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Authors: Lisa Jackson

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BOOK: Lone Stallion's Lady
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From her side of the both, Gina nodded and noticed that she was the object of more than one curious glance. “I’m talking about a woman he might have been seeing a couple of years ago, or a year ago, not long before he died.”

“I’m thinkin’, I’m thinkin’.” Lily Mae swirled her iced tea and a slice of lemon pirouetted through the cubes.

“There were so many, it’s pretty hard to keep them straight.” Lily Mae glanced around the crowded café, always on the alert for the makings of more gossip. “Haven’t you found a passel of his sons, already? All of ’em have different mothers, don’t they?”

“Just about.” Aside from Trent and his twin brother
Blake, the other four men had been brought into the world by different women. Gina tapped her fingers anxiously on the edge of the table until she realized Lily Mae was taking note of her case of nerves.

“Somethin’ botherin’ you?”

Only that I slept with the grandson of my client. That I lied to him and now have to face him every day, and that I might just be pregnant with his child. Other than that, things are just peachy.
“I’m just trying to wrap this up,” Gina said. That much was true.

As the waitress passed by, Lily Mae held up her half-full glass. “How ‘bout a refill, Janie?”

Janie managed a patient smile as she quickly jotted an order from a nearby table onto her pad. “Coming right up,” she said to either the two men from the sheriff’s department who were seated at the next booth—or to Lily Mae, Gina couldn’t tell which. The café was crowded, Janie nearly running herself ragged as she breezed from one table to another.

“They need another waitress here,” Lily Mae mumbled. “Janie can’t do it all herself.”

“I think they’re looking for one.” Gina nodded to the Help Wanted placard taped to the inside of a window.

“Well, it better be soon.”

“So, tell me about the women in Larry Kincaid’s life.”

“That would take forever. Oh, thank you dear.” Lily Mae smiled brightly as Janie came by with a pitcher of iced tea. “Can I get you anything else?” she asked. “We’ve got fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie today.”

“Oh, I shouldn’t…” Lily Mae said, then lifted a shoulder, “but I can’t resist. Bring me a piece with some ice cream. Vanilla.”

“Anything for you?” Janie asked Gina as the ceiling fans slowly turned overhead.

“No, thanks.”

“Oh, come on,” Lily Mae insisted. “People come from miles around for the pies and donuts here.”

“Fine,” Gina agreed, more to be amiable than from hunger. “The same.”

“You won’t regret it.” Lily Mae winked again as Janie refilled her glass then hurried off. “Now, as for the women in Larry Kincaid’s life, let’s see…” Lily Mae wriggled her fingers and started rambling on, her version of Larry’s colorful life a mixture of fact and fiction. She paused only when the two slices of pie were delivered.

Gina was amazed and took mental notes of anything that seemed the least bit true.

“You know a lot about Larry Kincaid,” she said.

“Well, that’s true. I make it my business to know.” Guileless, the older woman waved her fork at Gina. “Whitehorn’s a small town. I just keep my eyes and ears open.”

“So, who was the last woman Larry was involved with?”

Lily Mae was cutting off another bite from her wedge of pie. She stopped and thought for a second, little lines furrowing between her eyebrows. “You know, I don’t
really recall.” Then, as if she’d let herself down, she shook her head. “I’ll have to do some checking around.”

So will I,
Gina thought.
And I’m going to do it quickly.
The sooner she could get out of Dodge—er, Whitehorn, and away from Trent Remmington, the better!

 

“So, tell me about Gina,” Trent suggested as Garrett surveyed the progress on the indoor arena that he’d ordered built as he hoped to train horses during the harsh winter months ahead. The framework was finished, the roof in place and the siding started. Frowning, pulling on a two-by-four to test its strength, he seemed satisfied that he was getting his money’s worth from the construction crew he’d hired to update the paddock and repair the ranch house.

“What is it you want to know?” From beneath the brim of his hat, he slid his grandson a glance.

