New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery returns with a classic story of destiny, desire and a little holiday magic!
In her youth, Molly Anderson couldn't help crushing on gorgeous bad boy Dylan Blackeven though he only had eyes for her older sister. When things didn't work out between them, he said goodbye to Molly as well, vowing they'd have a great adventure when she grew up. Years later, dumped by her fiancé just before Christmas, she's finally ready to take Dylan up on his promise.
A guarded Dylan always had a weakness for Molly, and when she waltzes back into his lifegrown-up and gorgeoushe's stunned. So why not whisk her away for some no-strings-attached fun?
Laughter-filled days and late-night kisses are changing Molly's life, for good. The only gift she truly wants now is Dylan's love, but when he discovers the secret she's been keeping, she may lose him again this time forever.
About the Author
The prolific author of more than one hundred books, Diana Palmer got her start as a newspaper reporter. A New York Times bestselling author and voted one of the top ten romance writers in America, she has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humor. Diana lives with her family in Cornelia, Georgia.
Read an Excerpt
Nicolette Ashton's father was always trying to get her to go out on dates. She loved rocks. Men, not so much. She was an introvert, shy and quiet with people she didn't know. She had a lovely face, a complexion like peaches and cream with long, soft, platinum-blond hair and eyes the color of a foggy September morning. Her figure was equally pretty. But she refused dates right and left. There was a man in her life. He just didn't know it. He thought she was too young. Sadly, that didn't keep her from longing for him.
Because of that, she kept to herself. She'd avoided dating all through college by going out with her girlfriends. But her friends said she needed involvement. They insisted that she needed to get out in the world and date somebody. They meant well. Perhaps she did need to get out more. It wasn't as if the object of her affections was ever going to reciprocate them.
So as the end of the semester neared, they set her up with this man. She didn't know him. He wasn't from Catelow, Wyoming, where she lived on her father's cattle ranch. Her date was from Billings, Montana, where she went to college. At the moment, she wished she'd never agreed to the blind date.
He was inconsiderate and frankly rude, especially when she insisted on being brought home to the family ranch, instead of going to her date's apartment. The ranch wasn't so far away, just about a twenty-minute drive. But Niki knew what was likely to happen if she agreed to go home with the man. However out of fashion it might be among her fellow college students in Billings, she didn't go with the crowd. Harvey, her date, refused to believe that any girl would refuse his advances. After all, he was a football star at the college both he and Niki attended, and he was very good-looking. He was used to women falling all over him. But Niki wouldn't.
"You have to be out of your mind," the young man, Harvey, muttered as he pulled into her driveway and raced up to the front steps of the grand Victorian mansion. "There aren't any women left in the country who don't sleep around these days, for God's sake!"
"There are some. I'm one," she said. "I agreed to go to dinner with you, Harvey. Only to dinner."
He made an angry sound in his throat. He pulled up at her door. He studied her in the light from the front porch.
"Your old man home?" he asked.
"Not yet," she said without thinking. "He had a business meeting. But a friend of his is coming to stay with us for a few days. He should be here any minute." It was a calculated lie. There was a friend, named Blair Coleman, who owned a multinational oil corporation. Niki had seen him infrequently when he came home with her father. In fact, she'd had a flaming crush on him since she was seventeen, but he treated her like a child. So Blair Coleman was coming to stay. She just wasn't sure when. "I have to go in," she added.
"I'll walk you to the door," he said. He even went around the car to open her door for her. There was a calculating look on his face, but Niki was too relieved to notice it. She'd unlock the door, go inside and she'd be free.
"Thanks," she said.
"No problem," he said, with an odd, smug little smile.
She put her key into the lock, noticing with a frown that it wasn't needed. The door was unlocked. Maybe her father was home after all.
She turned to tell Harvey good-night and found herself pushed inside the house. He closed the door behind them.
"Now," he said menacingly, "you frigid little tease! Girls who date me always give out. Always!"
He grabbed her and wrestled her into the living room, down onto the sofa.
