Chapter 1

Grizzly, Montana 1890

"Michelle," cried the blond woman standing at the window. "Come here. He's coming."

Michelle came across the restaurant quickly to stand next to the woman gazing out the large picture window. "Where," she asked eagerly peering out?

"There! Across from the mercantile," Renee Connors answered breathlessly. "The one coming this direction. My goodness, he sits a horse well." Renee took a deep breath before pulling back from the window and fanning her face with an exaggerated motion. "Didn't I tell you?"

Michelle pulled back as well and smiled at the beautiful woman in front of her, once again admiring her fair beauty in such a harsh land. "Good luck taming that one Renee."

"Oh, I don't think it'll be a problem," Renee answered coyly. "He was in here most of last week before moving into his ranch. We spent a lot of time getting to know one another." Renee couldn't help smoothing the skirt of her dress down as she walked across the floor. She spent considerable time with her looks, hoping for just the opportunity that had presented itself.

"Well, what's he like," Michelle asked, knowing Renee would lunge at the opening.

Neither woman paid any attention to the one patron sitting in the corner of the restaurant sipping coffee and watching the all too amusing scene before her. Patricia MacKenzie shook her head at the distraction and continued going through her mail. She had heard all about the new rancher from the east coast. Her father couldn't say enough good things about the man. Patricia knew it was his quiet way of saying she needed a husband. It had taken two days before her father had given up hope that she would ride over and introduce herself since she hadn't been there the night this Mr. Rayne had come over.

Ignoring the restaurant door opening, Patricia was startled when Renee's almost shout reverberated across the room. "Mr. Rayne! What a pleasure to see you again," she called while gliding toward the man.

Patricia didn't hear the softly spoken response, but smiled to herself at Renee's coy laughter that followed. She couldn't count the number of men Renee had gone through trying to land herself a rich husband and get away from the restaurant. Most men didn't last long when they realized how shallow the woman was.

"Let me introduce you to our school teacher, Michelle Taylor," Renee continued. Michelle had gotten up from her seat and walked gracefully across the room as Renee finished her statement. "Michelle, Trevor Rayne. He just bought the Rogers ranch." Renee was trying desperately to impress the woman with her knowledge of the newcomer, along with staking her claim.

The rich timber of Trevor Rayne's voice finally reached Patricia as he shook Michelle's hand politely. Finally glancing up from her work, she found herself slowly raising her gaze up and up until finally locking with the clearest blue eyes she had ever seen. Her coffee cup stopped halfway to her mouth as she continued to stare at the sculpted face of a man she had never seen but instantly felt some kind of connection too. His dark brown hair was cut close but had a slight wave to it that caused it to seem unruly. His tanned features proved he had spent a great deal of time outside but the intelligence in his eyes said he wasn't the average cowboy just wandering through. But she also noticed a sadness lurking behind those blue depths that she wondered about.

Patricia was glad Renee decided to bring the attention back to herself. "Let me get you a cup of coffee, Mr. Rayne. Won't you sit down?" Renee quickly stepped between the locked gazes of the pair as she slid across the room to prepare a cup of coffee. Her ploy worked as Patricia quickly looked away from the towering figure before her.

Although Patricia had dropped her gaze when Renee had spoken, she felt his presence as he made his way over to her table. Get control of yourself girl, she admonished herself. Before glancing back up, she quickly schooled her features to show the perfect blank expression that most people knew so well. She tried to ignore the racing of her heart as he came to a stop by her table. Casually glancing up, she realized how tall this man actually was.

Trevor Rayne stood quietly for a moment, studying the woman sitting in front of him. He had been completely taken aback when their eyes had locked a moment before. Never had he seen such deep emerald eyes in a face that showed a strength you didn't find in a woman where he came from. To say this woman was beautiful was not doing her justice. Her face was golden from hours spent in the sun, but still had the sheen of youth. As her eyes slowly raised to meet his again, he was caught again by the strength he saw reflected in their depths. "Trevor Rayne," he introduced himself, extending his hand.

"Patricia MacKenzie. But most people call me Mac." Mac replied, thrilled that her voice remained steady and didn't give away any of the inner turmoil she was feeling. She reached to take his hand and was startled when her hand was quickly engulfed by his larger one.

