Malloy Family Book 4|
October 17, 2006
Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble
All Romance eBooks (ARe)
When a clumsy governess from New York meets a lonely, bitter rancher, more than her heart will fall.
Ray Malloy is a single father in an age when every child has two parents. Abandoned by his shallow wife, he struggles to find the balance between being a father and being a successful rancher. At the end of his rope with his wild child daughter, he hires a governess from New York to teach his daughter, Melody, to be a lady.
Lillian Wickham is desperate for a job, poor as a church mouse, and determined as a bulldog. Arriving in Wyoming to a chilly reception, and saddled with a five-year-old girl that could be mistaken for an incredibly, dirty little boy does not daunt her.
Ray is determined to avoid women completely, to ignore Lillian’s luscious figure, ruby red lips, and husky voice. Lillian is determined to turn Melody into a lady, come hell or high water, and avoid the hellion’s devastatingly attractive father at the same time. Until one night when Lillian’s clumsiness drops her right into Ray’s arms and their passion takes on a life of its own.
When unexpected danger steals into their lives, and threatens the stubborn child they both love, will their passion be strong enough to survive, or will it tear their world apart?
Read an Excerpt
As Lily stepped from the train at the Cheshire station and set her valise down, she began to search the people on the platform for her new employer. She had bid goodbye to New York nearly a week ago, and here she was finally in Wyoming. It seemed like a dream, like it was happening to someone else. As she had crossed over the great country, she kept a journal of everything she saw. From rivers, to beautiful buildings, buffalo, wild horses and everything in between. It was all incredible and each amazing sight made her decision the best one she had ever made. Without it, she would never have seen all the treasures she’d been too busy to see when she was a child.
The first thing she noticed about Wyoming was it was really cold. Not the kind of cold on the streets of New York. But a biting, gnawing cold that chewed at her cheeks and left them numb. There was snow everywhere she looked. Even on the roof of the train depot. And icicles hung down, some of them at least a foot long. It was a winter wonderland. She pinched herself to stop gawking and started searching for Mr. Malloy again.
After the steam from the locomotive’s engines cleared, she saw a man standing alone in the middle of the platform.
Now that was a big man.
Squaring her shoulders, as well as her resolve, she picked up her valise and headed towards him.
“Mr. Malloy?” she asked when she was about ten feet away.
As she approached him, he took off his hat and regarded her with a bruising stare. He nodded at her question as his large hands tightened perceptibly on his hat. Setting her valise down, she straightened herself up to her full height of not quite five feet. His wavy hair was varying shades of brown and red, and his eyes were a deep emerald green. Yes, indeed, he was quite an imposing size. His bold gaze raked her up and down without a flicker of warmth. She shivered and wasn’t at all sure it was from the frigidly cold air.
“This isn’t going to work, Miss Wickham. I was expecting an older woman. Why, you’re no bigger than a minute, probably not even eighteen yet. Wyoming is no place for a woman like you. Go back to New York.” He turned, leaving her standing on the train platform.
Well, we’ll see about that.
“Mr. Malloy,” she said loudly as she reached out to grab his arm. He stopped short and stared down at her hand as if it were an offensive creature biting him.
“Don’t touch me.” His voice was low, but incredibly forceful.
The fierceness of his command was not lost on Lily. She removed her hand promptly, but with dignity nonetheless.
“My apologies.” She took a deep breath. “I assure you, Mr. Malloy, I am not a child. I am a twenty-six-year-old woman, long since put on the shelf. As I wrote in my letter, I have served as a governess and tutor for eight years for many of the finest families in New York. Mother Superior has corresponded with your mother about me and gave me a sterling recommendation. I am strong, capable and intelligent. I will not be turned away like a beggar looking for food. You offered me a position, sir, and I took you at your word. I always keep mine.” She finished with a firm nod, a trick she’d long ago learned when dealing with recalcitrant children. Thank God he hadn’t noticed her knees knocking together so hard, they almost sounded like drums.
His right eyebrow rose as she spoke. “Think highly of yourself then?”
She knew her cheeks looked like crimson banners, but she refused to back down. This was her future they were talking about, not a parlor conversation about fashion.
“No, I’m simply stating the facts. I am well qualified for the position you offered as your daughter’s tutor, and I’m a more than adequate housekeeper. More than that, I…I need the position. I have nothing to go back to in New York, and no funds to get there.” She hated to admit it to this man, but the trip to Wyoming cost her nearly every cent she owned. She was, to put it bluntly, poor as a church mouse.
