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Authors: Elizabeth Lane

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In His Brother's Place

BOOK: In His Brother's Place
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“I want the boy.”

For three years Angie Montoya hid her son from her late fiancé’s family…until his brother tracked them down. Now Jordan Cooper demands she move to his Santa Fe ranch—the boy’s birthright. But how can Angie live with the man who called her a gold digger…the man whose one kiss she’s never forgotten?

Racked by guilt since his twin’s death, Jordan seeks redemption by raising his nephew. But Angie resurrects a hunger in him that only she can satisfy. Jordan knows he can have her on one condition—that she never learns the truth about him.

Her Fragrance Was Familiar.

It was the one he remembered from that night in his car—the night that had changed everything.

He'd wanted Angie Montoya from the first time he'd seen her with his brother. He'd wanted her that night, and, damn his soul, he wanted her now.

“Jordan…” Her lush lips shaped his name. “I need…”

He silenced her with a gentle kiss. As her mouth opened in invitation, the kiss deepened. She moaned and stretched on tiptoe to lift her hips closer to his erection. Jordan hauled her upward, grinding her against him. She was gasping by the time he found the zipper at the back of her dress.

That night in the car, they'd managed to stop before things got out of control.

But there would be no stopping now.

Dear Reader,

Welcome to my very first Harlequin Desire novel. After a long
line of historicals, I’m thrilled to be lending a new voice to these powerful,
passionate stories.

While writing this book, I fell in love with my characters.
Fiercely independent, Angie carried on when the death of her fiancé left her
alone and pregnant. Now, as she struggles to raise her son, can she find
happiness with a former enemy—the twin brother of the man she loved?

Jordan had long believed Angie was after his brother’s money.
Now her young son, Lucas, is the only surviving link to his twin—and the heir to
Justin’s fortune. Jordan is determined to raise the boy as his own. But proud,
stubborn Angie is part of the package—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

One of my favorite characters has no lines to speak. He’s a
rescue dog, saved from death row by the love of a little boy. I’m hoping Rudy’s
story will inspire someone out there to adopt a homeless pet or support a group
that works to help these innocent animals.

Before closing, I’d like to thank two of the people who made
this book possible—Desire senior editor Stacy Boyd for taking a chance on
“something different,” and my wonderful editor Elizabeth Mazer, whose patience
and encouragement got me this far and whose gifted touch added the polish to
make my story shine.

Love to you all. Enjoy.
Elizabeth

Elizabeth Lane

In His Brother’s Place

Books by Elizabeth Lane

Harlequin Desire

In His Brother’s Place
#2208

Harlequin Special Edition

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#936

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Hometown Wedding
#1194
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#1250

Harlequin Historical

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#28
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#92
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#436
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Lord Savage
#569
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#608
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#627
“Jubal’s Gift”
Wyoming Widow
#657
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#754
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#792
Stay for Christmas
#819 “Angels in the
Snow”
The Stranger
#856
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Wings of Love
#881
The Borrowed Bride
#920
His Substitute Bride
#939
Cowboy Christmas
#963 “The
Homecoming”
The Horseman’s Bride
#983
The Widowed Bride
#1031
The Lawman’s Vow
#1079
Weddings Under a Western Sky
#1091 “The
Hand-Me-Down Bride”

Other titles by this author available in
ebook format.

Elizabeth Lane

has lived and traveled in many parts of the world, including
Europe, Latin America and the Far East, but her heart remains in the American
West, where she was born and raised. Her idea of heaven is hiking a mountain
trail on a clear autumn day. She also enjoys music, animals and dancing. You can
learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website at
www.elizabethlaneauthor.com
.

One

Santa Fe, New Mexico

“Y
ou’re sure about the boy—and his mother?”
Jordan’s grip tightened on the phone.

“You’re the one who has to be sure, Mr. Cooper.” The private
investigator’s voice was as flat as a digitized recording. “The packet’s on its
way to your ranch by courier—birth certificate, hospital records, the mother’s
address and several discreet photos. Once you’ve seen everything, you can draw
your own conclusion. If you need follow-up—”

“No, there’ll be nothing else. I’ll transfer your fee as soon
as I’ve seen the documents.”

