Cougars, brush fires, snow storms—rancher Duncan McBride tackles it all without a flinch. But the archeologist who's come to authenticate cave drawings found on his property is the kind of trouble he'd sworn to avoid. Far from the aging academic he was expecting, Raven La Blanc is a stunning woman…and definitely not sticking around this small Montana town once her job is done.
The primitive drawings at Duncan's ranch are Raven's ticket to the tenured position she's worked so hard for back in Santa Fe. But there's no denying the attraction between her and Duncan. Maybe, just this once, she can put her work aside and explore the depths of her own heart and soul? One night may be all it takes for Raven to really find what she's looking for…
About the Author
Francis Ray is the New York Times bestselling author of the Grayson novels, the Falcon books, the Taggart Brothers, and Twice the Tempation, among many other romances. Her novel Incognito was made into a movie aired on BET. A native Texan, she is a graduate of Texas Woman's University and has a degree in nursing. Besides a writer, she is a school nurse practitioner with the Dallas Independent School District. She lives in Dallas.
Francis Ray (1944-2013) is the New York Times bestselling author of the Grayson novels, the Falcon books, the Taggart Brothers, and Twice the Temptation, among many other books. Her novel Incognito was made into a movie aired on BET. A native Texan, she was a graduate of Texas Woman's University and had a degree in nursing. Besides a writer, she was a school nurse practitioner with the Dallas Independent School District. She lived in Dallas. "Francis Ray is, without a doubt, one of the Queens of Romance." --Romance Review
Read an Excerpt
One Night With You
By Francis Ray
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Francis Ray
All rights reserved.
Duncan McBride knew trouble when he saw it and he was looking at it in spades.
He could handle sudden snowstorms, droughts, brush fires, and ornery or sick livestock with grit and determination. He planned to leave his mark on the land, and for that he knew he had to work hard.
However, no matter how he wished otherwise, there were times he'd come out on the losing end. He didn't like it, but he accepted the harsh truth and worked harder so that the next time he'd walk away the winner.
Standing on the front porch of his ranch house east of Billings, Montana, on a beautiful summer morning, Duncan dispassionately watched a woman emerge from the driver's side of a dusty black Jeep that had seen better days. Before her booted foot hit the paved driveway, he knew trouble had come again to the Double D Ranch.
Long-legged, elegantly shaped, with generous breasts, she had a small waist and come-hither hips that gently flared in body-hugging jeans. Those features alone would have been enough to bring any man to his knees, but added to that stunning combination was a breathtakingly sculptured face with high cheekbones and a generous mouth painted berry-colored. The explosive package sent a punch straight to Duncan's gut.
He didn't have to watch his foreman, Ramon, a renowned ladies' man, and his newest hand, Billy, almost trip over themselves rushing to meet her to know he was right. Unmoved, Duncan folded his arms and leaned against a stone post on the porch. Whoever she was, she would be leaving in a hurry.
He'd learned the hard way that beautiful women didn't like isolated ranch life and they weren't happy unless a man was fawning over them, catering to their every whim. Duncan didn't have the time or the inclination to do either. He had a ranch to run.
"I'm Ramon Vasquez, and this is Billy Hunt; welcome to the Double D," Ramon greeted her, tipping his black Stetson, his white teeth flashing in his olive-colored face.
"Good morning, Ramon, Billy. Raven La Blanc," she returned, extending her small hand, a smile curving her sensual lips.
It took Ramon's elbow in Billy's side to get him to stop staring with openmouthed fascination and remember to speak. "G-good morning, Ms. La Blanc. Welcome."
"Thank you," Raven said, gently disengaging her hand when Billy continued to hold it. "Could one of you please direct me to Duncan McBride?"
Ramon and Billy turned to Duncan, their twin expressions openly envious. The woman stared at him as well. With her face of a man's most erotic and forbidden fantasy, Duncan found he wasn't immune to her obvious allure any more than his two ranch hands. However, he controlled his body, not the other way around.
He easily dismissed the stirring of his lower body. He wasn't dead, just selective. And it was just his bad luck for his body to remember he hadn't been with a woman in two years.
"I'm Duncan McBride."
The smile that slowly spread over her golden-hued face caused his gut to tighten for an entirely different reason. Her slender hand swept the thick mass of long black hair out of her face. For one traitorous moment Duncan could imagine too well him doing the same thing for her, his mouth following.
She was definitely leaving, he thought as she started toward him. The admiring gaze of his two ranch hands followed.
As Duncan straightened, his eyes narrowed in anger. His men were staring at her butt. Several feet away, she paused, her head tilting to one side, studying him. She surprised him by not running back to her Jeep. His men had certainly taken off. He could almost admire her for standing her ground.
