Detective Matthew Forrester guided his brand-spanking-new, government-issue four-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokee down the gravel country road. His heart raced like a Palomino on steroids.
What in the Sam Hill was wrong with him? He was going to the Circle B to investigate the report of stolen cattle. The fact that Savannah Markum owned the ranch would not affect his objectivity in any way.
Who was he kidding?
The idea of seeing her again had him sweating.
Despite what he’d told himself during the past two years, he hadn’t gotten over her—not for a day, not for an hour, not for one minute. Savannah Raylene Prentiss Markum had broken his heart.
But he would never, ever let her know that. He refused to give her that much power over him again.
He turned into the Circle B’s driveway and killed the engine. For a moment, he sat there, hands on the wheel, the air inside the Jeep growing heated, heavy. Merely taking a breath required his complete concentration.
Be cool as granite. You’re a professional. Not some head-over-heels kid.
Grabbing his notebook, Matt unlatched his seatbelt and slid out of the vehicle. “Geronimo,” he mumbled and started up the front steps.
At the door, he paused, fist poised to knock, when he saw the baby.
The toddler stood knee-high, his face pressed against the screen door. He looked up at Matt and grinned a big, toothless grin.
Jolting pain stronger than any electrical current lambasted Matt’s heart. Savannah’s kid. Gary Markum’s kid.
The baby that should have been his.
Staggered, Matt took a step backward. He knew that she’d had a baby, but he hadn’t expected to react like this. The local gossips had made it their duty to keep him abreast of Savannah’s doings. He’d been informed when her mother had lost her battle with breast cancer and when Markum had also died of cancer a little over a year ago.
But even to himself, Matt refused to admit that Savannah’s widow status had persuaded him to come back to Rascal. He’d returned because Patrick Langley had offered him a job as a detective for Presidio County and no other reason.
Well, that and Rascal was home.
The baby wriggled with excitement, then promptly fell onto his diapered bottom.
“Cody?” Savannah’s voice wafted through the screen door, freezing Matt to the front porch. He wasn’t ready for this—seeing her up close and personal for the first time in two years.
“What are you doing, Cody Coo?” She stepped to the foyer, bent down to retrieve her child, and stopped in midmotion. Straightening, she turned her head.
Time hung suspended.
The past and future did not exist.
Only the present moment was real as their eyes met through the screen door.
Savannah was even more beautiful than he remembered. Her hair, the color of light brown sugar frosted with streaks of honey, feathered back from her oval face in attractive layers. Her hazel eyes, a tantalizing shade of golden green, rounded in surprise.
She wore cutoff blue jeans, a white sleeveless blouse, and flip-flops. Her once slender figure had blossomed with childbearing, spreading out into delightful curves. Her wonderful vanilla scent floated through the mesh wire of the screen door and enveloped him in a glove of warm, soft memories. She smelled just the same, like Christmas cookies and homemade ice cream.
“What are you doing here?” she asked at last. The sound of her rich, coffee-and-cream voice rocked his very soul. She seemed so cool, so calm, so detached.
It hurt, that easy detachment.
His throat narrowed, and he feared he couldn’t speak. Matt fixed his gaze on her long, slender arms.
Scooping up the baby, she cradled him to her side as if using her child as a buffer between them.
“Sheriff Langley sent me,” he explained. “I’m the new investigator for Presidio County.”
Savannah hesitated only a second before reaching over and unlatching the screen door. “Won’t you come in?”
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