"Well that explains a lot," Trevor said smiling.

Mac felt like someone had roped the sun and pulled it inside as she watched a smile spread across Trevor's face. It literally lit up the entire room and caused her breath to catch.

Realizing she was loosing control over the situation and not liking it at all, she quickly looked away. "Explains what, Mr. Rayne," she asked sharply?

"Mr. MacKenzie couldn't stop talking about a mysterious Mac the other night. He didn't explain that he had a daughter."

Mac didn't get a chance to respond as Renee came back to stand very close to Trevor and hand him his coffee. "I see you've met our notorious Mac," she stated coolly.

Trevor didn't miss the rolling of Mac's eyes as she looked up at Renee. He had already pegged Renee for another of the women he had become so familiar with through out his twenty eight years. But he wasn't looking for a wife. Now or ever. Luckily, another patron entered the restaurant causing Renee to leave them again.

"May I join you," Trevor asked?

Mac never looked up from the letter she was reading as she motioned to the chair across from her. Damn! Damn! You can do this! Knowing she was being rude to the man across from her, Mac laid the letter down and brought her eyes up to meet his. "I understand you purchased the Roger spread. Have you ever run cattle before, Mr. Rayne?" She knew he had from her father, but was grasping at something to say.

Trevor smiled at the beautiful woman across from him. He admired the strength he saw in her and wondered at what in her life could have caused it. It hadn't registered with him until now that she wore a dark blue chambray work shirt that pulled across the fullness of her breasts. Adding that to the fact he had felt calluses on her hand when he had shook it made him realize she was not an ordinary woman. "Well, Ms. MacKenzie, I have some experience. I helped my father with a small ranch in New York."

Mac was taken aback by the smooth richness of his voice as she listened to his words. It washed over her like a soothing balm. Leaning back in her chair, she reached to play with the long braid that had fallen over her shoulder. She always did it when she was uncomfortable with a situation. Somehow, this man had managed to completely relax her with a simple statement about ranching and it bothered her that he could get under her skin so quickly. She always kept a cool distance from newcomers. She had been burned before. "Please, call me Mac. I've never liked 'Ms. MacKenzie' very much," she smiled at him.

"Only if you call me Trevor," he smiled back. As they continued to gauge one another, neither noticed the hostile stare they were receiving from across the room from Renee.

"Dad said you wanted to ride up to the high country and get a look around," Mac continued. "I've got one more day up there if you'd like to ride up with me?" Now why had she gone and done that?

"Great. When did you want to go?" It was amazing how at ease Mac was putting him. She wasn't trying to be coy or flirt with him like most did.

"I'll head out tomorrow morning around six."

"I'll be there."

Both of them jumped at the door slamming open, revealing a rather plump woman in her fifties. After scanning the room briefly, her cold eyes landed on Mac and immediately she started for the table. "Patricia MacKenzie! I can't believe what I just heard. Even about you!"

Trevor glanced away from the woman to look at Mac and noticed the completely exasperated look on her face. He also was aware of Renee coming back over to the table with a joyous look on her face.

"Mrs. Abernathy," Mac said coolly as the woman stopped in front of the table.

Absolutely ignoring Trevor as he stood out of politeness, Mrs. Abernathy continued with her tirade. "How dare you speak to a child that way!"

Completely unshaken by the woman's attitude, Mac sipped her coffee casually waiting for the woman to finish. "You have no right to speak to another human being that way, much less a child! What were you thinking?"

Trevor watched the calm control come over Mac's features as she weighed her response to the overbearing woman shouting at her. Although he had no idea what had happened, he had a sudden urge to protect the woman sitting in front of him. Before he could utter a word, Mac spoke up in a very calm tone that most people who knew her would have recognized as pure anger.

"I assume you are talking about Tommy?" she asked.

