“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – McLaughlin
Today marks the release of the final book in the Compass series. It’s very sad to say goodbye to these characters as they’ve become like family to me over the past few years. Compton Pass would be at the top of my vacation places if only it really existed!
The deepest falls aren’t always the hardest.
Compass Girls, Book 4
Darkness has crept into Sterling Compton’s charmed life, relentlessly stealing what’s left of her grandmother’s memories. When she happens upon a compelling stranger leaning against a broken-down pickup in the middle of nowhere, grief and a gut-deep attraction spur her to take that too-safe life by the horns.
From the instant Sterling emerges from her Jeep, Viho is drawn to her carefree spirit. Her innocent offer of a ride turns into the ride of his life in his truck bed—and he forgets why he meant to avoid Compton Pass at all costs.
He should have known that karma was waiting to laugh in his face. Especially when Viho figures out Sterling’s father is the one who stood between him and the man he should have called “father”.
Yet it’s tough to hate someone who offers him a job. Especially when he and Sterling realize there’s a living tie on the way that will bind Viho to her family forever—if he can convince her she’s much more to him than an obligation.
Sometimes it’s hard to let go, but every story has an ending. This one has a Native American hero with a chip on his shoulder the size of Wyoming and a vulnerable heroine who has a gift for polishing up diamonds in the rough. Some scenes may tug heartstrings so hard it’ll hurt, but the oh-my-god orgasms make up for it.
Putting out one hand, he said, “Viho.”
“Interesting name.” She shook it, marveling at how he swallowed her fingers with heat and a gentle pressure that didn’t crush her but didn’t treat her like she was delicate filigree either.
“I could say the same.” He flashed her another semi-smile. “Mine’s Native American. It means Chief.”
“Seriously?” Sterling nodded, impressed. “So are you royalty or something?”
He certainly had an air of nobility about him, despite his commoner’s clothes.
“Nah.” He shook his head a bit. “I guess I could have been. If we still had chiefs, my grandfather would have been it. The small reservation I grew up on looked to him for approval. But getting involved in our government wasn’t my path. Causing a rift in our community was never my intention. And besides, I’m nobody’s leader.”
“How did you know that?” she wondered. After today, she was starting to doubt herself and her life choices where she never had before.
At first, she didn’t think he intended to answer. She figured that was a pretty personal thing to ask a guy you’d spoken fewer words to than you’d say to a drive-thru attendant in the course of ordering a meal. But something about him made her feel as if they’d known each other for a hell of a lot longer than three point two seconds. Maybe it was the way he didn’t pressure her, letting her take the lead in their interactions and conversation, unlike most guys she met, who were eager to pinpoint anything they had in common. Some way to get closer to her, either because they were interested in moving up the ranks at Compass Ranch or because they wanted in her pants. Or both.
Instead, Viho reminded her of Jake, widely recognized as the best man around for taming wild horses. He had that same aloof patience that lured in the wild beasts and made them believe they were safe. And they were. Jake lived up to that implied promise. He cared for all his creatures, went above and beyond to see that they had everything he could give them.
It also could have been the sadness she sensed lurking behind Viho’s spectacular eyes that struck a chord.
“First, the place I grew up wasn’t the norm. It was culturally conservative. Dominated by a few extremist families that would never have seen past my less-than-pure blood. I’d have spent my entire life outvoted by the rest of the council regardless of how worthy my ideas were of their support. We’d have wasted everyone’s time in one giant pissing match, no one moving forward. It’s probably cowardly, but getting more involved seemed like a waste of time. Turning that tide was impossible. It never sat right on me anyway. Politics. People shouting over each other instead of understanding the other’s point of view. I’ve always enjoyed being outside, alone, listening to nature…”
No wonder he hadn’t been worried about spending the night outdoors.
“What does it tell you?” she asked.
And he shut down as surely as if she’d called him a loser.
“Hey.” She paused her examination to lay a hand on his wrist. They both shivered in response. His skin was balmy against hers and his pulse jumped beneath the pads of her fingers at the contact. “I wasn’t kidding around. Not making fun of you. I was serious.”
“Oh.” He sighed. Suddenly he seemed to age, and Sterling realized he was significantly older than she’d first thought. Maybe thirty-five or forty to her twenty-four. A man with some experience didn’t sound like such a bad thing to her. Hopefully, she hadn’t come off as some punk kid harassing him. “I guess I should have said that when it’s quiet around me I can hear myself think. And I don’t feel as out of place in the universe. If I stop listening too long, I start to feel like I don’t belong here and never have. And that’s totally a strange thing to admit. To anyone. But especially to…you know, you.”
He scrunched his eyes closed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I guess that means we’ve passed that awkward introductory stage of our relationship.” With that lame attempt at a joke, she released him and tried to concentrate. On his words. On the truck. On anything but putting her hands on him again. Maybe sliding her palms beneath his shirt to steal some of his warmth and map the contours of his prime body.
Because suddenly, she really wanted to show him that he was in the exact right place in the cosmos, and so was she.
“It’s kind of weird, you know. I’ve always thought I knew where I was meant to be. But lately, things are changing, and I think that might be worse. Finding out that how you thought things were supposed to be isn’t going to last forever, and that your life is your family’s, not your own.”
“I know exactly what you mean, Sterling.” He gazed at her with such intensity that she had to clear her throat and deliberately turn away. “And when that anchor gets yanked up and you start to drift, it’s easy to get dizzy. To lose your way.”
“Is that how you ended up stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere?” She recalled the black, red and white bedroll she’d spotted in the bed of the truck. It looked like he’d used it. A lot. Not just for picturesque camping trips to manicured grounds, either.
“I suppose it was the start of that path.” He shrugged, kicking a rock into the distance.
The grief radiating off him reminded her too much of what she’d been feeling when she left Compass Ranch earlier—the pain she’d been trying to obliterate, if even for a few hours.
So she steered the conversation to less dangerous ground. Like the cooling weather.
Viho rewarded her change of subjects with the hint of a smile and the loosening of his tense shoulders. As they chitchatted, she tinkered with his engine. It quickly became clear that his assessment was accurate. The thing was toast.
Surrendering, she turned toward Viho at the same instant he leaned in for a closer look. They plastered together. Instinctively, her hands flew to his chest to brace herself. And she smeared grease all over his soft, charcoal cotton shirt.
“Son of a bitch.” She tried to wipe a smudge off and only splattered it more. “I’m so sorry.”
“No problem.” His easygoing nature counterbalanced her impending freak-out, which would only enhance the social awkwardness that had always plagued her. But when he reached down, grabbed the hem of the tee and whipped it over his head, he struck her dumb.
Muscles rippled as he moved, hardness covered with smooth, tan skin she wished she had a right to touch. “Uh…”
“It was an accident. No harm.” He wadded up the fabric and tossed it into the back of the truck.
Except there might be some damage to her heart if it didn’t start beating again where it’d nearly exploded in her ribcage. It was time for her to admit it. She had never drooled over a man, not even a movie star or that guy she’d exchanged some heated emails with through an online matchmaking site, the way she lusted after Viho. Instant and vicious, attraction seethed between them.
“Sterling,” he murmured.
“I think we’d better wrap up here so you can take me into town now.”
“What if I don’t really want to do that anymore?” She couldn’t stop herself from being honest when he’d been so open with her earlier.
“Then I’ll wait for the next person to come by.” He shrugged, but she didn’t miss the flash of disappointment in his warm stare.
Did he think so little of himself that he didn’t understand her implication?
“Viho, this is not the time to be dense.” Brave, sure, she could be. But making the first move in this situation… Well, that was a little outrageous, even for her.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” He encroached on her personal space then, and she loved it.
“I think I’d rather stay here with you and listen to what nature is telling me right now.” She wiped her hand on her skirt, then reached up to his cheek.
“You can’t mean that.” His eyes went wide. “Are you for real? Maybe I didn’t drink enough water today. I’ve been stuck out here for a while.”
Sterling smiled. She knew she was doing the right thing. He’d needed to find her as much as she’d needed to discover him today. For whatever reason, they were here in the same place at the same time. Wasting that opportunity—divine or pure dumb luck—would not be wise.
