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Excerpt of Beauty and the Bounty Hunter by Lori Austin


Once Upon a Time in the West #1
Signet Eclipse
October 2012
On Sale: October 2, 2012
Featuring: Alexi Romanov; Cat O' Banyon; Mikhail
336 pages
ISBN: 0451238273
EAN: 9780451238276
Kindle: B0081KYWMS
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Add to Wish List

Romance Historical

Also by Lori Austin:

The Lone Warrior, January 2014
Paperback / e-Book
An Outlaw in Wonderland, June 2013
Paperback / e-Book
An Outlaw For Christmas, December 2012
By Any Other Name, November 2012
Beauty and the Bounty Hunter, October 2012
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
When Morning Comes, September 2012

Excerpt of Beauty and the Bounty Hunter by Lori Austin

She kicked him in the knee.

"Goddammit, Alexi, what are you doing here?"

Tall, dark and gifted, Alexi Romanov would command all eyes wherever he went. He was that pretty. Smooth, sun–kissed skin, wavy black hair, deep blue eyes and hands that could make a violin sing or a woman moan. He could also lie to an angel and cheat the pants off the Devil himself. He had taught Cat everything she knew.

Cat shoved him. Alexi stayed right where he was, although he did lift the knife from Cat's neck just a little, probably afraid she'd skewer herself just for spite.

"Move," she ordered.

"Make me," he countered.

She lifted her knee, fast and sure. He blocked the attempt to unman him—permanently––with his hip; then he grasped her waist and yanked them together in an effort to preserve certain parts he would no doubt need later. For someone else.

Cat rolled her eyes, pretending boredom. At times, with him, it was the only weapon she had.

"What," she repeated, voice tired now instead of angry, "are you doing here?"

""If I let you go, will you shoot me?"

She didn't point out he'd already taken her pistol. She should have known right then who he was. He'd once taught her how to disarm any fool who ventured too close with a gun. Snatch the barrel, while turning to avoid the bullet, then twist. The element of surprise, and quick hands, had thus far guaranteed every weapon Cat had tried it on had become hers.

"If I shot you, Alexi, I wouldn't have a friend left in this world."

"I'm not your friend." He stepped back.

"I know."

As Alexi moved away he ran one finger along her forearm, that single touch reminding Cat of a hundred and one nights in his bed. She'd come to him broken, bleeding inside, and he'd mended her somehow. Not completely, but enough to go on. She'd begun touching him back as payment; she'd stopped touching him for the same reason.

Cat didn't think his name was Alexi, or Romanov for that matter. But that was the wonder of America. If farm wife Cathleen Chase could become the legendary bounty hunter Cat O'Banyon, then an Al could become an Alexi.

Alexi was a confidence man. He crossed the country lightening the loads—and the pockets—of the citizens. He insisted he didn't steal and, in truth, Cat had never seen him take anything that wasn't freely given––even if what he gave back was often more mud than magic.

Cat ran her gaze from his dark slouch hat, past the shoulders that were oddly broader than they had been, down to his overly dusty boots and understood why she hadn't recognized him right away. Alexi's talent lay in making people see whatever he wanted them to.

"You're supposed to be a bounty hunter?" Cat asked, and her lip curled.

Alexi smirked. His disguise had worked. It always did. He didn't merely pretend to be someone else; he became someone else. She'd never seen anything like it. She was good, but Alexi . . .

Alexi was better.

He lounged against the wall, head tipped so that his hat again concealed his face. With gloves covering the hands she knew so well, dirty denims combined with a white cotton shirt and the scratched grips of some mighty big guns peeking out of their holster, not to mention the three day's stubble across his chin . . .

He was a bounty hunter.

"You keep playing around in things you don't understand," Cat said, "you're gonna get killed."

Alexi snorted. He was right. Though the body beneath the costume was lithe and slim, it was quick and much stronger than it appeared. However his body wasn't what made Alexi dangerous, but rather his clever, clever mind.

Cat eyed him now. He seemed half asleep, but she knew better. The last time she'd seen Alexi, he'd been asleep. Naked in her bed as she'd tiptoed out in to the night and never looked back. Now he was here. That couldn't be good.

"How'd you find me?"

"Mon dieu," he muttered, sounding exactly like a Frenchman. ""You think no one knows what you're doing? That a woman can trounce hither and yon, snatching up men and disappearing with them into the sunset, with no one noticing at all?"

Cat frowned. "Say what you mean, Alexi." Dear God, just once, say what you mean.

He came away from the wall with cougar–like speed, one instant languid and sleepy, the next tense, edgy and so close he made her tense and edgy too. "A female bounty hunter attracts attention. But a female bounty hunter no one can identify . . . " Alexi shrugged. "She becomes a legend."

Cat shrugged too, though hers wasn't half as graceful. "So?"

"The problem with legends is that everyone wants a glimpse of them."

A chill trickled over Cat's neck. She wouldn't put it past Alexi to capture her and place her in a gilded cage.

"Come one, come all," she murmured. "Step right up and see Cat O'Banyon in chains."

His beautiful face creased. "I'd never––"

"Of course not," Cat agreed. But she moved closer to the gun on the bed. She even risked a glance in that direction.

"Shit," she muttered as her gaze lit on nothing but sheets. "How do you do that?"

"Do what?"

Cat didn't even bother to answer. "Why are you here?" she asked.

He certainly hadn't come for a kiss, amazing as it had been. Alexi's kisses were always amazing. And they were always a prelude to getting what he wanted. Cat didn't think he'd ever kissed anyone for the sake of the kiss alone. Of course neither did she any more.

Alexi cast a glance toward the window. "We should go."

Excerpt from Beauty and the Bounty Hunter by Lori Austin
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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