Jordan ended the call with a click. The packet would be
arriving from Albuquerque within the hour. If his hunch was right, it would hold
enough legal and emotional dynamite to blast his well-ordered world into
chaos.

Stepping away from the desk, he stared out the window of his
study, which commanded a vista of open ranchland stretching toward the horizon.
In the distance, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, rich with autumn color,
glimmered in the November sunlight. This was Cooper land, as it had been for
more than a hundred years. When his mother died it would pass to him as the sole
surviving heir of the family trust. He was the last Cooper heir—or so he’d
thought. But if the report confirmed what he suspected...

Jordan turned away from the window, leaving the thought
unfinished. It wasn’t too late to back off, he reminded himself. When the packet
arrived, he could burn the damned thing unopened or shove it through the
shredder. But he’d only be destroying paper. Nothing could erase the memory of
Angelina Montoya or change the reality of what she’d done to his family.

Especially now.

Jordan’s eyes shifted toward the far wall, bare except for a
group of framed family photos. The largest showed two young men grinning over a
stringer of freshly caught rainbow trout. Their features were so nearly
identical that a visitor would’ve been hard pressed to tell which was Jordan and
which was his twin brother, Justin.

When the picture was taken the two had still been close. Three
years later, Justin had fallen for dark-eyed Angie Montoya, hostess in an
upscale Mexican restaurant off the Plaza. His determination to marry her had
torn the family apart.

Convinced the woman was a gold digger, Jordan and his parents
had taken every action they could think of to separate the couple. The resulting
schism between the brothers had never had a chance to heal. Rushing home from a
ski trip on the eve of Angie’s birthday, Justin had flown his Cirrus SR22 plane
into a storm and crashed into a Utah mountain.

Grief had dragged Jordan’s father into an early grave and made
a bitter old woman of his mother. As for Angie Montoya, she had simply
vanished—until last week when, after nearly four years, Jordan had come across
her name. Searching further, he’d found a picture that had him on the phone
within the hour with the best private investigator in the state. He’d wanted
answers, and now he was about to get them. The report would almost surely
confirm what Jordan had suspected.

Angelina Montoya had not only stolen Justin from his family—she
had stolen Justin’s son.

Albuquerque

“You’ve been working hard on that picture, Lucas.” Angie
swiveled her chair away from the bedroom computer hutch to give her son her full
attention. “Why don’t you tell me about it?”

Lucas held out the drawing—three lopsided stick figures
sketched in crayon on a sheet of copy paper. “It’s our family. This short one is
me. This one with long black hair is you.”

“And who’s this, up here at the top?” Anticipating the answer,
Angie felt her throat tighten.

“That’s Daddy, up in heaven. He’s looking out for us, just like
you said.”

“That’s right. Do you want to put this picture on the fridge to
remind us?”

“Okay.” Clutching his masterpiece, the boy scampered down the
hall toward the tiny kitchen. Angie gulped back a surge of emotion. It wasn’t
easy, living with daily reminders of Justin. But she’d wanted to make sure Lucas
didn’t feel fatherless. She kept Justin’s framed portrait at the boy’s bedside
and an album of snapshots on the bookshelf, within his reach. His small fingers
had worn the pages thin at the corners.

Most of the photos showed Justin and Angie together or Justin
alone. There were no pictures of Justin’s family. After the way they’d treated
her, she wanted nothing to do with any of them—especially Jordan.

It was Jordan who’d come on her birthday to bring the news of
Justin’s death. He hadn’t said much, but Jordan’s manner had made his feelings
clear. Weeks earlier, the family had offered her fifty thousand dollars to walk
away from Justin. If she’d taken it, Justin would still be alive.

Angie would never forget the bitterness in those contemptuous
gray eyes. How could two brothers who looked so much alike be so different?
Justin had been warm and loving, quick to laugh and quick to forgive. The
thought of Jordan conjured up words like
cold,
judgmental, mercenary...

