Daphne has lost her job and been dumped by her boyfriend. So she runs to the only true home she’s ever known—her grandmother’s rural Texas ranch, called Crazy. Mick Williams has lived and worked on Crazy for twenty years and he’ll be damned if he’s gonna let a city slicker like Daphne sashay in and disrupt his nice, quiet life.
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Getting fired over a workplace meltdown was bad enough, but getting dumped at the exact same time by her boyfriend-slash-boss was the ultimate humiliation. With no real friends in L.A. and perennially absent parents, Daphne Simms has no one to turn to. To heal her heart, she runs to the only true home she’s ever known—her grandmother’s rural Texas ranch, called Crazy. She knows ranch folks will be a far cry from those she’s known in L.A., but she certainly doesn’t expect to be greeted by a cranky cowboy shoving a shotgun in her face.
Mick Williams has lived and worked on Crazy for twenty years. Though he’s utterly devoted to Daphne’s grandmother, he’ll be damned if he’s gonna let a city slicker like Daphne sashay in and disrupt his nice, quiet life. When the future of Crazy is threatened, Mick and Daphne must join forces to keep the ranch afloat, but the heat of their attraction makes working together more complicated than either of them imagines.
When their physical and emotional connection deepens, Mick tries to turn away from the woman he’s convinced he doesn’t deserve, so Daphne has to pull out all the stops to convince him that the heart of Crazy is big enough for the both of them.
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Before Mick could tell him to piss off, Daphne extricated herself from the arms of her eager dance partner, lurched back to the table, and grabbed Raney’s drink.
“Whew! That’s more work than it looks like.” She wiped her forehead and theatrically rested her head on Raney’s shoulder. Mick took one more swig of his beer, set it down forcefully, and pushed himself away from the table. He reached behind Raney and grabbed Daphne’s arm, pulling her toward the dance floor.
Daphne looked up at him in surprise. He circled his arm around her waist and rumbled, “It’s my turn now. I’m tired of watching you dance with other men.”
She stuttered and resisted. “I don’t know this one.”
He leaned in, so close his lips were almost touching her ear. So close he could smell her shampoo and the scent of her laundry detergent. It only added to the fire burning in the pit of his stomach. “It’s not hard, Daphne. I lead. You follow. Your body knows the rest.”
He felt her moment of surrender. He pulled her close, held her there for a beat longer than he needed to, then whisked her into the dance.
The intimacy of dancing with her, of staring into her eyes for minutes on end without speaking, was practically heart stopping. The quick beat ended and was replaced by a slow song. She began to step away, but he tightened his grip around her waist and tucked her right hand under his on his chest.
As they started swaying to the crooning love song, she rested her head on his
shoulder and let him lead. With her wrapped in his arms, their bodies moving in tandem, he closed his eyes and rested his cheek on her head. He was lost, pulled into the bubble of their own little world.
As the song ended, they leaned back to look in each other’s eyes. He stroked the back of his fingers down the side of her face and cradled her jaw in his hand. She licked her bottom lip and that was all the invitation he needed. As he leaned in for a kiss, they were interrupted by a shrill, “Well, well, well, bless my soul, if it isn’t my cousin, Daphne!”
If Sissy was a man, he might’ve punched her then and there for her bad timing. Daphne stepped back and turned around. Sissy was dressed to the nines, watching them with one hand on her hip and a haughty smirk on her overly done-up face. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she crowed. “Did I interrupt something?”
Mick forced a smile and said, “Of course not. Good to see you, Sissy.”
“Uh huh, I bet.” she quipped. She sidled closer and in her high heels towered over Daphne. “Daddy told me the big news.”
Daphne asked, “What news?”
“What do you mean, ‘what news?’” Sissy screeched. “I don’t know what Nana was thinking, handing over the ranch to you. To you, instead of her boys who have lived here since they were born. It’s beyond me.”
Straightening up to her tallest, Daphne responded tightly, “I’m sure she has her reasons.”
Sissy stuck her finger in Daphne’s face. “I don’t know what lies or promises you’ve been feeding her since you got here, missy, but I’m here to tell you that you won’t get away with it. That ranch is my family’s birthright, not yours. I’m not about to let some crazy old bat hand it off to her city slicker granddaughter.” She glanced up at Mick and added, “Much less one who’s cavorting with the hired help.”
