No matter how far you run, the past is never far behind.
Paintbrush, Book 2
Gillian Harwood and her daughter are off the grid and on the run. One wrong turn later, they’re lost in a Wyoming backwater—and headed right for a man on horseback. Gillian hits the brakes, but not quick enough.
The horse is fine. The man? Not so much. Sure, he’s pissed as hell, but Gillian’s faced far worse. She can handle one grumpy cowboy with a bum knee. That is, until she uses her skills as a masseuse to make it all better.
Quint Walters knows a wounded animal when he sees one. Sexy, secretive Gillian shows all the signs of a grown-up runaway. He should know, he’s spent his life running from his father’s expectations. Her magic touch leaves him wanting more, and as she waits for car repairs, she seems to fit naturally into small-town life, and his heart. Except she resists all his efforts to get at her core.
One mishap after another makes it seem like Fate is conspiring to throw Gillian in Quint’s path—and into his arms. The heat they generate, though, isn’t enough to drown out the nagging feeling that the past is about to smoke her out of hiding…
Product WarningsSparks that ignite the whole town, dangerous secrets and some much-deserved butt-kicking.
Copyright © 2010 Denise Belinda McDonald
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
“Are we there yet, Mom?”
Gillian Harwood glanced over at her daughter, Heidi, and tried not to lose her temper. The trip from Mobile, Alabama to Billings, Montana was a long, tedious drive. She’d thought Heidi would settle once they crossed the state line, but no, she’d whined every fifteen miles since they left Sheridan, Wyoming, wound tighter and tighter with each mile.
“Soon, hon.” Gillian bit the corner of her lip to keep from smiling. She didn’t think her teenager would appreciate it.
“How much longer?” Heidi, sixteen going on twenty-six, had sulked ever since Gillian announced they were moving across country. Now that they were almost there, she all but bounced in her seat she was so restless.
Gillian flipped down the visor to block the late afternoon sun. “Ten minutes.”
“You said that already. Twice.” The gum in her mouth smacked like crazy.
“Then why do you keep asking?” Gillian smiled when Heidi stuck out her tongue. “You’re such a brat.” She chuckled. “Another half-hour or so. I think.” Gillian ran her hand down her daughter’s head. “Then we don’t have to get in the car again for a month. How does that sound?”
She popped a huge pink bubble. “Super!”
Gillian pulled onto the dirt farm road. “I think we missed a turn somewhere.” Dust flew up around the Volvo.
“Mom, maybe you should slow down. There’s so much crap you can’t see far ahead.”
The road grew bumpier.
“This sucks. Why’d we have to move to Montana?” The teen crossed her arms over her chest and sunk in her seat.
“I’m sorry, hon.” Gillian’s hands tightened on the steering wheel as she gave Heidi a quick look. “You know I didn’t ask for this.”
Heidi’s eyes grew huge and round. “Look out!” She pointed in front of them.
Gillian slashed her gaze forward in time to see a man on a horse smack dab in the middle of the road. “Holy…” She slammed on the brakes with both feet and pulled the wheel as far to the left as possible. The car swerved then fishtailed, followed by a resounding thud before it lurched to a stop.
“Heidi, are you okay?” Gillian asked as her daughter screamed, “You hit him!”
“Are you hurt? Look at me.” She tried to reach for Heidi but the seatbelt was pulled taut and locked. Pain shot across her forehead, but she was more concerned with her daughter.
“God, Mom. I think you killed him.” Heidi was fumbling with her seatbelt just as the airbags deployed and smacked them both in the face. “Ow.”
“You have got to be kidding me.” Gillian pushed the fabric away from her. It seemed like an eternity, but the bags started to deflate. Heidi was again working to unlatch her seatbelt. “Sit still and look at me.” Gillian managed to snag Heidi’s chin. “Your nose.”
The teen swiped at her nose and paled at the sight of blood on her sleeve. “Yick.” She swiped once more. “I’m fine. I think you hit the horse. We need to check on him.” Her seatbelt popped free and she wrenched the door open.
Images of a dead horse and rider flashed before Gillian’s eyes. “Get back here.” She tried to grab her daughter’s arm, but got nothing but the airbag fabric. “Heidi, I don’t want…” She pushed the airbag back as far as possible and wrestled her own seatbelt off. She hustled out of the car but stopped short when she saw the man half under her car.
