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Baitin The Hook: A Cowboy Romance (Triple K Ranch Book 3) by J.L. Beck, Cassandra Bloom (1)

PRELUDE

 

In Playin’ With Fire….

THE RABBIT HOLE

MAGGIE

Triple K Ranch, Flatonia Texas…

Cook’s Cottage…

Maggie cracked one eye open, everything hurt…Her eyeballs felt like her eyelids were made of sandpaper. Her body felt cold and clammy, except for certain spots at her back and backside of all things. There, it felt warm and then around her waist had a warm spot too. A butt warmer? Some kind of overly large heating pad? In pain, she closed her weary eyes. “Oh, damn…” She groaned in pitiful misery.

Something moved behind her—the warm spots! Both her eyes instantly popped open. She was staring down at an old homespun rug, one she never saw before laying on a wooden floor, she also didn’t recognize. Her befuddled eyes swung up and she saw a front door. She kept blinking to make sure she was actually here in a strange, unfamiliar place.

A male sleep filled moan sounded from behind her. She widened her eyes and held her breath. It’s a living heating pad, who groans! What is this?

Suddenly, the door she stared at before burst open off its hinges. She froze and her befuddled thoughts halted in mid-step too.

Brea came storming in looking like she was ready for war…Cole looked a bit fearful, unlike his usual easygoing self as he stepped in cautiously behind her.

Maggie could only gawk, as the rest of her body seemed unresponsive. She felt like somebody who was witnessing a train wreck and couldn’t look away while she was lying on the tracks.

“What in the hell are you doing with my sister?” Brea shouted.

Maggie winced, ‘cause the shout hurt her head like a booming drum lived in her skull. Who is she talking to? Then the mysterious warm spot moved abruptly and knocked her off the perch of a couch she’d been laying on. She dropped to the homespun rug like a rock in a throwing contest. “OOPH!” she let out with a stunned shaking to her sore body.

“What?” A deep voice shouted back.

Her eyes rounded as she heard the one voice she did not expect to hear after waking up somewhere. Oh, no! No, no…double crapola, NO! She rolled over with a grunt and peered up at the couch.

Jet, the yummy cowboy she loved to hate sat upright on the very couch she was just glued to, bare chested and looking disoriented.

Then Maggie’s startled gaze swung back over to her sister’s face.

Brea was turning three different shades of red. “Oh, no…YOU DIDN’T!” She lunged forward. “You so did not do this…Your ass is lucky I couldn’t find the shotgun shells!”

Cole, who stood behind her, caught her before she got too far.

Maggie swung her still bewildered gaze back up to Jet.

He bit at his lip, his hair looked tousled with that just rolled out of bed look.

Yeah, only it wasn’t from a bed, but a couch I was on! Maggie felt a heat spread through her pain gripped body. Jet, the Cowboy Sundae was looking too sexy and too good for her own good.

He peered down at Maggie. “I can explain.”

Maggie gulped. “Good, ‘cause I’m thinking I sure as hell need an explanation right about now.”

Brea stomped her foot. “You just had to do it!” Her raging eyes remained glued on Jet’ face.

“Now, wait just a min—” Jet tried to explain.

“No, dammit! Maggie is just a kid! What were you thinking?” His brother interjected.

Maggie felt like Cole had punched her in the already queasy gut with the kid remark. She stood up and glared at him. “I’m no kid!” she yelled at Jet’s good looking twin.

Brea gasped as she stared hard at Maggie…though not at her face.

“Yeah, I can—um, see that.” Cole actually blushed as he turned his head away.

Maggie knew something was really off here, but the list was too long to know what all exactly: the strange place, her mad as a hornet sister and the hot off the couch cowboy-slice of cream pie who sat behind her. She bit at her lip and reluctantly peered down at herself. Her breasts were bare. “Oh, crikey!” Her hands and arms crossed over her chest by natural instinct.

Jet jumped up and placed a sheet against her.

“Wh-why am I—?” Maggie couldn’t even finish it as she pulled the sheet up over her boobs.

Jet looked upset and he let out a heavy sigh.

“You are in big trouble this time, brother,” Cole stated the obvious.

Jet remained mute.

“Well, don’t you have anything to say?” Brea asked.

He shook his head. “Why bother?” He let out a heavy sigh.

Brea went beet red in the face again. “Why bother!” she yelled. “Well, you like breathing don’t you?”

He narrowed his eyes at her.

“ ‘Cause when Daisy gets here? She’s gonna have you dig your own grave and push you in!” Brea shouted.

This thought hadn’t occurred to Maggie up until this point. Her sore head shot up. “Oh, crap!”

