Jewelry heiress Paige McCord would do anything to save her family's empire, even sneak into enemy territory to search for a long-lost diamond. She never expected sparks to fly with the no-nonsense cowboy who caught her in the act—or to discover that this rugged rancher was none other than Travis Foley, son of her family's archenemy!
Travis's hatred for the McCords was equaled only by the love he had for their land. But when a hurricane threw him together with Paige, his heart tumbled with more than gale-force winds. If he could do the unthinkable and join forces with her, this wild hunt for buried treasure might give them both a chance at true love….
About the Author
Teresa Hill tells people if they want to be writers, to find a spouse who's patient, understanding and interested in being a patron of the arts. Lucky for her, she found a man just like that, who's been with her through all the ups and downs of being a writer. Along with their son and daughter, they live in Travelers Rest, SC, in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, with two beautiful, spoiled dogs and two gigantic, lazy cats.
Read an Excerpt
Paige McCord lay stretched out on a hilltop about a mile away from Travis Foley's Texas ranch, peering through a pair of high-powered binoculars for the third day in a row of her little surveillance mission.
It was early November, the temperatures warm for that time of year but not oppressively so for this sort of outdoor activity, the fall foliage of the Texas Hill Country at its stunning peak.
But Paige hadn't come to check out the sights or enjoy the weather.
Although there was one particular sight she had to admit she was enjoying.
And there he was.
Paige checked her watch. Nearly three-thirty.
"A tad late today, aren't you?" she asked him, adjusting the binoculars to pick up his image as he headed up the dirt trail toward the old mine entrance.
Paige was twenty-six, born and raised in Texas. She was not the kind of girl to have her head turned easily by some cowboy just because he spent his whole life working outdoors, obviously doing very physical work. Which she admitted tended to make a man lean as could be, and yet beautifully muscled, his skin pleasantly browned by the sun.
There was a certain walk cowboys did, an easy, loose-hipped swagger, in jeans that tended to be worn thin over the years, faithfully following every dip and swell of a man's body.
The look was completed by an expensive pair of boots, scuffed up by hard work over the years and a cowboy hat—not one that was for show—and a little late-afternoon stubble on his face, because he would have gotten up before the sun, and the days were long.
This man had all that, but she'd seen all that before.
And she had things to do, she reminded herself, things that were much more important than admiring a good-looking man.
Everything in her life seemed to be changing, changing too much and too quickly, and it had thrown her harder than any horse that had ever managed to unseat her.
Paige's two older brothers had just gotten engaged, and Paige hoped they knew what they were doing, but wasn't so sure. It had all happened so fast.
Tate, her second-oldest brother, had come home from two tours of duty as an Army surgeon in the Middle East and never been the same. She'd been worried about him for a while. Then he'd dumped his fianc e, Katie, whom Paige really liked, and in no time flat, was engaged to the McCord family's longtime housekeeper's daughter, Tanya. Paige liked Tanya. She did. She'd just always thought Tate would end up with Katie, that Katie would take good care of Tate and finally be a McCord.
Then Blake, her oldest brother, had suddenly decided he wanted Katie for himself, and Katie had just agreed to marry him!
Paige still didn't know exactly how all that had happened, she just hoped neither of her brothers had been hurt, and she didn't want them fighting with each other. The family had enough to worry about without her two older brothers feuding.
Her cousin Gabby, who was practically Italian royalty and the spokesperson for the McCord family's jewelry empire, hadn't settled for just an engagement. Gabby had run off with her bodyguard and married him!
It was enough to make Paige's head spin.
Then, there was her twin sister, Penny, who'd been acting weird all summer, always sneaking off somewhere, keeping all sorts of secrets, and normally Paige and Penny never kept secrets from each other. The last time Paige had talked to Gabby, Gabby had asked all sorts of questions about Penny that Paige couldn't answer. Gabby was sure something was wrong.
Not that any of the McCords were acting like themselves lately and not just because of the flurry of romances.
It was their mother.
And their youngest brother.
And their father, dead for five years now.
None of them were what they seemed to be. Her family wasn't at all what Paige had always believed it to be.
