Tina Leonard, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

The Renegade Cowboy Returns

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What’s past is prologue”The Tempest by William Shakespeare

The secret to Gage Phillips’s happy existence was ridiculously simple: stay far away from women, specifically those who had marriage on their mind.

He put his duffel on the porch of the New Mexico farmhouse and looked around. The rebuilding project he’d taken on for Jonas Callahan was perfectly suited for a man who gloried in solitude. Gage knew his formula for a drama-free, productive lifestyle seemed oversimplified to some people, especially ladies who wanted to show him how much better life could be in a permanent relationship with a good woman. Yet he was thirty-five and a die-hard, footloose cowboy–testament to remaining single being the best choice a man could ever make on this earth, besides finding the right career and spending hard-earned cash on a dependable truck.

He hadn’t always been die-hard and footloose. Fourteen years ago he’d been at the altar, and fourteen years ago he’d learned a valuable lesson: marriage was not for him.

His friends were fond of saying he was just too much of a renegade to be tied down. Gage figured they might have a point. Fatherhood had been a late-breaking bulletin for him. About a year ago he’d been delivered the news. What man was so busy traveling the country that he didn’t know he had a daughter?

Leslie, convinced by her parents not to tell him about his child so they wouldn’t have to share custody, made a midlife decision to invite him to Laredo to come clean. He was pretty certain Leslie had told him only because she was at her wits’ end with Cat–and because her teenager apparently was fond of making her mother’s new boyfriend miserable.

The situation was messy.

So it was time for a little escape. This desolate, dirt-as-far-as-the-eyes-could-see forgotten hideaway was also perfect for getting away from his other problem–the family. If anybody needed quiet and a place to plot his exit strategy from The Family, Inc., it was he.

“Excuse me,” a female said, and Gage jumped about a foot. “If you’re selling something, I’m not buying, cowboy. And there’s a No Trespassing sign posted on the drive, which I’m sure you noticed. And ignored.”

He’d whipped around at her first words and found himself staring at a woman of medium height, with a slender build and untamable red hair, eyeing him like a protective mother hen prepared to flap him off the porch. Maybe she was the housekeeper, getting the place cleaned up for his arrival. He couldn’t place her accent–perhaps Irish or Scottish. Either way, she seemed intent on him not getting past the front door. He plastered on a convincing smile to let her know he was harmless. “I’m not selling anything, ma’am. I’m moving in.”

She blinked big, glass-green eyes. “You have the wrong address.”

“This is Dark Diablo Ranch.” It was impossible to have the wrong address; there were no other houses around for miles. “Owned by Jonas Callahan of Ran-cho Diablo, right?”

She nodded. “It is. But Jonas never mentioned anything about anyone living here.”

He could see she wasn’t the kind of woman who could be swayed with easy charm. Probably didn’t trust strangers, which was a good thing. By the way her hand moved impatiently to rest on her slim hip, it was obvious she didn’t trust him, even with his pointed mention of Jonas’s name. A woman who had nice long legs like hers usually caught his eye. He loved tiny freckles, too. She had a light dusting on her pale legs and arms exposed by her green tank top. Even across her delicate nose… But she also had a healthy dose of…