“Yeah, oh crap…” Brea repeated back as she shook her head.

“What in tarnation is going on in here?”

All eyes turned to the door.

Mable, the mother of the twin Kincade boys stood there as her hawk like eyes swung across the occupants now standing in the cook’s cottage. “Oh, Jet, you didn’t…Tell me you didn’t!” She glared at him as he now stood next to a silent Maggie.

“If I told you I didn’t, would it make any difference?’”

Mable shook her head. “This ain’t good. This scandal will be a like trying to tie down a twister at midnight.”

“I don’t see why you all are so upset!” Maggie interjected. “I’m over eighteen and I—I been with a guy before. I’ve—dated!” She stomped her bare foot.

“Well, missy…this ain’t no boy at the prom. Jet here has a history. He isn’t no good for any girl—woman.” Mable harrumphed.

Jet sucked in a breath and looked insulted.

Cole shook his head as a small victorious smile showed. “The truth hurts eh, baby brother?’

Jet glared at him. “Maybe I just never found the right woman!” he defended as his arm went around Maggie’s shoulder.

The supposed right woman felt like she just got another punch of non-reality as Maggie gaped up at the tall cowboy.

“Boy…this ain’t no game!” Mable cut in, “You may have to marry this girl! If I know Daisy Plush. And…I god darn well do. She won’t be satisfied with you fooling with her girl and then running off like you always do. There’s gonna be hell to pay!”

Maggie felt his body go ramrod stiff next to her.

He looked ashen.

Cole slapped his thigh and laughed. “Finally, some kind of justice shows itself in Jet’ world of the wild, wild west! I just never thought it would be Daisy wielding the brand to your hide!”

Brea and Mable pinned their glaring gazes on him.

He looked a bit trapped and somewhat sheepish as he cleared his throat. “…But, he’ll just squirm out of it anyway. All denial and weaseling to get his walking papers in a disaster he created. He’s the least mature of anyone in this room. He goes through women like a rutting bull in a pen full of prime heifers!”

Maggie felt Jet go even stiffer beside her, as his arm tightened even more around her.

“Well, you all are wrong this time. I will own up to what happened here. Consider us engaged!” Jet blurted out.

The room went absolutely silent, well that certainly shut them all up.

Brea went white as a sheet.

Cole looked like a bull just kicked him in the family jewels.

Mable looked like a statue who just got bronzed.

Jet grinned at their surprised expressions and leaned down proudly to kiss Maggie’s cheek soundly.

Maggie thought she might start to hyperventilate, this was nightmarish before but now, it switched to horror movie status. The warm wet spot on her cheek felt all too real though. “Now, wait just a darn minute here!”

Brea seemed to come out of her shock and went back into mother hen protector mode as she stepped forward. “Come on sis…You can’t stay here alone with him.”

Maggie felt like a kid that just got grounded again, as she sucked in her breath. Letting out a heavy sigh, she snapped back, “And why not? Apparently, I have already been there and done that deed!” She felt the body heat from the yummy cowboy next to her who just declared them engaged and she shivered.

Cole looked animated, yet troubled by the entire fallout as he took Brea’s hand to lead her to the door.

She darted her eyes up at him.

Cole looked pensive now as he shook his head at her.

Brea glanced back over at Maggie. “You sure?”

Maggie found herself nodding her head. Too stuptified and angry, she had no words just now. Hell no, I am not sure about anything! I’m more confused than ever! She kept her doubts to herself though.

Mable shook her head while looking amused suddenly after all her affronted disgust of before. “Well, if that don’t beat all!” She laughed, though it didn’t sound like a happy laugh at all. Then her eyes went beady as they narrowed in on her wild son. “You best not be foolin’ around here Jet. I mean it. I have put up with the skirt chasin’ and the trouble you cause, but I won’t put up with no liar for a son.”

Jet flinched at the listing of his bad boy history. “I give my word.”

Maggie gulped. What? Why is he doing this?

Brea reluctantly went out with Cole.

Mable gave Jet one last hardcore look, then she went out too, and shut the door.

Like the door shutting sound was a flag at a race, Maggie dramatically jumped away from Jet. “What in the hell was that?”

He grinned at her. “I’d say it was our pre-engagement party.”

Staring at this magnificent looking cowboy who loomed larger than life just a minute ago when he publicly made her his fiancé, her mouth popped wide open.

Jet chuckled and reached out to gently lift her slackened jaw, closing it with his fingers. “You know what? You are so cute when you’re flabbergasted.”

