One Tough Cowboy by Lora Leigh & Veronica Chadwick
Series: Moving Violations, book 1
Genre: contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
First in a brand-new series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lora Leigh and Veronica Chadwick about one man’s pursuit of justice—and unbridled desire.
LAW AND ORDER.
For as long as Samantha can remember, Hunter—a man as strong as steel, with a heart of gold—has been her hero. It came as no surprise to Samantha when she found out that the ranch-hardened cowboy who always protected her from bullies went on to become the town’s sheriff. What does surprise her is how incredibly hot he still is. And how much she still wants him…
PRIDE AND PASSION
And, lo and behold, Hunter still has feelings for Samantha. The long-smoldering heat of their innocent flirtation has grown into a full-raging fire. But when tragedy strikes, and their small-town community is shattered, Hunter vows to do everything he can to keep his childhood sweetheart safe. But can Samantha trust that Hunter has her best interests at heart…and that, after all these years, his love is true?
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He hadn’t changed much. He seemed bigger, his shoulders broader. His signature thick, black hair was cut in a shorter style. As he got closer, Samantha noticed his face had changed quite a bit. Any boyish softness he’d once had was all gone and had been replaced with hard planes and angles, except for his full, well-defined lips. There were fine laugh lines fanning out from the corners of his steel gray eyes. Those eyes were more intense, hard. The easy laughter that lit them when he was younger seemed to be gone.
“Ms. Bell.” He nodded in greeting to the diminutive lady.
“Good of you to come by, Sheriff. Little Samantha is handlin’ all this by herself.” She winked and patted his arm. “She could use a little help, I’m thinkin’.”
Samantha wanted to walk away. She also wanted to throw her arms around Hunter and hold on for dear life. Not just because he still made her heart pound, but because he was a part of her life she thought she’d lost. She wanted to hold on to a stable, warm part of her past where she was happy and safe. Seeing him again brought those memories and emotions all rushing back.
“Hey, Sam.” The smooth, deep bass of his voice was quiet and soothing.
“Hey, Hunter.” His name left her lips with more composure than she felt.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the funeral, but I wanted to come by to extend my condolences, and to see how you’re doin’.” He stepped closer and rubbed her bare upper arm. “You holdin’ up okay?” His hand, a bit rough and callused from real work, was warm, reassuring.
She crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m okay, Hunter, thank you.” She cleared her throat. “Everyone brought food. The dining room table is overflowing. Help yourself.”
He followed her through the living room to the din- ing room. She turned and almost jumped back. He was standing inches away, looking down at her. His brows furrowed, his gaze sharply assessing her. He smelled in- credible, and he stood so close she could feel the heat from his body.
She opened her mouth to say something but forgot what she wanted to say. She must look completely ignorant gaping up at him like that.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Sympathy and con- cern shadowed his expression, softening the harsher lines of his face.
“It’s been a long day. I’m fine, really.” She was a bas- ket case, and not just because of her aunt’s death.
Hunter gave her a gentle smile and pulled out a chair. “No doubt. Sit and talk to me for a while. I haven’t seen you in what? Ten years?”
Samantha welcomed the chance to get off her feet and get away from the crowd for a bit. “Yeah, about ten years, I think.”
He pulled out the chair beside her, turned it toward her, and sat, staring at her solemnly. “I’m real sorry about Dottie.”
“Me too.” She looked into his eyes, assessing whether she could or should continue. “I really didn’t get enough time with her. I’ll always regret that.”
Hunter shook his head. “Sam, you know Dottie thought the world of you. She knew you loved her and she loved you.”
Had she? Samantha couldn’t help but question the ob- servation. School, her career, and far too many emo- tions had seemed to always get in the way of returning to Deerhaven.
“Yes, I know, but I look around at these people and think of how some of them probably knew her even better than I did, her own niece.” Samantha frowned and gestured toward a blue-haired woman sitting on the couch sobbing, clutching another woman’s hand. “Mrs. Holt is devastated.”
She obviously had not talked to her aunt on the phone enough either, because Dottie had never mentioned the other woman.
A small smile touched Hunter’s far-too-sensual lips as he lowered his head and leaned closer. “Sam, Irene Holt never even met Dottie. She attends any and all fu- nerals and wails and carries on like that at every one of ’em.” Amusement touching his gaze.
Samantha looked at him incredulously until he raised his hand and said, “Hand to God. Every one of ’em.”
“Wow.” No wonder her aunt Dottie had never men- tioned the other woman.
“Yep.” Hunter’s smile broadened. “As for the rest of them, they’re just being neighborly or nosy. Most of ’em still remember your family and you. You were pretty hard to forget . . . Pixie Pest.” His brows lifted playfully. Teasingly.
Samantha narrowed her eyes. “Ugh. That nickname. I don’t know which is worse, that or Sami Jo.”
She protested it. Just as she always had. That flare of warmth she felt whenever it passed his lips was still there, though.
“You earned it.”
“Psh, whatever.” She’d actually worked at it at the time.
Hunter chuckled and she nearly sighed. Lord, she’d missed his laugh, his smile, even the way he’d tease her. She’d missed him.
“Aw, you know I was always fond of you, Pixie. You were a great kid, even if you were a pest that was con- stantly following me around and giving my girlfriends hell.”
She had been such a tomboy with wild, young girl fantasies of being swept off her feet by the cutest boy in Deerhaven, or the whole wide world, for that matter. He’d called her his Pixie Pest whenever he’d seen her and tugged at her long, tangled hair.
“I’m not a kid anymore.” She held his gaze and couldn’t imagine how she’d gotten so bold.
Hunter’s gaze traveled over her body, a single black brow arching slowly in acknowledgment. “I’ve noticed. I’m trying really hard to remember what a pain in the ass you used to be.”
Samantha lifted a brow. “I can still be a pain in the ass.”
“I bet you can.” The look in his eyes was making her feel way too hot, way too needy.
She didn’t want to go there. Not now. After Tom No- vak, the very last thing she needed was another relation- ship. Besides all that, she was here to get answers, not to get laid.
Clearing her throat again, she changed the subject to the one on which she had to keep her focus. “Hunter, what really happened to Aunt Dottie?”
About the Authors
#1 New York Times bestseller Lora Leigh is the author of the Navy SEALS, the Breeds, the Elite Ops, the Callahans, the Bound Hearts, and the Nauti series.
Veronica Chadwick started storytelling when she was a little girl. She was first published in 2004. She lives in Tennessee with three cats, a very spoiled Shih Tzu and two grand dogs. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with friends, reading or badly playing video games.