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Wyoming Wilde

When a cool and classic New Yorker meets a rugged Wyoming cowboy, the result is hotter than a Yellowstone geyser. All Cassandra Wilde wants is to head back home--even in a ranging blizzard. To her dismay, her return is put on hold when the details of the will force her into a partnership with the tall, handsome, cowboy of her childhood. Sage McKenna has grown up on the Parrish ranch with one dream: to inherit the land that Jake Parrish had promised years before when he killed Sage's father. Now, forced into ownership with the most delectable yet stubborn creature east of the Mississippi, Sage's lonely world is turned upside down.

Book 3 of the Wild Wyoming series

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

Diana Hart

    Writing as Diana Hart, the 1992 Golden Heart Finalist and author of LIES AND SHADOWS, Pam Hart has teamed up with Preditors and Editors #2 Best Electronic Fiction in 1998 author, Diana Kirk to pen the first of four books set in Wyoming--UNFRIENDLY PERSUASION, BAD MEDICINE, WYOMING WILDE, and PARTNERS IN CRIME.

     Pam Hart started her writing career as a paper published author. She taught writing at a local University and during her two year tenure as president of her RWA chapter. In October of 1998, HSWF celebrated the re-release of her Meteor-Kismet novel LIES AND SHADOWS, a 1992 Golden Heart finalist.

     In her multi-checkered career, Hart has been a social worker, juvenile probation officer, high school social studies teacher, and currently teaches criminal justice at an area college. Recently, she's acquired a fascination with crime scene investigation and police procedurals. Of all her positions, however, her favorite is author.


"Cassandra Wilde and Sage McKenna have nothing in common in Wyoming Wilde, or do they? Diana Hart has literally put her heart and soul in this one. From the far corners of your mind, can you remember that very first love, the one that meant so much to you when you were a child? Sage McKenna never got Cassie out of his mind or heart. She and her mother Megan had been a lifeline back when Sage was growing up in a house not so full of love. When 5 year old Cassie promised to love him always, it touched a deep need in Sage. A need that even in adulthood was never quenched. But when New York (Cassie as a young an beautiful woman) meets all Wyoming cowboy (Sage as a adult) the sparks begin to fly. She's on a mission of mercy, he's on a mission of love, together they make beautiful music. There's a hint of mystery, a lot of lovin' and a great story here. I was caught on the excerpt. The book enthralled me. Hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I did!"--A Winning Reader Review from Rita P.J. Hestand "This action-packed western pits the big city girl, who objects to what the cowboy wants to do, against the cowboy, who stands between her and what she needs. The plot is anything but simple, and will hold your interest. The characters are nicely drawn and the reader cares what happens to them. . .If you like contemporary westerns with a sense of humor, this one's for you."

Lois Black -- Romance Communications

"You'll enjoy meeting the two fiercely independent adults and watching how they deal with the problems life throws at them. Plus you get the bonus of the breath-taking beauty of Wyoming painted in beautiful word pictures for you!! Sit back with a cup of tea, put your feet up and sink into the romance of Wyoming Wilde. You won't be disappointed."


Chapter 1

Cassandra Wilde drummed her fingers on the car rental counter and glared at the large black words that boasted about trying harder. "I need a vehicle," she said to the clerk. "I've got to get to Cody. Immediately," she added with a hopeful lift.

A middle-aged woman brushed a wayward hank of hair off her face only to have it fall back into her eyes. Like her male counterpart at the number one car rental agency, the woman stared at Cassandra like she'd just asked for a one-way ticket to Pluto.

She drew herself up to her full five-foot-six-inches and fixed the clerk with a pointed New York stare that could usually back down a Rikers Island pit bull. "Now."

"Ma'am," the woman said. "Have you looked outside?"

Cassandra turned and glared out the floor-to-ceiling plexiglass windows at Cheyenne Airport. The snow had begun falling little more than a half hour ago and already blanketed the strip. Inches upon inches piled up with no end in sight. Unseen hands swirled fistfuls of the white stuff high into the air, tossing it back and forth across the now hidden tarmac. In automatic response, she shivered at the frigid view.

