Hope ignites, p.1
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       Hope Ignites, p.1

         Part #2 of Hope series by Jaci Burton
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Hope Ignites


  Hope Ignites

  Jaci Burton

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Praise for Jaci Burton:

  'It's the perfect combination of heat and romance that makes this series a must-read' Heroes and Heartbreakers

  'Plenty of emotion and conflict in a memorable relationship-driven story' USA Today

  'Strong characters, an exhilarating plot, and scorching sex . . . You'll be drawn so fully into her characters' world that you won't want to return to your own' Romantic Times

  'A beautiful romance that is smooth as silk . . . leaves us begging for more' Joyfully Reviewed

  'A strong plot, complex characters, sexy athletes, and nonstop passion make this book a must read' Fresh Fiction

  'Hot, hot, hot! . . . Romance at its best! Highly recommended!' Coffee Table Reviews

  '[She] has a way of writing intense scenes that are both sensual and raw . . . Plenty of romance, sexy men, hot steamy loving, and humor' Smexy Books Romance Reviews

  'A wonderful contemporary erotic romance that I recommend!' The Romance Dish

  'Spy the name Jaci Burton on the spine of a novel, and you're guaranteed not just a sexy, get-the-body-humming read, but also one that melds the sensual with the all-important building of intimacy and relational dynamics between partners' Romance: B(u)y the Book

  'A compulsively readable sexy story' Book Lovers Inc.

  By Jaci Burton

  Hope Series

  Hope Flames

  Hope Ignites

  Hope Smoulders (e-novella)

  Hope Burns

  Play-by-Play Series

  The Perfect Play

  Changing the Game

  Taking a Shot

  Playing to Win

  Thrown by a Curve

  One Sweet Ride

  Holiday Games (e-novella)

  Melting the Ice

  Straddling the Line

  Hope Ignites

  She is one distraction he simply can't resist...

  When a movie crew asks to film on his cattle ranch, Logan McCormack doesn't expect Desiree Jenkins, the young star with the bad-girl rep, to be so open, so down-to-earth . . . or so intimately interested in him.

  Des is desperate for an escape from paparazzi and gossip columns, and she's found it at Logan's ranch. But more than that, she's hoping that this real-life cowboy will be the one to accept her for who she is, and give her the kind of happily ever after that can't be found in the movies.

  To the toughest, and also the most honorable, the most gentle, and the most loving man I've ever known--my husband, Charlie. Thank you for being the calm in the rough waters of my life, my shoulder to cry on, and for giving me the love I've always needed.

  Chapter 1

  LOGAN MCCORMACK HAD to have been drunk or out of his goddamned mind to have agreed to let a movie crew film on his ranch.

  Why he thought it had been a good idea was beyond him. But Martha, the ranch cook and house manager, was starstruck, and when she'd heard who the lead actress was--some name Logan had already forgotten, alongside some freakin' hunk of the month as her costar--Martha had gone all melty and told him it would be good for business.

  Plus, the production company had offered a buttload of cash, and he wasn't the type to turn down extra money. Since they'd be filming on the east side of the property, which was mostly hills and grassland and nowhere near their cattle operation, they'd be out of the way. So at the time it had seemed like a good idea.

  They'd come in a week ago, a convoy of semis and trailers and black SUVs. Logan had been working the fence property and had seen them driving in. Hell, it was a Hollywood parade. It looked like the whole damn town had showed up at the gates to the ranch to witness it. He'd gotten all the gossip about it when Martha had served up dinner. She'd talked it up nonstop, her voice more animated than he'd heard in a long time.

  "I'm pretty sure Desiree Jenkins and Colt Stevens are on our property as we speak," Martha had said as she'd laid the salad on the table. "Are you going to go check it out, Logan?"

  "Why would I want to do that?" he'd asked, way more interested in eating than he was in the goings-on at the east property.

  "You rented them the land. It's your responsibility to make sure they're settled in."

  He'd said no, and Martha had argued. And when Martha argued about something, it was best you just do whatever she wanted because she wasn't the type to let a topic die.

  "I'll go see about it in a few days." That few days had turned into a week, and Martha had been nearly apoplectic that he hadn't stopped by the movie set yet. Which could affect what she served for dinner, since Martha in a snit meant she could take to her room with some kind of mystery ailment, and he'd end up eating baloney sandwiches for dinner instead of a hot meal.

  So after he was done with his work the next day, he climbed into his truck and drove over to the site. Crews had already finished building the set for . . . whatever movie it was they were filming. Some post-apocalyptic-futuristic something or other, supposedly set on another planet. The sparse vegetation, scrub, and hills of the east property would work just fine for it, he supposed. He'd signed the contracts and deposited the check, but hadn't bothered to pay attention to the name of the film. He wasn't much of a moviegoer. To go to the movies meant heading into town, and he'd rather sit on the porch and have a beer at night. He liked the quiet. If he wanted to see a movie, he had a television and one of those subscription accounts. That was good enough for him.

