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Ten miles outside of Lovett, a weather vine and a part of an old fence broke up the brown on brown scenery. A barbed wire fence ran along the highway to the rough log and wrought iron entry to the JH Ranch. Everything was familiar. As if Sadie Hollowell had never left. Everything but the black truck on the side of the road. A man leaned one hip into the rear fender, his black clothing blending into the black paint, a ball cap shading his face beneath the bright Texas sunlight.
Sadie slowed and prepared to turn up the road to her father’s ranch. She supposed she should stop and ask if he needed help. The raised hood on the truck was a big clue that he did, but she was a lone woman on a deserted highway and he looked really big.
He straightened and pushed away from the truck. A black t-shirt fit tight across his chest and around his big biceps. Someone else would come along.
She turned onto the dirt road and drove through the gate. Or he could walk to town. Lovett was ten miles down the highway. She glanced in her rearview mirror as he shoved his hands on his hips and looked after her taillights.
“Damn.” She stepped on the brake. In the state only a couple of hours and already the Texas in her reared its hospitable head. It was after six. Most people would be home from work by now and it could be minutes or hours before someone else drove by.
But . . . people had cell phones. Right? He’d probably already called someone. Through the mirror, he raised one hand from his hip and held it palm up. Maybe he was in a dead zone. She checked to make sure her doors were locked and put the car into reverse. The early evening sunlight poured through the back window as she reversed out onto the highway then drove up along side the road toward the big truck.
The warm light bathed the side of his face as the man moved toward her. He was the kind of guy who made Sadie a little uncomfortable. The kind that wore leather and drank beer and crushed empties on their foreheads. The kind that made her stand a little straighter. The kind she avoided like a hot fudge brownie because both were bad news for her thighs.
She stopped and hit the power button on her door handle. The window slowly lowered half way, and she looked up. Way up past the hard muscle beneath his tight brown T-shirt, his wide shoulders and thick neck. It was an hour past his five o clock shadow and dark whiskers shaded the bottom half of his face and his square jaw. “Trouble?”
“Yeah.” His voice came from someplace deep. Like it was dragged up from his soul.
“How long have you been stuck out here?”
“About an hour.”
“Run out of gas?”
“No,” he answered, sounding annoyed that he might be confused for the kind of guy who’d run out of gas. Like that somehow insulted his masculinity. “It’s either the alternator or timing belt.”
“Could be your fuel pump.”
One corner of his mouth twitched up. “It’s getting fuel. No power.”
“Where you headed?”
She’d figured that since there wasn’t much else down the road. Not that Lovett was much. “I’ll call you a tow truck.”
He raised his gaze and looked down the highway. “I’d appreciate it.”
She punched the number to information and got connected with B.J. Henderson’s garage. She’d gone to school with B.J.’s son, B.J. junior who everyone called Boner. Yeah, Boner. The last she’d heard, Boner worked for his dad. The answering machine picked up and she glanced at the clock in her dash. It was five minutes after six. She hung up and didn’t bother to call another garage. It was an hour and five minutes past Lone Star time and Boner and the other mechanics in town were either at home or holding down a barstool.
She looked up at the man, past that amazing chest, and figured she had two choices. She could take the stranger to her daddy’s ranch and have one of her father’s men take him into town or take him herself. Driving to the ranch would take ten minutes up the dirt road. It would take twenty to twenty five to take him into town.
She stared into the shadow cast over his profile. She’d rather a stranger didn’t know where she lived. “I have a stun gun.” It was a lie, but she’d always wanted one.
He looked back down at her. “Excuse me?”
“I have a stun gun and I’ve been trained to use it.” He took a step back from the car and she smiled. “I’m deadly.”
“A stun gun isn’t a deadly weapon.”
“What if I set it really high?”
“Can’t set it high enough to kill unless there is a preexisting condition. I don’t have a preexisting condition.”
“How do you know all that?”
“I used to be in security.”
Oh. “Well, it will hurt like hell if I have to zap your ass.”
“I don’t want my ass zapped, lady. I just need a tow into town.”
“Garages are all closed.” She tossed her phone in the cup holder. “I’ll drive you into Lovett, but you have to show me some identification first.”
Annoyance pulled one corner of his mouth as he reached into the back pocket of his Levis, and for the first time, her gaze dropped to his five-button fly.
Without a word, he pulled out a driver’s license and passed it through the window.
Sadie might have pause to feel a little pervy about staring at his impressive package if it hadn’t been sort of framed in her window. “Great.” She punched up a few numbers on her cell and waited for her friend, Renee, to pick up. “Hi Renee. It’s Sadie again. Gotta pen?” She looked at the hunk of man junk in front of her and waited. “I’m giving a stranded guy a ride into town. So, write this down.” She gave her friend the Washington Driver’s license number and added, “Vincent James Haven. 4389 North Central Avenue, Kent Washington. Hair: brown. Eyes: green. Six foot and a hundred and ninety pounds. Got it? Great. If you don’t hear from me in an hour, call the Potter county sheriff’s office in Texas and tell them I’ve been abducted and you fear for my life. Give them the information that I just gave you.” She shut the phone and handed the I.D. through the window. “Get in. I’ll drop you off in Lovett.” She looked up into the shadow of his hat. “And don’t make me use my stun gun on you.”
“No ma’am.” One corner of his mouth slid up as he took his driver’s license and slid it back into his wallet. “I’ll just get a duffle.”
Her gaze dropped to the back pockets of his jeans as he turned and shoved his wallet inside. Nice chest. Great butt, handsome face. If there was one thing she knew about men, one thing she’d learned from being single all these years, was that there were several different types of men. Gentlemen, regular guys, charming dogs, and dirty dogs. The only true gentlemen in the world were purebred nerds who were gentlemen in the hopes of someday getting laid. The man grabbing a duffle from the cab of his truck was to good looking to be a purebred anything. He was likely one of those tricky hybrids.
She hit the door locks then he tossed a green military duffle into the back seat. He got in the front, and set off the seatbelt alarm, filling up the Volvo with his broad shoulders, and the annoying bong bong bong of the belt alarm.
She put the car into drive then pulled a U-turn out onto the highway. “Ever been to Lovett, Vincent?”
“You’re in for a treat.” She pulled on a pair of sunglasses and stepped on the gas. “Put on your seatbelt, please.”
“Are you going to zap me with your stun gun if I don’t?”
“Possibly. Depends on how annoyed I get by the seatbelt alarm between here and town.” She adjusted the gold aviators on the bridge of her nose. “And I should warn you in advance, I’ve been driving all day, so I’m already annoyed.”