Authors: Barbara Dunlop
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Romance
Keep your secrets under lock and key
One woman has the power to destroy his family and Sawyer Layton is out to stop her. Even if it means the millionaire must don a Stetson and track Niki Gerard all the way to Colorado.
But he didn’t count on the gorgeous Niki having trouble of her own. She’s hiding out on her family’s ranch, desperate to find her mother’s scandalous diary—the same diary Sawyer’s after. Worse still, she’s quicker to the truth. Cover blown, there’s only one option left: work with Niki—and try to keep his hands to himself.
“I Never Play With Fire.” She Paused. “I’ve Never Met Fire Before.”
Every muscle in Sawyer’s body clenched tight.
He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being manipulated. But he also couldn’t figure out why. She didn’t know who he was, or she’d already have run for the hills.
“We have to go back,” he told her. If they didn’t leave now, he was going to kiss her all over again.
“Thanks,” she told him softly, innocently, all traces of teasing replaced by sincerity. “For everything.”
Sawyer turned for the shore, ruthlessly switching his mind to his uncle’s dilemma and the dire price his family would pay if he failed. He couldn’t afford to lose focus.
He couldn’t afford to let Niki get under his skin.
Welcome to book four of the Colorado Cattle Baron series. With each story, I’m enjoying the Terrell and Jacobs families more and more.
Millionaire in a Stetson,
the Terrell brothers discover they have a secret half sister. Niki Gerrard is in serious trouble and runs to her newly discovered half brothers to hide out under a secret identity. Washington, D.C., mover and shaker Sawyer Layton, using a disguise of his own, tracks her down in Lyndon Valley to save his family from ruin.
In this day and age of technology and social media, knowing how many people are reuniting with their own family members, it was great fun to write a secret sibling story. I hope you enjoy it!
Millionaire in a Stetson
Books by Barbara Dunlop
An After-Hours Affair
†A Cowboy Comes Home
†A Cowboy in Manhattan
†An Intimate Bargain
A Golden Betrayal
A Conflict of Interest
Thunderbolt over Texas
The Billionaire’s Bidding
The Billionaire Who Bought Christmas
Beauty and the Billionaire
Marriage, Manhattan Style
Transformed Into the Frenchman’s Mistress
Seduction and the CEO
In Bed with the Wrangler
His Convenient Virgin Bride
The CEO’s Accidental Bride
Billionaire Baby Dilemma
*Montana Millionaires: The Ryders
†Colorado Cattle Barons
Other titles by this author available in ebook format
writes romantic stories while curled up in a log cabin in Canada’s far north, where bears outnumber people and it snows six months of the year. Fortunately she has a brawny husband and two teenage children to haul firewood and clear the driveway while she sips cocoa and muses about her upcoming chapters. Barbara loves to hear from readers. You can contact her through her website,
n a magnificently appointed private room at the Seabreeze Hospital in Washington, D.C., Niki Gerard held her sleeping mother’s pale hand.
The hospital specialized in discreet service for wealthy clients, so plush sofas replaced vinyl, institutional chairs, while the walls were painted in rich colors, adorned with original art and ornate crown moldings. An armoire held Gabriella Gerard’s designer nightwear and robes. And a forty-inch plasma screen, which was connected to a keyboard for email and internet access hung on the far wall. Beneath it, there was a comfortable day bed, should a relative wish to spend the night.
But nothing could completely hide that this was a medical facility. A heart monitor beeped softly next to the bed, green numbers counting off, sending up corresponding spikes on the little graph in the background. An IV bag dripped morphine into the back of that hand of Gabriella’s. She was too thin, only five pounds from her ideal weight, but Niki had discovered during these past two weeks that thin from a healthy diet and exercise looked different than thin from illness.
At forty years old, her mother had contracted a rare virus. She’d barely survived the high fever, and the ordeal had weakened her heart, also taking a toll on her aorta.
Gabriella’s brilliant blue eyes fluttered open.
“Niki?” She appeared both confused and fearful.
“I’m here, Mom.”
Gabriella convulsively squeezed Niki’s hand. “Protect yourself.”
“I’m fine.” Niki gave her mother’s hand a gentle stroke of reassurance. “You need to rest, not to worry about me.”
Gabriella’s gaze darted around the room, and she stage whispered, “You know where the money is?”
“You told me yesterday.” Niki nodded. “It’s in Switzerland.”
“You’ll need it.”