"What can I do for you, miss?" he prompted, wanting to get rid of her as soon as possible so he could get to work. There never seemed to be enough time to complete the endless jobs needed on a ranch the size of his. Today, they were bringing in the calves to start branding. One of his prize mares was taking her own sweet time about foaling, and the Angus cows he'd purchased were due to arrive soon. He didn't have time for a woman.
Raven La Blanc did her best not to stare at the gorgeous man on the porch. He was broad shouldered, with smooth, creamed-coffee-colored skin, a tempting mouth, and piercing onyx eyes beneath a worn black Stetson.
She'd seen handsome men before, dismissed them without a moment's hesitation, but something about the unsmiling man intrigued her. From the way he was staring at her in his defensive stance, he clearly didn't share her interest. He wanted her gone, but she hadn't driven over a thousand miles to turn around and go back to Santa Fe.
Being a woman with a mixed heritage of Native American and French, Raven was used to challenges. Her smile widened as she closed the distance between them, stopping at the foot of the steps to stare at up at his unwelcoming face. "Good morning, Mr. McBride. I'm Raven La Blanc, the archeologist Ruth Grayson spoke to you about. I'm here to authenticate the ca —"
"What?" Unfolding his arms, he quickly descended the steps. Raven had to back up to keep him from plowing into her. "You can't be the one I'm expecting."
Raven had heard it before. People tended to look at her face and quickly decide there was nothing but air in her head. She'd fought the battle repeatedly in her collegiate days and throughout her academic career. She'd fight again if needed. This was too important.
She needed an edge to put her on the fast track to tenure at St. John's College. The goal of obtaining one had brought her to the Double D.
"I assure you, Mr. McBride, I am. I am very interested in —"
"Mrs. Grayson said the woman she was sending had experience," he said, cutting her off once again.
Patience, Raven reminded herself. This is your chance. "I might be young, since I earned my Ph.D. at twenty-two, but I've been a professor at St. John's with Ruth Grayson for the past year. Before I accepted the position there I was on several digs in America and Europe."
"Doing grunt work no doubt," he hurled. "I wanted someone capable of getting the job done."
Raven's blunt-tipped nails dug into the palms of her hands. Condescending men irritated the hell out of her. "My credentials speak for themselves. I don't plan to stand here and argue with you. According to Mrs. Grayson, you were pleased to learn that someone of my experience was free and willing to come here. You wanted the authentication done quietly and secretly."
Black eyes narrowed on her face. "That was then."
Raven's chin jutted. "Think what you will about me, but you've given your word that I could study and authenticate the find, and that's exactly what I plan to do. If you don't want me staying at your ranch as planned, that is your right. I'll get a room in town and be back at eight in the morning to start. Good-bye."
Spinning on her booted heels, Raven stalked back to her Jeep. With an irritated flick of her wrist, the motor ignited. Shifting the vehicle into gear, she spun around in the wide driveway, lamenting she wasn't on dirt so the tires could spit dust in Duncan's condescending face.
He'd just thrown a monkey wrench into her plans. She'd counted on staying at the ranch to conserve time and money. That was out of the question now, but she had no intention of leaving Elks Ridge. If the drawings were authentic, and they certainly looked that way from the sketch he'd sent to Ruth, it was important that they be preserved and studied.
The fly in the ointment was that she needed the owner's permission to study them. The government jurisdiction didn't extend to private property unless there were human remains.
Raven's hands tightened on the steering wheel. She refused to think he might be a big enough jerk not to show her the cave. Ruth had spoken highly of him. Just goes to show that a man could fool even the most intelligent woman. That was one lesson Raven had learned the hard way and didn't need a refresher course.
The Jeep had barely straightened before Duncan whirled to stalk back up the steps and into the house. He didn't stop until he was in his office, the phone gripped in his calloused hand, dialing the home of Ruth Grayson. He had always trusted Mrs. Grayson's judgment, but not this time.
He'd accidentally discovered the drawings a couple of months ago and wanted them authenticated, but not at the expense of disrupting the ranch's routine. Last year vandals had destroyed another find in the area. His mother had called shortly after he'd returned to the ranch the evening he'd found the drawings and he'd mentioned it to her.
She called the next day and recommended Mrs. Grayson, a longtime friend of the family and the mother-in-law of his sister, Faith. Mrs. Grayson was a woman he respected and admired, so he called her. She in turn recommended a "renowned archeologist" who was on the faculty at St. John's with her. At the time, he'd been busy with calving and hadn't paid much attention to a name.
"Mrs. Grayson, this is Duncan McBride."
