by Kim Redford
Publication Date: 5/25/2021
This cowboy is more than just a perfect face...
Violet Ashwood arrives in Wildcat Bluff County with one agenda: convince the hunky Mr. July from the Wildcat Bluff Fire Rescue’s annual benefit calendar to be the face—and body—of her new lonely hearts online dating service. She didn’t count on his firm refusal, nor did she count on seeing him again. Until she discovers he’s her new landlord.
Kemp Lander, aka Mr. July, wants nothing to do with Violet’s schemes to make him a model for her Cowboy Chat Corral, particularly once he finds out she fudged the truth on her rental contract by claiming she was a cowgirl. He’s got enough problems trying to keep trespassers off his ranch and doesn’t need the distraction of his sexy renter.
All Violet and Kemp want is to save their livelihoods and have their lifelong dreams realized. But it’ll take joining forces and discovering they’re better together to finally meet their goals.
Kim Redford is a bestselling author of contemporary Western romance novels. She grew up in Texas with cowboys, cowgirls, horses, cattle, and rodeos. She’s a rescue cat wrangler and horseback rider—when she takes a break from her keyboard. Kim Redford currently divides her time between homes in Oklahoma and Richardson, Texas.
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“I need to get Heart-to-Heart Corral up and running.” Violet Ashwood glanced at Kemp Lander where he sat across from her at the dining table.
He sighed and leaned back in his chair. “You haven’t given up on me representing your lonely hearts club, have you?”
“No. Your photo in the Wet & Wild Cowboy Firefighters calendar drew me here. That hasn’t changed one bit since I got here. ”
He nodded, then pulled the plate with his piece of pie close to him and dug in with a fork.
She followed his action, but she didn’t feel hungry now.
He ate a couple of bites before he set down his fork. He looked out the windows, then back at her. “Maybe we can compromise.”
“What do you mean?” She felt her taste come back with the advent of sudden hope.
“You’ve invested a lot of time and effort in something you’re obviously passionate about.”
“I am. Everyone deserves true love.”
He raised an eyebrow. “What about you?”
“I’m looking for others…not myself,” she said.
“It’s just that I’ve never been lucky in love.”
“I can’t imagine why not.”
“Let’s let it go at that.” She forked a bite of pie into her mouth, but she’d lost her taste for it again.
“I don’t see how you can promote something you don’t believe in.”
“I do believe in it.”
“Prove it.” He leaned toward her with a challenging gleam in his green eyes.
“Prove it?” She didn’t trust that gleam. “How?”
She took a deep breath, wanting that very thing and not wanting it at the same time. Mr. July was getting more dangerous to her heart every moment she was in his company.
“You’re not willing to put yourself on the line?”
“I didn’t think you were interested in—”
“I’m not interested in posing for your website, but I am interested in you.”
“Oh.” She felt her face flush at his words as heat rushed through her entire body.
“I thought you might be interested in an experiment, seeing as how you’ve come all this way from San Antonio.”
He tossed his napkin on the table, stood up, and held out his hand to her. “Let’s go out on the patio and discuss our options.”
She gestured toward the dirty plates and table full of dishes. “Shouldn’t we clean up?”
“It can wait. I can’t.”
She grasped his hand, palm to palm, as she stood up. She could feel the roughness of his skin, see the stubble of his beard, and smell the soap he’d used in his shower. It was all heady stuff.
He led her into the sunroom, turned on a lamp for soft illumination, and opened the back door so that pale light spilled outside. The scent of roses in bloom filled the night air and moonlight cast a silvery glow over the patio.
“Why don’t you sit on the glider while I go back and get our wine?”
“Okay.” She really couldn’t say more as she watched him go inside because she felt as if her heart were in her throat.
When he returned, he handed her a glass, clinked hers with his, and nodded as if he’d made a decision.
She took a sip and returned his smile. She felt good, happy, contented. It was a mild, sweetscented spring night with a handsome man by her side. If she could convey
this setting, this feeling, to her lonely hearts club, she felt sure people would positively respond in droves.
He leaned toward her. “Now, about your lonely hearts club…”
She leaned toward him. “Yes?”
“Do you really need me?”
“I want you.” She immediately wished she’d chosen different words.
“I want you, too.” He set down his glass. “What are we going to do about it?”
“I know what you meant, but can’t you mean something more, something personal, something just between us?”
She felt her heart pick up speed. She caught his gaze…and felt as if she’d always belonged here in this moment with this man.
“Something special?” he asked.
She had to respond, but she couldn’t find the words. If he looked at her with any more heat in his eyes, she might spontaneously combust. “I…” And then she threw caution to the wind, leaned forward, and kissed him. It was just a soft, fleeting, tender touch before she moved back.
“I hope that was only an appetizer.” He clasped her shoulders with both hands and gently tugged her toward him.
She leaned into him, feeling his heat, his strength, his power. She wanted it all. She didn’t want to compromise. She raised her face, waiting for his kiss…waiting…waiting…
“I want you to know I don’t do this lightly. I know you really only want me for your lonely hearts club. I know you’ll go back to San Antonio when you get what you want here. I know all that, and I still want to kiss you. I need to kiss you. I plan to kiss you. It’s just that I’m a serious kind of guy.”
“Kemp, I swear if you say one more word, I’m taking the pie and going home.”
He grinned, chuckling. “You’d take the pie? That’s serious.”
“Yes, it is. And I’m serious, too.” She put her palms on each side of his face. “Please, just kiss me.”
And he did…tender at first, then with growing passion until he lifted her up, set her on his lap, leaned her head back against his arm, and held her tightly.
She felt his heat and strength and desire build as one kiss followed another and he delved deeply into her mouth, hugged her closer and closer as if desperate to meld their bodies so they could never be separate again.
Finally, he raised his head, kissed the tip of her nose, gave her a slight smile. “And I thought that fire I just fought was hot.”
Excerpted from Cowboy Fire by Kim Redford. © 2021 by Kim Redford. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.