Never Let You Goñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“You could take me to the dance.”
Jed frowned ferociously, as if her words were a surprise. “I don’t mix business and pleasure.”
Beth wanted to ask him which he considered her to be, but she didn’t. She wouldn’t like the answer. “Since we both know you’d only be doing it to protect my reputation, I don’t think it would hurt.” No need to mention she’d faced these kinds of situations before without a date.
He rubbed the back of his neck, then looked at her again. “I suppose I could, as long as you understand there’s nothing personal.”
There was something personal, all right, Beth thought. Jed just didn’t know it. Yet.
An unexpected inheritance changed their lives…
but would love be their ultimate reward?
NEVER LET YOU GO
(Silhouette Romance #1453)
THE BORROWED GROOM
(Silhouette Romance #1457)
CHERISH THE BOSS
(Silhouette Romance #1463)
From the enchantment of first loves to the wonder of second chances, Silhouette Romance demonstrates the power of genuine emotion. This month we continue our yearlong twentieth anniversary celebration with another stellar lineup, including the return of beloved author Dixie Browning with Cinderella’s Midnight Kiss.
Next, Raye Morgan delivers a charming marriage-of-convenience story about a secretary who is Promoted—To Wife! And Silhouette Romance begins a new theme-based promotion, AN OLDER MAN, which highlights stories featuring sophisticated older men who meet their matches in younger, inexperienced women. Our premiere title is Professor and the Nanny by reader favorite Phyllis Halldorson.
Bestselling author Judy Christenberry unveils her new miniseries, THE CIRCLE K SISTERS, in Never Let You Go. When a millionaire businessman wins an executive assistant at an auction, he discovers that he wants her to be Contractually His… forever. Don’t miss this conclusion of Myrna Mackenzie’s THE WEDDING AUCTION series. And in Karen Rose Smith’s Just the Husband She Chose, a powerful attorney is reunited in a marriage meant to satisfy a will.
In coming months, look for new miniseries by some of your favorite authors. It’s an exciting year for Silhouette Books, and we invite you to join the celebration!
Never Let You Go
Books by Judy Christenberry
The Nine-Month Bride #1324
* Marry Me, Kate #1343
* Baby in Her Arms #1350
* A Ring for Cinderella #1356
† Never Let You Go #1453
has been writing romances for fifteen years because she loves happy endings as much as her readers do.
She’s a bestselling writer for Harlequin American Romance, but she has a long love of traditional romances and is delighted to tell a story that brings those elements to the reader. Judy quit teaching French recently and devotes her time to writing. She hopes readers have as much fun reading her stories as she does writing them. She spends her spare time reading, watching her favorite sports teams and keeping track of her two daughters. Judy’s a native Texan, but has been temporarily transplanted to Arizona.
“Where have you been?” Abby Kennedy asked her sister Beth, meeting her at the door. “You said you’d be back over an hour ago.”
A frown on her forehead, Beth moved into the living room. “Flat tire,” she said succinctly. The Circle K ranch, their home, was in the lower panhandle of Texas, an hour from the city of Wichita Falls. Tumbleweed, twenty miles away, was the nearest town where she could get a tire fixed. “Did anyone come to see me?”
Jedadiah Davis stood in the shadows of the living room, staring at the beautiful young woman who’d finally returned, after he’d waited for more than an hour.
He should have been prepared for her beauty. After all, her sisters, Abby and Melissa, were both lookers. But something about Elizabeth Kennedy grabbed at him more than both of her sisters put together. Bad sign.
Besides, he wasn’t sure he was interested in a rich lady for a client. He’d agreed to meet with her, but he hadn’t made any promises. Word had gotten out that these ladies were wealthy. He’d given the missing sister the benefit of the doubt, but after waiting for an hour, he was fed up.
Fed up, or scared to death of getting close to her, his inner voice teased. She was young, fresh, rich and beautiful. What did she want with barrel racing? She didn’t need that particular spotlight to be noticed.
“Mr. Davis is here. He said he had an appointment,” Abby said, gesturing in his direction.
Beth stepped forward, her gaze landing on him in the shadows. An inexplicable look of relief crossed her face and she walked towards him, her hand extended.
He’d been ready to leave for the past half hour, but the sisters had kept him talking, their polite manners making his exit impossible. Now he was tempted to stride out of the room without excusing his poor behavior.
“Hello,” Beth said. “I apologize. I didn’t see you after the glare of the sun from outside. I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”
She stopped as he shook her hand, her face flushed and her eyes widened in surprise.
He wished his reaction had been that simple. At least he hoped he hid the surge of desire that hit him, the approval he felt as he realized her hands were callused, hard, the sign of a worker.
