by a hot erotic author
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On the banks of the Trinity River, Sadie Pepperman is looking for a chance to escape the demands of her in-laws. With her husbands dead, they want her to marry her brother-in-law so they can take control of her farm.
Suddenly, the peace of the day is shattered when her best friend steps too far into the river. Rushing to save her, Sadie meets a handsome stranger that ignites her dormant lust. She sees her friend rescued by a steamship and backs away from Logan Jansen, only to turn her ankle.
The agonizing pain leaves Sadie with the inability to walk. Needing help, she offers Logan a place to stay if hell help with the chores on her farm. With his agreement, Sadie adds another problem to her list. Now, not only does she have to worry about how to bring her crops in from the field and run her farm alone but she also has to fight her attraction to Logan.
Can Sadie end her in-laws’ interference in her life, run her farm alone, and give love another chance?
Read Chapter Excerpt
“I can’t.” Sadie Pepperman hated the whinny tone of her voice and fought with the chains of propriety that held her back. Why couldn’t she be more carefree, like her best friend?
Thoughts of how, years ago, her impetuous nature had gotten her into her current fix kept her in line today.
“Come on, Sadie.” Carolyn stepped out of her petticoats and threw them into the wagon, before she waded naked into the Trinity River. “There’s no one around for miles and I want to cool off.”
The temperature soared to a blistering heat. Sadie brushed back the wet tendrils sticking to the side of her face. She had too many responsibilities at home to waste time frolicking in the river.
“Yes, but we said we’d only be gone for a few hours. You know how Richard’s family watches me.” Sweat dripped between her breasts. “They’re looking for a reason to kick me out of my home. And if they find me…”
“Oh, don’t worry about them.” Carolyn splashed about in the water, working her way deeper into the river. “They can’t take your property, and they know it. Richard was your husband. Everything he had belongs to you. I only wish my husband had something to leave me when he died.”
“You don’t understand.” Sadie tugged her camisole away from her moist skin. In only her underwear, she hated the idea of having to put her dress back on but they need to head for home.
“Just enjoy yourself for…” Suddenly, Carolyn plunged forward as if losing her footing.
Concern, Sadie rushed to the bank.
After a few long seconds, her friend’s head broke the surface and she sputtered, “Sadie, careful…”
She continued to bob in the water, moving further and further away from the shoreline.
Fear bloomed in Sadie’s chest. She wasn’t a great swimmer and barely kept herself afloat while in the river. How could she save her friend?
Uncertain as to how to help, she screamed and waved her hands. “Carolyn, kick your feet and work with the current to reach the bank.”
Carolyn appeared to be trying to move closer to the bank, but the quick flow pushed her down-river.
To keep her friend in sight, Sadie hurried along the shoreline. The shifting sand slowed her pace, until underbrush and trees blocked her path.
The gargled tone sent a panicked rush of adrenaline through her. She had to save her friend. Sadie spun on her heel. The horse and wagon still stood where she’d left them. She ran and jumped onto the bench seat of the buckboard, gathered up the reins, released the brake and slapped the strip of leather across Beauty’s rear.
The wagon surged forward.
Sadie swung her focus between the dirt trail and the river. She caught brief glimpses of the muddy water but didn’t see her friend. With the swift current, Carolyn might be farther down-river than Sadie could predict. But I don’t want to miss finding her either.
Uncertain what to do, Sadie tugged on the reins and slowed her pace. She searched through the trees and underbrush for another opening to get a better view of the fast-moving water.
“Zack, damn it.”
The loud shout caught Sadie by surprise. She scanned the shoreline and spotted a man. Drawing to a stop, she threw on the brake, scouting the river bank.
Two horses grazed nearby. Their saddles, along with other gear, lay discarded in a heap in the middle of a small clearing, as if two people had camped there over night.
A man stood at the edge of the clearing, turning at her approach. Dressed in only a pair of dark cotton pants, he rushed forward. His bright, curly blond hair and his broad shoulders registered briefly with Sadie but with her friend in trouble she didn’t let her sway her from the problem at hand.
“Are you a friend of the woman who is drowning?”
