It was official. Brett was exhausted. A little under two
weeks back in Sugar and heâ€™d already dredged the lake,
helped out the local Booster Club with their yearly jog-
athon, gotten the first set of campers settled, and
agreed to play a friendly round of golf with the mayorâ€”
and local press.
He was in desperate need of some time on the courseâ€”
alone, which was where heâ€™d been coming from when he ran
â€śWhat the hell?â€ť Brett swerved, narrowly missing a golfer
decked out in cultured couture, stomping down the middle
of the road. He pulled over to the shoulder of Brett
McGraw Highwayâ€”which, in Sugar, was nothing more than two
narrow lanes, one going in each direction, through the
middle of a cattle pasture edged with oak trees and
barbed wireâ€”and rolled down his window
â€śMust have been some drive,â€ť he said, leaning out the
window and watching her approach. â€śThe nearest hole is
about eight miles back that way.â€ť
Heâ€™d walked this same road more times than he cared to
count as a kid, dragging a worn-out set of clubs, looking
for an escape.
The leggy blonde, tugging what looked to beâ€”a bunny on a
leash?â€”stormed past his truck without sparing him a
glance as the set of golf clubs, slung across her back
like a samurai sword, nearly took out his side mirror.
She wore some kind of skirt, silky and uptight and still
somehow managing to hug every curve. Exposing a damn near
perfect set of never-ending legs that balanced on the
most ridiculous pair of heels heâ€™d ever seen, which for
some reason turned him on.
Wait, did that trailing dust mop just bark? Yup. Under
the pink bows was a dog that seemed about as friendly as
Even though Golfer Barbie was clearly working to ignore
Brett, he was a good ole boy and a gentleman, and would
never pass a woman in distress. He pulled alongside her.
She was weighted down by a bag of clubs, a couple of
wheelie suitcases, and a dog with rat-sized legs. Those
shoes werenâ€™t helping but they sure made her world-class
ass sway in a manner that made his day suddenly seem less
She stopped, her blue eyes narrowed into what had to be
the best screw-you look heâ€™d ever seen. The soft planes
of her face folded into a scowl, pursing her lips out in
offense. The dog growled.
â€śMaâ€™am?â€ť she repeated.
Aw, she was a Yankeeâ€”her polished subtle accent giving
her awayâ€”and obviously offended by his southern manners.
The starched top, accessory on a leash, and stick-up-her-
ass attitude told him probably Upper East Side. Not that
heâ€™d spent a lot of time in New York, although he had
been with enough bored socialites looking for their wild
round with the PGA bad boy to spot one of her kind.
One arm on the wheel, the other hanging out the window,
Brett asked, â€śYou need a hand?â€ť
She crossed her arms, pulling the leash taut and cutting
the yip off mid-yap, and opened her mouth to speak. Her
eyes darted to the bed of his truck and then did an
exaggerated roll before narrowing to two pissed-off
â€śNope,â€ť was all she said, and continued to head due
north. The word was thrown over her shoulder and sounded
an awful lot like the four-letter kind.
Brett looked back to see what had taken her from pissed
off to hostile. All he saw was his bag of golf clubs.
â€śSugar,â€ť he hollered. Since maâ€™am had set her off, he was
hoping sugar wouldnâ€™t make her snap. â€śYou can walk for
five miles in any direction and youâ€™re going to end up
nowhere. And thereâ€™s nothing that way but Sugar Lake and
an old boardinghouse.â€ť
â€śGood. Since thatâ€™s where Iâ€™m headed,â€ť she enunciated
slowly, and if Brett hadnâ€™t been so busy checking out her
swing, he would have noticed she was mocking him.
Easing off the pedal again, he followed the sound of her
heels smacking the asphalt, which was loud enough to be
heard over his diesel. It had been a while since heâ€™d had
to chase a woman. And for the first time since heâ€™d come
back to Sugar, Brett found himself smiling. He was
actually enjoying himself. And if that wasnâ€™t a testament
to just how crappy his life had gotten, he didnâ€™t know
â€śWell, how about that? Me, too. So, why donâ€™t you hop in
and I can give you a lift?â€ť
â€śMy aunt told me never to trust a balding man.â€ť
She spared him a very brief and very annoyed glance,
jerking her chin toward his Stetson. â€śMen wear it to hide
their lack of hair.â€ť
â€śMy hat?â€ť He hit the brakes. The dog bared its teeth.
