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[Siren Classic: Erotic Cowboy Paranormal Romance]
Emmaline Force talks to ghosts. When a desperate plea for help comes from Maria Sanchez, Emmaline and her best friend, Matt, head halfway across the country to help. Upon arrival, Emmaline is immediately attracted to the skeptical and temperamental Blade, Maria?s brother. Fresh from a failed engagement, Emmaline wants a no-strings affair and nothing more. Blade has other ideas.
As things heat up between Emmaline and Blade, she finds herself the target of a jealous and malevolent spirit. Her rocky and volatile relationship with Blade shatters the same night Emmaline incites the ghost to violence.
Eighteen months later, Emmaline finds herself back at the ranch to visit Maria and Matt, who fell in love and married during their first visit. The wounds in Emmaline?s heart have healed and she has finally admitted to herself that she is in love with Blade. Can she repair their relationship and finally defeat the ghost who has claimed Blade for her own?
“I’m sorry about last night. I thought we’d be able to get here in plenty of time. I didn’t count on getting lost or on the fact that the road to this place is hidden and unmarked. That, in and of itself, screams ‘haunted.’”
Matt made a sound of warning. “You can’t pre-judge a place.”
“I think they’re already aware it’s haunted. Guests have left in the middle of the night. Maria has seen things levitate in the kitchen.” Emmaline stopped, realizing the redundancy of her explanations. “Why am I telling you this? You’ve talked to her far more than I have.”
He tsked again. “You know that doesn’t always mean anything. More often than not, people make these things up. And most of the other stuff is easily explained away.” He bestowed a bright smile on Emmaline. “That’s why you have me.”
That was true. Emmaline might have the ability to communicate with spirits, but Matt was the one with knowledge of how things in a house or building were put together. He could explain to a homeowner how leaving open cans of turpentine lying around in the attached garage, or anywhere else, caused hallucinations, or how the pipes in the basement made the odd sounds they heard. Together, they had saved anxious homeowners from having to move and pointed them in the right direction for repairs to their plumbing or heating systems.
As they rounded the next corner, the road opened up to reveal the main grounds of the resort. Emmaline thought calling a ranch a resort was stretching things a bit, but when she saw the compound, she changed her mind. To the left of the road, a gigantic, modern stable, surrounded by gated yards of varying size, swallowed half of the available space. To the right, Emmaline could see several large houses in the open area and several smaller houses trailing off in a line where the woods began again.
The houses varied in style, from old world Southern to frontier Western to downright Victorian. Emmaline stared at them for the longest time. She loved houses, especially old ones. Even if they weren’t inhabited by spirits, they had personality and a vitality she absolutely loved. The collection of such differing styles of houses somehow worked.
She wondered how this resort functioned. There wasn’t an oversized, centrally-located building that might house a spa, gym, or any of the other amenities people expected when they paid through the nose for a resort vacation. It didn’t look like anything she had ever seen, and she had been to some very swanky places.
“Do you know where the main house is?” Matt asked, shading his eyes against the disappearance of the forest gloom.
Emmaline shook her head. “I guess I’ll follow the road toward the houses. That first one might be the main building.”
It was nearly noon. They had left the motel at eight, but it had taken them a long time to find the road that led to Paradise Island and an even longer time to navigate that blasted road. Matt rolled down the window to let in the Georgia winter heat. Native Georgians might have found the forty-degree temperature a little cool, but to Emmaline and Matt, it was a slice of heaven in the middle of a bitter Michigan winter. The temperatures they had left boasted highs in the mid-teens.
As she got closer to the houses, which were situated on both sides of the street, almost like the main street of a little town, she heard the majority of the noise coming from a light tan, western-style house with a wide porch spanning the front and curving around both sides. Rocking chairs, most of them occupied, lined the generous porch. Double doors were centered in the middle, while single doors greeted the ending of the wraparound porch on either side. “I think that’s our safest bet.”
She stopped the car near the point where the lawn began. There were no markings on the street to indicate where she should park and there were no other cars in sight. Sliding from the car, she stretched, bending nearly backward in her attempt to work the kink out of her lower right side.
“Circus tryouts aren’t until next month.” A voice that was deep, melodic, and highly amused floated down to Emmaline as she resumed a normal standing position.
She followed long, denim-clad legs up to narrow hips. He held his black Stetson in his hands, blocking her view of whether the loose jeans tightened to show off his natural endowments or hung low on his hips and teased the imagination.
Her eyes traveled upward. She could tell he was broad-shouldered, but his loose cowboy shirt hid the details of his physique. Emmaline was willing to bet he was a playground of ripples and waves. Uncharacteristically, she felt an itch in her fingers and had to stifle the urge to run them over him to see if her guess was true. His rich, jet black hair fell to his shoulders and brought out his eyes even more. The itch intensified.
The face that went with those eyes nearly prevented her from replying. Strong, high cheekbones accented sparkling brown eyes that, together with his coloring, indicated Mexican ancestry. His full lips were curved in a sensuous grin that matched the light in his eyes and the mirth in his voice. He was tall, easily two or three inches taller than Matt.
It took Emmaline a minute to realize she was staring open-mouthed at him while he stoically but slowly took in the details of her appearance with an amused grin that didn’t waver. She forced herself to snap out of it. “I’m looking for Maria Sanchez.”
“Then you’ve come to the right place,” he said with a slight Georgia drawl. He might live here now, but he hadn’t been raised there. “But at the wrong time. Or the right time, depending on how you look at it.”
“How’s that?” Emmaline asked. By all accounts, her timing was looking pretty good.