Unable to certain what to say to the stranger, she nodded and worked to clear the lump in her throat. How did this man know about Carolyn?
“Move over. I’ll drive. If we hurry I should be able to save her and my friend.” He placed a foot on the side step of the wagon and crowded onto the bench.
She quickly scooted along the wooden plank, allowing him room to settle beside her. Long fingers closed over the reins and he tugged the leather from her grip.
He didn’t wait for an answer. Lifting the reins, he released the brake.
A loud whistle sounded from the river, followed almost immediately by the slapping of paddles against the water.
The man clicked his tongue to encourage Beauty to get moving. He drove the wagon closer to the edge of the river, creating a rough new trail.
Bouncing on the seat like a rag doll, Sadie tried to keep her distance from the man, even though the task was next to impossible with the constant swaying of the wagon. She continually brushed against his arm, shoulder and thigh. A particularly hard bump almost landed in his lap.
“I’m sorry, but you need to slow down,” she complained and straightened.
He drew back on the reins; the wagon rolled to a stop. His head turned in the other direction. He shifted away from her and jumped down from the wagon before she repositioned herself on the bench. “Damn that steamship. They’re rescuing them.”
A little stunned by everything that had happened, Sadie lifted a hand to her throat. Her gaze stayed locked on Logan until his comment finally registered. She glanced at the water and noticed a steamboat cruising down-river. A line hung from the side with two people hanging from the end.
She scrambled off the wagon to keep the boat in sight as it moved farther away. “Oh, no, where will it take them?”
“Probably to the next port, maybe Liberty or on into Galveston.” When the steamboat rounded a bend and drifted out of sight, the stranger turned. His gaze grew in intensity as he scanned the length of her body. “I’m Logan by the way.”
Burned by his steady regard, Sadie glanced down at her attire. Heat stained her cheeks. The ribbon on her camisole had worked its way loose and the swell of her breasts lay exposed to his view. She’d been about to redress when Carolyn fell into the river. Lifting her hands automatically to cover herself, she bowed her head.
What should she do now?
The smart side of her brain suggested she say something clever. The impulsive side offered a solution to the problem of sleeping alone.
“I take it you and your friend went a little too far while indulging in a way to cool off in the heat?” Logan stepped closer.
Awareness tingled along her nerve endings, tying her tongue into knots so no words had a chance of escaping. Instead, she stood stock-still, staring at his naked feet. Long toes led to high arches…strong ankles, thick calves. The appealing view ended at the cuff of his pants just below his knee. Denied need sparked in her gut and she allowed her gaze to drift upward. Dark material hid the solid bulk of his thighs but not the pronounced bulge at his crotch.
Air refused to enter her lungs and her head spun with the lack of oxygen. Did this man actually want her…after simply seeing her in her bloomers?
Confidence sizzled through her chest. Did she still have the same appealing charm she’d possessed at sixteen? Could she seduce him the same way she had Richard? A demanding yearning battled with logic. She had a ranch to run and required more muscle than sex appeal in a man.
“I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Logan Jansen and you are?” The sexy tone of his voice forced her head up. She gazed into his crystal-blue eyes.
“Sadie, Sadie Pepperman.” She tightened her hold on the thin fabric of her clothing. The urge to rip the concealing items from her body and followed the hunger building inside her core fought with the need to take the sensible course of action and keep the man at bay.
Unfortunately, she recognized her immediate response to Logan and didn’t put much stock in her ability to curb her desires. After all, three days after meeting Richard, she’d found herself in his bed. In less than a week, she’d left her parent’s home and had vowed to love him for the rest of her life.
Look how that worked out, she silently grumbled.
Determined not to travel the same path again, she shuffled quickly backward. A sharp stone dug into her heel. She shifted to ease the discomfort, only to have her ankle to turn awkwardly. Pain shot through her foot.
She stumbled, rocking on one foot for a moment before two strong arms circled her. Anxious for something solid to hold onto, she wrapped her hands around the hefty girth of his biceps.
