Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Date Published: Jul 2017
Someone was in the house.
Mason Granger listened as the floorboards in the hallway creaked. If he were at his home in Austin, he would already have his gun in hand and pointed at the door. But he wasn’t in Austin. He was in a Bliss, Texas. And the only weapon he’d brought with him was his hunting rifle.
Which was still out in his truck.
He eased up off the bed, hoping that the old springs in the mattress would keep their silence. Once his feet were on the floor, he wasted no time moving to the wall next to the door. He might not have a weapon, but he had surprise on his side. He held his breath and waited. Another creak sounded. This one was much closer. Only a second later, a shadowy form entered the room. Mason didn’t hesitate to pounce.
His intention was to tackle the invader to the floor and beat him senseless. But once his arms closed around the soft body of a woman, instinct kicked in, and he twisted to take most of the impact. He landed on the shoulder he’d injured playing college football. That injury had ended his pro sports career before it began and turned his path towards law.
“Sonofabitch!” He rolled onto his back in pain but refused to release the intruder, even though she was fighting like a hellcat. A hellcat that he remembered tussling with before. He remembered the small breasts that brushed his forearm. He remembered the long legs that tangled with his. And he remembered the shapely ass that bumped against him in a rhythm that sent a shaft of sexual awareness spearing through him. He had no business being sexually aroused by this woman. Not only because she was the younger sister of a friend, but also because he liked his women submissive. And there was nothing submissive about Becky Arrington.
He didn’t know if it was the command in his voice or the fact that he knew her identity that made Becky hold still. Probably the latter. She didn’t seem like the type of woman who took commands. She released an exasperated huff as her body relaxed against his.
“I thought you were in Austin,” she grumbled. “I thought that’s why you couldn’t be at my brother’s wedding.”
It was the excuse he’d given Zane so as not to hurt his friend’s feelings, but the truth was that he didn’t attend weddings. Any weddings. As a divorce lawyer, he dealt with too many broken vows to think of a marriage ceremony as anything more than a farce perpetuated by starry-eyed lovers with no clue about the reality of married life.
He lifted Becky and plopped her none too gently on the floor before he got to his feet. He switched on the lamp, not caring that he didn’t have on a stitch of clothing. She walked into his house unannounced, she deserved to be embarrassed. He should’ve known better. Becky didn’t even blink when he turned around. She sat on the floor with her dress hiked up and her panties showing, staring brazenly. The dress surprised him. He’d only seen her in western shirts and wrangler jeans. But the lacy pink panties surprised him even more. He hadn’t taken her for a pink lace kind of girl. She was more the boy shorts type.
“You sleep naked?” she asked.
He walked over and grabbed the boxer briefs he’d stripped off earlier. “Only when it’s the hottest summer in Texas history and there’s no air conditioning.” He pulled on the briefs and turned to find her deep blue eyes filled with annoyance.
“If my house is too hot, then maybe you should leave,” Becky replied.
He moved to the window, but there wasn’t a trace of breeze to cool him. The night air was thick and humid. It was also peaceful. In the city, all he could hear at night through his open windows were the harsh sounds of traffic, downtown partiers, and sirens. All he could hear now were the soothing sounds of chirping insects and the occasional hoot of an owl.
Mason needed soothing. In the last few months he’d felt restless and uneasy. He no longer got satisfaction from punishing greedy spouses in the courtroom. Nor did he get satisfaction from punishing submissive women in bed. His discontentment had prompted him to take a leave of absence from work. Foolishness had him believing that Bliss held the key to his cure.
“Your house?” he said without turning around. “Funny, I believe I’m the one who holds the deed to the house and land.”
She jumped up and came striding over to stand behind him. Unlike most women, her scent wasn’t manufactured perfumes or lotions. She smelled earthy . . . like fresh-cut grass on a cool spring morning.
“Only because Mr. Reed reneged on our deal when you sneaked in and offered him cash,” she snapped.
He turned and raised an eyebrow. “You had a contract with Delbert Reed to buy this place?”
“Not a contract exactly. But I told him I wanted to buy it, and I would’ve as soon as I turned twenty-five and got my trust fund. I had plans for this ranch.” She stepped closer and pointed at finger at his chest. “Plans that I’m not going to let some uppity lawyer from Austin ruin just because he wants a place to hunt and fish on the weekends.”
