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Noah Cooper is in Kerry Springs to do a job, and as a Texas Ranger, he can't afford distraction. A pity, then, that at the center of the mystery is irresistible Lilly Perry....
Independent Lilly's determined to stay a single mom, so having a gorgeous lodger such as Noah Cooper in her house is hardly ideal. He may be amazing with her kids, but Lilly can't stop thinking about kissing him! Wanting is one thing...but with all the secrets that lie between them, can either of them ever really trust the other?
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Patricia Thayer was born in Muncie, Indiana, the second of eight children. She attended Ball State University before heading to California. A longtime member of RWA, Patricia has authored fifty books. She's been nominated for the Prestige RITA award and winner of the RT Reviewer’s Choice award. She loves traveling with her husband, Steve, calling it research. When she wants some time with her guy, they escape to their mountain cabin and sit on the deck and let the world race by.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Could this be his lucky day?
Noah Cooper drove down Maple Street and saw the Cottage For Rent sign in the front yard of the three-story Victorian house. He couldn't get any closer if he'd planned it. Now all he had to do was make sure he became the new tenant. He parked his truck at the curb under the large tree and climbed out, immediately feeling the Texas heat.
He also felt a stir of excitement as he made his way up the walk to the porch and climbed the crumbling concrete steps to the peeling porch floor and rang the bell.
It was a new job. A new challenge.
No answer. He glanced down and saw the sign on the doorknob that read, Gone Quilting.
Not to be detoured, he followed the wraparound porch to a set of stairs and a pathway that led to a large backyard. Even though the house looked a little shabby there were colorful flowers that filled the beds and the lawn had been recently cut. He guessed it paid to have family in the landscaping business.
In the back of the large lot he spotted a second structure. It was a much smaller scale, but the cottage was a single-story clapboard with decorative shutters. The same gray and burgundy colors that were faded and peeling as the main house. Even though it might be a little feminine for his tastes, the location was ideal. He started for the door, hoping to get a look inside.
Stepping up onto the small porch, he saw the door ajar and heard music. Peering inside, he found a main living area with a brick fireplace. On the other wall was a row of cabinets with compact appliances and a small table with two chairs. The place was furnished, but from what era? That was when he spotted the movement.
A woman was on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor, keeping in time with the country song. Her nice shapely bottom swaying back and forth as her arms fought against the dirty tile, singing along with Carrie underwood. Rich brown hair with golden strands was pulled up in a knot on top of her head, but most had escaped. Her tank top and shorts showed off a trim but curvy body.
His body suddenly came alive. In his profession that didn't happen often, especially in the past year. But now wasn't the time to suddenly get his libido back. He had a job to do.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he called over the music.
Lilly heard her name and looked over her shoulder to find the stranger. She jumped, nearly hitting her head on the table.
She swore softly and the man started toward her. Holding up her hand, she stopped him from coming too close.
"Are you all right?"
With a nod, she managed to get to her feet and shut off the music. Then she turned around to get a look at her intruder.
Big. Tall. He had nearly black hair, thick and wavy, but his eyes were a whiskey-brown. He was dressed in faded jeans and a chambray shirt and boots much like south Texans, but she'd grown suspicious of any strangers.
"Who are you?" she said a little too harshly.
He didn't look to be intimidated at all. "I'm hoping I'll be your new tenant," the man said with a nod of his head. "I'm Noah Cooper."
"Lilly Perry, but I'm not the landlord. It's my mother, Beth Staley, who owns the place and she rents out this cottage." When her mother had decided to rent the cottage, they hadn't talked about who they'd rent to, but surely not a...stranger. "You'll have to come back."
"Do you know when that will be?"
Lilly felt an odd feeling go through her as the man continued to stare at her. As if those deep-set eyes could read her thoughts. "To be honest, Mr. Cooper—"
"It's Coop," he interrupted. "I go by Coop."
"Coop," she repeated. "I believe there's someone else interested in the place."
He nodded toward the door. "The sign is still up in the yard."
He'd got her there. "Well, it's not official. I'm just letting you know so you don't get too excited."
"I guess I need to come back and talk to Mrs. Staley then. When will she be back?"
Lilly shrugged. "It's hard to say, she's with her friends quilting. It could be hours."
He nodded, looking disappointed. "Okay. I guess I'll have to wait."
He turned to leave when she heard the familiar voice. "Mom! Mom! Where are you?"
"I'm in here, Robbie," she called and went to the door.
As fast as lightning, the five-year-old raced through the cottage door. "Colin and Cody are going swimming and they asked me to go, too. Can I, can I? Please."
