Double Seduction Series, Book 3
Visiting the Silver Spur ranch in western Texas, Megan Shore loves being the center of sexy Trey and Garret McGatlin’s sensual attentions. The more the brothers get to know the woman they’d met and seduced during one memorable weekend in Chicago, the more they can see her fitting into their lives long-term. But when a stalker from Megan’s past finds her, she’s tempted to run back to the polar north to hide.
As the threat escalates, Garret and Trey call on their family to help find the man intent on kidnapping Megan. When Megan’s parents start encouraging her to leave the ranch and return north with them, the McGatlin brothers need to prove that the best place for their woman is tucked tightly between their hard bodies, held safely in their arms.
Megan Shore couldn’t think of anywhere she’d rather be than right here, riding between her two men on the front seat of the ranch’s big, white pickup truck. It would be perfect if they weren’t heading toward the last place she’d ever imagined going.
Behind the wheel, her cowboy, Trey McGatlin, pulled the truck out of the ranch house’s driveway and onto the road. On her right, Trey’s brother, Garret McGatlin, bumped her bare shoulder. “It’s not gonna be that bad.” His smile didn’t reach his blue eyes, and he ran a hand through his wavy blond hair. He slid his dark sunglasses on against the midday sun.
“Not bad for you. They can’t kill you.” She unknotted her hands from their death link in her lap and smoothed the wrinkles she’d made in her tan linen skirt. “They could easily kill me and hide the body where no one would ever find it.”
Trey laughed and rubbed her leg. Beneath his white straw cowboy hat, his dark blue eyes sparkled. “You’ve met our parents. They’re good people.” He steered the truck over the bridge leading to the section of the Silver Spur where the ranch buildings sat. Barns, sheds, huts, bunkhouses. All the essential features of a western Texas cattle ranch.
“Once they hear what you have to tell them…” She glanced at herself in the rearview mirror. Her green eyes looked too wide. Her heart beat a little faster as she saw her own fear. Megan smoothed her long, wind-tangled black hair, wishing she’d brought a brush. She hated to talk to Patty and Derrick McGatlin looking like she’d just spent an hour tussling in bed with their two sons, even though she actually had.
Did one of her men have a comb? Garret was a movie star. He had to have one on him.
Before she could ask, he pointed out his window at a big, square single-level building. “That’s the dining hall and rec building for the ranch hands.”
Trey pointed out his window. “The foreman’s house and the bunkhouse are on this side, right on the river.”
Megan leaned around him to see the two-story white house and the four-story rough wood bunkhouse. The sun glinted off something on the far side of the buildings. “Is that a pool?” She’d been on the ranch a few days but hadn’t had time to see this section of the spread. Most of her hours had been spent with Garret and Trey in the big main bedroom of the ranch house.
Garret laid his arm across the back of the seat and rubbed her shoulder. Her white, sleeveless blouse seemed a little overdressed compared to the guys’ jeans and T-shirts, but she wanted to look decent when they met with the older McGatlins. For what Trey and Garret were going to reveal to their parents, a better fashion option for Megan would have been a bullet-proof vest.
“The ranch hands live here year-round.” Garret’s thumb traced tiny circles on her neck. “Gotta keep them happy.”
Garret and Trey had been keeping her happy. She knew that for sure. A chill skittered from her neck down to her belly.
“For some of them, this is their only home.” Trey looked at her for a few long seconds.
She smiled. Her men were trying to take her mind off the upcoming confrontation. She loved them for that, but she’d rather talk about what was facing them at the guesthouse three miles downriver. Trey and Garret’s parents were staying there while visiting from their retirement home on the Gulf of Mexico. Megan and her guys were heading to the guesthouse now to reveal something Megan had believed would always be a secret.
They left the ranch buildings behind and headed down a narrow road along the river. Mostly dry and waterless, the Silver Spur Ranch was the opposite of her small piece of land in western Canada. She loved it here, but the last twelve hours proved she’d brought trouble with her. She wasn’t safe from her stalker, even thousands of miles from home.
Trey had shown her a map of the Clear River. It flowed through the ranch, starting from nearby mountains and nourishing green vegetation along its banks. “So peaceful.” She’d do anything to be able to feel that peace herself.
“Sweetheart.” Trey took her hand in his big, callused one. “You’re safe. We’ve got security doubled. We’ve got the sheriff, the Texas Rangers, and Dad on the case.” He smiled. “Just let go of some of this tension.”