â€śItâ€™s a southern thing.â€ť
â€śUh-huh.â€ť She kept walking.
Brett grinned. He suspected she would rather walk back to
New York in those shoes than admit she needed help.
â€śWell, Iâ€™m never one to push a lady but I am a southern
gentleman and Iâ€™d hate for anything to happen to you out
here on the open road. So Iâ€™ll just drive along here
beside you with my air-conditioning on high, maybe
sipping from this ice-cold bottle of soda, just to make
sure you get to where it is youâ€™re going. Okay?â€ť
Her shoulders sank a little and she stopped. Raising a
hand to shield her eyes, she took in the long stretch of
pavement that cut through endless miles of sun-dried
hills, which housed enough snakes and armadillos to make
even the toughest cowgirl balk, only to disappear into
the horizon. Her shoulders slumped a little more and . .
. shit . . . she was gonna cry, he could sense it.
He was about to say heâ€™d call Lavender Spenser, who owned
the only tow truck in town, to check out the car he had
seen a few miles back, then disappear before the
waterworks started, when she spun around. And that was
not the look of a woman on the verge.
Instead she glared at his truck and, dragging what
appeared to be her life, stepped closer to take a peek
inside. She placed her hands on the door and gave his rig
an aggressive shove, smiling when it didnâ€™t budge.
Then it was his turn for inspection. She gave him a
thorough once-over that was so clinical and suspicious
Brett was sure it was meant to make him squirm. It did,
but not in the way she intended. Because the harder she
looked, the higher up that pert little nose went, the
more pronounced her delicate cheekbones became, and the
farther she stuck out that full, glossy lower lip of hers
â€”and the harder he got.
â€śYou a rapist?â€ť
He hadnâ€™t considered how he must look to her in lived-in
jeans, worn-out shitkickers, and a John Deereâ€“embroidered
polo that had seen better days. He had skipped shaving
this morningâ€”actually heâ€™d skipped it yesterday, tooâ€”and
his hair, in desperate need of a trim, was curling out
from beneath his hat. The look screamed uneducated hick,
but heâ€™d been trying to get in a few holes without being
Not that it had worked. The beer cart girl, Lindseyâ€”or
was it Lenaâ€”gave him a cold long neck and tried for a hot
kiss, scribbling her number on his scorecard when she
Heâ€™d just finished his hole, a birdie no less, when
people started gathering around, wanting to talk about
the season, get tips on their swing, play a round with
him. So heâ€™d packed up, resigning himself to heading back
toward the ranch, and maybe having a slice of Grandma
Hattieâ€™s peach pie.
Opening the truck door, he stepped out of the cab, around
Mrs. Madison Avenue, and her little dog, too, stretching
his cramped muscles and flexing a bit in case she decided
to look his way. She didnâ€™t. She was back to inspecting
He reached out his hand. â€śNameâ€™s Brett McGraw.â€ť
When she just looked at his outstretched offering as
though it was a snake about to bite, he stuffed it in his
pocket and leaned back against his rig, which was
conveniently parked next to a highway sign boasting his
name. Crossing his ankles, he gifted her with his cover-
of-Sports-Illustrated grinâ€”and waited.
It didnâ€™t take long. Her eyes went wide with recognition.
Two cute pink spots appeared on her cheeks and she
gasped. In just about three seconds, she was going to be
batting those lashes in his direction, telling him how
sorry she was for treating him like he was some kind of
perv, and askingâ€”no, beggingâ€”him for a ride. And not just
in his truck. At least thatâ€™s what his lower half was
hoping. His upper half was telling him to get back in the
cab and get the hell out of there.
â€śOhmigod.â€ť Her hand, the one holding the leash, came up
to flutter in front of her stunned, dangling jaw. In the
process, she yanked the little rat, which had its leg
poised to piss all over his truck, out of firing
distance. â€śOh. My. God.â€ť
And here it comes . . . â€śYouâ€™re that tractor salesman?â€ť
â€śExcuse me?â€ť Brett blinked. Then choked a little,
remembering the ad he had done a few years back for John
Holy shit. She had no idea who he was. Meaning she had
zero expectations. The notion made the hollow pit in
Brettâ€™s chest, the one that heâ€™d been carrying around for
over a decade, fade a little.
