Mindy has come to Logan's dude ranch to convince him to sign away his land's mineral rights to her stepfather. She doesn't want to beg, but she will if she has to, like she does Friday nights when she submits to her master's desire . . .
Logan doesn't like to be jerked around, in business or pleasure. And when he learns what Mindy is up to, he's ready to teach her a lesson. In fact, he'd like to tie her up, strip her down, and give her a spanking she'll never forget . . .
With passion riding high, Logan and Mindy indulge in carnal play that leaves them both wanting more. And with their jobs on the line, they realize that their erotic fantasies might be their ticket to success . . .
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.40(d)|
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By Delphine Dryden
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Delphine Dryden
All rights reserved.
Logan got up early that Friday, just to see the sunrise. He needed it that morning, more than most. A little quiet time with the old homestead at its most beautiful, fresh with the unspoiled promise of spring. A fine shimmer of dew still coated the broad swath of lawn spreading out below the porch of the ranch house, and the scattered clouds appeared to linger on the horizon for the sole purpose of holding the outlandish dawn colors a few minutes longer.
From this vantage point, the drive leading to the house seemed to drop sheer away about a quarter mile out. Perspective and the haze of morning made a floating island of the hilltop, and Logan wished he could keep it that way. In the distance, misty rises studded with limestone outcroppings marched away in successively darker ranks. Close by, there was only the house and the hill, and the man who still couldn't quite believe he owned them now.
A rooster crowed from over near the barn, hoarse and grumpy. Like a reflex, Logan checked his mental list. Had he assigned anyone to gather the eggs yet? He couldn't immediately recall. He'd been doing it himself but would happily hand the chore over to somebody else. Logan had never been a big fan of chickens. The hens were okay, but the damn cranky rooster always went straight for his ankles as soon as he entered the pen. He had a new sympathy for masochists, but it only served to reinforce how very much he wasn't one. Not his kink, not his kink at all.
Masochists. Ah. Diego. He'd foisted the job off on Diego as part of "gamekeeping," he recalled, brightening a bit. And since Diego, along with the rest of the staff, would be showing up for work in a few hours, Logan didn't have much more time to himself. Once the guests arrived that evening, he'd have no time at all. He turned his attention back to the sunrise, only to find the moment had passed him by. Only a faint tint of lavender remained near the horizon, fading into the plumbago blue of the rest of the sky.
Sighing, he knocked back the last of his industrial-strength coffee and jumped down from the porch rail where he'd been perched. He used the garden hose to rinse the cup, then set it on the steps and headed for the barn. He still had at least a few hours' worth of chores to do before he could justify saddling his horse, Charley, up for some exercise.
As a kid, Logan had never appreciated how much work his grandparents put into running Hilltop Ranch as a vacation spot, or really understood why his father had decided to close down the guest cottages and all but abandon the place except for weekend hunting trips. Now Logan got it, but it was too late to reconsider his decision to reopen the ranch to visitors. He'd burned his bridges, leaving his job in Houston and selling his house there in order to help finance the buyout of the ranch from his parents. His brother and cousin had gone in with him, but both of them had kept their day jobs. Logan hadn't wanted to leave himself a way to cop out. This commitment was for the long haul, but he was only beginning to realize the magnitude of what he was in for.
Running the guest ranch was like managing a hunting lodge, stable, bed-and-breakfast, and a sleepaway camp, all at the same time. He had Robert to cook and deal with the laundry, Diego to keep track of the game and help out with maintenance, and Lamar overseeing the stables, but Logan felt the pressure of entertaining the guests squarely on his own shoulders. As it should be — he had taken it on himself to be the man in charge, to finally own that role in every sense of the word instead of just in the bedroom or at the kink club. But this was an awful lot of hospitality. It wasn't enough for the guests to enjoy the stay, either. They had to want to come back. They had to want to tell their friends. If he didn't get some word of mouth going, he was screwed, because he was all out of financial padding. He'd been late on two note payments already, juggling funds and shifting other bills around to try to stretch his funds, and his loan officer was breathing down his neck. This week had to be a success.
"It's a big job, isn't it, Charley?" he asked the big dappled gray gelding as they ambled back toward the barnyard after a long ride across the property, touring the two most likely spots for the upcoming turkey hunt. "Isn't it?"
The horse nodded his head, and Logan chuckled at his noble steed.
"You're my ace in the hole, Charley. A born showman."
His chuckle was echoed by a raspier one from the shadow of the barn door. A leathery, bearded face emerged from the gloom as Logan and Charley entered the building.
"He's a ham, all right," Lamar agreed, reaching out to take Charley's reins. "Is he gonna help you meet and greet?"
