by Amanda McIntyre
Dalton has the reputation as a good-timin’man. But this past year his life was upended. With both brothers now married, its’ enough to make this bachelor turn on his heel and run. Until the past waltzes back into town, looking more beautiful and less interested than when last they met. Dalton, usually on the run from relationships, finds himself trying to convince Angelique that he’s a keeper. And while her kisses imply her attraction, she’s holding something back and Dalton’s determined to find out her secret.
Angelique’s past is the topic of an afternoon talk show—caring for an alcoholic mother, involved in an abusive relationship that nearly cost her and her daughters lives. Fate offer her a second chance to turn things around, but when she returns to End of the Line, sparks fly between her and Dalton and threaten to reveal secrets that could change their lives forever.
Renegade Hearts, Book III
Rustler’s Heart, Book II (2nd edition)
Rugged Hearts, Book I (2nd edition)
The judge gave a sentence of more than fifty years in the State Penitentiary. There’d been no appeal. Tony hadn’t wanted one. He glanced over his shoulder as they led him away. His gaze found hers across the crowded courtroom and the corner of his lip curled in a sneer as if to say, “This isn’t over yet.”
“Angel, sweetheart, wake up. It’s only a dream, honey. You were dreaming.”
She sat up, confused at first. Wherever she was, it was pitch black except for the rays of a full moon spilling a path of light across the darkness.
“Are you okay?”
A hand touched her arm and she nearly leapt from her skin.
“It’s me, Dalton. Sweetheart, you’re at my cabin, remember?”
Dragged from a deep sleep, she struggled to free herself over bare limbs and the confines of the quilt as her thoughts swirled. She needed to stand on her own two feet. “I’m…I’m okay.” Her body was cold, and she felt clammy. Her heart still raced with the thunder of wild horses.
“You’re safe, Angel.”
She saw him in the shadows moving to the kitchen where he relit one of the lamps. Her breathing steadier now, she recognized the symptoms of the panic attack. She’d not had one in several months. Remembering her dream, she snatched up her clothes and held them to cover her nakedness. “Did I say anything…in my sleep?”
He reached out, but didn’t come closer. She couldn’t blame him for being cautious. “Only mumbling. Do you remember anything?”
Too clearly. Even now, she remembered the murderous look in Tony’s eyes. Only her aunt and uncle knew the truth. Everyone else, including Dalton, believed her husband was dead. To her, he was as good as dead the moment he tried to drive off with Emilee. She knew she’d have done whatever was necessary to protect her daughter—then and now. No one in Chicago with the exception of her lawyer knew where she’d gone. Not once in four years, since their divorce was final, had she heard from Tony.
“Angel?” Dalton’s soothing voice penetrated the haze in her brain, alleviating some of her restlessness. She realized she was shivering.
“It was only a dream, darlin’, and dreams can’t hurt you.” He wrapped his arms around her, her clothes still wadded in her arms. “A nice hot shower would do you a world of good, what do you say?”
The suggestion sounded heavenly–that, and a hot cup of chamomile tea. “Wait, you have hot running water?”
“Okay, it might be more on the tepid side. Rein rigged it up. Solar generated heat. Great little contraption when it works right.” He turned her ahead of him and picked up a battery-operated lantern. “Rein didn’t care to do much hunting after the bear attacked him, so he’d tinker around the cabin and came up with this.”
The bathroom, lined with warm pine planking, was no bigger than a good-sized apartment pantry, but it had the necessities. The shower was an old-fashioned, built-for-one variety with a cloth curtain that offered privacy.
Dalton turned on the water, and handed her a towel and washcloth. “As much as I’d love to wash your back, it ain’t gonna happen in there. Besides, I think you might need a cup of strong–”
“Chamomile tea?” she asked, laying her clothes on the vanity. She glanced at him as she stepped into the shower.
He made a face. “Uh, yeah, I’ll see what I’ve got. You relax and enjoy—shampoos, soap—should all be there.”
“Dalton?” She peeked around the curtain.
“Yeah?” He paused at the door and looked over his shoulder.
The water sluicing over her had eased one set of tensions, but letting her gaze drift over his bare, broad shoulders and finely honed backside created yet another.
“Careful, sweetheart. You keep looking at me that way and I may be tempted to test the structural soundness of a one-person shower.”
“I wanted to say thank you.”
He studied her for a moment, then walked over, a man entirely comfortable in his own skin. He kissed her. “You’re welcome,” he said, searching her eyes, and then kissed her again. “Tell me to leave,” he said quietly.
“Leave?” she asked, amazed at how his simple kiss could addle her brain. “You should…leave, yes.” She shut the curtain on him and held her breath until she heard the door shut. Only then did she allow her tears to flow.
Overview of series: