MADE FOR A TEXAS MARRIAGE
Silhouette Special Edition
Lone Star Love Affair
When a bombshell secret rocked the powerful Barron dynasty, billionaire Tyler headed to the only place that had ever felt like home: the family’s Texas ranch. He wasn’t interested in sweeping the scandals under the rug and forgiving all the lies. And he certainly wasn’t interested in a relationship with the woman who claimed she could help make his problems disappear.
PR genius Zoe Velez had been hired to clean up the Barrons’ public sins, and for the sake of her own family’s name she was determined to succeed. Only, it was hard to ignore the genuine pain Tyler was hiding…and the potent desire that wouldn’t let her turn her back on him. But could she forget the past and let this passionate cowboy claim her heart--forever?
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Excerpt from MADE FOR A TEXAS MARRIAGE
With her handheld camera in tow, Zoe left to walk the ranch, scouting locations for the interviews that would take place after she leaked the Barron family scandal to a couple of handpicked reporters. She wanted the press to stay away from the corporate offices and the mansion. Instead, she would invite them to Barron country territory, where she could play down the family’s cosmopolitan sheen and present them as people who were actually decent folk trying to work through their problems in private, as a family should.
As she walked by the cabins, she filmed the humble homes, one of which housed the new foreman. His place wasn’t any fancier than the other dwellings.
She found herself smiling at the thought of sitting on the steps of one, drinking a morning cup of tea, but… Hey, didn’t she have a much nicer guesthouse she’d worked her way up to?
After walking for about twenty minutes, past the new barn with all its technological gee-goos, past the corrals, then the old abandoned barn that she’d played in as a kid, she came to a pasture, where she discovered something so unexpected that she lowered the camera.
Tyler, leaning up against the outside of the fence while a skinny, coal-hued quarter horse nosed at the grass from way over on the opposite side. It looked like the cowboy was giving the animal a lot of room.
And, from the way he was training his gaze on the horse, it looked as if he was wearing his heart on his sleeve. There was a simpatico there, making this strong man somewhat vulnerable.
Zoe’s skin came alive, as if every inch of it had caught fire. She even burned inside—languid, undulating waves of desire that had grown from a young girl’s unwilling admiration into a woman’s need—and one that was just as unwelcome.
But that was ridiculous. This was Tyler, the oldest Barron. His father had led the way in showing that they didn’t stand for vulnerability, or even what she thought of as humanity.
He must have sensed her, because he glanced over his shoulder, his cowboy hat shading his eyes, but not his mouth. No, that part was all too readable, with its straight line of displeasure.
Just as she was thinking about turning around and continuing on her way, he spoke.
“Morning walk?” he asked, keeping his voice low.
The first thing she realized was that he was being quiet because of the animal, who was probably skittish. It looked nearly malnourished, too, and she wondered if Tyler was a part of some kind of rescue effort since the Barron staff had always taken the very best care of their horses.
The second thing was that he was being…civil.
To her—the scumbag.
She nodded in response to his question, turning off the camera and putting the strap over her bare shoulder. Then she tugged down her sleeveless top in sudden awareness that maybe it was showing too much…shoulder. Not that it was floozish, especially in the summer heat, but…
Well, she just felt aware of every inch of skin around him.
She nodded toward the horse. “He looks…”
“…unhealthy?” he finished for her in that murmur. “I noticed, too, last night when I found him.”
“You…found him?” He talked as if he’d come upon a lucky penny. You didn’t just find horses like that.
He shrugged, turning back to watch the animal, almost as if he didn’t want her to see his expression. She walked closer, and his shoulders stiffened, so she stopped.
“Where did you find him?” she asked.
“The fair. Some carny had him tied to a trailer. God knows what he was using him for. At first I thought pony rides, but I think it might take some persuading for the horse to have people on and off his back all day. Even so, he’ll come around to trusting again. He just seems a little warier today, in new surroundings.”
There was a bite of challenge in Tyler’s voice, and in a flash, Zoe saw past the vulnerability. Just as she’d thought: he’d grown up to be the mighty golden boy. Confident that he could dictate terms to a horse…and also the world at large.
But it would be good to have him on her side during this campaign, so she stuck to her guns, refusing to back away like a cowed thing. A ranch rat.
She ran a compassionate gaze over the animal. “How could anyone do that to a…” She was about to say person, but instead, she said, “…horse?”
His jaw clenched. Then he said, “I don’t know, but I’m getting him care as soon as possible--a vet, a dentist, a farrier. There’s a lot to be done.”
So he was doing his own rescuing.
Zoe could only look at Tyler. So there was a heart somewhere in that infamously corporate body?
She raised her camera to get some film of this. A family who rescued horses was a family that could be redeemed, even with Eli Barron’s scandal.
“No,” Tyler said, still watching the horse.
Even though she didn’t like being commanded, his family had hired her, so she lowered the camera. Tyler hadn’t wanted anything to do with the campaign, so he was clearly avoiding any PR footage right now. She would deal.
Deep inside, though, she wondered if maybe this moment was too private, and that’s why he didn’t want to be filmed with the horse.
“What’s his name?” she asked.
Tyler paused, as if trying to get a read on her tone, but he kept staring straight ahead. “I haven’t come up with one yet, but I’m sure anything will be better than his old name. He’ll be rechristened, like he’s getting a second chance.”
“How about that then?” she said. “Chance? Because you came upon him by one.”
A smile crept over his mouth, and when her heart seemed to flutter, she fought the sensation.
“I like that,” he finally said. “Chance.”
They lapsed into silence as they watched the horse, who seemed perfectly content right now, under a morning sun that promised the wither of a Texas summer’s day. Zoe moved a little nearer to Tyler, a couple feet away. This was actually nice, being out here, accompanied by memories of what she’d loved about the countryside before she’d left it.
As she took in the heavy scent of the grass, she also found notes of Tyler in there somewhere—that musky clean scent of a man who’d remained more in her memories than she’d ever admitted.
The boy running and laughing through the meadows during a game of tag…the boy who’d taken her breath away whenever he would chase her, touch her, saying, “You’re it…”
She opened her eyes, the brightness suffusing the dimness of the past, and as her sight adjusted, she saw Tyler out of the corner of her gaze, watching her.
Zoe turned her head, catching his eyes under the shade of his hat, her heart pounding its way out of her chest.
For a moment, nothing else mattered.
For a moment, he even seemed to forget they were actually on the same side of the fence as his gaze came to rest on her lips.
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From the book: Made for a Texas Marriage
By: Crystal Green
Silhouette Special Edition
Publication Date: 01/11