Want to give Kari a try? Read on for excerpt from Fearless in Texas, available now.
Melanie polished off the last bite of her cold-cut combo and stood to brush the crumbs off her sweatshirt before pulling on her coat. As Wyatt had predicted, the air had cooled quickly, although the breeze had also died to a mere rustle in the knee-high bunches of grass. Beyond the broad north-south valley that held the main highway, the sun hung low over a smaller range of hills that would lie north and west of Pendleton. If she remembered correctly from her map, the massive Columbia River must be just beyond that rise, flowing east through the Tri-Cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland, Washington, then making a sweeping U-turn back to the west, forming the border between the states on its way to the Pacific.
Mentally adding the Columbia Gorge to her must-see list, Melanie slung her pack over her shoulder and, drawn by what sounded like a small waterfall, picked her way down through the trees on the sheltered side of the ridge, only to be brought up short by one of the thick bands of lava rock. The cliff wasn’t high—ten or fifteen feet—but it extended as far as she could see in either direction. The splash of water seemed to be directly below her, so she eased as close as she dared and peered over the crumbling edge of the cliff.
“Be careful,” Wyatt said, practically in her ear.
She squeaked, startled, and jumped back, colliding with a hard male body. Her elbow caught him in the ribs. He grunted and sidestepped—directly onto one of the loose rocks. His leg buckled, and he stumbled. For a heart-stopping instant, he teetered at the edge of the cliff. Just as Melanie made a grab for him, the unstable rock gave way.
She caught nothing but thin air as he fell. With a curse and a clatter, he was gone.
Melanie listened in horror to a thud, another curse, and the unmistakable sound of a body hitting something solid. And then there was silence.
“Wyatt?” She dropped to her belly to peer over the edge, but couldn’t see past the trees and shadows. “Wyatt!”
The second was on the verge of a shriek as panic clamped an icy hand on her throat. Oh God, oh God, oh God. She scooted along the cliff, squinting into the trees, but in his faded jeans and gray sweatshirt, he was invisible in the shadows beneath the trees.
“Wyatt!” she shouted again. She heard what might have been a groan—or the wind through the trees. No other sound or movement. She scrambled to her feet, glancing first up the hill, then over the cliff. Did she run back to the car and race into town for help? No. Wait. Wyatt had the keys. She clawed her phone out of her pocket. No signal, of course.
There was only one option. She had to get down there. He could be bleeding. He could be…
Melanie shook off that thought and crab-walked along the edge, looking for a likely set of hand- and footholds. A few feet from where Wyatt had gone over, a large pine grew on the edge, its roots extending down the cliff. Below, the rock face was pocked with holes and jagged points. She lowered onto her belly, took a deep breath, then grabbed the root and swung her legs over the edge. For a terrifying moment she dangled, legs flailing. Then her feet found purchase.
Slowly—too slow, dammit—she lowered herself, the rough bark of the root digging into her palms. Her descent was an agonizing crawl, fear and adrenaline pounding through her veins and accelerating her heart rate into the red zone. She had to fight the urge to rush. She’d be no good to Wyatt if she fell, too. The muscles in her toes cramped from grasping at the slippery footholds, testing each before trusting it with her weight.
And wondering—damn her self-centered mind—if Tori knew a good defense attorney, too, because no one was going to believe she’d done this by accident.
She was over halfway down when she heard another groan. Her heart leapt—and her foot slipped. For an instant she hung, cursing as her toes scratched desperately for purchase. Her shoe caught on a lip of rock. She clasped the root to her chest and flattened against the cliff face, panting from terror and exertion.
“Mel—” This groan was louder, but distinctly her name. Wyatt was alive and conscious. Relief blasted through her.
“I’m coming! I’ll be there in just a minute.”
She eased down another step…and the rock beneath her foot gave way. She dropped, hitched for an instant, then the force of her weight snapped the root. There was an instant of Oh shit, this is gonna hurt before her butt hit the ground. The impact jarred every molecule in her body and made stars burst behind her eyes. Her legs bounced, flipping her backward down the steep incline. She threw her arms up to cushion the back of her head against rocks and branches, twisting sideways just as she crashed into a huge fallen log—and something that grunted in pain.
She lay on her stomach, eyes squeezed shut, braced for the searing pain of a broken bone. It didn’t come. As the universe slowly righted itself, she took inventory. She felt the deep throb of bruises, the burn of scrapes, but when she inhaled, her rib cage expanded right on cue. She let the breath out in a rush and opened her eyes to discover that the log under her cheek was actually a hard, denim-clad thigh.
“Melanie?” Her name was a harsh wheeze.
She lifted her head to meet his gaze. Wyatt was sprawled on his back, struggling to take in air—and her nose was buried in his crotch.
And damn his eternal soul, those blue eyes were laughing.
Title: Fearless in Texas
Series: Texas Rodeo #4
Author: Kari Lynn Dell
Pub Date: April 3, 2018
He’d step in front of a bull to save a life
But even he’s no match for a girl this Texas tough
Rodeo bullfighter Wyatt Darrington’s got it all figured out. The perfect car, the perfect job, the perfect looks—the perfect lie. He may be on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, but he knows he’ll always be an outsider to people like Melanie Brookman. Texas-born and bred, with the arena in her blood, Melanie’s come to see Wyatt as her personal enemy, and that suits him just fine—this way, she’ll never realize the truth.
He’s been crazy in love with her for years.
Melanie’s always been a fighter. Fiercely independent and tough as nails, she’s stood up to everything that got in her way—including Wyatt. But now her infamous temper’s got her on the ropes, and there’s nowhere left to run but toward the man she swore she’d never trust…and this time, there’s no denying just how hot he makes her burn.
KARI LYNN DELL brings a lifetime of personal experience to writing western romance. She is a third generation rancher and rodeo competitor existing in a perpetual state of horse-induced poverty on the Blackfeet Nation of northern Montana, along with her husband, son and Max the Cowdog.