“I wanted to talk to you about training me to be a barrel racer,” she said. She hooked her thumbs in the back pockets of her jeans. One light brown eyebrow slid up. “I understand you’re the best.”
He recognized a challenge when he heard one. He tightened his features, hoping for impassiveness. “Yeah. The best.”
“Well, you certainly don’t lack in self-confidence,” she chided, her chin rising slightly even as she smiled.
He kept his answer succinct. After all, he wasn’t being hired for conversation. “Nope.”
“I assume you have references. I’ve read some interviews, but I haven’t heard who you’ve worked with lately.”
“I trained two of the last three world champions. You can call Sherry Duncan and Lisa McDonald,” he said, naming his two latest pupils. He wasn’t used to having his credentials questioned, but he didn’t blame the young woman for asking. No, that wasn’t the problem.
But there was a problem. Or maybe several.
“Look, Miss Kennedy, I think there’s been a mistake,” he said, avoiding her gaze. “I’ll be on my way.”
“Wait!” He heard Beth call as he turned his back on her, not bothering to shake hands with her. He didn’t want to touch her again. The last time had unsettled him for some strange reason.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“On down the road. I have others interested in my services.”
“I haven’t said I’m not interested,” she reminded him.
“You’re not the only one to make the decision, lady. I don’t work where I’m not wanted.” He opened the door and walked out to his beat-up pickup, ignoring the whispering going on between the sisters.
Hearing footsteps behind him, he hoped it was Abby, the sensible older sister. But the tingling on the nape of his neck told him it was Beth.
Soft name. Feminine. Trouble.
“Mr. Davis, could we talk a minute?”
“Nothing to talk about,” he muttered. All his instincts were yelling for him to get the hell out of there before she persuaded him to stay.
He slid behind the wheel and closed the door, but the window was down, since it was October, and she put her hand on the opening.
“What’s your hurry?”
“I’ve been waiting over an hour for you to get your rear in gear, lady. I don’t like to waste time.” He kept staring straight ahead. He’d already noted her hazel eyes, the dash of freckles across her nose, the full lips that started a hunger in him that was dangerous.
Hell, she was too young for him to be thinking those thoughts. He was only thirty-two but he felt years older in comparison to her fresh beauty.
“I didn’t have a flat tire on purpose.”
“Doesn’t take that long to fix a flat tire. Unless you’re sitting helpless-like alongside the road waiting for Prince Charming.” He figured even then someone would happen along pretty quick for a woman like Beth Kennedy.
She flushed and looked away. “I didn’t have a spare,” she muttered.
“What did you do?”
“I had to walk to a neighbor’s house and call the garage in town and have them bring one out to me.” Now she looked him in the eye. “I should’ve called here to warn you I’d be late. I apologize.”
“No problem,” he said, and cranked the engine in his truck.
“So I apologized. Why are you leaving?”
“I don’t work with anyone who won’t give one hundred percent.”
Both of those pretty brows rose, almost disappearing in her soft bangs. “Who said I wouldn’t?”
“You have to be hungry to make it in rodeo. You’re not hungry.”
“Oh, yes I am.”
“How could you be? Your next meal doesn’t depend on how well you race.”
She studied him, which made him all the more uneasy. He knew some women were attracted to him. He’d had too many offers to deny the truth of it. But he was untrained in social skills.
“Does your next meal depend on your job?” she asked casually. But he saw the intelligence in her eyes. More trouble.
He shrugged. “Not my next one, but eventually I’d run out. It did once.”
“Mine did once, too. Not now, as you’ve obviously heard. But it’s not food that drives me. And I think it’s not food that drives you. That doesn’t make me any less hungry. Does it you?”
Damn, why didn’t she back off? He couldn’t be anything but honest. “Nope.”
“So, we have something in common.”
“I charge a hefty fee.” He was searching for reasons to leave. He should have known money wouldn’t be one of them. But he’d try. He doubled his fee, watching her face as he named it.
“My, my, you are proud of your work, aren’t you?”
The urge to justify that amount, to tell her just how good he was, surged through him, but he held it in check. “Yeah.”
He stared at her, not sure what her single word meant. And irritated that she could be even more succinct than he was.
“I’m agreeing to your price. I’m assuming that’s in addition to room and board. Anything else?”
“Yeah. If I take on any other training jobs, I’ll need stable space for the animals. I’ll pay for the extra feed, of course.”
“I’ll have to check with Abby on that. She runs the ranch. But I think it’ll be okay. When can you start?”
What the hell was he doing? He’d had every intention of driving down that long, dusty driveway and never looking back. Now he was practically moved in.
“Wait a minute. I haven’t seen you ride.”