He studied her with his razor-sharp gaze for a minute before sighing long and hard.
“Wyoming isn’t a forgiving place, Miss Wickham, and I’m not a forgiving man. We’re both hard, cold and demand respect. I don’t accept excuses from the people who work for me. The first time one of my hands endangers anyone, or lies to me, they’re out on their ass. Do I make myself clear?”
“Perfectly. Does this mean I’m hired?” Her heart began to beat a staccato rhythm as hope burned in her chest.
“Temporarily, but only until you’ve earned enough to return to New York. Don’t try to convince me otherwise, because my mind is made up.”
With that, he picked up her valise and started walking at a brisk pace down the platform.
Good heavens, the man has legs a mile long.
Lily had to nearly break into a run to keep up with him. As he rounded the corner, he stopped to speak to someone. Unfortunately, as quickly as she was walking, Lily had no time to slow down. She glimpsed dark hair and blue eyes of another man before plowing into Mr. Malloy with all the grace of a toddler learning to walk. She tilted backwards, then landed square on her backside on the hard planks. Her teeth clamped together painfully and she bit her tongue.
“Are you all right?” the stranger asked as he reached out a hand to help her stand.
“Yes, I’m fine. How clumsy of me.” She hoped like blazes her cheeks were not as red as they felt. That was not the first impression she hoped to make. As she surreptitiously brushed off her behind, she watched the men’s reactions.
The stranger turned and scowled at Mr. Malloy. “It wasn’t your fault, ma’am. My big brother here seems to have forgotten his manners and was plowing along without you.”
Big brother? Yes, that would explain the resemblance. They were both tall and broad-shouldered with similar features.
“Shut up, Jack,” growled Mr. Malloy. “Mind your own business. What the hell are you doing here anyway?”
“You’re not giving your governess a good impression here, Ray. Becky asked me to come down and make sure you were ah…I mean, to lend a hand.”
The stranger held out his hand for her to shake. “Jack Malloy. Welcome to Wyoming, Miss Wickham.”
As she gratefully shook the proffered hand, her small, gloved one was nearly swallowed by his, yet all he did was give her a gentle squeeze.
“Lily Wickham. Thank you for your welcome, Mr. Malloy.”
She did not look at her employer when she spoke, but she saw his scowl deepen out of the corner of her eye.
“Call me Jack.”
His blue eyes were as warm as his smile. She was definitely going to like him.
“Of course, as long as you call me Lily.”
“Do you have any other bags you need to be fetched?” He eyed her threadbare valise with a doubtful look.
“Yes, I have a trunk out on the platform.”
“I’ll be back in two shakes.” He walked back toward the station, leaving Lily alone with her new employer.
Lily finally turned her gaze to Mr. Malloy. His face was like a thundercloud, dark and stormy.
“How far is it to your ranch, Mr. Malloy?”
He hesitated, then yanked off his hat and slapped his thigh with it. Slamming it back on his head, he pursed his lips and looked up.
“It’s about an hour.” He let out a breath through clenched teeth. “Why don’t you…uh…call me Ray?”
Lily blinked and then smiled her friendliest grin. “That’s very kind of you. Most employers don’t allow their governesses to address them so casually. Being in the West is much more informal. I would be honored to call you Ray. Please call me Lily.”
He nodded once, grabbed her valise and stalked toward the steps leading to the street. A wagon waited there with two large brown horses attached. Another horse was tied to a hitching post beside the wagon.
Ray dropped her valise into the back, walked to the horses and ran his hands up and down their noses, speaking softly to them.
He obviously wasn’t a bad man, but his first impression needed a bit of work. If she wasn’t so desperate for a job, for a new beginning, she would consider getting on the next eastbound train. This position was not going to be easy if the father was any indication of the child’s temperament.
It might just turn out to be the hardest job of her life.
What the Critic says
THE TREASURE was by far the most touching and heart wrenching novel I have read from Ms. Williamson.— Joyfully Reviewed
Absolutely Delightful! Ms. Williamson has penned another exciting historical that is wonderfully entertaining, and exceptionally told…— 4 cups, Coffee Time Romance
Williamson creates a novel filled with complex characters, searing love scenes and social issues that are relevant today. From their first ardent kiss, Ray and Lily are combustible, and their path to love is fascinating. Book four of the Malloy family series is just as absorbing and passionate as the previous novels.—