Rugged Texas Cowboy

Two HOT cowboys. Two tough-as-spurs heroines. These two previously published, newly revised and expanded, smoking hot stories by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lora Leigh will leave readers breathless and begging for more!


Melina is one of two gorgeous twin daughters, the clever and considerate one who always spared her parents the humiliation of what her sister Maria had wrought. But now, Melina is finally ready to stand up for herself and seize control of her life?until she is kidnapped by a cowboy, named Jardin, who is dead-set on settling the score with her family. There’s only one catch: In capturing Melina, this tough, rough, hunk of a man has actually found a way to unleash her greatest fantasies, body and soul…


Beautiful, spirited Angel Manning has always longed to experience the power of her ancestors’ most precious heirloom. Her mother once told her that the legendary Irish torque would lead Angel to the one man worthy of possessing her heart. But when Angel learns that her father, now a widower, has sold the torque to the notorious two-timer Jack Riley, she is furious. Of course she plans to take back what is rightfully hers, by whatever means necessary. But the fate of the ancient Druids works in mysterious ways… Could it be that this slick, smooth-talking cowboy was destined to satisfy Angel’s deepest desires all along?

Read an Excerpt »

Chapter One

Family obligations shouldn’t involve life or death, Melina Catarina Angeles thought as she faced her parents across the brightly lit living room. The sun shone through the large arched windows to one side, reflecting back from the highly polished hardwood floors and lending an air of comfort and warmth to the expensively decorated room.
Antiques were her mother’s passion, and the living room reflected her love for them. Being surrounded by everything her parents had worked for in their lifetime should have comforted Melina; instead, it left her cold as she stared back at them, fighting to hide her shock.

She was one of two daughters, the younger of a set of twins. The quiet, studious one. The one who had always stepped in to save her parents the humiliation of what her older twin had wrought. But she couldn’t do it any longer.

They had rarely associated with her in two years. Not since the last fiasco her sister, Maria, had managed to cause. With that one, she had nearly killed two innocent men, and through her selfishness had almost caused Melina’s death months later. She had sworn then that she would never step in to play Maria’s part ever again. Her parents had retaliated by cutting her out of their lives. Until now. Until Maria had once again gotten herself into a mess she couldn’t get out of.

“This isn’t my fight.” Melina faced her estranged parents in her father’s mansion and finally put her foot down.

“Maria has gone too far this time, Papa. I refuse to cover for her.”

She held back the pain that they would even ask it of her. Her twin sister was once again in a scrape that their money couldn’t buy her out of without the proper presentation. They needed Melina for that presentation. And after the last time, there wasn’t a chance in hell. She had spent a week in jail, during which time her father had been out of town and supposedly had not received her messages.

Thankfully, the police had already fingerprinted Maria, and Melina had been spared the horrifying knowledge that her fingerprints were on file as a criminal. A drug addict. A thief. Good God, her sister was deteriorating rapidly. And now this. Arrested for smuggling drugs into the country. Again. It was a certain prison term, and Melina was sick of paying for her sister’s crimes. There was no way in hell she was going to take a chance on going to prison for her sister. Not after the last debacle.

Two men could have died the last time. When Lucas Jardin had arrived on her father’s steps two years before, furious over his friend, her father had almost broken the man financially as well as personally. If Jardin hadn’t been a highly respected rancher and businessman, her father would have succeeded. All because of the addiction that was growing closer to destroying not just her sister, but her family as well.

“Melina, Maria needs all our help right now. She can’t fight this addiction alone,” her father argued passionately. “It’s little enough to do.”

Melina turned from the pleading eyes of the man who had sired her to glance at her mother’s miserable, tear-filled eyes. Margaret Angeles loved all her children, but her older twin daughter was destroying all their lives.

“No, Papa,” she repeated gently. “It was enough that I spent a week in jail for her and you ignored the messages I left both here and on your answering service. I told you then, I won’t ever make the same mistake.”

She remembered the look in Luc Jardin’s eyes when he entered the house and saw her standing with her parents. He had thought she was Maria, and Melina had been too shocked to deny it. After learning the reason for his fury, she had wanted to kill her sister. Jardin was a man unlike any Melina had known in her life. Not just tall and broad, but rough enough around the edges to make her long to smooth them. He was untamed, and she was woman enough to want to tame him.

He was man enough to despise her, though, when her parents introduced her as Maria. It was then she began to suspect the position she had allowed her parents to place her in. The week spent in jail had only cemented it. She had sworn then she would never lift a finger to get her twin out of trouble again.