"Duncan, what a coincidence! I planned to call this morning and thank you for allowing Raven to authenticate the cave drawings you discovered. She has literally been counting the days for the semester to end so she could drive up to your place. So much so that she turned down a position to teach this summer and is doing this at her own expense." Light laughter floated though the phone.
"I don't have to tell you that the salary of a teacher at a small college isn't much. Offering her a room at your ranch was a godsend. Then, too, I won't have to worry about Raven being alone and unprotected, since she is with you."
Duncan plopped into his chair behind his desk. Trapped. He couldn't see how to ask for a replacement after Mrs. Grayson had painted him in such a good light. What reason could he give? Raven made him hot and horny?
Groaning, Duncan swiped his hand across his face.
"Duncan, are you all right?"
No, but he'd get there. "Yes, ma'am."
"Forgive me for running on and not letting you speak," Ruth apologized. "I'm almost as excited as Raven. It's important that the history of The People be preserved, but you know that or you wouldn't have contacted me."
"There I go again not letting you tell me why you called."
Stuck, Duncan hesitated.
"Everything is all right, isn't it?"
"Yes, ma'am. I just wanted to let you know that Raven arrived this morning."
"Wonderful. She promised to call, but I guess she's just excited. She told me her Jeep would make the trip, but I was still worried," Ruth said. "Can you please ask her to come to the phone?"
"She's busy," Duncan said, wincing at another lie. He normally prided himself on his honesty.
"Of course. Just ask her to call me later when she gets a chance."
"I will." As soon as he found her. "Good-bye, Mrs. Grayson."
Hanging up the phone, Duncan headed for the kitchen and grabbed the keys to his truck. Slamming the truck's door, he spun off. Just as he'd suspected, Raven hadn't been on the ranch five minutes and she'd managed to disrupt his routine. Instead of bringing in calves for branding, he was wasting precious time going after a woman he didn't want on the Double D in the first place to talk her into coming back.
Trouble with a capital T.
Raven needed to clearly map out her plans, but first she needed to get something to eat. She thought better on a full stomach. There wasn't much in the small town of Elks Ridge to choose from, so she pulled into the first restaurant she saw.
Grabbing her shoulder bag, she got out of the Jeep. The bell over the door of Duke's Place jingled as she entered. The sign on the podium read: Please wait to be seated.
"Be with you in a minute," called a dark-haired woman in a pink waitress uniform. In her hands were two plates with tall pancake stacks.
"Thank you," Raven said, sliding the strap of the satchel bag back over her shoulder. She didn't like changing bags, so she had one that was large enough to carry everything from a notebook to bottles of water.
Smiling, the woman approached. "Sorry about the wait. Nell is out sick today." She grabbed a menu encased in plastic. "One?"
"Yes," Raven replied, and followed the woman to a booth near the back of the restaurant that had no more than twelve tables. Sliding in, Raven heard the bell ring again.
"Oh my," the woman sighed, thrusting the menu at Raven. She barely missed poking her in the eye. "I'll be back."
Sweeping her hand over her hair, the waitress took off at a fast pace. Raven shook her head. Knowing there must be a man involved, Raven opened the menu. Men weren't high on her list; gaining tenure at St. John's College was.
And her one big chance to do that was tied into authenticating the cave drawings on McBride's ranch. If the pictographs were as old as she believed and she was the one to authenticate them, it would up her value and prestige at the college.
At the end of three years, her department head would inform Raven whether she was on-track or he thought she should start looking for another job. The position she presently held was due to a teacher being fired. Raven had no intention of letting that happen to her. She had moved for the last time. When the day came for that meeting, she wanted no doubt that she would remain.
The interim president had let it be known in more than one faculty meeting that he wanted a staff that brought recognition to the school. If Raven succeeded in her quest, she'd be secure at last and have a place where she was wanted, a position that couldn't be taken away from her.
Most of her life she'd yearned to achieve permanence and failed. Finally, it was within her grasp, and that was more important than any man. An annoying voice whispered that if that man was Duncan she might change her mind.
"Not bloody likely," she muttered, her hands tightening on the elongated menu.
"Mind if I sit down?"
The low, rumbling voice washed over her like a hot summer breeze. Her head snapped up, well aware that she'd see Duncan. To her annoyance, he was even more handsome than the first time she'd seen him. The unsmiling face added to the appeal rather than detracted. It was a direct challenge to a woman to put a huge grin on his handsome face.
Standing next to him, the waitress clutched the menu to her chest, a mixture of pique and fascination on her thin face as her gaze bounced from Duncan to Raven. Another woman at a table across from them wore the same rapt expression.
They can have him.
