9780373838301.indd

Harlequin
March 7, 2017


Seduce Me, Cowboy

(Jonathan & Hayley's book)

When a rebellious rancher meets the pastor's daughter, it's a match made in…Copper Ridge! From New York Times bestselling author Maisey Yates! 

Sheltered from her own desires for so long, Hayley Thompson wants to experience life. A new job at Gray Bear Construction is a start. The work she can handle. It's her boss—reclusive, sexy Jonathan Bear—who's scrambling her mind and her hormones…

No matter how successful he becomes, Jonathan's reputation will always precede him. And his type of woman is usually nothing like prim, innocent Hayley. Yet he can't resist unleashing the fire beneath her pent-up facade—even if seduction means losing his heart…

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Excerpt

Hayley Thompson was a good girl. In all the ways that phrase applied. The kind of girl every mother wished her son would bring home for Sunday dinner.

Of course, the mothers of Copper Ridge were much more enthusiastic about Hayley than their sons were, but that had never been a problem. She had never really tried dating, anyway. Dates were the least of her problems.

She was more worried about the constant feeling that she was under a microscope. That she was a trained seal, sitting behind the desk in the church office exactly as one might expect from a small town pastor’s daughter—who also happened to be the church secretary.

And what did she have to show for being so good? Absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile, her older brother had gone out into the world and done whatever he wanted. He’d broken every rule. Run away from home. Gotten married, gotten divorced. Come back home and opened a bar in the same town where his father preached sermons. All while Hayley had stayed and behaved herself. Done everything that was expected of her.

Ace was the prodigal son. He hadn’t just received forgiveness for his transgressions. He’d been rewarded. He had so many things well-behaved Hayley wanted, and didn’t have.

He’d found love again in his wife, Sierra. They had children. The doting attention of Hayley’s parents—a side effect of being the first to supply grandchildren, she felt—while Hayley had…

Well, nothing.

Nothing but a future as a very well behaved spinster.

That was why she was here now. Clutching a newspaper in her hand until it was wrinkled tight. She hadn’t even known people still put ads in the paper for job listings, but while she’d been sitting in The Grind yesterday on Copper Ridge’s main street, watching people go by and feeling a strange sense of being untethered, she’d grabbed the local paper.

That had led her to the job listings. And seeing as she was unemployed for the first time since she was sixteen years old, she’d read them.

Every single one of them had been submitted by people she knew. Businesses she’d grown up patronizing, or businesses owned by people she knew from her dad’s congregation. And if she got a job somewhere like that, she might as well have stayed on at the church.

Except for one listing. Assistant to Jonathan Bear, owner of Gray Bear Construction. The job was for him personally, but would also entail clerical work for his company and some work around his home.

She didn’t know anything about the company. She’d never had a house built, after all. Neither had her mother and father. And she’d never heard his name before, was reasonably sure she’d never seen him at church.

She wanted that distance.

Familiar, nagging guilt gnawed at the edges of her heart. Her parents were good people. They loved her very much. And she loved them. But she felt like a beloved goldfish. With people watching her every move and tapping on the glass. Plus the bowl was restricting, when she was well aware there was an entire ocean out there.

Step one in her plan for independence had been to acquire her own apartment. Cassie Caldwell, owner of The Grind, and her husband, Jake, had moved out of the space above the coffee shop a while ago. Happily, it had been vacant and ready to rent, and Hayley had taken advantage of that. So, with the money she’d saved up, she’d moved into that place. And then, after hoarding a few months’ worth of rent, she had finally worked up the courage to quit.

Her father had been… She wouldn’t go so far as to say he’d been disappointed. John Thompson never had a harsh word for anyone. He was all kind eyes and deep conviction. The type of goodness Hayley could only marvel at, that made her feel as though she could never quite measure up.

But she could tell her father had been confused. And she hadn’t been able to explain herself, not fully. Because she didn’t want either of her parents to know that ultimately this little journey of independence would lead straight out of Copper Ridge.

She had to get out of the fishbowl. She needed people to stop tapping on her glass.

Virtue wasn’t its own reward. For years she’d believed it would be. But then…suddenly, watching Ace at the dinner table at her parents’ house, with his family, she’d realized the strange knot in her stomach wasn’t anger over his abandonment, over the way he’d embarrassed their parents with his behavior.

It was envy.

Envy of all he had, of his freedom. Well, this was her chance to have some of that for herself, and she couldn’t do it with everyone watching.

She took a deep breath and regarded the house in front of her. If she didn’t know it was the home and office of the owner of Gray Bear Construction she would be tempted to assume it was some kind of resort.