"Buffalo wouldn't last ten minutes in that," the clerk said.

"Well, I have to," Cassandra said.

"Winter driving is the pits. Best to wait out the storm and take a connecting flight later."

Attention. The word echoed through the semi-deserted lobby. Attention. All flights into and out of Cheyenne are canceled. Repeat. All flights are canceled.

"Wow," the clerk said. "It is bad." She met Cassandra's gaze and shrugged. "Can't rent you anything, now." With a nod at the white swirling outside, she clicked her tongue. "I've got to get home while the getting's still good."

The news should've depressed Cassandra. Instead, it spurred her on. "Look," she said with a long sigh, "I can't wait around. It's imperative that I get to Cody as soon as possible."

"Sorry. Whatever's so important will just have to wait." The woman plunked down a plastic sign. Closed. "Good luck." With that, she grabbed her purse, turned on her heel and strode through a side door.

"Gee, thanks." Cassandra's words hung in the cool silence. Various workers trekked through the waiting area and headed toward the revolving doors.

"Now what?" She rubbed her fingers across her forehead where the beginnings of a headache gathered. No way was she spending a long, cold night here, not after the flight she'd put in. Her stomach still hadn't gotten over the nauseating bumps and dips over western Nebraska.

Around her, the lobby furnishings were rustic, straight from the fifties. The only thing lacking was June Cleaver and her pearls. "We're definitely not in The Big Apple anymore, Toto."

Actually, she was eons away from home in many ways. Surrounded by cowboy-boots and pickup trucks, she was a foreigner, more than a little odd and out of place in her navy linen suit and uptown luggage.

A local strolled by and stepped all over her politically correct opinions. He wore a fur coat -- the real kind! Evidently no one had apprised Wyomians that wearing animal skins was as close to barbaric as it got in the 90s. She bit her lip and shook her head. Somewhere along the line, she'd fallen through the friendly skies and into The Rocky Mountain Triangle, a place so remote, civilization had only whispered across the vast expanse of prairie. Tired and frustrated, she slumped in a cold, plastic chair and peered outside. In silent, steady insult, the snow mounted higher.

Stop! she wanted to shout. Stop falling!

Where had all the white stuff come from, anyway? It was April first. The national weather service had predicted typical spring temperatures, and even a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker like Cassandra knew this much snow was not typically spring.

Fate hadn't stopped throwing curveballs Cassandra's way since the unexpected phone call two days ago that turned her life upside down. A kindly voice on the other line had informed that her father had died and left her an inheritance. Could she please come to Cody and take care of it?

Her father. The word rolled around her brain trying to find a niche to settle in, but there was none. Jack Parrish as a father? Now that was a laugh. He was a lot of things, but a father wasn't one of them.

Her mother had taken her maiden name for herself and her daughters. Through their growing up years, Cassandra and Lindsey had often wondered about Jack, bombarding their mother with questions about him. But she'd never answered, never spoken of him, never mentioned his name aloud. Not even on her deathbed. Finally, the girls stopped asking, but somehow it was understood that he'd done something awful. Or was something awful.

A shiver skipped up Cassandra's spine. She was terribly cold, and not merely from the torrent of white dancing outside. Since landing, there was a big, gaping nothingness somewhere deep inside, something she'd never known existed until now. She, her mother and her sister had been a close trio. Since their mother's death, Lindsey had been the focus of Cassandra's latest crusade. All she needed to do was refocus on her mission, concentrate on Lindsey and the operation. That would keep the loneliness at bay.