Megan looked down at the wicked grip she had on her cowboy’s hand and eased up a little. “Tense? What do I have to be tense about?” Could her life get any more stressful? “Not only am I going to talk to your parents, but a stalker is after me, and my parents are on their way to take their thirty-year-old daughter home with them.”
Garret snorted and slapped his thigh. “I can’t wait to meet them. This is going to be a hoot.”
She shot him a glare. “I’m glad you’re enjoying this.”
He shrugged. “Baby, you’ve survived on your own since you were seventeen.” He tugged her hair. “I have no doubt you’ll be able to survive your parents’ visit.”
Trey grunted. “Yeah, it’s just the whole mess coming at once that’s gotta be making you jittery.” Trey understood her so well. Her parents had decided to fly all the way from Alaska, where they ministered to a small community, trying to convert the locals to Christianity. She had been on her own since she graduated from high school and had driven south toward the US, intending to keep going until she found someplace that never saw snow. At the Canadian border, she didn’t have her passport and wound up settling there, in the Alberta territory. Funny how life had shaken out for her.
She took a breath. “Let’s rethink this talking-to-your-parents idea. We can wait until—”
“Uh-uh.” Trey shook his head. “Today. Right now.”
“We’re committed to this, Megan.” Garret removed his sunglasses. He leaned closer, looking into her eyes. “We want to do this for us.” He gestured to the three of them. “Having the folks backing us up, no matter what, is going to be important right now.”
“Plus, it’s the right thing to do.” Trey turned the truck as the road climbed upward.
On top of a rise in the land, a two-story, light-green house sat overlooking the river below.
Megan’s stomach clenched, and her lungs didn’t want to work. How had things progressed so quickly? Just weeks ago, at a graphic novel convention in Chicago where she was giving a workshop on her comic book series, she’d met the McGatlin brothers. Immediately, she’d been attracted to both of them. Separately. When they’d taken her out to dinner and offered a night with both of them…and her in the middle…she couldn’t refuse.
Last week, when Garret had flown to Canada and picked her up in his private plane, she’d been ecstatic to see him and, ultimately, Trey when they landed here in Texas. For days, things had been idyllic. Then her stalker appeared all the way from Canada. He’d been out of prison for two years, and after having no contact with her since his incarceration, he’d somehow found her here. Then Garret and Trey’s parents arrived, wondering which of their sons Megan was here visiting.
Then Inez, the guys’ housekeeper, took a call from Megan’s parents in Alaska. She told them all about the stalker and gave them directions to the ranch. Inez had proudly announced to Megan, Trey, and Garret that the concerned couple was boarding the next flight from Anchorage.
Remembering to breathe, Megan sucked in air and cleared her mind, focusing off of everything except what she was supposed to tell Garret and Trey’s mom and dad when they questioned her about her intentions toward their sons. Both sons.
“Oh jeez.” She whispered it, but Garret nudged her shoulder.
Trey swung into the driveway next to his parents’ red pickup and shut off the truck. Dead silence surrounded them, and Megan could hear her heart beating.
“Let’s get this over with quick.” Garret opened his door, letting in a hot blast of dry air. He held out his hand. “C’mon.” His smile reassured her.
Trey nudged her with his shoulder. “Trust us, Megan.” Her cowboy winked.
Taking a deep breath, she reached for Garret and let him help her down from the truck. Her knees wobbled a little when she saw the guys’ mother, Patty McGatlin, at the kitchen window waving them in. Her unwrinkled face, short blonde hair, and sparkling dark blue eyes looked so much like Trey’s and Garret’s.
Trey opened the door into the modern little kitchen and gestured for Megan to precede him.
She stepped inside as Trey and Garret’s mother padded over barefoot, her pink-painted toenails matching her shorts and shirt. “Everything okay?”
Megan nodded but couldn’t find the voice to speak.
“She didn’t get away from us.” Trey pulled off his hat and hung it on a peg beside the door. Earlier that morning, Patty had alerted her sons that Megan was thinking of running back to Canada. The men had raced back to the ranch house and convinced her to stay, using all their charm and seductive appeal.
Patty nodded and smiled at Megan. “I’m glad.” She gestured to the pine table. “Have a seat. I’ll make some coffee.” She turned toward the counter.
“Mom. Wait.” Garret walked to Megan’s right side. His palm slid down her arm, and he grasped her hand in his. “We want to talk to you and Dad.”
