Authors: Sarah McCarty
Book 3 in the Promises series by Sarah McCarty.
Widowed and barren, Jenna sees the newborn left on her doorstep as a priceless gift worthy of any sacrifice. She knows she'll need a husband to keep the baby, but nothing prepares her for the one who steps up. Big and dark, simmering with deadly intensity, Clint McKinnely could put fear into the devil. He certainly strikes fear into her, but Jenna soon discovers the man behind the reputation is the one man she longs to trust.
A hard man burned out by the choices he's made, Clint is looking for a reason to go on. He finds one in Jenna Hennessy. Lushly plump, sweet and shy, she calls to him on every level. When it looks as though Jenna might lose the daughter she loves for lack of a husband, Clint steps forward. Having Jenna in his home brings Clint a peace he's never known, but even as he ferrets out the secrets that haunt Jenna's nightmares, Clint keeps his own close to his chest, knowing this marriage is temporary because there are some sins a man can’t expect his wife to forgive.
“Few writers can match the skill of Sarah McCarty… The fast-paced story line hooks the audience.”—
Midwest Book Review
Praise for the novels of Sarah McCarty:
“Masterfully written.” —Romance Readers Connection
“Powerfully erotic, emotional, and thought provoking.” —Ecataromance
“Has the WOW factor . . . Characters that jump off the pages!”
—Just Erotic Romance Reviews
“Toe curling.” —Fallen Angel Reviews (Recommended Read)
“Ms. McCarty is a genius!” —
“Erotic romance at its best.” —Reviewer’s Choice Award Ecataromance
“… has taken my breath away.”—Gold Star JERR
“If you think an erotic romance can't surprise you, think again!”—Jerr
“Seduces and holds a reader captive!”—Road to Romance
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Promises Prevail Copyright © 2011 Sarah McCarty
Cover Art Copyright © 2011 Kendra Egert
This book is licensed for personal enjoyment only. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away free to other people without the permission of the author. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, you are violation of copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
For Kimberly, who can laugh in the face of adversity and persevere despite the odds. May life reward you with your fondest dream come true.
And from the real Danny and the incredible Jebediah: Thank you Carol and Dorothy of the Bartow County Humane Society for recognizing the greatness of these phenomenal dogs despite their physical conditions. Illness can be cured, wounds can be healed, but only a family could fill the void in their devastated hearts. You made that possible. Rescue thanks you and so do their forever homes.
Clint couldn’t believe he was doing this again. Another Saturday, another woman. Another pointless excursion to the Sweet Thyme Bakery in search of a connection that wasn’t going to happen. He’d long since given up that it ever would, so now his search for a wife was purely a matter of lining up traits and searching for a woman who fit them. The same way he selected a brood mare for his breeding program.
He glanced down at the young woman at his side. She smiled up at him, all hope and innocence. So pure she made him feel ancient. Rebecca Salisbury was his latest hopeful. She possessed all the qualities a good wife should have—good breeding, good training, and good wide hips for easy childbirth. He knew he wouldn’t have with her the passionate love that his cousin Cougar had with his wife, but she’d be stable and a good mother. Most importantly, she wouldn’t clutter up his calm with a lot of emotion. He cupped Rebecca’s elbow in his palm and helped her up the wooden steps to the walkway. Peace, he’d discovered, was a hard won commodity.
The smells from the bakery wrapped around him like a fragrant hug, soothing his senses.
Rebecca paused and waited for him to open the door. Her smile was shy as he reached over her shoulder. His response was an automatic stretch of his lips, but his attention was ahead of them, checking out the small, crowded shop and its occupants—most especially the owner.
She was just stepping out from behind the counter, her gait more awkward than usual. He ushered Rebecca in ahead of him, watching Jenna Hennesey as he did, noting the lines of strain on her face, frowning as she pulled up with a gasp, pausing, her focus turning inward. No doubt controlling the pain that all this running around was provoking in her damaged leg.
Damn it! He’d told her to hire some help.
He knew the minute she saw him. It wasn’t obvious as she kept her head down and rarely met anyone’s eyes, but the slight start in her body, and the blush that surged over her cheeks were dead giveaways.