“You hired her to find Larry’s sons.” He just couldn’t make himself call the son of a bitch who’d sired him “father.” No way.

“Yes.”

“And she did.”

Garrett straightened, swatted at a horsefly, then rubbed his thumb over the head of a nail that had been driven into one of the two-by-fours. “That’s about the size of it. Actually, I hired her brother.”

“Brother?”

“Jack. He’s really the owner of the private investigation firm. Gina works for him.”

Trent’s jaw slid to one side. So much for her mysterious relationship with Jack. He should have figured she’d lie to him again. “Does she?” he asked, and didn’t bother hiding the sarcasm in his voice. He couldn’t wait to confront her with this little bit of knowledge. He’d heard her talking to Jack on the phone yesterday morning and jealousy, ridiculous as it was, had burned in Trent’s gut. He couldn’t help himself. Where she was concerned, he was fast becoming a fool.

Garrett’s gaze narrowed on his grandson. The grooves around the corners of his eyes deepened. “Well, there’s more to it than that, I’d say. They’re almost partners. Jack worked for the L.A.P.D. for years and he takes the more dangerous cases, mainly because he’s protective of his little sis. But she’s no slacker. I have the feeling she’d like more dangerous assignments, but she’s gifted at what she does. She’s developed quite a reputation for finding lost family members.” He shoved the brim of his hat up with a thumb. “Found you pretty quick, now, didn’t she?”

“I suppose.”

“And that bothers you.”

“Nope.”

“Then maybe it’s the woman herself that bothers you.” It wasn’t a question. The old man was pretty intuitive, Trent would give him that. “And I don’t blame you. She’s one good-looking, smart lady.”

And a liar, Trent silently added. He wondered if he could believe anything that passed between those perfect white teeth. “I’m not in the market.”

“How do you know?”

“I know.”

Garrett didn’t respond, just patted one of the posts and turned toward the house.

“Tell me about Larry. What’s up with all these illegitimate sons?”

All amusement died in the older man’s eyes and Trent, though he’d been loath to bring up a sore subject, felt he deserved the truth.

“I wish I knew.” The old man sighed as they passed a corral where horses grazed in the late afternoon sun. “I sometimes think it might have been my fault, you know.”

“How?”

“Oh, well…” Garrett’s mouth twisted into an ironic smile. “Larry’s mom was pregnant with him when we got married. I wonder if Larry thought, once he was old enough to do the math, that it was his license to promiscuity.”

Trent snorted. The more he learned of the man who had sired him, the less he liked him. Whereas Garrett seemed to stand for truth, justice, the American way and everything good in this part of Montana, Larry had been just the opposite. “Probably he was just a bad apple.”

“We’ve had more than our share,” Garrett admitted, then stopped short and watched the lowering sun for a few minutes. “You may as well know, there’s a lot of good blood in the Kincaid family, and a fair amount of bad.”

“The way it is in all families,” Trent observed.

Garrett raised a skeptical graying eyebrow. “We’ll see. When the rest get here.”

Great, Trent thought with more than a trace of sarcasm as he reached into his pocket and withdrew his keys. Just damned great.

Six

S
o what had she learned? Gina asked herself as she urged the palomino mare up a dusty trail in the foothills.

Only that you can’t get Trent Remmington out of your head.

“Fool,” she muttered under her breath. She clucked to the horse, encouraging the little mare into a gentle lope as they crested one of the hills on the western portion of the Kincaid spread. She’d been at the ranch for three days and hadn’t gotten any closer to finding Larry Kincaid’s seventh child than she’d been when she’d left L.A.

But she had a feeling that she was getting closer. Just being near Whitehorn spurred her female intuition into overdrive. Her fingers gripped the reins a little
harder. She’d already scoped out the town, met some of the locals, delved into local history. She began to understand, for the first time in her life, why people chose to settle down in a small community over the fast pace and excitement of the city.

