Authors: Anne Marie Novark
Tags: #Diamondback Ranch#2
The Cowboy's Surrender
Anne Marie Novark
Book Two: The Diamondback Ranch Series
Copper River Oil Company is drilling for oil on the Diamondback Ranch. Dallas McCade can't do a thing to stop them, because he doesn't own the mineral rights. To add insult to injury, they've sent a woman to oversee the operation. Dallas has good reason to distrust women. As soon as he sets eyes on Gillian Bankston, he loses his temper . . . and his control. That makes him spitting mad and frustrated as hell.
Gillian has never met a man quite like Dallas. He's as prickly as a cactus, but his kisses are hot enough to ignite a West Texas wildfire. Gillian's been burned before and wants nothing to do with love or lust. Battle lines are drawn and it's war between the sexes. Will they surrender to the powerful attraction neither can deny? Who will be the first to wave the white flag?
The Cowboy's Surrender
Copyright © 2010 by Anne Marie Novark
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author or publisher except for the use of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, businesses, characters and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events or locales is purely coincidental.
In loving memory to my Maternal Grandparents,
Who taught me to Love the Land.
Dallas McCade clenched his jaw in frustration and gripped the binoculars in a stranglehold, squeezing the plastic casing so tightly the lenses creaked from the pressure. He adjusted the focus once again. Anger and rage burned in his gut, just as it did every time he looked down on the scene below.
They had been on his land for eight months.
Eight excruciating tortuous months.
Copper River Oil Company had cut a road through his property, built temporary buildings, set up trailers for the crew, and hauled in tons of heavy equipment. They were drilling for oil on the Diamondback Ranch, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.
Lowering the binoculars, Dallas pushed the brim of his black Stetson up over his forehead and reached in his pocket. He shook his head in disgust as he popped a white tablet into his mouth. The sweet bitterness of the antacid washed over his taste buds, soothing its way to his stomach. He hated taking the tablets. The relief they provided was temporary at best. The burning sensation in his belly would last as long as Copper River stayed on his land.
Only four more months and the lease agreement would run out.
Unless they struck oil
. Then they would be on his land forever, or almost forever. If they struck oil, he'd have to look at the black pump-jacks for the rest of his damned life.
He didn't want them on his ranch. He hadn't asked them to come. He would
have had them there in the first place. But he didn't own the mineral rights on that section of land.
They belonged to Jessie, his new sister-in-law. Dallas knew Jessie thought she'd had to lease the rights or lose her business. He knew she believed it had been her last resort. But deep down in his heart, he couldn't forgive her. Even when she'd married his brother Cameron, and the mineral rights were put in a trust for their future children, Dallas still couldn't forgive. He understood the rights would be back in the McCades' possession in the long run. But that was in the future. This was now.
Dallas hated to see his land exploited. Hated the helplessness of watching strangers working, sleeping, tearing up the land on the Diamondback Ranch. It was enough to make a saint swear.
Four more months. He didn't know how he would stand it.
Ten days ago, Dallas thought his luck had changed. The company rep, the man in charge of the whole operation, had been put out of commission due to a heart attack. Dallas had hoped Copper River Oil would pack up everything and move on. But that hadn't happened.
He found out they were sending a new company representative, a woman from California, to take the man's place. A
for Christ's sake. That just added insult to injury. If there was any justice in the world, they wouldn't strike oil; then, he and his ranch would be left in peace.
Taking one last look at the hated drilling site, Dallas turned on his heel and made his way to his diesel pickup. He had some errands to do in town.
Most of his hired hands were busy putting up new fencing on the southern border of the ranch. Seemed like they were always working on fences. It wasn't easy keeping sixty-four hundred acres properly fenced.
A new shipment of barbwire and steel posts was waiting at the lumberyard in town. Dallas had elected himself to haul the load to the ranch.
Salt Fork, Texas was a quiet little town, situated between Lubbock and Abilene. There wasn't much in Salt Fork. A person could blink an eye and miss it, if he wasn't careful. Dallas loved the small town almost as much as he loved the ranch.
The summer morning was bright and fresh as he turned onto the two-lane highway. The purple haze on the horizon promised another scorcher of a day. Thrusting the aggravation of the drilling site from his mind, Dallas sat back and enjoyed the twelve-mile ride.
To the east, the Double Mountains rose nobly in the distance, with the church steeple and green water tower of Salt Fork standing in the foreground. It was a sight Dallas never tired of seeing.
Switching on the radio, the soft twang of a familiar country-western tune filled the cab of the truck. Dallas hummed a few bars as the miles melted away.
His humming ceased abruptly when he spotted a woman trying to change a flat tire up ahead, on the opposite side of the road. Dallas frowned and shook his head as he slowed the pickup. Just what he needed, a lady in distress. He wasn't too fond of ladies. Oh, he enjoyed a soft, pretty woman in his bed as well as the next guy. He just didn't trust females as far as he could spit.