Cassandra huddled into her coat and glared at the glistening ice crystals frosting the corners of the windows. She hated the sensation of being trapped. So far, the lousy weather had the upper hand. She pushed to her feet and paced in front of the window. She needed her father's will settled and soon. She needed -- correction: Lindsey needed -- the money as well as the operation it would bring. The doctors tried to tell them money wasn't the issue in getting Lindsey's name at the top of the donor list, but Cassandra knew better. Money talked, especially to hospitals who didn't have to fight insurance companies if a patient had the bucks to cover the procedure. Zoom. Straight to the head of the list. The way Cassandra saw it, the sooner she collected the money, the sooner she and Lindsey were home free. It was that simple.

Except, from the moment of the phone call nothing had been simple. Resting her shoulders against the huge windows, she considered her situation. Blustery wind buffeted the glass, shifting both Cassandra and the Plexiglass. She swore under her breath. There simply had to be another way.

Her gaze strayed far down a deserted aisle. Cheap Seats Rent-A-Car. A bored-looking clerk putzed through a stack of papers. At least that place was still open!

Her determined stride ate up the distance. "Excuse me," she said. "I'd like to rent a four-wheel-drive... uh... vehicle."

The bespectacled middle-aged man jerked around and stared at her as if she was a new strain of salmonella.

"Any four-wheel will do," she said. "Truck, car... whatever. I just need to get going." She adopted her most superior New York attitude. "Now, if you please."

His bushy eyebrows climbed so high they looked like wooly caterpillars on top of his bald head, then he broke into gales of laughter. "Lady," he finally said and wiped his eyes, "are you crazy? In case you haven't noticed, there's a--"

"Blizzard." If the non-nonsense New York stare hadn't worked, perhaps the typical, gracious female would. She smiled at him. "Yes, I know, but I assure you I'm not crazy--"

"The hell you're not," a deep voice thundered behind her. Cassandra didn't know what irritated her more, the commanding tone or the rude delivery. Slowly, she turned around, intending to dress the speaker down, but the words caught in her throat. A man, almost a half-head taller, smirked down at her. High cheekbones peeked out from under what appeared to be two-day stubble. Arctic blue eyes bored into her from under arched, black brows. One of those animal coats -- a heavy, curly, sheepy thing -- cloaked him. Digging in her heels, she raised her gaze to meet his penetrating one straight on. Locked in silent battle, she refused to give an inch to the odious stranger, but she had no idea why.

His manner said he knew her, but she hadn't a clue who he was. "And who, may I ask, is insulting me?"

The semblance of a smile tickled the corners of his mouth, one that said she'd momentarily amused him in some small way. It wasn't something she'd meant to do, and the action brought out the hint of twin dimples hidden deep in the muscles of his tanned cheeks. For an unknown and totally irrational reason, it almost warmed her inner chill.

"Sage McKenna." He tugged the brim of his black cowboy hat. "At your service."

She narrowed her eyes and mentally scanned the name. "I don't know any McKennas, so obviously you're the one who's crazy." She paused for effect and then delivered her best shot. "Or is it a Wyoming custom to ridicule visitors upon arrival?" His gaze hardened, yet a strangely compelling aura surrounded him, intriguing her on a subliminal plane. Something flared in his eyes, something dark and deep and smoldering. A large man with a predatory stance, he filled her sight and seemed to suck away all the air in a four-state area.

The furry dead thing around his shoulders only served to emphasize the width of that particular part of his anatomy as well as define the wide expanse of his chest beneath. Mingled scents of man and the elements filled her senses, engulfing her in his essence without even trying. Her head spun, and she took a small step back to give herself breathing room.

Again, that small shudder of a smile hovered around his mouth in a totally infuriating manner. She lifted her chin and stabbed him with the haughty look she saved for her most recalcitrant clients. "Are you deaf, Mr. McKenna, or just plain rude?"

"No, ma'am, I'm not deaf," he began in an aw-shucks tone she didn't buy for one minute. "And I'm not rude." He paused much as she had done earlier. "But if I wanted to be, I'd know where to come for lessons."

It was Cassandra's turn to arch an ironic brow. "Touche', Mr. McKenna, but I doubt your society follows the same rules as mine."