Sterling might not have believed in fate before, but she could be converted.
“Does this seem like I mean it?” She launched herself at Viho then, sure he wouldn’t allow her to fall. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she went onto her tiptoes.
He didn’t leave her straining for long. His broad hands cupped the back of her thighs and lifted her to his level. The tips of her boots dangled off the ground as their bodies aligned. Locking them tighter, she wrapped her legs around his hips and crossed her ankles even as her hands rested on either side of his neck. A breeze cooled her ass when her skirt rode up due to her very unladylike position.
Holding her as if she was as dainty as her cousin, Hope, he stared into her eyes until she lunged forward, plastering her lips on his before he could bring either one of them to their senses. That was when his gentlemanly exterior sheared away.
Tomorrow marks the release of the last book in the Compass series, Falling Softly. Which means…our countdown ends today with Summer Fling. Jade was my favorite of the Compass Girls because I really wanted her to find a happy ending. She was so sad and broken and when Liam entered her life…sigh…it felt like magic.
Summertime and the lovin’ is easy…until it’s not.
Compass Girls, Book 3
Too much love and loss taught Jade Compton to protect her heart and her sanity by steering clear of all that romance nonsense. She’s doing just fine, working two jobs, hanging out with her cousins and her best friend, Liam.
But when a combination of unbearable heat wave and a case of the boredom blues knocks her down, she longs to do something spontaneous…maybe even a little bit reckless.
Liam Harrison met Jade when she was sixteen—in the local cemetery. If he’s learned anything after eight years of friendship, it’s that Jade has a wild streak a mile wide. And while he doesn’t want to tame the adventurous woman, he wouldn’t mind showing her a few sexy ways to channel some of her impulsiveness. With him. In the bedroom.
When he proposes a sexy, no-strings-attached summer fling, Jade jumps at the chance to spice things up and indulge some pretty kinky fantasies. Then summer ends…and Jade comes to the uncomfortable realization that there’s only one place she’s comfortable in her own skin—Liam’s arms.
Excessive heat in this story—in the bedroom, the barn, the kitchen, the bar. Drink lots of water. Stay hydrated!
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I’ve been feeling edgy lately. Restless. I mean, look around, Liam. Is this all there is to life? Every single day is déjà vu and not in a good way. It’s like I’m trapped in the horror movie that is my life, forced to endure the same stupid things over and over and over again.”
Liam frowned. “So what are you saying? You want to leave Compton Pass?”
“No.” Jade closed her eyes wearily. “This is my home. I don’t want to leave. My whole family is here and with Vivi’s memory getting worse…” Her words fell away as her shoulders slumped. She was in a funk. Usually life didn’t get her down, but for the past few months, she’d struggled to shirk off her constant state of unhappiness. The worst part was she didn’t really know what was bothering her. She was suffering from what Vivi called a case of the blues. And she had it bad.
Liam reached out to touch her arm. “Maybe you’re just bothered about your grandmother’s illness. Alzheimer’s can take its toll and you’ve been watching Vicky’s decline for a couple of years now.”
She shrugged. “I am worried about Vivi, but I don’t think that’s what’s wrong with me. Not really.”
“I’m stuck in a rut. I work at the ranch. I tend bar here. I hang out with my cousins and you. I eat the same breakfast every day. The same damn lunch. I break up the same ridiculous redneck fights week after week. I’m coming out of my skin. It makes me want to do something crazy, wild, impulsive.”
“What else is new?”
She shot him a dirty look that he ignored.
“Fine, kiddo. Be impulsive.”
She released a quick snort. “Easier said than done. I’m Jade Compton, the sheriff’s daughter, one of the Compass Girls. Sometimes it feels like I have a thousand eyes on me—all watching out, ready to protect me the second I step one tiny toe over the line into anything that could be potentially dangerous. I’m living my life swaddled in freaking Bubble Wrap.”
Liam laughed. “I don’t know about that. It seems to me you’ve managed to do some damage. Weren’t you the girl who got pulled over by her father for going a hundred and twenty on her motorcycle?”
“Yes. And I caught holy hell for it too. Uncle Silas is still reading me the riot act for that, and it happened nearly six months ago.”
Liam leaned against Bruce’s car. Her boss always parked in the alley. “I bet he is. That is one man I’d never wanna piss off.”
Jade blew out a long breath and tugged at her T-shirt. “It doesn’t help that it’s a gazillion degrees this summer. I’m tired of being hot. It’s like I’m living in a pool of my own sweat with my clothes sticking to my skin every time I step outside.”
“Attractive image. Thanks for sharing.”
She grinned. Liam always knew how to talk her out of her anger. No matter how mad or annoyed she might be, Liam managed to calm her down.
“Okay. You win. I’m finished bitching.”
“So what’s your plan for getting out of your depression?”
She lifted her shoulders. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll just have to come up with something spontaneous and reckless. Maybe I’ll jump my motorcycle over Beyer’s Creek. I can sell tickets and put on a flashy pantsuit. I can even come up with a cool stunt-girl name like Jumpin’ Jade.”
“Selling tickets hardly makes it an impulsive act.”
She could tell he wasn’t taking her seriously and her pride kicked in, his whatever attitude rubbing her the wrong way. “Then maybe I should do something even more stupid.”
“And what would that be?” His casual tone tweaked her temper and made her long to wipe the smug smile off his face. As always, she acted without thinking.
“This.” She gripped his shirt in her hands and tugged him close, kissing him roughly. She felt him stiffen with surprise, the response appeasing her enough that she released him with a superior laugh. Served him right for dragging her out of the bar and then not believing her when she threatened to do something insane. He was her friend. The least he could do was play along when she was in a mood.
His eyes narrowed, pleasing her even more. Liam was a hard person to shock, so it felt good to shake the cocky man up.
“Oh my God, you should see your face right now, Liam.”
Her laughter died when Liam grasped her cheeks in his large palms and pulled her forward.
“Apparently you need a lesson in recklessness, Jade.”
“Wha—” She didn’t have a chance to ask what the hell he was doing before Liam placed his lips on hers and kissed her. Shock held her still for a full minute as Liam took charge of her mouth. His grip was firm, directing her face this way and that as he pressed her lips apart and started exploring her mouth with his tongue.
Part of her was compelled to shove him away. She’d only meant the kiss as a joke. This was Liam, for God’s sake. For eight years, he’d been her best friend. They didn’t kiss.
But damn if he didn’t know his way around a mouth. Jade lifted her hands to his shoulders. Her initial intention had been to push back, but once her fingers found the firm muscles on his upper arms, she decided to indulge in a little exploration of her own.
Liam twisted them until she was pressed against Bruce’s car, his body leaning into hers. One of his hands left her face, caressing its way along her neck, briefly touching her breast before latching on to her waist. He used his grip to tug her lower body even closer to his.
She didn’t turn him on. Did she?
The countdown to Tuesday’s release of Falling Softly is winding down. NOT LONG NOW!!! Ahhhhhh…I’m so excited. Today…I’m featuring Hope Springs, book 2 in the Compass Girls series.
What will grow from the seeds of desire?
Compass Girls, Book 2
Hope Compton never considered her parents’ unconventional relationship a dangerous thing. Until, after a few too many drinks in a crowded bar, she admits her desire for a ménage to her college boyfriend—and uninvited guests try to turn her fantasy into a nightmare.
When Wyatt catches some thugs harassing the pretty daughter of his bosses, he doesn’t hesitate to call on his partner Clayton to kick some asses. But then he realizes what a temptation the sweet, sheltered Hope presents. Especially her naughty wish to unleash her inner vixen—with both of them.
Hope has no doubt her playmates want to fulfill her every desire, but something’s holding them back. She has an idea what those somethings are. With luck, and a little help from her Compass cousins to hold her fathers off, she’ll find what she needs in the shadows of the past—and convince them she’s found two men of her own who are worthy of her love.
Compass books bring love in every direction and every season. But not all of life’s moments are filled with joy. Take the good with the bad, and the steamy.
“Are you insane?” Wyatt shouted at her before kicking a hay bale.
“He could have hurt you,” Clayton murmured as he approached.
