There are some things money can’t buy…
It was no better than kidnapping! Besides, women came with too many issues. Dubious, T.J. Blake refuses the request to retrieve the daughter of a wealthy widow. But when the tune of five thousand dollars dances in his ears, he quickly changes his mind. Surely this woman’s daughter can't be as bad as her snobbish mother. And if she was, he’d have the rope ready.
There’s only one condition to retrieving the stubborn beauty in question—Sarah is to be delivered untouched. After a lifetime of dealing with outlaws of the worst kind, surely Blake can escort one woman across the country without giving into temptation. He has five thousand reasons to ensure it will be an easy task. But Blake doesn’t bank on the value of his heart being worth far more than Sarah’s Bounty...
All that Sarah knows changes the night she is grabbed. Filled with questions, anger and hurt at discovering her whole life has been a lie, Sarah resolves to find out why her natural mother would abandon her to be raised in a saloon while she lives a life of luxury.
To gain the answers she seeks, she calls a truce with her kidnapper, agreeing to follow his rules. To ward off suspicion, they pretend to be man and wife. But how far will the role go? Why couldn’t her captor have been hideous? Blake causes stirrings in Sarah she’s never felt before and soon she has a request of her own. Only when she’s denied the second kiss she’s so curious about does she face the truth—is the promised payout worth more to Blake than her love?
Heat Level: Sweet
Copyright © 2012 Terri Crews
In a matter of a few minutes, she’d come to and the kicking and screaming would commence. Far be it for a woman to be reasonable.
Blake slung her over his horse and mounted behind her, gathering her in his arms then slowly creeping out of town through back alleys. When he was far enough away, he kicked the horse into a full gallop.
With her so amiable, Blake made good time. Only when he was far enough no one could hear her screams did he slow the horse. He expected her to come to anytime, screaming and scratching.
Several minutes ticked by, but she remained lifeless. Blake began to worry. He drew his horse to a halt and leaned down, placing his ear to her chest and listening to her heart. He found a steady, quick beat.
Suddenly her hands shot up, burying like claw daggers in his hair.
“Damnation, woman!” Blake never knew he was so tender-headed until now. “Let go!”
“I’m going to make you sorry you ever laid eyes me!”
So she wasn’t the screaming type after all, he thought. He gritted his teeth with the pain. This was a new experience. He found it hard to keep his wits and control of his horse.
“Let go, Sarah!”
The horse paced nervously under them.
“You’re going to cause us to be thrown!”
Blake tried his best to steady the horse while attempting to pry her hands free before she removed his scalp. But his one hand was no match for the both of hers. Her fingers buried deep and held tight.
“Let go!” he ordered again.
“Not on your life, mister!”
Then she managed to bite the one hand that clutched the reins.
With this new onset of pain, Blake lost his grasp. The nervous horse paced more rapidly and with no tension on the reins, reared. They both landed with a jarring thud on the ground, Blake breaking her fall as the wind was knocked from him.
The impact momentarily loosened his hold on her and it took all of a breath for her to realize her freedom. Sarah claimed her chance, scrambling to her feet.
“Ouch, hellfire!” he bellowed as she used his leg for leverage. Blake scrambled to his feet as she bolted.
Sarah could hear him just steps behind her. She attempted to gather her long skirts but they still got in the way, the loose fabric tripping her.
Blake watched her go down and sighed with relief. It gave him the break that he needed. Before she could find her feet, he was upon her, his weight pinning her to the ground.
Beneath him, she struggled to move. He knew how heavy he must be. Wrapping both his arms around her middle, he rolled on his back and took her with him.
Minutes they both lay there. Her breathing labored as hard as his. As time passed, her closeness began to wreak havoc with his senses. Her scent and soft, womanly feel screamed danger to a lonely man. Blake loosened his arms and just as he did, he realized his mistake. She struggled and kicked wildly again, this time making contact with his groin. He choked back a well-earned oath.
He rolled again and pinned her beneath him. The force of his weight stopped her in her tracks and she whimpered.
“Woman, you are trying my patience.”
She sniveled again.
Blake refused to feel sorry for her. His mind over matter had returned with full force. He closed his eyes and took several breaths to keep from smothering her for real.
“Please, I can’t breathe,” she whimpered.
“I’ll get off you only if you promise to behave.”
“Okay,” she managed.
Slowly he rolled again. “Better?”
“Yes.” She nodded in the dark.
“Are you hurt anywhere?” He couldn’t afford to arrive with damaged goods.
“Just my pride.” Defeat laced her voice.
Blake smiled. The girl had wit even with her predicament.
“Mine has seen better days. I won’t say anything if you don’t,” he returned.
In his mind he could see the headline—Well-known Bounty Hunter Takes Whipping from Hundred-pound Girl! He wanted to laugh, but smiled despite the situation.
“Well, what’s going to happen now?” she asked.
“I think what needs to happen now is for me to get a rope—for your safety and mine.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“I would,” he said.
His main motive why reminded him as he moved. He groaned inwardly with each step.
After several minutes and more struggles, Sarah found herself tied to one end of a rope that looped around her waist. And guess where the other end was tied?
“There, that should do it.” Blake adjusted his end.
“This is ridiculous,” she complained.
“This is necessary. Now Sarah, if you will.”
He pulled on the rope slightly.
She rooted herself where she stood.
“We need to ride and be far away from here by sunup. We got a long way to travel.”
Blake walked toward his horse. The rope tightened with dead weight. She could at least move with him. He reached and gave it a forceful yank due to her reluctance.
Sarah braced herself against the force. It was her mistake—he only pulled it harder.
“Mister, will you please tell me why you’ve kidnapped me?”
She stumbled forward, huffing in frustration.
“Well, for starters my name is Blake, J.T. Blake.”
Sarah gasped at the name and tugged at the rope in determination not to be treated this way. The notorious bounty hunter, J.T. Blake! It’s hopeless, she thought. J.T. Blake was one of the best.
“Well, Mr. Blake, I insist you tell me who has hired you to kidnap me and why!”
“You can call me Blake, no mister necessary, being how we’re going to be acquainted many days and nights, as I warned you earlier when you got the notion to try to run off.” He pulled on the rope again as a reminder. “I was hired to bring you to someone,” he explained. “And I aim to.”
“Who?” she asked through clenched teeth.
She wasn’t an animal. She jerked the rope toward her to let him know how it felt.
“I’m getting there.” He hauled her toward him again. “Your mother.”
With that, he turned toward the horse.
“My mother? Why on earth would Ruby hire someone to kidnap me?” she whispered.
Blake waited on her to take the hint to climb on the horse, but she just stood there gawking. He sighed and circled her waist with his hands.
“Not Ruby. Your rightful mother.”
Finding she weighed as much as a child, he placed her on the horse.
For once, Sarah was rendered silent.
Ruby wasn’t her mother?
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