  Martha was right. It already looked like they'd built a small town on some of the flatlands out there. He parked his truck on the rise, popped open the beer he'd shoved in his cooler, and leaned against the hood of his truck to watch the hustle of people moving back and forth. Trailers had been set up as living areas, though these trailers looked way more expensive than anything Logan could ever afford. They were more like big houses on wheels. Probably what the stars lived in while they shot the movie.

  An SUV came up the road, dust flying behind it. It stopped in front of Logan's truck and a couple of sunglass-wearing burly guys who looked like a more casual form of the Secret Service dressed in black camos and black T-shirts rolled out of the vehicle and stalked toward him.

  This should be good.

  "This is a closed set," one of them said, trying his best to look menacing.

  Unruffled, Logan stared at them. "Okay."

  "You aren't supposed to be on this property."

  "I own this property."

  One of the guys in black frowned at him. "You're the property owner?"

  "Yeah."

  "Got ID?"

  Logan let out a short laugh. "I'm not about to show you my ID. Like I said, I own this land and you're renting it."

  "We'll still need to see ID," burly guy number two said.

  Logan folded his arms. "Yeah, and you can kiss my ass."

  His attention turned to a slight woman--a girl, really--running up the hill. Technically she appeared to be jogging because she wore tight pants that went just past her knees and a sleeveless top that hugged her slender body. She had raven black hair pulled back in a braid, and the guys suddenly stepped in front of Logan as if he were about to pull a gun on the woman.

  When she reached them, she stopped, drawing in several deep breaths.

  "What's up, Carl?"

  "Saw this guy parked up here and came to check it out. He says he's the property owner, but he won't show ID to prove it."

  She finally straightened and stretched her back. "Is that right? And are you the property owner?"

  "So it says on the ranch deed."

  She looked him over. "I don't see any cameras on him. Do you?"

  The one named Carl shook his head. "No. He was just leaning against his truck drinking a beer."

  "Then he's probably the property owner." She walked over and held out her hand. "I'm Des."

  Logan shook her hand. "Logan McCormack."

  "Nice ranch, Logan."

  "Thanks."

  "Have you been down to watch filming yet?"

  "Why would I want to do that?"

  She quirked a smile. "I don't know. I thought maybe you'd find it interesting."

  "Are you working on the film crew, Des?"

  Her lips curled into a smirk. "You could say that."

  One of the big guys stepped forward. "Miss Jenkins?"

  "It's okay, Carl. You and Duke can take off."

  Carl shook his head. "Not a good idea."

  She shot him a look. "And I said I'm fine."

  With another serious death glare, the guy named Carl and the other one got into the SUV and drove back down the hill.

  "Are those your bodyguards?"

  She laughed. "Sometimes."

  "So you must be the star of the show."

  She shrugged. "Well, I'm the lead. I don't know about star."

  "What are you doing out here?"

  "Taking a break. And getting some exercise."

  "Not really a gym on-site for you to work out in, is there?"

  "No. This is better. A lot of hills to run in. You must love it here."

  "It's home."

  She leaned against the front of his truck, grabbed the beer from his hand, took a long swallow, and handed it back to him. "Thanks."

  "I don't recall offering it to you."

  She turned to her side. "You're not very friendly, are you, Logan?"

  "I try not to be."

  "Yeah? And why's that?"

  "It keeps people away."

  "Oh, so you don't like people."

  "I didn't say that."

  She laughed, and he liked the gravelly, raspy, sexy sound of it. Which he shouldn't.

  "Do you have any more of those?" she asked, eyeing his beer.

  "I might."

  When she cocked a brow, he added, "Front passenger floor of the truck. There's a cooler. Help yourself."

  She went around and grabbed a beer, bringing him one, too. "Yours looked about empty." She popped the top and took a long swallow.

  "You sure you're old enough to be drinking those?"

  There went that laugh again. "I'm sure." She gave him a sideways glance. "Are you old enough to be drinking them?"

  "Funny." He popped the top on his and took several long drinks, wondering why the hell he was standing here next to--what was her name again?

  Oh, right. Desiree. Des.

  She leaned next to him and looked out over the valley.

  "Just how big is this ranch, Logan?"

  "It's pretty big."

  She shot him a look. "Pretend I'm smart and just tell me."

  "It's a little over forty-five thousand acres."

  "Holy shit. That's a lot. No wonder you could afford to lend us a small piece of the pie."

  "I didn't lend it. I'm renting it to your moviemaking company. Which means I make money. Working a ranch is a costly business."