“Boone’s big mouth means you must know what that does to me.” Wy rubbed his chest. “There were a million people in that house who love you and you’d risk yourself like that? For what? I know I’m freaking uncivilized sometimes, like this morning—not my best showing, I admit it—but being so inconsiderate of the pain you could have caused your family…that’s just plain selfish and rude. Stupid.”
When he put it like that, she shifted from foot to foot. “I wasn’t afraid of John. I just wanted him gone. Permanently. And maybe to show him that he couldn’t touch me, not really.”
“But he could have.” A vein stood out in Wyatt’s neck, making her worry he’d over exert himself. Relapsing would prolong his recovery and stress him out. None of them needed that. Clay especially, since he had to live with Wy.
“One scream would have rained down enough angry cowboys on him to hold their own rodeo. Sterling knew what was going on and she’s one of the best shots around.” Security at Compass Ranch was guaranteed, in her mind. Nowhere else could have been as safe a haven for her. Unless it was in the arms of two loving ranch hands.
“No kidding, how do you think we realized what you were up to? You’re lucky your father didn’t notice her staring out the window. Hope—” Wyatt’s persistence in his beliefs made her realize civil discussion wasn’t an option. Maybe it never had been. A man like him respected action and bluntness over diplomacy.
Invoking the platinum rule, she prepared to treat him as he preferred.
A sudden fury ignited a conflagration in her like the lightning bolt that had struck the south hay field after last year’s summer-long drought. In this case, the dearth turning her insides to kindling had lasted more than two decades, she supposed. “You know what? Shut the hell up. I’ve had enough of men deciding my future. My dads, my uncles, my ex-boyfriend and now you guys. You can suck it. If you don’t want anything to do with me, you have no right to say how I live my life. A week ago you barely knew my name. Son of a bitch. You were half-dead yesterday and now you’re going to come in here and start brawling to defend my honor or punish me for giving that dirt bag a piece of my mind? I don’t need a lecture from you. Save your energy.”
Wyatt’s grin spread slow and wide. “You cursed. A bunch.”
“Hope, you’re wrong about one thing. We’ve known all about you for a while. How could we not?” Clayton’s quiet honesty cut through her rage. “You stand out.”
“You think we didn’t see you prancing around here?” Wyatt scoffed. “We noticed you plenty.”
“Then what the hell were you waiting for? Even after you found out I was curious about trying out your lifestyle, you didn’t make me any offers. Damn it, I practically gave you an engraved invitation and you declined.” Allowing him to see her cry was out of the question. “So go home. Rest. Do the smart thing for once in your life.”
Wyatt ignored her rant. He stared at her as if he actually considered what she’d shouted.
Crossing her arms, she refused to retreat.
“I get wanting to be in control of your destiny. I can respect independence. So is that all you need? To test drive two guys? Doesn’t matter who?” Wyatt peered into her eyes as he put it on the line. “Will screwing us delete this ridiculous idea of the three of us together from your big brain? If you want to have sex, we can handle that. If you want more, it’s impossible. Look at Boone. I won’t do that to another person. And I certainly won’t make you a target for ignorant jerks like the guys at the bar, who’d assume you’d be up for playing with them. Hiding in the shadows isn’t any way to live either. You don’t know what you’re asking for. I didn’t think you were the kind of woman who could separate emotion from sex, but I didn’t think a lot of things about you. I like being wrong sometimes. Maybe this is one of those rare instances.”
Something in her chest fluttered at his adaptability. Could she have judged him wrong too? Was he somewhat more flexible than she’d given him credit for? Steel instead of stone.
If he was bluffing, he was about to be sorry.
“Glad you’re comfortable with screwing up because I think you’re an expert by now.” She loved how she could blurt exactly what she thought without polite phrasing and he could take it. Heck, he seemed to revel in their passionate exchange, which grew more vibrant by the instant.
Arguing with him, debating their future, did something wicked to her.
Hope took a step closer, tilting her head up to maintain eye contact. The intensity of his stare sliced through her, deep into her core.
“You’re pushing him, sweetheart.” Clay’s nostrils flared like one of the horses when it scented a potential mate. “Me along with him.”
Wyatt met her halfway. He caged her between himself and his bunkmate. Their powerful bodies formed canyon walls. She loved being trapped by them. Every instinct she possessed sang with the rightness of it. Surrounded by the two men—their heat and their scent—she feared she might beg them to teach her about all the things she could sense lying barely outside her reach.
“Serves you right.” She pouted just a little.
“Why?” Clay tipped his head. “What’d I do?”
“You’ve been doing the same to me. Teasing me. Putting all these damn ideas in my head. Turning me on with no way to relieve the ache. Don’t leave me like this.” She tossed his words from last night in his face and sealed the deal.
“I won’t. I—I can’t.” Clayton swallowed hard. He looked to Wyatt quickly before he tipped her head up and covered her mouth with his.
Exactly as it had the day before, the connection of their bodies sparked a reaction more potent than the electrostatic attraction that bonded the compatible compounds she’d studied so hard. With Clay, everything was covalent. They agreed on so much. Their personalities had made last night’s companionship easy and light. Wyatt—opposite, and ionic. An explosion of magnetic energy. Or maybe the three of them could fuse into an archetypical bent bond.
Any case provided a similar outcome. A single, perfect connection.
When the Compass Brothers series ended, I knew I wanted more. I’m greedy that way. So I twisted Jayne’s arm at a conference and talked her into four more. As we discussed how to continue the series, we decided there was probably only one thing that could bring our alpha cowboy brothers down…and that was daughters! From there…the Compass Girls series was born. It began with Winter’s Thaw, so today, I’m sharing an excerpt from that story as the Countdown to Falling Softly (coming Oct. 21) continues!
Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes it’s better.
Compass Girls, Book 1
Sienna Compton has it all figured out. Her life’s goals are set and it is all systems go. At least, it was. Until her long-time boyfriend Josh threw a ringer into the master plan, requesting a “break” from their relationship. Now she’s left alone during the long, cold Wyoming winter, questioning what her heart has always believed to be true love.
Daniel Lennon is facing an uncertain future. When a tragic accident leaves him unable to pursue his career as a professional bull rider, he finds himself at Compass Ranch, working to help Sienna’s father, Seth, build his horse breeding business. One look at Sienna has Daniel envisioning things he never imagined wanting—a permanent home, love, marriage—and he’s willing to use all the red-hot tricks in his sexual arsenal to melt the ice surrounding Sienna’s broken heart.
When lust turns to genuine emotion, can Daniel convince Sienna to take a chance on something different and unexpected? Can he persuade her to consider a new path, one that will lead her directly to his arms…forever?
Roping and riding, past and future, cold winter and fiery desire, lust and love all come together in this new Compass series. Saddle up and hang on. The Comptons are back!
Daniel lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. He refused to look at his clock again. At last check—no more than five minutes earlier—it had been midnight. He’d ticked off every hour since he’d crawled into bed at nine and he was still no closer to finding sleep.
Eventually, sheer exhaustion was going to have to win out. God knew he couldn’t keep going at this rate. It had been a week since he’d kissed Sienna in the stable. He would have tried to steal more than a few heated kisses from her, but Sienna pulled away when they’d heard someone enter the stable.
Daniel shuddered to think how close Seth had come to catching them. Even though they were standing a proper distance away from each other when Seth approached, he still sensed his boss was suspicious. For one thing, Sienna’s face had been flushed, her gaze roaming everywhere to avoid her father’s questioning stare. She may as well have stamped the word guilty on her forehead.
Since then, Seth had kept a very close eye on where he was and who he was with. Not that Seth had needed to be on his guard. Sienna was doing a good enough job staying away from him without her father’s interference. He hadn’t caught more than a glimpse of her when she came home from work each day. She’d stopped eating dinner with the family and even eschewed riding her beloved mare, Maria.
According to Doug, Sienna was depressed over Josh. Daniel knew that reaction was natural, but it didn’t stop him from wishing she’d open her eyes and see him as a suitable replacement.
