February 25th, 2021
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No matter what fate had decreed, they belonged together.

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Hiking the Kindling National Forest is a birthday tradition for the Sullivan siblings—pitching camp, roasting s’mores… a dead body?

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A slow burn has a super protective, super hot alpha male who will stop at nothing to protect his girl.

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Two can play at this spying game.

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Some curses aren’t meant to be broken . . .

Excerpt of The Reckoning by Christie Ridgway


Fortunes of Texas Series
Signature Select Continuities
May 2006
Featuring: Emmett Jamison; Linda Faraday
256 pages
ISBN: 037338937X
Add to Wish List

Romance Series

Also by Christie Ridgway:

Keep On Loving You, February 2016
Paperback / e-Book
Can't Fight This Feeling, July 2015
Paperback / e-Book
Make Me Lose Control, January 2015
Paperback / e-Book
Take My Breath Away, June 2014
Paperback / e-Book
The Love Shack, April 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Bungalow Nights, March 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Beach House No. 9, February 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Beach House Beginnings, January 2013
Kiss the Bride, April 2012
Trade Size / e-Book
Can't Hurry Love, July 2011
Then He Kissed Me, January 2011
Crush On You, June 2010
Double The Heat, December 2009
Dirty Sexy Knitting, June 2009
Runaway Bride Returns!, May 2009
Mass Market Paperback
I Still Do, January 2009
Mass Market Paperback
Unravel Me, November 2008
How To Knit A Wild Bikini, June 2008
Bachelor Boss, April 2008
His Forbidden Fianc, April 2007
Not Another New Year's, January 2007
Must Love Mistletoe, December 2006
The Reckoning, May 2006
The Care and Feeding of Unmarried Men, April 2006
An Offer He Can't Refuse, July 2005
Right By Her Side, April 2005
The Thrill of It All, November 2004
Mistletoe and Mayhem, October 2004
Do Not Disturb, December 2003
Then Comes Marriage, January 2003
This Perfect Kiss, January 2001
Wish You Were Here, February 2000
The Marriage Maker, January 2000

Excerpt of The Reckoning by Christie Ridgway

Inside the rambling Texas ranch house were a profusion of flowers, tables groaning with food and two bars stocked with plenty of liquor. All the makings of one hell of a great party, Emmett Jamison thought from the shadowed corner where he stood. That is, if the guest of honor hadn't been dead.

"I can't believe he's gone," he overheard a tiny, gray- haired lady by a punch bowl say to her companion. "I just can't believe that Ryan Fortune is gone."

Emmett's eyes closed. He wished he couldn't believe it. But the older man had been diagnosed with a brain tumor several months before and despite his big, vital personality and all the family and friends who cared about him, just that morning Ryan Fortune's ashes had been spread across the lands of his beloved Double Crown Ranch.

The tragedy of it didn't surprise Emmett. All hope and optimism had been swept out of him months ago. He expected no happy endings. He was becoming accustomed to funerals.

"Trying out for the undertaker's job?" a new voice murmured in his ear. "You've got the morose expression for it."

"I don't take offense at your ugly mug," he answered automatically, "so you shouldn't take offense at my unsmiling one."

The "ugly" insult didn't have much meat to it, though, not when the man who had come up beside him was his cousin, Collin Jamison, and not when all agreed that Collin was a slightly older version of Emmett himself. They were both six feet tall and had the solid build of men whose fitness and training kept them employed — and alive. They wore their dark hair in no-nonsense military cuts, and Collin's hazel eyes were only a touch lighter than Emmett's green ones.

"You're not offending me," Collin replied. "You're worrying me. You've got that let-me-escape-to-the- mountains look about you."

Emmett shoved his hands into the pockets of his dark trousers. He'd holed himself up in the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico following his brother Christopher's funeral last September and the tragic ending to one of his FBI cases. There, he'd tried deadening himself to that pain and all that had come before with cheap tequila and stubborn solitude. Neither had lasted long enough. When his father had brought the news that his other brother, Jason, who had been implicated in Chris's murder, had escaped from jail, Emmett had sobered up and returned to Texas. "When Dad found me in New Mexico, he confiscated the keys to the cabin and threatened to burn the place down." Though lack of keys wouldn't stop anyone from getting into that shack. "I won't be going back there."

