Dangerous Persuasion -- by Claire Adele,
Out Now from Siren BookStrand
Undercover Ranger, Kurt MacConnor, has vowed to arrest an outlaw leader and settle an old debt. Overwhelmed by guilt, he fears his own bullet may have killed a close friend in a shootout with bank robbers. He's the last man any woman should want to settle down with and marry.
Feisty Cassie Leland is determined to protect her father and their ranch from outlaws. She carries the guilt of her mother's death in a buggy accident. She admits MacConnor is the most handsome man in town, but he's not for her. When MacConnor rescues her from the outlaws, feisty Miss Leland lands in his lap.
They're drawn together, while Kurt endeavors to protect Cassie from the outlaws, and his passion.
The bridge across the San Pedro River loomed a short distance ahead. She turned Duke onto the wooden planks. He balked, scrambled for purchase. His hooves slid and stomped on the hollow-sounding surface. His lurching action made it impossible for her to keep her balance.
She lost her seat and slipped down the side of the smooth leather. She struggled for a firm hold on the saddle, but another violent motion from Duke sent her flying over the side of the bridge.
Cold water slapped her body hard as she landed face down in the river. In shocked dismay, she gasped for air, choked on the water, and stumbled to unsteady feet. In water up to her knees, her arms and hands flailing, she fought for balance against the slow-moving current.
Panic shook her at the thought of the bandits close behind. She couldn’t let those killers catch her. She had to corral Duke and climb back in the saddle—fast. She shivered and staggered toward the bank as cold water sluiced from her bodice and skirt. She wiped water from her face. Her palms smarted from scrapes caused by sand and pebbles where her gloves had torn.
The thunder of horses’ hooves drew nearer. Stumbling, she pivoted on her waterlogged boots and looked back. Stark terror threatened to overwhelm her at the sight of a man riding toward her. He wore a tan colored hat, tan shirt, and blue trousers. She couldn’t tell who he was from this distance. He could be one of the outlaws.
Tall in the saddle, dark and menacing, had he fired his gun at her? She had to get away. A big patch of white covered his horse’s face. Wait. She’d know that horse anywhere. Diablo. Kurt MacConnor’s paint stallion, raced toward her.
She sloshed toward the bank, searching for shelter. The explosion of small arms and the thunder of hooves sounded close. Too late. She turned to face the threat and squared her shoulders to meet her fate.
“Get ready,” he shouted, the urgency in his voice not lost on her.
Heavens, it would have to be Mr. MacConnor. As he barreled toward her, she spread her feet apart and widened her stance, poised to grab hold and swing up behind him.
Diablo plunged into the river. Water sprayed in a fan like sparkling prisms of sunshine all around him.
Mr. MacConnor reached down and caught her beneath her arms. A gasp escaped her as he swept her up onto his lap. Tuckedin front of him with her feet dangling to one side, she wondered why he hadn’t pulled her up behind him. Gunfire blasted ever nearer. Now she understood. She slid her arms around Kurt MacConnor’s ribs and gripped his heated, solid torso like a lifeline.
Diablo never faltered. His strong legs splashed through the slow current as he carried them to shore and galloped toward town. She clung to Mr. MacConnor’s coat and looked back for Duke. “My horse!”
“Got to get you out of here. Horse is on his own.”
Even as apprehension forced her to wonder at Mr. MacConnor’s intentions, she saw that Duke raced after them. Uneasy relief filled her at the sight. “He’s following.” Unfortunately, she saw several of themen only a few hundred feet behind Duke.
He appeared darkly dangerous and handsome as usual, with the wind tugging at the midnight hair beneath his hat brim. She sat on his lap soaked through, drenching him as water streamed from her hair and her favorite riding habit.
She held tight while his mount galloped toward town. Her mind whirled with questions. Why hadn’t she noticed him somewhere on the road? What was he doing out here when his office was in town?
Every now and then, she’d noticed him riding or walking through Leland Valley. As she clung to him now, she contemplated the cold, hard look in his gray eyes. By his chilling demeanor, she figured Kurt MacConnor could be counted on to protect her. Surely, he wasn’t involved with those violent lawbreakers.
He glanced down at her. “You all right?”
The angry sound of his voice gave her pause. “Yes, I’m fine.” She considered his piercing gaze, his eyes more silver than gray. With a deep breath, she inhaled the scent of damp horses and leather, hard-working man and shaving soap. Startled by the sudden desire to rest her face against his neck, her heart thundered in her breast, and she stiffened. Freighter, ladies’ man, and who knew what else? Mr. MacConnor was not the proper sort.
“Keep your head down,” he barked.
Cassie glanced over his shoulder first, then followed his bidding. She’d seen that Duke still ran behind them, but the men following had slowed their pursuit and stopped firing. She hoped they were afraid to ride into town. She couldn’t lose her favorite of the horses she’d been training to those evil men…or have him return home with an empty saddle and alarm her father even more.
She pushed dripping locks of hair out of her face with one hand while she held on to her rescuer with the other. Though the hot sun beat down, the wind streamed through her soggy clothing and chilled her. She shifted on his lap and felt his rigid muscles beneath her. My word.
Suddenly aware of her improper seat, she fought the disturbing sensation between her thighs in her most private parts. She eased back, striving to put some distance between them without letting go and losing her balance. His gaze remained fixed on the road ahead.
After a short while, he glanced over his shoulder. “We’re close enough to town. They won’t follow.” He slowed his horse to a lope.
“Thank you for coming to my rescue. Dam—darn those drifters. If they hadn’t been trespassing on my dad’s land, this wouldn’t have happened.”
When he turned his head, those angry gray eyes locked on hers with a dangerous glitter.