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Crystal Green
Crystal Green


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Silhouette Special Edition #2103
March 2011
ISBN: 0373655851

Falling In Love Was Against All The Rules…

It was meant to be a game of seduction—a distraction from his epic family scandal.  And devilish tycoon Jeremiah Barron was the ultimate player: cool, calculating and in control, both in business and in the bedroom.  When sexy, reserved socialite Allison Gale breezed into his life with an exclusive property to sell, he was determined to acquire a lot more than his real estate.  But what he didn’t expect was for one soul-touching kiss to knock his world completely off its axis!

Single mom Ally knew a commitment-shy playboy when she saw one.  But beneath his Stetson beat the heart of a compassionate cowboy.  A man worth loving , if she was willing to take the ultimate risk…

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In general, most people didn’t ignore Jeremiah Barron.

But one lady in particular had dared, and here she was, standing by herself in front of the French windows of a spacious marble lounge in a country mansion near Austin. 

The sheer curtains bellowed near her, her shiny platinum hair rolled back in a chignon, her lithe figure dressed in a cool, white late-summer sheath.  Outside, the sound of children’s laughter floated from the sunset-lit hedges in the garden maze, and she had a look of such yearning on her face that Jeremiah couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

Allison Gale, philanthropist and socialite. An heiress

who’d fallen on misfortune. 

The woman Jeremiah hadn’t been able to shake off ever since she’d oh-so-politely put him in his place over a month ago.

As he visually drank her in, his heart fell straight down until it crashed into his gut.  But it was only intrigued admiration, really, and it was all Jeremiah was capable of. 

Yet that didn’t explain why he’d come to hold his Stetson over his Versace-suited chest, as if he needed some kind of covering. 

Ally—that’s what her friends called her—must have sensed that she wasn’t by herself anymore, and as she glanced at him, she didn’t have quite enough time to erase the longing from her expression. 

Happy and sad at the same time, he thought.  Why?

As if she’d been exposed in some way, Ally abandoned the window, folding her hands in front of her, the epitome of the elegant co-hostess for the annual Help for Children fundraising weekend.

“I didn’t hear you come in, Mr. Barron,” she said, smiling.  “Welcome to the Howard ranch.”

“So formal,” he said as he lowered the cowboy hat from his chest, donning a grin instead—one that covered him just as well.  “I’ve asked you before to call me by my given name.  And I’d think that a visit to the country would lend to some casualness.”

As she strolled away from the window, the children kept laughing outside, and she held on to a wisp of a smile before she gestured toward the sounds.

“Dinner’s still being served on the patio,” she said.  “The Howards’ kids are having ice cream for dessert, but we can still bring you something more substantial.”

“I’m solid as can be.”

She walked right by him, making no comment, leaving a trail of cherry blossom perfume that made his head light, his belly clench.

Maybe she was remembering the Red Cross event about a month ago, when he’d seen her in the crowd.  He’d been drawn by her classic blond beauty, making his way over to her, grinning at her, just as he did whenever he wanted to talk someone into something. 

Then she’d stopped him before he’d gotten much further.

Mr. Barron, she’d said with a note of amusement, along with a tone that told him she was well aware of his reputation.  I think you’ve got a roomful of women who’re just waiting for you to ask them for a dance.

And she’d left him standing there, as stranded as a castaway in the middle of a social ocean.

But what Ally Gale hadn’t known was that she’d presented a challenge to a man who thrived on them, both as co-president of his family’s multi-company corporation and in a personal life that had allowed him to forget more and more lately about The Barron Group since “the scandal” had hit.

“I’m surprised you even came—and so early, before everyone else,” she said as he sauntered behind her out of the lounge and into the foyer, where a grand, curved staircase waited. 

They stopped at the foot of it, Jeremiah lingering near her.  She drew in a short breath, but otherwise, she kept that polite smile on her face.

“I didn’t see any reason for waiting to come here,” he said, his voice low.

Ally seemed to realize that he was talking about more than just attending a charity function, and she took a step away.

“Well, we appreciate your donation and participation this weekend.  I’ll check to see that the butler has gotten to your bags and taken them to your room.”

Was she already dismissing him?

His hackles rose.  He’d been dismissed all his life, and that was what had taught him to fight.  The instinct was too engrained for him to ignore it now.

