Extortion. Murder. Theft. They’re all on the table. Rattlesnake Ranch is under siege.
I needed solitude, but fate intervened, driving me into her arms as well as her bed.
Now I will protect her, as well as her ranch, at all costs. She is my salvation.
Even if fighting the man responsible destroys my life.
For the CEO of Rush Enterprises, a haunting past full of secrets will finally be revealed. Will he have the strength to fight for the woman he loves?
Meet the men of the lucrative world of Texas Oil. From billionaires to roughnecks, they are destined to capture your soul. They also have secrets…
This is book five in the Texas Oil series but can be read as a standalone.
Publisher’s Note: This action packed romance contains elements of mystery, suspense, and power exchange. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase.
Read it for FREE with Kindle Unlimited
“You will die, you wretched bitch.” The words hung in the air, the smile on his face one of knowing. A promise made.
“Don’t you dare threaten me.” Her agonizing words were lost in his evil laughter.
“Little lady,” he stated, as he tipped his hat and crowded her space. “I’ll do more than just that.”
“Fuck!” Amber Harding’s eyes flew open. As a strangled hiss popped from her mouth, she clawed her neck, wheezing. Unable to breathe, she struggled to free herself from the tight confines, fighting, kicking out her legs. Tears slipped down from the corners of her eyes and she finally fisted her mouth, willing her mind to shut down the nasty nightmare.
One, two, three, four… Fuck you!
Her lower lip quivered more out of frustration than fear. She knew the damning vision was nothing more than her growing anxiety, but she’d grown sick and tired of being tethered to what her best friend called a premonition. Sitting up, she dropped her head into her hands, controlling her breathing. If her almost nightly dreams were images of the future, then she was doomed.
The night air was humid, creating a sticky film across her skin and her T-shirt was soaked in sweat. She tossed the covers and climbed out of bed, moving to the open window in search of a breeze. The Texas heat wave was a killer. She fanned her face and studied the star filled sky. Life wasn’t supposed to be this damn difficult. A quick glance at the clock told her what she already knew. Three a.m. The usual time. The usual asshole. The usual drama.
She was angry with herself for allowing the pompous, puffy faced millionaire to wreck her last nerve. Unable to think his name without using a mouth full of expletives, she resigned herself to the fact there would be no additional sleep tonight. She was running on less than four hours a day and at some point, she would go mad.
A smile crossed her face and she padded through the house, easing down the stairs toward her office. The moment she was within three feet of the doorway, she skittered to a stop. The bluish light of her computer was on. The damn thing was supposed to go to sleep after only forty-five minutes, which meant that either she’d had an unwelcomed middle of the night visitor or… She took long strides into the room, glaring down at the screen.
The recently installed surveillance system had been strategically placed in an area due west of the ranch house. Bending down, she scanned the three cameras clandestinely hidden, their lenses’ capturing three completely different angles. One camera had been set up with a motion detector and the fact it was on and had been running for almost fifteen minutes indicated an intruder. Given the height of the camera, no cattle or other wildlife could manage to set it off.
At first, she wasn’t able to see anything but the dark pasture and limited trees highlighted by the eerie green glow. As she continued to watch, she noticed a distinct but subtle flash.
“Motherfuckers.” Racing back through the house and up the stairs, she threw on her jeans and boots, running down and into the living room as she zipped and buttoned. She was shaking all over, rage creating an instant headache. There was no doubt who was behind the attempted theft, but the ass wipes had another thing coming.
Yanking open her gun cabinet, she grabbed her favorite rifle and a box of ammunition, loading as she snagged her keys and headed out the front door. Jumping into her jeep, she rolled, pressing down on the accelerator as she headed toward the corral. She knew the land like the back of her hand, the darkness her friend. Moving in excess of seventy, she bounced with every dip in the road, the jeep’s tires more than capable of handling the rough terrain. She’d planned for this, knowing the prized cattle would likely be the first attempt.
The threat had just become real.
Amber kept both hands on the wheel as she rounded the last corner, heading straight for the area in question. Sure enough, she could just make out three bandits, two on horses and one in a truck, ready to steal what she’d worked so hard to achieve. Or at least to keep alive.
Roaring toward them, she waited until she had them in her line of sight before skidding to a stop and immediately grabbing the gun. Jumping onto the driver’s seat, the topless jeep gave her the perfect leverage. The cowboys’ reactions were either slow or they didn’t think she had it in her to take matters into her hands.
What fucking fools.
