Authors: Pamela Clare
Tags: #Romantic Suspense, #Horses, #colorado, #Western, #disabled, #mature romance, #pamela clare, #iteam, #skin deep, #mature couple
Published by Pamela Clare, 2015
Credits for cover images
Cover design by Carrie Divine/Seductive
Copyright © 2015 by Pamela Clare
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced,
scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic format without
permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of
copyrighted materials by violating the author’s rights. No one
should be expected to work for free. If you support the arts, do
not participate in illegal file-sharing.
This book is dedicated to all the women—and
men—who know that the human desire for romance, love, and sexual
passion has nothing to do with age.
This story would have been much more
difficult to write if not for the unflagging support of the
following wonderful people: my sister, Michelle White; my younger
son, Benjamin Alexander; and my dear friends Jackie Turner, Shell
Ryan, and Stéphanie Desprez. Thank you for your friendship and
Thanks, too, to Benjamin Gaibel, who helped
me hold on when writing this book took me through my own personal
loss and grief to a very dark place.
Special thanks and lots of love to Anette
Stoltze, my dear friend from my teenage days at Sorø Akademi in
Sorø, Denmark, and her husband, Erik Buhl, for taking me into their
home and allowing me to experience life on their stud farm—Stutteri
Brandtbjerggård in Pjested. By the time I’d been there for a week,
I was the most relaxed I’ve been in years. Watching the birth of a
colt and experiencing the workings of the farm was an incredible
experience that I’ll never forget.
Janet Killeen gripped the steering wheel of
her Toyota Corolla, snow falling so thick and heavy that she
couldn’t see the side of the highway. Her windshield wipers were
clumped with ice and snow, the rubber blades no longer making
contact with the glass. She would need to pull over soon to clean
the ice off—if only she could see the shoulder so that she
Leaving Denver had been a mistake.
She rolled down her window and scooted
forward in her seat, ignoring the sharp pain that shot through her
hip and pelvis at the motion. Reaching outside, she grabbed the
bottom of the wiper blade. Icy flakes hit her face, the cold almost
taking her breath away as she raised the blade and dropped it
against her windshield once, twice, three times. The thick crust of
ice and snow broke off.
She rolled up the window, turned her heater
up a notch.
She’d left the city first thing this morning,
hoping to make it to the mountain town of Scarlet Springs before
the storm hit. She’d booked a room for a week at the Forest Creek
Inn, a family-run bed and breakfast, and had been looking forward
to seeing the aspens and maybe even sitting on a horse again. It
was part of a promise she’d made herself, her way of celebrating
her survival and the end of rehab.
Having grown up in Hudson Falls in upstate
New York, she always yearned for fall color, and the only place a
person could find that in Colorado was in the high country during
that brief couple of weeks when the aspens turned. It had become
her yearly ritual, the one time of year she put aside her badge and
her duties as an FBI special agent and let herself go.
Forecasters had predicted up to eighteen
inches in Denver and a good few feet in the mountains, but when
were the forecasters ever right about Colorado’s weather? Last
week, they’d predicted snow, and Denver had gotten hail and funnel
clouds instead. Of course, they just
to be right this
You should have turned back.
Yes, well, it was too late for that now. She
needed to reach Scarlet Springs—or find someplace she could pull
off the highway and wait for a break in the storm.
She glanced down at the speedometer. Ten MPH.
At this rate, she’d get there faster if she got out of the car and
ran. Except that she couldn’t run. She would probably never run
again. She was lucky to be able to walk.
You’re lucky to be alive.
Last February, a sniper bullet intended for
journalist Laura Nilsson, whose protection detail Janet had
managed, had ripped through Janet’s left hip, shattering the joint,
breaking her pelvis, severing her sciatic nerve, and damaging her
vaginal muscles before exiting through the front. Doctors had
replaced her hip, used plates to put her pelvis back together,
reconnected the severed nerve, and stitched her vagina, but her
body would never be the same.
Gone were the days of running daily 10Ks and
rock climbing on the weekends. Though she had learned to walk with
a cane instead of a walker, her left foot still dragged. She didn’t
know whether she’d ever be able to ski or ride a horse or even
enjoy sex again. Little things she’d always taken for granted were
difficult now—grocery shopping, keeping a clean house, getting a
full night of pain-free sleep.
And then there were the nightmares.
Gunshots. Screams. Pain.
That single bullet hadn’t just ripped through
her body. It had torn a path through her life. Byron, the skier
she’d been dating, had ended things during her second month of
rehab. He’d said that he’d changed and needed to move on, but she’d
known he was turned off by her lack of mobility and had run out of
patience waiting for them to have a sex life. But that wasn’t all
When she returned from this little vacation,
she would be going back to work, but not to the position she’d held
before the shooting. She’d be taking a desk job instead. An agent
who couldn’t run or stomach the thought of holding a firearm was an
agent who couldn’t leave the office.
