Bunking Down with the Boss. Charlene Sands
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       Bunking Down with the Boss

      Charlene Sands

      This book is dedicated to the memory of my

       childhood friend, Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, Jack Miller, the true inspiration for the sheriff in this story. You paid the ultimate price, Jack. Your service and sacrifice will always be remembered.

      Special heartfelt thanks to my wonderful editor,

       Jessica Alvarez.

      Thank you for all that you do.

      Contents

       Chapter One

       Chapter Two

       Chapter Three

       Chapter Four

       Chapter Five

       Chapter Six

       Chapter Seven

       Chapter Eight

       Chapter Nine

       Chapter Ten

       Chapter Eleven

       Coming Next Month

       One

      Tie-One-On Bar and Grill was known for two things: earsplitting country music and beautiful female patrons. Sam Beaumont indulged in both. He sat at a corner table in the honky-tonk listening to Toby Keith’s latest, while eyeing a tall blonde up at the bar. She’d caught his attention the minute she walked in. The thing of it was, the Texas bombshell had stared back at him with interest, then spent a minute deep in conversation with the bartender before grabbing two Coors and walking over to him.

      “I need a man,” she said, with a shake of her head. Her long locks gyrated right back into place. She set the two bottles down on the table and gave him a good long assessing look.

      “Yeah?”

      “Chuck over at the bar says you might be interested.”

      He surveyed the leggy blonde, sweeping a leisurely look over her body. She was beauty-queen pretty, but Sam had seen more than a fair share of pretty women in his day. No, it was something in her eyes that spoke to him, a guarded look he knew too well. It was that vulnerability, even as she stood there brazen as all hell, claiming she needed a man, that intrigued him.

      Sam sipped his beer slowly, keeping her waiting, and a surge of something he hadn’t felt in nearly a year traveled through his veins. An unhurried rush, a tingle of awareness that he had believed long buried, surfaced.

      That, in itself, was enough for him to send the woman packing. He didn’t want to feel anything. Not ever again.

      “So are you?” she asked. “Interested?”

      He swept her a look. “What’d you have in mind?”

      Even through a layer of smoky haze and dim light, he couldn’t miss her face color to tomato red, but the woman seemed determined. She slid into the booth at the same time she slid a beer his way. “I need a month’s work, for a month’s wages, room and board included. Chuck vouched for you. He said you’re looking for work.”

      He sipped his beer and thought about the events that had brought him here. The CEO of a major construction company on the run, not from the law, but from his own guilt-ridden past—Sam was running from things he could no longer face. He didn’t need the cash, but hell, staying real busy kept those agonizing thoughts at bay. And Sam needed that, almost as much as he needed his next breath.

      “Maybe.” He surprised himself with his answer. Truth be told, he wouldn’t mind staying in one place longer than a week. So far, nobody had caught up with him. And he wanted to keep it that way. When he’d left his CEO position with its staggering responsibilities and his old life behind, he’d called his younger brother Wade occasionally, at his insistence, but Sam had never disclosed his location. Trust only went so far. He needed running room and manual labor to keep his tortured mind from remembering.

      “I’m Caroline Portman.” She held out her hand and Sam took it. Well, hell, he wasn’t in the habit of shaking hands with women. But her handshake was firm, even though her skin was soft as butter.

      “I’m kinda desperate for help right now, so you can take advantage of me, but only just a little.”

      She smiled briefly, and he noted two dimples peeking out from both corners of her mouth. Like he said, beauty-queen pretty. He felt another unwelcome surge travel through his body.

      “I’ve got one month to get my place up and running. It’s hard work and long hours, but I can pay well.”

      “What kind of work?”

      Sam cursed himself for asking. He’d pretty much determined that those sparks he felt a moment ago weren’t anything he wanted to feel again. He’d spent the better part of this year numb to the outside world. Keeping the status quo was essential. If those tiny sparks nudged away the numbness to any degree, then he’d never survive. He’d have to say no to pretty Miss Caroline Portman.

      “I’m rebuilding my stables. The place sort of went downhill, and, well, I’m planning on bringing it back up to the way it was before, uh, before…”

      She stopped, blinked several times, biting down on her lip, unable to get the words out. It wasn’t an act—he’d had enough experience to know when someone was downright lying. The lady had choked up, and Sam saw the heartache there, the pain she tried so bravely to hold back.

      He didn’t want to know. He’d had enough grief of his own to last a lifetime. Hell, he’d been drifting for months, heading from one Texas town to another, trying to forget, and that was what kept him going. The forgetting.

      He liked this town. Hope Wells reminded him of the place he’d been raised since the age of five, a small friendly place where life was simple and fair. But looking into Caroline Portman’s eyes, maybe he needed to amend the fairness part. Sam knew that life held more unfair uncertainties than sometimes a man could take.

      Or a woman.

      Damn if he didn’t love horses. Rebuilding a stable and working with horses again appealed to him. He had spent his young life around ranches. He knew a thing or two about livestock and would enjoy the work, but he still didn’t think this a good idea.

      “Not interested.”

      Caroline blinked her big baby-blue eyes.

      Sam rose from the table, finishing off his beer. “Thanks for the offer.”

      Stunned, the blonde sat there wearing a disappointed look.

      He set a few bills on the table and strode out of Tie-One-On. If nothing else, meeting Caroline Portman had added a СКАЧАТЬ