“Screw that,” he muttered. He didn’t intend to replace Josh. He wanted to erase him from Sienna’s thoughts forever. He wasn’t sure when his intentions had changed, but somewhere along the way, he’d stopped hoping to just get into Sienna’s pants. Lately, he’d been thinking it might be nice to find a way into her life, but that didn’t seem possible.
For one thing, she’d just gotten out of a relationship. There was no way she was ready to hop right back into one. And secondly, he’d heard her conversation with Josh. They hadn’t broken up—not officially. They’d just taken a timeout. Daniel didn’t think Sienna would let the idiot come back, but, well, dammit, he wasn’t sure.
He released an annoyed breath and forced his eyes shut. He’d never fall asleep at this rate. He tried to clear his mind of Sienna Compton completely.
A knock sounded on his door.
“What the hell?”
He listened again, wondering if he’d imagined it or if it was the cold winter wind knocking a branch against the trailer.
Another knock. Someone was definitely outside.
He rose and slipped on a pair of sweatpants. Opening the door slowly, he was surprised to find Sienna, wrapped in a coat and shivering.
“Sienna? Get in here. It’s freezing out there.”
She quickly climbed the three stairs, passing him as he closed the door.
“Is something wrong?” He couldn’t imagine there was anything—short of bad news—that would bring her to his trailer at this time of night.
She shook her head. “N-no. Everything’s fine.”
“Okay. That’s good.”
She didn’t bother to explain more. Instead, she shrugged off her coat. Underneath she was dressed in a little slip of a nightgown. He hadn’t realized until that moment that her legs were bare. She’d walked all the way over here in a bit of silk and slippers. Obviously she was paying for the decision, given her uncontrollable shivering.
“Jesus, Sienna. What the hell are you wearing? Or not wearing? You’ll be lucky if you don’t get frostbite.”
She rubbed her hands together, blowing on them for heat. “This was a lot s-sexier when my cousins and I p-planned it from the warmth of my bedroom.”
“Sexy?” Her words hit him like a sledgehammer to the forehead. “Did you come over here to sleep with me?”
Her cheeks were red from the cold, but even so, her blush enhanced the color. “If you h-have to ask, then it’s s-safe to say I’m not doing s-so well.”
He laughed. He couldn’t help it. She was here because she wanted to have sex with him? He’d never been offered such a delectable frozen treat. Unfortunately, she mistook his response.
She reached for her coat, intent on putting it back on. “This was a mistake.”
“Oh, hell no. No mistake.” He pulled the coat away from her and tossed it onto his couch. Then he tugged her into his embrace, trying to infuse her trembling form with some of his own body heat. He rubbed her back lightly.
“You’re warm,” she murmured against his chest.
“And your hands are like ice cubes.”
“Sorry.” She tried to step away, but he stopped her, gripping her wrists. He placed her palms on his chest, holding them there.
“Don’t pull away. Let me warm you up.”
They stared at each other for a few hushed moments, as Daniel allowed his gaze to travel over her silky nightie.
“Say something,” she whispered.
He shook his head. “No. You first. Ask me, Sienna. Ask me to touch you, to take you. I promised I wouldn’t do that until—”
“Touch me,” she interrupted.
Daniel didn’t wait for her to say more.
The Compass Brothers series wrapped up with the story that is perhaps the most special in the entire series to me, Western Ties. Like Eastern Ambitions, Western Ties hit the New York Times bestseller list. BUT…it hit high enough to actually hit the print paper! And as luck would have it, Jayne was visiting the weekend it came out. We rushed to Sheetz to buy out every copy they had (and Jayne may have bought herself a cotton candy donut while we were there). It was a great day! I remember so many moments while writing that book. Perhaps the most vivid was me crying my eyes out writing a particularly tough scene while Jayne texted pictures to me of her scuba diving adventures…somewhere exotic. lol. Today’s countdown to Falling Softly continues with a sneak peek of Western Ties.
How strong are the ties that bind?
Compass Brothers, Book 4
Leah Hollister’s sex life needs a swift kick in the pants. Small-town Compton Pass, though, isn’t the place to explore her need for bondage. When she gets an invitation to a BDSM party out in LA, she wastes no time booking a flight.
Her plan to play anonymously is shot to hell when she runs into high-school crush Sawyer Compton—and he lays immediate claim to her.
Sawyer Compton commands total control, in and out of the bedroom. He never thought Leah could handle his darker urges, but one look at the white bracelet that marks her as a sub ripe for the picking, and he knows exactly how this night is going to end. With Leah in his bed.
Leah didn’t expect to enjoy the comfort Sawyer’s familiarity brings, even as his touch takes her to unimaginable heights of pleasure. When bad news from home sends him reeling, she’s more than prepared to offer him anything he needs: her body, her friendship. Even her heart—if Sawyer can loosen the reins over his own to accept her love.
Invest in tissues. Lots and lots of tissues. Between spicy, set-the-sheets-on-fire bondage romps and the last Compass brother coming home, you’ll need them.
“Leah?” a familiar male voice behind her said.
Leah closed her eyes and prayed she’d imagined it. There was no way. No possible way—
She sighed. Fuck. What were the chances?
Turning, she realized her night wasn’t going to end as she’d planned. She should have saved her money. Should have stayed in Compton Pass. She was screwed.
“Sawyer.” She didn’t bother with the pretense of being happy to see him. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Leah,” Stacey whispered, her voice full of warning.
Sawyer narrowed his eyes, refusing to answer. His gaze started at the top, taking in her dramatic makeup, before drifting lower to her breasts, accentuated by the tight corset Stacey had loaned her. She willed herself to remain still as he finished his visual tour with a long look at her short leather skirt and stocking-clad legs.
“Enjoying the view?” she taunted. “You still haven’t answered my question. Shouldn’t you be in San Francisco? What are you doing here?”
He scowled. “That’s my question for you. A BDSM party in L.A. is a long way from a kindergarten classroom in Compton Pass. Last time I saw you, you were leading a pack of five-year-olds around my family’s ranch.”
A couple of years earlier, Sawyer had helped her organize a field trip to Compass ranch. It had been one of the highlights of the year for her students—and for her. It was also the last time she’d seen Sawyer. Two years was a long time. She certainly hadn’t expected their reunion to take place in L.A.
She sucked in a deep breath and tried to hide her disappointment. He was right. She’d purposely put herself as far away from home as possible, so that she could indulge in these two nights. One weekend to confirm a few suspicions she’d always held in regard to her sexual preferences. Sawyer was going to put a wrench in the works.
She gestured at her outfit. “I would think my role here would be obvious.” For the first time, she allowed her gaze to travel over him as well. Her body heated with arousal as she noted how unbelievably sexy he was. He wore tight dark jeans and a black T-shirt that hugged his muscular chest to perfection. No one in the place would fail to read the dominance in his stance, the aura of power he projected.
On the surface, she was shocked to find her friend in a place like this, but there was another part—deep inside—that wasn’t a bit surprised. He belonged here.
“So you’re a Dom?” She fought the urge to laugh as she asked the absurd question. Of course he was.
His gaze drifted to her arm. He grasped her wrist, pulling it up and toying with the white wristband the host had given her upon arrival.
“You understand what this means, right?” he asked, gesturing to the bracelet.
Sawyer completely ignored her Dom question. It didn’t matter anyway. It had clearly been rhetorical. He was a Compton. Anybody and everybody from their neck of the woods knew that name was synonymous with alpha male.
She gave him an annoyed look. “Of course I do.”
It was evident from his tone he didn’t think she belonged here any more than Stacey. One of the reasons she’d planned this adventure far away from home, surrounded by strangers who didn’t know her, was because rumors spread like wildfire in their small hometown. She knew about Sawyer’s sexual proclivities, and she’d always wondered if she shared a few of them.
Besides, her sweet disposition didn’t inspire the more adventurous cowboys back home to ask her out, so her opportunities for exploration were seriously limited. Julie was right. She was a goody-goody.
Sawyer didn’t appear to like her answer, so he restated the obvious. “It means you are an unattached submissive who’s looking for a Dom. This wristband has declared it open season on you.”
She shrugged, unconcerned. “Sorry to shatter the illusion, Sawyer, but I think I can handle whatever this party dishes out. It’s not like I’m a virgin.”
