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Authors: Barb Han

Delivering Justice

BOOK: Delivering Justice
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A sexy cowboy comes to the rescue of a beautiful woman who has no idea who she is...

When Tyler O’Brien finds a woman lying helpless after an ATV accident on his ranch, nothing adds up. Especially his real, sudden attraction to “Red.” But aiding the amnesiac only compounds the rich Texas cowboy’s doubts. How can he unlock the truth?

Learning that Red is desperately searching for her twin sister who may have come to harm, Tyler—who doesn’t “do feelings”—promises help and protection. Soon he’s also burning with desire. As the two race against time to find Red’s sister, they’re drawn deeper into a complicated mystery. Tyler will have to draw on every ounce of strength to keep this stranger safe...and resist taking her to bed

“You want to scream? Go ahead. No one will hear you out here,” he said, as if daring her to.

“I would if it would help,” she shot back. “Can’t see how that’ll make it easier to be around you, though.”


I’m
the problem?” He almost sounded sincere, but damn—that grin! It was sexy, she had to give him that, but a little sexy—okay, a lot sexy—wasn’t about to make her cave. Besides, she was getting whiplash from his mood swings. One minute his hands were all over her. And then the next he couldn’t put enough distance or a bigger wall between them.

“Glad you see this from my point of view,” she said, knowing full well his was a question, not a statement.

The smile faded from his lips and his hand flew behind his back. “Get down.”

She dropped to all fours at the exact same time his gun came around and leveled at a spot where her head had been seconds before.

DELIVERING
JUSTICE

USA TODAY
Bestselling Author

Barb Han

USA TODAY
bestselling author
Barb Han
lives in north Texas with her very own hero-worthy husband, three beautiful children, a spunky golden retriever/standard poodle mix and too many books in her to-read pile. In her downtime, she plays video games and spends much of her time on or around a basketball court. She loves interacting with readers and is grateful for their support. You can reach her at
barbhan.com
.

Books by Barb Han

Harlequin Intrigue

Cattlemen Crime Club

Stockyard Snatching

Delivering Justice

Mason Ridge

Texas Prey

Texas Takedown

Texas Hunt

Texan’s Baby

The Campbells of Creek Bend

Witness Protection

Gut Instinct

Hard Target

Rancher Rescue

Harlequin Intrigue Noir

Atomic Beauty

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin ebook!
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CAST OF CHARACTERS

Jessica Davis—
Stepping in for her sister puts her directly in the line of fire. When she turns up on a handsome cowboy’s ranch, she realizes that she’s in over her head in more ways than one.

Tyler O’Brien—
He’s the level-headed brother, a born negotiator. The third of six boys, Tyler is used to talking his way out of trouble. But he might have met his match with Jessica.

Jennifer Davis—
This twin has a knack for getting herself in sticky situations. Her latest foray into trouble might just be her last.

Tommy Johnson—
The sheriff who grew up at the O’Brien ranch and considers them family.

James Milton—
This guy shoots off more lies than common sense should allow. But does he really know what happened to Jennifer?

Emma-Kate Brasseux—
She owns the priceless Infinity Sapphire necklace that goes missing.

Ashton Brasseux—
Does Emma-Kate’s husband know more about the missing necklace than he’s admitting?

Elijah Wolffe—
This musician might be playing more than Zydeco. He’s supposed to be Jennifer’s friend. What does he really know about her disappearance?

Randall Beauchamp—
Just how deeply involved is this wealthy Louisiana man and known criminal?

This book is dedicated to: Allison Lyons for making every single book better. Jill Marsal for always being there and ready to answer every question.

The great loves of my life: Brandon, Jacob and Tori, the best people I could ever hope to have in my world (I feel crazy blessed!).

Patricia Allsbrook for the last-minute save (thank you, thank you!) and always being such a steady, calming force. And her daughter, Paulina, for her quick wit (what are you, a twenty-year-old?) and warm smile.

And Babe for always being the one I can’t wait to talk to every night.

