Chapter One

Janie Fitzhugh had a new rule: Never make drunken promises at a bachelorette party.

When she’d hit the local honky-tonk for Harper Masterson’s big blowout, Harper’s former nail clients—all women over the age of seventy—insisted on buying multiple X-rated shots, including a tasty little one called a cowboy cocksucker. She’d lost track of the number she’d consumed and vaguely remembered dancing on the bar with a firecracker of a woman named Garnet. Evidently Janie had a rip-roaring time; too bad she had zero recollection of her actions after the karaoke started. Evidently she’d also promised her ex-husband, Abe Lawson, she’d owe him a favor—any favor—if he took her drunken ass home.

A favor Abe had waited a whole week to collect on.

So that’s how Janie found herself driving to the Lawson ranch on a beautiful fall morning, half in disbelief she was returning to the one place she swore she’d never go again.

As she started up the long, winding driveway, past the haystacks, the refueling station, the hopper that released the livestock supplement known as “cake,” she expected to see the same old, same old. Most ranchers were averse to any kind of change, which was one of the main issues she’d had with Abe. He maintained the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude in all aspects of his life.

At first, she’d really loved Abe’s steadfastness. But eventually that trait had driven them apart.

Not that you’re completely blameless. When Abe swept you off your feet, giving you everything you told him that you wanted, how could you fault him for being the man you’d fallen in love with?

So the improvements shocked her. The dull gray house had been repainted a vibrant shade of terra-cotta. The front deck had been revamped with the addition of a sheltered arbor and a wooden porch swing. A new split rail fence separated the yard from the pasture and disappeared around the back of the house.

The outlying areas between the house and outbuildings no longer had piles of busted farm machinery, abandoned vehicles, and stacks of warped lumber. How much of the cleanup had been Hank’s wife’s doing? The cluttered state never bothered any of the Lawson siblings when Janie lived here.

The enormous wooden barn had retained the charming, weathered look. It was sandwiched between the machine shed and a new metal structure twice the size of the old one.

She parked behind a 350 Cummins diesel truck caked with mud. Made no sense why she experienced a bout of nerves.

How many times had she come home from a long day of classes to see Abe leaning against the porch rail, waiting for her with a smile on his face? No one had been as happy to see her since. Maybe she was disappointed he wasn’t waiting for her like he used to. Shoving aside her melancholy, she climbed out of her car.

Janie admired the new concrete walkway crafted to resemble a cobblestone path. She resisted smoothing her hair or adjusting her clothes after she knocked on the door.

The door swung inward. Abe smiled at her. “Hey. Come on in.”

Wasn’t it grossly unfair he looked better now than he had when she’d married him almost eleven years ago?

Maybe it’s poetic justice since you left him.

His gaze moved over her, head to toe, as sensual as a full-body caress. “You look great even when you’re fixin’ to clean the basement. I always admired that about you.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope. I say what I mean, Janie. You know that about me.”

Maybe it’s time you stop kidding yourself you’re immune to his attempts to lure you into his lair for a little mattress dancing.

Hah. Janie wasn’t immune to him. Not even freakin’ close.

And the hell of it was, his damn cowboy charm was weakening her resolve not to get mixed up with him again. They’d been divorced eight years. She was over him. She’d been over him a long time.

Hadn’t she?


Meeting his gaze, she swallowed a purely feminine moan. Abe Lawson had the most beautiful eyes—silvery-gray offset by long, thick black eyelashes. Yet he hadn’t mastered the art of masking his feelings. They’d always been right there, bold and unapologetic. Like now.

Intent. Fortitude. Amusement. Lust.

Then he violated her personal space, moving close enough she caught a whiff of his cologne. Not the Chaps scent she remembered but a woodsy, skin-warmed aroma that encouraged her traitorous brain to purr, what are you waiting for? Hot man, hot skin, hot damn.

“Cat got your tongue, cupcake?” he drawled.

“No. Seems a little weird to be here.” Janie stepped around him and into the entryway. Boxes of ceramic tile were piled next to the wall and new mortarboard spread to the edge of the carpet.

“Watch your step. It’s a mess. I hope to get back to it this week.”

“I didn’t know you could tile, Abe.”

“I didn’t either. Not until we started putting the finishing touches on Hank and Lainie’s house. Found out it ain’t as hard as I thought.”

“I’m sure it’ll look great when you’re done. Can I see the tile?”

Abe pulled out a square from the top box. “Nothin’ fancy.”

The tile was swirled with brown and rust in a random pattern, but wasn’t plain. “I like it.”

“Thanks.” Abe set the tile back and gestured for her to precede him past the wall separating the entryway from the living room.

Now this room had sustained major improvements. The frayed orange and brown sofa patterned with horses? Gone. As were the matching tangerine-colored corduroy side chairs. Abe’s late mother’s knickknacks no longer adorned all available shelf space. The room was typical bachelor, puffy tan couches with built-in recliners. A ginormous TV. A sturdy wooden coffee table piled with remotes. The only reminder of his parents was the family picture on the wall and the crocheted afghan draped over the back of the couch.


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