Judy Christenberry.

Never Let You Go






You could take me to the dance.

Jed frowned ferociously, as if her words were a surprise. I dont mix business and pleasure.

Beth wanted to ask him which he considered her to be, but she didnt. She wouldnt like the answer. Since we both know youd only be doing it to protect my reputation, I dont think it would hurt. No need to mention shed 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 theres nothing personal.

There was something personal, all right, Beth thought. Jed just didnt 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)

Dear Reader,

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 Cinderellas Midnight Kiss.

Next, Raye Morgan delivers a charming marriage-of-convenience story about a secretary who is PromotedTo 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. Dont miss this conclusion of Myrna Mackenzies THE WEDDING AUCTION series. And in Karen Rose Smiths 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. Its an exciting year for Silhouette Books, and we invite you to join the celebration!

Happy reading!


Mary-Theresa Hussey

Senior Editor

Never Let You Go
Judy Christenberry


www.millsandboon.co.uk

Books by Judy Christenberry

Silhouette Romance

The Nine-Month Bride #1324

* Marry Me, Kate #1343

* Baby in Her Arms #1350

* A Ring for Cinderella #1356

Never Let You Go #1453

JUDY CHRISTENBERRY

has been writing romances for fifteen years because she loves happy endings as much as her readers do.

Shes 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. Judys a native Texan, but has been temporarily transplanted to Arizona.

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Epilogue

Chapter One

Where have you been? Abby Kennedy asked her sister Beth, meeting her at the door. You said youd 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 whod finally returned, after hed 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 wasnt sure he was interested in a rich lady for a client. Hed agreed to meet with her, but he hadnt made any promises. Word had gotten out that these ladies were wealthy. Hed 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 didnt 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.

Hed 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 didnt see you after the glare of the sun from outside. Im 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 youre the best.

He recognized a challenge when he heard one. He tightened his features, hoping for impassiveness. Yeah. The best.

Well, you certainly dont lack in self-confidence, she chided, her chin rising slightly even as she smiled.

He kept his answer succinct. After all, he wasnt being hired for conversation. Nope.

I assume you have references. Ive read some interviews, but I havent heard who youve 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 wasnt used to having his credentials questioned, but he didnt blame the young woman for asking. No, that wasnt the problem.

But there was a problem. Or maybe several.

Look, Miss Kennedy, I think theres been a mistake, he said, avoiding her gaze. Ill be on my way.

Wait! He heard Beth call as he turned his back on her, not bothering to shake hands with her. He didnt 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 havent said Im not interested, she reminded him.

Youre not the only one to make the decision, lady. I dont work where Im 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.

Whats your hurry?

Ive been waiting over an hour for you to get your rear in gear, lady. I dont like to waste time. He kept staring straight ahead. Hed 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 didnt have a flat tire on purpose.

Doesnt take that long to fix a flat tire. Unless youre 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 didnt have a spare, she muttered.

What did you do?

I had to walk to a neighbors house and call the garage in town and have them bring one out to me. Now she looked him in the eye. I shouldve called here to warn you Id be late. I apologize.

No problem, he said, and cranked the engine in his truck.

So I apologized. Why are you leaving?

I dont work with anyone who wont give one hundred percent.

Both of those pretty brows rose, almost disappearing in her soft bangs. Who said I wouldnt?

You have to be hungry to make it in rodeo. Youre not hungry.

Oh, yes I am.

How could you be? Your next meal doesnt depend on how well you race.

She studied him, which made him all the more uneasy. He knew some women were attracted to him. Hed 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 Id run out. It did once.

Mine did once, too. Not now, as youve obviously heard. But its not food that drives me. And I think its not food that drives you. That doesnt make me any less hungry. Does it you?

Damn, why didnt she back off? He couldnt 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 wouldnt be one of them. But hed try. He doubled his fee, watching her face as he named it.

My, my, you are proud of your work, arent 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.

Okay.

He stared at her, not sure what her single word meant. And irritated that she could be even more succinct than he was.

Okay, what?

Im agreeing to your price. Im assuming thats in addition to room and board. Anything else?

Yeah. If I take on any other training jobs, Ill need stable space for the animals. Ill pay for the extra feed, of course.

Ill have to check with Abby on that. She runs the ranch. But I think itll be okay. When can you start?

What the hell was he doing? Hed had every intention of driving down that long, dusty driveway and never looking back. Now he was practically moved in.

Wait a minute. I havent seen you ride.

