REBEL WITH A CAUSE?
Justin Morant can't believe he answered an online dating ad! Turns out, beautiful Mackenzie Hawthorne is looking for a ranch foreman, not a husband. Good thing, because marriage isn't in the injured bull rider's future. Justin is happy to take up the cause of saving the Hanging H ranch—and then there's the bonus of playing stand-in father to the sexy single mom's four angelic newborns.
Mackenzie doesn't know what miracle brought Justin to Bridesmaids Creek, Texas, but she'd be a fool to fall for the hunky cowboy who wears his rebel status like a badge of honor. Justin's a natural with her daughters and a whiz at ranching…yet one day she knows he's going to gallop off into the sunset. Unless, of course, the marriage-minded townspeople get their hands on him!
Justin slept off and on, dozing in the room with the babies. It was weird how much he found himself enjoying taking care of them. As a man who’d never been interested in having children—not one bit—he was surprised by how Mackenzie’s four little daughters tugged on his heartstrings.
He hated the idea of leaving them—all of them. And, somehow, he even hated the idea of Frog staying behind to take his place. Or any of the three men Ty was bringing on to replace him, for that matter.
The only reason he was leaving with Ty was because Ty had brought him here in the first place. He owed it to him out of a sense of brotherhood. Ty wouldn’t ask him if he didn’t need him. Mackenzie didn’t really need him—not like Ty did.
He needed to talk to Ty a bit more, dig into the mission to settle the questions in his mind. But the thing that unsettled his mind the most was how much he hated the idea of three men he didn’t know all that well roaming around the Hanging H and falling for Mackenzie and the girls.
Just as he was beginning to fall for them.
Whether he liked it or not, that was the truth. Justin closed his eyes as he rocked in the chair. The tiny night-light sent a soft glow over the room. An occasional baby snuffle or sigh reached him, the sound somehow comforting and not intimidating at all, not the way he’d thought it would be. During his wilder, crazier rodeo days, the idea of a family had been distinctly unappealing.
Mackenzie was recently divorced. No doubt the last thing she wanted was another man in her life. He couldn’t blame her if that was the way she felt.
At dawn, when Betty Harper appeared in the nursery, Justin felt strangely rested. He smiled at Jade’s mother. “Good morning.”
“Go get some rest. I’ll take over from here. Mackenzie said the babies didn’t even move last night.”
He felt like he hadn’t, either. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so relaxed. “I thought I was awake all night. I didn’t even realize Mackenzie came in the nursery.”
Betty smiled. “I checked on you at five. Everybody was sound asleep, which is a first for the girls. They probably feel comforted with a man’s presence around. Babies do that sometimes. You have a nice deep voice with is probably soothing to them.”
She disappeared from the room. Justin rose and stretched. Haven peered up at him from her blanket, and he had the uncanny notion that she was watching him. Did babies see anything at this tender age?
“Hello, little one,” he said, approaching her crib. Gently he picked her up, held her close. “Good morning to you, too.”
He kissed the top of her head, breathed in the sweet baby freshness of her skin, the scent of baby powder.
“Hi,” Mackenzie said, her voice soft.
He turned and saw she was wide-awake and looking refreshed. “You’re up bright and early.”
“I got a lot more sleep than I have since before I became pregnant.” She came to take Haven from him, and he smelled an entirely different smell: strawberry shampoo, delicate floral soap, sexy woman.
His heart did one of those funny flip-flops he’d gotten used to feeling around her.
“Thanks for watching them last night.” She gazed up at him. “I think I slept so well because I knew you were standing guard.”
Oh, boy. There went the heart. “It was no problem. Part of the job.”
“Not part of the job I hired you to do.” She looked at him funny.
He backed up a step when he realized he was staring at her pink, glossy lips. “It’s the job Frog and Fellows are applying for.”
“That’s Ty’s bright idea. And by now, you know Ty can be a bit of a squirrel.” She smiled. “Babysitting isn’t part of your job description. But thank you.”
Warmth expanded in his chest at her smile. He wondered if he’d ever met a woman he was so blindingly attracted to—and decided in a hurry that was a terrible thought to have about his boss. Definitely a dead end. There was no way on this planet he had any business being attracted to her.
“I’m going to get some coffee. You want a cup?”
“No, thank you. You go on.”
He nodded and turned to leave.
Turned back around, met her gaze. Started to say that sitting up with her daughters hadn’t been work; he hadn’t done it because of Frog and Friends. He’d done it because he’d wanted to. Wanted to make her happy, help her out.
But it was a bad idea to make such a confession. No purpose to it at all, and he didn’t do anything unless he knew the purpose.
Shutting his stupid yap tight before it could say weird, mushy things, he left.
USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author Tina Leonard has sold over 2.6 million copies of her titles. She has made the USA Today Bestseller, Waldenbooks, Bookscan, and Ingrambook lists, and has written and contracted seventy-one books and special projects. Her work has been published by Harlequin, Samhain Publishing, Robinson Scarlet, and most recently Random House Loveswept contracted for a single title trilogy project, Hell’s Outlaws. Leonard was chosen to be among the first authors published for Robinson’s Scarlet line, writing four single title novels for that imprint. Not long after, she sold on proposal to Harlequin American, where she has since written several popular series, most notably the Cowboys By The Dozen, Morgan Men, and Callahan Cowboys series. Her newest single title project, HOTTER THAN TEXAS, was published in March 2013. Leonard is known for her fun sense of humor, endearing communities, snappy dialogue, and memorable characters.
Join Tina at www.tinaleonard.com