Sam felt as if all the breath had been knocked out of him.
He counted back and realized it was a full three months since their night together.
Lila was going to have a baby. That would explain her contradictory actions, one minute flirting and the next throwing an invisible wall between them and refusing to go out with him.
Had she come to Texas and expected to avoid telling him? Anger stirred that she would hide the truth. Maybe she was going to wait until she was back in California to let him know.
She had to realize she couldn’t hide it forever.
A baby. Their baby. He would marry her.
About the Author
SARA ORWIG lives in Oklahoma. She has a patient husband who will take her on research trips anywhere, from big cities to old forts. She is an avid collector of Western history books. With a master’s degree in English, Sara has written historical romance, mainstream fiction and contemporary romance. Books are beloved treasures that take Sara to magical worlds, and she loves both reading and writing them.
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Thanks to Charles Griemsman, Stacy Boyd and Allison Carroll.
Thank you to a special group of writers: Maureen Child, Kathie DeNosky, Tessa Radley, Yvonne Lindsay, Jules Bennett, Janice Maynard, Sarah Anderson and Charlene Sands.
Thanks to readers for their support, enthusiasm and friendship.
When Sam Gordon idly glanced over the crowd at the annual Hacket barbecue, a head of straight auburn hair caught his attention. It could be only one person. Lila Hacket’s silky hair was a unique color, a deep auburn shot through with red strands as natural as the rest of Lila. She was back in town and his pulse jumped over the prospect. Had she come home for the barbecue? Memories of Lila heated Sam’s insides while the horse conversation faded, replaced by memories of holding Lila’s warm, naked body against his.
The ranchers around him laughed over something Beau Hacket said, so Sam smiled, trying to pick up again on the conversation. Beau proudly pointed out his latest acquisition, a three-year-old sorrel, to the Texas Cattleman’s Club members gathered beside the corral.
Standing with her back to him, Lila chatted with another group of guests. She was taller than several women around her. She wore a turquoise sundress that had narrow straps and a top that came down over her hips, hiding her tiny waist. Her feet were in high-heeled sandals and she looked luscious. Certain he would talk to her before the evening was over, Sam attempted once more to focus on those around him. Local cattle rancher Dave Firestone and gray-haired energy magnate Paul Windsor quizzed Josh, Sam’s twin, on horses. Josh loved horses, one more thing Sam didn’t share with his twin.
“Beau, did you get that horse around here?” Chance McDaniel asked.
“No. I drove to a sale in Cody, Wyoming. But that isn’t the kind of horse you need on your dude ranch.”
“My place is a working ranch, too, and I’d like to have another cutting horse,” Chance replied, his green-eyed gaze roaming over the horses.
“Chance, you need some horses like the little mare I have for Cade. Something gentle even a four-year-old can ride,” Gil Addison, another local rancher, added.
Sam was not involved with horses but most of the men in his circle were horsemen one way or another, from Ryan Grant, now retired from the rodeo circuit, to rancher Dave Firestone. All belonged to Royal’s elite Texas Cattleman’s Club and Sam saw them often enough that he didn’t mind breaking away from the group.
“Y’all excuse me,” Sam said. “I’ll be back.” He strolled away in an easy stride that belied the anticipation bubbling in him. When Lila had not returned his call the morning after their one-nighter, he had let it go. There were other women in his life. That had been three months ago—three months in which he couldn’t shake her out of his thoughts.
Why was she back in town? Laughing, she moved away from the people standing around her. Determined not to lose her, Sam walked a little faster through the crowd.
It took only another minute to catch up. “Lila, welcome back.”
When she turned, there was an almost imperceptible flicker in the depth of her crystal-green eyes. “Sam,” she said. In spite of her smile, there was no warmth in her voice. “I hope you’re enjoying the party,” she said, sounding as if they were polite strangers and had never shared a night together. This was not a reaction he usually had with women.
“This is a great party, as usual. Better now that you’re here. Did you come home for the barbecue?”
“No, as a matter of fact. I’m in town to set up for a movie that’ll be filming on ranches here at the end of the month,” she said. “It’s nice to see you again. Enjoy yourself at the party.” She turned slightly to greet her longtime friend Shannon Fentress, still thinking of her as Shannon Morrison, instead of Mrs. Rory Fentress since her recent marriage.
“Hi, Shannon. Just welcoming Lila back to town,” he said.
“It’s the first of August, just in time for her family’s big annual party—who would miss this? I think all of Royal is here,” Shannon said. “Lila, that barbecue is the most tempting smell ever. Too bad they can’t bottle and sell it like perfume.”
Lila laughed. “C’mon. We have a new chef. You can meet him. ’Course, my dad is going to supervise. Excuse us, Sam,” she said sweetly, motioning to Shannon to follow her.
Sam watched them walk away, his gaze raking over Lila’s back. Her cool reception had been a first for him. He didn’t get that reaction from women. He frowned as he watched the slight flare of her hips, the sexy swing to her walk. As he studied her, he wanted to go out with her.
He shook his head and turned to go get a cold beer. Lila didn’t take after her dad. She didn’t even seem much like her mother, who was friendly, always happy to stay in her husband’s shadow, to be the wife in the background. In her own quiet way, Barbara Hacket kept Beau happy, entertained constantly and had charity projects without ever showing the streak of independence Lila did—that need to get away from Royal, to have a fancy job. Lila and her brother, Hack, were light-years apart.
As if his thinking about Hack had conjured him, Sam greeted her brother as he approached. “Great party, as always, Hack.”
“Dad knows how to have a barbecue. Saw you talking to my snooty sister,” Hack said.
“Snooty is okay. At least your sister’s kind of snooty