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Faced with a mountain of bills, rancher Tyler Garahan takes a night job with a lot of trepidation. But being a male performer at a strip club does come with at least one beautiful compensation-and feisty red-haired bookkeeper Emily Langley seems to understand Tyler even better than he understands himself... Praise for C.H. Admirand: "Poignant...well written and just plain delightful. I found myself so immersed in the story that I couldn't put it down." -Romance Junkies "Superb! A wonderful story from a fresh new voice that I highly recommend!" -Noveltalk
<p>Tyler Garahan crushed the newspaper advertisement in his hand. Staring at the building across the street from where he'd parked his pickup, he dug deep for a confidence he sure as hell didn't feel.</p><p>"I don't have time to waste."</p><p>He needed this job. Hell, he needed any job, but this was the last one he'd circled in Sunday's paper. His last chance or he and his brothers would lose the Circle G. He tried to swallow past the lump forming in his throat but couldn't muster an ounce of spit. Facing down the longhorn bull that tore ass toward him, wanting to skewer him in the part that made him praise the Lord he was a man, was the closest he'd come to being this scared. He gritted his teeth, braced his arm against the door, and pushed it open. "I'm not scared."</p><p><i>You shouldn't lie, Tyler.</i></p><p>His gut clenched.</p><p><i>Trust in yourself, son.</i></p><p>Was it wishful thinking or had he just heard from his grandfather on the other side? Shaking his head, he brushed his damp palms against the front of his jean clad legs and closed the door.</p><p>Stalking across the street, he glanced up at the sign above the building. <i>The Lucky Star. </i>As if called up by a long ago memory, the lyrics to an old Kenny Rogers tune his mom loved played through his mind as he crushed the unease he refused to give in to and reached for the door.</p><p>The scent was the first thing that hit him, right between the eyes. Rain? How could it smell like a warm summer rain?</p><p><i>Focus on the goal. Get the job first</i>.</p><p>But his concentration wandered when he noticed the mirrors on both sides of the entryway. What the hell was that about? He sneered. <i>A guy doesn't want to see himself walking into a bar. He wants to see the bar, check out what's on tap, and maybe if his luck is running high, flirt with his choice of curvaceous sweet things perched on a barstool.</i></p><p>He grinned, savoring the image, because he hadn't had the time lately to get out on a Saturday night in search of a little female companionship. A knot of need started to form in his gut, but he ignored it and strode forward down the hallway lined with mirrors.</p><p>Tyler stopped dead in his tracks and stared. "Damn. What's the owner thinking?"</p><p>His gaze ran the length of the hallway and back-he wasn't seeing things-there were benches in front of the mirrors.</p><p>"Red velvet."</p><p>He didn't have to touch the seats to know what they were covered with. His mother had a favorite lady's chair in her bedroom. A red velvet lady's chair.</p><p>"Hell," he muttered. They needed to hire him, if only to suggest a few major changes to increase business. No self-respecting bar owner would have mirrors or velvet in their place.</p><p>At the end of the hallway, a long, sleek ebony bar gleamed, and damned if every one of the barstools didn't have a red velvet cushion to sit on.</p><p>"Shit," Tyler muttered aloud. "I can't see myself working in a place like this."</p><p>"Well now, handsome," a husky voice purred to the left of him, "I can see you working here just fine."</p><p>He turned and felt his mouth drop open. <i>Beautiful. Stunning. Drop-dead gorgeous</i>. All of the above fit the little lady walking toward him with her hand outstretched. "Name's Jolene Langley," she said. "Welcome to The Lucky Star, cowboy."</p><p>Lord, she was a looker. Belatedly, Tyler removed his Stetson, ran his hand through his still-damp hair, and grasped her hand. "Tyler Garahan."</p><p><i>Satin. </i>Damned if her hand didn't feel like one of his mom's nightgowns. He'd done his fair share of laundry over the years and ought to know.</p><p>Her grip surprised him. It was firm. His gaze drifted from the top of her wavy red head to the tips of her fancy blue boots-a color only a female would wear.</p><p>"Emily!" she called out though her gaze never left his. "See something you like, cowboy?" She returned the favor by letting her gaze slide from the top of his tousled dark brown head to the tips of his worn leather boots. Her gaze lingered on his boots. He glanced down and swore beneath his breath; he'd forgotten to polish them.</p><p>"Em?" she called a second time.</p><p>"I'm coming," a soft voice answered. "Give me a minute."</p><p>He glanced in the direction the voice seemed to come from-somewhere just beyond the bar-and noticed small tables scattered in front of a stage.</p><p>"You have live entertainment in here?" He imagined some whiny soft rock band standing on stage, playing music that would get under his skin and have him reaching for a shot of whiskey instead of his usual longneck bottle.</p><p>Her laugh was as smooth as her skin. "You could say that, cowboy."</p><p>Irritation began to burn in his gut at the way she'd sneered when she called him cowboy. Hell, he was one and proud of it, but that wasn't as important right now as landing the job and saving the ranch. "Name's Tyler, ma'am."</p><p>"What's up, Jolene?"</p><p>The pretty redhead walking toward him had to be a blood relative to the one currently staring at the third button down on his worn denim work shirt. He hoped Jolene didn't look lower and notice the tear he tried to hide by rolling up the sleeves. The woman was getting under his skin-and not in a good way.</p><p>"Trouble, Em?"</p><p>Tyler finally tore his gaze from Emily's face and noticed what Jolene had: the huge splat of chocolate dead center between Emily's breasts. Firm and proud, cupped lovingly by a form-fitting, cropped T-shirt.</p><p>The saliva pooled in his mouth. He swallowed. The urge to devour the chocolate-covered confection caught him off guard. Digging deep for control, he realized he'd been too long without a woman: two months, three weeks, and four days... if he were counting.</p><p>He may be damned for it, but he let his gaze feast on the bounty before him. The two inches of exposed skin was tanned and taut. His gaze dipped to the hem of her denim mini skirt, and he had to swallow again. The woman had legs-curvaceous and toned, not toothpick thin-and Lord Almighty, bright green nail polish on her toes. Emily smiled at Tyler and answered Jolene, "The spoon got caught in the mixer."</p><p>Jolene had a good three inches on Emily and an in your face beauty and sexuality that challenged him on every level, but there was something about the barefooted redhead with chocolate smeared across her cheekbone like a slash of war paint that tugged at his gut. He had to fight against the urge to smile and replied, "Looks like the mixer won."</p><p>Emily lifted her right hand and the mangled spoon she clutched. "That's the second spoon today." Her sigh was long and low.</p><p>Jolene patted Emily's shoulder. "Why don't you just quit while you're ahead?"</p><p>"You know I can't until I beat the stress out of myself and this batter." Emily looked over at Tyler and asked,</p><p>"Are you here to fix the sink?"</p><p>He shook his head. "Although I have been known to wrastle an ornery pipe into submission, I'm actually here about your sister's ad in the paper." For a split second disappointment clouded her pretty face and had him offering, "Maybe I could take a look at it before I leave."</p><p>Her smile blossomed slowly and was surely like a flower opening its petals to catch the rain. Before he could untangle his tongue, she said, "That's right neighborly, but I'll wait for the plumber. Oh... and she's my cousin."</p><p>"Really? You look enough alike to be sisters." Now that she was close enough to touch, he could see the subtle differences: the shape of their eyes-Emily's were long-lashed and almond shaped-and the curve of their lips-Emily's were fuller, and there was something indefinable about the barefooted redhead that went a whole lot deeper, straight to her core, a sweetness he hadn't found in long, long while.</p>