Niki was frail from a hospital visit that had left her weak and breathless. Even though she wasn't a tiny girl, she was slender, and she had no martial arts skills at all. Harvey was a football player, with the muscle that came with the game. He had her on her back on the sofa, her long blond hair fanned around her oval face with its delicate complexion and pale gray eyes. She was flushed from the illness, and breathless from the aftereffects of it. She did fight him, but she knew she'd never get away in time. He was trying to take something from her that should be her right to give. She was furious. Being helpless made her even more angry.
"Let go of me!" she raged. "You idiot! I am not going to let you !"
"You can't stop me," he panted, ripping the bodice of her dress as he held her down with his formidable weight. "And there's nobody home who can."
"Oh, I wouldn't bet good money on that," a deep, gravelly voice mused from the doorway.
Niki glanced toward the voice. And there he was, larger than life. The reason she never dated. Blair Coleman.
Harvey was just tipsy enough not to realize how much trouble he was in. At least, not until a man the size of a wrestler jerked him off Niki by his collar and slammed him down onto the floor.
"You can't do that to me! I play football! I'll put you through the wall!" Harvey raged as he jumped to his feet and went for the big man.
There was a deep chuckle. Harvey's rush was met with a fist the size of a ham. It inserted itself into Harvey's diaphragm and sent him to his knees.
While he was trying to recuperate from that, the big man jerked him up by his collar, drew back his fist and knocked the younger man over the back of the sofa that a shocked Niki was still lying on.
"I'll tell my dad!" the football star raged. "He's got all sorts of lawyers."
"I have a few of my own. Get your butt back here and apologize to this girl for what you tried to do," he added in a voice like a grater.
"I.will not," the boy faltered.
"Your choice. I don't really mind involving the sheriff's department." He was pulling out his cell phone as he spoke.
"Nicolette, I'm very sorry," the boy said at once, his face red as he stared at Niki.
She was on her feet by now, clutching her torn bodice together. Her pale eyes were blazing with outraged modesty. "Not as sorry as you're going to be when I tell my father what you tried to do, Harvey," she promised. "He has some good lawyers, too."
"I was drunk!" Harvey exclaimed. He glared at her. "And you can read about yourself on my Facebook page," he added with a sarcastic smile.
The big man moved closer. Harvey backed up a step.
"Let me give you some advice," Blair said quietly. "Don't think about getting even with her online. I'll have my people checking, just in case. The first time I see anything posted about her, you'd better be on your way out of the country before any of my security people can find you. Are we clear?" he added, his stance as threatening as his deep voice.
"Y-yes. Very clear. Very."
Blair jerked his head toward the door.
Harvey took the hint. He didn't quite run for his car. But he got down the driveway in a hurry.
Niki got a better look at her rescuer when he came back from the window, making sure Harvey left.
He was dressed casually, but in designer slacks that clung to his broad, muscular thighs, and an expensive green knit shirt that outlined formidable muscles. He had a broad face with a big nose and a beautiful, wide, chiseled mouth. His complexion was olive. His hair was wavy and jet-black, with a few strands of silver. His eyes were large and black as jet. They were deep set, under thick eyebrows. His feet looked as oversize as his hands. He was very fit for a man his size. There wasn't an ounce of fat showing anywhere on him. Niki had adored him from the day her father brought him home to visit, years ago. But since she'd been seventeen, there had been no man in her life at all. This one colored her dreams, made her ache for things she couldn't quite grasp.
"Thanks," Niki said in her soft voice. "I couldn't stop him." Her breathing was jerky and shallow.
He scowled. "You have asthma, don't you?"
She nodded. "And I'm just getting over pneumonia." She smiled at him. "Thanks, Mr. Coleman."
He smiled gently, and the fierce look left his face. "Just Blair," he corrected. "It's nice to see you again, Niki," he added. "Well, I would have preferred different circumstances," he amended as he looked at her.
She managed a breathy laugh. "Me, too. I'm just glad you were here when I got home." She was still clutching her dress.
"Did he hurt you?" he asked gently.
"I don't think so."