The expansive front porch was made entirely out of logs, stained with a glossy, honey-colored sheen that caught the light and made the place look like it was glowing. The green metal roof was designed to withstand harsh weather—which down in town by the beach wasn’t much of an issue. But a few miles inland, here in the mountains, she could imagine there was snow in winter.

She wondered if she would need chains for her car. But she supposed she’d cross that bridge when she came to it. It was early spring, and she didn’t even have the job yet.

Getting the job, and keeping it through winter, was only a pipe dream at this point.

She took a deep breath and started up the path, the bark-laden ground soft beneath her feet. She inhaled deeply, the sharp scent of pine filling her lungs. It was cool beneath the trees and she wrapped her arms around herself as she walked up the steps and made her way to the front door.
She knocked before she had a chance to rethink her actions, and then she waited.

She was just about to knock again when she heard footsteps. She quickly put her hand down at her side. Then lifted it again, brushing her hair out of her face. Then she clasped her hands in front of her, then put them back at her sides again. Then she decided to hold them in front of her again.

She had just settled on that position when the door jerked open.

She had rehearsed her opening remarks. Had practiced making a natural smile in the mirror—which was easy after so many years manning the front desk of a church—but all that disappeared completely when she looked at the man standing in front of her.

He was… Well, he was nothing like she’d expected, which left her grappling for what exactly she had been expecting. Somebody older. Certainly not somebody who towered over her like a redwood.

Jonathan Bear wasn’t someone you could anticipate.

His dark, glittering eyes assessed her; his mouth pressed into a thin line. His black hair was tied back, but it was impossible for her to tell just how long it was from where she stood.

“Who are you?” he asked, his tone uncompromising.

“I’m here to interview for the assistant position. Were you expecting someone else?” Her stomach twisted with anxiety. He wasn’t what she had expected, and now she was wondering if she was what he had expected. Maybe he wanted somebody older, with more qualifications. Or somebody more… Well, sexy secretary than former church secretary.

Though, she looked very nice in this twin set and pencil skirt, if she said so herself.

“No,” he said, moving away from the door. “Come in.”

“Oh,” she said, scampering to follow his direction.

“The office is upstairs,” he said, taking great strides through the entryway and heading toward a massive curved staircase.

She found herself taking very quick steps to try and keep up with him. And it was difficult to do that when she was distracted by the beauty of the house. She was trying to take in all the details as she trailed behind him up the stairs, her low heels clicking on the hardwood.

“I’m Hayley Thompson,” she said, “which I know the résumé said, but you didn’t know who I was… So…”

“We’re the only two people here,” he said, looking back at her, lifting one dark brow. “So knowing your name isn’t really that important, is it?”

She couldn’t tell if he was joking. She laughed nervously, and it got her no response at all. So then she was concerned she had miscalculated.

They reached the top of the stairs, and she followed him down a long hallway, the sound of her steps dampened now by a long carpet runner the colors of the nature that surrounded them. Brown, forest green and a red that reminded her of cranberries.

The house smelled new. Which was maybe a strange observation to make, but the scent of wood lingered in the air, and something that reminded her of paint.

“How long have you lived here?” she asked, more comfortable with polite conversation than contending with silence.

“Just moved in last month,” he said. “One of our designs. You might have guessed, this is what Gray Bear does. Custom homes. That’s our specialty. And since my construction company merged with Grayson Design, we’re doing design as well as construction.”

“How many people can buy places like this?” she asked, turning in a circle while she walked, daunted by the amount of house they had left behind them, and the amount that was still before them.

“You would be surprised. For a lot of our clients these are only vacation homes. Escapes to the coast and to the mountains. Mostly, we work on the Oregon coast, but we make exceptions for some of the higher-paying clientele.”

“That’s…kind of amazing. I mean, something of that scale right here in Copper Ridge. Or I guess, technically, we’re outside the city limits.”

“Still the same zip Code,” he said, lifting a shoulder.

He took hold of two sliding double doors fashioned to look like barn doors and slid them open, revealing a huge office space with floor-to-ceiling windows and a view that made her jaw drop.

The sheer immensity of the mountains spread before them was incredible on its own. But beyond that, she could make out the faint gray of the ocean, whitecapped waves and jagged rocks rising out of the surf.

“The best of everything,” he said. “Sky, mountains, ocean. That kind of sums up the company. Now that you know about us, you can tell me why I should hire you.”

“I want the job,” she said, her tone hesitant. As soon as she said the words, she realized how ridiculous they were. Everybody who interviewed for this position would want the job. “I was working as a secretary for my father’s…business,” she said, feeling guilty about fudging a little bit on her résumé. But she hadn’t really wanted to say she was working at her father’s church, because… Well, she just wanted to come in at a slightly more neutral position.

“You were working for your family?”

“Yes,” she said.