"Good," Collin said, then surveyed the crowded room. "I haven't seen Uncle Blake and Aunt Darcy, but it's wall-to- wall people. Are they here?"

Emmett shook his head. "I'm the sole representative of our branch of the Jamisons. Mom and Dad didn't feel comfortable attending, considering their son was the one who kidnapped Ryan's widow just a couple of months back." Jason's kidnapping of Lily Fortune was what had brought his cousin Collin to Red Rock, Texas. Emmett had called him after the older woman's recovery and his brother's escape. Emmett had wanted Collin's help in stopping Jason. That job wasn't done.

Collin seemed to read his mind. "We're going to get him, Emmett."

"I'm going to get him," Emmett corrected, though he and the authorities on the case were fresh out of leads and they all knew it. Though Lily had been recovered, Jason had taken off with the ransom money, killing an FBI agent in the process. There hadn't been a sign of him since.

"You have Lucy to focus on now, Collin. But come hell or high water, I'm not going to let my brother make a victim of anyone else." Jason's ugly criminal tally also included the death of his own girlfriend, Melissa, and that of a prison transport guard. Though a prison guard in on Jason's plan — McGruder — had been arrested and would stand trial for his part in the escape, it wasn't nearly enough justice. Emmett's voice lowered. "If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to make Jason pay for all the pain he's caused."

"You're going grim on me again, buddy," Collin warned softly. "By all means, let's get Jason safely behind bars, but not at the cost of your heart."

Emmett had to shake his head at that. Falling in love with Lucy had done a number on his tough-natured cousin. "Romance has made you soft. You know I don't have a heart."

And Emmett didn't feel like talking about it anymore, either. Without bothering to make an excuse, he wandered away from his cousin, avoiding the eyes of those around him. Turning a corner, he almost knocked over an easel that held a poster-size photo. He reached out a hand to steady the smiling image of Ryan Fortune. "Husband, Father, Friend" was printed on the cardboard beneath it. "Loved By All."

Emmett's fingers lingered on the edge of the poster. Ryan's eyes seemed to glitter as they had in life, and then Emmett felt a warm weight on his shoulder, as if the man were holding him there with a ghostly hand. To tell him something? To remind him of something?

Struck by a new, vague disquiet, Emmett hurried off, heading for the ranch house's foyer. He pushed open the heavy front door, undeterred by a blast of chilly April wind. The sky was as dark as his mood and it smelled like rain, but he needed fresh air. More, he needed to be alone. He didn't need a reminder of what he owed Ryan.

Loved By All. That phrase flitted into Emmett's mind as he stepped outside. His brother Chris's headstone read Beloved. Jessica Chandler's family had carved In Loving Memory onto hers.

The last few years had taught that those stock phrases didn't solve one damn thing, though. They didn't make it any easier for the living to carry on. Love didn't make it any easier for the living to carry on. And love certainly didn't wake the dead.

Oblivious to the cool temperature, he leaned against one wall of the covered entryway, staring at the terra-cotta pots filled with flowers that lined the stone walkway in front of him. A few brave blooms were already showing their faces, but in May the April showers would really pay off. Emmett wondered if he'd still be in Red Rock to see it — and then admitted to himself he more than likely wouldn't notice if he were. It had been winter inside him for what seemed like aeons now.

From around the corner of the entryway, a soft, rhythmic thup thup thup caught his attention. Curious, he shoved his hands deeper in his pockets and drifted down the steps to take a look at what was making the noise.

It was a kid, medium-sized, in an expensive navy blazer and a pair of khakis with a streak of mud on one knee. Between his shiny loafers was a fist-size, black-and-white ball that the boy tossed upward with one foot three times, thup thup thup, before it fell to the stone pathway and he had to start all over again, lifting it with his toe, juggling it for a few moments, then losing it again.