And
manipulative.
She’d had
firsthand experience with that particular trait of his.

The sound of the door buzzer broke into her thoughts. “I’ll get
it!” Lucas called.

“Stop right there, mister. You know better.” Striding into the
living room, she scooped him up in her arms. Their cramped two-bedroom apartment
was affordable, but the neighborhood wasn’t the best. When someone came to the
door, Angie made it a rule to send Lucas to his room until she knew the
situation was safe. Maybe by next year, if her web design business continued to
grow, she’d have the money to rent a small house with a fenced yard. Until
then...

The doorbell buzzed again, twice. Setting Lucas on his play
rug, Angie closed the bedroom door and hurried back down the hall. She didn’t
get many visitors here, and she certainly wasn’t expecting company. Any
unexpected knock tended to raise her suspicions.

* * *

Jordan tensed as the light, rapid footsteps approached.
Seeing Angie again was bound to be awkward as hell. Maybe he should have sent
somebody else first—someone who could assess the situation without putting the
woman on her guard. But no, whatever waited on the other side of that door, he
was duty-bound to face up to it. He needed to do the right thing—for his family
legacy, for his brother’s memory...even for Angie, if time had mellowed out her
stubborn streak enough to let her see reason.

The dead bolt slid back. The latch clicked. Jordan held his
breath as the door opened to the width allowed by the security chain.

Eyes the hue of rich black coffee stared up at him—eyes framed
by lush, feathery lashes. Jordan had almost forgotten how stunning those eyes
could be. He watched them widen, then narrow suspiciously.

“What do you want, Jordan?” Her husky little voice, taut with
strain, pricked his memory.

“For starters, I’d like to come in.”

“Why?” She made no move to unfasten the chain.

It seemed her stubborn streak hadn’t mellowed in the slightest.
“So I won’t have to stand out here and talk to you through this blasted
door.”

“I can’t imagine we’d have anything worth saying to each
other.”

Jordan’s thin-drawn patience snapped. “You have a choice,
Angie,” he growled. “Let me in so we can talk like civilized people, or I’ll
shout loud enough to be heard all over the building. Either way, I’m not leaving
until you hear what I came to say.” He paused, reminding himself that it
wouldn’t do any good to threaten her. “Who knows,” he added, “this might be
something you’ll want to hear.”

He braced himself for a stinging retort. Instead, she simply
closed the door. Jordan waited in the silence. Seconds crawled past before he
heard the rattle of the chain. Slowly the door swung open.

He willed himself to look at the apartment first. The living
room was bright and clean, the walls freshly painted, the slipcovered sofa
decorated with red, blue and yellow cushions. But the place didn’t look much
bigger than one of Jordan’s horse stalls. The building itself was run down with
no security system at all—anyone could walk in off the street, as he had done.
And he had seen what was outside—the loitering teens, the gang graffiti on the
walls. If this was the best Angie could afford, she had to be struggling
financially.

There was no sign of her son. Only a battered copy of
Goodnight Moon
on the coffee table betrayed the
presence of a child in the apartment. She would’ve put the boy out of sight, of
course. Maybe that was the reason she’d taken so long to undo the chain
latch.

As he stepped inside, closing the door behind him, Angie moved
into Jordan’s line of vision. She was dressed in a simple black tee and faded
jeans that fit her shapely body without being provocatively tight. Her dark hair
fell past her shoulders in silky waves. Her feet were bare, the toenails painted
a soft baby pink.

She was still seductively beautiful. But Jordan had been aware
of that even before his brother fell in love with her—and afterward, too.

He braced himself against the replay of that unguarded moment
in his car, the taste of her tears, the willing heat of her ripe mouth, the
sinuous fit of her curves in his arms. It had been a mistake—one that hadn’t
been repeated. He’d done his best to block the memory. But forgetting a woman
like Angie was easier said than done.

He cleared his throat. “Aren’t you going to ask me to sit
down?”

