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Author: Jaci Burton



when the prairie was on fire, a smart man would run like hell in the opposite direction.

Nobody had ever accused Walker Morgan of being smart.

And Jolene McMasters was one hot prairie fire.

He should walk away, but she was a wildfire out of control, and he was having a damn hard time resisting the heat.

He rode in his truck behind her, watching her lean over in her open Jeep, igniting fires along the side of the roadway on Bar M land. It was a no-wind day, which was pretty damn rare in Oklahoma in the spring. Perfect time to burn away the tall dead winter grass around the acreage. And it figured Jolene would just have to be in the front of the line, in control of the whole deal.

Of course she did own the ranch, and for the most part had been running it herself for the past few years, since her uncle had gotten too sick to see to the day-to-day things. Her sisters, Valerie and Brea, had both lived out of town and hadn’t wanted any part of the Bar M until they’d recently come home, and even now seemed content to let their baby sister take the lead.

Right where Jolene liked to be—at the lead. She hopped out of the Jeep and raised her hand so the convoy of trucks behind her stopped. They’d circled around behind the fires they’d set so they could monitor the progress of each fire and keep them from getting out of control.

Jolene shielded her eyes and face from the whipping flames and climbed onto the bed, and then the roof of one of the trucks. She had such a catlike grace as she moved, comfortable in her own skin, unafraid as she widened her stance and balanced on top of the truck to scan the track of the fire.

“Walker, climb on up here and tell me what you think.”

He swung up onto the bed and climbed onto the roof to stand next to her. “Looks steady,” he said as he surveyed miles of charred black land with thin rows of flame. “It’s under control as long as the wind doesn’t pick up.”

Jolene nodded. “Good enough.”

Walker jumped down and held out his hands. Jolene slid into his arms, over the rail of the truck bed and onto the ground, grabbing her gloves as she headed toward the water truck.

“Joey, take the truck to the west end. I don’t like the direction or how fast that fire is moving. We don’t want to burn up that grove of trees on the western end of the property, so be sure it doesn’t get that far.”

Joey, one of the hands, tipped his hat, climbed into one of the water trucks and took off. At ten thousand acres, the Bar M was one of the largest ranches in their part of Oklahoma. Which meant it was a huge responsibility, and Walker thought Jolene did a fine job handling it all for someone as young as she was. In fact, the harder she had to work, the happier she seemed to be.

Walker admired her for that. She never whined or complained, and one would think a girl in her mid-twenties would rather be in the city dancing and drinking in the clubs or dating a different guy every weekend instead of standing in the middle of a scorched field sucking in ash and smoke.

But Jolene was grinning and swilling down bottles of water like she was having the time of her life, her face smeared with black ash and soot, her perfect lips cracking a wide smile. He wanted to go over to her, grab her pigtails, drag her sweet body against his and kiss her until the ache he had for her went away.

But he already knew kissing her would only make his dick hard, and then he’d want a hell of lot more than kissing.

She’d want more than kissing.

Jolene had already made it clear what she wanted, and what she wanted was him. He was the one backing away, saying no, which wasn’t something he was accustomed to doing. When a sexy blonde with a heart-shaped face, a mouth that was created for one thing only and curves that won’t quit wanted you, you didn’t say no. Yet that was what he found himself doing.

Ronald McMasters had hired him five years ago, and he’d taken the job and started working for Mason. And then he’d met Jolene, barely twenty-one at the time. Even then she’d been a beauty, with womanly curves and a face that would stop a man in his tracks. Now she had come into her full womanly beauty, and she was devastating, a devilish temptress in blue jeans and cowgirl boots.

He wanted her like he’d never wanted a woman before. And she was 100 percent off limits.

She was the boss and he was a ranch hand. He’d already gone down that road once and vowed he’d never do it again. He was determined not to break that vow, even if Jolene McMasters was the hottest thing on the Oklahoma prairie.

He was still going to tell her no, and no again, until she got the message loud and clear.



the fires were out, all the grass they’d wanted burned was scorched to the ground, and Jolene and the guys were now enjoying the fruits of their labor—beer and barbecue in the backyard of the main house. No way was Lila going to let any of them inside, since they were all covered in soot and ash from head to toe. But there was plenty of food and cold beer to drink. They’d been at this before dawn, and the sun had just set. Jolene had known the hands would be hungry when they got back, so she’d made advance arrangements to have this feast prepared.

There was nothing she liked better than seeing a bright orange glow lining up across the horizon before the sun even came up. The day had been perfect, the winds had been calm and they’d only had to chase a couple fires threading out of control.

She craved a shower and her scrubber so she could get the grit out of her skin and the smell of smoke out of her hair and nostrils. But right now she wanted to celebrate with her guys—they’d worked their asses off today.

And while they all hooted and hollered and told stories about their heroics of the day, Jolene took a seat on the ground under one of the many shade trees. Away from the crowd and nobody needing anything from her, she could watch Walker Morgan to her heart’s content. And her heart was pretty damned contented to watch him a lot.

Like her, he was covered in dust from his face to his shirt and jeans and pretty much everywhere else. His hair was black as the charred fields, and his eyes as gray as the ash that coated their clothes.

He was doing his damndest to ignore her, but Jolene knew better. He noticed her all right. She could tell when a man watched her, and she’d felt his gaze on her today. Since Mason was off on the other side of the fire, and Walker was usually Mason’s right-hand man, he’d been right there by her side the entire time. She didn’t know if he enjoyed that or if it irritated the hell out of him.

Walker had been at the ranch for five years now, and he was as tight-lipped about himself as any man she’d known. Maybe that was part of the attraction—she liked a mystery. There were a lot of things about Walker she didn’t know, but she intended to find out. If she could just find time to be alone with him, and get him to admit that he was interested in being with her. Because she knew damn well he wanted her. She was pretty adept at reading a man, and she caught the sidelong glances he sent her way when he thought she wasn’t looking. Jolene was always looking.

And in those looks she saw a hunger that equaled her own. What she didn’t understand was why he turned and headed in the opposite direction whenever they had an opportunity to be alone.

If there was one thing Jolene was, it was determined. She wasn’t going to let Walker keep running. She’d made up her mind a long time ago that Walker was who she wanted in her bed, and she wasn’t going to give up until she had him there.

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