Or was it because of Trent? She could hardly turn around without running into him. He was either at the desk in the den of the house, running his business via fax, modem and telephone or helping Garrett and the work crew with the chores. She’d heard him argue with an investor one minute, then watched as he’d tugged on work gloves to help repair a barbed-wire fence the next. He’d gotten his hands greasy helping Garrett fix an oil leak in the old tractor, helped Rand cull calves that needed to be immunized another day, and offered Suzanne a cup of coffee, insisting that she “take a load off” and sit with Gina and Garrett at breakfast just this morning.

The playboy millionaire was far more than met the eye, a man who wasn’t afraid of work, women or much else.

And she was falling for him.

“You’re a case,” she derided herself. She was here to do a job. Period.

And what if you’re pregnant?

She closed her eyes for a second. Yes, what? Her mind spun at the thought. Breathing deeply of the pine-scented air, she felt the mare tense. Gina’s eyes flew open as a startled bird flew across the path in a whir of feathers. She watched as the pheasant took cover in a copse of long-needled branches. Rays of sunlight
piercing the overhead canopy spackled the trail with splotches of sunlight and shifting shadows.

Gina clucked to her horse. She’d decided to take this ride to get some exercise, explore the ranch a little and work the knots out of her mind. But she was failing. And the tangles she’d been trying to loosen only seemed to become more stubborn and tight.

Ears pricked, the mare accelerated into a bone-jarring trot and Gina tried to put order to the facts on the case. She’d found six of Larry Kincaid’s sons, true, and there was evidence that he’d had another. There were unsubstantiated rumors that Larry had had a fling with a woman who lived near Whitehorn, but no one seemed to know with whom or if the rumors were true. Who was the woman he’d been involved with? Where was the baby? Gina had checked the birth records at the closest hospitals, read birth notices in papers of small towns surrounding Whitehorn, surfed the Internet and had come up dry.

And you’re supposed to be a specialist when it comes to finding people,
her P.I.’s mind nagged at her.

She had hoped to wrap up this case and move on. And get away from Trent Remmington. “Yeah, yeah, I know,” she admitted to herself. But she’d failed. Her back teeth gritted at the thought. Failing was a word she didn’t want in her vocabulary.

The path veered sharply to the right. Spindly trees gave way to a grassy meadow where wildflowers bloomed in profusion, speckling the sea of tall grass
with small purple and white blossoms. A late afternoon breeze caressed her face and caught in Gina’s hair. Now
this
was the Montana she’d read about, the place of romantic fantasies and cowboy tales.

And of maverick oilmen? She frowned at the thought and quickly banished it.

Soon she’d be faced not only with Trent but the other five sons Larry Kincaid had hidden from the world—grown men she’d found. She wasn’t looking forward to meeting them. She still thought it best to keep a professional distance from the objects of her search.

How would the half brothers react? Until just a few weeks ago none of them had realized they’d been sired by a ornery cuss of a man who hadn’t bothered to be a part of their lives. Yep, Larry Kincaid had been a piece of work.

She doubted any of the men would be thrilled to meet her. She pulled hard on the reins near a creek that tumbled and splashed its way downhill. Hopping off the mare’s back, she let the horse graze and took a seat on a large flat rock at a bend in the creek. From atop the sun-baked stone she gazed downward to the heart of the Kincaid ranch. The indoor arena, nearly complete, was by far the largest building, and in the distance, she made out the foreman’s house. Cattle and horses grazing on the surrounding acres were small dots in the rolling fields.

Gina kicked off her boots, rolled up her jeans and let her feet dangle in the icy water. She sucked in her breath. “God, that’s cold.” It all seemed so peaceful. Serene. Uncomplicated. She watched a butterfly flutter amid the
blooms of wildflowers along the creek bank. It was a lie. Serenity was only an illusion. She had only to think of Larry Kincaid and the mess he’d made of his life and all the lives around him. Seven illegitimate sons. And never a thought to them.