The woman glanced up as he passed, then quickly ducked her head, resuming her attempts with the jack. Dallas had a glimpse of dark eyes, smooth creamy skin, and hair the color of midnight.
Hell, he couldn't leave her. He'd have to help her out. Punching the brake, he deftly maneuvered the big truck, made a U-turn and pulled behind the small compact car. His frown deepened when he saw the California license plates.
Killing the motor, he cursed long and hard. It was the damned company rep, no doubt on her way to the drilling site. He had a good mind to leave her to her fate.
He sat in the truck and watched as she pumped the jack up and down, pointedly ignoring his presence. Her wrists looked fragile as she worked the jack.
looked fragile . . . and delicate, too. Slight enough to blow away in a breeze.
The woman continued to ignore him. Giving the jack one last push, she straightened, wiped her hands together, then stood staring at the uplifted tire. She squared her shoulders and walked purposefully to the trunk of her car.
When she bent over to unfasten the bolt securing the spare tire, her tight khaki slacks stretched across her bottom, hugging her figure, teasing Dallas's imagination. She might be slight, but she had a body and curves a man dreamed about.
Wrestling the tire to the edge of the trunk, she stopped to rest for a moment. Breathing heavily, she struggled to lift the tire up and out, but failed. The tire dropped back in the trunk. She tried to move it again, lugging it to the edge one more time. The muscles in her arms strained with the weight as the tire balanced precariously on the rim.
Well hell. Enough was enough. Dallas grudgingly admired her determination. She was a gutsy little thing; he had to give her credit for that. He also had to remind himself he didn't like gutsy women.
She could ignore him all she wanted, but he had things to do, places to go. She would never get that blasted tire changed by herself. He was going to help her whether she wanted help or not.
The temperature was a hundred degrees and rising. Didn't the woman realize she could faint from heat exhaustion if she wasn't careful? Small patches of sweat already stained her white t-shirt, showing traces of pink through the translucent material. Dallas tried to ignore the outline of her bra and the glistening sheen of dampness on her arms.
sight was teasing more than his imagination.
Climbing out of his pickup, he strode purposefully toward the woman. Gravel crunched beneath his boots. She stiffened, let go of the tire and whirled to face him, her eyes widening slightly. Was that fear he detected in those velvety depths? He must be mistaken, because the impression vanished quickly when she wiped her hands on the back of her pants and stepped forward to greet him.
"Hi, there. I could really use some help here. For a minute, I thought you were just going to sit there and watch the show." She smiled and it nearly pole-axed him.
The woman offered her hand to shake, stepping even closer. "I'm Gillian Bankston," she said, her voice low and husky. It washed over Dallas, making him think indecent and improbable thoughts about her. His imagination was definitely getting out of control.
He stared at the small hand extended toward him. He didn't like shaking hands with women. And he didn't want to shake this woman's hand in particular. Although he wouldn't mind touching her . . .
Damn his imagination anyway.
Stick to the facts, McCade. She was the new company rep. She was replacing the man at the drilling site, which meant Copper River would continue the exploration, which meant she was the enemy. Best to keep that in mind at all times.
He ignored the hand, brushed past her, and hauled the spare tire from the trunk. "You need more help than you think, lady. This spare is flat."
Gillian dropped her hand to her side and squatted near the tire to examine it. "That's impossible. I had it checked before I left home."
Dallas lifted the tire and let it drop. Instead of bouncing, it sank in on itself with a thud.
"Have to go to town and get it fixed," he said. Picking up the tire, he started for his truck. He dumped it in the bed of the pickup, then glanced back at the woman. She stood where he'd left her, staring at him, gnawing her bottom lip. Her lush bottom lip. A lip made for kissing, nibbling. Damn!
He jerked open the truck door. "You can wait here, or you can come along for the ride." Dallas grimaced. Why had he said such a fool thing? He didn't want her company. He didn't want to be anywhere near her.
He was disgusted with his body's reaction to her. He didn't know this woman, didn't
to know her, yet he was fully and painfully aroused. And it was her fault.
Climbing in the truck, he waited. The woman seemed undecided. He leaned out the window. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Probably an hour or so." He started the engine. Maybe she wouldn't take him up on his invitation.
"Wait!" The woman ran to her car. She grabbed her purse, locked the door, then headed toward the pickup.
She was out of breath when she jumped in and buckled up. "I'll go, if you don't mind."
Dallas gripped the steering wheel, concentrating on squelching his body's unwelcome response to her low, seductive voice. He narrowed his eyes as he raked her with a scorching glance. "Lady, I don't give a rat's ass what you do."
Dallas heard her quick intake of breath. He knew he'd insulted her, but didn't care. This woman spelled trouble with a capital T. Not only did she threaten his ranch, she posed a threat to him personally. He felt it in his gut, not to mention another part of his body. He had promised himself never to get involved with a woman on a personal level again. He'd been there, done that, and had the scars to prove it.