He frowned. “You lost your virginity in the backseat of a Pontiac to Les Prescott after Compton Pass won the district football championship our senior year. The guy was a shithead. You should’ve chosen better.”
Leah laughed, though a ripple of desire slammed into her. It was always this way with Sawyer. Though they were just friends, there’d never been a time when she hadn’t felt his gaze on her. He’d scared off more than a few would-be boyfriends in her lifetime claiming they were only after one thing. Les had fallen into that category, but Sawyer had been playing on that championship team and had been a bit distracted that night.
Sawyer had appointed himself her personal guardian in third grade when Jordan Haskiell had shoved her down on the playground after she’d beat him in a footrace. As a result, Sawyer had endured an afternoon in the principal’s office and God only knew what kind of punishment at home after issuing Jordan a very physical, very painful warning of what happened to guys who messed with Leah. While Sawyer hadn’t pursued her romantically, he’d certainly taken the bonds of friendship to a new extreme.
Despite the fact they’d existed in different cliques at school, Sawyer hadn’t let social status stop him from being one of her best friends. He’d run with the jocks and cheerleaders, while she’d been firmly encamped with the brainiacs, less affectionately referred to as nerds by their peers. “How could you have known about Les?”
“I told you. He was a prick. He was bragging about it at school the following Monday.”
She flushed. She’d never heard of Les spreading rumors about her. “I didn’t know—”
Sawyer grinned. “Luckily, he started his boasting with me. I took him out behind the school and gave him a reason to shut his fucking mouth.”
His admission held a hint of humor, but she could tell he was angry. She decided to test the waters to see how screwed she was.
“Well, it was great to see you again, but Stacey and I were going to pop over to the bar for a drink.”
“I’ll go with you.” He confirmed her fear.
She smiled and shook her head. “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You’re scaring off all the other Doms.”
His wolfish grin let her know that was his intent.
Her temper sparked. “God dammit, Sawyer. Go away.”
Stacey lightly touched her arm, alerting Leah that she’d spoken too loudly. Several people glanced in her direction and frowned. She was never going to achieve her goal at this rate.
Sawyer was the only person in the room who didn’t take offense at her faux pas. “You realize this is a weekend party?”
She nodded. It was starting to look like it would be a long two days.
Sawyer reclaimed her hand, slipping off the white bracelet.
“What the hell are you doing?” She tried to pull her arm free, attempting to grab the wristband back.
Sawyer’s grip was implacable. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a green bracelet. Suddenly, she felt dizzy. There was no way he would—
Sawyer slipped it around her wrist.
Today the countdown to the release of Falling Softly, the final Compass book, continues with Eastern Ambitions. I think I’ve mentioned that Jayne and I created Compton Pass and the Comptons together, working on the overarching story, then taking turns on the actual books. In the Compass Brothers, Jayne wrote North and East, while I wrote South and West. Eastern Ambitions will always be a special book to me because it is the first time I hit the New York Times bestseller list back in November 2011. What an amazing feeling! I cried when I got the call from my editor.
So…how about an excerpt from that very special story?
He’s lost everything. Can he win her heart?
Compass Brothers, Book 3
Sam Compton never liked getting his hands dirty, at least not on Compass Ranch. Armed with a business degree, he’s about to become the youngest VP at an illustrious Wall Street investment firm. Until his partner in an office romance turns into an ultra-refined snake in the grass
Staggering from the punch betrayal, another blow threatens to level him. His father is dying. He races home to lend his brain to his brothers’ backs at the ranch, and finds something he never expected. A sophisticated yet playful woman stimulates his mind…and parts below the belt.
Compass Ranch gave Cindi Middleton’s wounded soul everything it needs: a home, acceptance, and respect—not to mention unlimited sex—from the ranch’s sexy cowboys. Despite their instant and intense sparks, Sam’s defection to the bright city lights she left behind is a big red flag. She’s been there, done that and burned the t-shirt.
Yet the heat of their attraction brings them circling back to each other’s arms…until a certain snake reappears, threatening to endanger the acquisition of the one thing Sam has realized is truly priceless.
Warning: Tissue alert! The authors recommend you have a few on hand while reading this book. To make up for any sniffles, a host of cowboys with open arms await to console you, distract you or make your wildest dreams come true.
Cindi shook her head as Seth helped his brother up the stairs. She didn’t have to be introduced to recognize the man who’d ridden in with the southern charmer. Another one of the infamous Compass Brothers had returned.
Magnets from the four corners of the country, not to mention several places around the world, pinned pictures of Vicky’s heartbreakers to the refrigerator in the main house. Even without the recent headshot of one of New York’s top traders, she’d have had no trouble identifying JD’s offspring.
Sam had inherited his father’s build and the easy flow of his movements. Something about him called to her even more than the other potent Compton men. Maybe it’d been his sophisticated style, his understated yet quality clothing or his classic haircut, which highlighted his handsomeness more than his ruggedness.
In person, he blew away the photo she’d drooled over when putting up leftovers. Damn.
“Careful, sweetie.” Jake approached from where he’d been tinkering with a piece of equipment. He wiped the grease off his hands onto his jeans before trailing his index finger down her neck. “You’re looking like you might swallow that talented tongue of yours.”
“Jealous?” She lifted a brow.
“Maybe.” He shrugged. “Can’t imagine a Compass Brother sharing his girl. That’d be a mighty big problem. For both of us I’d reckon.”
“You do realize Silas has sex with both Colby and Lucy, right?” She adored the blush that enhanced his deep tan.
“That’s different.” He shook his head. “You know what I’m talking about. Or if you’ve forgotten, maybe I could show you. Pretty sure Duke, Johnny and Levi are finishing up inside. We’ll make you forget you ever saw that kid. City-slickers like him don’t have anything on real men.”
“Not tonight, Jake.” For the first time, the idea of a romp in the hay with them didn’t appeal. Usually an invitation to be embraced by their group inspired a shiver. Not today. “And don’t talk like that, okay? It doesn’t improve my opinion of you.”
“Really, Cin?” He retreated a step or two as though she were one of her beloved barn cats, hissing and slashing at him with sharp claws. “Is that how it is? I always thought you didn’t care about a man’s standing as much as his open arms. We’ve made you part of our family, given you what you needed. The second you see some rich prick you’re going to throw us over? Hell, you’ve never even talked to the guy.”
“Don’t you think you’re getting ahead of yourself?” She chuckled. “All I’m doing is standing here, enjoying the evening air and the scenery.”
“I’ve seen that look before.” Jake came closer. He crowded her against the wall, but she didn’t flinch. He’d never hurt her.
When he bent his head and stole a kiss, she added enough heat to the brief glide of her lips to reassure him.
“I like it better when it’s aimed at me,” he whispered in her ear. “Have your fun. I’ll be ready to pick up the pieces.”
“What do you have against Sam?” She tilted her head as she studied the tightness in Jake’s jaw. He was one of the most relaxed, easygoing cowboys she’d ever met.
“It’s hard to respect a kid who doesn’t appreciate his good fortune.” Jake shook his head. “I’d have killed for the kind of folks he has, the support he threw in the garbage. All of the Compass Brothers.”
“Didn’t they leave right after high school?” That’s what ranch rumor had to say about it, anyway.
“Yeah. All of them lit out of here like their asses were on fire, the moment they turned eighteen. Silas… Of all of them, I get how that situation could screw with your head. Maybe.” He kicked at a rock. “The rest, well, I don’t understand.”
“You can’t judge what they did as teenagers, Jake.” She snagged his hand and squeezed. “You’re older. We both know how important these kinds of connections are. They were lucky. They didn’t have a clue what it’s like to be totally alone, like us. Never will probably.”
“I hope you’re right.” The cheerful mask he typically wore drooped a fraction, and Cindi couldn’t resist their bond. Jake had provided a safe haven for her when she needed it. Tonight seemed like a bad night for him. “Wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
She leaned toward the open door, tugging on him gently. “Your offer still stand?”
“Why?” He peered from beneath the brim of his dark, dusty hat.
“I think I changed my mind.” She walked backward, drawing him into the barn.