Emmett's mind flashed back three months, maybe four. Then, he'd seen that same child, in a diner in Red Rock, sitting with an older couple and across from a blond woman. Emmett had only seen the blonde's back but he'd seen the tension on the boy's face.

A gust of wind tossed the kid's blond bangs around his forehead and shook a few raindrops out of the low clouds above. The kid looked up, shivered, but went back to his game. The next blast of cold wind started the rain in earnest. Emmett stepped back toward the front door, almost calling to the boy to come inside, but then he shrugged. Hell, the kid wasn't his concern.

He had other priorities.

Behind him, he heard the door open. "Richard?" a female voice called. "Richard, are you out there?"

The kid ducked his head and kept juggling the ball, despite the rain and despite the person obviously seeking him out. Shrugging again, Emmett turned toward the entryway. He'd wanted fresh air, not a fresh soaking. It was time to go back inside, find Lily and mumble some more condolences, then leave.

"Richard?" The voice floated closer.

And then, from around the corner of the house, a woman came into view.

And brought out the sun.

It was just the capricious spring weather, Emmett knew that, but it halted him midstride anyway, as a warm beam of light broke through the clouds to spotlight the woman's long blond hair, her soft white dress, her slender, delicate body.

He blinked. She was an angel, a candle, a...

A sign that he needed to get more than three hours of sleep a night, he thought, disgusted. Her gaze bounced off Emmett and then zeroed in on the boy.

"Richard —"

"Ricky, I keep telling you," the kid muttered. "Ricky, Ricky, Ricky."

The woman's forehead wrinkled and Emmett wondered if she might actually cry. He took a step toward her, driven by the sudden thought that he should comfort her, care for her, something, but then she squared her shoulders and her mouth turned up in a little half smile.

"Well, Ricky-Ricky-Ricky, you shouldn't be outside in the rain."

"It's not raining anymore."

Emmett said that. He couldn't believe he'd insinuated himself into the strangers' conversation. But then again, he couldn't believe that odd compulsion he'd had to take the woman into his arms, either. More sleep was definitely a necessity.

The woman shot him a puzzled glance, then tipped her face to the sky, like one of those flowers he'd been looking at before. Light bathed her features, illuminating her clear pale skin, her small nose and her pretty mouth.

He thought of springtime again, actually remembered springtime, with its warmth and sweet scents and green new-

----------------------------------------------------------- --------------------- Article 02: Untitled ness. His feet took another step closer to her before he stopped them.

"I guess you're right. It isn't raining anymore," she said, closing her eyes. She swayed a bit, as if slightly unbalanced.

"Doesn't the sunshine feel good?"

Emmett refused to answer the question; instead, he asked, "Who are you?" Immediately, he was aware he sounded abrupt and hostile — quite a feat for someone as naturally abrupt and hostile as himself. But the woman unsettled him, ruffled him somehow, and he wanted to figure out what it was, exactly, she did to him. And why.

To his surprise, it was the truculent kid who answered. While he had seemed peeved at the woman himself, now he moved to stand between her and Emmett, a purely protective stance. "She's Linda Faraday," the boy said. "I'm Ricky. Who are you?"

Linda Faraday. Her son, Ricky. Emmett's gut tightened. He'd forgotten about them in the days since Ryan's death. Perhaps it explained the disquiet he'd felt when looking at the older man's photo. And perhaps it was why he'd reacted so strongly to the woman a few minutes before — his subconscious had recognized her and remembered his promise. Not the one he'd made for Ryan, about capturing Jason, but that promise he'd made to Ryan.

"Well?" the kid said. "Who are you?"

Emmett took in a long breath, then gazed into Linda Faraday's wide blue eyes. Springtime. He had to shove the thought away before it derailed him. "I'm the man who's going to be looking after you," he told her.

Excerpt from The Reckoning by Christie Ridgway
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