Description: Lisa Welsh only wishes to leave a messy divorce behind for a couple of days stay in Salado, Texas but wakes to nightmares and a cowboy in her bed, and she has no earthly idea how he got there. But the situation gets worse when she learns she’s now living in 19th Century Salado. Even more worrisome is the tall dark stranger, and everyone else in town believes she’s some woman named Josephine Rogers who is supposed to be dead.
Jack Stanton can’t believe the clerk gave him an occupied room at the Shady Villa Inn, but worse, he was ready to ravage the woman in that bed—until he realized his mistake. Now the woman he thinks is Josephine claims to be some other woman—and though he could never abide by Josephine’s fickle ways, this Lisa Welsh intrigues him like no other. Still, if she isn’t Josephine, he figures he best help her find her way back to where she really belongs no matter how much he wants to keep her with him.
Together, Lisa and Jack must solve the mysteries and face the troubles in their worlds or they will never be free to share the love that binds them across the ages.
In the flickering of the lantern’s golden flame, a shadowy solitary figure stood across the room, observing the sleeping occupant. The dim light projected through the amber glass cast eerie shape-shifting characters up and down the burgundy rose-papered walls. In the gloomy darkness, the specter reached out to Lisa Welsh, begging for solace, straining to be felt.
The fragrance of roses permeated the dimness, tea-scented, teasing the senses of the unwitting guest. Except for the rustle of sugar-drained leaves dancing against the windows, the room remained deadly quiet. Suffocated by the heat of the coverlet, Lisa tossed the quilt aside. Quickly chilled, she tugged it back over her shoulders. The darkness threatened to swallow her whole and drag her into the hellish pit of a nightmare again.
Groggy with sleep, she thought about Tom, the image of him, smug, his eyes blue and cold. “I found someone else,” he’d said, and it echoed in her mind like a damn broken record.
A girl barely out of high school. The bastard. At twenty-one, Lisa was already over the hill? She blinked tears back. She refused to give him any more space in her brain.
She attempted to think of something pleasant. And then she had it.
A Trojan warrior’s fingers pushed the silky gown up her leg—she, being his Trojan princess hostage. His muscular thigh tensed when he pressed his nude body against hers. She ran her hands over his sculpted back, mesmerized by the smoothness of his skin against her fingertips.
In the flutter of an eyelid, the chills resumed, and the darkness returned. A shudder shook Lisa’s body.
Murky figures moved closer. “She can’t last long.” A man’s gruff voice made no attempt to quiet his comment in Lisa’s presence.
“We can’t wait any longer. The sale—”
“I know, I know, the buyers are getting suspicious. In a town this size, the word will soon get out.”
“What do you propose to—”
“You know what we have to do. She’ll never be missed.”
The heat, the chills, the muscles that ached with every twitch of her body…
Lisa squirmed to free herself of the misery pervading her soul. She twisted and rolled onto her back. She gasped for breath—she couldn’t breathe.
In a mournful, strangled voice, she cried out. The goose down-filled pillow covered her face, pressing tightly against her mouth and nostrils. Her arms felt locked in a vise. She attempted to pull them free from the blanket and comforter
Were the bedcovers pinning her down? Or something more sinister? Fingers? Gripping her arms, bruising the skin?
Her heart beating pell-mell, Lisa broke free from the paralysis and threw the pillow burying her face onto the floor. Cold, she was so cold. And drained of energy. She rolled over, submerging herself under the covers, trying to push out the chill.
Warmth radiated from the other side of the bed, and she gravitated toward it.
Tom. Sighing, she snuggled against his hard, naked body, his heated skin warming her to the core. She listened to the steady thumping of his heart, the rhythmic drumbeat lulling her back to sleep. Until he stirred. His fingers slipped through her hair, tenderly combing the strands. His simple touch made her crave for more. She nuzzled her mouth against his smooth chest, her fingers tracing his pebbled nipple.
He groaned, leaned down, and kissed the top of her head.
Her heart lifting, she raised her face toward him, encouraging more of his kisses. Pressing his mouth against hers, gently at first, the sleeping giant awakened.
She kissed him back, nipping his mouth with teasing bites, touching her tongue to his, making him moan with need. The sound was gratifying after such a long absence. She shifted her body, sliding her thigh over his. But he pressed his hands against her shoulders, moving her onto her back like a man with a calling. Forceful, yet loving.
Yes! This is what she needed to warm her up.
His hands slipped to her breasts, and he caressed, lifted, and massaged them through her clothes, making her tingle throughout. She stilled her hands on his waist, absorbed in his sensual and needy touch. Then wrapping her in his heat and vigor, he pinned her to the mattress. Ohmigod, yes! He hadn’t shown her this much ardor in forever.
