Ranch Hand For Auction: A Western Romance Novella (7 page)

BOOK: Ranch Hand For Auction: A Western Romance Novella
13.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Meg tugged open the dryer, embracing the heat that seeped over her arms as she reached inside. With slow, drawn-out movements, she pulled out the first item. A white T-shirt, made even brighter by the late-morning sun streaming through the window.

While sitting on the floor, she spread the shirt over her crossed legs and smoothed out the creases. A recollection of Jake’s broad chest came to mind as she did, along with the memory of his beating heart beneath her palm. The beat of her own heart increased at the thought, her face and neck warming too.

While matching the sleeves up, she imagined Jake’s strong arms, the way they’d felt around her body while he held her. And those hands, solid hands that had worked a spell over her as they tightened around her hips.

With a deep sigh, she dropped the folded tee into the basket and reached for the next article of clothing. A button-up flannel that she recognized with ease. He’d been wearing it the day he arrived. She brought it to her nose and inhaled a deep breath, imagining the first moment she’d caught scents of his cologne. The uncontrollable things it did to her. Perhaps it was just her imagination, but she swore hints of that scent still clung to the fabric.

Meg began to lay the shirt on her lap, but stopped herself in the action. She shrugged into it instead, enjoying the feel of his arms around her once more. Basking in the warmth it brought. Was she foolish to be longing for him in such a way? What if Jake had duped both Meg and her father? What if he were some… lousy woman-chasing man who’d already moved onto his next catch?

Then she’d fantasize about the idea of him, and look for the man she thought he was until she found him. Her spirits lifted at the thought. She wouldn’t simply give up on love. She wouldn’t stop looking for the right one. The one who offered everything Jake appeared to have.  

The steady clumps of a galloping horse pulled Meg from her musings. She glanced up at the window, tilting her head to better listen, and felt her eyes widen with hope. A foolish hope, maybe, but it was there all the same. She rushed to the sliding glass door, searched the road beyond the backyard and came up empty.

Through the kitchen she went, ready to peek through the window when she realized the sound had stopped. Her shoulders dropped, her hopes dying with the action. She spun to face the front room, releasing a defeated sigh. Wait, the front door was open. Wide open, leaving a clear view through the screen door. A view that revealed a very welcome sight.

Meg’s heart jumped as her eyes settled on him. Tall in height, broad in the shoulders, and more handsome than ever, Jake Billings stood on her porch.

He tipped his hat and gave her a nod. “Howdy.” It was that deep masculinity she had come to love.

Meg made her way to the door, went to open it, and got stuck working the stubborn handle. A rash of warmth spread over her cheeks. “Sorry,” she said, “this stupid thing doesn’t…”

“Doesn’t like you,” Jake said finishing for her. “But I do.” He reached out, twisted the handle, and pulled open the door. His eyes locked on hers. “You’re here.”

Meg nodded, moving out of the way as he stepped inside. He glanced down at the shirt she wore, and Meg folded her arms, embarrassed that he’d caught her in his shirt.

His brows furrowed. “I didn’t think you’d be here.”

She tilted her head, wondering why he would have come if he hadn’t expected her to be there.
His clothes!
That’s what he’d come for.

The heat from her cheeks spread until her whole face felt hot. “You must be here to get your things.” She spun around and headed to the laundry room as she continued. “Your clothes just came out of the dryer and – ”

“That’s not what I’m here for,” he said.

Meg stopped walking, listening as his boots stepped over the tile until he caught up with her. She felt the warmth of him against her back as he stepped up behind her, smelled the spicy scent of his cologne, and watched as his strong, solid hands slid down her forearms. Once they were at her wrists, Jake pulled his arms around her, bringing hers along with them in a warm embrace. His mouth grazed the edge of her earlobe.

“I don’t want to lose you, Meg. I freaked out when you spoke to that woman at the diner, worried that you might find out about my past before I had a chance to talk with you about it. And before I could gather my thoughts your … guy shows up and whisks you away.”

“Jake –”

“Let me finish.”

Oh, she’d let him finish, all right, but already her heart was going wild with hope and elation and every uncontrollable thing she’d tried to prevent since he left.

“I had a bad breakup with the first gal I lost my heart to. She dumped me for a guy who left one broken heart after the next in his wake. I told myself if that’s what women wanted, then that’s what they were going to get.”

He spun her around, set his hands on her shoulders. “I’ve since changed my ways and haven’t looked back. You have to believe me when I say that what I feel for you… it’s something I’ve never felt before. Not even for the girl I first loved. Or thought I loved, anyway. Now you gave Michael a couple years to set things right with you. I’m just asking for a few more days. Give it some time between us, Meg, before you run off and marry him.”

“Marry him?”

“You might end up wanting to marry me instead.”