Niki knew the size of her mother’s investments here in D.C., so the statement didn’t make sense. Not unless Niki had plans to buy a luxury hotel or a cruise ship in the near future.
“Tell me,” Gabriella insisted.
“My birthday, your birthday and our building address.” Niki repeated the code to access the account.
She’d hoped the increased morphine would calm her mother, not make her more agitated.
“Don’t let them get it,” Gabriella gasped.
“Who would get it?”
“Don’t trust them. Don’t trust any of them.”
“Mom. It’s fine. Everything’s fine. Nobody can get the money.”
“I mean it, Niki. The diary is your only hope. It’ll keep you safe, keep them from…” Gabriella seemed confused again. “Wilton.” She sighed. “How I wish…”
The diary? Gabriella was worried about her diary? Though she’d never seen it, Niki knew her mother had kept a diary for many years. She’d joked about the power of its secrets, mocking the married men who’d had affairs with her.
Gabriella focused intently on Niki now, leaning up. “They know. Too many people know—” Her blue eyes suddenly went wide. She cried in obvious pain, collapsing back on the bed.
Niki rose from her chair. “Mom?”
“Don’t let them get the diary.” Gabriella sucked in a few sharp breaths, then her jaw clenched tight.
Niki’s throat closed over, and her chest ballooned with fear. She reached for the nurse’s call button, pressing it hard with her thumb. “Mom?”
Gabriella’s eyes blinked open, but there was something wrong. Her pupils were huge, and her brilliant blue irises had become translucent.
Two hot tears rolled down Niki’s cheeks. “The nurse is coming. Hang on, Mom.”
But the breath eased out of Gabriella’s lungs. Then, just like in the movies, the heart monitor screeched out a solid beep. The line went flat.
Within seconds, two nurses sprinted into the room.
They crowded the bed, firmly elbowing Niki out of the way. She barely remembered to breathe as Gabriella’s hand slipped from hers. Her brain fogged over in a daze.
An eternity seemed to pass, people coming and going, calling instructions to each other. But then, the urgency left their movements. Their voices went calm. Someone gently pulled the sheet over her mother’s face. And a nurse led Niki to a chair in the hallway.
Gabriella was gone. Niki’s beautiful, vivacious, irrepressible, fun-loving mother had died far too soon.
Niki felt a shiver run up her spine, and she had an eerie sensation of being watched. For a split second, Niki believed in ghosts. But then she glanced down the hallway to find a man in a business suit staring hard in her direction. Before she could react, he turned abruptly, banging his way through a set of double doors.
Gabriella’s words flooded back to her. There were secrets in a diary, money in a Swiss bank account and a mysterious
for Niki to worry about.
“Oh, Mom,” she moaned under her breath. “What did you do?”
he trouble with living a lie, Niki discovered three months later, wasn’t that you might get caught. It was that, eventually, you wanted it to be true. And that moment came when Sawyer Smith arrived at her half brother’s newly framed ranch house.
Late-afternoon sun rays slanted through the empty window openings, turning the dust flecks to sparkles, and highlighting planes and angles of Sawyer’s striking face. He was neater than most cowboys, clean shaven, hair trimmed short. But his stance was easy, shoulders square, hands wide and capable.
Niki was crouched on the rough plywood floor of the kitchen, power drill in her hand. She was putting holes in the two-by-fours in preparation for running the electrical cables. Her jeans were dirty, the heels of her palms scratched and red. She had sawdust in her hair, and her serviceable, green T-shirt was streaked with sweat.
“I took possession of the Raklin place yesterday.” Sawyer spoke to her half-brother Reed, his deep voice carrying across the open rooms.
Niki watched covertly between the studs of the skeleton walls. Reed was an imposing figure, broad shouldered, heavily muscled, at a height of six-feet four. But Sawyer held his own. He was a little shorter, a little leaner, obviously athletic. And he was cover-model sexy, with the most startling, deep blue eyes she’d ever seen.
“Welcome to Lyndon Valley,” Reed responded, reaching out to shake Sawyer’s hand.
Sawyer’s gaze met Niki’s, and she quickly refocused on her work, embarrassed to be caught checking him out. She revved up the drill and lined up for the next spot that had been marked by the electrician. She eased the bit through the fibrous wood, her arm vibrating all the way to her shoulder.
Up to now, she would have sworn she was only attracted to the urbane, classy type. But, apparently she’d reassessed. At some point, after her life had taken a one-eighty, forcing her to flee Washington, D.C., for the wilds of Colorado cattle country, cowboys must have started to look good.