Sometimes love needs a helping hand . . .
Hawk’s Way: Jesse
Hawk’s Way – Book 1
WANTED: Ranch Hand to Mend Fences—and Broken Hearts . . .
When her first husband, a Texas Ranger, was killed on the job, Honey Farrell swore she’d never risk her heart again. She no longer has time for men, anyway—not with a ranch to run, a dwindling bank account and two teenage boys to raise. So when cowboy Jesse Whitelaw turns up on her doorstep looking for work, he seems like the answer to her prayers.
But Honey doesn’t know that Jesse’s actually a Ranger himself, going undercover to break up a cattle-rustling ring—and as she and Jesse get closer, the secrets he’s keeping could destroy them both.
THE HAIRS PRICKLED ON THE BACK OF HONEY Farrell’s neck. She was being watched. Again. Surreptitiously, she scanned the room looking for someone—anyone—she could blame for the disturbing sensation that had plagued her all evening. But everyone in the room was a friend of acquaintance. There was no one present who could account for the eerie feeling that troubled her.
Her glance caught on the couple across the room from her, Dallas and Angel Masterson. Honey saw two people very much in love. In fact, she’d come to the Mastersons’ home this evening to help them celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Honey found it a bittersweet event. For, one year and one month ago, Honey’s husband, Cale, had been killed saving Dallas Masterson’s life.
Honey felt her smile crumbling. A watery sheen blurred her vision of the Texas Rangers and their wives chattering happily around her. Mumbling something incoherent, she shoved her wineglass into the hands of a startled friend.
“Honey? Are you all right?”
“I just need some air.” Honey bit down on her lower lip as she hastened from the living room. The overhead light in the kitchen was blinding, and Honey felt exposed. Shying from the worried look of another Ranger’s wife, who was putting a tray of canapés into the oven, Honey shoved her way out the back screen door.
The early summer evening was blessedly cool, with a slight breeze that made the live oaks rustle overhead. Honey sank onto the back porch steps. She leaned forward and lifted the hair off her nape, shivering when the breeze caught a curl and teased it across her skin as gently as a man’s hand.
She quickly dropped her hair and clutched her hands together between her knees. She felt bereft. And angry. How could you have left me alone like this, Cale? I’m trying to forget what it was like to be held in your arms. I’m trying to forget the feel of your mouth on mine. But seeing Angel in Dallas’s arms tonight had been a vivid reminder of what she’d lost And it hurt. It was hard to accept Cale’s untimely death and go on with her life.
At least she’d learned from her mistake. She would never again love a man who sought out danger the way Cale had. She would never again put herself in the
position of knowing that her husband welcomed the risks of a job that might mean his death.
Next time, she would choose a man who would be there when she needed him. Inevitably, Cale had been gone on some assignment for the Texas Rangers whenever a crisis arose. Honey had become adept over the years at handling things on her own.
If her friends and neighbors got their wish, she wouldn’t be on her own much longer. Only, this time, she’d chosen more wisely. The man who’d brought her to the party tonight, Adam Philips, was a country doctor. Adam would never die from an outlaw’s bullet, the way Cale had. And Adam was reliable. Punctual almost to a fault. She would be able to count on him through thick and thin.
Adam had proposed to her, and she was seriously considering his offer. He was a handsome, dependable man in a safe occupation. He liked her sons and they liked—perhaps tolerated was a better word to describe how they felt about him. There was only one problem.
Honey didn’t love Adam.
The kitchen door rattled behind her. Afraid someone would find her sitting alone in the dark and start asking awkward questions, Honey rose and headed toward the corner of the house, where the spill of light from the kitchen windows didn’t reach. She almost ran into the man before she realized he was there.
He was leaning against Dallas’s Victorian home, his booted foot braced against the painted wooden wall, his Stetson tipped forward over his brow so his face was in deep shadow. His thumbs were stuck into the front of his low-slung, beltless jeans. He was wearing a faded western shirt with white piping and pearl snaps that reflected the faint light of a misted moon.
Honey felt breathless. She wasn’t exactly frightened, but she was anxious because she didn’t recognize the man. He might have been a party guest, but he wasn’t dressed for a party. He looked more like a down-on-his-luck cowboy, a drifter. It was better not to take a chance. Honey slowly backed away.
With no wasted movement, the cowboy reached out a hand and caught her wrist. He didn’t hold her tightly, but he held her just the same.
Honey stood transfixed by the feel of his callused fingers on her flesh. “I’ll scream if you don’t let go,” she said in a miraculously calm voice.
The cowboy grinned, his teeth a white slash in the darkness. “No, you won’t.”
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“Joan Johnston does short contemporary Westerns to perfection.”
Print Length: 116 Pages (originally in print as Honey and the Hired Hand, 1992)
Publisher: Harlequin, September 2016