Delilah’s Downfall

Book 2 in the Texas Temptations Series

Delilah Gonzales loves cowboys. She has from very early in her life. But, those in her hometown didn’t show much interest, or respect, so she has sworn them off. Plus, she always seems to fall head over heels for them and they always seem to leave. That’s before she gets hired as the Bartlett Ranch’s cook. When she is faced with not one, but four, gorgeous brothers, she finds herself reevaluating her cowboy ban.

The Bartlett Brothers have been looking for a woman for all them. They each have different needs, desires, and Delilah seems to be the one to fill them all. It doesn’t take long before they have her in their bed. But, when she is faced with choosing them over her family, will she stand up to her overbearing brothers, or leave the Bartlett’s with broken hearts?

This book is a reissue that has been edited and expanded.

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Delilah’s Downfall

Delilah’s Downfall

Book 2 in the Texas Temptations Series

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Delilah’s Downfall

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Delilah Gonzales turned onto the country lane and sighed with relief. Finally, the house she’d searched for.  She was over two hours later than she had planned and worse, this was a new job. There was no way to make a good first impression when you couldn’t show up on time.

She drove into the parking area in front of the house. A barn was off to her right and the place seemed deserted. It made sense since it was past sundown, and most of the animals would be settled down for the night. Ranching was the kind of business that started and ended with the sun. After growing up on a ranch herself, she understood that better than most.

Delilah peered up at the house where she would live and work for the next six months. Or, at least where she thought she would. After getting lost twice, she wasn’t so sure she was even in the right place. She used to know the roads around this part of West Texas like the back of her hand. Her GPS had cut out three or four times before completely dying. Some of these areas just didn’t have good cell coverage.

She slipped out of her car and shut the door. She loved her SUV, but after the day she’d just had, she could live happily for the next two weeks without getting in it. The sound of her slamming door brought someone out onto the porch. She squinted up at the steps at the front of the house.

“Can I help you?”

The deep, rich male voice sent a wave of heat down her spine. She couldn’t clearly see the person who had spoken. He was just a dark figure on the porch. Her city-girl instincts kicked in, and she slipped her hand back to the car door handle—just in case.

“My name is Delilah Gonzales. I’m the new cook for the Bartlett Ranch.”

A beat of silence, then a sigh. “It figures.”

Hard boots slammed against the steps as he came into view. In the orange glow of the lamp above, she could make out the features of the man. Oh, Lordy. Short golden-brown hair, a hard jaw, and the most amazing mouth she had ever seen on a man. Full and sensuous…it was hard not to stare. But she forced her gaze to travel down his body, and it was a long trip. A white T-shirt was tucked neatly into worn jeans that hugged his lean hips. By the time she met his deep blue-green eyes, little bursts of heat flowed through her blood.

“Are you Shane Bartlett?”

He shook his head, and she felt a twinge of disappointment. Even when she had interviewed over the phone, she had felt some kind of connection to her new employer. With her reaction to this man, she hoped they were one and the same.

“I’m his brother, Mason.”

“Brother?” Then she remembered her conversation with Shane. “Oh, he mentioned it was a family-run ranch.”

“If you stick around, you’ll find out that Shane is usually light on details when it suits him.”

A sinking feeling enveloped her. “There is a job, isn’t there? I have a contract.”

There had to be a job. She had given up a very lucrative position in San Antonio to move closer to her family. And she had needed a change of scenery. This seemed like the perfect option.

“Yes, there is. But I have a feeling ranch life is something you aren’t looking for.”

His sarcastic tone hit a nerve. A bad one. She straightened her spine. “I can assure you, Mr. Bartlett, I can handle life out in the wilds of West Texas.”

His lips twitched and some of his stiffness drained. With that, he went from attractive to lickable. “I bet you can. But putting up with my brother is a full-time job.”

She opened her mouth to ask what he meant when another deep, resonate voice interrupted her. “Are you already spreading lies about me, big brother?”

She turned her head in the direction of the voice and just about swallowed her tongue for the second time that day. Of the same build, broad in the shoulders, lean in the waist, and with the same blue-green eyes, Shane’s resemblance to his brother stopped there. Long, straight, light blond hair cascaded over his shoulders and ended somewhere in the vicinity of what she was sure was a very fine ass.

“No. I was telling her what a pain in the ass you are.”

Shane tossed his brother an amused look, then smiled at her. Holy-moly! The flash of white in the darkness, and a chin dimple to boot. Delilah curled her toes inside her shoes.

