Healing Harts # 1
By: T.J. Kline
Releasing April 28th, 2015
TJ KLINE’s brand new Healing Hart's series kicks off with HEART'S DESIRE
If you could have anything, do anything… what would it be?
Jessie Hart has a soft spot for healing the broken, especially horses and children, but her business is failing and bankruptcy is looming. The one man who can save Heart Fire Ranch is the last man she wants to take advice from - financial expert Nathan Kerrington - the same man who broke her heart eight years ago.
Nathan Kerrington has it all, except the one thing he’d wanted most - Jessie. Now that he’s finally freed himself from his corrupt family, he wants to make amends. When he’s called in to save Jessie’s ranch, he sees his chance to win her back - if only he can prove to her that she can trust him with her heart…
“What in the hell are you doing out here?” She felt the urge to cross her arms over her chest as she swam backward toward the shallow end of the pool until her feet could touch the bottom. How dare he come into her backyard uninvited? To violate her sanctuary?
“I just came out for a swim. It was quiet so I assumed everyone was already in bed.”
Nathan’s brows drooped as he moved toward her, the water only reaching his lower ribs. She didn’t remember him being so tall, or his presence being so imposing. Nathan had always been impressive but now he seemed larger than life. She wasn’t sure what it was about this man that set her so on edge. Or how he could make her stomach feel like it had suddenly broken out with a deadly case of butterflies at the same time. She realized she was still retreating and stopped, standing her ground and arching a brow in defiance.
“Well, some of us still had work to finish. I’m so sorry I couldn’t take the day off to entertain you.” She swam toward the stairs, dismissing him, but felt a hand gently circle her wrist.
The butterflies in her stomach took off, beating against her ribs, making it difficult for her to breath. How could his touch still do this to her? How dare he touch her? Her traitorous body had held onto the memories of Nathan without her permission.
It shouldn’t still bother her that he’d never called, but after the last night they’d spent together, she’d thought it meant something to him, that she’d meant something. But as it turned out, he’d done her a favor. He’d saved her the embarrassment of telling him she loved him, and he’d made it easy to despise him. It sure made him a convenient target for her ire now.
She shot him a scathing look over her shoulder, then down to his hand still holding her captive.
“Look, I think we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot, Jess. I’m just here to help you.”
“Yeah?” Jessie jerked her arm from his grasp. “I don’t remember asking for your help. I don’t need your help, and I don’t want it.”
“Wow, I remembered you being a pistol, Jessie, but it would have been nice if someone warned me that you’d taken bitchiness to a new level.”
“Excuse me?” She turned back to him slowly, appalled at his audacity and hoping for his sake she hadn’t heard him correctly.
“I just don’t understand this whole two-year-old, I’ll-do-it-myself thing.” He shrugged. “It’s obviously not working. I get that you hate me and you’re scared but—”
She walked toward him, moving through the water, until she stood toe-to-toe, looking up at him, her eyes barely reaching his shoulder. “I am not scared.”
Nathan noticed she didn’t correct his assumption about him. He let it slide and arched a brow, cocking his head to the side as a grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. “You sure about that?”
“You’re running a dude ranch, alone I might add. One that normally takes several people to operate. You’ve got no clients booked now and none for the future. This place is sinking faster than the Titanic, and you’re not scared?” He scoffed, his green eyes looking down on her. “You should be scared because, if you’re not, I don’t think I’m going to be able to help you.”
Jessie took another step toward him and narrowed her eyes. “Did you miss the part where I didn’t ask for your—”
“I heard you. You don’t want my help,” he mimicked. “But, let’s face it; I’m your best option right now.”
She turned her back on him and climbed out of the pool. “You’re my only option or you wouldn’t be here. I doubt you can help anyway. If I remember right, you were pretty hopeless the last time you were here. You could barely mend a fence. What do you know about running a dude ranch?”
“Apparently, almost as much as you do.” She glared at him as she reached for her towel. “Jessie, you might know horses, but I know business. I can save this business, but only if you quit fighting me and cooperate.” Nathan shook his head and followed her out of the pool. “Look, I get that I hurt you. It was never my intention. But it was a long time ago.”
She laughed, but the sound was sad and bitter, even to her own ears. “Don’t flatter yourself, Nathan.”
He ran his fingers through his hair. Jessie’s mouth dried up as her eyes followed the water sliding down the planes of his face, the moonlight making shadows over his jawline. She forced herself not to not follow the path of the water any farther than his broad shoulders. She might tell herself that he wasn’t her type anymore, but she was treading into dangerous territory. There was no sense looking for temptation.
Nathan was walking, talking, raw sexual attraction, and she was sure he used it to bend women to his will often. Her body might not know the difference between the past and the present, but Jessie wasn’t about to let his sexy smile and hard muscles distract her focus again. She wasn’t the same innocent girl who had believed in fairy tales eight years ago. He’d taught her a lesson she wasn’t likely to forget.
“I’m sorry. I owe you that. After I left here, things got . . . complicated. I was wrong not to call.”
How long had she wanted to hear those words? She realized she’d been staring at the planes of his chest, highlighted by the moonlight. She flicked her eyes up to meet his, trying to get her brain operating again.
“I’m surprised you never told Justin.”
“Of course not! What should I tell him? That his best friend seduced me and then left without another word?” She moved to stand in front of him and poked a finger against the solid wall of his chest. “Besides, I didn’t see the point after you turned your back on him, too. I didn’t think he’d be stupid enough to ever trust your lying ass again.”
“That wasn’t what happened.” His voice was husky, seductively mesmerizing as his fingers brushed over the back of her hand.
She could barely make out his face in the near darkness, but she could feel the gentle invitation in his touch. It transported her back in time. To a time when she was young and trusting and naïve. A time when she believed in love that could withstand any trial.
She tried to ignore the grief and the loneliness that washed over her. It made her wish Nathan would make the first move, that he would wrap his arms around her, allow her to bury her face against his chest and seek the comfort she longed for, if only for a moment. The isolation she’d felt for the past few months filled her and tears threatened, burning at the back of her eyes.
Damn it, she couldn’t cry in front of this man, or anyone else, just because she felt a little sad. She quickly pulled her hand away from his grasp. She didn’t need sympathy. She didn’t want it, especially from this man. She just wanted him to go away.
She could almost hear her father’s voice. Cowgirl up, Jess.
As if sensing the change in her demeanor, Nathan laughed quietly. “Don’t worry, Jessie, your secret’s safe with me. I won’t tell anyone you aren’t always a hard ass.”
Jessie smiled sweetly before lifting her hands and giving him a quick shove backward.
Droplets of water splashed over her feet as he fell into the deep end of the pool.
T. J. Kline was raised competing in rodeos and rodeo queen competitions since the age of 14, She has thorough knowledge of the sport as well as the culture involved. She has had several articles about rodeo published in the past in small periodicals as well as a more recent how-to article for RevWriter. She is also an avid reader and book reviewer for both Tyndale and Multnomah.
Digital Download Bundle of the RODEO Series by T.J. Kline, Including: RODEO QUEEN, THE COWOY AND THE ANGEL and LEARNING THE ROPES
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