“There’s room on the sofa.” She was clearly ill at ease. He
imagined she would have liked to settle herself in a chair on the other side of
the room, but aside from the couch, there was nowhere else to sit other than the
floor. After Jordan had taken his seat, she perched on the padded arm at the far
end, her toes working their way beneath the seat cushion.

Jordan shifted his position to face her. She didn’t trust him,
and he couldn’t blame her. But somehow he had to make her listen. He had to make
this right—for Justin’s sake.

If he could help his brother’s son and the woman Justin had
wanted for his wife, then maybe his brother’s soul would forgive him...and
perhaps someday, Jordan could forgive himself.

* * *

Jordan hadn’t changed. Angie studied the frigid gray
eyes, the pit bull set of his jaw, the unruly brown hair with the boyish cowlick
at the crown. If he smiled he’d look a lot like Justin. But she’d hardly ever
seen Jordan smile, at least not at her.

The sight of him had sent her pulse careening like a cornered
animal’s. Jordan had the face of the man she’d loved. But his heart was solid
granite. If he’d taken the trouble to track her down, she could be sure it
wasn’t out of kindness.

“How did you find me?” she asked.

“Internet. Your name was on a web site you’d designed for a
printing business. Pure chance that it caught my eye, but after I saw it I was
curious. I clicked through to your page and saw the photo of you working at your
computer. I couldn’t help noticing you weren’t alone.”

Angie’s heart dropped as his words sank home. A neighbor had
taken the picture. At the last second, Lucas had moved in so close that the
lower edge of the frame showed the top of his head from the back.

A sick fear crept over her. She could have cropped the photo.
Such a simple precaution. Why hadn’t she done it? What had she been
thinking?

But the picture couldn’t have told Jordan enough to bring him
here. Angie’s temper flashed as the truth dawned. “You had me investigated,
didn’t you?”

His jaw tightened. “Where’s the boy, Angie? Where’s Lucas?”

“You have no right to ask!” She was on guard now, a tigress
ready to strike in defense of her cub. “Lucas is my son.
My
son!”

“And my brother’s son. I have a copy of the birth certificate.
You listed Justin as the father. I’m assuming that’s the truth.”

Something crumbled inside her. “I did that for Lucas, so he’d
know. But Justin...” She gulped back a surge of emotion. “He never even knew I
was pregnant. I was going to tell him when he came home for my birthday.”

“So you were never married. Not even secretly.”

“No. You needn’t worry on that account, Jordan. I have no claim
on your family’s precious money or anything else. So go away and leave us
alone.”

She studied his face for some sign that her words had made an
impact. But his expression could have been chiseled in basalt.

“You might have told us,” he said. “It would’ve meant a lot to
my parents, knowing Justin had left a child.”

“Your parents hated me! How could I expose my innocent baby to
those ugly feelings?”

“I want to see the boy.”

No!
Angie’s heart slammed. She’d
had no warning, no time to prepare Lucas for this.

“I don’t think—” she began. But it was too late. She heard the
opening of the bedroom door and the cautious tread of small sneakers. Evidently,
Lucas had grown tired of waiting and decided to check things out for
himself.

Short of lunging for her son, there was little Angie could do.
She watched in mute horror as Lucas emerged from the hallway and caught sight of
their visitor.

His brown eyes opened wide. Then his face lit with joyous
wonder. “Daddy!” he cried, racing across the room. “Daddy, you came back!”

* * *

Daddy?

It was the last thing Jordan had expected—this pint-size bundle
of energy hurtling toward him, flinging eager arms around his knees. A sense of
helplessness crept over him. Lord, did the boy think he was Justin?

He lifted his gaze to meet Angie’s. She looked as if she’d been
punched hard enough to break a rib. With visible effort she found her voice. “He
has Justin’s picture. I’ve told him that his daddy’s in heaven, but he’s so
young...” The words trailed off. Her eyes pleaded for Jordan’s
understanding.

BOOK: In His Brother's Place
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