"You know I am!" shouted the Mrs. Abernathy. "He was just in the store almost in tears telling me what happened and how you shouted and cursed at him. And just a child…"

"That 'child' is thirteen years old," Mac interrupted the tirade, her voice sharp. Standing quickly, Trevor was amazed that Mac stood a full head taller than Mrs. Abernathy. "That 'child' knows better than to crack a whip in front of a team of horses pulling a laden wagon." Mac's voice never climbed even as her anger threatened to overwhelm her. "That 'child' almost killed three people including himself. Now if my words upset him, which I seriously doubt, maybe they will make him think twice the next time he's trying to impress his friends." Anger danced in Mac's eyes as she stared at the woman before her. She completely ignored the startled gasps that came from both Renee and Mrs. Abernathy.

"That was a little harsh, don't you think," Renee asked quietly, wanting to drive home to Trevor just how uncouth she thought Mac was. "I doubt it was as bad as all that, Mac."

Stormy eyes quickly flashed in Renee's direction. "Stay out of this Renee," Mac snapped.

"If your mother was here…" Mrs. Abernathy started, only to be stopped short with a harsh look from Mac.

Trevor hadn't thought Mac's eyes could become more cold. He was very mistaken as he watched the interaction between the three women. Although he wasn't sure anyone else saw the flicker of pain flash in her eyes, he had and wondered what had happened.

"If my mother were here, I would probably be like every other simpering fool woman in this town…"

"Ladies," Trevor interrupted, abruptly cutting off whatever Mac was getting ready to say. Things had quickly gotten out of control and he needed to calm everyone down. When three pairs of eyes turned to him, he was once again mesmerized by Mac's green depths.

Tearing his gaze away from hers, he fixed a brilliant smile on his face and turned toward the older woman still breathing heavily from anger. "Mrs. Abernathy. Surely you can see that Ms. MacKenzie and yourself have the same motive in keeping the young man safe. You each have different ways of showing concern."

The two women stood staring at one another for a full minute before either moved. "Humpf!" snorted Mrs. Abernathy before turning on her heal and stomping out of the restaurant.

Trevor stood a moment staring at Mac as he watched the play of emotions cross her face. The anger had slowly dissipated and amusement was quickly replacing it. Finally, a smile crept across her face as she turned to face him.

Her smile lit up the room like a mid day sun and made her eyes dance. As he tore his eyes away from her face to travel down her trim figure, he was stopped short to find her hips and legs encased in pants. And not just any pants, but the Levi jeans that were so popular back East and he himself wore. The denim molded to her figure, accentuating every curve. She also wore the cowboy boots that so many men preferred. Raising his eyes back to her face, he was surprised to find he was also getting the once over from her.

Mac's eyes traveled down Trevor's broad chest, admiring the tautness of the deep red shirt as he inhaled each breath. His jeans shaped themselves to his lean waist before molding to his strong thighs and ending at his worn cowboy boots. This man was no stranger to hard work, although he had an intelligence that was uncommon in most cowboys and shown in his eyes. But then, he wasn't most cowboys, as her father had been quick to point out the other night.

Mac turned pink when she realized she had been caught admiring him. Her smile was tentative as she lowered herself back into the chair to finish her coffee and hopefully cover her embarrassment. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the way she had looked at him. Keep telling yourself that, the voice in her head taunted.

Mac had never been bothered by a man staring at her. She knew that most men paused the first time they saw her dressed like the ranch hands. What bothered her this time was the reaction of her own body as she watched the slow perusal of this particular man's eyes. Her heart raced a marathon around her chest as she had watched his eyes venture down her legs and back up again.

"Well," she said hesitantly as Trevor also lowered himself back to his chair. "Now you've met Mrs. Abernathy. Rescuer of souls in Grizzly." Mac was completely startled at the rumble of laughter that came from Trevor.

"I met her last week when I first came to town," he said still chuckling. "Your analogy is almost too accurate. She thinks I'm too old to still be single and has taken on the mission of marrying me off."

It was Mac's turn to laugh at the thought Trevor had described. "She gave up on me a long time ago. My guess will be that you will get a long lecture on how bad I am for your social life," she laughed.

When Renee returned to the table to refill their coffee cups, both were laughing hysterically. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to wedge herself further into Trevor's life, Renee quickly pulled a chair over to join them. Mac was mildly amused when Trevor quickly stood and held her chair until she sat.

"Why thank you Mr. Rayne," Renee cooed. "It certainly is nice to see proper manners around here again."