“So we’ll try it for a week or two and then reevaluate. If you don’t think I’m worth your time, you move on. Or if I don’t like the way you work, you move on. If we’re both satisfied, we keep going.” She was watching him closely. When he didn’t respond, she repeated her earlier question. “When can you start?”
“Uh, in the morning?”
“Right. It’ll take about an hour to fix up a room in the bunkhouse. You’ll take your meals at the house with us. The stable has a couple of empty stalls,” she said, gesturing to the two-horse trailer he had hitched to his truck. “Want some help settling your horses?”
“No! I handle my animals. No one else touches them. Got that?”
“Got it. And I hope you take lots of sugar in your coffee,” she returned.
He knew he was going to regret asking, but he couldn’t help himself. “Why?”
“’Cause you need to sweeten up. Otherwise, everything around you is going to go sour,” she snapped, stepping back from the truck.
“Maybe I need something more than sugar,” he retorted, determined to make her back down. “What do you say to that?”
“That you’re out of luck unless you want to visit town and fork over some cash. That’s none of my business as long as you do your job.” Her chin was rising again, a sign he’d already figured out meant she was digging in her toes.
“I’ll do my job, lady. You just see if you can stand the pace.” He glared at her, but she said nothing else, simply giving him a careless salute and walking toward the house.
He watched the sway of her rear in those tight jeans and was afraid he might drool. Visiting town for some female companionship might be a necessity if he hung around Beth Kennedy for any period of time.
Damn, he’d gotten himself into a mess.
Beth could feel his glare on her. She hoped her trembling legs didn’t show beneath her jeans. What had she gotten herself into?
She wanted to be a barrel racer. The best barrel racer in the world. She’d heard of Jedadiah Davis, read about him. She couldn’t wait to have met him.
Of course, she should have called, but she’d thought she could get home quicker than she had. And she hadn’t wanted to tell her sisters what she was up to.
She should have known he’d be offended by his wait. He was so full of himself—okay, so maybe he had a right to be self-confident. He was the best.
And the handsomest.
She hadn’t expected his rugged good looks. Those piercing blue eyes seemed to read every thought in her head. But that must not be true, or he would have known he’d rocked her almost from the beginning.
Abby was anxiously waiting when she reached the house, taking Beth’s thoughts away from her reaction to the man.
“Well? Are you going to train with Mr. Davis?”
“He’s staying. I’ve got to clean out one of the unused rooms in the bunkhouse.”
“I’ll help,” Melissa, the middle Kennedy sister, said from the doorway. “I’ve been intending to work on those rooms anyway.” Since their visit to the lawyer’s office a month ago, after their Aunt Beulah’s death, learning of their inheritance, Melissa had been redoing the house, making it more efficient and more beautiful.
“Thanks, Missy,” Beth returned, using her childhood name for Melissa. “Do you have time?”
“Yeah. Dinner’s already in the oven for tonight, and I baked a cake this morning.”
“Once he has one of your meals, Mr. Davis will never leave,” Abby teased. “Did you negotiate a fee?” she asked her youngest sister.
“Yeah, and it’s a good thing I inherited a lot of money.” She told Abby the fee he demanded. “That’s twice what I heard he charges, but he’s well worth it. He probably doubled it because he doesn’t think I have any talent,” Beth muttered. “Or because he didn’t like me.”
“Why wouldn’t he like you?” Melissa demanded to know, her hands on her hips. She was always the first to defend her sisters.
Abby chuckled. “Probably because she’s hardheaded and demanding, Melissa.”
“She’s determined,” Melissa corrected, “and charming.”
Both her sisters almost doubled over in laughter.
“I swear, Missy, you’d say the Grinch was misunderstood,” Beth said, hugging her sister.
“And she’d convince the rest of us,” Abby added.
“Oh, you two,” Melissa protested. “But I’m glad the man’s going to take you on. He really is the best.”
“Yeah, I know,” Beth agreed. “Thank you both for letting me try this. I know it’ll make us a little shorthanded on the ranch.”
“We’ll manage,” Abby assured her. When they discovered their inheritance, all three had vowed to pursue their dreams, but actually doing so wasn’t easy. “But why did a flat take so long?”
“I didn’t get the spare fixed six months ago when I had the last flat.”
“Aunt Beulah always said you should pay attention to details,” Abby reminded her.
“Yeah,” Beth agreed with a sigh. “I think Jed Davis will be saying the same thing.”
Beth gathered up clean sheets, a broom, a mop and bucket, and lots of cleaning supplies. Melissa followed her with a pillow, blanket and a set of towels. Only two men occupied the bunkhouse right now, though Abby was looking for new hands.