Chapter One

For a few seconds as Tyler O’Brien scaled Diablo’s Rock and pushed up onto its crest, everything in the world was peaceful. Looking out onto the land that breathed life into his soul, he couldn’t imagine a better place to be.

Tyler’s gaze swept down and he muttered a curse as he stared at an overturned four-wheel ATV with an unmoving body splayed out underneath.

A dead body was not part of Tyler’s lunch plans.

Tyler hated accidents. He and his five brothers had inherited the cattle ranch two months ago after his parents had died in an “accident.” New evidence had the sheriff opening a homicide investigation before the will was out of probate.

“You okay?” he shouted, wishing for a response but not really expecting one. Not with the way the body was pinned under the ATV. It was too far away to get a good visual on the person. Yet Tyler had seen enough scenes like this one to get a good feel for how it would turn out.

Cell phone coverage was nonexistent on this part of the ranch so he couldn’t call for an ambulance or the sheriff. He’d left his walkie-talkie with Digby, his gelding. Most ranchers used ATVs and pickup trucks for convenience when checking the vast amount of fencing on a ranch the size of The Cattlemen Crime Club. But Tyler figured his horse needed the exercise and it made him feel connected to the land to do things the way his father had. His ranch hands used ATVs, and for a split second he feared one of them might be below, but the area around Diablo’s Rock was Tyler’s to check.

Maybe someone had their wires crossed. Or a group of thrill seekers had wandered onto the land and one got separated.

His pulse kicked into high gear as he moved into action, digging the heels of his boots into the rocky forty-foot drop one careful step at a time. He scanned the horizon looking for the rest of the ATV party. There was no sign of anyone else as far as the naked eye could see.

Diablo’s Rock wasn’t a good area for people new to ATVs and only an idiot would come out here alone. There were black bears and copperhead snakes, badgers and all manner of wildlife running around this part of Texas. The land was beautiful and its danger only enhanced Tyler’s respect for it. It was a reminder that people weren’t always at the top of the food chain. An unprepared person could end up at the wrong end.

The closer Tyler descended toward the body, the more his pulse spiked. He could tell that the figure was smaller than a man, and that definitely ruled out one of his employees.

As he approached, he could clearly see the creamy skin of long legs, which meant the woman either had on shorts or a dress. He assumed shorts considering the fact that she wore running shoes. Neither outfit was appropriate this time of year, which struck Tyler as odd if she’d been planning on this excursion. Wouldn’t she dress for the occasion? Thanksgiving was right around the corner. The average temperature in November was in the sixties in this part of Texas and this week had been colder than usual, barely breaking fifty with a blanket of cloud coverage most days.

A good part of the reason he’d intended to eat lunch on the rock was that the sun had finally broken through and its heat would reflect on the surface, offering a warm place to eat.

Then again, maybe the visitor hadn’t planned on being out there at all. When Tyler got closer, maybe he’d recognize her face. The notion she could be someone he knew pricked his throat as if he’d swallowed a cactus.

People wandered off trails and did all kinds of random things while on scheduled hunting expeditions, but there was nothing on the calendar and the safety record on their land was unblemished. Right up until now, he thought.

The ATV had flipped over and was on top of her. At first blush, she looked trapped. He shoved thoughts that she could be a young runaway or in trouble to the back of his mind while he moved around the ATV, trying to get a better look at her positioning.

Her body was positioned awkwardly and close to the handlebars, but she wasn’t being pinned by them as he’d first suspected.

On closer appraisal, the ATV wasn’t touching her at all. And that was the first positive sign he’d had so far. He couldn’t tell how bad the damage was to her body from this angle and he didn’t see any signs of her breathing.

As soon as he rounded the side of the vehicle, he noticed blood splattered on the rocks next to her head. He was no expert at analyzing an accident scene but he’d heard enough stories around the campfire from their family friend Sheriff Tommy Johnson to know the splatter most likely came from an injury to her head. An impact hard enough to create that amount of blood wasn’t good.

She was facedown in the dirt with her head angled toward the side he was standing on. Not that he could see past that thick red mane of hers.