“Is that why you snuck into my house?” He arched an eyebrow. “You planned to murder me in my sleep so you could buy the ranch from my beneficiary? I should warn you that I don’t have a will so it could take some time for my estate to work its way through probate.”
She sent him a smug look. “A lawyer without a will? Isn’t that like a doctor without health insurance?”
He couldn’t help but laugh. She might be a brat, but she was entertaining. “My life has always been tumultuous. Why not my death? But we digress. Why did you sneak into my house?”
Her eyes flashed with temper. He had thought they were the same blue as her brother Zane’s, but on closer examination, they weren’t as dark. Rays of sapphire shone through the twilight irises. “I didn’t sneak. I thought you hadn’t moved in yet and I came to get my . . . stuff.”
“Why would your stuff be here?”
She paused before she answered. It was a tactic he’d seen often in the courtroom—usually when someone was about to lie. “Because my cousin Gracie and I used to hang out here when we were teenagers, and we left a few things behind.” Her gaze flickered to the corner of the room for a brief second. From what he could tell, there was nothing there but a few cobwebs and some dust. Which made him extremely curious.
“All the furniture and household items were included in the sale,” he said. “But I wouldn’t want to keep anything that belongs to Zane’s sister.” He crossed his arms. “So please help yourself.”
Becky paused again, and her gaze returned to the corner just long enough to make him even more curious. “All I want is my grandma’s quilt.” She grabbed the quilt off the bed. He would’ve bet money that it wasn’t her grandma’s. Especially when she looked so annoyed to have it in her possession. “Well, thanks for the stimulating conversation, Mr. Granger. And the even more stimulating peep show.”
He bit back a smile. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” He followed her out, simply because he didn’t trust her as far as he could throw her. With her temper, he wouldn’t be surprised if she torched the place just so he wouldn’t have it.
He expected to find her candy-apple-red truck parked in front of the house. Instead, a white stallion was tied to the porch railing. The horse tossed his head and snorted when they came out the door.
“You’re still riding that demonic horse?” he asked.
She grabbed her boots that were sitting on the porch and sat on the steps to tug them on, which pretty much proved that she had been sneaking into his house.
“Ghost Rider is not demonic,” she said. “He’s just high spirited.” She got up and rolled the quilt tightly before securing it to the back of the saddle. The horse pranced and jerked at the reins, confirming Mason’s assessment. And even though he felt Becky needed a tough lesson on the dangers of misjudging an animal, he untied the reins from the rail and took the horse’s bridle to hold him steady.
“A high-spirited horse that would’ve trampled you to death that day in the barn if I hadn’t pushed you out of the way.”
“More like tackled me. You seem to enjoy manhandling woman.” She jerked the reins from him and swung into the saddle.
There was something about the image of her astride the white stallion that momentarily took his breath away. Her long golden brown hair hung almost to the horse’s rump, and her aqua dress was hiked up so far he could see a hint of lacy panties and a whole lot of toned, long leg. Unable to stop himself, he took her calf and guided her boot into the stirrup before he lifted his gaze to hers.
“I only manhandle the ones who step into my lair.” He slid his hand up her calf. “Fair warning, Rebecca. Next time you come into my home uninvited, I won’t be so nice.” He brushed the soft skin behind her knee with his thumb before he released her.
“I don’t think you have a nice bone in your body.” She whirled the horse, forcing him to jump back or get his bare feet crushed beneath its hooves, before she galloped off into the darkness. When she was gone, he released his breath and gave himself a mental warning. Be careful, Mason. That one’s not for you.
He turned back to the house. It wasn’t a pretty place. The roof needed repairs, the front porch sagged, and the trim needed sanding and painting. Not to mention the broken air conditioner. But he hadn’t bought the ranch for the house. He’d bought it for its location. And it had nothing to do with fishing and hunting. The same way Becky hadn’t come for her grandmother’s quilt.
He walked to his Range Rover and got his rifle. He didn’t expect any more visitors, but he always believed in being prepared. Back in the bedroom, he set the rifle on the bed and walked to the corner. Just as he’d suspected, there were only dust and cobwebs . . . and one loose floorboard.
Getting a knife from the kitchen, he came back and popped up the loose board. The space beneath was too dark to see anything so he had to move the lamp closer. In between the floor joists there was a small wooden box. He leaned down and pulled it out.
When he opened it, he discovered the real reason Becky had snuck into his house. (Katie Lane, July 2017)