The Cowboy and the Angel by Lietha Wards - Read Online
The Cowboy and the Angel
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Summary

All her life Angel had been secretly in love with Alex Harrison, but would she be able to overcome her shyness and her father's plans for her future to tell him before he married another woman?

If you enjoyed this, you may like "Seth and Priscilla" the second book in the series

Published: Lietha Wards on
ISBN: 9781465996916
List price: $3.99
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The Cowboy and the Angel - Lietha Wards

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CHAPTER ONE

Oh, Angel, quit sulking, Priscilla scolded, knowing exactly what was upsetting her sister. She had dragged Angel to the Harrisons’ party, practically by her hair. She knew her sister didn’t want to go, but she didn’t want to show up alone. She did feel a little guilty, though, because she knew exactly why Angel didn’t want to be there tonight.

Angel cast her sister a disapproving look and plopped herself on the taupe suede sofa in the study. Normally, Priscilla’s antics didn’t affect her, but she was irritated because she’d dragged her along to the gala at Bea Harrison’s ranch. A strand of brunette hair had escaped her tight bun, and she tucked it back behind her ear. She looked up at her sister, who was pacing impatiently about the room, her slinky, calf-length black dress swirling about her elegant legs. Her eyes narrowed. All Priscilla ever thought of was herself, and although she loved her older sister, it got tiring after a while. I really didn’t want to come. I have a paper due next week.

She was telling a little lie. It had nothing to do with her paper. It wasn’t because of Priscilla or their hostess, either. It was the hostess’s son that made her leery, and she knew he had to be there that night because his brother was coming home after a long absence. This was an important party. Half the town was showing up to see him.

Her sister straightened the bust of her dress, drawing her disapproving gaze back to her. How are you supposed to meet a man if you never go anywhere besides work and always have your nose in a book?

Meet a man? That was easy for her to say. Priscilla was beautiful, blonde and blue-eyed. She was very popular, both in school and among the townspeople since her graduation four years ago. Angel, who was two years younger than Priscilla, had the same eyes, but the resemblance ended there. Her hair was mousy brown, she was shorter by at least six inches, and she was a little chubbier than her sister, who had a figure fit for a runway model.

It worked well for her, too. She could bat her eyelashes and have practically every man fall at her feet—not Seth Harrison, though, and that drove her crazy. It gave her sister an obsessive streak where he was concerned, and it was no secret among her friends—and probably most of the townspeople—that she was crazy about him. Priscilla was quite open about things she wanted, and Seth was definitely one of them. Angel, on the other hand, had a problem controlling her heart rate around the other one.

Alex Harrison.

Alex and Seth Harrison were their neighbors. Along with their mother, Bea, they owned one of the biggest ranches in North Carolina. It had a stunning view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and they raised Santa Gertrudis cattle. Their parents had been good friends with the Harrisons since before Angel was born.

It was an open secret that Priscilla wanted Seth, but Angel had never told anyone how she felt about Alex. She couldn’t. She wasn’t much for talking about her feelings with anyone, even her sister.

Angel always felt like she lived in her sister’s shadow, and tonight was a good example of that in the way they were dressed. Priscilla wore a designer label low-neckline dress that showed off her best attributes, whereas she wore a drab blouse and an ankle-length skirt. She would be invisible next to Priscilla. Not that she really cared—she was not as outgoing as her sister was, and preferred to remain invisible. Most of the time, she was quite clumsy as well.

I don’t want a man, she finally mumbled.

Priscilla ignored her sister’s comment and walked to the big bay window that overlooked the party seated around the pool on the back terrace, sweeping her long, fair hair off her shoulders. It’s exciting that Seth is coming home, she said, flashing her sister a stunning smile. I can’t wait to see him. It seems like he’s been gone forever.

Actually, he has, thought Angel, studying her sister’s anxious excitement. The man had left home when he was twenty to go to med school, and he’d been gone for eight years, except for when he came home to visit during the summers. On the other hand, Alex hadn’t come home as often when he attended Princeton. Angel had always found that odd, because she knew he loved the ranch.

However, she remembered one summer when she was eighteen and they’d both ended up being home. She’d never forgotten it.

She had gone over to the Harrisons to use the pool during a hot spell. Bea always let the girls come visit for that purpose. She said it was because she’d never had any girls of her own, and she doted on them both.