â€śIâ€™m right, right?â€ť She looked back at his truck, two
tons of steel testosterone with enough power to haul
whatever the hell he wanted to haul. â€śYouâ€™re the cowboy
from that television commercial who sings that song while
the cow pulls him around.â€ť
â€śSomething like that,â€ť Brett said, picking up one of her
suitcases and dropping it in the bed of his truck. She
was the first person all day who hadnâ€™t wanted anything
from him, which was probably why he was set on helping
her. Finished with her suitcases, he reached for her bag
of clubs, the back of his hand grazing the curve of her
neck where the strap rested.
God, she was soft. She smelled like a lingerie store and
some kind of flower. All he could think of when he looked
at her was sex. She seemed to know exactly what he was
thinking, because she shifted those two pissed-off slits
back in his direction.
â€śWhat are you doing?â€ť She clutched the bag to her chest.
He waited for her to let go. All he got was silence.
Uneasy, mistrust-filled silence.
â€śGood lord, Yankee, you are the most suspicious person
Iâ€™ve ever met.â€ť
â€śSays the man in the creepy truck offering women rides.
And who said I wasnâ€™t local?â€ť
â€śYour accent. New York by the sound of it.â€ť He looked at
her outfit and raised a brow. â€śA Madison Avenue address?â€ť
She scowled. Bingo. â€śAnd itâ€™s not creepy, itâ€™s called
being a gentleman.â€ť
Although, when she crossed her arms, accentuating the
generous swell of her breasts, the last thing he felt was
â€śNow, how about you let me get on with my southern
manners and load up your things?â€ť
He gave a tug, surprised when she tugged back. Even more
surprised at his reaction to getting her all riled up.
And she was plenty riled. Why he enjoyed irritating her,
he couldnâ€™t say. But when those eyes flashed his way,
shooting off attitude and irritation, all of the bullshit
in his life seemed kind of stupid.
Letting her win this battle, he let go of the bag and
watched her stagger a little under the added weight
before walking around the truck to open the passenger
door. â€śYou coming? Or do I need to call the sheriff and
tell him some crazy lady and her ferret are loitering on
She hitched the golf bag higher in her arms, a nine-iron
shifting up and out a little as if the bag was flipping
him the middle finger. She looked around the miles of
rolling hills and highway. â€śIâ€™m on a public highway.â€ť
â€śNo, maâ€™am,â€ť he drawled, playing the part of the
â€śThis here is all McGraw land. Sign right there says so.
And that means you and Toto are trespassing.â€ť
Rooted in the middle of the highway, reluctance and
exhaustion playing across her face, she looked lost. Lost
and sad and maybe a bit scared. He hadnâ€™t noticed before,
but under all that sass and primping was someone trying
to hold it together.
Brett stepped back around the truck, stopping in front of
her and softening his voice. â€śLook, itâ€™s hot out and will
be dark soon. If that Bentley sitting in the middle of
the field back there was yours, youâ€™ve already walked a
good couple of miles.â€ť He looked at her shoes. â€śWhich Iâ€™m
betting seemed like a lot more. At least let me give you
a ride back to your car. I can drop you off somewhere or
go into town and get some gas and help you get her
â€śSheâ€™s not out of gas,â€ť she pointed out, as if heâ€™d just
offended her entire sex. â€śMy cheating bastard of an ex
decided to report his car stolen. It has one of those
antitheft thingies. It just stopped working.â€ť
Which would explain the shrieking horn and flashing
lights. â€śHow did it get in the field?â€ť
â€śThe alarm gave me a warning and I was driving kind of
fast. Figured if he was going to screw with me he could
search for it.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s probably got a GPS. Theyâ€™ll find it pretty easy.â€ť
â€śI was hoping for a pond. A deep one. Full of scum.â€ť She
shrugged, her top shifting in the process and exposing a
very lacy, very pink bra strap, making him more than
aware of how tight his jeans suddenly seemed. Because,
well, he was a guy, and heâ€™d been without a woman a lot
longer than most people knew. â€śI didnâ€™t find one.â€ť
â€śLucky him.â€ť Brett smiled, thinking about that strap and
wondering if it matched her panties.
â€śLucky him, I didnâ€™t drive it through the lobby of his
career-making moment.â€ť Her hands made aggressive air
quotes around the last three words, adding, â€śAnd itâ€™s
bulletproof,â€ť with more air quotes, as if that would
explain away everything.