"Of course," Logan said, dismounting. "You might want to walk him a bit. We had a good jog out there, and damn, but it's already getting hot for March."
"Weatherman said it'd get up past eighty. You should know better. He'll need a wash if he's going to be seen by his adoring public." The grizzled old man swept a dubious glance up and down Logan's sweaty form. "You, too."
"Aw, do I hafta?"
"Don't think you're too big for me to take a switch to, boy."
Lamar and Logan grinned at each other in perfect accord. The old hand had practically raised Logan, who'd spent as much time in the barn growing up as he had in the house or at school. Lamar had been openly skeptical about Logan's grand scheme to reopen the guest ranch. But he'd agreed to stay on, and Logan knew how much his loyalty was worth. What's more, he'd actually learned from Lamar how to cut a switch and use it — not that the old man had any idea Logan still sometimes used that knowledge in an altogether different context.
"It's after three now, and people'll start showing up around four, so no time for a shower. But I'll hose myself down and put on a clean shirt, if that'll make you happy, old man."
"I s'pose it'll have to do. C'mon, Charley."
Logan started for the faucet on the side of the barn, then changed his mind and headed back toward the main house, remembering that he'd left the hose unwound on the front porch that morning after cleaning his mug with it. Might as well use it one more time before tidying it away.
* * *
Mindy Valek knew the road from Dallas to Bolero like the back of her hand. The unattractive part of her hand, with the weird patch of freckles and the little moon-shaped scar from that one time she was ironing a shirt and the hot iron fell over on her knuckle. She'd given up on ironing after that but the scar remained, a reminder perhaps that she needed to stop trying so hard to impress. Or maybe just that having her work clothes professionally cleaned and pressed was worth every penny. Ironic that she'd packed only jeans and casual tops for this week, when it was more important than ever that she make a good impression to get the job done.
Vacation, she told herself. You're paying for this week.
She was really paying for the opportunity. The chance to talk Logan Hill into leasing the mineral rights to his new property. His grandparents had refused when they owned the land. His parents had refused. But Mindy's boss — and stepfather — Bud Jameson only cared about the current owner's refusal, and Mindy was determined to succeed where others had failed. It was probably the only thing that could help her survive her company's brutal cutbacks and keep her job, keep herself, afloat without compromising any more of her independence to nepotism.
That was the arrangement she'd made with Bud back when she'd taken the job, too tempted by his offer to refuse. He'd tried to give her a signing bonus; she'd insisted on using it to pay him back for helping her with her college tuition. He'd still been the shiny new stepdad then, the nice guy who'd rescued her mom from post-divorce poverty and elevated her into a world of oil money, society columns, charity balls, and spa treatments. Mindy had accepted the tuition help, at her mother's insistence, but had felt a tremendous sense of relief when the obligation was paid back. And now that she worked for Bud, and knew the flip side of his character, she was glad not to be any more beholden to him than she had to be.
She'd insisted on being treated like any other employee ... and he'd honored her wish, because he was ethical when it came to family. But when it came to business, there was no velvet glove on the ruthless iron fist. Bud was a crusher of souls, a destroyer of dreams, and if he hadn't been the CEO of the biggest land services outfit in Texas, Mindy would have hightailed it out of his office within six months of arriving there.
That had been during a mini-boom, when there were multiple offers to choose from. Now things were sliding into bust again, and without this deal she knew she was doomed in the next round of layoffs — and in the current job market she had no hope of finding another position in time to avoid losing her car, her condo, and the meager savings she'd been able to amass while still repaying the student loans she'd taken out before Bud's white-knight arrival on the scene. And if she thwarted Bud, he wouldn't make finding a new job any easier. She needed this deal like she'd never needed one before.
The price? One week at a tourist-trap "guest ranch" just outside the town her mother had worked so hard to get her out of. And possibly the cost of a little self-respect, because she planned to use a few feminine wiles if she had to. She didn't feel great about that part of it. Not that her boss had required her to use said wiles; Bud knew nothing about it. He assumed she was going on a regular vacation. Mindy had told her mom she was going to visit a friend back home for the weekend. She'd only reveal her true motive for the trip if she was successful.
No, not if. When.
She was good at that, at burying what she really desired in service of what she needed. There was what you wanted, and there was what the world would allow you to have, and she had learned early on that a lot of things she wanted were not allowed. Or rather, were simply not worth the price. Because there was a price to everything, and Mindy knew what she was willing to pay.