Mac had never gotten along with Renee. She had seriously questioned the woman's wisdom when Renee had decided to remain to run the restaurant two years earlier after her father had died and her mother returned to the East. Mac had always considered her a 'gold digger.' She wanted to be rich and prosperous and she wanted it ten minutes ago. Being in this little hole in the wall in the middle of nowhere was not the place to accomplish that.

An awkward silence fell over the table, no one knowing quite what to say. The easy camaraderie between Mac and Trevor had somehow become strained when Renee sat down.

Breaking the silence, Renee finally brought up the worse possible of subjects for Mac. "Mr. Madison received a letter from Andy the other day Mac. Apparently he will be coming home for the holidays. Mr. Madison was saying Andy couldn't wait to see you again."

Trevor watched the corners of Mac's mouth quirk up in the beginning of a smile. But as she reached to fondle her braid, he realized that irritation was flashing in her eyes. What was more disturbing to him was the overwhelming need to know who this Andy was and what he meant to Mac. His thoughts were interrupted by a tentative call from the door.

"Miss MacKenzie?"

Mac's eyes darted to the voice at the door and a smile spread across her face. "Hey, Billy. What's up?"

The young man hesitantly moved to the table with his hat twisting nervously in his hand, his eyes downcast. "Ma'am. Ms. Connors. Sir." He had yet to raise his eyes as if he was afraid of the woman he came to see. "Ma'am. I have a message from Ray."

Before Mac could respond, Renee stood up again, not wanting to be part of what was inevitably going to ranch talk. "If you will excuse me," she said before making her exit. Mac completely ignored the woman as she looked at the ranch hand in front of her.

"Billy, how long have you worked at the ranch now?" Mac asked the young man patiently, a look of warmth in her voice.

Billy looked up proudly. "Six months, Ma'am."

Trevor watched the interaction between the two, completely fascinated as Mac handled the young man. Her voice instilled confidence in someone who was in obvious need of it.

"Why don't you call me Mac instead of Ma'am or Miss MacKenzie. I would surely like that." As Trevor watched the smile grace Mac's face, he was awed again at the beauty in her face. And as he watched the reaction of the man in front of her, he knew beyond a doubt the man had fallen head over heels in love with her.

After Billy had nodded his head vigorously, Mac continued in her calm, patient voice. "Now, what was the message Ray had for me?"

"Well, Ma'..Mac. The first thing I was to say was 'He's OK. Your father, that is, not Ray." A look of concern crossed Mac's features. She glanced over at Trevor briefly before returning her gaze to Billy.

"What happened?" she asked tersely.

"He was going to go over to the new neighbor's house. Just to see if he was fairing alright, being new an all."

Mac suddenly understood and relief flooded her features. She lowered her head and rubbed her eyes with her fingers. "Which one? Domino or Blacky?"

"Blacky." Billy looked relieved as well as he realized that Mac wasn't mad.

"Is Blacky ok?" she asked, shaking her head.

"Yes Ma'am. Pranced around real proud of himself."

"Ok," Mac said, raising her head again. "I'll head out shortly. You in town for the night?"

"My night off," Billy answered proudly.

"Ok. Stay out of trouble and tell Cindy I said hello," she teased the young man gently, knowing how embarrassed he got about his girlfriend.

Billy turned three shades of red before stammering a response and moving back toward the door. Mac watched him go before quickly standing up and digging in her pockets to pay for her coffee.

Trevor beat her to it by placing enough money on the table for both of them. "Allow me," he stated quietly glancing at her behind long dark lashes. Mac was again amazed at how blue his eyes were as they stared at her.

Nodding her head slowly, she acquiesced. "My treat next time." Breaking her gaze away from him she started for the door.

"I'm heading back too. I'll ride with you part of the way," Trevor stated, striding up behind her. Mac never slowed her stride as she continued out the door.

"You won't be staying for dinner, Mr. Rayne," Renee called out hopefully?

As Trevor turned around, Renee had slid up next to him, patting her eyes to make any woman from the East proud. He couldn't help but smile down at the woman. "I'm sorry Ms. Connors. I need to be heading home. I have a lot of work to do before the herd arrives. Another time, though." Placing his hat on his head, Trevor pushed through the door.