His strawberry blond head turned toward her. The man all but growled at Gillian, “Grab her.” His gray eyes flared.
“Who? Heidi? She’s okay. Are you hurt?” She drew closer. “This is not happening.” One of his legs was under the front end of her car. “Ohmygawd, I’m so sorry.”
He wrestled with his leg, but stayed pinned. “Grab her, dammit.”
Gillian jumped. “Heidi’s fine.” Why is he worried about my daughter?
“My horse,” he said through clenched teeth. “She’s spooked. Don’t let her get away.”
Gillian glanced over her shoulder. A huge, brown horse with flared nostrils pawed at the ground and stared back at her. “Let me help you up and you get her.” She grabbed at his arm and tugged but he didn’t budge.
He slanted his head and let out an exasperated breath. “I’m stuck under the car.”
Blood rushed to Gillian’s ears and a moan escaped.
He could sue for this. There’d be a court case. A searchable database. The world tilted. Spots danced before her eyes. They’d have to change their names to stay off the radar for good this time. She took a couple of deep, calming breaths.
“I’m fine, just stuck. But, please, grab the horse before you spook her anymore.”
The pounding in her chest eased a little. “He’s fine,” she said to herself.
“I’ve got her.” Heidi walked up, leading the horse by the reins.
Gillian’s gaze volleyed between her new hood ornament and the horse. Maybe if she just backed her car up, he’d pop free. And while they were in the car… If she were quick enough, they could leave and no one would know.
“Can you…” The man grunted, breaking Gillian from her thoughts.
As bad as life could get, she couldn’t just abandon the man. He might be hurt too bad to make it home on his own. “Can I what?”
“My boot’s stuck under the tire. Help me pull.”
Gillian nodded and moved closer. She kicked off her heels—while helpful when standing next to her daughter, not conducive for dislodging a man from the front end of her Volvo. She reached for him, hesitated for a moment then straddled his leg and snagged a handful of denim.
“On three.” He looked at her; his gray gaze sent a shiver down her spine. “One, two—” he gave her a quick wink, “—three.”
The pair yanked once then twice. The third time, she thought it would jerk free, but it wasn’t until the fifth pull that his foot came loose. The momentum unwedged the man from the tire and tossed Gillian right up against him, seating her firmly in his lap. “Oh.”
Dust kicked up all around them.
The man looped his arms around Gillian to keep her from tumbling them both flat. His short, strawberry blond curls bounced around his head. A small smattering of freckles disappeared as red blotches covered his cheeks.
His heart beat a heavy tattoo against her palms. She swallowed hard. “Are you okay?”
The man stared at her for a long moment, his gaze raking across her mouth. “Fine.” He then not-so-gently shoved her up off of him and onto the hard-packed ground. “What the hell is wrong with you?” He righted himself and dusted off his dark jeans.
“Me?” Gillian tried to stand gracefully, not liking his towering height standing over her—and yelling—but with the awkward position he’d left her in, she couldn’t do much more than tilt her head back and stare up at him. “Do you mind?”
She scooped up her shoes and held her hand out for help up. His large, calloused hand circled hers. A little zip of electricity shot up to her elbow, almost making her lose her grip. He pulled her to her feet effortlessly—and immediately released her hand.
He huffed out a breath. “Are you okay?”
She wiped the dirt from her capris. Without her heels, she barely came up to his shoulder and had to crane her neck to look up at him. “Yes, thank you. I—”
“You can’t just come barreling down the road like that. You could have killed someone.”
“I…we’re lost.” She thrust her hands on her hips and stepped closer to him. “How the hell was I supposed to know you’d come out of nowhere?”
“There’s a road right there.” He pointed off to his left.
“And I am supposed to know this how?”
“If you weren’t trying to break the speed of sound.”
“Please. That car is nearly seventeen years old, has over a hundred and forty thousand miles on it.” She waved her hand at the Volvo. When she glanced over her shoulder at it though, something didn’t look…quite right.
It sat lopsided with smoke coming out from under the hood. “My car.” She dropped her shoes and hurried over to the silver sedan. “Aw, man.”
“That’s what happens when you run over a fence post. A post that kept you from running all the way over me, by the way.”