Excerpt - Take Me Again

Wild Oats, Book Two

Mackenzie McKade

The fresh scent of soap and woodsy aftershave tickled Tracy’s nose. She fought the sneeze threatening to interrupt Travis Wood Senior as he pointed out the features of his stables.

“Twelve stalls. We’re not very large in comparison to the others here in town, but we’re clean.” She could see pride in his serious eyes as well as the confident way he held himself. Head high, shoulders back, each step taken with determination behind it. He stroked his large hand down his handlebar mustache. Late forties, he wasn’t a bad looking man, honed by hard work. One thing she knew without a doubt, he was a no-nonsense man.

Every stainless steel rail was polished until it shined. The walkway was swept and probably mopped instead of sprayed because there was no standing water. Half of the stalls were occupied with horses happily munching on hay and oats. A sorrel with three white socks neighed. Another horse answered back clawing the ground.

“Our stock is healthy and of acceptable lineage,” he stated matter-of-factly.

She flashed him a genuine smile. “I can see that.”

Her Uncle Carl had called in a favor. Wood hadn’t warmly welcomed her, but she would take what she could. Winning him over would be easy. Not because she had long legs and a voice that seemed to mesmerize men, but she was good at her job—damn good.

“Easy girl.” The soft voice of a young man rose from a stall ten feet away.

“My son, Travis Junior,” Wood announced. A gleam sparked, replacing his seriousness. That was, until the teenager stepped out of the stall. He wore no hat like his father’s expensive Stetson and that wasn’t the only difference. Where Wood Senior’s clothes were clean and pressed, down to the front seam of his jeans, his son looked in disarray. Straw and dirt dotted his wrinkled shirt half tucked in and half out of his jeans. His boots were scuffed and there was weariness on his taut features that seemed to grow even tighter when his gaze met his father’s.

Wood Senior frowned. “What the hell—” He glanced sheepishly at Tracy. “Sorry ma’am.” His expression hardened as he turned back to his son. “What’s going on here, boy? Looks like you slept in those clothes.”

Travis immediately started to brush off his jeans. “Uh… I did.” He fidgeted, clearly looking for an answer. “I—I mean, yeah, I fell asleep out here last night.”

The look on Wood’s face said he wasn’t buying his son’s lie, but he held his tongue. Instead he said, “Come meet our new vet.”

“Vet?” Travis’s voice cracked as he stared at the stethoscope around her neck and the black bag she carried. He stole a quick glance toward the mare in the stall. The telltale sign that something was afoot caught Tracy’s interest. The straw had been beaten down and the mare seemed lethargic. “What about Crane?”

Ahhh… The infamous Dolan Crane.

Her young cousin had given her the scoop on the other vets in the area, including the one that made all the women in town lust after him. Laurie had sighed as she described the man’s handsomeness and his reputation as a playboy.

Tracy had almost swallowed her tongue when her cousin cupped a hand over her mouth and whispered, “Rumors are he likes ménages.” Flush faced, the girl had giggled while Tracy had felt a spark of interest, one she had extinguished immediately.

She wasn’t looking forward to meeting this playboy vet. He wouldn’t be receptive to her encroaching on his territory, she was sure of that. The Woods had been his customers until now.

“Tracy Marx,” Wood Senior introduced. “I’ll deal with Crane.”

Travis jutted his hand out. “Pleasure to meet you, ma’am.” He shot another look toward the mare and then wiped his palms on his jeans.

Not if your troubled expression means what I think it does. She didn’t speak her mind but thought it better to check the mare as soon as possible. “The pleasure is mine.”

“Deal with me, how?” came a deep smooth voice from behind her.

Color drained from Travis’s face and Wood Senior’s expression grew taut.

She pivoted on the toe of her boot, almost toppling over when her breath caught.

The dark stranger from last night stood approximately twenty feet away. Their eyes met. Sparks flew between them thickening the air so that the next breath was difficult to inhale. Her pulse leaped and warmth sizzled through her veins.

For a moment, he appeared overtaken as well. That was until the sexy grin he wore faded. His brows furrowed as if he struggled to understand the situation. Then his gaze dropped to her chest.

Now that was embarrassing. Heat flashed across her cheeks. She looked down to see if the buttons of her cotton shirt were open, but only saw the stethoscope hanging between her breasts. She glanced back up at him. That’s when Tracy saw the stethoscope around his neck and the matching black bag in his hand.

Oh shit! Every ounce of confidence fled from her body. Her mystery man was her competition.

Dolan Crane.

She swallowed hard. Fate must be having a fuckin’ good laugh at her. The first man who had ever made her body react with such unadulterated lust was the one she hoped to squeeze out of business.

With determination in his step he marched up to her and extended his hand. “Dolan Crane.”

Their palms met. Electricity zinged through her. “Tracy Marx,” she mumbled, trying to retract her hand, but he held on.

“What’s going on here?” She knew his question was targeted toward Wood even though his dark eyes seem to burn a hole through her.

“Had plans to call you today,” Wood said while his son flashed Crane a helpless look.

Tracy jerked her hand in vain as his fingers tighten around hers. Controlled strength surrounded her like a glove.

He stepped closer.

If he was trying to intimidate her, it was working. It felt like an army of ants crawled across her flesh to raise goose bumps. She almost jumped out of her skin when his tone deepened. “What about?” There was a growl in his voice. Amazingly, she was aware of the heat of his body, the way his spicy cologne grew stronger as the fire in his eyes flamed brighter. His cock filled out the front of those jeans in a way that clouded her senses. The T-shirt stretched tight over strained muscles didn’t help.

“Miss Marx is a vet,” Travis’s voice strained before his father could respond.

“Kind of drew that assumption on my own.” He focused his full attention on Wood, while keeping her within his grasp. “Wood?”

Travis Senior tore off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. “Well it’s like this, Crane. Doc Zimmerman is due to retire soon—”

“Yes.”

“You can’t blame a man for looking out for his investments.” A hint of frustration rose in Wood’s voice.

“Any problem with my work? Any cause to look elsewhere?” Clearly Crane wasn’t backing down without a fight.

“My hand.” Tracy finally spoke up. Crane faced her once again. She raised a single brow. “Could I have my hand back? I need to get to work.”

His nostrils flared. He seemed to hold on to her longer before letting go just to show her that he was in control.

Her heart lunged into her throat. Damned if she didn’t find that sexy as well. Still she had to stand her ground. She wouldn’t let Crane chase her out of California. This was her opportunity for a new start.

“Look I know this is awkward, but we’re professionals. It’s the way things are.” Well, bravo to her for speaking up and not really saying anything of real value. She wiped her now sweaty palm on her jeans. “I mean this town is big enough for the two of us.”

Oh God. I can’t believe I said that. Her words painted an image of a showdown in an old Western movie. By the simmering heat in his eyes he might just pull a six-gun and blow her away.

He gave her one of those you’ve-got-to-be-kidding looks and then turned to the two men beside her. “Travis. Wood.” A nod followed the brisk run of his fingers along the brim of his hat. “Miss Marx.” Without another word he turned and walked away.

Whoosh, she mentally brushed her brow. Dodged that bullet, but she still had to win over Wood who was frowning, which told her that Crane was a decent vet he hated to lose. Tracy knew she’d get past that issue. Of course, there was that other problem.

The attraction she felt for one hot cowboy who despised her.

Hey wait—

Anger began to rise. It crawled up her neck stinging her ears. Crane had referred to her as Miss Marx—not Dr. Marx. Was it a faux pas or an intentional act of disrespect? Either way his lack of acknowledgement stung and it made her madder than hell.

“So it begins,” she hissed beneath her breath.

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