He crossed his arms, and she felt slightly intimidated. He was the largest man she’d ever seen. At least, he felt large. Something about all the height and muscles and presence combined.

“We’re going to have to get one thing straight right now, Hayley. I’m not your daddy. So if you’re used to a kind and gentle working environment where you get a lot of chances because firing you would make it awkward around the holidays, this might take some adjustment for you. I’m damned hard to please. And I’m not a very nice boss. There’s a lot of work to do around here. I hate paperwork, and I don’t want to have to do any form twice. If you make mistakes and I have to sit at that desk longer as a result, you’re fired. If I’ve hired you to make things easier between myself and my clients, and something you do makes it harder, you’re fired. If you pass on a call to me that I shouldn’t have to take, you’re fired.”

She nodded, wishing she had a notepad, not because she was ever going to forget what he’d said, but so she could underscore the fact that she was paying attention. “Anything else?”

“Yeah,” he said, a slight smile curving his lips. “You’re also fired if you fuck up my coffee.”

*

This was a mistake. Jonathan Bear was absolutely certain of it. But he had earned millions making mistakes, so what was one more? Nobody else had responded to his ad.

Except for this pale, strange little creature who looked barely twenty and wore the outfit of an eighty-year-old woman.

She was… Well, she wasn’t the kind of formidable woman who could stand up to the rigors of working with him.

His sister, Rebecca, would say—with absolutely no tact at all—that he sucked as a boss. And maybe she was right, but he didn’t really care. He was busy, and right now he hated most of what he was busy with.

There was irony in that, he knew. He had worked hard all his life. While a lot of his friends had sought solace and oblivion in drugs and alcohol, Jonathan had figured it was best to sweat the poison right out.

He’d gotten a job on a construction site when he was fifteen, and learned his trade. He’d gotten to where he was faster, better than most of the men around him. By the time he was twenty he had been doing serious custom work on the more upscale custom homes he’d built with West Construction.

But he wanted more. There was a cap on what he could make with that company, and he didn’t like a ceiling. He wanted open skies and the freedom to go as high, as fast as he wanted. So he could amass so much it could never be taken from him.

So he’d risked striking out on his own. No one had believed a kid from the wrong side of the tracks could compete with West. But Jonathan had courted business across city and county lines. And created a reputation beyond Copper Ridge so that when people came looking to build retirement homes or vacation properties, he was the name they knew.

He had built everything he had, brick by brick. In a strictly literal sense in some cases.

And every brick built a stronger wall against all the things he had left behind. Poverty, uncertainty, the lack of respect paid to a man in his circumstances.

Then six months ago Joshua Grayson had approached him. Originally from Copper Ridge, the man had been looking for a foothold back in town after years in Seattle. Faith Grayson, Joshua’s sister was quickly becoming the most sought after architect in the Pacific Northwest. But the siblings had decided it was time to bring the business back home in order to be closer to their parents.

And so Joshua asked Jonathan if he would consider bringing design in-house, making Bear Construction into Gray Bear.

This gave Jonathan reach into urban areas, into Seattle. Had him managing remote crews and dealing with many projects at one time. And it had pushed him straight out of the building game in many ways. He had turned into a desk drone. And while his bank account had grown astronomically, he was quite a ways from the life he thought he’d live after reaching this point.

Except the house. The house was finally finished. Finally, he was living in one of the places he’d built.

Finally, Jonathan Bear, that poor Indian kid who wasn’t worth anything to anyone, bastard son of the biggest bastard in town, had his house on the side of the mountain and more money than he would ever be able to spend.

And he was bored out of his mind.

Boredom, it turned out, worked him into a hell of a temper. He had a feeling Hayley Thompson wasn’t strong enough to stand up to that. But he expected to go through a few assistants before he found one who could handle it. She might as well be number one.

“You’ve got the job,” he said. “You can start tomorrow.”

Her eyes widened, and he noticed they were a strange shade of blue. Gray in some lights, shot through with a dark, velvet navy that reminded him of the ocean before a storm. It made him wonder if there was some hidden strength there.

They would both find out.

“I got the job? Just like that?”

“Getting the job was always going to be the easy part. It’s keeping the job that might be tricky. My list of reasons to hire you are short—you showed up. The list of reasons I have for why I might fire you is much longer.”

“You’re not very reassuring,” she said, her lips tilting down in a slight frown.

He laughed. “If you want to go back and work for your daddy, do that. I’m not going to call you. But maybe you’ll appreciate my ways later. Other jobs will seem easy after this one.”

She just looked at him, her jaw firmly set, her petite body rigid with determination. “What time do you want me here?”

“Seven o’clock. Don’t be late. Or else…”

“You’ll fire me. I’ve got the theme.”

“Excellent. Hayley Thompson, you’ve got yourself a job.”

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