Grouchy Noah was a challenge, but a Noah who started to trust Lily was far more difficult to handle...
Shutting himself off from the world, injured ex-soldier Noah Lamarie plans to lick his wounds in private. For who could love a cowboy who can't even tie a bale of hay?
Lily Germaine thinks Noah is the most infuriating, stubborn-as-a-mule man she's ever met. Losing an arm doesn't mean he has to lose sight of who he is. His courage, strength and loyalty make him one in a million. She just needs to convince him of that!
The blade nicked the skin, turning the shaving cream around it pink. Noah swore, rinsed the razor in the sink of hot water, angled his head and tried again.
He felt like a baby, learning everything again for the first time. Letting out a breath, he jutted his chin and swiped the blade over his jaw once more, this time the path even and smooth. It was a good thing. He had three other nicks to attest to the poor job he was doing.
He made faces, attempting to make the skin taut where he needed it to be. In the hospital, a pretty young nurse always came around to shave him. She'd even cut his hair when he'd asked. All he'd had to do was hold the mirror. At the time he'd enjoyed the attention. But it had worn thin. He was a man used to doing things himself. The fact that a simple morning shave caused him to break out in a sweat made him angry. At himself. At the world in general.
He held the razor in mid air as there was a knock on the door.
It had to be Andrew, he reasoned. No one else really knew he was back, and that was just the way he wanted it. He scraped more cream off his face, cleaning the blade in the water. Andrew, with the familiarity of being a younger brother, would let himself in. And Andrew wouldn't care about the mess around the place.
But then the knock came again and his stomach did a slow twist. What if it wasn't Andrew? He wrinkled his brow. It could be Andrew's fiancee Jen. Jen had been with Andrew the day they'd picked him up at the airport. Noah was only slightly self-conscious around Jen.
A third time it sounded and with a growl he put down the razor and grabbed a hand towel, stomping out of the bathroom. If people with two good arms couldn't open a door...or take a hint for that matter...
Holding the towel in his fingers, he reached out and turned the knob. "Keep your pants on," he commanded, and then froze.
Not Andrew. Not even Jen. Instead, the most beautiful woman he'd seen in forever stood on his doorstep. For a moment his gaze caught on her long, dark hair, clear skin, and finally a pair of brilliant blue eyes. Her eyebrows raised, making him feel like a child caught in a tantrum. And with a huffy sound, she brushed by him carrying a cardboard box.
Noah stared at the figure which was now heading towards his very small kitchen. What the hell? Wordlessly she put the box down and started unpacking it. In his kitchen. On his countertop.
He went to slam the door and realized he would have to forego the satisfaction. At least he'd remembered to pin up his shirtsleeve this morning. He looked back at the kitchen. The woman had stopped her unpacking and was watching him now with undisguised interest. He felt colour and heat infuse his cheeks. The last thing he wanted was morbid curiosity about his condition, or worse - pity.
He affected his best scowl. "Did you come to get a good look at the cripple?"
Lily saw Noah Laramie blush, saw him struggle and then heard the harsh words. Noah was a bad tempered bear with a chip on his shoulder the size of a brick. So far he'd yelled at her at the door and then accused her of coming here to gawk. It was just too bad for him she was used to dealing with teenagers all day, and the way Noah was looking at her right now said belligerence covering insecurity. Not that she could blame him. She was a complete stranger and his condition was new. A smile quivered at the corner of her lips. "Are you trying to scare me away?"
His mouth dropped open for the smallest second, then he put the guard back up again and scowled. "Is it working?"
"No. You need to work on your big bad wolf impression."
"Where I come from people wait to be invited in."
Lily fired straight back: "Where I come from, people don't get yelled at, at the door."
She left the supplies on the counter and went out into the living room. He'd pinned up the sleeve where his arm used to be, and she paid it no more than a glance, determined not to stare. Curiosity about how it had happened burned within her, but it would be the height of impoliteness to ask. Neither Jen nor Andrew had mentioned anything about it beyond that it had happened.