"Let's see." He drew her down on the couch and his big hands moved gently to the torn fabric. "None of that," he chided when she flushed, mistaking her reaction for shyness when it was actually excitement at the touch of his fingers instead. "I'm way too old to make a pass at a girl your age. Besides, I'm engaged."
"Oh." Story of my life, she told herself, that the only man I'm even interested in thinks of me as a child. And he was getting married. She felt her heart break right in two. But she didn't let it show. She relaxed her death grip on the fabric. "Sorry. I've had a bad night."
"I noticed." He drew the fabric away from her lacy little bra. But it wasn't the undergarment he was looking at. It was the bruises on what he could see of her pretty little firm breasts just above the cup of the bra. She had beautiful little breasts. He clamped down hard on feelings he shouldn't even entertain, especially now. There were more bruises on her thin shoulders. He winced.
"I wish I'd hit him harder," he said in a cold, biting tone.
"He was so shocked when you showed up," she recalled with a laugh like tiny bells. "He's a football star, you know." She grimaced. "Goodness, I must be an idiot. I didn't even realize that he felt entitled to anything he wanted in life."
"Sadly, some men think that way. Turn around, honey." He moved her so that he could draw the dress down and look at her back. There were more bruises there.
"Is it bad?" she asked.
He drew in a breath and turned her back to him. His black eyes were glittery. "I think we need to take you to the emergency room, and then talk to the sheriff. These bruises are an outrage."
"It would be my word against his," she said quietly, searching this big man's eyes.
"I saw most of it," he reminded her.
"Yes, but you weren't with us in the car. He could say I promised him whatever he wanted and then got cold feet."
He cursed under his breath. "I don't like letting him get away with this."
"He'll be much too busy explaining his bruises," she said with a flare of humor. "And when I go back to school, I'll swear to everyone I know that I gave them to him!" she said with a little laugh.
He chuckled. "He'll be a legend in his own time."
"Yes, he will," she promised. She cocked her head and looked at him curiously. "You don't look like a man who gets into many fights," she said.
He shrugged and smiled at her. "My father" odd how he hesitated on the word, Niki thought "founded an oil company. He built it into a multinational corporation and groomed me to run it. But his idea of management was to teach me the job from the bottom up. I started out as a roughneck, working on oil rigs." He pursed his lips. "The boss's son wasn't the most popular guy around. Plenty of other men thought I'd be a pushover."
"I imagine it didn't take them long to learn the lesson," she said, smiling up at him.
"Not long, no," he agreed. "You'll have bruises, Niki. I'm really sorry."
"It would have been much worse if you hadn't been here," she said. It began to catch up with her and she shivered. "I've been on blind dates before, in high school, but nobody ever tried to " A sob broke from her throat. "Sorry," she faltered.
He bent and scooped her up in his big arms. He sat down in an armchair and cuddled her in his lap. "Get it out of your system, Niki. I'm not afraid of tears," he said softly, brushing his mouth over her hair.
She bawled. It was a rare thing, comfort. Her father had never been a physical sort of man. He loved her, but he never kissed bruises or offered much comfort. Like Blair, he was an oilman, and he'd worked on oil rigs in his youth, too. Her mother had died when she was in grammar school, so it had just been her and Daddy, most of her life, here on the enormous cattle ranch he'd inherited from his father. She was nineteen, almost twenty, and this was the first time she'd ever had anybody offer her a shoulder to cry on. Well, except for Edna Hanes, the housekeeper.
She pressed close to Blair's broad chest and mourned the loss of him. He was going to get married. She'd had this stupid idea that one day she'd grow up enough for him to finally notice her. That was a pipe dream, and it had gone up in ashes tonight. At least, she thought, he'd saved her from that overly muscled brute.
"Poor little thing," he murmured against her forehead. "I'm sorry."
"I didn't know men could be like that," she said brokenly. "I don't date much. I like to live in the past. I'd have been right at home in the Victorian age. I don't fit in in the modern world."
"Neither do I," he confessed. He lifted his head and searched her wet eyes. "Still a virgin?"
