High Country Christmas (The Brands of Montana)

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9780373659302: High Country Christmas (The Brands of Montana)
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This cowboy's in a family way! 

It was supposed to be a harmless summer fling. Until a night of passion leaves ranching student London Davenport with an unexpected preholiday gift. And although wedlock wasn't in Tyler Brand's immediate plans, the footloose rancher is ready to step up and do the honorable thing by the stunning woman he secretly adores. The only obstacle is the stubborn mother-to-be. 

London can't let anything stop her from returning to Virginia at the end of the semester...not even the irresistible father of her unborn child. How can she tell Tyler the truth about why she can never live happily-ever-after on his cattle ranch? But London's about to find out how far one determined cowboy will go to fight for her and the future of their family.

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About the Author:

Joanna Sims is proud to pen contemporary romance for Harlequin Special Edition. Joanna's series, The Brands of Montana, feature hardworking characters with hometown values. You are cordially invited to join the Brands of Montana as they wrangle their own happily-ever-afters. And, as always, Joanna welcomes you to visit her at her website: www.joannasimsromance.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

At the front door of Tyler Brand's cabin, London Davenport paused to slip off her cowboy boots and tuck them under her arm. There weren't any lights on at the main house, just as there weren't any lights on in the cabin. It was summertime, and life on the Brand family's Montana cattle ranch typically started before sunrise; it appeared that she was the only one foolish enough to be sneaking around after midnight. This is crazy.

That was the loudest thought in her mind when she reached for the doorknob and slowly opened the door. The large open living space of Tyler's rustic log cabin was dimly lit by a night-light in the hallway that led to the small cluster of secondary bedrooms. Tyler's room, the master bedroom, was on the other side of the cabin. And that's where she was heading.

As quietly as she could, she made her way to Tyler's bedroom. Tyler's sister was getting married, and the best man, Logan Wolf, a police officer from San Diego, was bunking in the cabin. The last thing she wanted was to get caught sneaking into Tyler's bedroom like a horny teenage girl. When she reached her destination, she stood in the dark, debating whether or not to even try the door. If it was locked, she would be able to chicken out gracefully and no one would be the wiser. But she did try the door, and the door was unlocked.

Instead of turning around as she knew she should, London slipped into Tyler's bedroom and shut the door behind her. She leaned back against the door, her hands behind her body and her fingers still on the cool doorknob. Tyler was sound asleep on his back, covers kicked off his body, pillows on the floor. His Stetson hung on one of the short bedposts at the foot of the queen-size bed.

"Tyler... " She whispered his name from her spot at the door.

He didn't budge. "Tyler..."

When he still didn't budge, London moved away from the door, toward the bed, and promptly tripped over his boots.

"Ow!" She had to drop her boots on the floor in order to catch herself on the edge of the bed. "Darn it!"

She had managed to stub her toe in the process. It wasn't how she had played this out in her mind, but her exclamation of pain had done the job—he was awake now. Tyler rolled out of bed as if he was under attack, grabbed something off the nightstand and switched on the light.

"Jesus, London..." Tyler lowered the revolver he had aimed at her. "I could've shot you!"

London stopped rubbing her toe and stood upright. "Well, why'd you leave your stupid boots in front of the door for me to trip over?"

"I didn't know you were coming, now did I?"

"You invited me!"

"I've invited you a hundred different times, in a hundred different ways, and you've never taken me up on it before."

He had a point. She was embarrassed about her klutzy tumble over his boots and she was taking it out on him. This wasn't the sexy scene she had imagined when she first decided to surprise him with a midnight rendezvous.

"Why don't you put your gun away, cowboy?" She nodded toward the revolver aimed down at the ground. "It's starting to feel more like a hostage crisis and less like a seduction."

When he heard the word seduction, Tyler couldn't get the gun out of his hand fast enough. He set the gun back in the nightstand drawer and pulled on a pair of jeans. He felt at a disadvantage standing in front of London in his boxers. He zipped up the fly but didn't bother with the top button or a shirt. He didn't want to risk the chance of London changing her mind while he was stumbling around trying to pull himself together.

"I didn't exactly think this through..." she said, watching him zip up his jeans.