“Maria is inside, but it’s the lunch rush, so she’s busy.” He came down the last few steps to stand in front of Emmaline. “If you’re hungry, you got here just in time.” He extended his hand to her. “I’m Blade Sanchez. I own a portion of this ranch, so if you have business with Maria, you can run it past me. I can’t guarantee answers, but I’m willing to give it my best shot.”
Emmaline extended her hand, expecting him to shake it. Instead, he lifted it to his lips, letting them graze her knuckles. His hand was warm. She could feel the strength in it. Her heart beat faster at the thought of what those hands might feel like running over the places where her skin was more sensitive.
Emmaline had been leaning against the door frame. She pushed off and moved to stand across from him. She raised the paper bag as a peace offering. “You skipped dinner.” She had looked for him every time the door opened until Matt made her switch places with him so she wouldn’t have to turn around to see.
He looked her up and down hungrily. “I don’t want what’s in the bag.”
Her breath caught and her panties were soaked. Emmaline refused to look away. She took her other hand out of her pocket and dropped the condoms on the desk. His eyes followed them down. She saw the blood drain from his face. Anger flashed in his eyes, warring with desire. They were smoldering when they rose to meet hers again.
“I think you should leave,” he said with a quiet that didn’t hide his resentment.
“Why?” She removed her jacket and draped it carefully over the hook next to the door, which she closed and locked. She wasn’t afraid of him. On the contrary, she was even more aroused by the emotion that glittered in his eyes and flushed his face. “I want you. You want me. It’s that simple.”
Those lush lips pressed together. “Aren’t you married?”
Emmaline shook her head. She wasn’t going to explain.
Without a word, he rounded the desk and pulled her roughly to him, kissing her with a nearly bruising force. Emmaline melted against him, digging her fingers into his arms as she returned the kiss with equal intensity. It was a forceful kiss, stroking the flames of her desire as his tongue wrestled with hers. With a deftness she had never before possessed, her hands ran down the column of buttons on his shirt. She needed to see what was underneath.
He set her away from him and held her at arms’ length before she could spread his shirt open. Her chest heaved, gasping for air in the aftershock of the kiss, and desire clouded her vision.
His anger had not abated, but she could see that desire had won the fight within him. “This is your last chance to leave,” he panted. “I’m warning you now that I won’t be gentle with you, not with the way you’re taking advantage of my sister’s fears. You’re using her, Emmaline, and I will use you even more harshly.”
Emmaline’s response was a slow, sensual smile. She had always craved a lover with this kind ofspice. Though his perception of her was false, she made no move to correct him. Perversely, his anger and air of danger had turned her on from the beginning. She knew she was playing with fire and she loved every second of it. Grasping the bottom of her sweater, she pulled it over her head and tossed it on the small leather sofa in the corner of the room, all the while teasing him with her self-satisfied smile.
Blade regarded Emmaline with a mixture of amazement, lust, and irritation.
She stepped closer to him and placed her fingers on his tight stomach, a sliver of which was visible above the low rise of his jeans. She saw that he was half-erect, but she ignored the urge to slip her hand down his pants to prove how much control she had over him. Instinctively, she knew she had to tread lightly until he was completely gone.
From the first moment she saw him, she had wanted to see if what was under his shirt was as tantalizing as she imagined it to be. There was nothing tentative about her touch as she dragged her fingertips across his skin, stroking upward as his muscles flexed underneath. His shirt didn’t move out of the way enough for her to see all that she wanted to see, but she contented herself with this touch. The rest would come later.
Blade let her touch him, powerless to stop her. Emmaline licked her lips in anticipation as his flannel shirt slowly separated, displaced by her exploration. Breathless desire and anger turned to desperation. When he turned her around to face the large antique oak desk that dominated the room, she knew he was going to take control.
She leaned against him, arching her back to feel the burn of his skin against hers as his hands sought her breasts through the delicate lace of her bra. She turned her head to meet his lips, which had softened suddenly. The unexpected tenderness was her undoing.
His hands moved down, stroking her stomach and waist above her skirt. Instead of removing it, he bent to run his hand up the stocking that covered her leg, pulling the hem of her skirt up slightly as his hand was swallowed by the soft material.
He groaned into her mouth when his fingertips found the smooth flesh above the lacy tops of her thigh-high stockings. His hand moved to her inner thigh, and he touched her wetness.
Emmaline nearly laughed as his erection grew against her lower back. The urge was cut short as he suddenly yanked at her panties, tearing the threads that held the swatch of silk and lace together. He tossed them on his desk and grabbed her wrists. In one swift motion, he bent her over the edge, pressing her hands to the polished wood.
He leaned over her, caging her with his body. One hand pressed against the curve of her ass, stroking and squeezing and holding her against his hardness. “Hand me the gloves,” he said. His voice was nearly a whisper and she barely heard him over the sound of her own heavy breathing.
She thought he meant to fuck her from behind, but when her hand closed over the plastic of the condom’s package, he growled. “No, the gloves.”
Raising her head in confusion, she noticed a pair of pale yellow leather work gloves sitting on the far corner of the desk. She leaned forward, stretching to avoid removing the lower half of her body from his grip. The material was far rougher than she would have imagined.
He unhooked her bra, letting it fall to the desk.
She heard the plastic snap as he pulled the brand-new gloves apart, and then his hand was back on her thigh, sheathed in the rough leather. She moaned in anticipation when she realized what he meant to do and cried out when the roughness parted her most intimate lips to scrape her clitoris.
She knew that if she moved her hands from the desk, he would stop. His finger rubbed against her, working its way through the thick wetness that had been there since his first scowl. She moaned and arched against him, begging for more.