She nodded. Oddly, it wasn't at all embarrassing to talk to him like this. She felt as if she'd always known him. Well, she had, for several years, if distantly. "Daddy took me to church every Sunday until I went off to college," she confessed. "Some of the other girls at school say I'm stupid to think any man would want to marry an innocent woman. They say I need experience, so I'll appeal to a man." She looked at him like a curious little bird. "Is that right?"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wyoming Rugged is book # 5 in Diana Palmer's Wyoming Men series. I was excited to get started on this book. The blurb about the book really interested me, maybe it is because the storyline reminds me of my husband and myself and the fact that we have a 15 year age difference between the two of us. Niki and Blair had known each other for years. Blair, the friend of Niki's father, would never admit he was attracted and harbored more than friendly feeling towards his friends daughter. Niki has had a crush on Blair since she was in her late teens. Even though there is a mutual attraction between the two, Blair is constantly pushing Niki away because of the 16 year age difference. There are several instances where you think these two are finally going to open their eyes to what is in front of them only to have the author rip it away. In the end, the two finally open themselves up to the love they share for each other. Unfortunately, this story did not leave me wanting more. I usually like Diana Palmer's books however I found this book lacking in both the storyline and the characters. I received an eARC of the book compliments of the publisher for my honest review and opinion. All ratings and opinions stated are my own.
Another Diana Palmer goody! To be honest, it could have had more depth, but I still liked it. Maybe I'm wrong, but the hero usually wore khakis and yellow shirts, when he dressed casually. Only yellow? Why? Diana Palmer is my favorite author. I love all of her books, some more than others. They are all read many times over, and many improve with age. Her sci-fi books are great. Keep them coming, Diana! We love you.
I enjoyed this book! It's the typical Diana palmer type but that's what I like!
Way below par for this writer. Boring and extremely repetitious.
Myfavorite author does it again. Another book that lives up to the greatness of her stories. I couldn't put it down.
Don,t bother. This book goes on and on and on, but there is no plot , The girl is supposed to be naieve bu she only seems really dumb! The men are all over protectivve or super macho but not much personality. Defintely not up to the authors best efforts.
A good story of love, misunderstandings and friendship. It was a bit repetious at the end. The author is new to me and I'm trying to get a feel for her style of writing. LA-TXN
"Wyoming Rugged" was a sweet read. Niki was a fighter when it came to her health, but very naive about relationships. Blair the older man, not only her friend but her dad's best friend, had issues of his own. Many books today are now being written on older men and younger women, so I would say that Diana Palmer was a bit ahead of time on this genre. It was a fun read to see two people that have been friends for years finally find love with a satisfying HEA. Diana Palmer has been one of my favorite authors. I have read many of her books twice just to go back and read a feel good book. For me an easy 4 Stars!
i loved this story!!
Title: Wyoming Rugged - Wyoming Men 5 Author: Diana Palmer Published: 11-24-15 Publisher: Harlequin Pages: 320 Genre: Romance Sub Genre: Cowboys; Western; Series ISBN: 9780373779734 ASIN: B00UFPZAPU Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley . We are introduced to our main characters when 35 year old Blair Coleman rescues 19 year old Nikki Ashton from a blind date who is trying to rape her when he brings her home. Blair, a friend of Nikki's father Todd Ashton, teaches Harvey some manners, has him apologize, and ejects him from the house. He tries to get Nikki to go to the ER and press charges when he sees the bruising on her body, but she refuses. When he comes to visit one Christmas Blair is taken ill and Nikki helps to take care of him even though it is not safe for her to be exposed to him. Time has Blair seeing Nikki as more than just his friends daughter and has Nikki falling more in love with him, but the age difference and personal problems have Blair continually pushing Nikki away and hurting her. When Nikki severe asthma and a medical scare occur Blair realizes age doesn't matter and tries to work his way back into Nikki's affection. Only Nikki has decided to move on and wants nothing to do with him. Did Blair wait too long to come to his senses? Will the ice around Nikki's heart from Blair's hurtful words and actions melt enough to let him back in? Another Diana Palmer book, always a pleasure. Her romances may be based on a similar theme in many ways, but she always manages to give it a fresh spin each and every time and deliver it in a new way. Humor, suspense and love all woven together to make a wonderful romance. I look forward to Ms. Palmer's next book with anticipation. Thank you for sharing your talents with us once again Ms. Palmer, may you continue to do so for many more years.