Mick had known Sissy going on twenty years and she hadn’t changed. She’d always been a shrill, calculating, self-centered woman. He’d learned to tolerate her vanity and mischief, even if it did annoy the hell out of him. Sometimes that tolerance was harder to manage than others, but even if they weren’t teens anymore he still wasn’t going to hit a girl. He put his hand at the small of Daphne’s back and tried to steer her toward the doors. He looked around, hoping Raney or Danny was around to intercede.
Daphne sputtered angrily. “Hired help?”
Mick felt her step away from him so he looked back, and damned if she didn’t launch herself at Sissy. She swiped and clawed like a cat. When that didn’t work, she lunged and swung like a boxer. “You conniving bitch!”
Mick quickly grabbed at Daphne, knocking her punch off course so she only dealt a glancing blow to Sissy’s head. That only pissed her off more and she lunged again. He wrapped his arms around her waist and hauled her off.
Danny and Scotty appeared, and Mick heard Danny saying, “Back off, Sissy!” But Sissy scrambled back to Daphne’s side, pointing and waving her hands around, shrieking so fast and slurred Mick couldn’t make out what she was saying.
Raney joined them and he hissed, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Raney was in front of Daphne pulling her toward the door, and Mick pushed her from behind, trying to keep the women off of each other.
Finally he gave up and hauled Daphne up over his shoulder like a sack of beans. All the way out to the truck, she rapped on his back and shoulders, spewing inventive curses at him. He decided he didn’t mind so much, though, as he steadied her weight with his palm on her fine ass.
At some point during the night, Mick pulled the covers over their bodies and they dozed in each other’s arms. He woke up with Daphne snuggled in to him with her head on his shoulder. As he watched her sleep, he’d never felt so at war with himself.
One side railed against the Mick who was lying in bed next to Daphne, telling him that there was no way that a cowboy with no roots, no real family, no ties would ever be good enough for a woman like her. The other side wanted so badly to stay here in her warm arms, wanted to believe he was good enough, that he almost convinced himself.
He closed his eyes and willed his mind to still. He’d calmed crazed cattle, lived on the streets as a teenager, and survived a druggie mother, why was he scared now?
He was as terrified of losing Daphne as he was of keeping her.
How could he possibly keep her? They had nothing in common except Missus B and Crazy. As much as he loved Missus B, he knew he wasn’t part of the family. She said he was, even Daphne had said he was, but blood runs thick. Being like family wasn’t the same as actually being family.
He was the hired help. Sissy’s jibe had hit so close to home because deep down that was how he felt. And everyone knew the hired help couldn’t live happily ever after with the princess.
Daphne stirred and snuggled into Mick, sighing as she cinched her arm around his waist. With that simple touch, Daphne wiped away any thought he had about living without her. Damn status and family, how was he supposed to walk away? But how could he stay?
“Stop thinking so loud,” Daphne mumbled.
He laughed and kissed her hair. “Sorry,” he whispered, stroking her hair and back. “Go back to sleep.”
She propped herself up on her elbow and looked down at Mick. She reached up and gently brushed his tousled hair out of his face. She trailed her fingers over his temple and down his cheek, and he couldn’t help nuzzling into her hand to accept the caress.
He grabbed her hand and kissed her fingers. “Guess I need to shave, huh?”
Her teeth flashed in the darkness when she grinned. “Actually, turns out I’m kinda into the scruffy, outdoorsy type now.”
His heart skipped a beat. Or three. “Daphne…” he started.
“Mick.” She frowned in mock severity.
Absurdly he bristled. “Are you picking a fight while we’re naked in bed?”
Daphne gasped. “We’re naked?”
He groaned and rolled his eyes. The woman never took anything seriously and he said as much.
Daphne straddled him and braced her palms on his shoulders. “You take things too seriously. What on earth has got you in such a lather so early in the morning?”
He gazed up at her, shrouded in sheets and faint moonlight, with her hair shimmering around her face, and couldn’t think of one damned reason. “I can’t think when you’re on top of me like that,” he admitted.
She leaned back with a coy smile and pushed the sheets off her shoulders, exposing herself fully. “Finally, a fault I can take advantage of.”
And she did.