He was just in time to watch Mac mount the beautiful white stallion he had admired earlier. Standing at least seventeen hands, the stallion was restless from standing at the hitching rail and tried a half hearted rear. His mistress quickly got him under control before patting his neck and whispering something close to his ear.

Trevor suddenly wished he was a horse. That particular horse to be exact. Shaking his head, Trevor walked to his big bay and quickly followed suit. "Beautiful animal," he called to Mac as they turned their mounts north.

"His name's Snowdance," Mac offered with a radiant smile. "I gave it to him because of his color and the fact he loves to play in the snow. Dad made the comment how it looked like he was dancing."

Moving north down the street Trevor once again marveled at the boisterous town that was Grizzly Montana. "Quite a town you have here," he commented looking around at the many storefronts surrounding him. "I have to admit, I never expected this way out here."

"Way out here in the middle of nowhere," Mac smirked at him. "You should have seen it a couple of years ago. Before all the bad storms drove so many of our people back East." As they passed the saloon, wild laughter could be heard coming from inside. "Of course, some things don't change at all," Mac laughed.

"What did that use to be," Trevor asked looking at an empty building across the way from the saloon?

"The butcher shop," Mac answered as she surveyed the dilapidated building. She remembered several years ago having to come into town twice a week to deliver beef from the ranch to the thriving shop. Now she only delivered to the boarding house and the restaurant.

"There's just not the number of people to support it anymore. The land office went before it." Mac stared a moment longer at the empty building before returning her gaze to the road in front of her.

Trevor waited patiently for her to finish before he realized she was going to remain silent. His gaze continued to study the storefronts as they passed on their way out of town. When his gaze fell on First Grizzly Bank, the sign Andrew Madison President caught his attention. The comment Renee had made earlier surfaced in his mind again.

"So who's this Andy Madison Renee mentioned?" he asked innocently enough. Why he cared was still a mystery to him.

"The banker's son," she replied without looking at him. "He went back East to go to some business school so he could come back and run the bank." Trevor noticed the small smile on her lips as she continued. "He has some grand illusion about turning this town into something Easterners will want to come see." She laughed softly at the thought.

"You don't sound impressed," he commented. No one could have missed the sarcasm in her voice. "You don't think it can be done?"

Mac finally allowed herself to look at the man riding beside her. His strong features held a boyish quality about them when he smiled. Looking away again before she got lost in those liquid blue eyes she asked him another question.

"Well, why did you come to Grizzly?" When he didn't answer right away she looked back over and noticed the sadness was back in his eyes. Along with a touch of anger. Fighting the urge to reach over and touch his face she answered herself. "My point exactly. People come to Grizzly to escape. Or they're passing through to greener pastures further west. We've had our boom and it's over now. Andy's…I don't know what Andy is. I really figured he would find a job back East and never come back. Besides, Renee was just trying to get you to pay attention to her." Mac slammed her mouth shut realizing she had just voiced her inner thoughts. Damn! That's twice my mouth has outdistanced my brain.

Trevor turned to ask Mac what she had meant, but his breath caught in his throat at the raw beauty before him. The setting sun cast a warm glow over Mac's features. She sat straight and proud in her saddle, almost as if she was born to it. Her eyes continually scanned the horizon, looking for who only knew what.

Once again Trevor was amazed at the woman who rode by his side, completely defying the feminine world around her. Yet, he sensed a vulnerability about her that he suspected she would deny with her last breath. The thought brought a smile to his face. He remembered how she had gone toe to toe with Mrs. Abernathy in the restaurant earlier.

"Something amusing?"

Trevor was quickly brought out of his thoughts at her words and realized he was ginning like a school boy caught looking at something he shouldn't. "No," he said quickly as he schooled his features. "Just admiring the view. The sunsets here are like nothing I have ever seen."

Mac doubted the sunset was responsible for the amused smile that had graced his features a moment earlier. She couldn't believe how a simple smile from his man had caused a swarm of butterflies to take flight in her stomach. Never had she felt so…so…unsettled around a man before. She had always prided herself in keeping her emotions in check, never allowing her feelings to show. She had to if she had ever wanted to gain the respect of the men on the ranch. She had never wanted to be just the boss's daughter, a weepy female who got where she was because of a birthright. And she had achieved her goal. The men respected her, for her knowledge and know how.