Barney had been on the ranch long before the girls had come to live there when their parents died fifteen years ago. He’d had a casual male influence on their lives, but mostly, he’d been a friend. Beth had learned from Barney to whittle in rare moments of leisure. She trusted him.
The other cowhand, Dirk, kept to himself. He’d been on the ranch a little over two years, but he had forty years’ experience on the range. He might not be overly friendly, but he worked hard.
Now Jedadiah Davis would become a part of their lives. As she made the bed, Beth couldn’t help wondering if he’d stay long enough to get to know them, or move on, still a stranger.
A shiver passed through her. Something about the man bothered her. She believed his reputation, so there were no doubts there. But when he’d shaken her hand, she’d wanted to snatch it back, to retreat.
One look into his piercing blue eyes and she’d felt exposed, unable to hide. And then there was his response to her comments about sugar.
She hoped the man didn’t think there were any extracurricular benefits to training her. You wish, her inner voice taunted.
Grinning ruefully, she admitted he was attractive. Her social life, in the face of Beulah’s need of their help, had suffered. She didn’t know much about men in that area. Her one attempt to gain some experience had been a disaster.
Fortunately, the man had moved on, leaving her at home to lick her wounds, never having to see him again. She sure wouldn’t want to ruin her training with any…messiness.
“I can do that.”
The deep burr of a voice didn’t need identifying. She snapped straight up from her bent position over his bed. Spinning around, she put her hands on her hips, hoping to looked composed.
“No problem. We’ve just finished. That is, Melissa helped me, but she went back to the house to check on dinner.” She scooped the towels up from the one chair in the little room. “Here’s a set of towels. Toss the dirty ones over in that laundry basket. We pick up the dirty clothes every couple of days and return them washed the next day.”
“I’ll take care of my own laundry,” he growled.
“Suit yourself, but if you’re picturing me bent over a washtub, don’t. We have good equipment and share the work.” She didn’t add that the new washing machine and dryer had arrived only a couple of weeks ago.
He nodded but said nothing else, just staring at her.
“Well, dinner will be at six. The other two men are Barney and Dirk. Introduce yourself and I’ll see you at dinner.”
“Did you ask Abby about my training other horses?”
She was glad she’d remembered to ask. They had plenty of space for the man to train horses. In fact, she hoped she might learn something about it. “Yes. She said that’s not a problem.”
He continued to stare at her, not moving out of the doorway. Something warned her not to push past him. It was as if sparks would fly if she touched him.
“Need anything else?” she asked.
“No, I guess not.”
“Then, welcome to the Circle K. Hope you like it here.” She took a step forward. Still he didn’t move.
Her mop, broom and pail were against the wall by the door. She moved to pick them up.
His big hand circled the broom and mop. “Want me to carry these to the house?”
Startled by his offer, she looked into his eyes. Beautiful blue eyes. “No, of course not. I’m no debutante, unable to do for myself.”
Her aunt had worked them hard because it had been necessary. Or at least, they’d thought it had. And taught them a lot. But she’d done more than that. She’d given them a home together when Social Services had intended to separate them into three foster homes. She was their uncle’s widow, no blood kin, but she’d taken them anyway.
“We’ll see what you’re made of tomorrow morning,” he warned, as if he didn’t believe her words.
But Beth wasn’t about to show any fear. “You bet you will, cowboy.”
In spite of her brave words, Beth didn’t sleep well that night.
After a meal where her stomach rolled every time Jed spoke, which, fortunately, wasn’t often, she’d maintained her ground until the man had left the house. Then she’d hidden in her room, poring over the books she’d found on barrel racing. And any information she could find about Jedadiah Davis.
There was little written on Jed’s early years. He’d made his mark on the rodeo circuit as a roper. Twice he’d won the national championship. Three other times he’d been in the top five. Then he’d hurt his arm in an auto accident and had turned to training.
And never looked back.
For the past four years, he’d been the man in demand. All the reports said he was a stern taskmaster. But he got results.
If he believed in his pupil.
One moment she was holding her breath, hoping he’d believe in her. The next moment she’d find herself pleading he’d move on down the road, leaving her to find another trainer.
He made her nervous.
When she reached the breakfast table, Abby offered her the entire morning off from ranch work, so she could have plenty of time to give to her training. But Beth couldn’t be so selfish. She knew Abby was already shorthanded with Melissa working in the house all day.
“I haven’t set up a specific time with Jed, yet. I thought I’d put in three or four hours, then head back to the house. After lunch, I can ride out with you again.”
“That won’t be enough time for you to get much done,” Abby protested.
“Until you find another hand, Abby, I’m going to help.”
Abby sighed. “I admit it would make things easier. Even though we finished the roundup, we had to neglect the fences, and we’ve got to bale the hay, and I’d like to move the larger herd to the south pasture.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî