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Authors: Vanessa Lennox

Breaking the Bad Boy

BOOK: Breaking the Bad Boy
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Table of Contents

Breaking the Bad Boy
- Lies, arson, murder – that’s a lot of mayhem for art historian Joss Erickson to handle. The legend of the “Frenchman’s Gold” rumored to be cached on her dad’s
Montana
ranch has stirred the unsavory interest of an ex-con, bikers, and the Feds. She finds an ally in Buck, the tough, but decidedly savory, overseer at the ranch. Together they might put a stop to the deadly shenanigans.

Can she trust him? Buck may be after the gold for himself. Joss has few options, and this bad-boy may be her last best chance. In the meantime, she’s enjoying the ride.

Also by Vanessa Lennox

 
 

 
 

Notices

Breaking the Bad Boy, Copyright © 2014, Vanessa Lennox. Publisher Thistle Court Publishing,
[email protected]
.

ISBN-13:
        
978-1495261466

ISBN-10:
        
1495261468

Cover photo cowboy Copyright: Varegka / Shutterstock.com

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher. 

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Breaking the Bad Boy

By Vanessa Lennox

Chapter One

 

 

“I don’t care what you have to do, I want her. When she gets here, I want you to bring her to me unharmed, are we clear?” Lanier said looking at his henchman.

“Yeah, I got it. How do you know she’ll come to
Montana
, though?” Weeks asked.

Lanier took a deep breath. He was surrounded by morons, he thought. Only one guy on his team had any brains at all, and he didn’t trust him at all. He trusted him when it came to finding the money, that man was mean as a snake, his only problem was that he thought for himself. Lanier preferred them to be stupid and follow his orders without question. But maybe not this stupid, there had to be a happy medium.

They’d been at this for months, with nothing to show for it. He was ready to get some answers, and the girl would have them.

“Filial loyalty,” he said but Weeks just looked at him with his mouth gaping open. “Her dad just had a heart attack, she’ll come. She probably has the answers to all our questions. Take
Bolton
with you, he’s not completely stupid.” Lanier sat down as he watched the two men drive away.
This might just be ideal
, he thought.
I hope she’s as pretty as they say
.

***

Joss couldn’t stop hearing the words in her head, even as she stood with her usual unflappable calm in her boss’s office.
Her father had a heart attack
?

“I have to leave earlier than expected, Jeremy, and probably for longer than I initially anticipated,” Joss said sitting down and crossing her long legs in the windowless office. There was not a quarter of an inch showing on the man’s desk, it was covered with paperwork and priceless artifacts looking for a proper home. Jeremy needed an assistant and another filing cabinet. His overlong chestnut hair was messed from his repeatedly running his hands through it; giving him a charming schoolboy effect. Joss knew he did it on purpose, but she thought it was appealing nonetheless. He looked across his desk at her as the words sank in.

“What? When?” Jeremy asked starting to look lost and a little bit afraid. He had a panicked look in his gray eyes as he studied her over his desk. He loved the art, not the business part of getting it organized for showing, and he depended on Joss for doing just that, and she was leaving just as things were ramping up.

“I’m leaving in,” she looked at her watch. “Twelve minutes, I’ve called a cab already.” Jeremy stood up from his chair and came around the desk. This was the perfect opportunity to look at those legs, and the rare chance to look down at her, the woman was far too tall, and didn’t ever wear flat shoes, it was as if she didn’t care that she towered over everybody. He was only an inch shorter than she was when she didn’t wear heels.

“Twelve minutes? Joss, you can’t go in twelve minutes,” he said looking at her carefully. He sounded like he was speaking to a problem child, who was a little slow on the uptake. He ran his fingers through his hair again and looked closely at her. “Please tell me this is a joke,” he said.

“I’m afraid not, I have an emergency. I wouldn’t leave you like this if it weren’t important.”

“The Durer exhibit kicks off tonight, right here,” he pointed both index fingers at the floor. “This is your baby,” Jeremy pointed both index fingers at her. “He’s the artist you wrote your thesis on. You do remember these things, right?” He pushed paper off the corner of his desk so he could plant a cheek there and speak with Joss more personally. She sighed looking up at him.

“I remember, Jeremy, I haven’t had a stroke, and I don’t have amnesia. I have to go to
Montana
, just earlier than expected, that’s all,” she explained.

“Why? What’s the hurry, you were going to leave next week, right?” He asked realizing Joss wasn’t looking excited about this trip. Had she said something about an emergency?

“My father is sick, he’s asked me to come, and I have to go. I’m sorry if this leaves you in the lurch, but everything is on track with the Durer exhibit, it’s been ready for days. It will be hitch-less perfection. Debbi is completely on top of it.”

“Everything you do goes off without a hitch, you’re anal retentive and that makes you the best exhibit developer I’ve ever had, I don’t know what I’m going to do without you,” Jeremy said giving her his charming smile. He was cute, in a rumpled professorial way, and he had made it clear to her that he was interested if she ever felt the urge to walk on the mild side. His only drawback was that he would kill her with boredom. It wasn’t really his problem, it was hers, and someday her taste in men was going to get her into trouble.

“My job is done, it’s set up and ready. You just sit back and listen to the praise,” she said. He smiled and then something changed in his face.

“Wait, the governor is coming tonight,” he said anxious again.

“He can still come,” she said.

“Yes, but he knows this is
your
field of expertise, he wants
you
as his personal doyenne.”

“Explain it to him, Jeremy, he’s a nice guy, he’ll understand. We can reschedule when I get back. Tell him I’ll call him to set something up. In fact, that may be great publicity, when interest wanes at the half way mark we’ll have him come, he’s very popular. We’ll figure out what’s best for his schedule, I guess,” Joss said.

Jeremy looked at her. She thought the governor really cared about seeing the Durer exhibit.

“He doesn’t care about the exhibit, Joss; he’s only in it for you. I thought that much was obvious.”

“No he’s not, that’s absurd. He’s focused on what’s going on in the community,” she said and then realized Jeremy was probably right, but she couldn’t worry about that right this minute. “I’ll call his secretary from the airport and work it out. I’ll text you when I know if he will just postpone.”

Jeremy sighed hugely. “Thank you, Joss, he makes me nervous.”

“Why? He’s a great guy, very down to earth for a politician. Of course, he’s the only politician I’ve ever met, so what do I know?”

“Let me take you to the airport.”

“I’m all set, thanks. I don’t know when I’ll be back. Here’s the ranch’s land line,” she handed him a post-it note. “My phone won’t work up there, but we do, finally, have internet, I’ll keep in touch through email,” she said.

Joss stood and Jeremy watched her nearly six foot frame rise from the chair gracefully. He liked it best when her almost hip length blonde hair was loose around her, but today she wore it up in a stylish chignon. He had a split second where he imagined himself running his hands through those thick blonde tresses with her under him on the desk. Jeremy looked at the paper littered desk and sighed.

“I’m sorry about your father. Keep in touch, Joss. Hey, I’d really like to take you out for a drink when you get back,” he said hopefully. “You know… if you’d like.”

She was the consummate professional, and a perfectionist, she should be doing his job, he thought, she’d be so much better at it than he was. She was going to say no again. Her aquiline features pinched slightly and she locked on him with her cobalt gaze.

“I’m sorry, Jeremy; I don’t want to complicate or compromise our friendship like that. I like you, and I like this job, and I’d hate to lose either one.” He nodded expecting as much. “It’s harder for women, the whole double standard that no one admits to. Thank you for asking, though, I’m terribly flattered,” she smiled at him.

“I think that’s exactly what you said to me last time I asked you out,” he said with another sigh. She smiled picking up her portmanteau.

“Well, it still holds true,” she smiled

“Keep in touch anyway,” he said opening his door. “Good luck, Joss.”

“Thanks, Jeremy. I’ll call you,” she walked out of his office. Once outside she looked at her watch. There was time enough to make one more call. She punched in her speed dial as she walked down the broad museum staircase.

“Hey girl, what’s cookin’?” Margie asked. Joss was the type of woman who had very few girlfriends, Margie only stuck with her because Margie was the kind of woman who didn’t take long lapses in communication personally.

“My dad had a heart attack, I’m headed to
Montana
. Could you make sure my cat doesn’t die?”

“Honey, I’m so sorry, is he okay?” Margie asked.

“He’s still alive, if that’s what you mean. I don’t know anything, really, but my flight takes off in a little over an hour. Feed my cat and I’ll tell you everything as soon as I can. Probably tomorrow night,” Joss said.

“Don’t worry about Felix, I’ll keep him company, your apartment building has a pool, hell, I’m moving into your guest room,” Margie laughed.

“Perfect, thank you, Margie, you’re the best. I have to go,” Joss said and hurried down to the waiting cab for the trip across
Denver
to the airport.

***

The flight was hot and bumpy, but luckily only an hour and a half. Joss kept running the conversation she had with her father’s long time companion through her head. Isabelle Laughing Doe, a Lakota Sioux, was not a chatty woman, and from what Joss could tell, she had a significant distrust of everyone she met except for Joss’s father, Brent Erickson. That distrust included Joss; she didn’t get much out of Belle.

Belle and Brent met and fell in love after Joss left home for college. Belle tactfully disappeared whenever Joss showed up for vacations for years, and she didn’t even know there was a woman in her dad’s life until one of the ranch hands told her while he was making his move. Brent was relieved Joss finally knew about Belle, and Belle became a permanent fixture after that. Whether Belle was shy or just didn’t like Joss remained to be seen. Today was the first time Joss had spoken to her on the phone, and she sounded desperate, her usual reserve was gone.

“He collapsed in the bathroom this morning and I couldn’t get in the door because his body was sprawled in front of it. He had bypass surgery. Please come, he asked for you to come home, Joss, I think he’s dying,” Belle said and then very nearly hung up.

“Wait, Belle, please don’t hang up, tell me more,” Joss said desperately from her office chair. She adored her father, and frankly was horrified that such a strong, fit man could have had a heart attack at the age of sixty two.

“He’s resting now, Joss, that’s all they’ll tell me, I think because we aren’t married,” she said.

“Oh for Christ’s sake, you’ve been together for years. Is this a good number to reach you?”

“For now,” Belle said.

“Okay, I’ll make plans and call to let you know what they are. Have they given you any updates?”

“They give me nothing,” she said stoically.

“I’ll call you right back,” Joss said and hung up.

Joss made her plans, but then couldn’t contact Belle, so she left a message at the ranch and figured Belle could check those messages if she wondered what happened to her. There was always someone at the ranch; it wasn’t as if she’d be locked out.

When Joss started getting noticed by the ranch hands, who were usually young, physically fit and unattached men, Brent kept them from the main house and moved them into the out buildings. Brent wasn’t at all comfortable with Joss’s sexuality, and though he couldn’t deny it existed, he could sure as hell try to hurt anyone who came too close to her, and he sometimes did.

BOOK: Breaking the Bad Boy
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