"We have nothing to talk about until in the morning." Raven lifted the menu higher to blot Duncan out. To her increased annoyance, she heard him slide into the booth across from her. He probably wanted to tell her not to bother coming the next day. His expression certainly didn't bode well for her.
"I talked with Mrs. Grayson. She was worried about you."
The menu came down. A huge mistake. Duncan stared across the table at her with the most intense eyes she'd ever seen. It was almost as if he were trying to see her thoughts. She felt a faint stirring of response in her body and ignored it.
Men were off her list, had been for years, and especially this one. She had a hunch that getting over a man like Duncan McBride would be next to impossible, and she had already traveled that road once in her life. It wasn't something she wanted to experience again.
"I apologize for this morning. You caught me off-guard," he confessed.
"That makes two of us," Raven replied.
His Stetson dipped slightly. "I respect Mrs. Grayson. She's family. I'd hate to disappoint her, or make her feel that I can't keep my word. As agreed, we can tell people you're here to do research for a book."
"Then you still plan to let me study the cave?" she asked, watching him closely.
"I do. No one else knows of its existence." His expression hardened. "As you said, I want to keep it that way. I don't want a lot of people tramping over my ranch, disrupting my routine, especially during one of the busiest times of the year."
She wanted to ask about staying at the ranch, but considering her body's reaction to him, she wasn't sure that was a good idea. However, she probably didn't have enough money to stay at a hotel while she was there.
His black eyes narrowed at her continued silence. "You've changed your mind?"
She fought to keep from squirming under his penetrating stare. "Not exactly."
"You —," he began just as his cell phone beeped. "Excuse me." He jerked the phone from his belt loop. "McBride." He listened, then muttered under his breath, "Saddle Black Jack. I'm on my way." He closed the phone and stood. "The offer is open if you want. Your choice. I have work to do."
Without another word, he tipped his hat and hurried toward the door, his long-legged stride quickly carrying him out of the restaurant. For a big man, he moved with elegant grace. Raven leaned back against the booth, noticing she wasn't the only one watching Duncan. And he hadn't paid attention to any of them.
Excerpted from One Night With You by Francis Ray. Copyright © 2009 Francis Ray. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
How can you tell when the time is right? I know,I know. Some people say you can look at a person and know they are the one. But is it worth fighting or should you let yourself go for it. Now what if they were working on your land and lived in your house? How would that make you feel? This book is a great read for the Grayson fans, so i say get it. If you are not a Grayson fan; i say become one and get all the books because you wont be disappointed. Love in the Caves and heated scepticisim.
Thanks to a mutual friend Ruth Grayson, Raven LaBlanc arrives at Duncan McBride's Montana ranch with an opportunity to look at the Native American cave drawings found on his spread. Obsessive with achieving her goal of tenure in Santa Fe, Raven makes it clear she is in Big Sky Country to research the cave dwellings and no more.--------- However Duncan makes it even more clear that he will allow her to conduct her research, but needs the details like the location kept secret because he does not want a flood of academia and tourists; she is here as a favor to Ruth. Raven and Duncan are stunned by their immediate attraction; neither welcomes it. However, a developer with an attorney at the front has ideas for the land that ignore Duncan's desire to keep his ranch as a ranch.----------- Although obviously intended for the Grayson extended family fans, readers will enjoy Ruth the matchmaker's latest connection as she selects a bride for the oldest McBride brother just like she did his siblings (see One Night With You and Dreaming of You). The story line is old fashioned contemporary fun as the archeologist and the rancher fall in love, but the cave paintings stand in their way. Readers will enjoy the Grayson's Friends tale as Ruth (and Francis Ray) scores a hat trick with the McBride siblings.------- Harriet Klausner
Mrs. Ray crafts another WONDERFUL addition to the Grayson Friends series...I enjoy the main and secondary cast of characters...Rooster and his antics keep me LOL, throughout...and the SPARKS are definitely flying between Duncan and Raven...Raven is a kind, caring, loving, independent and courageous woman...at times I MUST admit I find DUNCAN and his STUBBORNNESS to be quite ANNOYING...but in the end I'm glad they find their way to a HEA...and as usual it's always nice to catch up with the rest of the Grayson clan and their ever-growing circle of family and friends.
I always love Francis Rays books..She is definetly my favorite author and she really shows love in a respectful and sexy manner...Must read!
I read it and it was wonderful. Raven is feisty and intelligent and beautiful inside and out. Duncan is handsome and compassionate and protective. Okay, he is a little slow on what he needs in the romance department but I like him anyway. Te secondary characters are richly portrayed and add depth to the story. Some of those characters are new others are familiar and you feel they are real. I intensely disliked one of them. However I will not give away the plot . I can hardly wait for another book in this series.