“I assume you’re Delilah Gonzales.”

Her brain scrambled the moment she heard him speak her name. She cleared her throat. “Yes. From what I gather, you’re Shane Bartlett.”

He jogged down the steps and positioned himself neatly in front of his brother. With long-practiced ease, he took her hand, then pressed the palm of his other on top of it. The rough calluses on his palms told her this was not a vanity ranch: these men ran their own ranch.

“I am. I was getting a bit worried about you since I expected you earlier today.”

“I took a wrong turn a ways back.”

She would have explained that her GPS system had taken her the wrong way, but her legendary concentration dissolved at his touch, at the way his fingers slipped over her sensitive flesh.

“I thought you were from around here.”

She didn’t respond right away. He cocked his head to the side and watched her. It was then she realized that she would never be able to think straight with him touching her.

She pulled her hand away, and she could tell by the twinkle in his eye he knew exactly why she had done it.

“I grew up in the vicinity, but a few things have changed, and driving at night changes your perception.”

Mason stepped forward. “I take it Shane offered you a room with your contract.”

She nodded. He sighed, and that sinking feeling enveloped her again. The agency that had placed her with the Bartletts was highly reputable. The idea that this deal might fall through left her too tired to think.

“Go make up a room for Ms. Gonzales.”

Mason’s voice held the same hint of authority she had heard from her oldest brother when he ordered the other two brothers around. There was no doubt in her mind this was the man who ran the ranch.

Shane shot her a smile and a wink, and then hurried up the stairs. The screen door slammed behind him, and instead of dealing with Mason’s penetrating stare, she turned to dig out her suitcases. She felt, rather than heard, Mason move behind her. He stood so close, her whole body lit up like a hot poker.

“Ms. Gonzales.”

She didn’t react. Again, she found herself dumbfounded by one of the Bartlett men. Just the fact that he was so close had her hormones dancing the two-step.

She turned and found him even closer than she’d expected. The scent of him, mixed with the warm Texas night air, had her body humming.

“Yes?”

He was watching her lips, watching the way they moved. Lordy.

“I can take your bags up.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

He tipped his head in acknowledgement, then motioned over his shoulder. “And Justin here can help, too.”

She was so focused on Mason, she had missed the most recent addition. She looked over Mason’s shoulder and found a slightly younger man standing there.

“Justin?” she asked.

With a sigh that sounded like regret, Mason moved away. “Justin, meet Ms. Gonzales, our new cook.”

Justin smiled, and that same chin dimple she’d seen on Shane’s face winked at her. “Nice to meet you.”

Oh, this was definitely bad. How was a woman supposed to hold an intelligent conversation being bombarded by so much male beauty in such a short time?

Normally, she could handle it. She was good with men and knew how to flirt, but Delilah had always had a thing for cowboys, and these guys were any heterosexual woman’s dream come true.

“Nice to meet you, too.” She pulled her brain together enough to turn back toward Mason, who had yet to move away from her. “Is this it, or is there another Bartlett around here?”

He smiled. From the way it moved over his face, slowly, like a rising sun, she knew it wasn’t something he did all the time. She felt her heart turn over.

“No. Justin here has a twin, but he’s out, probably getting in trouble.”

She shot Justin a look. Good God, there were two of them?

“Yep. Sorry to say it, but my younger twin is out somewhere catting around. Nothing new for him.”

“Identical?”

His smile widened, and he nodded.

Holy Lord. This was a test of some sort. God had to be testing her. There was no way she could be here for six months and not put her hands on someone. Right now, it was going to be hard to get any sleep as it was.

“Now, why don’t you let Justin and I get your things upstairs?”

* * *

Mason walked into the kitchen to find Shane sitting at the table with a wide smile stretching over his face. Anger whipped through him.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” he muttered from behind clenched teeth.

“Thanks for taking care of hiring a new cook, Shane.

He didn’t miss the sarcasm in Shane’s voice.

“I thought you would hire someone like Cookie.”

Their old cook had been cranky and male. It had worked out for them. Mason wasn’t a chauvinist, but he knew what happened when you put a pretty woman on a ranch full of men: they wouldn’t be able to get any work done.

“Cookie sucked. And he definitely wasn’t as pretty as Ms. Delilah Gonzales.”

Mason groaned. “I knew that was why you hired her.”