"You Easterners are all the same," Mac laughed trying to hide her unease.

"Excuse me," Trevor said feigning offence.

"You all come out here, expecting glory and riches, never realizing the work it takes to really make a go of it." She didn't allow him to respond as she spurred Snowdance forward into a gallop. Damn him and all Easterners. Her mother had been one of them and look at where it had gotten her.

Before Trevor realized it, she was well ahead of him and still pulling away. Shaking his head at her strange comment, he took off after her. Pulling up beside her, he waited until she looked over at him before calling to her. "Do you have such low opinions of every Easterner, or is it just me?"

Slowing her pace, Mac looked over at him. What was it about this man. Most men would have just left well enough alone. More to the point, they would have left her alone. She liked Trevor. Too much in fact. Which is why she had made the snide comment a moment ago. But here he was, almost making light of it.

"The jury's still out," she answered smartly.

It took Trevor a moment to realize she hadn't meant anything by the comment. She couldn't know. He had known her barely an hour and he had schooled his comments two years ago making sure he didn't say anything that could link him to his past profession in any way.

Mac watched the emotions cross Trevor's face. She was most surprised to see fear before it was carefully covered up and he relaxed. Completely misreading him, Mac assumed he was worried that she didn't like him and he wanted her too. Well, that was going to have stop right now. She was not about to get involved with anyone. She had a ranch to run and didn't need the added entanglements of some man coming in trying to take over. She didn't care that his smile could make her knees turn to jelly. She would get over it.

Noticing the turn off to his ranch, Mac decided now was the best time to make him realize she was not on the market. "Here's your turn," she said curtly. "We ride out tomorrow morning at six. Don't be late. I won't wait for you." Spurring Snowdance again, she didn't wait for his response before continuing on home. It wasn't long before she realized he was still behind her.

Quickly reining in, she waited for him to draw abreast of her before unloading. "Is there some reason you're following me, Mr. Rayne?"

Trevor was surprised at the ice in her voice. Damn if she couldn't change moods like the wind. "Just making sure you get home safely." He was perplexed at the fire he saw shoot from her eyes. But he couldn't help but notice how beautiful she was either.

"I've been riding this road since I was ten years old. I DO NOT need an escort." What was with this guy. Normally by now, her perspective beaus were running the other direction with their tails between their legs.

"Well, Ms. MacKenzie, as you pointed out, I was following, not escorting. Call it an Eastern thing." His smile lit up his whole face and his eyes danced in merriment as he threw her words back at her. "Besides, I want to know how your father is. He did fall off a horse coming to see me. It's only neighborly."

Shaking her head, Mac couldn't help the smile that spread across her face. "Are you always this…this…"

"Confident?" Trevor finished for her.

"Egotistical," Mac shot back turning back for home, but at a walk this time.

"You'll just have to figure that one out on your own," he challenged falling in beside her. Deciding maybe he knew the reason for her earlier outburst, he made a quick decision. "You know, I'm not looking for anything from you."

Mac glanced over at him completely shocked at his words. OK, she was going to have do better at hiding her emotions around him. He could obviously read people better than most.

"Other than maybe some neighborly advice about ranching in Montana," he continued. Yeah right, a voice inside his head admonished. Who you trying to convince, yourself or her.

"That's all you'll get too," she responded sharply. Too sharply she realized. "Sorry. I'm just use to…"

"And you're calling me egotistical," he laughed trying to lighten the mood.

It worked as he watched the smile grace her features again. They settled into a companionable silence as they continued on to the ranch.

As they rode into the ranch yard half an hour later, Trevor was once again stunned at the massive spread before him. The two story ranch house would have fit quite well on any major city street back east. An expansive front porch spanned the width of the front with an exact duplicate directly above on the second floor. Four immense windows framed either side of the double front doors to allow the light from the day to enter the house. Double French doors lined the upper balcony and led to what he presumed were the bedrooms. He wondered which one led to Mac's?

