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The Love and Murder Series, Book 5
After an abusive childhood and a bad marriage, Laura Katz finally finds a home, stability…and possibly love. But her blissful refuge as nanny on the Meadowlark Ranch, miles from Flagstaff, shatters when her ex is released from prison, determined to reclaim her.
Randy Silva, the ranch’s foreman, has dreams of his own ranch, but a nasty land grab is underway.
While the battle escalates, Laura steals his heart, but dangerous outsiders and a criminal ex-husband stand in their way. Randy’s in a perilous fight for his land and the woman he wants by his side.
Page Count: 350
Word Count: 88766
A movement in the noisy restaurant tugged Laura Katz’s attention. She stopped midstride, a tray of drinks balanced on her right palm. A brief glimpse of the back of a man entering the men’s room raked shivers down her back. The forward slope of the shoulders, the dip in the walk. Something familiar. Something unwanted.
The din of the room subsided. Her breath grew shallow.
Her ex-husband was trouble. If the jerk had followed her to Chino Valley…
She pushed aside a rising anger, turned toward table four and took a deep breath. The scent of sizzling steaks and baked potatoes brought her back to the present like smelling salts. Through loud conversations and laughter, she zig-zagged around a half-dozen round, wooden tables, dodging a teen who unexpectedly jumped from his seat, to arrive at one of her tables along the wall.
After delivering the drinks, she turned from her customers just as Randy Silva walked through the door. The foreman on the Meadowlark Ranch was a hard man to miss. When the six-foot-four cowboy strode into a room, it was as if he stood in a spotlight and begged to be noticed—at least in her mind. A green plaid, western shirt nicely clad his broad shoulders, and his long, jean-covered legs ended at the toes of black leather cowboy boots. She paused and fussed with her order pad to watch his muscled legs stride into the room. He was quite a bit older than her, she guessed, but wow…maturity in that form sure beat the hell out of guys in their twenties.
He chose a table by the side window in her section and took off his white cowboy hat to expose shiny, chestnut hair cropped short around the ears and neck, yet a few strands fell onto his forehead. He set his hat on the chair next to him, then took a seat facing into the dining room. Resting his hands atop the menu on the table, he glanced around.
The cowboy had been at his mom’s in Tucson for Christmas when she’d moved onto the ranch three months ago to work for Phoebe and Mason Meadowlark. After the holidays, they’d crossed paths a few times on the property; he’d been busy doing whatever he did with cows and horses while she’d been chasing after five-year-old Sky Meadowlark in her part-time nanny capacity. The little guy kept her hopping. That didn’t mean she hadn’t noticed Randy—noticed the baritone voice and the moss-green eyes she imagined noticed her back. A collision in the entryway when she’d been playing hide and seek with Sky was enough for her to discern the warm ruggedness of the man under the cowboy guise.
Truth was, after that encounter, she’d not paused long enough in his presence for more than a casual hello. She didn’t want anything more right now, so she avoided him and the temptation. But then she’d see him again, and as if he was a little horseshoe magnet she’d played with as a kid, her attention was pulled like iron.
He just had to sit in her section tonight. There’d be no avoiding him. Other than physically bumping into him that one time, nothing but a hi-how-are-ya or a glance had been exchanged, which should’ve suited her fine at this point in her life.
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