“Easy there, sugar, we don’t want you to take a tumble.” Logan held her against the dense wall of his chest. His rich male scent sparked erotic visions in her head…of him lying over her, his body guarding hers as he drove them both wild with pleasure.
“Please, I’m a widow and I…” How could she explain the overwhelming craving to be touch by a man again? Not counting her total lack of willpower to resist him.
She met his gaze. But why him?
Yes, he was gorgeous and sort of resembled her deceased husband, but still, she had responsibilities that didn’t allow for such foolish fantasies.
A smile bloomed on Logan’s face, almost arrogance, yet strangely appealing too. “How long has your husband been dead?”
“A little over a year, but he’s been gone almost two.” Sadie bit her lip and shifted her weight. A throbbing pain pierced through her foot. She cringed.
Logan tightened his grip and eased her to one side to stare at her feet. “Sugar, I think you may have done some serious damage to your ankle.”
“No, I have too much to do. I can’t be laid up with a sore foot.” Sadie recalled the last time she’d injured herself. She’d had to call on Richard’s family for help. The incident had driven home the need to distance herself from them if she wanted to keep the property her husband had left her.
Logan kept one arm around her waist and bent to examine her ankle. Warm fingers brushed her skin briefly before he rose beside her. “Sorry, but its already swelling.”
“Oh, horse feathers,” she muttered, furious with how nothing seemed to be going her way today. First the overbearing heat, then Carolyn badgering to cut loose and later getting caught in the river current, followed by Sadie hurting her foot and the onset of unwanted desire for a stranger.
“Sugar, horses don’t fly.” A teasing note bled through his tone before he scooped her up into his arms. “Luckily, I can carry you to the wagon.”
The sudden contact of solid, male flesh scrambled her brain and instinct ruled her movements. She slipped her arms around him and relaxed into his embrace. Her head landed on his shoulder and she savored the nudge of his chest against her aching breasts.
Her gaze ran along the strong column of his neck. The compulsion to glide her tongue over his tan skin had her licking her lips and leaning closer.
“Here, we go. I’ll just set you on the back of the wagon and take a look at your foot.” Logan eased her onto the solid surface of the wagon.
Oh, God, what the hell was I thinking?
Heat burned her face. She bowed her head to hide from the man still holding her in his arms. Flustered by her reaction to him, she drew her hands back to her chest and held tight to the thin fabric of her top.
He released her and squatted to examine her foot. His hands circled her calf and slid slowly over her ankle. “Sorry, but you’re not going to be walking on this foot anytime soon.”
His clear blue gaze met hers and she sank into their welcoming depths. His smile melted the urge to get as far away as possible from this man. Damn, I’ve always been a fool for a blond-haired, blue-eyed devil.
He eased his palm along her leg to her knee and squeezed it before rising. “Why don’t I help you get dressed? Then we can ride back to where Zack and I were camping and get my things.”
Hunger bloomed in her core with his touch and she didn’t hear his words. No, caught in a sensual dream, she imagined him parting her legs, stepping closer, and drawing her against his stiff cock.
He stepped away.
Her thoughts still ensnared with erotic visions, Sadie ached with the need to call him back and beg for him to give her some relief. Instead, she held her tongue and watched each step he took.
He paused and reached over the side of the wagon for her discarded dress.
Again forced into the bright light of reality, she lambasted herself for believing any man would want to make love to her. Didn’t Kirk, Richard’s brother, continually tell her that she was plain and no one would want her other than him?
Fighting the depressing thought, she swung her head to the path along the river and stared. What would it hurt to take Logan home with her? If she could perhaps persuade him to help her instead of having to ask her in-laws, then she might finally be free of their constant presence in her life.
Or was she playing with fire?
Logan stopped in front of her. “If you’ll just lift your arms, I’ll slide your dress over your head and you can button it right up.”
She studied him. Could she resist him? If she tried, then… A proposal developed in her mind. “Why don’t you come home with me? I’ll need some help taking care of my farm, until I can get around again.”
“It’d give me a place to stay until Zack and your friend return.” Logan lifted her dress again as if he’d already devised the plan before she even thought of it.
Still uncertain he understood what she was offering, she continued, “How much is it going to cost me?”