Take 5: Volume #8: Riveting Love Stories

Take 5: Volume #8: Riveting Love Stories

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Original)


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373835041
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 03/01/2002
Edition description: Original
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 4.64(w) x 6.28(h) x 0.74(d)

About the Author

Hailed as the "First Lady of the West" for her many romance novels set in the Western United States, Linda Lael Miller is the daughter of a town marshal and the author of more than 100 historical and contemporary romance novels. Some of her most popular series are the McKettrick series, the Stonecreek series, the Creeds series, and the Brides of Bliss Country series. Her books include The Marriage Pact, There and Now, and High Country Bride.

Date of Birth:

June 10, 1949

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The landing gear made an unsettling ka-thump sound as it snapped back into place under the small private airplane. Libby Kincaid swallowed her misgivings and tried not to look at the stony, impassive face of the pilot. If he didn't say anything, she wouldn't have to say anything either, and they might get through the short flight to the Circle Bar B ranch without engaging in one of their world-class shouting matches.

It was a pity, Libby thought, that at the ages of 31 and 33 respectively, she and Jess still could not communicate on an adult level.

"New York was all right," she said, in the most noninflammatory tone she could manage. Except that Jonathan died, chided a tiny, ruthless voice in her mind. Except for that nasty divorce from Aaron. "Nothing to write home about," she added aloud, realizing her blunder too late.

"So," he said suddenly, gruffly, "New York wasn't all the two-hour TV movies make it out to be."

The mirrored sunglasses glinted in the sun as Jess Barlowe turned to look at Libby Kincaid. His powerful shoulders were taut beneath the blue cotton fabric of his workshirt.

"Leave Cathy and Stace alone, Libby," he warned with blunt savagery. "Their marriage has had problems lately, and if you make the situation worse, I'll see that you regret it."

Libby would have done almost anything to escape his scrutiny just then, short of thrusting open the door of that small four-passenger Cessna and jumping out, but her choices were undeniably limited. With a sigh, she faced the fact that there was every chance a lot of peoplewould believe she had been involved with Jess's brother, Stacey Barlowe. There had, after all, been that exchange of letters, and Stace had even visited her a few times in New York, in the thick of her traumatic divorce, though in actuality he had been in the city on business. Although how anyone could believe she'd ever hurt Cathy in any way she didn't know.

To her relief and surprise, Jess turned his concentration on piloting the plane. The timbered land below began to give way to occasional patches of prairie-cattle country. Soon they would be landing on the small airstrip serving the prosperous 150,000-acre Circle Bar B, owned by Jess's father and overseen, for the most part, by Libby's.

Libby had grown up on the Circle Bar B, just as Jess had, and her mother, like his, was buried there. Even though she couldn't call the ranch home in the legal sense of the word, it was still home to her, and she had every right to go there —especially now, when she needed its beauty and peace and practical routines so desperately.

The wheels of the plane screeched and grabbed as they made contact with the asphalt. When the Cessna came to a full stop, Libby wrenched at her seat belt, anxious to put as much distance as possible between herself and Jess Barlowe. But his hand closed over her wrist in a steel-hard grasp. "Remember, Lib —these people aren't the sophisticated if-it-feels-good-do-it types you're used to. No games."

Hot color surged into Libby's face. "Let go of me, you bastard!" she breathed.

He flung Libby's wrist from his hand and turned away to push open the door on his side and leap nimbly to the ground.

Libby was still tugging impotently at the handle on her own door when her father strode over, climbed deftly onto the wing and opened it for her. She felt such a surge of love and relief that she flung herself into his arms, nearly sending both of them tumbling to the hard ground.

Once they were clear of the plane, Ken Kincaid held his daughter at arm's length and grinned. "Rough trip?"

Libby's throat tightened unaccountably. "You know that it's always rough going where Jess and I are concerned," she said.

Her father's brows lifted speculatively as Jess flung Libby's luggage into the back of the mud-speckled station wagon and sped away in it without so much as a curt nod or a halfhearted so-long.

Libby felt some of the tension drain from her as her father opened the door on the passenger side of his truck and helped her inside. Ken climbed behind the wheel and started the powerful engine. The truck was moving now, jolting and rattling over the rough ranch roads with a pleasantly familiar vigor.

Ken swept off his old felt cowboy hat and ran a practiced arm across his forehead. "Been reading your comic strip in the funny papers."