“I’ll be right with you,” she called across the small room. Her voice, with its husky timbre, tickled his senses like a lure. He didn’t like the way she could slip under his calm, yet at the same time some perverse part of him relished these little moments of connection. As if Jenna could ever be for him.
His “Take your time,” coincided with Rebecca’s “Thank you.”
He watched as Jenna brought the tray of coffee and dessert to the older couple at the table in the far corner. Their greeting was warm, hers was quiet and unassuming like the woman herself. Jenna Hennesey was sweet, shy and the biggest temptation he’d ever fought off in his life.
Jenna laughed at something the older couple, the Jacobsons, said. Her dimples flashed, sparking that wild core of lust inside of him that he tried to keep contained. The Jacobsons laughed back. They’d come to help their daughter through her lying in and had stayed. That was happening more and more frequently, proving the theory of the town fathers that Cheyenne just might become civilized after all.
“Word must be out that Jenna can cook.” Rebecca stepped back into him as a little boy rushed past her on his way to the counter. For one second, her rear pressed against his groin. It would have been nice if his body gave a shit. She blushed and stepped away. He merely nodded in response to her “Excuse me.” She was beautiful and perfect, but she left him cold.
The boy reached the counter and proceeded to hop from one foot to the other as he waited for Jenna to notice him. Little Fred was the spitting image of his pa, and at six looked as though he’d have his father’s size and build. And his lack of patience.
“That’s Cyrus’ boy, isn’t it?” Rebecca asked.
“Yes. Once a week Gertie sends him in for cinnamon buns.”
Speculation was rampant as to what Cyrus did for the woman to get that boon. Gertie could pinch a penny until it screamed.
As soon as Jenna noticed the boy, she dropped everything and walked away from her customers, a smile on her full, soft lips, her dimples coming to life. Clint’s cock came to life right along with them. The woman had a killer smile.
She smoothed the boy’s hair, the gesture so soft and gentle that it made Clint ache. He wanted that softness for himself, and the knowledge that there wasn’t much stopping him from taking it ate at his decency. Jenna was alone in the world. Fair game. And she owed him. All he had to do was say the word, and she’d be his. There was nothing stopping him but his own damned conscience. Son of a bitch, it was a pain having a conscience.
“It’d be nice if she could make a go of the place,” Rebecca murmured, watching them. “My momma said she had a hard time of it after her husband died.”
She’d had a harder time of it when he was alive, but Clint didn’t mention that. That was Jenna’s secret. A tinge of guilt hit his conscience when he caught the admiring glance Rebecca shot him. It said more clearly than words that she considered him husband material. He mentally shook his head. Some women just had no sense.
Jenna had sense though, and incredible strength that allowed her to endure and rebuild when others would have just given up. Problem was, she was too often done in by her big heart. He frowned as she wrapped some cookies in a napkin and slipped them to Fred. There was no way that Gertie had sent more than the cost of the rolls with the kid. Now Jenna was going to be out the cost of the cookies and the cost of the napkin. All because she was a soft touch. So damned soft that he didn’t know how much longer he was going to be able to keep his hands off of her. He might be a son of a bitch, but he hoped to hell he wasn’t that far gone.
* * * * *
Jenna put the tray on the counter, quelled the unease that always nibbled at her calm when she was around McKinnely, put on her most welcoming smile, and turned to face the couple standing just inside the door. They were a beautiful study in contrasts. Big Clint McKinnely with his dark skin and darker eyes, and that generous, purely masculine mouth was standing beside the tall, elegant mayor’s daughter with her fair skin, smattering of freckles, and easy smile. Of the two, Rebecca was the least intimidating so Jenna focused on her.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting but if you’ll follow me, your table is ready.”
Rebecca smiled and placed her hand on Clint’s arm. “Thank you.”
Clint didn’t say anything, just followed in her wake. Jenna knew he was annoyed that she hadn’t addressed him directly, but she couldn’t. The man made her a bundle of nerves, always watching her. If he were a gentler kind of man, she might have hoped for his interest, but Clint was so aggressively masculine that she wondered why lawbreakers even bothered to resist when he went after them. She had only to look at him to know that he would always have his way. In everything.