Convincing her father to cease his crusade of vengeance against the pilot hadn’t been easy. He had flatly refused until the day after Melina had been released from jail, walked into the lawyer’s office, and threatened to publicly side with Jardin if it did not cease. She had moved out of the family house the next week. But she had never forgotten Lucas Jardin or her reaction to him.

“Melina, your sister could go to prison,” her mother sobbed then, tears spilling from her eyes. “I cannot imagine one of my babies in prison.”

Melina pushed her fingers through her shoulder-length red hair as she faced her weeping mother. She hated to see her mother cry.

“Momma, you said that when it was a jail sentence,” she argued desperately. “Maria didn’t spend any time in jail, but I did.” And she hadn’t forgotten it. She still had nightmares about it.

“It was a mistake, baby,” her father exclaimed fiercely. “You were supposed to get probation. The lawyer assured us that was all. He even said everything was fine when we called.”

“The point is, you left.” She crossed her arms over her chest as the remembered horror and fear swept over her. “You weren’t in the courtroom, you weren’t there to make certain I was protected, and on top of it, you knew that lawyer would lie for her. They were sleeping together, for God’s sake.”

Jonathon Angeles flinched. “I was wrong. It won’t happen again.”

“I won’t do it.” Her heart clenched as her mother’s weeping grew louder. “Papa, you have to make Maria accept the consequences. She’s going to kill herself at this rate if you don’t.”

“I promise. We’ll put her in a clinic,” Jonathon swore.

“You promised that last time,” she argued painfully. “Papa, please don’t ask this of me. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. Please don’t make me feel bad for it.”

“There is such a thing as loyalty to the family, Melina,” her father snapped. “Your sister will never convince the judge she had no idea what was happening. You know she can’t.”

“Because she would have to lie,” Melina retorted. “You never see her lies, Papa. The rest of us do, but never you. Maria is killing herself and this family, and I refuse to let her destroy my life in the process.”

Silence met her harsh words. Her father placed his arms around her mother’s shaking shoulders and tried to comfort her weeping, and though Melina didn’t shed a tear, inside her heart was breaking. It was a reenactment of the last crisis her sister had caused. Only then, Melina had given in. She had sworn she never would again.
She turned from her parents and paced over to the large window that looked out over the private lake of her parents’ home. She had grown up here. Had learned to swim in the lake and had realized as she grew up that she would never measure up, in her parents’ eyes, to Maria. Somehow her twin had drawn complete loyalty from them, whereas Melina had drawn only their distant affection.

“Melina, I cannot believe you would see your sister suffer in such a way,” her father accused. “This would be no hardship for you.”

“This is a federal offense with a mandatory prison term if convicted.” She turned back to her parents as hurt and anger rolled over her. “With Maria’s record she’s certain to get time, no matter how great the argument. I will not go to prison for someone who stood aside as her criminal friends nearly slaughtered two men. It’s bad enough she has no loyalty to her family, but she has no respect for life, either.

“I’m sorry, Papa, but spending time in prison would be considered a major hardship for me.” She shook her head, fighting the memory of her week in jail. It had been horrible, locked into that tiny block room, at the mercy of the guards as well as the other prisoners.

She had been without protection. The bribes to the guards that would have ensured it hadn’t been paid, and Melina hadn’t been strong enough to defend herself.

“You will not go to prison.” Her father surged to his feet, his portly body shaking with anger. “I have told you, I will not allow it.”

He was furious. She hated it when her father was so angry with her. It made her want to please him, want to wipe the derision from his eyes as he looked at her. But she had learned to stand alone in the past two years and she wasn’t going to fall back into the trench of despair that saving her sister always created.

“I’m sorry, Papa,” she whispered again, her voice bleak. “I can’t do this for you. You know as well as I do that all the pleading and good behavior in the world is not going to save Maria this time. You would do better to petition the courts or the prosecutor for a plea bargain. They would look more favorably on that than they would a sweet little protest of innocence. Surely even your lawyer has told you that.”

“He has assured me this will work.” His hand sliced through the air furiously as her mother’s sobs filled the background. “I am asking you for nothing. Nothing. This matter is so slight it will take only a single afternoon.”
Melina pushed her shaking hands into the pockets of her jeans and lowered her head to hide the misery in her eyes. How many times had they argued just like that?

That it would take so little for her to take her sister’s punishments. All her life she had been standing in front of Maria, taking the blame and the punishment in her name. She wasn’t willing to do so anymore. Maria had turned into a vapid, heartless conniver. All that mattered was the drugs. Nothing more. Not family or friends or even personal honor held any meaning to her.

