Lassoing the Virgin Mail-Order Bride

By: Alexa Riley


When I walk through the door, I make my way to the dining room and stop in my tracks. The table is set, and most of the guys are seated. A few of them are trailing in behind me. I guess Earl really stepped it up tonight. Most of the time, chow is in a line and we all make our plates and sit down. It’s not usually served like an actual meal, and the small effort makes me smile. My stomach rumbles again as I look down the table and see trays of burgers with all the fixings and homemade fries in big bowls between them. It’s a simple meal, but a hearty one, and it smells amazing. All the guys sit down, and I walk to the kitchen to thank Earl for a great dinner tonight.

When I walk through the door, I see him standing in the middle of the kitchen, and I smile at him.

“Great effort tonight. It smells good, and they guys are ready to dig in.” I look over at the counter and see five pies sitting on it, cooling. I’m in shock because I can’t remember the last time I had a homemade pie, and I know Earl didn’t make them. “Where’d those come from?” I ask, making my way into the kitchen.

“Me.”

I hear a soft feminine voice to the side, and I look over to see a beautiful woman with golden ringlets piled on top of her head standing in the pantry. She’s so tiny, maybe five feet tall, and she’s got rosy cheeks and big blue eyes. She’s utterly gorgeous, and as my eyes travel down, I see she’s wearing one of my mama’s old aprons. She looks so perfect, and I immediately want to go to her and scoop her up in my arms. But before I can say or do anything, Earl speaks.

“This is Miss Clare Stevens. You know, your mail-order bride.”

With that, Earl walks past me to the pantry. He stops and looks at Clare. “Dinner looks wonderful, Miss Clare. Come on out of the pantry and let the boys thank you.”

I see her rosy cheeks blush and she bites her lip, but she goes to take a step towards the door.

What does she think she’s doing? She can’t go out there and let those men see her. Is she crazy? She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life. No way are those hound dogs gonna lay eyes on this sweet, innocent, little thing.

In three long steps, I’m in front of her. Reaching out, I grab her arm and halt her motion.

“No,” is the only word I can say. My brain and tongue can’t seem to work together, and that’s all I can get out to stop her from leaving me.





Chapter 3





Clare





I stare up into the grayest eyes I’ve even seen. I didn’t even know eyes could really be a gray that dark. His tanned hand around my arm tightens a little more. Firm but not painful. My eyes go to the hand engulfing my arm as it wraps around it.

I thought he was big in the picture he’d sent me. That was nothing compared to him in person. The man is well over a foot and a half taller than me. I feel his thumb brush up the sleeve of my shirt, almost like it’s petting me in small circles. The rough texture feels good on my skin, too good for a man I want to smack right now for being a jerk. A sexy jerk.

I lick my lips. They suddenly feel dry. His eyes go there, narrowing at my action. His jaw clenches hard, making the stubble that coats his face seem a little more prominent, and I wonder if he shaved just this morning or if it’s a few days old. If I had to guess, he shaved this morning and it grows fast.

“No? You just going to keep her locked in the pantry?” Earl laughs at his own joke. “I know you run a tight ship, boss, but that’s—” His words cut off as Cash pulls me by the arm, my body coming up against his like he doesn’t have any intention of letting me leave the pantry. He smells like the sun, and it catches me off guard just as much as him pulling me into him does.

I use my other arm to tuck a loose blonde curl behind my ear. It’s something I always do when I’m nervous. The air in the pantry starts thicken with uneasy silence.

“I should really take the last pie out of the oven.” I pull at my arm, and Cash reluctantly frees me. I take the opportunity to flee the pantry, sliding past Cash and Earl like my ass is on fire. I have no idea what to make of what just happened in there, but that wasn’t how I thought I’d meet my new husband.

I head straight for the oven, and a squeal leaves my mouth as I’m picked up and placed on the counter. I know a good wind might be able to blow me over, but he moves me like I’m nothing.

“You’ll burn yourself,” he says in a deep, commanding voice. The one I’m sure makes everyone jump, too. It even freezes me for a moment as I watch him grab the oven mitts before opening the oven and pulling out the peach pie, placing it on the counter next to the others.

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