She was still so mad—and so shocked—she hardly let herself think about it, but her mother, Eleanor, had confessed this summer to the entire family that she'd long ago been involved with Rex Foley, the patriarch of a family that had been feuding with the McCords since Civil War days.
Not only been involved with him before she'd ever married Paige's father, but had a child with Rex years later! Paige's adorable youngest brother, Charlie, born after Paige's parents had separated briefly when Paige was a little girl, was actually Rex Foley's son!
Paige remembered, barely, a time when their family's Dallas mansion had been filled with tension. She and her sister, Penny, had hidden together in corners all over the house, trying to avoid the angry voices and all the tears their mother cried, their father gone, supposedly just on a long business trip.
In fact, it was the last time Penny remembered the whole family being so tense until this awful summer.
Back then, her father had eventually come home. Her mother finally stopped crying all the time, and then Charlie was born. Adorable, silly, happy Charlie.
Paige and her sister had been five when he was born, and they thought he was the best present they'd ever received, playing with him as if he was one of their dolls come to life.
She'd thought everything was fine then, and it had seemed that way for so long.
But it had all been a lie.
It was still hard to even comprehend how many lies had been told or what would happen to them all from this point on. It was hard for her to even think about it for too long. She had tried to keep busy and then, thankfully, had found a job to do for her family.
A very important job.
She was happy to have a reason to be out of Dallas right now and away from all the tension at the McCord mansion.
Happy to be lying in the grass on a gorgeous November day, staring through her binoculars at a man who was every bit as gorgeous and distracting.
He climbed off of his chestnut-colored horse, let the horse take a nice, long drink from the stream nearby, then—looked like it was going to be Paige's lucky day—started unbuttoning his chambray shirt.
He pulled a bandana from his back pocket, then he bent over and dipped the bandana in the stream and turned around to face her.
Paige jerked the binoculars away from her face, as if he had a hope of seeing her from this far away. She'd just been so surprised, looking him in the face, even at a distance.
Although to be honest, she couldn't see his face that well from this distance. Still, it looked like he'd winced at something.
She got the binoculars again, found him and saw him cooling off in the stream, washing off some of the grit from working outside all day.
Looked like he'd landed in the dirt at some point.
Not that she objected.
He lifted his face to the sun and let the water from the bandana run down his face, his neck, run in a line down what looked like a perfectly sculpted set of muscles in his chest and rock-hard abs.
That water had to be cold, she thought. The days tended to be warm right now in the hill country, but the nights were cooler, dipping into the forties the past few nights.
She knew because she was camping out in the national park that lucky for her was just a few miles west of Travis Foley's ranch. Because there certainly wasn't much of a town anywhere nearby, and a stranger staying in a little town like Llano would be noticed.
And Paige couldn't afford to have anyone—particularly Travis Foley—know she was here.
She went back to watching her cowboy, who'd ridden by this particular spot for the last two days in a row, working hard. She thought he was probably doing grunt work, rounding up strays, checking fences and watching for trespassers, while the boss, Travis Foley, likely sat in his air-conditioned mansion somewhere on the edge of the property, counting all his family's oil money or checking on investments or something cushy like that.
She couldn't imagine a Foley working his ranch day-to-day.
He had men like the one she was watching for that.
He finished cleaning up, put the bandana down and buttoned up his shirt. Then he leaned back against that big rock and lifted his face to the sky, like a man admiring the fall sunshine or the still-warm afternoon breeze.
Or maybe like a man worn-out, whether by his work or his own problems, she didn't know.
Or a man who just really needed to get away from it all, to relax here in the peace and quiet of this empty corner of Travis Foley's ranch.
If Paige had time, she might like to enjoy some peace and quiet with him, maybe even a little time in the dark.
It wasn't the kind of thing Paige did, pick up a stranger for the night.
But the summer had been just awful, and sometimes she got to the point where all the problems, all the changes kept racing around in her head, one after another, piling up in there, the pressure building until she just wanted to scream.
This man, this cowboy…surely he could make her forget.
Even if it was just for a night. Not that she had time for that, either. But a woman could dream, couldn't she?
In the meantime, she had work to do.