On her left, Trey stepped close and took her other hand. “It’s important.”
Patty’s eyes moved to Megan’s right side, then to her left. The woman’s lips thinned. A wrinkle formed between her brows, and Patty shot Megan a glare that sent a chill through her spine.
Megan’s vision chose that moment to blur.
“Your dad’s napping right now.” Patty turned her back on them, poured water in the coffee maker, set the filter and grounds, and pressed the start button. Gripping the edge of the countertop, she took a loud breath. “Why don’t you tell me, and I’ll figure out a way to break it to him.”
Garret leaned around Megan to look at his brother. The silent communication buzzed between them.
“We’d rather tell you both.” Trey’s voice was quiet but firm. “Do you want us to come back when he’s awake?”
Patty shook her head and turned toward them. “No. But give me a while to ease him awake. He’s a bear if he doesn’t get a long enough nap.”
Garret tugged Megan’s hand. “We’ll go out to the homestead building.”
Patty nodded but didn’t move.
The three of them headed outside and around the back of the garage. A metal pole building stood near the drop-off to the river. “Don’t tell me the early 1900s settler McGatlins were able to forge steel.” Megan’s joke was met with silence. “Sorry. I’m just…”
Trey rubbed his hand on her back as they wandered toward the building. “No, you are funny. That’s why we keep you around.” He wagged one eyebrow at her. “And we know you’re just trying to cut the tension.”
“We’re all on edge here, baby.” Garret still held her hand. “It’s not something Mom and Dad are ready to hear.”
They stepped into the shade cast by the metal building. The door had a padlock, and Trey spun the combination and opened it.
“I’m all for putting this off for a day or two.” Megan took a peek back at the house. “Or a week or a month or—”
Garret took her shoulders and turned her to face him. “We’ll be doing this today. Whatever the outcome, it’ll be okay because the truth will be out in the open.”
Behind her, Trey set his hands on her hips. “We want you with us, Megan.” He brushed a kiss on her neck. “This is our way of proving it.”
Garret kissed her, his lips hot on hers, his tongue taking a quick taste of hers before he pulled back. “This, plus the three of us spending the rest of the day in bed.”
She smiled, concentrating on the promised reward as Garret walked into the building and flipped light switches. Trey squeezed her butt, gave it a pat, and guided her inside.
In the middle of the room, a small shack made of large, square logs listed a bit to the left. The smell of old wood and dirt snuck into her nostrils. “Why the metal building?”
Garret pulled out his phone. “The county historical society helped us with preservation efforts and said if we wanted to keep the shack standing for longer than a decade, we needed to enclose it.”
“This is amazing.” She walked around the structure, looking into the small windows. Having this kind of family history must be thrilling. “Can we go inside?”
“Sure.” Trey ducked as he stepped into the shack, then turned on a light mounted on a metal pole.
She followed him in, but Garret thumbed through his phone.
“Our great-grandfather and his brother lived in Virginia. They had family money, made way back during the Civil War by their great-grandfather. They bought the first ten thousand acres sight-unseen from a man who’d lost his family here and moved back east to start over.”
“Quite a change from Virginia to western Texas.”
He cocked a brow. “Not as bad as Texas versus Canada.”
“You’re right.” She touched the rustic table. “This looks like the same wood from your front doors.”
“Yep.” He knocked twice on the thick wood. “The story goes, the brothers planed and carved the doors by hand at night, planning out the house they’d build for my grandmother.”
“How long did it take before she got her house?”
“Only a few years. Their first cattle drive doubled their investment, and they started building the cabins for the hired men first.” He winked. “The ranch hands had been getting restless to settle down with women-folk.”
Megan winked right back. “Those women-folk had to be pretty brave to come live way out here.”
“Most were working girls from surrounding towns or mail-order brides from out east.”
She could almost picture life back then. Women hanging laundry on clotheslines, chasing toddlers, and washing clothes in the river. She didn’t remember seeing many women around the ranch this week. “I didn’t see any cabins for married men.”
“Nope. The married hands live in town or on their own land.” He shrugged. “A rule Granddad put into effect once the town of Clear River started growing.”
“And the women I saw around the ranch?” She walked to a rocking chair and ran her hand over the worn armrest.
“They’re ranch hands. They have their own section of the bunkhouse.”