She ran her hands over the muscles in his back, enjoyed the feel of his satiny skin, the way he pressed against her, his arousal hard against her waist. She wanted him buried deep inside her, passionate, virile, possessive, loving her without hesitation.
With his mouth kissing hers, he swept his hands down her sides and reached for her… nightgown? Not right. Something’s not right.
He lifted it, exposing her, his fingers stroking her naked thighs with a silky caress. But a twinge of panic streaked through her veins.
Not…not her nightgown…too heavy, not long enough…denim…her denim skirt? The illusion shattered. The world as she knew it unraveled, one notion at a time. He was too muscular to be Tom, too tall, and he smelled like leather and a spicy scent not at all like her…her…oh, hell, she was divorced. Tom hadn’t lived with her for the last three months.
Her heart and breath on hold, she tried to slip out from under the aroused man who was clearly not her ex-husband. He slid his hand higher, toward the apex of her thighs.
Too scared to scream, she squirmed to get free.
“Charlotte,” he said, his voice a husky, sexy tenor.
“What’s wrong, darlin’?”
Ohmigod, had she been out of her mind? Gone to bed with a total stranger and made up an alias?
The cotton sheets scratched her skin, unlike the satin feel of her 600-thread count ones. Cotton? She’d put flannel sheets on her bed for the fall as cold natured as she was. She wasn’t even in her own bed. Where was she?
“Get off me!” She tried to shove him aside, but he was like a primed bull ready to mate with his woman, and she’d been the one to prime him.
He reached out and touched her arm in a reassuring way.
“Honey?” His voice was drenched with lust but sounded concerned, too.
She pushed again, freeing herself from his hot body. She scooted away so fast she fell off the bed. And fell and fell. Finally landing on the unforgiving wooden floor, she smacked her elbow and hip hard. How high was the damned bed?
“Charlotte?” the man asked, but this time his voice was tinged with more than worry.
“Who are you?” The covers rustled.
Lisa couldn’t see a blamed thing in the dark, and she hoped the naked guy was dressing and leaving the room pronto. At least she wasn’t naked.
“You’re not…she’s…” He paused.
Lisa scrambled to her feet, trying to remember where she was and why she was with a naked man in a bedroom that wasn’t her own.
“What are you doing in my hotel room?” he finally asked with an accusing tone.
“Hotel,” she whispered, rubbing her throbbing temple.
“Ohmigod, hotel. The Stagecoach Inn.” She vaguely remembered leaving Waco last night to come to Salado, to get away after the judge finalized her divorce from Tom, the worm.
“Wrong inn,” the guy said, matter-of-factly.
“I rented a room here. I’m afraid you’re the one who’s in the wrong place.” She attempted to sound sure of herself, not as rattled as she felt. But she knew for a fact that she had rented the room.
A boot hit the floor, and the bed creaked. “I sure apologize for the mix-up, ma’am. I reckon the clerk made a mistake. I’ll be out of here as soon as I can.”
“It wasn’t your fault.” Although she couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d nearly done with a total stranger. How could she have thought it was Tom? She guessed after four years of marriage and three months of separation, she still couldn’t believe they were finished.
Boots tromped across the wooden floor then stopped at the door. When the man pulled it open, a hall lamp cast a dim light into the room, illuminating the guy’s attire, a cowboy dressed in black. A rodeo type or maybe he was in a country band. Neither of which appealed to her. Although why she was considering it, she hadn’t a clue.
He stared at her for a moment, his brows deeply furrowed. A hint of recognition appeared in his dark eyes, his angular face stern, and his jaw taut. Her gaze drifted to his lips—a perfectly kissable mouth—if they weren’t so grim. He was a much better kisser than Tom had ever been, like he wanted to devour every lovable inch of her—if she’d been some woman named Charlotte.
A green cord of envy wrapped around her heart. Why couldn’t she garner that much interest from a man who looked like this guy?
The cowboy cleared his throat, ran his hands over the brim of a black Stetson, and gave her a little nod. “I apologize again, Miss.” Then he shut the door, and his footfall echoed down the hall.
Instantly, she felt bereft. Alone. Unwanted. Discarded.
She was a mess and had to pull herself together. Tom wasn’t worth the feelings that were churning deep inside her. He was perfectly content, and she was damned if she was going to be unhappy because he’d left her for a teen. Wiping away annoying tears, she vowed not to think about him again tonight. Or tomorrow. Or ever. Letting out her breath, she inched her way to the door in the dark. She fumbled with the doorknob, searching for a lock.