Maggie tucked the sheet tighter around her. “You’re smiling just now? How in the—I just don’t—I do not know what just happened! Then all you can do is…” She swung around away from him. “Why did you do that? Are you completely whacked?”

“Maybe, I secretly wanted it.”

Maggie whipped back around so fast…she tripped over the sheet, heading face and boob first for the hardwood floor.

Jet reached out and caught her, easily bringing her up to his chest. “Maybe I want you and this is the best and most direct way to get you.” He lowered his lips and kissed her.

Maggie’s eyes widened and she was about to stomp on his foot when a warmth spread through her. Her mouth became hot and she tasted him while her body reacted to the kiss. God dammit, can he kiss! Her body just went weak and her legs were turning to jelly. The room spun and she hoped it was the hangover as her body now started to tingle all over.

Jet pulled his warm lips away. “It might be sooner than I thought, but I made up my mind last night at the barbeque before all this happened. I wanted to woo you, um—court you. Take the decent path for once in my life. Then, see where it went.”

Maggie felt all kinds of things running through her, inner body heat was at the top of the list, lost was second and pure shock was now overtaking those feelings altogether. “What?”

He smiled and pulled her even closer. “No woman ever—” He shook his head his grin huge. “Let’s just say, I am fine with this.”

Maggie started to hyperventilate again. “Fine with…? Oh, God—oh, God!” Panicked that this all got out of her control and fast, she pushed him away, then looked around as if someone might now come through that door and yell, PRANK! Oh, she desperately stared at that door like her very life depended on it. Come on, jump in here everyone and tell me this was a really bad joke! When it never opened, she let out a sigh of near defeat to her sanity. “Well, I’m not okay, because I still don’t know what’s going on!” She hefted up the sheet and went into a frenzied pace, back and forth over the wooden floor.

Jet stood back, crossed his arms over his wide bare chest and watched her with a raised brow.

“I mean, how did we end up here together?” She turned and paced forward again. “I remember the barbeque, then the stupid dancing…”She halted her pacing. “Then you walking with me…” Her eyes rose up to stare at him.

Jet stood wearing a lopsided grin as his eyes looked intense, belying the smile.

“Why are you grinning at me like some kind of amused devil? What has happened to you? Did I hit you over the head with a frying pan or something last night?”

He shrugged. “Nope, it wasn’t at all violent. It was the best night of my life, truth be told. I’ve just been enjoying watching you sashay around in that sheet.” He raised his brows. “I mean it’s the best thing I’ve seen since…well, last night when you offered me your double Ds.”

“When I what?” She gulped heavily.

He looked as if he was squashing another grin. “You called me a cowboy sundae and said you wanted to lick—”

“Oh!” she jumped back. “No! I would never…”

He nodded his head. “Yeah you would and did. You said we should just get it over with. Then you stripped down and offered yourself up to…the chicken hawk, as you put it.” A wicked grin slipped over his lips. “It was a side of you that sorta scared me and revved me up at the same time.”

Maggie felt the room sway around her as she believed that this time—she was gonna pass right out. “No—no, how could…?”

Jet jumped forward and grabbed her up, swooping her into his arms. He turned and carried her to the little hallway off the kitchen. He kicked a door open and strode into another room to lay her on the bed. His expression showed concern. “Are you okay?”

Maggie kept trying to control her breathing as she again, gaped at him like he’d just grown horns and a tail. “NO!” she shouted. “I am sooo NOT okay!” She covered her eyes with her hands. “I’m suddenly engaged and I supposedly had sex with…” Her hands fell away. “…You? YOU took advantage of me?”

His expression changed to one of dismay. “I didn’t.” His voice went low and serious with his answer.

“Well, what the hell else would you call it?” she asked loudly.

He pursed those yummy lips of his. “Consensual…it was entirely—”

Maggie bolted upright. “WHAT? How could it be when I was so drunk I couldn’t rem…?” Her voice faded away. “…I had one drink, just one.” She wrinkled her brow. Then she heard a grunt and swung her eyes up.

Jet looked angry as he was even balling his fists at his sides. “You stay here and rest. I’m going to make sure all your luggage is moved here. From now on, I will protect you and stay by your side. This cottage is yours. It comes with the job.” He turned away and went out the door like a man with a purpose.

Maggie gazed at the closed door and she couldn’t even blink. “Protect me? Maybe from yourself!” she scoffed. “What world did I wake up in? Oh man, have I ever fallen down the rabbit hole. I already saw the crazy queen Mable and the too sexy Cheshire cat who suddenly says, he wants to marry me! Freakin Alice has nothing on me.”

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