"Wyoming Boring" would have been a more honest title. Why is there a cowboy on the cover when this is an oil man who doesn't ranch at all? Why was there zero plot? What was the point of droning on and on about the age difference? Readers, this was an excruciatingly hard read. Anyone on here saying 'amazing' and giving 5 stars under anonymous is obviously a planted review. Save your money on this one. Some of her books have been less than stellar lately, but this one takes the cake.
Quintessential Diana Palmer! As always her stories are filled with humor, angst and romance. Sweet love story. Strong characters. Overall enjoyable read.
Wyoming Rugged is not Diana Palmer’s best work. So if you are new to her writing, start with another book. Most of her books I have read had a mystery surrounding them in addition to the romance. Wyoming Rugged is all romance. Nikki, the heroine is young, sickly and innocent. I did find it interesting to have Nikki be sick and weak as that was a departure from your typically storyline. She has had a crush on her father’s best friend, Blair for years. I had a hard time deciding if I liked Blair. He was very rich, I did like that . He marries a woman because she reminded him of his deceased mother, hmmmm, and isn’t decisive. Not my idea of an alpha male hero. It is written well and I liked the relationship between Nikki and her dad. It is not a bad book; just not her best work. i received a copy through net galley. You can see my full review at More Than a Review dot com where I rate the level of sex, violence, language and drug/alcohol use in books.
When I think of western romances, I almost always think of Diana Palmer. I definitely haven’t read them all but I’ve read a few over the years. To be that successful for that long, you know she’s good at what she does :) It’s mentioned in the blurb that Niki is the daughter of Blair’s best friend, but it isn’t as clear that the age difference between the two of them is the big issue of the book. I got the idea that it was his heartbreak that was going to be the trouble spot but it turned out not to be the deal breaker. A May/December conflict isn’t seen as much as it was a few decades ago, but Palmer does a good job of explaining Blair’s concerns. He’s a powerful, rich business man who has traveled the world and he’s got a strong sense of duty. Dating someone so much younger isn’t something he’s comfortable with, even if he has trouble avoiding that attraction. I’ve seen some complaints in other reviews about Niki’s innocence. She is awfully young when the book starts, and falls for Blair, but she’s definitely old enough that by modern standards she should be more worldly than she is. And while it was a little bit much for me at the very beginning, she grew on me and I started seeing that as just a part of her personality. She did grow up with just her dad on their ranch, even living there while going to college, and she is a good church goer, so it does seem possible that she avoided some of that. Once the book gets going, it stops being an issue for me so I think that is just going to be a personal thing for each reader. Overall, I enjoyed Wyoming Rugged. There were a couple of places that I shook my head – there were some conversations that would have definitely benefited both Niki and Blair … but then the book would have been a whole lot shorter. And I’m not sure that I would have been as quick to forgive as Niki after Blair does the hot/cold routine more than once, but she’s not a thing like me. I definitely thought things were going to go in a different direction and if I’d been Niki there would have been some words. Good thing for Blair he got her instead :) It’s not going to be for everyone – between the age difference (which some found kinda icky because Blair tries to treat her like a kid when he first figures out that he’s attracted to her), Nikki’s innocence, and the old-fashioned feel that these things give the story. But I do think that there are a lot of people out there who will enjoy it. There are Palmer’s fans, but also those that like that kind of book. (If you are iffy I recommend checking out a couple of reviews on Goodreads, both good and poor – you’ll figure out quick enough if you are going to like it.) (complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review)
I tried so hard to like this story. Am normally a fan of Ms. Palmer's works but this one I just could not get into. The story dragged on, the characters whined and I just did not find the plot very interesting. Huge disappointment. I received an ARC of Wyoming Rugged in exchange for an honest review. Even a favorite author can write a dud sometimes.
Hahaha, was so bad had to finish, so unbeleivably stupid, What happened Ms Palmer? Got a 10th grader to write for you?