Lori Langston cherished her life as the newlywed wife of sexy Wyoming rancher Travis Langston, but a secret from her past tore their lives apart. Now a twist of fate has given her a second chance to win the heart of the man she loves. Torn between what she longs to do and what she believes is right, Lori struggles with the heavy burden of guilt. When she accepts that her only hope of happiness is with the cowboy she married, Lori realizes that reclaiming her dream is worth the risk of a second heartbreak.
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Melissa Ford lives in rural Michigan with her husband, two sons, and three goats. During the day she assists students with their academic writing at the local community college; her evenings are spent driving her kids around, avoiding housework by playing Scrabble, and of course, working on her next book. Author of both adult and young adult fiction, she enjoys all kinds of stories-as long as they have a happy ending.
LORI LANGSTON stood in the clear Wyoming sunshine watching her husband, Travis, unload hay bales. A few weeks ago she would have allowed herself to enjoy the sight of his swaying shoulders and strong denim clad thighs, but now she forced her gaze away.
I'm pregnant, Travis.
Somehow she had to get the words out. First, though, she had to tell him she was back. Seeing him face to face after their horrible breakup terrified her, but she was determined to talk to him.
She took a deep breath, steadying herself for the flat expression she'd see in his blue-gray eyes. She parted her lips to call out his name, but stopped when he paused from his work.
As if he knew she watched him and he wanted to taunt her, he clasped his hands behind his dark head and arched back, stretching his work hard muscles. Lori remembered all too well what those muscles felt like. His whole body was solid and strong from the constant work at the only home he'd ever known, the Rocking 'L' Ranch. The soft flannel of his shirt would be warm and smell of dust, animals, and of him. The dark curls of his overgrown hair would be moist at his neck.
For an instant she forgot everything, the horrible way she'd betrayed him, their pending divorce, the baby he didn't know about. She stepped onto the driveway, toward the man she loved. The gravel crunched beneath her foot.
Travis dropped his hands and twisted toward her. His gaze locked with hers and for a fraction of a second the pull that had brought them together barely a year ago tugged on her heart.
Before she had time to wonder if there was still a chance for them to work things out, Travis's face tightened with contempt. His azure gaze turned shuttered and icy. He wanted nothing to do with her; he made that as clear as the cloudless, western sky stretching above them.
Lori forced her feet to move. She had to tell him her news, before she lost her nerve. The song of a bright yellow meadowlark perched atop one of the fence posts drifted into the air, its sweet, trilling call emphasizing the tension curling between them.
With each step she felt more of Travis's tightly coiled anger. Looking like a rattlesnake poised to capture its prey, he watched her hesitant approach.
When she reached the truck bed, she lifted her trembling hand to shield her eyes from the noonday sun. She had to tell him about the baby. Hopefully they'd be able to agree on custody arrangements and then she'd be on her way out of Pineview back to her lonesome hotel room in Laramie. Back to the newspaper classifieds piled across the rickety dresser.
Tense lines honed the expression on Travis's face. With his arms folded across his chest and his jaw clamped shut, he made his thoughts clear. He had no intention of talking with her. In his mind, everything had already been said, done, and would soon be made legal.
She couldn't blame him for feeling that way. Although she had some doubts about his love for her, she accepted the responsibility for what had happened. If she'd been honest, the man she loved wouldn't have filed for a divorce.
Travis jerked his gaze from Lori, toward the barn and answered the call. "Out here, Collin!"
Collin Hunt sauntered out of the barn, a bridle swinging from his right hand. He leaned down to rub his leg with the other. "Sorry to hassle you, but Spider's bein' a pain in the..."
He spotted Lori and a slanted, self-conscious smile lifted his mouth. "Hi, Miz Langston. I didn't know you were out here."
Lori tried to return his friendly smile, but her lips twitched uncomfortably. The so-called ranch hand with the long blonde ponytail and boyish grin looked like he belonged on the ski slopes of Aspen, not at an isolated Wyoming ranch. A few weeks ago Travis had insisted on giving the easygoing young man a chance, even though he didn't have much ranch experience.
Travis's formidable expression remained unchanged. "Need help, Collin?"
"Yeah, Spider is kickin' and hoppin' all over the place again. I can't get him out of his stall."
"Can't you take Molly?" he asked.
Collin frowned and shook his head. "Anthony's got her."
"Come on, then." Travis swung down, leaving the rest of the hay bales in the truck bed. "Let's see if we can't get Spider saddled up."
Travis took the bridle from Collin's outstretched hand and without a backward glance the two of them disappeared into the barn. Disappointment trickled through Lori, leaving her shoulders heavy and her legs weak.
She wasn't surprised he'd chosen to ignore her. Maybe his cold reaction was better than the harsh words she'd expected.
Now, she had two choices, follow after them and wait for an opportunity to tell Travis why she'd come, or leave. Although his blank stare had sent ominous tremors through her, she'd made herself a promise she intended to keep no matter how painful. She wouldn't leave the ranch until she told him about the baby and they'd agreed on custody arrangements.
A proud man like Travis deserved to be told he was going to be a father by the woman carrying his child, not informed by an impersonal letter from a lawyer. She couldn't change the fact that Travis would never trust her again, but maybe she could maintain a shred of his respect by coming to him in person.
He wasn't going to make it easy though. Lori uprooted her feet and followed after Travis and Collin. Wild neighs, followed by hooves connecting with sturdy wood walls, sounded from the far end of the horse stalls. Lori heard Travis coaxing the agitated horse.
"It's okay, boy. Collin's going to take you out for a ride. You two can go out and check on the feed corn. Easy now, you want to go, don't you?"
Travis's strong yet gentle voice sent immediate and unwelcome shivers down Lori's arms. The last time he'd talked that way to her was such a hazy memory, it might as well have been in another lifetime. She rubbed the tingling sensation away and lifted her chin.
The situation was horrible enough without her body playing tricks on her. She had to start forgetting everything about Travis, especially that undeniable physical attraction she'd felt since the first time she saw him.