Then just like some medieval knight in shining armor, a stranger arrives at her door. He claims to be a friend, who is down on his luck and looking for work.
Just looking at him sets her body on fire, and with them sharing a small log cabin, the nights are bound to heat up. Can she resist the chance to take a ride with the cowboy? Or should she trust him at all?
After all, he thinks wearing a shirt is an optional item and he knows way too many facts about her dead gun slinging husband?
The sight at the end of her gun set Elizabeth Murphy on fire. Eighteen months without sex had her craving the touch of a man. Yet most didn’t even cause a stir in her blood, but this one sparked a reaction in her libido.
She blinked and stared at the man riding across her land. What did he have that other men didn’t?
Wide shoulders and with his cowboy hat set low over his eyes, he moved to the gate of the horse as if he was an extension of the animal. The gentle rocking reminding her of… she lowered her rifle. A deep-seated yearning curled in her stomach.
As a woman on a spread by herself, she couldn’t afford to be friendly with strangers. No, she had to protect the ranch and greet everyone with caution.
Standing on the front porch of her cabin, she allowed her gaze to venture to the barn, then on to the corral where two horses stood. She’d brought them in from the fields a few hours ago in anticipation of her trip into town tomorrow. The sun sinking low on the horizon reminded her that she had supper waiting inside.
The increase patter of hooves caught her attention, and she stared again at the stranger.
“Might as well stop right there,” Lizzie called and cocked her gun. “I’m not much on uninvited guests.”
The man pulled on the reins, drawing the horse to a walk and then to a stop. “I can understand why a woman in your position might feel that way, but I’m a friend of your husband.”
The thought didn’t inspire warmth. Instead, she lifted her gun. “My husband was a gun-slinging gambler. He didn’t have the most reputable friends.”
A slight smirk passed over the man’s lips. He nodded. “Yes, but I knew him as a child back in Oklahoma. Heath Holmes is the name. I’m sure Daniel mentioned me once or twice.”
The name did sound familiar. What had Daniel said about Heath?
She licked her lips and fought the hunger to see this man’s strong muscular body naked and up close. She stared at his mount to gather more information. His black horse had the markings of a thoroughbred. The detail design of his saddle, and the rich quality of the man’s clothes spoke of someone who had money. So why visit her here?
“I recall the name, but Daniel didn’t particularly enjoy his childhood. His mother didn’t provide him with a great upbringing.” Lizzy lowered her gun to her waist, but kept the barrel pointed at Heath. Could she trust him?
“True, at times he would have starved, if not for my family, but then with six mouths to feed, what was one more?” Heath swung his leg over the saddle and stepped down from his horse, and turned.
Lizzie’s mouth watered and her palms slipped on the gun. She rested the butt of her rifle on the porch railing for fear of firing it off accidentally. Thoughts of what Daniel has said about his youth warred with her desire to get to know Heath better. Her gaze slid down his six foot frame, broad shoulders, full chest, trim waist, and thick thighs. Nothing about him seemed to hint at him not being able to take on any task.
“Right, Daniel did mention his mother’s love of whiskey and how your family was his saving grace.” Lizzy waved him over to the barn. “Why don’t you unsaddle your horse and put him in the corral? There’s a pump next to the water trough if you want to clean up and stay a spell?”
She stepped back as Heath grew closer. The desire racing through her body tempted her with thoughts of jumping off the porch and into his arms. With only a few kisses, he could have her out of her bloomers and be pounding his cock deep inside her within seconds.
A sigh escaped at finally satisfying her lust for sex. Stunned by the needy sound, she rushed her reply, “I was just getting ready to set down for supper, if you’d like to join me?”
“Thanks, I’ll just get Sasha settled, and be right in.” Heath grinned and led his horse to the barn.