He thumbed back his well-worn hat and revealed a head of dark, shaggy hair. "Ma'am," he said, continuing in the same tone that set Cassandra's teeth on edge, "out here, in our neck of the woods, fifty-dollar words don't mean diddly. But I can assure you we're as polite and civilized as anybody in Trump Towers. Only difference is--" he pinned her with a one-up glance -- "we're as honest as we are sincere. Now," he said holding up a palm to fend off her next comment, "you are Cassie Parrish. Right?"

The slight hesitation before his one word question lent him a vulnerability Cassandra wouldn't have thought possible. Otherwise, she'd have taken his head off for using the nickname. "It's Wilde, Cassandra Wilde. If my mother had wanted to call me Cassie -- or anything else -- that's the name she'd have given me."

He took off his hat, freeing thick black waves that edged the rim of his collar, and dusted the Stetson against his denimed thighs. "Look, your highness, while we stand around jawing, the snow is piling higher. Nicholas Randolph, your daddy's legal eagle, sent me to fetch you."

Cassandra shook her head. "In the middle of a blizzard?"

He nodded somberly and pressed the hat to his wide, sheep-covered chest. "Why, shucks, ma'am. It's 'The Code of the West.' We take real good care of all our visitors." A sparkle lit his eyes. "Besides, it wasn't a blizzard when I left."

She couldn't argue with his logic. Still... "You have me at a disadvantage, Mr. McKenna. I have no idea who you are."

Again, something she couldn't decipher flashed through his eyes before he averted his gaze. "Just a plain old country boy sent to do the big city girl a favor. So let's move it."

The stubborn cowboy certainly had a way about him, but if he thought she'd come along like a docile little dogie, he had several other things coming. If he could manage to drive back to Cody, so could she. Cassandra turned back to the counter. "Excuse me," she called to the clerk. He lifted his bored gaze from the Rocky Mountain Field and Stream Anniversary Issue that featured an ugly, open-mouthed fish on the cover. "About my four-wheel-vehicle?"

"They all have four wheels," McKenna muttered behind her.

The little man stared at her then lifted his gaze and deferred to the man standing in back of her. "Sage?"

McKenna scrubbed his chin with a thumbnail and it looked to Cassandra as if it were all he could do not to break out laughing. "Don't look at me, George," he said. "Miss Parrish doesn't seem to be listening to a word I say."

"Wilde," she automatically corrected. "And it's Ms."

She wasn't sure, but she thought McKenna groaned.

George swallowed hard and nodded. "Uh, well... Ms. Wilde..." For a third time, the little man looked at her like she'd sprouted a green face. "I can't rent any vehicle to you or anybody," he rushed to say. "Not until this April avalanche is over. Except..."

He hedged and Cassandra leaned her elbow on the counter. "Except what?"

The clerk glanced side-to-side, up, down, everywhere other than at her. "Except maybe Sage, there. But I wouldn't rent it to him either," the man hurried to add. "I'd... just lend it to 'im."

"Sort of a good-old-boy way of doing business?" Cassandra asked with growing irritation.

"Not really," the clerk said. "It's just that Sage knows the highways and back roads like his own face. Around here, we know 'im, like 'im, and trust 'im. If you've got to get to Cody, he's your best bet."

"George," McKenna said from behind her. "I'm honored."

George ducked his head. "Aw, jeez."

The front of Cassandra's coat pulled abruptly against her throat and she tugged the buttons from her windpipe.

McKenna held her collar in a strong fist. "We're burning daylight. Let's go."

He picked up her twenty-seven inch Pullman as if it were an Easter basket and strode down the aisle to the revolving doors. Even though he was bull-headed and infuriating, she couldn't help but admire his retreating figure, mentally recording his size, proportion, coloring. Michelangelo couldn't have sculpted anything as eye-catching. She'd have to be in a coma not to notice how wide his shoulders were or how those faded denims gloved his backside with breath-taking intimacy.

Cassandra shoved the information to the back of her mind to be retrieved on the canvas of memory and scurried after him. She wasn't letting her only hope of getting to Cody slip away.