A mass of flurries took flight in her chest, swirled around her heart in a breathless spin. “I told Michael to go home,” she said.

Jake tilted his head. “When?”

Meg glanced down as his hands cradled hers. “When he came,” she said, looking back to him. “I told him he was too late. That he should go home without me because I was where I belonged.”

A smile spread over his handsome face. “You did? You told him that?”

She nodded, returning his grin with one of her own.

“What about your things? Your apartment? What will you do about all that?”

“My dad spoke to an agent out there. He found someone who’s interested in finishing out the lease. All I need to do is go back and get my stuff.”

Jake’s hands moved to her hips a moment before he rushed in for a kiss that took her breath away. Every ounce of passion she thought she’d felt in that first kiss was back, surging through her body in a heated flow. Meg gave into the moment, more affected by his kiss than before.

Once the pace died down, his kisses reducing to slower, sweeter endeavors, Jake brought his hands to her face. “I know someone who could take you back there to get your things,” he said.

Meg pressed another lingering kiss to his lips. “You do?”

If this was a game of tag and Jake was it, he made sure to correct that by planting an intoxicating kiss just below her earlobe. “Yes,” he murmured against her skin. “He rides horses, is good in the kitchen, and will cost about five-hundred dollars a week.”

Meg giggled as he pressed more kisses to the tender place. She lifted her chin to look at him, warmed by that playful spark in his eyes. “Five-hundred dollars, huh? Well then… sold to the young Ms. Bolton.”



“That’s a damn fine-looking pair of boots, right there, I’ll tell you that much.”

Meg giggled, the action causing her paintbrush to bounce. She pulled it away from the canvas until she got control of herself. “You’re right,” she said, “it is.”

She could hear Jake pacing behind her, nearly see the peacock set of his proud shoulders. “I think this is going to be your next best-seller,” he continued.

She pulled back from the canvas once more, chuckling as she dipped into a blend of burnt umber and titanium white. With renewed focus, she worked at the highlights where the sun reflected off the copper tip of his boot. She’d been admiring the pair for months now, knowing they’d make a fine addition to her country art collection. They’d seen their share of days out on the land, and it showed in each scuff, crease, and crack in the worn leather.

“I’ll be sure to name you as my inspiration when it becomes famous.”

Jake moved in closer, his large hands wrapping around the sides of her waist from behind. His mouth skimmed the ridge of her ear. “That sounds like a deal to me.” He proceeded to slip her hair off her neck at one side before coming in once more. Meg remained very still while his mouth moved over the curve of her neck in a slow, heated tease. His lips parted, and his breath tickled the delicate skin by her earlobe.

Jake made a groaning sound as he sunk his teeth into her flesh the slightest bit, the action pulling a similar sound from Meg’s throat.

“Hey,” she mumbled. “No fair. I’m trying to work here.”

He planted a series of kisses to the area. “I know,” he murmured. “And I’m getting ignored. We’re supposed to go riding, aren’t we?”

“Mmm, hmm.” Only it sounded more like the longing sound of a moan. Meg shrunk her head into her shoulders as his tongue slid along her collarbone. “We’ll go,” she managed. “I’m almost done. Of course with this kind of attention, the wait might be longer than I thought.”

“Fine,” he whispered. “I like watching you work anyway.” He walked over to where Bear rested on his floor mat, his large paws sprawled out before him. “So does Bear,” he added while sinking onto the floor beside him. “In fact, he told me the other day that once you move in, you should do a painting of him.”

Meg angled her brush, adding one, finishing touch to the painting as Jake’s comment registered. “He told you that, huh? You want to be next, Bear?”

The large dog lifted his head off his paws half-an-inch, and rested it back down.

“He also said we should move the wedding up.”

Meg hid a grin. “He did, did he?”

“Yep. Said we should get married in May instead of July.”

“Tell him it rains too much in May,” Meg said with a laugh.

“Oh, you know what?” Jake shot to his feet and headed into the other room. “I forgot about something,” he hollered from the hall, a new energy coating his words. When he came back, he was hiding something against his chest.

“What is it?”

“Did you know that in your basement, in the room where I stayed, there was this big box of photos?”

Her eyes widened. “The ones from my childhood?” Yeah, she knew. Stacks of unflattering photos capturing all of her awkward years. “You didn’t go through those, did you?”

Jake threw her a look. “Only every time I got a chance. I came past one photo in particular though. It stuck out to me, and I thought you might want to take a look at it.” He peeled his palms away from his chest and turned the image so it faced her.

Meg gasped, throwing a hand to her mouth. “That was in there?”

Jake gulped, a hint of emotion flashing in his eyes.

She reached out as he handed over the photo, absorbing the image with eager eyes. It was of her – when she was just fourteen years old – painting the live portrait of her mother. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she realized what this meant.