When Mac veered off to the right, heading for the barn, Trevor continued forward to the main house to tie his mount up to the front hitching posts.

"Put him in the barn. The temperature's going to drop to far tonight before you leave," Mac called out to him.

Not wishing to second guess her, Trevor turned his mount toward her and followed her inside the structure. Once again he was impressed with the obvious care to detail that these people took when designing the ranch. The large barn had stalls lining both sides of the long walls and each one seemed large enough for two of the animals. A door in the back led to the tack room and office.

"You can use any of the empty ones. Most of the men are still in the high country. There's hay and oats in the troughs in the last stall." Mac had already dismounted and turned Snowdance into one of the stalls and was busy removing his saddle and bridle.

"I'm surprised you don't have someone to do that for you," Trevor called from the stall across from her. Although he was loosening the cinch, he didn't feel it necessary to completely unsaddle his mount.

"A good cowboy never allows someone else to take care of his mount. Besides, I enjoy spending the time with him and it helps us both relax." Mac never once looked over at Trevor as she continued her work. "And how can I expect the men to do what I ask them if I can't do it myself. There are more important things that they could be doing."

Trevor couldn't hide his mirth as he continued watching her. When she finally turned and looked at him, her face portrayed her puzzlement. "What's so funny," she asked?

"Cowboy etiquette lesson number one," Trevor answered her still grinning broadly. He had finished taking care of his horse and was leaning against the stall door with his arms crossed.

"Cute Cowboy," she smiled back knowing he didn't mean anything by it. She knew she had a tendency to preach. It came from years of trying to make people around her take her seriously by impressing them with her knowledge.

Before Mac knew what was going on, Snowdance took the opportunity for a little fun. Placing his muzzle in the small of her back, he pushed none to gently, propelling Mac forward directly into Trevor's waiting arms.

Trevor instinctively grabbed Mac, keeping her from falling, his arms encircling her waist. Her forward momentum brought her flush against his chest, her hands resting on his shoulders. He could feel her heart beating wildly against him, matching his own. He was completely unprepared for the feelings assaulting him at the moment. She fit perfectly, molded intimately to him. He was finding it exceedingly difficult to breath as he held her.

Mac was having her own problems breathing as she realized the intimate position she now found herself in. Every breath she took molded her breasts more firmly against his chest. She could feel the muscles beneath her hands as they rested on his shoulders. Nothing prepared her for the multitude of emotions flowing through her. The heat generated from the embrace was turning her blood to fire as it coursed through her veins.

Knowing it was a mistake, she raised her head to look into his eyes. She was startled at the intensity of that deep blue gaze, staring at her. She felt as if he was looking directly into her soul. The thought scared the hell out her.

Trevor recognized the fear in her eyes and fighting every instinct in his body, gently pushed her back. It would have been so easy to simply pull her more tightly against him. The cold quickly enveloped him where her body had just been sending a chill down to his soul. No woman had ever affected him like this and he wasn't sure he liked it. He could so easily lose control with her.

Dropping her hands and taking a step back, Mac quickly turned away. She didn't want his to see the struggle warring in her. Clinging to the hope that he was just as affected as she was with the embrace and scarred to death that he was. Hoping for some neutrality between them, she cleared her throat and spoke quickly. "We better get inside. Dad undoubtedly saw us ride in." Thrilled that her voice didn't wavier, she didn't wait for him to follow her as she started out. Trevor was only two steps behind her.

Chapter 2

The sun had yet to make its appearance on the horizon the next morning as Mac strode down the stairs heading for the dining room. Morning was her favorite time of the day.

She had always been an early riser, even though this morning she still felt as if she was running late.

After dinner with her father, Trevor had stayed for brandy and cigars. Her father had wanted her to stay and join in the discussion which had meant a rather late night. Her dreams had not helped matters either. She had been constantly haunted by a pair of liquid blue eyes that had taunted her all night long.

Finishing her braid as she walked around the corner, she was startled to see Trevor already sitting at the table sipping a cup of coffee. His eyes raised to meet hers in a slightly mocking stare. "I didn't want you to leave without me," he drawled.