It’s day two of our Compass countdown to October 21 and the release of the last Compass book ever, Falling Softly. Today we’re featuring one of my personal favorites in the series (shhh…don’t tell the other books), Southern Comfort. Southern Comfort released way back on July 12, 2011. There’s just something about a sexy, alpha cowboy that melts my butter!
Southern Comfort, Compass Brothers, book two
How can a gal resist the cowboy who’s hog-tied her with heartstrings?
Seth Compton has known for years he was falling for his boss’s daughter, Jody Kirkland. Problem is Jody’s too young, too feisty, and too damned independent for his dominating ways. When she graduates from college and returns home with a diploma and a fiancé, Seth figures to hell with the difficulties. He’s in love with her and he’s not gonna rest until he’s captured her heart.
When Jody wakes up the morning after her wild bachelorette party with a hangover, the last place she expects to find herself is tied to a bed with sexy-as-sin Seth Compton lying next to her. Seth is determined to prove that they belong together, but Jody’s been hurt by Seth’s disinterest too many times in the past. If he wants her, he’s going to have to work for it.
Lucky for Seth…and Jody, he has plenty of rope.
Warning: This story contains a bondage lovin’ cowboy who kidnaps and hogties a cowgirl to his bed and does all sorts of naughty things to her. Fun, right?
Seth Compton let his horse run free across the dry earth, enjoying the cloud of dust stirring around them. He and his brothers raced over the mountain ridge, heading to their favorite camping spot. Summer was just kicking in, but given the heat and lack of rain, it promised to be a brutally dry one.
Though the heat and humidity were unusual for Wyoming, they certainly didn’t bother him. He loved hard earth and the loud clomping of his horse’s hooves as they beat out a tempo that proclaimed his freedom. He was connected to the land, to the animals, to the fresh mountain air and even the unusually brutal sun. All of it made him feel alive and he whooped, grinning at his brothers.
The ride to the campsite went a long way to easing the ache in his chest that had started at dinner, when his older brother, Silas, broke the news he was moving away. It had shocked Seth, stunned him. Silas was the most like their pop, JD, and he was the one brother Seth never thought would leave the ranch. He figured like every ancestor who’d come before them, Silas would lay down deep, solid roots in Compton Pass. He belonged to this place, to their home, and Seth simply couldn’t imagine living here without him.
While Silas was made for Compass Ranch, Seth knew his greener pastures lay elsewhere. He longed to leave, to head south and work in Texas. While attending a livestock show with his pop a few months ago, he’d met Thomas Kirkland. Kirkland lived outside San Antonio and owned one of the biggest working ranches in the state. Seth had spent most of one afternoon picking Thomas’s brain about the workings on a real Texas ranch. He must have impressed the man because Thomas had sent him a letter last week, inviting him to come down after graduation to work for him. Seth kept the offer a secret from his pop and brothers. He wasn’t sure why, but the time to tell them his plans had never felt right.
The setting sun drew patterns on the ground, and Seth let the images wander through his mind. Some people looked for pictures in the clouds, but Seth found them on the earth. The shadows of the trees as they neared the mountain ridge looked like an army of soldiers, standing at attention, all waiting for his command. His destiny was at hand. He could feel it. One more year of damn high school and then he would be free.
He looked back at Silas once more, worried about the deep lines carved in his brother’s face. Something had happened, Seth could sense it deep in his soul, but he knew his brother. Silas would never tell him why he was really leaving. Glancing forward, he watched the backs of the twins as they rode side by side, always together. Unlike most identical twins, there was no mistaking who was Sam and who was Sawyer. The two were as alike as mud and soap. Sawyer possessed a recklessness that didn’t seem to reside in the refined Sam.
They hadn’t discussed their plans for the evening, but the second Silas had made his announcement to the family, he and his brothers looked around the dining table and nodded. Seth saw Silas’s pain and knew he’d support his brother no matter what he did. Hell, there was a selfish part of him that was actually glad his brother was leaving. It would pave the way for his departure next summer. Make it easier. Christ, his self-seeking thought made him sick.
Tonight was about Silas, about helping his brother. Besides, Seth felt a pain grip him low in his gut. When would the four of them all be together like this again? The idea cut through him like a knife and as he slowed his horse, a piece of his childhood died.
Tonight. Tonight would be their last time together and the heaviness that accompanied that realization threatened to stop him in his tracks.
Tonight wasn’t their usual laid-back escape from chores and hard work and school. It wasn’t a hunting trip or the beginning of a summer vacation or a winter retreat to test their wilderness survival skills.
Tonight wasn’t about playing or bonding or just being guys. It was about saying goodbye to Silas, and in part, to his youth.
They slowed as they approached their destination and ducked beneath the shelter of the mountain cypresses. The uneven terrain forced them to walk their mounts. They knew better than to risk injuring their animals.
Seth shoved his concerns to the back of his mind. Hell, it was that or fall on his knees and beg his brother not to leave. He wasn’t ready to be the oldest brother, to take on more responsibility, serve as a role model for the twins. Those traits had rested easily on Silas’s shoulders and Seth suddenly realized there was a freedom in being the second oldest. He got away with more, didn’t have to toe the straight and narrow line that Silas seemed to walk so easily.
They dismounted, and Seth helped Sawyer tie the horses to some low hanging branches. Sam gathered kindling for their bonfire, while Silas patched the pit they’d left from prior visits. Silas withdrew some hot dogs from his pack and grinned. They’d just eaten dinner, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to turn down a dog cooked black from a campfire. Manna from heaven.
“Si, you’re bleeding.” Sawyer’s comment distracted Seth from his stomach.
“It’s nothing.” Silas tried to hide his injury, but their youngest brother was relentless.
“It is something.” Sawyer moved behind Silas to get a closer look. Sawyer’s next comment clued Seth in to exactly what he was looking at. “It’s too uniform to be a cut.”
“Did you do it?” Seth tipped his hat away from his face and glared at his older brother. Damn him. They’d talked for years of getting tattoos when they were old enough. Swore they’d go together. When Silas didn’t answer, he stomped over, determined to see his brother’s betrayal for himself. “Holy shit. You did. You got a freaking tattoo. Without me? Without us? You asshole!”
Silas dodged Seth’s half-hearted punch toward the sore spot between his shoulder blades. While he was pissed as shit, his heart couldn’t let go of the idea that Silas was leaving in the morning. He couldn’t let tonight end in a fight.
Silas shrugged. “I had a hard enough time convincing Snake to ink me. If I’d brought you guys with me he never would have caved. He only did it because I’m eighteen now.”
Besides, if Silas had told Seth, they wouldn’t have been able to stop Sam and Sawyer from tagging along too. Their kid brothers shadowed their every move. Sometimes it was flattering as hell, but most of the time, it was just fucking annoying.
“Well, I suppose that’s true. Plus he’s probably afraid JD’ll kill him if he finds out,” Sawyer said, ever the peacekeeper.
Seth rolled his eyes at his baby brother’s words. Kid thought their pop walked on water. Of course, Seth had to admit, around here, the guy did. As head of Compass Ranch—the center of Compton Pass, Wyoming—JD Compton wielded a power most men could only dream of. However, while Seth’s father’s money opened doors, his personality made him a born leader. When JD spoke, people listened.
Silas nodded. “Yeah, that’s why I took the bandages off. Didn’t want him to notice.”
Sawyer persisted. “But you gotta let us see it at least.”
“Sure.” Silas dropped a wedge of wood on the fire and stood. Seth moved to his brother’s back, standing next to the twins, as Silas tugged his grey T-shirt over his head. He caught a slight hitch in his brother’s actions and realized the tattoo must hurt like hell. None of them made a sound as they studied the artwork inked on his brother’s back.
The sudden silence seemed to unnerve Silas, and he began to offer unneeded explanations. “It’s swollen and stuff—”
“Whoa.” Seth murmured, not needing any explanation.
“It’s awesome.” Sam laid his palm to the right of the emblem, careful not to touch the raw skin.
“Sweet,” Sawyer agreed then added his hand, on the left side of Silas’s back.
“Does it hurt?” Seth couldn’t resist the urge to join in, touching the area below the design.
“So bad,” Silas confirmed.