Shooting off two rounds, she waited as both horses rose onto their hind legs, whinnying from terror. The first shots had merely been a warning. “Get off my property!” Her shout bellowed into the night.
The cattle were confused, their woeful sounds amped given the fact they’d been rounded up, as if for slaughter.
Seething, she studied the way the two cowboys grabbed control of their horses, but damn if they weren’t going to try and out maneuver her. Lifting the rifle, she closed one eye as she envisioned the shot. What few folks knew was that she’d been trained years ago by her daddy. Considered a crack shot, she had the capability of locating and killing a target from hundreds of yards away.
Shame she hadn’t brought one of her high-powered rifles.
The single shot pinged off the back of the truck. That oughta do it. “The next shot will be on target. Get out of here!”
Revving the engine, the driver of the truck took off, veering out of the open gate, smoke rolling from the exhaust.
Just for a split second, she caught the emblem on the side door and would know the piece of art anywhere. Diamond D Ranch. Sliding back into the seat, she jammed the gear into drive and sped off, roaring toward the two on horseback.
The horses reared a second time then took off, racing after the swerving truck.
Given the souped-up engine in her jeep, she was able to get within twenty feet of them. Skidding to a stop, she jammed on the brake and jumped up onto the seat one last time.
This time, a direct hit. She’d blown out one of the tires. Instead of stopping, the driver sped up. Her chest heaving, she lowered the rifle and watched the motley group as they left. The fucker would ruin his high dollar chrome rim within minutes. At least there was that.
While she hadn’t intended to kill them, she’d thought about maiming at least. Perhaps her sense of duty to her father had kept her from performing the nasty deed. However, there would be no next time, no second warning.
She was finished being the nice guy.
After securing the gate, she stood with her hands on her hips, turning in a full circle. This was utter crap. Of course, she knew exactly why her nemesis had resorted to terror tactics. There was no way she was gonna sell the ranch her daddy had built from nothing. No fucking way. Tomorrow, she’d confront the motherfucker and end this once and for all.
At least she’d sent a warning of her own.
“Look out, you bastard.”
Tingling all over, she had difficulty squelching her rage. Even her ranch hands had commented on her nasty demeanor, her lack of patience. Yeah, she had damn good reason but if she didn’t get control over herself, she was going to lose even additional employees, something she couldn’t afford to allow happen. Times were tough for everyone, including ranchers. The harsh weather conditions had taken a significant toll, and everyone was bone weary, ripe for vultures like Bart Randolph.
She climbed back into the jeep and adjusted the rearview mirror, glaring at the haunted eyes of the woman staring back. There was no excuse for her behavior. Only one man had ever been able to yank her out of her wretched moods. Even her father, when he’d been alive, hadn’t been able to control her. The wild child, as Daddy liked to call her. Yeah, well, she was all grown up now with enough responsibilities to choke a horse.
A smile finally crossed her face as she took off, heading to the other side of the ranch. At almost eight thousand acres, there was a wide berth of land from the main house and barns and the hunters’ cabins scattered all throughout. She turned on the radio as she drove, keeping her eye out for another marauder.
There were several mostly dirt roads on her property, a smattering of houses located near the river that ran smack in the middle. She’d never known another place to live in her entire life and no one was going to push her out, not even if she was offered an exorbitant amount of money. Money wasn’t everything.
The moon guiding her way, she turned onto the long entrance, the cabin set back and well away from prying eyes. She pulled alongside the aging Bronco and almost immediately felt a sense of peace. At least he was home and without company. Breathing in, she eased out and for some reason, closed the door with a soft click. Yeah, he’d be surprised at her visit, but the man would understand why.
As she walked up onto the creaking porch, she held back before knocking. Was she apprehensive? Yes. Was she excited? Maybe. Their on again, mostly off again relationship had evolved into something other than passion and there had never been any romance. Drago Presidio wasn’t the kind of man who gave a shit about seduction. He was hard edged, dark and expected utter and complete submission.
He had been the only man to ever understand her need for punishment.
Swallowing, she fisted her hand and still counted to five before knocking. She heard nothing for a full minute and knocked again. Dawn had yet to crest over the horizon, but she’d bet he was already awake, prepared for a long day.
The footsteps were solid, thumping on the wooden floor.
Amber took a step back, smoothing her hair before he cracked open the door. “Hey. Hope I’m not disturbing you.” She could see a warm glow that had to be coming from his kitchen but no other lights. He was a man of darkness.
Drago narrowed his eyes before sweeping his gaze up and down. “What are you doing here, princess? An interesting surprise.”
