His for the Taking - By Ann Major Page 0,1

bit bad. She’s nothin’ like her mother.”

The last thing Cole wanted to hear was praise for Maddie, or her son. Especially not from his half brother, who often resented him because of their father’s mistakes, so he told Adam he was a fool to fall for anything Maddie Gray said and ended the call.

So, Maddie was back, dazzling the town, even his brother. And she had a kid. Who was the father? Vernon? The timing would be about right. Cole had always been careful to protect her, so he knew the boy wasn’t his.

Cole pushed his mug of strong black coffee aside so roughly, the steaming liquid sloshed onto several important drilling leases. With thoughts of Maddie stirring his blood, he didn’t need more caffeine.

Edgily he shoved the papers aside and stared out the window. He slid his jean-clad legs onto the top of his desk and stacked one scuffed, black, ostrich-skinned cowboy boot on top of the other. It was early yet, but already a brilliant sun blasted the desolate Texas landscape. Thanks to his air conditioner, the interior of his trailer was icy. That was the only thing he liked about living at the drill site for weeks on end while he worked a field. But even the chilled air couldn’t keep out the hot memories of Maddie.

Too well he recalled the first time he’d actually spoken to Maddie, who’d been younger and poorer than him, and hadn’t run in his social circle.

He’d driven home from the University of Texas on a Friday and had gone looking for his girlfriend, Lizzie Collier, over at her daddy’s ranch. It had been spring and the pastures had been filled with bluebonnets.

When Cole had stepped inside the barn and hollered for Lizzie, one of the horses, Wild Thing, had gone off like dynamite, neighing and kicking his stall door. Cole thought Wild Thing was too dangerous to fool with but Lizzie had the softest heart in the world. When she’d found out Old Man Green was starving Wild Thing and beating him, she’d talked her dad into buying the horse. Her father had hired more than a dozen horse whisperers to save the animal, and when they’d failed, Lizzie’s father had wanted to put him down. Lizzie wouldn’t hear of it.

Cole hadn’t thought too much about the ruckus the horse was making until he heard a crooning voice inside the stall. Thinking Lizzie might be trapped, Cole had rushed toward the stall door.


“Shh!” chided a young, defiant voice from inside the stall.

Since Cole couldn’t see too clearly in the shadows, he took the slim figure wearing jeans and a baseball cap turned backward for the young male groom who worked for Lizzie’s dad.

Fixating on Cole, the gelding’s ears swept so far back against his narrow gray skull they all but vanished. Then the big animal lowered his head as his pale forelock shot over terrible eyes that rolled backward. Half rearing, the animal charged, his hooves splintering a board.

“Get out of that stall, boy!” Cole commanded.

Wild Thing’s eyes rolled crazily. Again the gelding reared to his full height and heaved himself with murderous intent against the stable door.

The boy jumped back and flattened against the wall. “Are you trying to kill me?” In the confusion the kid’s baseball cap hit the sawdust, and a lustrous mane of black hair tumbled down the imp’s shoulders. And across breasts.

“Maddie Gray?”

What male with an ounce of testosterone wouldn’t have recognized her sinfully gorgeous, exotic features—Maddie’s creamy pale skin, her voluptuous mouth, her violet-blue eyes? Hell, she looked exactly like her no-good mother, Jesse Ray Gray, the town’s most notorious slut.

Cole’s gaze seared her ample breasts, which heaved against her faded blue cotton work shirt. She’d filled out since he’d seen her last. If her tight clothes were any clue, she’d probably be up to her mother’s tricks—if she wasn’t already.

“You’re Maddie Gray,” he repeated accusingly, disliking her more than a little because she stirred him.

“So what if I am?” Her beautiful mouth tightened rebelliously.

Wild Thing’s eyes rolled, and he neighed shrilly.

“Please lower your voice and start backing away,” she ordered.

At least she wasn’t a total simpleton. She saw the folly of being penned in such a small enclosure with a monster like Wild Thing.

“I said back away!” she repeated. “Can’t you see you’re scaring him?”

She began to speak to the startled horse in a sweet, soothing murmur Cole would have envied if he wasn’t so furious at her for her foolhardiness and willingness to

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