Angel didn’t realize that Alex was home too, or she wouldn’t have been swimming in their pool. More importantly, she wouldn’t have been wearing what she was wearing. She had on a bikini; it was modest, but she felt naked at that moment.

She had spent the better part of an hour in the cool blue water before she decided she’d had enough. As she started to get out of the pool, she spotted Alex. He stood there—tall, dark, and sinfully gorgeous.

Her mouth suddenly went dry.

The sun glistened off his bronzed skin. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, just a pair of khaki shorts that hung low on his finely sculpted hips. He didn’t say a word and just stared at her. She probably would have drooled at the sexy aura he gave off if her mouth hadn’t been so parched—or if she hadn’t felt ashamed at being caught in a slinky garment.

She stood stark still, her eyes fixated on him. As the seconds passed, she began to feel more nervous under his potent gaze. For all she knew, he’d been there watching her swim the whole time and she didn’t know it. He was standing in a relaxed pose that indicated he’d been there for a while. He was also casually smoking a cigarette. By the looks of it, it was half finished. Bea didn’t let anyone smoke in the house, which meant he’d been there long enough to light it and smoke half of it while watching her.

To make things worse, she’d pulled herself out of the shallow end, using the rails, and had one foot on the poolside slate when she’d spotted him. She was still in that position a full minute later, giving him a good look at her half-naked. Even though she was already slightly red from being in the sun, she was sure that her full-body blush was completely visible to him, especially with so much of her skin showing. She normally wore a one-piece suit, but it was dirty from swimming in the creek the day before, so she’d borrowed her sister’s white bikini. There was no way on God’s green earth that she would have done such a thing if she’d known Alex would be there. She felt as though she was a little chunky compared to Priscilla, but she didn’t care if Bea or Prissy saw her wearing her sister’s bikini. However, Alex was the last person she’d want to see her body. Yet almost as if God was punishing her for some unknown reason, there he was, big as life.

His body was darkly tanned, and every inch of him was covered in thick, sinewy muscle. She was so stunned by his physique that she didn’t even think to lift her arms and cover herself.

Neither of them said a word, and another minute passed. She couldn’t say anything because her tongue had suddenly become inanimate, but he just chose to remain silent. That didn’t stop his eyes from slowly drifting down over her body and then back up again, as if he didn’t find his blatant stare the least bit shameful.

It felt as if all the water had just evaporated off her skin, and she began to heat up all over again. This time, it had nothing to do with the sun or her embarrassment. He affected her so easily, especially with that sinful stare. What was worse was that she didn’t know what he was thinking. His expression was devoid of emotion. For all she knew, he was laughing on the inside.

She could no longer hold his gaze and dropped her eyes to his naked, expansive chest. That was the last straw, but she was finally able to move again. At least her jaw moved, because it fell nearly to her chest. The man had a body like a Greek warrior. He possessed a thick, muscular chest that was covered with a healthy spray of dark hair. Her eyes moved down to his washboard abs and narrow hips. A line of dark hair dissected his abdomen and reached below the waistband of his swim trunks, leaving nothing to the imagination of where it led.

No wonder he carried himself with such arrogance. He was perfect! Years later, a woman she knew from work pegged him well. Margo had referred to Alex Harrison as a walking hunk of sex. At the time, she wouldn’t have understood what it meant, but now that she was older, it made perfect sense. He was that—in spades.

That day by the pool had stuck in her mind because she was so embarrassed at him finding her so scantily clad, and then to make things worse, she heard her name while she was looking at his body. She flicked her eyes back up to his ruggedly handsome face. He was smiling! It was only a subtle stretch of those masculine lips, but there was no mistake: it was a smile.

Oh God, she’d been ogling him, and he knew it!

Angel quickly found her strength to finish getting out of the pool, and she rushed to her lounge chair to grab her towel. She struggled, clumsily trying to wrap it around herself as she dashed past him, murmuring an apology. She could feel his eyes on her as she rushed through the patio doors and into the house. She felt like a complete idiot.

After she’d changed, she found Prissy, who was watching Seth lunge a horse with a dreamy look on her face. She’d insisted that her sister take her home. It was hard to forget that day, not just because of that shocking glimpse of masculine perfection, but also because Prissy didn’t speak to her for almost a week.

They didn’t live very far away, and the drive home was blessedly short. Angel remembered locking herself in her room for the rest of the day, too embarrassed to come out. She’d never told anyone about that incident, and doubted she ever would. She had never used the pool since. On top of that, Alex seemed to treat her with an edge of cynicism now. He had never acted like that before, and she chalked it up to his disappointment at seeing her body. Obviously, she didn’t measure up like her sister did.