His polished Russian accent had always drawn her in. He was an unexpected find, a man who’d lived hard in a past life, one he rarely if ever discussed. Even in the shadowed light, she could make out the various tattoos covering both arms, creeping along the base of his neck. He was rough and tumble, without giving a shit what anyone else thought. But his methods of discipline were delicious.
“An attempt was made on the cattle. I scared the fuckers off,” she half whispered.
Opening the door wider, he took her by the arm, pulling her inside. After closing the door, he pushed her against the hard wood and planted his hands on either side of her head. “Are you very angry, princess?”
“Yes. You know how I get.”
“Mmm… Yes, I believe I do. You need something from me.” Lowering his head, he kept his lips away from her heated skin as he breathed out, following the line of her cheek and chin, down the length of her neck to her shoulders.
His hot breath had always made her pussy wet, her nipples hard. She was trembling, her muscles tense. “Yes, sir. I do.”
“And what price will you pay this early morning?” Growling, he dropped his lips to the area of skin just under her ear, dragging the edge of his teeth back and forth.
Amber swallowed. “Anything you want.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” He bit down on her neck, wriggling back and forth before easing away and licking his lips.
Every action was always exaggerated. He’d seen right through her from the day they’d met, but she didn’t care. She needed relief.
Drago sniffed and walked away. “I leave for work in thirty minutes.”
“Then undress. Do not waste my time or yours.”
The command was harsh, but she was enthralled and ready for his punishment. “Yes, sir.” She knew he was watching, standing in the shadows as she undressed. This was their way, the only method of fulfilling their combined desires. When she was completely naked, she turned to face him.
His gaze softened for a few seconds as he walked closer, his hand moving across from one shoulder to the other as he circled her. “You’re very tense. You were right to come to me. This morning I will use a strap as well as a paddle. You need a firm hand, a harsh punishment.”
“Then assume the position on the table.”
Amber bit her lower lip as she walked to his simple wooden table, where he ate his meals, polished his guns. She’d been whipped in several locations in his house, but never in his bed. The ritual was almost always the same and she never questioned his methods as he’d never asked why she required intense spankings on a regular basis.
Perhaps there was no perfect answer. She’d accepted this about herself almost four years before, after floundering in more than one relationship. Bending over, she pressed her face against the cool material, controlling her breathing, the wave of nausea that always came with his discipline. She heard him, knew exactly what he was doing. This was perfunctory for him, but she was no longer certain if enjoyable. They had a business arrangement and it worked well for their respective needs.
Drago walked back into the room and pressed a hand on the small of her back. “I thought you no longer needed my services.”
“No, sir. Just been busy with the ranch.”
“Yes. I am aware of what you’ve been dealing with. You’re a tough woman. Proving your worth in a world full of men can be full of disillusionment.”
The words were true and while she loathed the sentiment, he understood her situation better than most. “Yes, sir.”
“And we begin.”
“Ooohhh…” She gripped the edge of the table as the paddle was smacked hard against both ass cheeks. The sound alone took her breath away.
Gritting her teeth, she heard his husky exhale and could almost sense excitement.
“Fuck!” The word slipped from her mouth.
“Yes, you are in need as much as I am,” he stated then chuckled, the tone full of a sexy vibe.
The pain was intense, bordering on anguish and she wiggled, inhaling the scent of her pussy juice no doubt dripping between her legs.
Drago ran his fingers down the crack of her ass, dipping the tips into her wet cunt. “Soon. A man enjoys a hard fuck before work.”
The cracking sound as the wood hit her ass was a powerful deterrent yet she was able to unclench her mind of the anger and hatred.
One after the other, hard smacks became methodical, hitting her directly on her sit spot.
“You’re doing very well, sweet Amber.”
Even the way he said the words was mesmerizing, drawing her into a tight cocoon.
She lost count after twenty or so and closed her eyes, accepting her punishment like a good little girl should.
Bending over, he pressed a series of kisses along her spine, inching down toward her ass. “I love the marks you wear for me.”
“Yes, sir. Your marks.”
Chuckling, he placed the paddle by her head, allowing her to see the implement, to understand its power. “Now, the strap. You will not sit comfortable on that massive steed of yours for days.”
“Yes, sir. I know, sir.” She wanted the burn, the pain to last for a long time. The sensations kept her alive, calming her increasing nerves.
The instant the thick leather strap was sliced against her backside, she jerked up, unprepared for the anguish rocketing through every cell. “Fuck! Fuck!”
“Such a mouth on you. If I had more time, we’d take care of that as well.”