This didn’t look good at all. He’d make the short hike back to Digby in order to use his walkie-talkie to call for someone to pick her up. And it was such a shame that a young woman’s life had been cut short.

“We’ll get you out of here soon,” Tyler said softly, dropping to his knees to get a better look at her face. She wasn’t wearing a backpack nor did she have a purse. A physical description might help the sheriff identify her.

Tyler brushed her hair away from her face, expecting to see her eyes fixed, and then checked her neck for a pulse. She blinked sea-green eyes instead and mouthed the words,
Help me.

She was alive?

Shocked, Tyler nearly fell backward. His pulse pounded even faster as he located hers on her wrist, which was strong.

“You’re okay. I’m going to get you out of here.” Tyler had enough training and experience to know better than to move her. He needed to reposition the ATV so he could better assess her injuries.

Just as he pushed up to his feet, her arm moved and then her leg. Was she trying to climb out from under the machine?

“Hold still, there,” he said. “Let me get this out of the way.”

Tyler dropped his backpack and hoisted the ATV upright and away from her body. It popped up onto all four wheels. His right shoulder pinched at the movement, the old injury liked to remind him of the reason he didn’t have a pro baseball career anymore, and he rubbed the sore spot trying to increase blood flow.

The mystery woman had managed to roll onto her side and was trying to climb away.

“I’m not going to hurt you so you don’t have to go anywhere,” he said. “I have water. Are you thirsty?”

She nodded. Based on her pallor and the freshness of the blood on the rocks, she couldn’t have been out there for long. That was the second good sign so far.

He had medical supplies in his saddlebag, enough to dress a field wound. He could tend to that gash and try to stem the bleeding while they waited for help to arrive. It wouldn’t take long to scale Diablo’s Rock, get to his horse and then return with provisions. But he didn’t like the thought of leaving her alone.

“What’s your name?” He went down on a knee next to his backpack, pulled a bottle of water out of the main compartment and unscrewed the cap before offering her the bottle. He shrugged out of his denim jacket, draping it over her.

She looked like she was drawing a blank in the name department as she took the water and poured the liquid over her lips. They were pink, which was a good sign. She couldn’t have been out there for long.

It didn’t surprise him that she’d temporarily forgotten her name and other details about her life, given the blow she’d taken to her head. Tyler had witnessed plenty of concussions out on the baseball field. The good news here was that she could recover, a huge relief considering he’d started the afternoon thinking he would be reporting a body.

“Do you have ID?” he asked.

She looked panicked and disoriented.

“Mind if I check in your pockets?”

She shook her head, angling the bottle to get more water into her mouth than her last attempt. Again she failed miserably.

He scooted closer to her.

At this distance, he could see the dirt on her clothes. The cotton long-sleeved shirt was a deep shade of green that highlighted her lighter-colored eyes.

“Let me help you.” He cradled the base of her neck with his right hand, ignoring the spark of electricity shooting through him. He shouldn’t be feeling attracted to her. A sexual current couldn’t be more inappropriate under the circumstances. He didn’t care how beautiful she was. And she was beautiful, with her sea-green eyes, creamy complexion and heart-shaped mouth. He’d force himself to look away from her lips if it didn’t mean that he’d spill water all over her face.

But feeling a real attraction to a woman he’d found lying helpless on his land a few minutes ago?

Nice one, O’Brien.

When she signaled that she’d had enough to drink, he set the bottle within her reach and then pushed up to his feet. “Okay, I’ll just check for that ID, okay?”

She nodded her agreement and winced with the movement.

“Did you come out here with anyone?” he asked, chalking his physical reaction up to his overreactive protective instincts.

Looking startled, she glanced around.

Then she shook her head. Another fact she might be fuzzy on, given that hit she’d taken to her forehead.

“A group?” he continued.

The only thing he knew for certain was that she wasn’t from around Bluff. It was dangerous for tourists to get lost on a massive ranch like his. She was darn lucky he—and not a black bear or hungry coyote—had found her.