Lizzy backed through the open doorway and set her gun in the rack by the door. Thoughts raced through her head as to what she should do. Living alone had its advantages and disadvantages. No one knew what she did or didn’t do. So if she wanted to take a temporary lover, who would be the wiser? However, she didn’t want to get involved with the wrong type of man again either.
Daniel had married her and stayed around for a few weeks at a time too, but he had wanderlust. His lifestyle up to the point where he married her allowed him to come and go as he pleased. He didn’t really like ranching and had relished the chance to get away occasionally for random trips. She didn’t want another man like him, even though the sex between them had been wild whenever he returned home. Next time around, she wanted a man who’d stay by her side and enjoy helping her with the ranch.
She walked to the counter and looked out the window.
Could Heath be that man?
Heath grabbed his hat and shirt off the fence post. Water drops ran down his chest and helped cool him off from his sweaty jaunt here. He questioned many times over the last few days if making this trip was the right thing to do.
He shook his head and grinned, but one look at Lizzy had solidified his plan. She needed him.
Daniel had talked nonstop about his beautiful wife, but Heath hadn’t believed his friend. After all, what man would admit to marrying some ugly troll? And Daniel had a tendency to lie.
Heath walked toward the house and glanced around. The log cabin and barn didn’t look to be more than ten to fifteen years old. That meant, Daniel’s story of finding an incredible deal on the place from a grieving widow needing to return east, had to be true too.
Did that mean Heath could count on his friend to tell him a few other truths? Like how much Lizzy disliked Daniel not wearing a shirt because it turned her on?
Heath rubbed his hand over his bare chest and stepped onto the porch. What would she say about him coming to the supper table half dressed? Would he offend or excite her?
Stepping through the doorway, he hung his hat on the cow horns nailed to the wall and glanced around for a place to hang his shirt.
The one room cabin had all the required amenities. A bed in one corner, a few chairs positioned next to a fireplace, a table with two benches and a counter where Lizzy stood putting together supper. He dropped his shirt over a chair and turned.
Crystal blue eyes briefly met his before dropping to his chest. Color flooded her cheeks and Lizzy quickly averted her gaze.
Heath fought the desire to step closer and draw her into his arms. She had to be missing Daniel and remembering what it was like to be with a man.
Heath couldn’t take advantage of the fact until he knew for certain she wanted him and not just a substitute for his friend.
“Something smells awfully good. After being on the trail for several days, I’m always excited to have a home cooked meal.” He walked to the table and threw a leg over the bench. “Everything looks right tasty.”
A basket of yeast rolls, fresh strawberries, and a pot of stew sat on the table. His stomach rumbled with hunger and he shifted the fork next to his plate.
Lizzy turned with two glasses in her hand. “Well, you might as well dig in. I’m sorry the only thing I have to drink is water.”
She set a glass by each plate before taking her seat.
Heath rose briefly from the bench and waited for her to settle. “There’s enough food here for more than just you. Were you expecting guests?”
“No, I prefer not to cook every day with the hot days that we’ve had. So I usually cook enough for several days, then all I need to do is reheat or eat it cold.” She sipped at her drink and stared at his chest.
“I appreciate you letting me join you.” He lifted the ladle and reached for her plate to dish her out some food. “How much do you want?”
He placed one scoop in the center and dipped the serving spoon back in the pot.
“That’s enough. I’m not very hungry at the moment.” She retrieved her plate and added a roll from the bread basket.
Heath stared at the small portion and lifted his own plate. “I can see why you have leftovers if you don’t eat any more than that.”
She offered him a half-hearted smile and toyed with her fork. “Feel free to finish it off. I’ve grown tired of this stew several days ago.”
His plate full, he set down the ladle and lifted his fork. The tantalizing scent of cooked vegetables and beef had him scooping a fork full into his mouth. The rich flavors of the stew caressed his taste buds and hunger had him diving for the next bite. He selected a roll and concentrated entirely on the food in front of him for several minutes before Lizzy’s soft voice interrupted.
“So why exactly are you here?”
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