“I can’t do it, Papa,” she whispered miserably, hunching her shoulders against the tension that filled the room.
She was too sensitive. She had known that all her life. Her parents’ happiness and her family’s success had always meant more to her than her own happiness. At least it had until she faced Lucas Jardin and the knowledge of how far Maria would go to save her own skin and escape punishment. She hadn’t slept for months after her brother had finally managed to get her released; even now, two years later, the nightmares plagued her.

“I cannot believe you would say no.” His voice clearly reflected his surprise. “I cannot believe you would allow your sister—your twin, for God’s sake—to suffer so horribly.”

“My sister isn’t an innocent here.” Melina’s head rose as her own anger came to the fore. “She uses you to get her out of trouble and then goes on with business as usual when it’s all over with. She’s getting worse, Papa. You know it and I know it. I won’t suffer her punishment for her.”

“What punishment?” He threw his hands into the air a second before he clenched his thick silver-and-brown hair in frustration. “There will be none if you just do as the lawyer directs you.”

“I won’t take that chance again,” she cried out painfully. “Papa, they beat me—more than once—and almost raped me. You know this. You know what I suffered in that jail, and still you ask this of me? How could you?”

Melina couldn’t understand her parents’ complete loyalty to her sister. It made no sense. They were trading the daughter who loved them unconditionally for the daughter who loved only their ability to get her out of trouble.
“Almost,” he blustered, his face paling as it had the first time she had told him. “I will not let it happen again.”
“No, Papa. I won’t let it happen again,” she said gently, trying desperately to hold back her own hurt and anger. “I had enough two years ago, you know this. I won’t let her ruin my life.”

Her mother was wailing now. Deep, pain-filled sobs interspersed with ragged prayers for her “baby.” Her “sweet Maria.” Melina wanted to crawl into a hole and cry herself. She gazed back at her father’s disappointed face, the helplessness reflected in his deep-brown eyes.

“I cannot believe you would do this,” he whispered. “Go, Melina. Leave this house until your mother can deal with this betrayal you have dealt us. I will tell your sister of your refusal and pray it does not break her.”

Melina blinked back at him in shock. “You’re disowning me?” she whispered, her voice bleak. “Papa? You would disown me for this?”

His gaze was hard, remote. “I do not know you. You are not the child of my heart as I believed, Melina. Until you can aid your sister as you should, then you are of no consequence to me.”

* * *

He turned from her and went to her mother, enclosing Margaret in his arms and letting her weep against his chest. Later, he would hold Maria the same way. Console her, pat her back, and whisper his love to her. He hadn’t held Melina like that in years. Even when he’d arrived at the jail to learn she had been beaten and nearly raped, her face bruised and horribly swollen, he hadn’t comforted her. It had been her brother, Joe, who had picked her up from the gurney, whispering senseless phrases of grief as he carried her from the jailhouse.

It had always been her brother who had eased her fears, her tears. But even he was gone now. He had left the family and the business before Melina had; his own disgust at his parents’ foolishness where Maria was concerned had gone too deep for him to stay. She wasn’t even certain where he was now.

Sighing deeply, holding back her tears, she did as her Papa ordered and turned and left the house. The butler was silent as he held the door open for her, his expression impassive. She knew there was little sympathy to be found there. All loyalties were given to Maria exclusively. Melina had never understood it, but she accepted it.

Night had fallen, casting hazy shadows over the Pennsylvania countryside and wrapping around Melina with trailing fingers of warmth. On nights like this, she thought of Jardin. Wondered if his friend had survived his wounds, if he had ever realized the young woman he had cursed so vehemently had been the wrong woman.
She shook her head mockingly. Her parents accepted praise for the work Melina used to do as Maria’s successes. The charities had been in Maria’s name, the work attributed to her until that day. They had all fallen apart when Melina left. Just as the rest of the family was falling apart.

She turned the key in the ignition of her car and pulled out of her parents’ driveway. She fought back the tears and the regrets and thought about trying to contact her brother before too long. She knew a few of his old friends who might know where to find him. Joey had always seemed to care about her and seen past her likeness to Maria. He would understand the grief tightening in her chest even if she didn’t.

She should have answered his messages those first few months after her release from the hospital, she thought regretfully. Facing him hadn’t been easy, though. He knew what had happened to her, and every time she thought of the pity she would have seen in his face, or heard in his voice, she had cringed. It was time to put it behind her, time to make the final break with her parents and her sister. Joe knew how to do that and, hopefully, he would now teach her how. Because she’d be damned if she knew.