“I’m still doing it. Next year. The minute I turn eighteen.” Seth had never spoken truer words. He wanted this pattern. Bad. It was perfect. “Exactly like this.”
“Me too,” Sam chimed in. “The compass design is fucking great. And the ranch brand is perfect. It matches the one we use.”
“I didn’t know Snake had this kind of shit in him. The shading is so cool. It looks 3D.” Sawyer’s hand shook on Silas’s back. “I want one now. Like yours. But without the fancy N.”
“You’re only fifteen,” Silas barked. “Wait a while and make sure it’s what you really want.”
“I know what I want.”
“Things don’t always happen like you expect, Sawyer.” Silas sighed and Seth wondered what had altered in his brother’s life. Then, he considered the adjustments facing him in the immediate future. The difference was, while Seth was a bit anxious about the move, he embraced the idea, excited by the prospect. Silas didn’t seem to feel the same joy in venturing out of Compton Pass.
“Is that why you’re leaving?” The high pitch of Sam’s question told Seth his younger brothers were taking Silas’s departure hard as well.
“Yeah.” Seth knew that was the only answer his older brother would give them.
“Well, some people might flip flop around. Not me. Not going to change my mind.” Sawyer’s words were strong, self-assured. He’d always been the most determined to prove himself despite being the baby of the group. Maybe because of it. “I’m joining the Coast Guard. Gonna see the world.”
“What!” Silas pivoted to stare at their kid brother, and Seth wondered at the vehemence in his tone. “You’ve been watching too many freaking commercials. Your place is here, on the ranch.”
“No, it isn’t,” the teenager whispered.
Seth nodded in agreement. Sawyer was right to dream of the world beyond their property line. They’d lived like crown princes for all of their young lives, regarded with a fair bit of jealousy and even a bit of awe by their neighbors and the other kids in school. JD Compton was the uncrowned ruler of the area. In addition to owning a fair bit of the land in Compton Pass, the town was named for Seth’s great-great grandfather and JD served as chairman on the town council. Very few decisions were made in this area that didn’t have JD’s seal of approval. Problem was, Seth knew there was a hell of a lot more to this world than Compass Ranch and he was aching to strike out and make a stand, build a life with his own hands, rather than riding in the shade provided by his father’s very large shadow.
“You’re not planning to stay?” Silas’s forehead creased with disbelief. “None of you?”
The look of outright betrayal on his brother’s face tweaked Seth’s already stretched nerves. “Don’t look at us like that! I figured you’d understand. I need to get the hell out of here. Find my own place. Same as you.” His secret desire fell from his lips, and he was helpless to hold back. “Not Alaska though, I hate winter. You’re crazy to take on all that snow. Somewhere warm. Maybe I’ll head down south.” He withheld the information regarding Kirkland’s invitation. He remembered Silas’s tattoo and the image of his future became clear. “Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. A fancy S instead of an N on my compass, bro.”
“What? No!” Silas threw his arms up in frustration. “It’s not like that. I mean—”
“We understand, Si.” Sam smiled and nodded. “I’d like to go to college. Earn a degree. Find a real job. Something where I don’t have to dirty my hands to rake in cash. I’m going to have fancy clothes, a slick apartment and a kickass car. I’ll party every night with the hottest girls in the city.”
Seth grinned. He wasn’t the only one with dreams bigger than Compton Pass. His brothers understood. They yearned for the same things.
Silas turned to Sawyer and Seth read the unspoken question, the lingering concern on his lips. Who would stay at Compass Ranch? A slight pang of guilt penetrated Seth’s conscience, but he batted it away.
“Oh, no.” Sawyer shook his head as he kicked a rock when Silas turned to him. “Don’t give me that look. I told you, I’m not getting stuck here. Fuck that. You think someone should hang around, then stay put. It ain’t too late to cancel your plane ticket.”
“I-I can’t,” Silas said.
Seth understood his brother’s feeling. Some undeniable lure was tearing them away from this place, something stronger than all of them.
“And neither can we.” Seth hated the look of desolation on his older brother’s face. He slugged Silas’s shoulder, hoping to lighten the atmosphere. He didn’t want Silas’s last night to be weighted down with such heavy discussion. There was plenty of time to figure out what would come next. Seth still had a year until graduation, and the twins were only fifteen. Three years was a long time for a young man to change his mind. Maybe one or both of their little brothers would come to realize they didn’t have to leave. Regardless of that, they didn’t need to worry about any of that right now. He chuckled as he thought of a surefire way to make them all smile. “Come on, start the dogs. I’m starving. Jake slipped me a couple Playboys for doing his chores last weekend so he could bang Missy Trelane.”
“Nice! Me first.” Sam squeaked a head start for Seth’s backpack as Sawyer launched himself after his twin.
Thought I’d spend the next week doing a quick countdown to the release of the final book in the Compass series on Oct. 21, Falling Softly, by introducing you to the Compass clan from Compton Pass. The Compass books span eight different books across two connected series – Compass Brothers and Compass Girls.
Today…we’ll start at the VERY beginning. Northern Exposure released on March 15, 2011 (wow! That long ago?!). If you haven’t had an opportunity to read these stories, I hope you’ll consider picking them up now.
Northern Exposure, Compass Brothers, book one
All roads lead in one direction when home holds your heart.
Silas Compton always planned to live his legacy at the head of Compass Ranch, his family’s heritage. But when the girl of his dreams catches him making out with her boyfriend in the barn, he realizes he can’t stay or he risks destroying all three of them. He exiles himself to Alaska, craving a complete change of scenery to help him get over the loss of his best friends and his brothers.
When an accident on an oil rig sends Silas home, ten years later, he has to face the truth. The attraction between the three mates is destined, impossible to resist. Colby and Lucy welcome him home, encouraging him to take his rightful place at Compass Ranch and in their hearts. But can he forgive himself for the damage he’s caused?
When things start to unravel on the ranch, will he be able to step up? This time, his family needs him.
Warning: This book is overflowing with sexy cowboys who like to saddle up and ride each other as well as the woman of their dreams. The likelihood of becoming addicted to their ranch family is high. With three more stories yet to come, beware. You won’t be able read just one!
Dry brush crackled under the hooves of Silas Compton’s roan gelding. It hadn’t rained in a while. He could tell it would be a long summer by the clouds of terra cotta dust rising in the wake of his brothers’ galloping horses as they raced across the mountain ridge.
Not that he’d know it where he was headed. Alaska would provide a total change of scenery. Exactly what he needed. Pain lanced his chest, causing him to tense in his heirloom saddle. Rainey’s ears flicked up. Silas patted the loyal animal’s neck, settling into the rhythm of their canter, and wondered how he would survive so far from the land that had been a part of him since he’d been born.
Somehow he would have to make it work.
He sure as hell couldn’t stay.
Like the three-legged dog they’d had as kids, he would learn to cope without an integral part of himself. If only he and his puppy had reined in their curiosity and avoided those damn traps…
But they hadn’t.
Lucy Silver, the veterinarian’s sweet daughter—who’d been dancing through his dirty dreams since he’d been old enough to have them—had spotted Silas making out with her boyfriend in the barn. It’d been like the day he’d watched his puppy scramble toward the razor-sharp jaws lying concealed under a pile of straw all over again.
Removing himself from the equation seemed like the only way he could halt imminent disaster and protect the two people he cared about most outside of his family. He’d already destroyed enough of Lucy’s innocence.
Christ, he couldn’t explain what had driven him to kiss Colby in the first place.
Impulsive. Rash. Reckless.
Qualities Silas didn’t value. The one time he gave in to the dark urges he wrestled, he paid a horrible price. But he’d caught Colby checking out his sweaty muscles as they’d worked together in the heat of the day. Desire had arced between them.
Irresistible. Delicious. Forbidden.
Until the agony on Lucy’s face had slammed him back to reality. Silas vowed to leave the couple to mend their fences and live in peace, without the threat of his interference ripping them apart. Lucy and Colby devoured each other with desperate gazes when they thought no one paid attention. It didn’t take a genius to figure out their love was the real deal.
