Amanda’s Texas Rangers
Amanda Keller’s only goal was to free her mother and sister from her father so she could escape and never look back. Texas Rangers, Zane Owens and Rand Sloane, have their own mission and aren’t about to let the raven-haired beauty run off with the gold, especially when she’d already stolen their hearts.
Lying on her belly, Amanda Keller remained motionless as she looked down the barrel of her rifle to the group of men moving around below the ridge. Ignoring the fierce sun beating down on her, the rock poking at her hip through her trousers, and the trail of sweat slowly creeping down her neck below her bandana, she waited for Rafael Perez to step out into the open.
The brim of her hat kept the sun from shining in her eyes, but she had to keep blinking against the glint of light reflecting off of her rifle. She could only hope Rafael or one of his men wouldn’t spot it before she did what she came here to do. Surprisingly, none of them looked up in her direction.
Desperation burned like acid in her stomach and she had to force herself to keep her breathing steady as she waited for her shot. After she killed him, the others would be easy to control.
She had to kill the man first.
With every deep breath she took, the knots in her stomach just kept growing. She’d never killed anyone before, and the thought of having to do it now made her want to throw up.
But she could see no other way. She’d never be free if she didn’t and she didn’t have much time. She’d already been away too long.
Rafael, with his stringy black hair and confident swagger, moved among his men, barking out orders. He somehow managed to keep the horses or one of his men between him and the end of her rifle, but she knew that eventually she’d get the perfect opportunity. If not today…tomorrow.
It had taken her weeks to find him, and she’d been following his trail for the last three days, getting a little closer each day. This morning she’d caught sight of him for the first time.
Thanks to the description she’d gotten, he would have been easy to spot, even without knowing he was the leader of his slimy band of thugs. As she watched men all rush to do his bidding, she became more certain than ever that he was the one in charge…and her target.
It appeared Rafael and his men had stopped for a rest and a break from the heat, which gave her the opportunity to study him more closely. He looked younger than she thought he’d be but had the body of a man who drank too much and did too little.
Like her father.
He sat now, leaning up against a rock next to one of his men, who blocked any shot Amanda might have had and drank from a bottle of whiskey. She counted seven other men with him.
A year ago he had eight.
She blinked, trying to clear her vision as sweat trickled into her eyes, watching two of the men walk to the stream nearby and begin to refill canteens. She knew they’d be taking their horses for a drink as soon as they finished and sent a silent apology to Midnight, promising to get her a drink of the cool, clear water as soon as she could.
She’d emptied her own canteen about two hours ago, but knew it would be a while until she could refill it.
Doing her best to ignore the tickle at the back of her neck, Amanda kept her eye on Rafael, tightening her grip when he came back to his feet again. Damn. Her hands had become slick with sweat, but she couldn’t stop to wipe them now.
If he would just move away from the tree…yes…now turn just a little…
“Oof!” A hard body landed none too gently on top of her, knocking the air out of her lungs as strong hands wrenched the rifle from her grip and another equally strong hand covered her mouth against her instinctive cry.
“Quiet!” The cold venom in the low tone whispered furiously against her ear had to be the most frightening sound she’d ever heard.
Pressed into the ground by the heavy weight on top of her, she whimpered as the rock at her hip dug in even more painfully, bringing tears to her eyes. She struggled for air, barely able to breathe through the large hand covering her mouth and nose.
Another voice sounded next to her other ear, barely a whisper that she had to struggle to hear. “Be still and be quiet. We’re going to back away from the edge slowly. If you resist, Zane, here, will break your neck. Do you understand?”
Amanda nodded once, her vision blurring from lack of air. Oh, God. There were two of them, and they were going to kill her. Her eyes flew open when she felt the hard bulge press at her bottom.
She’d heard stories about men who kept women alive for days, using them over and over until they’ve had enough of them. Then they’d kill them. She’d rather be killed outright than to have to endure that.
Even in this heat, a shiver went down her spine as fear clawed at her, along with something else, something decadent and dangerous. The man holding her didn’t smell sour the way her father did. He smelled like soap, leather and sweat, and the hand covering her mouth was free of grime. Even the slight beard brushing her cheek was soft, and she barely resisted the urge to rub against it. The strength of the body covering hers was apparent, his movements controlled and sure. Hard-packed muscles pressed over every inch of her back and legs, holding her so firmly that she couldn’t move at all.
He bent close, tightening his hand threateningly over her mouth. “I’ll take my hand away a little so you can breathe. If you make one sound, you’re dead.”
Amanda nodded again, gulping in air as soon as his hand moved away, trying her best to be as quiet as possible so he didn’t cover her mouth again. She found herself lifted slightly and pulled back from the edge, the man handling her as easily as he would a rag doll. Not until he’d pulled her several feet back and out of Rafael’s sight did he loosen his hold, still gripping her arm as he led her down the back side of the rocky ledge to the bottom where she’d left Midnight. The second he let her go, she spun and started backing away, stopping in her tracks when she got her first good look at them.
Holy hell. “Who are you?”
The one who’d just released her put his hands on his hips, his gaze hot as it moved over her. He looked just as muscular as he felt pressed against her. “We’re Texas Rangers, ma’am. What were you doing back there?”