Once he left, she'd have a full twenty-four hours before he was back again, if the pattern of the last three days held. She had all her equipment with her in her backpack and was a little uneasy about going into the old silver mine alone—anyone who knew anything about old mines would be—but she'd taken every precaution she could.
And she was determined to do this. Her family needed her. She'd promised her brother, Blake, who was CEO of the family's jewelry empire.
Paige stopped thinking about her cowboy. If she did her job right, she'd never even meet him. What a shame.
She put down her binoculars and pulled out her satellite phone. Regular cell coverage was lousy out here in the middle of nowhere.
Blake answered on the second ring, sounding anxious. "Well?" he asked.
"I'm set. I'm going in," she told him. "You know what to do?"
"If I don't hear from you by dawn, I call your friend in the mining department at the university and we come find you," he promised. "Paige, are you sure this is safe? I couldn't stand it if anything happened to you."
"The mine's been there for a hundred years. Travis Foley let a group of archaeologists in there last year to document the petroglyphs on the walls. I got a copy of their report. The place is stable as can be—"
"Still, isn't it dangerous to go in there alone?"
They'd been through this. They'd agreed. No one else could know. Too much was at stake.
Blake merely claimed things were difficult right now financially for the jewelry stores, but that he was handling it. Which is likely what Paige's proud, stubborn, determined oldest brother would say if the world was about to come to an end. He'd be sure he could save it all on his own.
And she was just as determined to help him.
She didn't think the world was coming to an end, just that the problem with the stores was a serious one, and one problem to do with her family that she could actually solve. And she was determined to do just that. Solve it.
"Blake, I'm working on my PhD in geology. I know what I'm doing. Besides, I was in that mine myself weeks ago, just to make sure the reports were right and to make sure I had the equipment I'd need. Trust me. Everything will be fine."
Actually, if her cowboy was the one who caught her, Paige didn't think she'd mind all that much. She was confident she could talk her way out of trouble, if she had to, and she'd be long gone before the news ever got back to Travis Foley that anyone was here.
"I heard the Foleys are having some big family meeting this weekend, which means Travis Foley should be on a plane headed for Dallas by now. So you shouldn't have to worry about him."
"Good." He was one person Paige really didn't want to run into.
"But what about the weather?" Blake asked. "There are some nasty storms predicted from that hurricane in the gulf—"
"Storms that aren't supposed to arrive until tomorrow in the area north of here. I checked the weather radar myself this morning. I'm going in now, and I'll be out before the storm hits tomorrow," Paige told her brother. "You worry too much. I'll be in touch by morning."
Travis Foley got back on his horse and headed up the rise to the rock overhang that hid the entrance to the old mine at the far corner of the 6,500-acre ranch he called home.
It had been his grandfather's before him, his absolute favorite place to be as a child. Out here where he could breathe, where in the quiet he could think and find some peace and do an honest day's work.
The rest of his family, the Foleys, just didn't understand him, and honestly, Travis didn't understand them.
They were oilmen and politicians, big shots out in what they thought was the real world.
This world, to Travis, was real.
It was all the life he wanted, right here.
He wished they'd all just leave him the hell alone and let him enjoy it.
But ever since that old Spanish shipwreck had been found in the Gulf of Mexico, people had gone nuts looking for the Santa Magdalena Diamond, a rock that was supposed to rival the Hope Diamond in size and value.
One of Travis's ancestors, Elwin Foley, had been on that ship when it sank in the 1800s, supposedly along with the diamond and a treasure chest full of old Spanish silver coins.
No one was sure exactly what happened after that. Either the diamond went down with the ship or one of the survivors got away with it. The stone had never been found.
Travis's ancestor survived, bought the ranch on which Travis now lived and started mining for silver. Elwin Foley certainly hadn't lived the life of a man who possessed a fortune in diamonds, working hard on the ranch until he lost his life in a mining accident before ever finding any silver.
His son, Gavin, had even worse luck—raised by his mother alone, barely getting by on the ranch and as a man, developing a gambling problem that led to him losing the ranch and the deed to the old silver mines in the late 1890s in a card game to a man named Harry McCord.