He’d go, even if it meant giving up everything familiar and cherished, including his brothers and his two best friends. Because he sure as shit couldn’t stay and keep his hands to himself. Not with a double helping of temptation running wild.
Amber rays from the setting sun ignited the prairie below. The glowing grasslands seared into his memory. He’d never lose track of his roots. He’d never forget his heritage, Compass Ranch, even if he couldn’t accept his destiny as its head.
His brothers would pick up his slack.
Seth, a year younger than him, whooped then grinned over his shoulder as he spurred his mare faster. Wild as a mustang, he flew over the landscape to the spot they’d claimed as their own. The twins, Sam and Sawyer, followed suit.
They hadn’t discussed their plans for the evening. As soon as Silas had made his announcement to the family, the boys had glanced around the dining table—where all important family business was conducted—and nodded. They hadn’t objected to his desertion, but strain lined their faces, sorrow dimmed their eyes and the betrayal he feared flashed in the air a split second before they began planning how they’d support him.
Christ, their generosity had made him feel lower than the shit on the bottom of his muck boots because he hadn’t had the guts to admit why he really planned to leave. None of them would have been dumb enough to mess with something that wasn’t theirs. And if they had, they wouldn’t have lied about it on top. Such strong souls would thrive with or without him. But could he cut out something so essential to his being and live so wounded? So lost?
Cut adrift, he might not make it.
Silas gripped the reins too tight. He forced himself to relax his fingers.
One night. He’d give himself these final hours with his brothers to say goodbye to all he treasured. Tomorrow, he’d ride out. Forever.
The driving hoof beats slowed as they approached their destination. By the time they ducked beneath the shelter of the mountain cypresses, the rocky terrain forced them to walk their mounts. None of the teenagers would jeopardize the safety of their animals or their brothers.
He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to contain the agony lassoing his heart as he realized he’d never be close to the men they’d grow into, their families or the children who’d take their places in the tight-knit community like so many generations before them.
The last damn thing he wanted was to bawl like a sissy.
If his family caught on to his pain, they might not let him go. Luckily, he’d learned from the toughest sons of bitches in the west how to be a real cowboy. If that was the only way he could honor his legacy, he’d man up and do it. Somehow.
They dismounted, reverting to familiar patterns. Seth and Sawyer tied the horses as Sam gathered kindling for their bonfire. Silas patched the pit left from prior visits then dug some supplies from his pack, including hot dogs despite the fact they’d eaten dinner before they left. These days, the four of them could shovel in enough to feed an army.
Or so their mom said.
“Si, you’re bleeding.” Count on Sawyer to notice.
“It’s nothing.” Silas faced the youngest, by twenty-two minutes, of his brothers. The kid’s twin had already picked up on the vibe. Damn their weird-ass mental connection.
“It’s something.” Sam sidled up behind him to take a peek. “It’s too uniform to be a cut.”
“Did you do it?” Damn if Seth didn’t tip his hat and glare from beneath his dark brows. When Silas didn’t answer, Seth stomped over. “Holy shit. You did. You got a freaking tattoo. Without me? Without us? You asshole!”
Silas dodged his brother’s half-hearted punch toward the sore spot between his shoulder blades. The disappointment radiating from the guy in waves did more damage than his fist would have. After Silas’s sudden declaration of independence, this looked bad, but he couldn’t come clean and admit the craving he’d had to brand himself with some symbol of home before he took off. Not if he had any hope of escaping.
“I had a hard enough time convincing Snake to ink me. If I’d brought you guys with me, he never would have caved. He only did it because I’m eighteen now.”
If Silas had told Seth, they wouldn’t have been able to stop Sam and Sawyer from tagging along too.
“Well, I suppose that’s true. Plus he’s probably afraid JD will kill him if he finds out.” Sawyer let Silas off easy, as usual.
“Yeah, that’s why I took the bandages off. Didn’t want him to notice.”
Pride for their badass father glowed from the kid. Silas agreed. As head of Compass Ranch—the center of Compton Pass, Wyoming—JD Compton wielded vast financial clout but his personality made him larger than life and, most important, earned him respect by the acre.
“But you gotta let us see it at least,” Sawyer insisted.
“Sure.” Silas dropped a wedge of firewood on the crackling flame Sam had started, and then stood. All three of his brothers lined up behind him—Seth in the middle, the twins on either side—when he tugged his gray T-shirt over his head, wincing a little at the sting of his sweat in the open wound. The three usually raucous kids didn’t make a single peep when he revealed the artwork. “It’s swollen and stuff—”
“Whoa.” Seth broke the silence.
“It’s awesome.” Sam laid his palm to the right of the emblem, careful not to touch the raw skin.
“Sweet,” Sawyer agreed then added his hand on the left side of Silas’s back.
“Does it hurt?” Seth completed their connection, touching the area below the design.
“So bad,” Silas gasped, struggling not to drop to his knees.
“I’m still doing it. Next year. The minute I turn eighteen,” Seth whispered into the gathering twilight. “Exactly like this.”
“Me too,” Sam chimed in. “The compass design is fucking great. And the ranch brand is perfect. It matches the one we use.”
“I didn’t know Snake had this kind of shit in him. The shading is so cool. It looks 3-D.” Sawyer’s hand shook on Silas’s back. “I want one now. Like yours. But without the fancy N.”
“You’re only fifteen,” Silas barked. “Wait a while and make sure it’s what you really want.”
“I know what I want.”
“Things don’t always happen like you expect, Sawyer.” Silas felt the pressure of his brothers’ hands bracing him as he heaved a giant sigh.
“Is that why you’re leaving?” The high pitch of Sam’s question reminded Silas that even though his youngest brothers had started fooling around with girls in their class, and he’d busted them splitting a six pack they’d swiped from the bunkhouse, they still had more boy than man in them.
“Yeah.” He couldn’t give them more of the truth than that. It embarrassed him. Angered him. And threatened to drown him in despair.
“Well, some people might flip flop around. Not me. Not going to change my mind.” Sawyer stuck to his guns. He’d always been the most determined to prove himself despite being the baby of the group. Maybe because of it. “I’m joining the Coast Guard. Gonna see the world.”
“What?” Silas pivoted to stare at the kid, severing the connection with his brothers. He regretted it instantly, but he had to search Sawyer’s eyes for the truth. “You’ve been watching too many freaking commercials. Your place is here, on the ranch.”
“No, it isn’t,” the teenager whispered.
When the other two nodded in agreement, Silas staggered backward.
“You’re not planning to stay?” His forehead crumpled as he tried to understand. “None of you?”
“Don’t look at us like that.” Seth waved his hands in front of his chest. “I figured you’d understand. I need to get the hell out of here. Find my own place. Same as you. Not Alaska though, I hate winter. You’re crazy to take on all that snow. Somewhere warm. Maybe I’ll head down south. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. A fancy S instead of an N on my compass, bro.”
“What? No!” Silas couldn’t explain. “It’s not like that. I mean—”
“We understand, Si.” Sam smiled then nodded. “I’d like to go to college. Earn a degree, find a real job. Something where I don’t have to dirty my hands to rake in cash. I’ll have fancy clothes, a slick apartment and a kickass car. I’ll party every night with the hottest girls in the city.”
The relief washing over his brothers filled Silas with anxiety and left him reeling. Who would help their father with the ranch? Who would continue their family traditions? Who if not him? Or Seth? Or Sam?
“Oh, no.” Sawyer shook his head as he kicked a rock. “Don’t give me that look. I told you, I’m not getting stuck here. Fuck that. You think someone should hang around, then stay put. It ain’t too late to cancel your plane ticket.”
“And neither can we.” Seth slugged his shoulder. “Come on, start the dogs. I’m starving. Jake slipped me a couple Playboys for doing his chores last weekend so he could bang Misty Trelane.”
“Nice! Me first.” Sam managed a head start for their brother’s backpack as Sawyer launched himself after his twin.
Silas watched them wrestle, laugh and call each other names as though his entire world hadn’t been ripped apart. Then he pivoted and stared out to the horizon as the sun set on his childhood.
“What’s happened before and what may happen later can’t be as important as what’s happening now. The present belongs to you. Let someone else take the picture . . . just smile.” – Michael J. Fox