The Rancher Takes A Bride

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Authors: Sylvia McDaniel
quiver in anticipation. Do tell me how you plan on torturing me when I escape. You've already made my life hell. That threat holds little meaning anymore."
    ***
    Travis finally stopped for the night when his mount began to tire. Though Miss Severin weighed little more than a feed sack, he didn't know if the Appaloosa was tiring from physical labor, or if the poor horse's ears were exhausted from the woman's constant chatter.
    Somehow he didn't know quite how to take this woman. He'd threatened her, and all she'd done was ask him with disinterest how he planned on punishing her. Was she crazy or what?
    A fire crackled within the circled rocks, the popping wood shooting a shower of sparks heavenward. Travis leaned back on his elbows and stretched his legs out in front of him. He was bone-weary, and he knew they still had at least six hours of riding tomorrow before they'd be in Fort Worth. Six hours of the woman's ceaseless prattle and soft curved body rubbing against his.
    What in the hell had possessed him to bring her back with him?
    At first he'd thought just the threat would be enough for her to give back the ring, but nothing seemed to penetrate this woman's defenses. And when she hadn't given him the band, he'd been forced to carry through with his threat. After all, Travis Burnett was a man of his word.
    Him and his big mouth shooting off. Now look where it had gotten him. He was stuck in the dark with a woman who could talk the ears off a mule and tempt a saint, with a body he had fantasized all day about exploring. A body that had rubbed against him all the way from Waco. Every step of the way, he'd been penetrated by her smell, her touch, and her voice. God help him, what had he gotten himself into?
    And he was taking her home.
    She yawned and stretched, pulling her dress tight across her breasts. He tried not to look; he tried not to notice the way the material clung to her curves.
    "So, cowboy, what do we do until bedtime?"
    Her words sent heat rushing into his body. He had an idea what they could do until bedtime and beyond. Somehow, he didn't think she'd like the direction of his thoughts.
    "We rest and then we go to sleep. Or you can turn in now, if you want."
    "I always thought that cowboys sang songs around the fire or told stories."
    "Some do."
    "Well, show me what it's really like out on the range."
    He contemplated her, studying how the firelight flickered across her face, chasing away the shadows of night. He'd like to show her something all right, but it wasn't what she had in mind.
    "I'm not the singing-cowboy type."
    "Why not?"
    He took a deep breath and slowly released it. "Miss Severin, it's time to turn in for the night."
    "But we just finished eating. It's still early."
    Travis stood and went to his saddlebags. He pulled out two small pieces of rope and carried them over to the fire.
    He knelt down at her ankles.
    "What are you doing?"
    "I'm going to tie you up, so you won't be foolish enough to take off in the middle of the night." He didn't have time to be chasing a silly woman roaming the hills without food or water. Yet he knew she'd be gone at the first chance.
    "What?" Her hands grabbed his. "You are not going to tie me up like I'm some—some criminal!"
    He glanced up at her touch, and his gaze met the liquid velvet of her green eyes. "In my mind, someone who steals is a criminal."
    She looked at him as if she would have liked to carve him into small pieces and feed him to the buzzards.
    "Okay, cowboy, what's it gonna take for you to believe me?"
    "The truth."
    "I've tried that and you didn't listen, you're so convinced of my guilt."
    "There's no one else who could have taken the ring."
    Rose stared hard at the handsome man, her frustration building. "You're right, cowboy. I took that wedding band." She leaned forward, close to him, and lowered her voice. "And I'm wearing it too. You want to know where?"
    Travis tried to swallow the lump that appeared in his throat. Where would a woman hide a

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