A cowboy, money, a trust, the girl he wants and the need to find trust. You’ll find it all in this story. I love a good Ashlynn Monroe story and this one was great. The moment I started it, I breezed right through it. The writing kept me in my seat, and I stayed up far past my bedtime to finish. I mean, with a cowboy like Hudson, how do you not want to keep reading? I liked Lexi and Hudson because they’re real. I mean it. They felt real and reading this was like being a part of their world. Lexi knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it. She’s also not afraid to say no. She’s a real problem (in a good way) for Hudson and the chemistry was fantastic. Hudson, for all his money and status, is still a cowboy and has the ability to goof up. I liked his determination not only to figure out where the money is going and to find the culprit, but to win over Lexi. If you’re looking for a wonderful holiday romance, then this might be the one for you. It hit all the right notes for me.
Lexi Smithe has always kept her feet planted firmly on the ground. As an administrator for Reining for Respect, she’s devastated when they lose the funding for the program that provides equestrian sports to foster kids. She knows all too well how this program changes lives. And the worst part is the Justice family didn’t even give them an explanation. What she never imagined, was a news story would bring her face-to-face with the most eligible bachelor in Texas before she’s even had her morning coffee.
Hudson Justice doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the charities supported by his family. He’s too busy running Lucky Star, his family’s 520,000 acre ranch. His brothers both have a hand in company affairs, but when he discovers someone in his inner circle has been funneling funds away from the charitable trust, he’s left wondering who’s the thief. When he tries to do a little PR repair, he meets Lexi Smithe. She’s a spitfire he’d sure as hell like to take for a ride, in more ways than one. But he put his big ol’ size 14 in his mouth. He wants to win her over, but she’s not the kind of girl that money can impress.
Rain fell in sheets from the heavens and Lexi shrieked as the cold hit her. She kept the horse under control.
Quick Silver wasn’t so obedient. As the cold hit them, his horse balked on the trail, and Hud had to hang on for dear life to avoid being thrown as the horse stopped. Skittishly, Quick Silver pranced in a circle.
“Woah! You’re okay. Woah!” Hud tried to calm the stallion.
Thunder crashed and lightning lit up the valley. Quick Silver gave a screaming neigh of terror. Hud patted the animal’s neck. “You’re okay, boy. It’s okay, Quick Silver.”
After a few minutes Quick Silver acclimated to the cold and noise. Hud managed to get him cantering down the trail.
He was never as relieved in his life as he was the moment he saw Lexi and Sugar Plum up ahead on the trail. Fifteen minutes later they arrived at the cabin. Hud dismounted and led Quick Silver toward the fenced-in lean-to.
Lexi followed him with Sugar Plum.
The rain still came down hard. When they were under the shelter Hud started removing the saddles. His fingers were freezing. Lexi helped. He put the saddles in a dry corner of the structure.
“Are they going to be okay out here?” Lexi asked, looking dubiously at his lean-to.
“Yeah.” Hud shrugged. “Bet they don’t even stay under the roof.”
He was right. As soon as Sugar Plum was completely free of her harness and saddle she took off back into the storm. Quick Silver was a little less spirited and he hung back under the shelter of the roof. Hud went over to his saddle and retrieved a parcel. He was pleased to see the waterproof leather had kept lunch dry.
“She looks like she loves the rain,” Lexi said, watching Sugar Plum.
“She’s a wild thing. No wonder the two of you got along.” Hud wasn’t looking at the horse. Lexi’s long hair was still in the braid, but a few tendrils curled impishly around her heart-shaped face. Her clothing was what really held his attention. The fabric clung to her curves leaving little to his imagination. “We should go inside and start a fire,” Hud said. His tone was strained as he realized just how much he wanted to strip her naked and explore her body. He didn’t want to scare her off or move too quickly, but he wanted her.
Hud grabbed one of the horse blankets and used it to shield them as they ran across the yard to the cabin. He never locked the place, there was nothing to steal and no access unless you came through the gate to the ranch. They rushed inside, dripping all over the wooden plank floor.
“There’re towels in the drawer of the cabin with the washbasin. They’re old and threadbare, but they’ll do the job.” He shook from the cold as he tossed a couple logs into the fireplace. He used a little old newspaper and a modern lighter to get the blaze burning.
He went around turning on a couple of the lanterns since it was dim inside due to the storm outside.
“I’m freezing.” Lexi shivered.
“Go stand by the fire. I’ll get you something to wear. He was glad he always kept emergency items in the cabin.” Finding a t-shirt in the dresser, he turned and handed it to Lexi. “Lay your clothing out by the fire. Hopefully, it’ll dry enough to wear by the time the rain ends. I promise not to peek, even if it’s tempting.”
She flushed as she accepted the clothing. “Thanks.”
He turned his back to her and started to lay out the small feast on the little table across the room.
After a few minutes she cleared her throat. “I’m dry and dressed.”
He turned and she took his breath away. She could be wearing a sack and he’d be turned on. “You look good,” Hud confessed softly.
Lexi flushed. “I’ve never worn a man’s clothes before.”
Possessiveness rushed through him. If things worked out the way he hoped, his would be the only men’s clothing that ever touched her skin again. “That looks a hell of a lot better on you than it does on me.”
She chuckled. And the joy in the sound touched his soul. Making her happy was medicine. He hadn’t realized how weary he’d been. The stress of running everything, dealing with Ma’s illness, and looking for the embezzler had taken a toll that he hadn’t acknowledged until she gave him these moments of peace. Being with her chased the shadows back, temporarily.
“Thank you.” Lexi looked away.
Hud walked across the room until he was standing in front of her. He tucked a damp strand of long dark hair behind her ear. “I’m falling in love with you, Lexi.” He had no idea what possessed him to act on his feelings. He’d planned to take this slow. “Let me take you to bed.” Slow was overrated.
She looked into his eyes and blushed. “Okay.”
He swallowed. “Okay?”
He took her in his arms, rubbing her back. She arched against his touch.
“Hmmm.” She closed her eyes.
His hand snaked under the fabric of his t-shirt. “Are you cold?”
She shook her head. “Being in dry clothes helps. You should get that wet stuff off.” She flushed.
“I’m glad you’re not cold. I’m sorry I let us get caught in the storm.”
Lightning flashed out the window and thunder shook the cabin. They stood there for a moment as nature raged outside.
She shivered in his arms. “I’ve never liked storms. I hope the horses will be okay.”
“Sugar Plum is loving this. She’s healthy and they have shelter. This was probably good for Quick Silver. I had no idea how skittish he was in a storm.” Hud enjoyed the silken texture of Lexi’s skin under his hand. “Let me take your mind off the weather. I promise I’ll be a good distraction.”
She tilted her head to gaze up at him. “I bet.” Her head was arched at an angle.
Hud kissed her throat tenderly. She smiled and her eyes closed. “I don’t normally do casual sex. It’s been a long time since I did this.”
“There is nothing casual about this,” Hud insisted. “I want you more than I’ve wanted anything in my life.”