“I can repaint her now,” she said. “I can’t believe you found this. There are like, thousands of pictures in that thing, I swear.”

He chuckled.

“I knew that I drew her live, but I never considered that my dad might have taken a picture of us while I did it. I just never thought…” She climbed off the barstool and threw her arms around Jake in a tight embrace. With her face nestled against his shoulder, she spoke up once more. “Thank you for this. It means the world to me.” She pulled back, wiping the tears from her face as a thought came to mind. “And you know what?”

Jake kept a firm hold on her, his strong arms wrapped behind her back.

“My dad’s birthday is coming up. I can gift it to him then.” The idea was so perfect Meg wanted to hit fast-forward to the moment itself, knowing the joy it would bring to him. “You don’t think Celia would mind, do you?”

Jake shook his head. “No, she wouldn’t mind that at all.”

She mused on the happiness Celia Winstrom and her father had found since Meg moved back home. She wouldn’t be surprised if the two announced wedding plans of their own soon. Just one more thing to look forward to, she thought.

Jake nuzzled into her neck, began pressing kisses along the tender slope. “I can’t wait until you’re mine, all mine.”

Meg giggled, the sensation raising goosebumps over her skin.

He trailed his way up to her lips, kissed her long and hard before mumbling against them. “I love you, Meg. I love you so much.”

She grinned and kissed him again. “I love you too,” she assured, reflecting on the positive shifts in her life.

Colorado had definitely been a lovely place, one that held a special spot in her past. But now, with her auctioned ranch hand by her side, Meg finally had someone who considered their future. And with Jake Billings in her life, oh, what a future it would be.




Other Acknowledgements: Book mentioned, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking was written by David Bayles and Ted Orland

Dear Reader,


Thank you so much for taking the time to read Ranch Hand for Auction. As a reader myself, I dive into novels seeking an enjoyable getaway from the daily grind – I hope this story provided that for you! If you enjoyed the book, I could really use (and would sincerely appreciate) your rating  and or review on Amazon and or Goodreads.

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Other Published works by Kimberly Krey are as follows:



The Sweet Montana Bride Series



Start reading Reese’s Cowboy Kiss

Texan pageant winner, Reese Taylor, has a former classmate who wants her dead. Now she must leave her friends and family to enter a protection program on Emerson Ranch. A group of good-looking cowboys awaits her, but Reese has her eye on Blake Emerson, the one man too busy with the ranch to give her a chance.


Start reading Jade’s Cowboy Crush

Single mother, Jade Miller, has just witnessed a murder. Now, set to testify against the cold-blooded killer, Jade must be placed under protection. While she is grateful to the kind folks who've offered to take in her and her son, Jade is surprised to find the man escorting them from L.A. to Montana is Gavin Emerson. A womanizing, far-too-attractive-for-his-own-good, rebel cowboy. Jade assures Gavin that she has sworn off men until her son is grown, but all too soon she finds herself fighting back feelings for the man who's agreed to care for them.


Start reading Cassie’s Cowboy Crave

Twenty-four-year-old Cassie Lovell has a great job, good friends, and an apartment with a killer view. That is, until life is turned upside down. Without the chance to say goodbye, Cassie is forced into a witness protection program on Emerson Ranch. Just when she fears life is doomed, Cassie meets Shane Emerson, the stunningly handsome cowboy who'll be posing as her newlywed groom.



Also look for my Second Chances Series, which features couples who get that ever-awaited second chance at romance. 


Second Chances Series:



Start reading Rough Edges

Allie’s ex-husband might have left Montana in search of greener pastures, but his old high school friend, Braden Fox, is still  running the woodshop just miles down the road. The handsome carpenter has been in love with Allie since he can remember. Now, with Terrance out of the picture, will he finally have a chance? Or will bitterness and hurt from years back keep him from welcoming her into his heart?  Find out in this newly released novel, Rough Edges, where Allie and the carpenter try to smooth out the past.


Start reading Mending Hearts

Logan and Candice have struggled over the years. With hardships ranging from their inability to conceive, to loved ones lost, the two have finally called it quits. Almost.
Logan Emerson isn’t ready to let go just yet, and he'll do what it takes to show Candice that it's worth the fight. Can this married couple rekindle their love and mend their broken hearts?


Bree has had her fair share of difficulties. The loss of her parents, a not-so-recent divorce, and the disruption of her life caused by a dangerous stalker who’s serving jail time. When the determined criminal finishes his sentence, Bree is sent into hiding. And while she’s doing all she can to steer clear of this frightening piece of her past, a new man enters the scene, determined to be part of her future.




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BOOK: Ranch Hand For Auction: A Western Romance Novella
13.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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