Before she could come up with an appropriate response, Harriet walked into the room with another cup of coffee. "Here you go dear," she said handing the cup to her. "I'll have breakfast out in a moment. Trevor, are you still alright?"

Mac stared stunned as the woman quickly looked into his coffee to make sure he didn't need anymore before turning to finish readying breakfast. She had known this man less than a day and already he was making himself at home in her house. Her housekeeper was treating him like one of the family. So much for trying to keep her distance.

Plastering on a winning smile, she made her way over the table and sat down. "Good morning, Trevor. I have to admit, I didn't expect to see you here so early." Very good. Keep it light.

"I've always been a morning person. Harriet took pity on me when she saw me outside," Trevor explained. "You don't seem to mind the mornings either." So many women he had known wouldn't have shown their faces for another four or five hours. And here Mac was, fresh as a daisy before the sun rose.

Shrugging her shoulders slightly, Mac continued drinking her coffee. "Comes with the territory," she said nonchalantly, not looking at him. She refused to allow the presence of this man to affect her. That would be all Harriett needed to start in on the virtues of marriage.

In a few moments, Harriet came bustling in with two heaping plates of food and places them on the table. Mac had always loved breakfast and never missed one. Of course, the joke was she loved eating period.

Trevor was sat in stunned silence and he watched Mac make serious in roads on the bacon and eggs before she reached for the fresh biscuits and butter. He couldn't help but shudder as he watched the huge hunk of butter she placed in the middle of her grits. His mother had tried to get him to eat the stuff when he was a child. Even going as far as putting sugar and cream on them when he couldn't handle the butter. He had never been able to stomach course ground up corn for breakfast. Or any meal for that matter.

Mac looked up just as the frown creased Trevor's face and followed his eyes to her plate. "Problem," she asked?

Shifting his gaze back to his own plate, he quickly stuffed his mouth full of eggs and shook his head at her. She certainly had a healthy appetite for someone so thin and petite.

"Ummmm, these are good," Mac said teasingly, stuffing another spoonful of grits into her mouth. "Harriet makes the best this side of the Mississippi." She could tell by the look of Trevor's face that he couldn't abide the southern dish. She couldn't help but laugh at his sudden interest in his coffee. "Relax, Cowboy. She won't make you eat them."

Trevor looked up and frowned at the fact Mac was laughing at him. "How can you eat those," he asked incredulously?

Mac laughed all the harder at his question. Finally, pulling herself together and finishing the last of her bacon she leaned back in her chair and studied the man in front of her. "How can you not eat them," she asked, throwing the question back at him?

Before he could answer, Milton walked into the room, limping noticeably. "Damn cold weather," he muttered to no one in particular. "Morning, baby," he said leaning down and kissing Mac's cheek. "Trevor. Good to see you."

"Mr. MacKenzie."

Harriet came in and quickly poured Milton a cup of coffee and placed a plate in front of him. "Mac, will you be home for dinner tonight," she asked?

"Yeah. I don't plan on staying up there very long. Just want to make sure the herd is ready to move." The last part was mainly to keep her father in the loop. She had learned a couple of years ago that the more information he had, the better he could handle staying around the ranch yard. His health was not what it use to be. He could no longer stay in the saddle for hours on end, riding all over. She would have preferred that he stay in the house all together, but she knew that was a lost cause.

She also knew that his soreness this morning was more from the fall from the horse the day before than the cold. It wouldn't be long before snow blanketed the valley in a white winter wonderland. The evenings were already below freezing most nights and the high country had already had several snows.

"Well, we better get a move on," Mac said to Trevor as she drained her coffee. Getting up and moving over to her father, she leaned in the kiss him goodbye. "I'll be home later, Daddy." She didn't wait for Trevor to follow her as she left to grab her gear.

Trevor also finished his coffee and pushed away from the table. "Harriet, thank you for the coffee and breakfast."

"You come by anytime, Trevor. You're always welcome at this table." Harriet was thrilled to have another eligible man in the area and would do whatever it took to make sure that Mac was aware of it.

"Thank you. I just might take you up on that." Nodding to Milton, he started out the door, only to be stopped short by the elderly gentleman.

"Take care of her son."

"I have a feeling she'll be taking care of me, sir. But don't worry."