"Robbie, slow down." She brushed back her son's blond hair that fell over his forehead. He stared back at her with blue eyes so like his father's. It still caused her chest to tighten at the memories of their previous life. A father he'd never know.
"If it's okay with Colin and Cody's mom?"
"Yeah, she said you could probably get some more work done without me underfoot."
She wanted to grin. Her son started talking at a year and hadn't slowed down since. "Maybe I should just put you to work, too."
He wrinkled his freckled nose. "Mom, I'm only five years old."
"Funny, yesterday you were counting the days to your sixth birthday."
"But I'm still a kid. I need to have some fun. It's summer vacation." Her son finally noticed Mr. Cooper. "Hi, who are you? I'm Robbie Perry."
"Robbie, this is Mr. Cooper," she said, keeping a protective hand on her child's shoulders.
"Everyone calls me Coop, Robbie."
Her son glanced at her, then back at the stranger. "What are you doing here with my mom?"
"Robbie." She hoped to send a warning by her tone. She wasn't happy with her son's attitude, even if he had cause to be suspicious.
"It's okay," Coop said. "He's looking out for his mother." He turned his attention to Robbie. "I want to rent this house. But your mother said someone else is interested in it."
Robbie's frown deepened. "There is? Who, Mom?"
Lilly felt her cheeks flame. Now her fib just got bigger. "I'm not sure." She quickly changed the subject. "Why don't you go and get your swim trunks and a towel."
His eyes widened. "I can go?"
Lilly didn't seem to have a choice. With her nod, her son did a fist pump and ran out.
"That's quite a boy you have there."
"Yes, he is. I wish I had his energy."
There was an uncomfortable silence, then Coop spoke. "Well, I should go, too," he said. "Thank you, Mrs. Perry."
"Sorry it didn't work out," she said. "Hope you find a place. Are you working in the area?" Why was she asking? "I mean the ranches might be hiring if you have some experience."
Coop could see Lilly Perry was leery of him. After everything that had happened in the past few months, of course she would be, especially of any strangers. "I have ranching experience, but that's not what I'm doing now. I'll be working on the new houses project on the west side of town."
He saw her surprise. "For AC Construction? You work for Alex Casali?"
"Yes, ma'am. I'm a finish carpenter by trade." That part wasn't a lie. If he pushed her for the cottage again, he might frighten her off. "Well, I guess I better continue my search. Goodbye."
Coop walked out the door, then along the path when the boy ran out of the main house. A bundle of energy, he bounded down the steps at full speed.
"Hey, Robbie," Coop called, wondering if the boy could help him. "Hey, by chance could you tell me where your grandmother has gone?"
He nodded. "Oh, yeah, she's quilting with her friends at the Blind Stitch." He rolled his eyes. "It's boring. They cut up old shirts and things to a make quilts. My sister does it, too."
"That's good because guys have things that are just for guys."
The boy looked thoughtful. "Yeah, but I don't get to do them too much 'cause my dad died."
"I'm sorry to hear that." He didn't know what to say to the kid. A horn honked and let him off the hook. "Have fun swimming."
Coop watched the boy run off to the waiting car. He silently cursed the man for what he'd done to this family. Michael Perry had a pretty wife and a couple of kids. He lost it all so quickly.
It was Coop's job to find out who was behind Perry's death. Was he the informant that never showed that night, or was it all just a coincidence?
Now, he planned on finding the truth, and preventing any other people getting hurt in the process.
Thirty minutes later, Coop found the Blind Stitch on Main Street. Not that it was that hard. The town of Kerry Springs, Texas, had a population of only about ten thousand. But he knew from experience that not all the people were good citizens.
He opened the door and walked inside. Okay, maybe he would be more comfortable going into a seedy bar in El Paso, but he had a job to do.
The store was laid out well. He was met with rows of colorful fabric that crowded the shelves and handmade quilts adorned the high walls. A large cutting table was busy with patrons waiting patiently for their turn. On the other side was a large doorway, opening into another area that had several rows of tables with sewing machines.
Finally a young blonde woman came up to him, her stomach round from the late stage of pregnancy.
"Hello, I'm Jenny Rafferty," she said. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"I was told that I'd find Beth Staley here."
The woman smiled. "Yes, Beth is here." She nodded to a round table in the corner in the front of the windows where half dozen women sat. "'The Quilting Corner' ladies."
He nodded. "Thank you, ma'am." He released a breath. He needed to sell this to make his job easier. Hat in hand, he put on a smile...
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Book Description Harlequin Romance. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0373177577 Ships promptly from Texas. Seller Inventory # Z0373177577ZN
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