So well try it for a week or two and then reevaluate. If you dont think Im worth your time, you move on. Or if I dont like the way you work, you move on. If were both satisfied, we keep going. She was watching him closely. When he didnt respond, she repeated her earlier question. When can you start?

Uh, in the morning?

Right. Itll take about an hour to fix up a room in the bunkhouse. Youll 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 couldnt 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 youre out of luck unless you want to visit town and fork over some cash. Thats none of my business as long as you do your job. Her chin was rising again, a sign hed already figured out meant she was digging in her toes.

Ill 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, hed gotten himself into a mess.

Beth could feel his glare on her. She hoped her trembling legs didnt show beneath her jeans. What had she gotten herself into?

She wanted to be a barrel racer. The best barrel racer in the world. Shed heard of Jedadiah Davis, read about him. She couldnt wait to have met him.

Of course, she should have called, but shed thought she could get home quicker than she had. And she hadnt wanted to tell her sisters what she was up to.

She should have known hed be offended by his wait. He was so full of himselfokay, so maybe he had a right to be self-confident. He was the best.

And the handsomest.

She hadnt 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 hed rocked her almost from the beginning.

Abby was anxiously waiting when she reached the house, taking Beths thoughts away from her reaction to the man.

Well? Are you going to train with Mr. Davis?

Hes staying. Ive got to clean out one of the unused rooms in the bunkhouse.

Ill help, Melissa, the middle Kennedy sister, said from the doorway. Ive been intending to work on those rooms anyway. Since their visit to the lawyers office a month ago, after their Aunt Beulahs 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. Dinners 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 its a good thing I inherited a lot of money. She told Abby the fee he demanded. Thats twice what I heard he charges, but hes well worth it. He probably doubled it because he doesnt think I have any talent, Beth muttered. Or because he didnt like me.

Why wouldnt 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 shes hardheaded and demanding, Melissa.

Shes determined, Melissa corrected, and charming.

Both her sisters almost doubled over in laughter.

I swear, Missy, youd say the Grinch was misunderstood, Beth said, hugging her sister.

And shed convince the rest of us, Abby added.

Oh, you two, Melissa protested. But Im glad the mans 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 itll make us a little shorthanded on the ranch.

Well manage, Abby assured her. When they discovered their inheritance, all three had vowed to pursue their dreams, but actually doing so wasnt easy. But why did a flat take so long?

I didnt 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. Hed had a casual male influence on their lives, but mostly, hed 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. Hed 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 couldnt help wondering if hed 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 hed shaken her hand, shed wanted to snatch it back, to retreat.

One look into his piercing blue eyes and shed felt exposed, unable to hide. And then there was his response to her comments about sugar.

She hoped the man didnt 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 Beulahs need of their help, had suffered. She didnt 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 wouldnt want to ruin her training with anymessiness.

I can do that.

The deep burr of a voice didnt 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. Weve 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. Heres 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.

Ill take care of my own laundry, he growled.

Suit yourself, but if youre picturing me bent over a washtub, dont. We have good equipment and share the work. She didnt 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 Ill see you at dinner.

Did you ask Abby about my training other horses?

She was glad shed 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 thats not a problem.

Good.

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 didnt 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. Im no debutante, unable to do for myself.

Her aunt had worked them hard because it had been necessary. Or at least, theyd thought it had. And taught them a lot. But shed done more than that. Shed given them a home together when Social Services had intended to separate them into three foster homes. She was their uncles widow, no blood kin, but shed taken them anyway.

Well see what youre made of tomorrow morning, he warned, as if he didnt believe her words.

But Beth wasnt about to show any fear. You bet you will, cowboy.

Chapter Two

In spite of her brave words, Beth didnt sleep well that night.

After a meal where her stomach rolled every time Jed spoke, which, fortunately, wasnt often, shed maintained her ground until the man had left the house. Then shed hidden in her room, poring over the books shed found on barrel racing. And any information she could find about Jedadiah Davis.

There was little written on Jeds early years. Hed made his mark on the rodeo circuit as a roper. Twice hed won the national championship. Three other times hed been in the top five. Then hed hurt his arm in an auto accident and had turned to training.

And never looked back.

For the past four years, hed 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 hed believe in her. The next moment shed find herself pleading hed 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 couldnt be so selfish. She knew Abby was already shorthanded with Melissa working in the house all day.

I havent set up a specific time with Jed, yet. I thought Id put in three or four hours, then head back to the house. After lunch, I can ride out with you again.

That wont be enough time for you to get much done, Abby protested.

Until you find another hand, Abby, Im 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 weve got to bale the hay, and Id like to move the larger herd to the south pasture.





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