Still, his tone was nonchalant.  “Signing up for a long

weekend here in the country is just what the doctor ordered.  A lungful of fresh air to be gotten while contributing to a good cause.” 

“So says the corporate mogul,” she said.  “I know you’re also here to wheel and deal with a few other businessmen, too.  It’s the perfect opportunity, with so many of you staying on the premises.” 

Okay, so the event was driven by donors who’d paid to reside in the luxurious French-style country house on a massive ranch for an extended weekend of Texas barbecuing, an auction and a fancy cowboy ball.  There would be a lot of opportunity at hand.  In particular, Jeremiah had been sweet-talking the co-hosts and owners of this ranch, the Howards, because they had a few properties that had caught his eye as a developer.

But Ally was the real organizer of this party—and when he’d found out that she was the co-hostess, it’d been icing on the cake. 

It stung Jeremiah’s pride that she was subtly dancing around any flirtation, but it also pushed him on.  Better to be engaged in a chase like this than to think about what was going on back home at his family’s ranch.  Better to lose himself in the arms of another woman who could make him forget.

“All right, business is on the agenda,” he said.  “As a matter of fact, you still hold a property that I’d like to chat about—your abandoned hotel near Galveston.  It’s got a prime location, and it’d be just right for another one of our golfing resorts.”

“No business for me this weekend, thank you.”

Jeremiah walked toward her, his boot steps heavy on the marble floor, echoing off the tall, crown-molded ceilings.

Her eyes widened—blue-green eyes that would put most seas to shame.

Was her heart pounding because he was getting close?

Jeremiah’s belly swirled with need, just at thinking of what it would feel like to undo her light hair, feel it tumble out of that fancy chignon and over his hands as he brushed his fingertips against the back of her neck….

Before the fantasy could continue, she pulled him out of it.

“I wish your family could’ve attended, too.  It’s a shame.  I know your father enjoyed it last year when he came.”

A thud of awkwardness seemed to slam into the floor when she trailed off, as if she was cursing herself for forgetting that this subject was verboten.

“My dad’s lying low, resting,” he said, because it sounded much better than the truth—that Eli Barron was reeling from what he’d done to his family, drinking too much.  Hell, after he’d announced to the public that he’d fathered a son, Chet, with his sister-in-law, there’d been a scandal.  It’d been contained by a PR firm, of course, though the fallout had rocked all the Barrons, especially after the recent death of Uncle Abe, the cuckholded husband.

Jeremiah glanced away, steeling himself against the pain of his uncle’s passing, plus the entire scandal itself.  But when he looked back at Ally, one glimpse of this woman with such pale skin, pink lips and mermaid eyes sent him to a place where none of his problems existed.

The distractions always worked.  At least for a time.

Putting this particular discussion behind them, he took a chance, rising from his carefree stance against the stair rail to be nearer to Ally.  Her dress was sleeveless, so he could just about sense the warmth from her bare arms.  He could smell her cherry-blossom scent again, too.

Cherries and heat, he thought.  Moonlight and blond hair fanned over the sheets of his bed…

His voice was low.  “My family’s fine now, Ally.  We’ve moved on.”

She raised her face in order to meet his gaze.  He could tell that she wanted to snap their visual connection, back away from him, but she wasn’t doing it.

A brutal thrill sawed at his chest, then traveled lower, ripping and opening a hole that needed to be filled.

With her.


There was another need that he couldn’t identify, but it didn’t matter now.  She was the one who’d politely rejected him, sparking him to a feeling that he couldn’t seem to access anymore.  And when she eventually changed her mind about him, she would get him through that night and onto the next, where he would find someone else to pull him out of this “descent,” or whatever his brother Tyler kept calling it.

Leave it to Ty, the golden boy, to know better.

Slowly, so as not to break the moment, Jeremiah brushed Ally’s arm with his fingertips.  Goose bumps came in the wake of his touch.

He did do something to her, and she couldn’t deny it.

But she tried, and he didn’t expect anything less.

“I should really check on your room,” she said, circumventing him and taking the stairs.

This time, Jeremiah didn’t follow her.

Like every deal he embarked upon, Ally Gale would close, and it was only a matter of time before she realized it.


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From the book: Taming the Texas Playboy
By: Crystal Green
Imprint and Series: Silhouette Special Edition
Publication Date: 03/11
ISBN: 978-0373655854
Copyright C: 2011
By: Harlequin Books S.A.
R and TM are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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