That was his cue to walk. He didnâ€™t do complicated.
Because complicated usually came with expectations. And
this woman had more expectations than her wheelie
suitcase could possibly hold. Plus she was kind of crazy.
Sexy as hell. But crazy nonetheless.
Brett could almost hear Calâ€™s voice, not to mention the
one inside his own head, reminding him how pink lace
hadnâ€™t panned out so well for him in the past. And it was
obvious that this woman and her pink lace were nothing
but trouble. But Brett didnâ€™t get to where he was in life
by playing it safe, not when trouble was so much more
fun. Which was why he was determined to get her into his
â€śIf you want you can call the sheriff. His name is
Jackson Duncan and he can give me the Sugar stamp of
â€śAll right,â€ť she conceded, desperationâ€”and possibly her
She balanced the golf bag between her feet and reached
into her purse. Hands fluttering through all eighty-seven
pockets, they finally pulled out a cell. Pink. She
punched in some keys and waited, her face going blank
after about fifteen seconds. She stared at it, punching
harder and tried again.
She pulled the phone back, wound up, and let her fly.
They watched the pink metal glisten in the sun before
shrinking into the horizon to finally disappear.
Ignoring his comment, her eyes went to his truck again.
â€śHow tough is your truck?â€ť
â€śUh-huh.â€ť She gave his tire a swift kick. Not impressed.
â€śTough enough to withstand a head-on with a Bentley?â€ť
â€śItâ€™s American.â€ť He meant it as a testament to how badass
his truck was. But she mumbled something that sounded
vaguely like â€śfigures.â€ť
â€śYou promise to take me to my car so I can get the rest
of my thingsâ€”â€ť
â€śAnd get me to where Iâ€™m going, untouched?â€ť
She still didnâ€™t look convinced, which made her a lot
smarter than he was. This trip home was about lying low,
playing it safe. Not picking up designer women with
purse-sized pets. Sighing, he ushered her toward the
passenger door, her fuzzy companion letting loose sounds
that were about as intimidating as a Christmas carol. He
reached around to help her inside, but paused, content to
watch her struggle with her dog, purse, and bag of clubs.
Finally realizing that they wouldnâ€™t all fit, she thrust
her clubs in his face and went back to tending to the
â€śListen, Barbie, Toto here isnâ€™t going to pee in my
truck, is she?â€ť
â€śMy name is Josephina. This is Boo. And she is male,
which means heâ€™s predisposed to making public statements
whenever he feels his masculinity threatened.â€ť
She eyed his truck again and smiled.
Brett looked down at the tiny dog covered in white fluff
that was teased, sculpted, and pinned back with a pink
bow. Two wet black eyes looked up at him and Brett
actually pitied the fuzzball. Until it leaped over the
center console, made himself at home in Brettâ€™s seat, and
started gnawing on the steering wheel.
His mistress, on the other hand, climbed into the
passenger seat, while Brett took a minute to admire the
view before hoisting her clubs to toss them into the
â€śWait,â€ť she said, grabbing at the strap.
â€śIt wonâ€™t fit. Besides, already got my own set, Jo. Nicer
than,â€ť he looked at the label and mumbled, â€śthose Stone
â€śJosephina,â€ť she corrected. â€śAnd how do I know those
arenâ€™t from your last victim?â€ť
â€śSame way I donâ€™t know if you used those clubs to
emasculate Rat Bastard.â€ť
She nibbled her lower lip for a long minute and then let
go of the bag. But not before she snagged one firstâ€”a
â€śGood girl. Now promise me you donâ€™t have him locked in
that trunk of yours.â€ť
This time she smiledâ€”and man, what a smile. Who knew that
a smiling blonde wielding golf clubs could mess with his
mind like that?
Clearing his throat, he tossed her bag, sans the nine-
iron, in the back and climbed behind the wheel, looking
to see if he managed to crush her dog in the process. No
Boo sat happily on her lap, tail wagging as she stroked
his head. Lucky dog.
â€śWhatâ€™s that for?â€ť Brett nodded to the nine-iron,
clenched in her hand like a billy club. â€śWe already
established you know of my commercials and I have the
â€śI never got to call, remember? Plus, youâ€™re male, which
means 50 percent of what comes out of your mouth is a
lie. Iâ€™m not taking any chances.â€ť