Libby smiled. Her career as a syndicated cartoonist was certainly safe conversational ground. Her character, Liberated Lizzie, a cave-girl with modern ideas, had created something of a sensation.

She would have to work hard to fulfill her obligations —there was the weekly cartoon strip to do, of course, and the panels for a projected book had to be sketched in. She hoped that between these tasks and the endless allure of the Circle Bar B, she might be able to turn her thoughts from the mess she'd made of her personal life.

"Career-wise, I'm doing fine," Libby said aloud, as much to herself as to her father. "I don't suppose I could use the sunporch for a studio?"

Ken laughed. "Cathy's been working for a month to get it ready, and I had some of the boys put in a skylight. All you've got to do is set up your gear."

Impulsively Libby leaned over and kissed her father's beardstubbled cheek. "I love you!"

"Good," he retorted. "A husband you can dump —a daddy you're pretty well stuck with."

The truck lurched a little as Ken brought it to a stop in the gravel driveway. Cathy Barlowe, Libby's cousin and cherished friend, was dashing down the driveway.

After an energetic hug had been exchanged, Cathy lifted a graceful hand to sign the words: "I've missed you!"

"And I've missed you," Libby signed back. Cathy's green eyes sparkled. "You haven't forgotten how to sign!" she enthused, bringing both hands into play now. She had been deaf since childhood, but she communicated so skillfully that Libby often forgot that they weren't conversing verbally. "Have you been practicing?"

She had. Signing had been a game for her and her stepson, Jonathan, to play during the long, difficult hours she'd spent at his hospital bedside. Libby nodded and tears of love and pride gathered in her dark eyes.

"I'll be back later," Ken said quietly, signing the words. The interior of the house was cool and airy, and Libby followed along behind Cathy to the glassed-in sunporch that overlooked the pond.

Libby drew in a swift, delighted breath. The old wicker furniture that had been stored in the attic for as long as Libby could remember had been painted a dazzling white and bedecked with gay floral-print cushions. Small rugs had been scattered about, and there was a shelving unit built into the wall behind a new art table.

"Wow!" cried Libby, her arms spread wide. "Cathy, you missed your calling! You should have been an interior decorator."

Though Libby hadn't signed the words, her cousin had read them from her lips. Cathy's green eyes shifted quickly from Libby's face, and she lowered her head. "Instead of what?" she motioned sadly. "Instead of Stacey's wife?" Libby felt as though she'd been slapped. One tear slid down Cathy's cheek. "He went to see you in New York," she challenged, her hands moving angrily. "You wrote him letters!"

"Cathy, it wasn't what you think—"

"Wasn't it?"

Cathy turned and hurried out of the sunporch-turned-studio and a moment later the back door slammed. Libby ducked her head and bit her lower lip to keep the tears back. That, too, was something she had learned during Jonathan's final confinement in a children's hospital.

Just then, Jess Barlowe filled the studio doorway. He set down her suitcases and drawing board with an unsympathetic thump. "I see you're spreading joy and good cheer as usual," he drawled in acid tones. "What, pray tell, was that all about?"

Libby glared at him. "As if you didn't know! How could you be so mean...so—"

"Did you think your affair with my brother was a secret?"

"We didn't have an affair!"

"That isn't what Stacey says," replied Jess with impervious savagery.

Libby's knees weakened and she groped blindly for the stool at her art table and then sank onto it. "My God..."

Jess crossed the room and caught her wrists in a furious grasp. Then he whirled away from her, his broad back taut, one powerful hand running through his obsidian hair in a typical gesture of frustration. "Damn you for ever coming back here," he said.

"No problem," Libby said with effort. "I'll leave."

Jess turned toward her again. "It's too late," he said, his voice low. "He'd follow."

Just then Ken strode into the room and demanded, "What the hell's going on in here! I just found Cathy running up the road in tears!"

Libby could bear no more. She flung herself bodily at Jess Barlowe, just as she had in her childhood, fists flying. She would have attacked him gladly if her father hadn't caught hold of her around the waist and forcibly restrained her.

Jess raked her with one last contemptuous look and moved calmly in the direction of the door.

Excerpted from Riveting Love Stories by Linda Lael Miller, Rebecca York, and Jasmine Cresswell. Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Part of the Bargain9
Free Fall111
Bayou Moon161
Trial by Fire213

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