Her family had a wealthy spread too, but not as nice as the Harrisons’. On top of the ranch, Alex had other interests that made him rich. Although the man was over six feet tall and built like he wrestled steers for a living, he had a physics degree from Princeton. He’d retired at thirty, of all things, after he’d developed some patents, and rumor was that it had him set for life.

He certainly didn’t portray the geeky type, because he was tall, masculine, and thick with muscle from physical work around the ranch, as she’d found out first-hand two years ago by the pool. However, he seemed at home there, and she’d heard him tell her boss, who was Alex’s best friend, that it was where his roots were. Even though he had more money than he knew what to do with, he still got neck-deep into hard work. Angel knew from living next to them for the past twenty years that he’d never asked any of his employees to do something he wouldn’t do himself, and he had the scars to prove it. Little did he know that she respected that about him—and a lot of people in Reidsville respected that about him as well based on talk around town.

Seth was younger than Alex by two or three years, and that was who Priscilla was waiting for tonight. He’d just finished his specialization in pediatrics and was planning on setting up a practice in town with another physician, who was overwhelmed with his patient load. Prissy had been chasing the man for as long as she could remember—and as far as she knew, she hadn’t caught him yet, despite how beautiful she was.

If anyone ever mentioned the brothers, they would say that Seth was more handsome than Alex, but Angel didn’t think so. Alex had a quiet magnetism about him, and she couldn’t help but be attracted to him, even if he was almost eight years older than her. Not once had she mentioned that secret to anyone, however. Unlike Priscilla, Angel was shy and nervous around men. Moreover, she was certain that Alex wouldn’t know she existed even if she dyed herself purple, stripped naked, tripped, and landed at his feet. That day at the pool had proved it.

However, that didn’t stop her from watching him when he wasn’t looking. That was the only time she was brave enough to do it, because he had a bit of a temper. Having a degree in physics certainly did not suit his personality. Still, he hadn’t always been short tempered. Something had happened to him while he was away from the ranch. Rumor had it that it had something to do with a woman, and it was no secret that he didn’t want to get married. He didn’t have much use for women at all, although that didn’t stop them from chasing him. Just because he wasn’t as handsome as Seth didn’t mean he was ugly. He just had a rough look about him, not one with a movie-star smile like Seth’s. Both men had jet-black hair and light green eyes, although Seth’s eyes lacked the gold flecks that his brother’s possessed. Regardless, either one of them could bring any woman to her knees with their sloppy Harrison smiles.

Alex and Seth’s father had died of a heart attack four years ago, and her mother and Bea were practically inseparable. It was ironic that Grant had died of a heart attack when Bea was the one with heart problems. It was completely unexpected, and the whole family had been hit hard by his death. Bea grieved for years; even today, if someone mentioned her husband’s name, she would start to cry. Who could blame her?

Grant was a big man, which was evident in the size of his sons, but he was a teddy bear. Angel missed him too. She never forgot the hugs he used to give her and Prissy all the time. Their father wasn’t openly affectionate, and Angel admitted that she enjoyed the attention he gave them. Not that she didn’t love her own father—she did. She just wished he was more affectionate. On the other hand, Grant was quite strict with his sons, but from the stories she’d heard about their hell-raising days, they probably deserved it.

When she and Priscilla were little, her mother used to take them with her when she went to visit Bea. The boys were old enough so they didn’t need to watched, but even back then, Angel remembered following them around. At the time, it was out of sheer idolization. She didn’t follow them anymore, but her attention was always focused on the oldest, and her sister was in love with the youngest. She’d told her for as long as she could remember that she was going to marry Seth one day. However, neither one of the men ever seemed to notice them, even her beautiful sister. Beyond the acquaintance of being neighbors, Angel doubted they would spare either one of them the time of day. She really couldn’t blame them. They were gorgeous, and they never had a short supply of women at any given time.

Angel was drawn back to the present by her sister’s voice. Do you think Seth will notice me? she asked, smoothing the skirt of her dress over her thighs.

Angel shrugged. Probably. I don’t know, Priscilla. She really didn’t want to be at the welcome-back party that the boys’ mother was putting on for Seth. Half the town was there already—it was no secret he was going to stay local for his practice, and they came to show their support. Not