Strong, Silent Cowboy (Moving Violations #2) by Lora Leigh

prologue


Jake.

It had been three years. Three long, lonely, heart-broken years since he’d disappeared one snowy afternoon in Sweden.

Three years, two of which had been spent running, terrified, certain that death lurked around every corner. Now, relocated to another state, another town, another name, and the past was staring at her as though she had never existed before this moment.

“Jacob, I’d like you to meet the new manager for Dillerman’s Feed and Supply, Sallie Hamblen. Sallie, one of our most eligible ranchers, Jacob Donovan…”

Who made the introduction, she had no clue. All she knew was the man who stood in front of her, hand extended, one of those distant little curves to his lips that people gave someone they didn’t know and weren’t certain they wanted to know.

She fought to swallow, to speak. What came out of her mouth was polite enough.

“Nice to meet you.” The sound was strangled to her ears. Too rough.

She barely allowed her hand to touch his before pulling back from him. If he saw it as rude, then so be it. She couldn’t make herself do more, give more. Not now. Not with this man.

He didn’t know who she was.

The three years had been hard ones, but the stress and worry hadn’t yet marked her features. She was the same woman he’d spent three days in a bed with, three days marking her soul in ways she still hadn’t recovered from, in ways her heart couldn’t forget.

But his name was different as well.

“Where you from, Miss Hamblen?” His tone didn’t show disinterest, but there was zero familiarity.

He didn’t remember her.

The pain, the humiliation was almost overwhelming. It burned through her mind, into her chest, and struck at her heart. She’d found him after three years of searching, only to learn his name hadn’t actually been Jake Rossiter as he’d claimed, but Jacob Donovan. He was a rancher rather than attached to an embassy. But she recognized him. She’d seen him the moment he entered the room, just as he’d seen her. Their eyes had met, and then he’d turned away as though he hadn’t spent three days making her scream with pleasure. That he hadn’t disappeared from her life as though he had never truly existed.

“Miss Hamblen, are you okay?” her new assistant Tara queried in concern.

Was she okay? She was dying inside. Okay was not an option.

“I think I’m just tired.” Sallie turned to the other woman, fighting to hide her desperation to escape. “And it’s rather warm in here. I believe I’ll return to my hotel if you don’t mind, Tara.”

She ignored Jacob. She had no choice. Pain was ripping at her chest, tears threatened to fill her eyes. Oh now, wasn’t this just wonderful? She’d spent three years agonizing over him, two years of that time she’d spent running for her life. And now, he was here, staring at her, watching her curiously, but he didn’t know her. She’d mattered so little that he didn’t even remember her.

“I can take you back. Let me get my bag.” The other woman rushed off before Sallie could tell her that was okay, she’d make her own way back.

“It was nice to meet you, Mr. Donovan.” She barely forced the words past her lips. “If you’ll excuse me.”

“Of course.” A polite smile, a narrowing of his eyes, but he didn’t say anything more and allowed her to turn and walk away from him.

She pressed a hand to her stomach, wondering if it were possible to hold back the emotions tearing through her now.

This wasn’t what she’d expected to find in the small town of Deer Haven. A place to hide. Time to give her stepfather to figure out who was stalking her and why. That was all she’d hoped for when he’d deposited her in her hotel two weeks ago. Stanley Dillerman had arrived the next day and given her the manager’s position at his feed and ranching supply store, and Sallie had fought to just get through each day until she found her balance here.

Found her balance.

Yeah, that wasn’t happening now. There wasn’t a chance.

Because Jacob Donovan was here. And the weekend she’d spent with him was still a brutal, pain-filled reminder of everything she’d lost since. Everything. Especially the man and the dreams she’d once allowed herself to believe in.





chapter one


Three Years Later

Some men should be outlawed for the sake of all women worldwide. Especially tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed cowboys like Jacob Donovan.