The women had looked strong and capable. Megan guessed there wouldn’t be any panty raids occurring in the Silver Spur bunkhouse. “This chair is beautiful. It’s got to be very old.”
“They brought some of the furniture with them. Mom and Dad moved all the original pieces back in here after the pole barn was built around the cabin.”
She was touching a piece of one-hundred-year-old furniture. “Amazing.” A fancy dresser in the corner looked a little bruised, like it had traveled cross-country.
A book sat on the dresser.
“What’s this?” She pointed, not wanting to touch something fragile.
Trey flipped it open. “It’s a copy of my great-grandmother’s diary. The original is preserved in a museum at the county seat.”
She’d like to get her hands on that book someday. “I love that you took the time to care for this place.” She looked around, imagining what it would have been like living here. Oil lamps, cooking over an open fire, hotter than Hades in the summer.
Trey took her cheeks in his palms. “Family is important. The past, the future, they’re part of our present. We can’t lose sight of either of them.” He kissed her, then reached and turned off the light.
He was her deep thinker, grounded and stable, considerate and kindhearted.
Megan wrapped her arms around him and squeezed.
He chuckled and did the same to her.
For a rough-cut cowboy, tough and serious, he was more loving with her than anyone had ever been. Even her parents. She could easily live in a little shack like this if she could be with him. And his brother. “Your predecessors came out by wagon train?”
“That’s the short version. Long story: they rented five boxcars and loaded them with their wagons, horses, supplies, and tools. They hired a dozen drovers, and the whole bunch of them rode out on the train. At the end of the line, they loaded up the wagons and came out here.”
Megan couldn’t imagine how brave his great-grandmother had to have been. “And the cattle?”
“Rounded up every wild Longhorn they could find and fenced them in, bought up neighboring ranches, and ended up with one of the biggest spreads this side of the Pecos River.”
She shook her head. “You’ll have to show me that map again sometime—”
“Goddamn.” Garret’s voice interrupted the moment.
Megan and Trey walked out of the shed, and Trey locked up.
Garret shoved his phone in his pocket. “Sheriff Boyd says he can’t get any info from Canada on this guy.”
Her stalker. He’d already caused so much trouble for her men. Sending a bouquet anonymously, leaving a rose on the windshield of Garret’s sports car when the two of them were at a bar in town one night.
“Why the hell not?” Trey strode over.
“Says there’s some kind of a block on the information.” A wrinkle formed between his brows as he looked at her. “Has he got some kind of connections with law enforcement?”
She thought for a moment. “It’s been a lot of years since college, but I don’t think he ever mentioned it. And I’ve read the transcripts of the trial. I don’t remember seeing anything in them.”
“You read the transcripts?” Garret let out a long breath. “That had to be tough.”
She shook her head. “I was so dazed during the trial, I missed most of it.” She looked down at her sandals, dusty with the dry Texas soil. “I needed to know everything. To remember.”
Trey placed his hand on her shoulder. “Sweetheart. I wish this wasn’t happening to you again.”
“Yeah.” Garret kicked dirt with his boot. “We need to let Dad know.”
Sliding his hand across her shoulders, Trey pulled her close. “There’s somethin’ else we need to tell Dad first.” He looked toward the house. “And Mom.”
Megan’s stomach did a flip. “If you think it’s best to wait…” She knew they wouldn’t go for it.
“Don’t make me put you over my shoulder again.” Trey started walking, tugging her along.
“That was kind of fun.” She wrapped her arm around his waist. Her men. Both of them determined to claim their relationship. It still amazed her every time she thought of it.
They reached the house, and Garret opened the kitchen door, letting Megan walk in first.
Patty leaned on the kitchen counter, a pinched tightness around her mouth. Derrick sat at the table, a half a sandwich and a cup of coffee in front of him. His thick graying hair was mussed from his nap. He frowned, and his big, gray mustache curved like a crescent moon. “What’s so all-fired important you had to wake me up?”
Megan curbed the urge to turn and run.
Garret crossed his arms over his chest.
“Listen, this is hard enough to do without you grumbling like an old oil well.” Trey cocked a brow at his father.
Derrick sat back in his chair and waved a hand at them. “Out with it, then.” His light blue eyes pierced Megan’s when he caught her gaze.
Garret tipped his head down like a bull ready to charge. “Megan is with us.” He looked at his mother. “She’s with both of us.”
Derrick’s brows dropped. “Are you saying, separate, or all at one time?”
April 21, 2014