The life she’d known had vanished in a split
second, and she missed it, even grieved for it, crying tears she
didn’t share with anyone.
Melodie, her younger sister, saw this as a
sign that Janet should leave the FBI, find a husband, and start a
family before it was too late. Setting aside the fact that Janet’s
biological clock seemed to have run out already, her injuries would
likely make sex and pregnancy difficult, even if by some miracle
she could get pregnant.
Janet and Melodie were very different people.
Melodie had always wanted to be a wife and a mother, and Janet had
always wanted to be a superhero and save the world. It wasn’t that
Janet didn’t want a husband or kids, but her life as a special
agent had been busy and fulfilling enough without them. Besides,
finding a husband wasn’t like shopping for patio furniture. A woman
could spend years looking for the right guy and still not find him.
Janet had had her share of boyfriends and lovers, but after Byron,
it seemed to her that a woman might be better off on her own.
Despite whatever her sister might think,
Janet didn’t regret her choices—not even her decision to volunteer
for Laura’s protection detail. She had always admired Laura and was
proud to have played a role in saving her life. Laura had just
married Javier Corbray, that sexy SEAL lover of hers. Seeing her
move on from the hell that had been her life to claim some
happiness had been the best reward Janet could have received.
She would adapt and find a way to do the
things she loved again. That’s exactly why she’d made this trip—to
reclaim some part of her life for herself.
Snow had begun to build up on the wipers
again, the tail lights of the truck that was at most ten feet in
front of her barely visible. Janet rolled down her window once
more, scooted forward, then grabbed the wiper blade and tapped it
against the glass, dislodging the snow and ice.
It seemed to be coming down even harder now,
the wind driving the snow straight into her windshield. How could
the driver in front of her even see where he or she was going? Was
the driver blindly following someone else’s tail lights like she
was? If so, what was guiding the person in front?
She needed to get off the road. She tried to
remember if there were any gas stations or small towns between here
and Scarlet Springs. She didn’t think so. The only place she knew
of for certain was the Cimarron Ranch, but she wouldn’t stop there
even if she knew where it was. Jack West, the man who owned it, was
as big a jerk as he was handsome. She’d had a less-than-pleasant
exchange with him when she’d gone there as part of Laura’s
protection detail to make certain the place was secured.
I know every man, woman, and child on my
land, SA Killeen. I don’t need you checking IDs or running
background on my people. I understand you want to protect Ms.
Nilsson. So do I. But I’ve got twenty men here, every single one of
whom knows how to use a firearm. They’ve all been made aware of the
situation. Laura is safe under my roof. I guarantee you that. Now,
either come inside for a bite to eat, or get the hell off my
She’d only been trying to do her job, and
West had ordered her off his land as if she’d been nothing more
than a trespasser. She’d been furious at—
Ahead of her, the red tail lights swerved.
The highway seemed to vanish from beneath her tires, the car
sliding sideways down a steep embankment, coming to rest with a
Janet found herself holding the steering
wheel in a death grip, her heart slamming in her chest. She took a
few deep breaths, tried to dial back on the adrenaline.
Way to go, Killeen. That’s one way to get
off the highway.
She wasn’t hurt, and the car was no longer
moving—two reasons to be grateful. The vehicle had come to rest at
an almost forty-five-degree angle, what looked like a fencepost
pressing against her crumpled passenger side door.
She knew there was no way for her to get back
onto the road, not without trading her Corolla for, say, an M1
Abrams tank. She would have to call for help. The tow would
probably cost a small fortune, to say nothing of the damage to her
car and the fence.
Consider it all a tax on being stupid.
She turned off the vehicle, took off her seat
belt, and bent down to retrieve her handbag off the floor. She
pulled out her cell phone. No bars. “Damn it!”
She had no choice but to climb back up to the
road. She might be able to flag down a trucker with a radio who
could call for help on her behalf. Or maybe someone would come
along who was willing to give her a ride to Scarlet Springs.
She grabbed her cane and pulled up the hood
of her parka, determined not to be one of those drivers who
wandered from their vehicles high in the mountains and froze to
death in the snow. She pushed the door open—lifted it, really—then
turned in her seat and tried to step out of the car into the snow.
Her feet slipped, and she fell, instinctively reaching out with her
hands to stop herself, her legs sliding beneath the car. The door
swung down, almost hitting her in the face before she caught
Using her cane to steady herself and support
her weight, she crawled out and got to her feet again, sidestepping
the door and letting it slam behind her. Then she began to climb
There couldn’t have been more than twenty
feet between her and the highway, but it might as well have been a
mile. Last winter, she would have been able to do this without
difficulty, but now it was a struggle. Again and again she slipped,
gaining only a few feet despite intense effort, her thigh and hip
aching, snow biting her face.
A wave of white billowed down on her from
above, knocking her backward down the embankment, losing her all
the ground she’d gained.