They got him.
Oh, the people in this town tried, sure. No man with his money and property ever had to be lonely if he didn’t want to be. He wanted to be. His army days were behind him and he was now a rancher and oilman—more rancher than oilman, truth be told. His land and animals were what mattered.
Shaking off his thoughts, Clint stood up, automatically using his good leg to take his weight. He had to stop doing that; he had to start treating his prosthetic as another leg but, shit, it was hard. Leaving the force had been hard, losing a limb had nearly killed him and being forced to deal with people, civilians, was the cherry on his crap sundae.
Clint turned and cursed when he saw he was the focus of much attention and quickly, and automatically, took in all the salient details. Since he was still ignoring the driver of the convertible—he wasn’t ready to deal with her yet—he turned his attention to the passenger. Sporting glossy black hair with dark eyes, she’d left the car and was standing with Miranda Blackwood, Buck’s ex-wife. With them was also a fresh-faced beauty and an Italian bombshell who reminded him of one of Grandpa’s favorite actresses, Sophia Loren.
The four women, Buck’s ex-wife and her reality TV co-stars, watched him with avid interest. They looked as out of place as he would on a catwalk, their spiked heels digging into the grass, designer sunglasses covering their eyes.
The Blackwood ranch hands couldn’t keep their eyes off them…
He uttered a low, sharp order for them to get back to work and they hopped off the fence with alacrity, tossing admiring looks at the New Yorkers as they ambled off.
The next problem was to get the cars untangled so he could accurately assess the damage to Tim’s truck. But first he had to take care of Jack: animals first, things later.
Clint called out to a hand and when he jogged back to where Clint was standing, Clint passed him Jack’s reins. “Can you cool him down, then brush him for me?”
Clint didn’t correct him since he was, by Buck’s decree, the temporary boss. And ordering people around wasn’t something new to him; he’d been the owner–operator of Rockwell Ranch since he was eighteen and a lieutenant in Delta Force. Despite their enormous wealth, thanks to ranching and business acumen and large deposits of oil, serving was family tradition: his great grandfather saw action in France in 1917, his grandfather fought the Japanese in the Philippines. His father did two years in the military but never saw any action. His dad didn’t see much of anything, having died shortly before Clint’s fifth birthday.
Anyway, it felt natural to join the army, and then it felt natural to become one of the best of the best.
Excellence was what he did.
Jack stepped on his foot as he walked away—bastard horse—and Clint didn’t react. If he’d been alone, he’d have told Jack he’d lost his leg above the knee and having his foot stood on barely registered on his pain-o-meter but there were people about. He never discussed his prosthetic leg, ever.
Mostly because he was allergic to pity and he was terrified of people thinking he was weak. He might be half the man he’d once been but he’d rather die than allow people to coddle him.
He didn’t need anybody or anything…not anymore.
But he did need this damn car moved.
“Look, I’m sorry, I lost focus.”
She sounded more defensive than sorry, Clint decided as he walked back to the driver’s door of the Audi. The driver was now sitting on the top of the front seat, brand-new cowboy boots on the white leather. Clint started there, at those feet, and slowly made his way upward. Now that the red haze had lifted from his vision—he was still mad as hell but he was in control—he could take in the details.
Slim legs in skin-tight blue jeans, curvy hips and a teeny waist he was sure he could span with his hands. She wore a lacy, button-down shirt and a heap of funky necklaces. Two thick braids, deep brown at the top and lighter at the ends, rested on a fantastic pair of breasts.
He lifted his eyes to her face, his mouth dry. Yep, she had a rocking body but her face was 100 percent gorgeous. A stubborn chin, a mouth made for kissing, high cheekbones and merry, mischievous, naughty eyes—deep brown—framed by long, long lashes and a cocky pair of eyebrows.
A straw Stetson covered her head.
She might be pint-sized but Clint just knew every inch of her was trouble
He jerked his head sharply. “Move.”
She cocked her head and sent him a slow smile. “No.”
Okay, admittedly he hadn’t had a lot of interaction with people lately but when he used his don’t-mess-with-me voice, people generally hustled. “What?”
Clint stared at her, not sure he’d heard her correctly. Shaking his head, he tried again. “Lady, move.”
The smile grew sweeter. And deadlier. “No.”
What the everlasting…
“Have you heard of the phrases please and thank you?” she asked, cocking her head.
She was lecturing him on manners? She’d dinged his truck, probably putting back his restoration by months and months, had barely apologized herself and then had the balls to throw his manners in his face?
Red haze descending again, he didn’t trust himself to speak so Clint took the next easiest option. Stepping up to the car, he swiftly slid one arm under her knees, the other around her slim back and swung her off her perch.
But instead of placing her feet on the ground, he held her to his chest, fighting the wave of lust running through him. There was something about the soft, fragrant give of a woman, the curve of her hip beneath his fingers, the softness of her breast pushing into his chest. Her minty breath, the surprise in those deep dark eyes.
Soft, sexy lips he desperately wanted to taste…
God, he needed sex. It had been a while…another thing that changed when he lost his leg. He hated pity, from others and loathed a woe-is-me attitude but experience had taught him that normal women, women who weren’t loons and gold diggers, weren’t crazy about one one-legged guys with too many scars to count. His girlfriend sure as hell hadn’t.
“So, this is comfortable,” she purred, looking as relaxed as if she was stretched out on a lounger by a sparkling pool, margarita in her hand.
Did anything faze her?
Wanting to find out, Clint loosened his grip on her and she fell a few inches before he caught her again. Instead of squealing she just tightened her arms around his neck and those eyes, the color of his favorite dark chocolate, met his. “You wouldn’t drop me.”
“Watch me.” Knowing there was a half decimated, now loosely packed hay bale behind him, he whipped her around and released her. Her face reflected her horror and anger as she braced to hit the hard ground. When her pretty butt landed on the hay, her eyes widened and her comical what-just-happened expression almost made him smile.
But he didn’t. Because smiling wasn’t something he did anymore.
Pulling his eyes off his faux cowgirl, he hopped into the convertible, cranked the engine and released the brake. Slapping the car into Reverse, he pulled away from his truck and stared down at the dashboard, noticing the flashing warning lights. Water, oil, temperature were all going nuts. Yep, she wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
Not his problem…
Clint cut the engine and exited the car. Ignoring the tiny woman who was trying to extract herself from the inside of the hay bale, he walked over to his truck and slapped his