"I'm glad you didn't." Tyler walked over to her. "You wouldn't be here if you had."

London was finally, unbelievably, in his bedroom. Over the years, his father had provided internships to Montana State University students who were majoring in agriculture or animal sciences. Most had been men, some had been women, but none of them had been like beautiful London Davenport. He had thought about this moment ever since he had first met her. But after she had rebuffed his every attempt to get to know her better, he hadn't really believed that she would ever seek him out. And yet here she was—a Nordic beauty, six feet tall in her bare feet, with thick blond hair that fell all the way to her waist. Her oval face with its prominent cheekbones was scrubbed clean with soap and water. He'd never seen her wear anything more than sunscreen on that beautiful face of hers; makeup couldn't enhance what nature had already blessed her with, anyway. She wasn't girlie or prissy or squeamish; she was athletic and she worked the ranch as though she'd been born to it. And more often than not, she was just as covered in mud and manure as the men. He admired that about her.

"I know this is going to sound like a horrible cliche...but I think this was probably a mistake," she said. "I should go."

And there she was again, right on schedule—the London he recognized all too well. That was her MO: take one small step toward him and ten giant steps away.

Tyler didn't respond to her words with words; instead, he responded with a kiss.

He didn't hesitate or think it over. If he wanted her to stay—and he wanted her to stay—he had to bypass that overly analytical brain of hers and go directly to her heart. Her tongue tasted minty as he deepened the kiss. He wanted to kiss her objections away, kiss her doubts away. He had believed for a long time that if she would only let down her guard a little, she would see that they could be amazing together.

Once he started to kiss her, London stopped thinking about leaving and started to enjoy the feeling of being in Tyler's arms. She liked the way he tasted; she liked the way he smelled. She loved the feel of his strong callused hands on her flesh; she loved the feel of his firm, insistent lips as he kissed her as if he was hungry for her. Before today, Tyler had never kissed her. He had tried every tactic possible to get her to date him: joking, flirting and asking her out for dates. But today, in the barn, he'd used a different tactic entirely. During one of her usual explanations about why she couldn't get involved with him, Tyler had grabbed her and kissed her. Mid-sentence, in the middle of the barn where anyone could see, he'd kissed her. And it wasn't just a little peck. It was a long, deep kiss that had made her a little weak at the knees. That had never happened to her before.

It was, by far, the sexiest kiss of her life. A kiss that had managed to unravel her carefully constructed determination not to get involved while she was in Montana. She only had one more semester to go, and then she was heading back to Virginia. It made absolutely no sense to get into a relationship that was destined to end. Especially with a cowboy like Tyler, who planned on spending the rest of his life ranching in Montana.

But then he had kissed her. And that kiss sparked a flame of passion in her that she couldn't seem to extinguish. She had tried for so long to suppress her sexual needs in order to focus entirely on her education that his kiss had opened the floodgate. Years of desire bubbled up to the surface and left her feeling so sexually frustrated by the end of the day that she wanted to scream from it. She'd tried to take care of it herself in shower; she had tried to ignore it until she fell asleep. But the frustration wouldn't stop. It just kept building and building and building until she realized that she needed Tyler. He had started this fire; he damn well needed to help her put it out.

Tyler didn't stop kissing London until he heard her make a half pleasurable, half frustrated sound. When he heard that sound and felt her sway toward his body, he suspected that he had changed her mind about leaving.

"I'm glad you're here," he said to her quietly.

"I..." She wasn't sure she could say the same. Was she glad that she was here? "...like the way you kiss me."

He smiled at her with his eyes and kissed her again. When his arms encircled her body, she stepped closer to him and returned Tyler's embrace. She closed her eyes, closed out any doubting thoughts, and allowed herself to get lost in the moment. Tyler's lips moved to her neck to drop warm kisses from her earlobe down to her shoulder. He lifted his head and slid his hands down her arms; there was a question mark in his cornflower-blue eyes.