Again she considered Trent. What would she tell him if she was pregnant? “Don’t even think like that,” she warned herself. So she was late in her cycle. So what? She was stressed-out. Majorly so. That was it. As soon as she could she would buy a home pregnancy test and that would be the end of that.

Unless she was going to become a mother.

Oh, Lord. She felt a moment’s elation before she reminded herself that a baby wasn’t exactly the kind of blessing she was expecting right now. Babies came well after a person was married and secure in a relationship. Right? Pregnancies were planned, unless you were a person like Larry Kincaid. Frowning at the thought, she absently rubbed her abdomen, then caught the gesture and stopped. There was just no reason to borrow trouble.

She had a job to do here in Whitehorn and she planned to finish it as quickly as possible, then return to L.A., her apartment near the University of Southern California, where she still took an occasional night class, and the private investigation firm where she worked with her brother. Inwardly she cringed when she thought about Jack. He would be devastated if he had any inkling she thought she was pregnant.

“Stop it,” she growled just as she heard the sound of
hoof beats. The mare’s golden head lifted and she nickered. Gina glanced over her shoulder. Astride a roan gelding, Trent appeared.

Gina’s throat caught at the sight of him, back-dropped by the blaze of a setting sun. Scrambling to her feet, she used her hand as a visor and squinted up at him. “You know, Remmington, we’ve got to quit meeting like this,” she said as much to break the ice as anything.

The hint of a smile twisted his lips. “My thoughts exactly.” He slid from the saddle and advanced upon Gina. Her heart knocked wildly and she thought he was as purely male and sexual as men came. His hair was windblown, his jaw darkened by a day’s growth of beard. In faded jeans, boots and a shirt that had seen better days, he seemed a part of this raw, rugged land, at odds with the smooth-talking, slick businessman she’d met in Dallas.

“How’d you find me?” she asked, ignoring the heat she saw in his blue eyes.

“Just my infinite tracking skills.”

“Oh, right.”

“I think…no, I’m sure I have some Native American blood running through my veins. Isn’t that right? Or maybe in a past life I was a tracker.”

“Give me a break.”

He laughed and the sound was deep and true, rising above the babble of the creek. “Okay, so maybe Rand saw you riding this afternoon and pointed me in the right direction.”

“That sounds more like it,” she admitted, and found his slash of a smile as infectious as ever. Why was it she couldn’t resist him?

“It didn’t hurt that you took a main trail.”

“So how do you know about it, and don’t give me any of that B.S. about being a native guide, okay? I’m not buying it.”

His grin slid from one side of his jaw to the other. “Well, now, you know, I’d like to take all the credit, but I think my old pal Chester—” he patted the stallion’s neck “—wouldn’t much approve.”

“And the reason you followed me is?” she asked.

“I thought we needed to talk.”

“Uh-oh. Look, if it’s about me lying to you about who I was, I think I already apologized. I made a mistake.”


We
made a mistake,” he said.

She inwardly winced. He was right, of course. Falling into bed together was wrong. Too much wine, too little experience, and a curiosity about the sexiest man she’d ever met had been a lethal combination.

“There’s no reason to rehash it to death.” She felt her palms begin to sweat a little and she was rambling. “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry I lied, it won’t happen again. We had some fun and— Oh!”

His arm snaked out, he grabbed her wrist and yanked her hard against him. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” she asked, breathless with surprise.

“Don’t fake all this nonchalance, okay? Don’t act like it was just fun and games or a quick roll in the hay.”

“But it was,” she countered, refusing to be seduced by words she wanted to hear. She ignored the denial drumming in her head. “What it was, Trent, was a one-night stand.”

“That was your choice.”

She felt as if he’d slapped her. “Wait a minute, are you trying to say that you and I would have…what? Dated? Gotten involved? What?”

“You didn’t stick around long enough to find out, did you?”

