he knew Bailey had a class at the university this morning and his temporary cook was ten minutes late.
"I wish you would reconsider."
He glanced back at her. "No," he said firmly. "And shouldn't you be in class about now?" He moved out of the barn and walked back toward the sprawling home he had finished building the previous year.
Bailey followed, right on his heels. He couldn't help but recall that she used to do that same thing when he took over the responsibility of raising her when she was seven and he was twenty-one. They'd lost both parents and a beloved aunt and uncle in an airplane accident. During that time she would rarely let him out of her sight. He fought back a smile at the fond memory.
"Yes, I have a class this morning, but I thought I'd drop by to talk some sense into you," he heard her say.
He turned around, placed his hands in his pockets. At that moment he couldn't stop the smile that touched his lips. "Fine. You've tried and failed. Goodbye, Bailey."
He watched her place her hands on her hips and lift her chin. No one had to warn him about Westmoreland stubbornness. Hers could be more lethal than most, but over the past twenty-one years he'd learned to deal with it.
"I think you're making a mistake. I subscribe to that magazine and I think you'd be surprised," she was saying. "It's not just a 'girly' magazine. It has a number of good articles for women, including some on health issues. However, once a year they feature a man on the cover. They try to find a man who's every woman's fantasy lover."
A woman's fantasy lover? Now that was a laugh, Ramsey thought. He was nothing more than a hardworking Colorado sheep rancher and since he'd doubled the size of his herd this past year, he couldn't recall the last time he'd been intimately involved with a woman. Working sunup to sundown, seven days a week had become a way of life for him.
"It will be my mistake to make, brat. I'll survive and so will you. Now scat."
A half-hour later he was alone and standing in his kitchen and clicking off his cell phone after talking to Colin Lawrence, a member of his shearing crew. Because of a snowstorm that had hit the area a few weeks ago, they were already behind in shearing and needed to get that done within the next two weeks in time for lambing to begin. Starting today everything would be moving rather fast to stay on schedule.
Colin had called to say a few of the pregnant ewes had somehow gotten out of the shearing pen and begun to wander. The dogs were having a hard time getting them back in the pen without stressing out the pregnant sheep. The last thing he needed was for any more shearing time to be lost, which meant that he had to get to the shearing plant on the north range as soon as possible.
He headed toward the door when he heard a car pull up outside. He glanced at his watch, agitated. It was about time the cook showed up. The woman was almost an hour late and that was not acceptable. And he intended to let her know about his displeasure.
Chloe brought the car to a stop in front of a huge two-story ranch-style structure and drew in a deep breath. She simply refused to take no for an answer regardless of what Ramsey Westmoreland had told Lucia. His refusal to be the cover story for her magazine was the reason she had ended a much-deserved vacation in the Bahamas to fly directly here. She intended to try to convince the man herself.
As she checked her GPS while traveling farther and farther away from Denver's city limits and heading into a rural area the locals referred to as Westmoreland Country, she had asked herself why on earth would anyone want to live so far from civilization. That in itself was a mystery to her. She hadn't passed a single shopping mall along the way.
Looking out the car's window, she couldn't get out of her mind the man she had seen that day a couple of weeks ago. That was why she refused to move on and select someone else. The bottom line was that she didn't want anyone else. Ramsey Westmoreland was not only the man made for the title of Simply Irresistible, but he was simply irresistible.