She caught her breath as they seemed to square off. His build was imposing despite the obvious. Taller than his brother Andrew, she guessed him to be at least six-two, and even though there had to have been a distinct lack of physical activity since his injury, he was still lean and muscled. His short, dark hair was a rumpled mess, and his chin was still covered in shaving cream.
Her smile blossomed completely at the sight. "It's hard to be afraid of a man whose face resembles Santa Claus."
"Dammit," he mumbled, taking the towel and hastily wiping off the remnants of white foam. "Who are you?"
"I'm Lily Germaine." Without thinking, she held out her hand. Only to realize that Noah did not have a right hand to shake hers with. This time it was her cheeks that flushed and she dropped the hand back to her side.
"It's all right. I forget sometimes too."
The quietly spoken response did more to elicit her sympathy than the sight of him had.
"I'm a friend of Jen and Andrew's. They asked me to stop by."
She took another step forward and looked up into his face. There were patches where he'd missed with the razor, the dark stubble shadowing a strong jaw. "She wanted me to deliver some groceries." She hesitated for a second. "She said you found shopping difficult and could use..."
Again she faltered. Ordinary sayings now suddenly took on new meaning. The last thing she wanted to do was insult him.
"Use a hand?"
His lips were a hard line, and the dark look in his eyes nearly sent her scuttling back to her car. But he couldn't ignore the obvious. He couldn't drive himself to the grocery store, and carting bags inside would be a definite chore. She lifted her chin. "In a manner of speaking."
He dropped the towel on the top of an armchair, putting his left hand in his jeans pocket. "Let's just get it out of the way. I'm Noah Laramie, and I've lost an arm. It is what it is. No need to dance around it. Or worry about what's going to come out of your mouth."
"It's not the appendage coming out of my mouth that's the problem at the moment. It's the one I keep putting in it." She tried a hopeful smile, relieved when the hard lines of his face relaxed. Goodness, he was handsome when he wasn't being so sharp and abrasive.
"Jen's a mother hen," he stated. "I'm fine. So no need to bring in whatever it is you've brought in."
Lily's smile faded. Jen hadn't said anything about the resistance Lily was facing. Oh, no. Jen had said what a teasing, easy going guy Noah had been when they had all been growing up together - a time well before Lily had come to Larch Valley. Despite his earlier frankness in speaking, she got the feeling that trying to convince him of anything was about as effective as talking to a turnip and expecting a response. Once Noah Laramie made up his mind, she doubted anyone could budge it.
"I'm also supposed to give you a ride to Lazy L today."
"Andrew will come and get me."
"Andrew had to go to Pincher Creek."
"Jen has a bakery to open, and she asked if I'd drop these things over and give you a lift. You might as well get used to it, Laramie. I'm your chauffeur, like it or not."
After one hard, brittle glare, he stalked back down the hall towards the bathroom. "Fine. For today."
"Well-defined characters and a powerful conflict drive the plot, and the story's especially touching because of Noah's plight and inner strength." Romantic Times, 4 stars
"Once again she has gifted us with a book impossible to set down. This Larch Valley series has magically taken us to a most beautiful part of our country, with believable characters, passion, and drama..." Pink Heart Society Reviews
"This book is one of the best books I have read this year...I cannot recommend this book enough. Beware--tissues are needed! Lots of them! Enjoy!" Eharlequin Reader
"a remarkable story of triumph and victory." Eharlequin Reader
"A beautiful love story that will tug at your heartstrings... a stirring, beguiling and enthralling contemporary romance..." Cataromance, 4.5 stars
"one of the most romantic books I've read
in a very long time." Eharlequin Reader
"an emotional book, a warm book, a courageous book...about loss and recovering from loss, about finding the courage to trust and to love again." Kate Walker, Harlequin Presents Author
From Her Lone Cowboy by Donna Alward
Harlequin Romance, March 2010
Copyright 2010 by Donna Alwardd
Cover art used with permission
This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more Romance information, surf to http://www.eharlequin.com