He moved from side to side, smacking her ass, her upper thighs.
The sound the strap made cutting through the dense air was like music, creating a vacuum around her. Amber fell into a blissful state, her fingers no longer clenching the edge of the table.
Pop! Crack! Slap! Smack!
He was practiced, an expert in the art of punishment and she knew owned many implements that he cared for with pride. And he’d used every one of them on her at one time or another.
The whips seemed to come harder and faster and her pussy continued to quiver, her nipples hard and aching, and she wanted more. Craved so much more.
Exhaling, he rubbed both ass cheeks before wiggling his finger in between, finding her asshole. “Are you tight for me? Have you missed having my dick inside your dark hole?”
“Yes, sir.” Her mouth was dry, her heart racing and the answer was the truth. She adored the way he fucked her, used her. Whipped her.
He pumped in and out, driving one then a second finger inside.
She spread her legs and undulated, grinding her hips against the table.
“Yes, my horny little cowgirl.”
“Five more. Then I fuck you.”
Whack! Smack! Crack!
Amber held her breath, waiting for the last two. My God, she wanted to beg for additional time, to have him whip her legs and back, even her pussy. But he had work to do and needed his own satisfaction.
“You should have come to me sooner,” he whispered.
“I know, sir. I know.” She heard the sound of his zipper and knew what was coming. When he placed his hands on her hips, her entire body began to shake.
Drago grunted as he shoved his dick inside her pussy and held her, the pressure from his fingers increasing. “Wet. Yes.”
Amber pushed back from the table, panting as his cock swelled. The first hint of morning light filtered in through the window and she held her breath, wishing they could share more than an hour together.
Pulling out, he slapped his shaft against her bruised ass, huffing as he fingered her ass. “Tempting.”
She bit back a moan as he drove into her again. And again. Stars floated in front of her eyes and a slice of current trickled from her toes straight into her cunt. This wasn’t about her pleasure but payment for services rendered. Still, she found pleasure in his brutal fucking, in the way he refused to take no for an answer.
Fisting her hair, he yanked back her head as he pumped in harder and faster, the force pushing her up onto her toes. All the while he groaned, the tone guttural.
Her breathing strangled, she tried to meet every hard thrust, tingling every time skin hit skin. He was so hard, so thick and the way he filled her left her aching for days. Wiggling, the friction created another set of stinging sensations and she clamped her eyes shut, a single whimper escaping her mouth.
“Yes, my little hard fuck. My special slut.” His actions became crazed until he was slamming into her.
The wood creaked, and she couldn’t help but smile. He was close. The moment he came, spewing into her cunt, she issued a smile. This wasn’t about her pleasure, but about releasing the demons existing in them both, a dangling noose waiting for vindication.
Drago’s body was shaking, and he drew in a long breath before releasing her. “I have to go to work.”
“Yes.” Her legs aching, she backed away from the table, grabbing her things. She’d almost ended what most would describe as madness more than once, but the addiction was wrapped around her like a tight vice. She both adored the dangerous aspect as well as remained disgusted with her frailty. Drago remained a mystery, one she hadn’t been able to ascertain the reason why, but her instinct was kicking into overdrive. Drago had another purpose for working at her ranch.
Fuck! She abhorred second guessing every aspect regarding her life. The damn Randolph family had made her terrified of her own shadow. What if she was making more out of the situation? Shoving her thoughts aside, she knew she needed to concentrate on saving the ranch, not worrying about her hunger for kink.
“Did you not enjoy, princess?”
“Drago, don’t call me princess. I’ve worked years to get the ranch where I am, including hard work and discipline.” She had other reasons for loathing the wretched word. The past would forever haunt her.
“Yes, discipline with a capital ‘D’.” The snicker was dark, almost evil.
His damn accent seemed exaggerated, as if he could only see her as a foolish woman.
Resisting issuing a nasty retort, she dressed and without looking at him, headed for the door, stopping only after placing her hand on the doorknob. “Be on the lookout for Randolph’s men. I have no doubt they will want some sort of revenge.”
Chuckling, he fastened his belt. “You are a formidable woman, my beautiful princess. Just be careful that you do not get yourself killed.”
She wanted to demand if his statement was a threat, but she refused to give him the satisfaction. Instead, she made certain her tone of voice was saccharine sweet. “That’s why I have men like you around. Brutes and little else.” Darting a look over her shoulder, she gave him a haughty look and she knew there would be no response. Whatever decisions she made regarding Bart Randolph, she was on her own. And there was one thought in her mind.
She wanted the pompous asshole dead.