By Elizabeth Otto
A Paint River Ranch Novel
He’s always been her weakness…
Injured and discharged, Marine Levi Haywood has returned to his family’s ranch to heal and start a new life. After all, once a cowboy, always a cowboy. The only problem? Life at the ranch has moved on since he joined the service, and suddenly his role in the family business is much less clear. And things get a lot more confusing when the woman he left behind returns home.
Carrie Lynn Waite has never known a time when she didn’t love Levi. They were childhood sweethearts, but because of her health, she was forced to move to the city, away from the ranching life. Now Carrie’s come home only to learn her family’s ranch is in trouble and Levi is back, along with an undeniable attraction she can’t resist. But some things never change, forcing Carrie to choose the future laid out before her…or the cowboy she could never resist.
Carrie was about to shake out of her skin. Her teeth were actually chattering. He shouldn’t have agreed to let her come up here with him. If she ended up with pneumonia or something, he’d never forgive himself.
His oiled canvas jacket was mostly waterproof, the fleece lining inside warm and dry. He slipped out of it and put it between his knees, then unbuttoned his flannel and peeled it off.
“Take off your shirt.” He gave her a look, knowing she was going to argue. She’d always been good at that. She crossed her arms, but he didn’t give her time to be squirrely. “Take it off, or I will. Your bra, too.”
Her mouth parted, reminding him just how fantastic her lips had tasted. Dang, had that really happened? It seemed so surreal, to have her in his arms again…that taste so ripe on his lips.
“I’m not getting naked in front of you.” Yeah, because that had never, ever happened before. He still remembered, vividly.
“Then turn around. Just do it before you freeze.” His breath came out in a puff, the temperature having dropped with the rain and wind. In a short-sleeved Henley, the cold air assaulted his bare arms, making him shiver. If he was this chilly dry, she had to be downright frozen.
Gently, he gripped her shoulder. “Come on, Sunshine. Do as I say.”
Her back stiffened but she didn’t protest, just unzipped her coat and shrugged it off into a wet, heavy lump on the ground. A thin blue shirt molded the feminine structure of her back and into the dip of her spine. Levi traced her curves with his gaze. She unbuttoned her shirt and pulled it back, but it clung to her shoulders. With one hand, he grasped the neckline and pulled it down…slowly, the tip of his middle finger making a trail over her damp skin as he slid the shirt off.
Stepping closer, Levi was torn over wanting to pull her cold body into the warmth of his chest. The rain beat staccato on the rocks above, the patter splashing into the wet ground. Tracing her white satiny bra across her back, he grinned as a violent shudder when through her. How easy would it be to rekindle the fire between them? Not just this—though her form was something he wanted to explore slowly, intimately—but her heart, her mind. To know her again, all of her—how sweet would it be?
Letting her shirt drop, Levi used both hands to unhook the bra and toss it aside. Her arms came across her chest, the quick glance she tossed over her shoulder cautious. Levi settled his flannel shirt over her shoulders, held it in place as she shakily slid into it.
He could tell that she was fumbling with the buttons, so he turned her to help. Slowly closing each button, thanks to his cold hands, he tried not to focus on the rise of her breasts beneath the fabric. Her chest went still and he swore she was holding her breath.
The chemistry was still there. Holy shit, was it still there, and he wanted to grab hold of it and see how far it went. How would he ever keep his shit together as she walked out of his life? Levi ran his palms over the tops of her shoulders, down her arms.
What if he asked her for a second chance?
What would she say?
Okay, FINALLY a heroine that I can relate to. Seriously, I can. Carrie has diabetes just like me. Of course, I was diagnosed over 3 years ago and had it when I was pregnant so I can relate to what you can and can not do. It sucks sometimes, but you can figure it out and manage it, too. Carrie did this but at what cost? Coming home to a ranch that is on the brink, being told to stay away and not do anything because of her diabetes. Trust me, I would be kicking and cussing at any and everyone that told me to stay away.
Enter her childhood friend and the love of her life Levi. Talk about a wounded soul, literally and figuratively. I loved how Ms. Otto wrote about his struggles coming home after being a Marine. Sure he had a lot to overcome but what veteran doesn’t and Ms. Otto doesn’t dumb it down for her readers. I felt what he felt and it made the story that much richer and deeper for me. It always helped that he was still in love with Carrie but like any man, didn’t know how to tell her.
What really endeared me to the couple was that they both wanted the same thing…the ranch. Plus, another one of my favorite tropes is explored here…second chance lovers. Oh man, I love this trope. If I had one gripe is that in the beginning there was bit much of the back story between Carrie and Levi that could have been introduced a bit more slowly within the story. But that’s the one time acquisition intern in me. Sorry. That said, Ms. Otto knows her characters and it shows. Very detailed and deep in emotion, you can’t help but be totally involved. I honestly couldn’t put the book down. I just HAD to know how Ms. Otto was going to play out their story.
I haven’t read the other books in the series but I don’t feel that you have to read them in order to get this story. I like when an author writes a series but closes each book with the HEA that I crave and can move on to the next one or go back to the beginning and not feel lost. Plus, she wrote a heroine that has a real problem that a lot of people can relate to and understand. Again, it made Carrie more real to me and I was invested in her and her relationship with Levi and her dad.
Bravo for Ms. Otto tackling real issues from both leads and having me care about them long before the book was over. Plus, I would be lacking in the trope itself. These characters have it BAD for each other after all these years but there’s nothing like a swift kick to get them to realize that they need each other more than they can even comprehend. *head smack to both of them* Of course, I love that lightbulb moment when it comes happen. Again, it’s the sucker in me for the trope.
Don’t miss out on another great Indulgence book and I will definitely be on the look out for more from Ms. Otto in the future.
About the Author: Elizabeth Otto grew up in a Wisconsin town the size of a postage stamp, where riding your horse to the grocery store, and skinny dipping after school were perfectly acceptable. No surprise that she writes about small communities and country boys. She’s the author of paranormal romance, and hot, emotional, contemporary romance, and has no guilt over frequently making her readers cry. When not writing, she works full-time as an Emergency Medical Technician for a rural ambulance service. Elizabeth lives with her very own country boy and their three children in, shockingly, a small Midwestern town.
FIND THE AUTHOR HERE: @EAOtto Facebook Website Good Reads