She glanced in the rearview and flipped an errant strawberry tress back over her shoulder, flattening her lips to redistribute the gloss she'd applied sometime back around San Antonio. She reassured herself she was not the same girl who'd left Bolero after high school. It wasn't a question of highlights and a personal shopper, or even those hours spent with an image consultant who'd groomed a big-haired small-town cheerleader to succeed in the ruthlessly polished, male-dominated business climate of Dallas. No, it was a matter of confidence. Mindy knew she could do this job. She just needed the chance to prove it. Let the guys dominate in the setting where she needed them to; in all other venues, she would fight for her own place.
I can do this. I can do this.
A dead armadillo was splattered across the highway about a mile before the turnoff. It was the third one she'd seen this trip. She was ready for a change. A dead possum, maybe, or a snake. She didn't hope to see any live wildlife.
Then, confounding her expectations, a rabbit bounded from the roadside into the brush as her little car zipped past. She grudgingly acknowledged the bucolic loveliness of the Texas hill country, and the fact that the bunny fit right in. The whole picture was more charming than she remembered. It had been a dry March and it was already getting hot, but the landscape was still green, the trees lush and shady, the hillsides made more interesting by the occasional intrusion of rough limestone or granite. Some small part of her soul eased at the sight of all that rugged rock and verdancy, the things Dallas lacked so conspicuously. She scolded that part of herself for a weakling and reminded it that Dallas was home now. Big, shiny, rich Dallas, where everybody called her Melinda.
Hilltop Ranch rode the border between the scenic hill country and the less appealing scrubland of West Texas. Mindy hoped most of the ranch was situated on the scenic side of that divide. She also hoped Logan Hill was stunned when she swept into view, the former homecoming queen returning like a diplomat on a state visit. An ambassador from the big city, the promised land of anywhere-but-Bolero. They would talk about old times, good times, and she would pretend to miss the rustic small town with its charming country ways.
Not that Logan knew her well enough to share many specific memories. He'd tutored her in math a few times when she was still in middle school, but she hadn't seen much of him in high school. Mindy had to consult her yearbook to recall that he'd been two years ahead of her. While she'd been swishing pompons and dating football players, Logan had spent his time with the Future Farmers of America, the marching band, and something called the Slide Rule Club — an apparent reference to the days before calculators, when math had actually involved a slide rule. She mostly remembered him as a long, gawky beanpole of a guy, nerdy in braces, with a crewcut that made his ears look like they stuck out. She had no idea what had become of him after he'd graduated. If he was still in Bolero, probably not that much.
But still, she could play this part, reminisce with Hill until he fell into a state of suggestibility. She could charm anyone. Schmoozing was a skill she'd spent a lot of time honing over the past few years, and not just at work. Her experiences in the Dallas kink scene had only made her better at it; learning to intrigue potential Doms, turn down unpalatable offers, and negotiate scenes beat the hell out of any of her business school classes when it came to giving her practical schmoozing experience. And in her fantasy — in which Logan sometimes remained his tall but scrawny seventeen-year-old self, braces and all, and at other times was a sadly paunchy aging hick — she saw herself winning over the man and sealing the deal with a single well-aimed smile. She wasn't the eager-to-please cheerleader anymore, but a woman of the world, sophisticated and —
"In one hundred yards, turn left on —"
"Oh, shut up."
Mindy fumbled for her phone, turning off the annoying nasal voice of the GPS app before tossing the device back into the passenger seat. She didn't know why she'd used it anyway. She didn't need any navigation assistance for this trip. This was territory she'd conquered long ago, and left behind for better things. She hadn't been back in a dozen years, not since that summer after she graduated, but nothing had changed much. The familiarity was disconcerting. When she'd passed the City Limits sign, she'd had to swallow back a pang of something suspiciously like homesickness.
I can do this.
She turned when she reached Bolero, barely skimming the edge of town before heading back out of it. Instead of driving toward her childhood home, she veered deeper into the countryside, toward the future she was determined to make for herself.CHAPTER 2
Mindy had never actually been to Hilltop Ranch before, though she must have driven past the main gate a thousand times or more growing up. She'd overestimated how long the drive would take by a good half hour or more. There was surprisingly little traffic coming out of Dallas–Fort Worth, probably because she'd escaped the metroplex area so early in the day. She'd even managed to hit San Antonio's outskirts at that golden lull between lunch and Friday afternoon rush hour. It was just a quarter past three when she turned from the county road onto the patchy asphalt of the ranch driveway. Another five minutes of slow meandering across the property, following faded signs around one hill and up another, finally brought her to the main parking lot, where she saw only a handful of trucks.
Excerpted from Ride 'Em by Delphine Dryden. Copyright © 2016 Delphine Dryden. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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I really liked this book it kept you guessing as to what was going on. You got to know all the people. I can't wait to read the next one and just keep reading.