“I thought it was time to leave.”

“Maybe I should have been consulted.” His gaze bored down at her with such intensity she wanted to squirm away. But she held her ground and swallowed hard when she noticed how dangerously close his lips were to hers.

Don’t think that way, Gina, that’s what got you into trouble in the first place.

“I, uh, I thought it was best to leave things as they were.”

“Because you lied about who you were.”

“That was part of it, yes.”

“But someone who waits until they’re twenty-seven years old…” He paused and must have witnessed the flash of surprise in her eyes, because he nodded. “Oh, yeah, I know how old you are. I’ve done my own little investigation since Dallas. How does it feel to be the one under the microscope?”

She jerked back on her arm, but he wouldn’t let go. He just kept driving his point home.

“Anyone who’s a twenty-seven-year-old virgin doesn’t fall into bed lightly.”

Angling up her chin, she said, “So you’re telling me that because I happened to end up in bed with you, it had to be because you were someone special, someone I’d saved myself for, someone—”

“Oh, hell!” He kissed her then. His arms surrounded her and dragged her tight against him. Before she could protest or start to struggle, his lips pressed urgently against hers. Anger fired through her bloodstream, outrage sang through her mind, but her wanton body wouldn’t fight back,
wanted
to melt against him.

Desire, friend or foe, caused her to ache inside, brought an intense sexual awareness that caused a weakness in her knees and a hunger in the most primal depths of her.

Oh, but she wanted to make love to him, yearned to have his hard body driving deep into hers. White-hot images of making love to him flashed behind her eyes, branding her brain. She saw taut, bronzed skin, a wash-board of abdominal muscles and a thick mat of chest hair stretched across raw bone and sinew. Her breathing was suddenly shallow, her heart jackhammering.

Don’t do this,
her mind warned.
Gina, for heaven’s sake, think! You lost yourself to him once before, don’t let it happen again.
And yet her free arm wrapped around his neck. Her fingers brushed the hair at his nape as his tongue pressed urgently against her teeth and she opened to him. Kissing him felt so right, and yet was oh, so wrong.

She closed her mind to that hideous voice in her head that was screaming she was about to make yet another, life-altering mistake.

He sighed into her mouth and she felt one of his hands splay against the curve of her spine, the tips of his fingers tantalizingly close to her buttocks. Oh, Trent let me love you, she thought wildly, though she hardly knew the man.

He lifted his head, twined strong fingers in her hair and forced her to look into his hot blue eyes. “You make me crazy.”

She smiled despite herself. “And here I thought insanity was just one of your natural charms, that maybe it ran in the family. Now
I’m
the cause?”

“Yep.” His lips twitched.

“I’m not buying it.”

One of his dark eyebrows cocked. “Maybe I should convince you.”

“Oh, and how do you propose to do that?” she asked, flirting outrageously, daring him.

“Want me to show you?”

No!

“Absolutely.”

“You’re asking for it, lady.”

“Am I?”

“Oh, yeah.” Again he kissed her. Again her blood heated fast. Again her heart raced. His lips were hot, hard, demanding. What was wrong with her? He devoured her mouth and she did the same, kissing,
nipping, biting until she felt his weight drag them onto the carpet of new grass.

“You know, Remmington, this is a good way to get grass stains,” she managed to say.

“Is it? Hmm. I can’t think of a better one.” His hands rubbed her shoulders as he kissed her neck and cheeks. She trembled inside. His breath was hot against her skin. In between presses of his warm lips against her flesh, he said, “But if you’re really worried about it, maybe we should take this off.” He was already bunching the hem of her T-shirt in his hands, yanking the fabric over her head, baring her skin to the cool kiss of spring air.

Stop this. Stop it now,
her mind screamed, but the warnings were lost to her.

“Then it might be wise for you to do the same. I already wrecked one set of your clothes.”

BOOK: Lone Stallion's Lady
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