She squinted her eyes. A raging headache was one of the side effects of a concussion. Luckily, that could be dealt with by popping a few pain relievers. Tyler had those in his pack, too, but the doctor would want him to wait to give them to her.

Tyler didn’t want to notice her full hips or sweet round bottom as he checked her back pockets.

If he could think of another way to search her front pockets, he’d be game. As it was, he had to slip his fingers into them and ignore the way her stomach quivered.

It was safe to say that she had no ID. For the moment, neither of them knew who she was. Maybe her handbag or backpack had gone flying when she’d crashed. He scanned the ground, taking a few steps in one direction and then another.

No cell phone or purse could be seen anywhere and that struck him as odd. Tyler couldn’t think of one woman he knew who would go anywhere without her cell. And that fact put a few more questions in his mind that he didn’t have answers to. Like, if she was alone why wouldn’t she have supplies or ID?

The panic in her eyes didn’t help matters, either. Of course, waking up to a stranger and not being able to remember who she was or where she’d been would cause a certain level of panic in any normal person. Hers bothered him and he wished there was more that he could do to put her at ease.

He pushed his feelings aside as just needing to offer comfort to a stranger. It couldn’t be anything more than that. He’d only known her for ten minutes, and when it came right down to it, he still didn’t know her. He didn’t even know her name.

“I’m going to send for help,” he said.

Her eyes pleaded, filled with more of that panic he didn’t like seeing, but she didn’t argue. Then again, she hadn’t said anything except “help me” since he’d found her.

“It’s okay. I’m coming right back. I promise,” he added to ease her concern. He whistled, hoping the family’s chocolate lab, Denali, was somewhere within earshot. He could keep her company. After a few seconds of quiet and no Denali, Tyler said, “My horse is tied up on the other side of that rock and I need to get there so I can contact my men and send for medical attention.”

She didn’t relax but she nodded, wincing again at the movement. That was going to be one helluva headache when the dust settled.

As Tyler got to his feet, he scanned the area for any signs of wildlife. In her weakened state, he doubted she could fight off a flea. He pulled out his pocket knife anyway and her hand met his faster than he’d thought possible for hers to move.

“It’s okay, I’m here to help.”

She nodded as she took the knife.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He filed her reaction away as another interesting thought. If she’d come out alone, what was she really afraid of? Him? Animals? She’d come out by herself without identification or a way to defend herself. This patch of land wasn’t anywhere near a road. Clearly, he’d never met the woman before but he didn’t have to know her to realize that she didn’t look the type to wander off on her own on a four-wheeler. Not that she looked weak or like she couldn’t handle herself in most situations. But the type of clothes and shoes she wore didn’t fit with the activity and those expensive running shoes belonged out here about as much as a woman wearing a light jacket in the cold.

She didn’t give the impression that she was a bandana-wearing thrill seeker. Nor did she particularly strike him as a granola-eating nature girl. Especially since the latter wouldn’t be in the driver’s seat of a four-wheeler.

There was another thing that bugged him as he walked away from the accident. He’d noticed another set of tire tracks when he scanned the ground for her personal belongings, which meant there could have been another person involved.

If she and a friend had ventured onto his land by mistake, what kind of jerk would leave her alone in her condition?

Then again, with no cell service the other person might’ve been forced to go for help.

And it wasn’t like Red was talking. All she’d said so far was, “Help me.” Pretty much anyone in her situation would say the same thing.

Tyler quickened his pace. If there was someone on his land searching for reception, he needed to get a search team out while there was still plenty of daylight. The accident might’ve already been called in. If the person wasn’t familiar with the area he or she might not be able to lead rescuers to Red.

Even so, a person would have to be new at this to panic and leave an injured person alone with all the dangerous wildlife here on the ranch. A darker side of him also noted that this would be the perfect way to cover up an attempted murder.

Tyler wrote the sentiment off as the result of learning that his parents had been murdered. He would like nothing more than to solve the case that had been made to look like an accident. Thinking about it made him angry. Who would want to hurt his family?

BOOK: Delivering Justice
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