Shane shook his head. “No. I actually hired her for a few other reasons, the first being that she is apparently a first-rate chef.”

With a grunt, he sat down in the seat opposite from Shane. “If she’s so good, what is she doing out in the middle of nowhere, cooking for us? From what I gathered, she moved here from San Antonio.”

“Yeah, and she’s keeping her apartment in San Antonio. I signed her on for the next six months on a trial basis. However, it seems that she has family in the area she wanted to be close to.”

Mason narrowed his eyes as he studied his brother. “Don’t lie to me. That isn’t why you hired her.”

“Serious as a heart attack. If we get more active in the cattlemen’s association, we’re going to do some schmoozing, and we need a real cook for that. Cookie was great with beans and bacon. Putting together a more formal dinner or setting up a party, however…not in his realm of abilities.  Ms. Gonzales has a background that includes private dining and banquets, along with a long history of being in charge of those things. She didn’t just work in those fields. She was in charge of them for the last five years. She is what we need. Not another Cookie.”

That was true. Cookie had been left behind by the last owner. He had stayed on when Mason and his brothers took over the ranch four years earlier. He’d been an excellent cook when it came to ranch grub for men, but he wasn’t what anyone would call social. He probably wouldn’t know how to plan a party unless it was a kegger for cowboys.

The earnest expression on Shane’s face made Mason rethink his initial perceptions of his brother’s motivation. “Her looks had nothing to do with it?”

Shane chuckled. “Of course they had a little to do with it, but I also made her submit menu ideas for ranch dinners, a party menu, and a dinner party menu.”

“Hmm…color me surprised. I would have never thought you would take it so seriously.”

“Making this ranch work is my number one priority. To do that, and especially to grow it, we need to make those contacts. It isn’t the biggest part, but we do need someone who can cook, and cook well. Of course, her looks are a huge side benefit.”

Mason rolled his eyes as he rose from his chair. “Can you try and keep your hands off her, at least for a little while?”

Shane wiggled his eyebrows. “I didn’t take her to bed tonight, did I?”

Justin walked in with a big smile, and Mason groaned again.

“Talking about Delilah?” Justin asked.

Mason shot him a look.

“She told me to call her by her first name.” He turned to Shane. “Good choice, bro.”

The same thread of interest he’d heard in Shane’s voice now simmered in Justin’s.

“No.” Mason’s voice sounded more emphatic than he felt.

Shane and Justin both looked at him.

“Don’t even think about sharing her.” Mason could not deal with it. He wanted it, more than he was willing to admit, but they had too much to lose.

“Don’t worry,” Justin said. “Not that she doesn’t make me think of things like that, but I know that all of us would never take advantage of a woman who worked for us.”

“Good. You better keep it that way,” Mason said.

Justin’s grin widened. “Ah, Mason, don’t be such a spoilsport. I mean, if she makes the first move…”

“Mmm…she is. Those luscious lips? I can imagine them wrapped around my cock,” Shane said.

The words brought to mind the image of Delilah, on her knees and in front of Mason, with her hot, wet mouth moving over his shaft.

“I knew it!” Shane said.

Mason shook his head. “I don’t want any of us talking about her like this. It’s disrespectful to her. Let’s remember that she works for us. She could have walked in on any of us talking like this. She’s a single woman on a ranch of mostly men.”

“Don’t be a buzzkill,” Justin said.

“Mason’s right,” Shane said.

Mason blinked. “What?”

His brother smiled. “We have mostly men on this ranch, and we need to make sure she understands that her job is separate than any of us being interested in her.  Even if she is attracted, it doesn’t mean she would go for it. Not every woman wants to take on several men at once.”

It could have been just attraction, but most women wouldn’t show it so openly. There had been something in her reaction to all of them that had sent almost every ounce of blood in his brain straight to his cock.

Still, he couldn’t allow this kind of talk about their newest employee. “First, I didn’t say she wouldn’t. What I am saying is that she just showed up. Don’t pressure her.”

As Mason turned to leave, Shane said, “A woman that pretty and sexy isn’t going to have a problem attracting attention.”

“You should have thought about that before you hired her,” Mason tossed over his shoulder as he slipped out the door. He figured there was a cold shower with his name on it waiting for him.

 

End of Excerpt

Delilah’s Downfall

is available in the following formats:

Harmless Publishing

Jan 15, 2019

ISBN-13: 9781939734808

Print:
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International:
This book is a reissue that has been edited and expanded.