When Cordero Ybarra and Aspen O’Hare meet, there is an immediate attraction. But he holds his secrets close, refusing to open up about the night racial prejudice almost killed him.
Aspen refuses to trust Cord—or any man. She’s been abandoned one too many times. When another woman lies and says Cord wouldn’t take responsibility for a child they created together, Aspen believes Cord is a deadbeat just like her father. It is only after she uncovers the truth that Aspen realizes Cord is nothing like the men who’ve deserted her before.
When an immigrant worker is hanged by the same two crazies who branded him, Cord sees the truth. The shame he’s carried about being the victim of a hate crime is going to cost him the woman he loves if he can’t let go of his past.
She abruptly pulled out of his embrace and fastened her dress back together. “I need to get back. Daddy will be looking for me.”
Swallowing his disappointment, Cord said, “I’ll walk you back, chica.”
Her eyes were hard, or maybe it was just the moonlight playing tricks on him. “Chica? Don’t call me that. And you can’t tell anyone what happened between us. This was a mistake. I’ll see you around.” Before he could react, she vanished out the door.
“I’ll see you around.”Had she really just said that? He found his shirt on the floor and, after jerking it on, left the bunkhouse, slamming the door behind him. She teased him, got him hard as hell, then vanished? What the fuck had just happened here?
Just a few feet into the dark, someone stepped in front of him. In no mood to talk, Cord started to push by when the other man grabbed his arm. “You too good to talk to me, Mex?”
Buford LaDelle. Cord sighed. What was the guy’s problem with him? “No, just tired.”
“Worn out from work, or something else?”
Cord jerked his arm away from the bigger man’s grip. “Not that I feel like sharing my business with you, but yeah, I’m beat from roping all day.”
Another man moved out of the shadows. Buford grinned at him. “I think he’s worn out from that little joyride he just gave Shayla. How ’bout you, Spike? Think that’s it?”
“Yeah, I think that’s it,” Spike agreed.
Buford got so close Cord could smell the alcohol on the other man’s breath. “That it, Mex?”
“Get lost.” Cord moved to step around Buford, and the bigger man slugged him. Hard. In the stomach. Not expecting it, he doubled over, fighting to catch his breath. Before he could suck in enough air, one of the men slipped a lariat over his head, pulling it tight against his neck. The other one grabbed his wrists and bound them with a slick leather strap, a rein maybe.
What the hell? It was one thing to have a fistfight over a girl—all guys did it—but he’d never been attacked in the dark and roped like a wild steer before. Cord struggled, and the rope around his neck tightened until he feared passing out. Stars danced in front of his eyes, and his ears felt like they had cotton stuffed in them. He tried to speak, and his voice came out in a hoarse growl. “Let me go.”
Buford chuckled. “Not until you learn your lesson, son. I don’t know how things are done back where you come from, but around here, illegals don’t fuck our women.”
“I didn’t—” The rope dug into his neck, cutting off his words. He was as American as they were, the crazy bastards.
Like a prisoner being dragged to the gallows, Cord was hauled toward the corrals. Every time he tried to speak, one of them jerked the rope around his neck, making it impossible for him to call for help. At the branding pens, Buford yanked Cord up tight against one of the corral posts, securing him like a trussed hog. His nose pressed against the rough cedar pole. He turned his face so his cheek rubbed it instead. Spike pulled Cord’s hands around the pole and tied them, rendering him helpless.
“What now?” Spike asked.
Buford held up something that flashed in the dim moonlight. A knife. “I say we geld him. Cut off his nuts and feed them to him.”
The buddy chuckled. “Good plan. That’ll teach him not to go between the legs of decent white women.”
Cord struggled against the rope binding him until it cut into his neck. Warmth trickled down his neck, and he knew it had to be blood. They were only trying to scare him. No one in his right mind would do something so crazy.
Buford crowded up behind Cord, pinning him even tighter to the fence, and reached around and unbuckled his jeans. They slid down over his hips and thighs. He stood tied, half naked, his jeans and shorts pooling around the tops of his boots, as they discussed what to do next.
“We’re gonna need another couple of ropes to hold his legs apart,” the buddy said helpfully. “I’ll go get ’em. But you’re gonna have to do the cuttin’ ’cause I ain’t touchin’ no other man’s dick or balls.”
Buford considered that, turning the knife in his hands. “Yeah, you got a point about that. I ain’t no queer. But we gotta do something to teach this boy a lesson.”
Cord twisted his hands, desperate to get free, but the tie they’d used tightened with every move. He couldn’t catch a deep breath. Sweat beaded on his forehead and ran down his back. The joke had gone far enough. “Turn me loose and I won’t kick your ass,” he demanded in a harsh whisper.
“Oh my God.” A woman’s voice. Shayla. Out of the corner of his eye, Cord saw her take in the scene. Horror filled her voice. “What are you doing? This isn’t Deliverance. Let him go right now.”
A rough laugh rumbled out of Buford. “Not a chance. Your daddy told us to take care of the problem, and we have it handled.”
“I never agreed to this,” she said stubbornly. “Pull up his pants and turn him loose.”
“We’re just scaring him a little.” Buford’s tone changed to vicious, and he stepped toward her with his fist closed. “Now get on out of here.”
She turned and fled.
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About the Author:
Falling in love with romance novels the summer before sixth grade, D’Ann Lindun never thought about writing one until many years later when she took a how-to class at her local college. She was hooked! She began writing and never looked back. Romance appeals to her because there's just something so satisfying about writing a book guaranteed to have a happy ending. D’Ann’s particular favorites usually feature cowboys and the women who love them. This is probably because she draws inspiration from the area where she lives, Western Colorado, her husband of twenty-nine years and their daughter. Composites of their small farm, herd of horses, five Australian shepherds, a Queensland heeler, eight ducks and cats of every shape and color often show up in her stories!
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