She looked at him directly, with a gaze that never wavered, and lifted her tank top over her head. She dropped it on the floor behind her. Tyler watched her with unabashed appreciation as she unhooked the front clasp of her bra. She slowly slid the straps of her bra off her shoulders and dropped it on the floor next to her tank top. She had wondered if it would be uncomfortable to be undressed in front of Tyler, but it felt completely natural to her. She wasn't embarrassed. She wasn't shy. In fact, the predatory glint in his eyes while he openly admired her naked breasts made her feel sexy and feminine—two feelings she didn't often experience.

She had answered his question with her actions. He needed to know if she had come for more than his kisses, and when she took off her top and her bra, it was all the green light he required. He caught her eye, smiled a lover's smile and reached out to trace the curve of her breasts with his fingertips. London had to close her eyes; it had been such a long time since she had allowed anyone to touch her like this. She wanted to savor every wonderful sensation.

"You are incredibly beautiful, London." Tyler bent his head down to kiss her breast.

The moment she felt his warm mouth on her breast, a thought loop started to play again and again in her mind.

I need to feel you inside me. I need to feel you inside me. I need to feel you inside me.

"I need to feel you inside me." London held on to his shoulders and whispered the words aloud.

Tyler lifted his head to study her face, his eyes darkened with desire, and then he easily lifted her into his arms to move her to his bed. Once there, London unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans. She lifted her hips and he helped her disrobe. Now all of her clothes were on the bedroom floor and she was completely naked on his bed.

Tyler couldn't help it; a few seconds passed by and all he could do was stand next to the bed and admire London. She was a golden goddess with long, muscular legs and shapely hips. He had imagined her here, in his bed, many times since they had first met over a year ago.

London sat up directly in front of him, her legs tucked to the side. She hooked her finger on his belt loop and pulled him closer to the bed. Tyler threaded his fingers in her silky hair while he watched her slowly unzip his pants. He stepped back away from the bed; she wanted him to strip off his clothes and he was willing to oblige her.

London silently prayed that God had built Tyler proportionate to his six-four frame. She wasn't a petite woman. Men with smaller equipment had never been able to satisfy her. But the minute he was standing naked in front of her, she stopped worrying. Nature had been very kind to Tyler Brand. There wasn't an ounce of fat on his body; he was a made-in-America cowboy—masculine, beautifully built. With a handsome face to boot.

Tyler grabbed a condom from the nightstand drawer, flipped off the light and joined her in bed. He was surprised that she didn't want a lot of foreplay, but all he cared about was making sure that he pleased her. He gently laid his body on top of hers, chest to breast, and settled between her thighs. When London felt Tyler begin to join their bodies together, she lifted her hips and tried to take more of him.

She stared intensely into his eyes. "I need to feel you inside me."

"I'm trying to be careful," Tyler said tightly.

He had discovered that many women were too shallow to take all of him. Over the years, he'd learned to be cautious in the beginning to make sure he didn't hurt the woman he was with.

"Tyler. I won't break...you don't have to hold back with me."

With a low groan, Tyler sank the full length of his long shaft into her body. Seated completely within her, Tyler had to pause to collect himself. It had never felt like this before. He had never been with a woman who had taken him so easily, so completely. She was hot and tight; she was a perfect fit. It was going to take every ounce of his willpower to keep his body under control; he needed to focus entirely on pleasuring her.

London closed her eyes as Tyler slid himself inside her. The feel of his hard shaft was a relief. She locked her legs tightly around Tyler's hips to keep him deep within her and quietly repeated over and over again,

"Oh, thank God, oh, thank God."

He started to move inside her, slowly at first, but Tyler soon discovered that London knew her own mind, in and out of bed. She wanted him to love her harder, faster, deeper. She was wild with frustration, as if she had an itch that hadn't been scratched in years. He had never tried so hard to satisfy a woman. He had never tried so hard to stop himself from climaxing.

Tyler stopped moving. "Wait...wait.I need a minute."

London recognized that expression on his face all too well; she stopped moving to give him a chance to get his body under control. But it was too late.

"Damn it!" Tyler cursed as he pulled back one last time, plunged deep inside her and climaxed.

"I'm sorry." Tyler dropped his head, closed his eyes and locked his arms so he kept his weight off her.

"Damn it."

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9780263251920: High Country Christmas

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