  "I'm sure it is. Though honestly, I wouldn't know."

  He took another swallow of beer as he studied her. "City girl?"

  "A little of that, and a little country. I've been around. Never lived on a ranch, though."

  "Where are you from?"

  "Just about everywhere."

  "Military?"

  She tilted her head and looked up at him. "What makes you think that?"

  "I don't think anything at all. Just guessing."

  "Good guess. Yeah, my dad's Army. We moved around a lot."

  "So you've seen the world."

  She didn't smile this time. "You could say that."

  "You probably still see a lot of it, being an actress."

  "Sometimes a lot more than I want to." She took a couple drinks of her beer and kept her gaze focused below, where the movie was being filmed. And she stopped talking.

  Logan didn't know what to make of Desiree Jenkins. She couldn't be more than in her mid-twenties at best, which put her firmly in the close-to-ten-years-younger-than-him category. Scrubbed of makeup, she looked like a teenager, but there was a worldliness in her eyes that made her seem a lot older.

  She sure was pretty with her long dark hair and wide eyes that he couldn't quite get a handle on, color-wise. Every time she shifted position, so did the color. At first they seemed blue, but now they were more like a brownish green, with little flecks of gold in them.

  "You're staring."

  He frowned. "Huh?"

  "You're staring at me. Do I have dirt on my face?"

  "No. I'm looking at your eyes. The color of them."

  "Oh, yeah. They're like a chameleon. They shift with my surroundings. Pretty cool, huh?"

  "Huh. I guess so."

  She leaned back against his car again. "Not much impresses you, does it, Logan?"

  "Nope." But her eyes did.

  "So tell me about your ranch. What do you do here?"

  "Work."

  "Wow, so descriptive. I'll bet you're a great conversationalist at parties."

  "Don't get to a lot of parties around here."

  "Maybe you don't get invited to a lot of parties."

  "Can't say that breaks my heart any."

  She rolled her eyes. "Anyway, about the ranch?"

  "We work cattle. We also have horses, but they're wild mustangs so we don't mess with them except to make sure they're fed and have water."

  "Okay. Do you raise the cattle for beef?"

  "Yeah."

  "You didn't strike me as a dairy farmer."

  "Really. And what does a typical dairy farmer look like to you?"

  She shrugged. "No idea. Not like you. You're more the rugged, work-the-land type, not milk-the-cows type."

  He wasn't sure whether to take that as a compliment, or whether she'd just insulted dairy farmers. Either way, it was obvious she had no idea what she was talking about. Then again, he didn't know shit about moviemaking. But he wasn't spouting off about it, either.

  "Well, I gotta go."

  She pushed off the truck and handed him the empty beer can. "Thanks for the drink. You should come down and watch filming."

  "No, thanks. I'm plenty busy with my own work."

  "You might find what we do utterly fascinating."

  "I'm interested enough in what I do."

  She cocked her head to the side, revealing a soft column of her neck. He didn't want to be interested in her neck, but he was.

  "Afraid you might linger a little too long? Maybe get bitten by the acting bug?"

  He laughed at that. "Uh, no."

  "Then come on down and watch us work."

  Martha would have a fit if he'd gotten an invite and he didn't say yes. "My house manager is a big fan."

  "Bring her down to watch a day of filming. We're doing a big dramatic scene tomorrow. She'd probably love that."

  "She probably would."

  "I'll have to warn you, there's a lot of standing around and waiting in between takes, but I promise you the end result is always worthwhile. What's your housekeeper's name?"

  "Martha."

  "You and Martha come on out to the set. I promise it'll be fun."

  There were a million reasons this wasn't a good idea. But then there was Martha, and he hated the thought of cold sandwiches. "What time?"

  "I'm usually in makeup by six a.m., so we should start shooting by eight."

  "You get up that early? I thought all you movie stars slept 'til noon."

  "Now who's funny? I'll let the crew know you're coming." She lifted her arms over her head, stretched, then kicked off into a run, waving at him. "See you tomorrow, Logan."

  Why the hell he'd agreed to that, he had no idea. He had more than enough to do, and losing a day would put him behind.

  But at least Martha would be happy.

  DES MADE IT back to the film site and ran straight into Theo, her director.

  "Des. Where'd you run off to?"

  "I took a run to get some exercise. Did you need me for something?"

  "Yes. We need to do a reshoot of one of this morning's scenes. I told you not to disappear."

  "Sorry. I'll head over to makeup and hair."

  "Too late now. I've already dismissed the crew for the day, and the lighting isn't right. We'll pick it up later." He walked with her as she headed to her trailer. "I wanted to go over tomorrow's scenes with you, though. How about dinner tonight? My trailer?" He put his arm around her shoulder.

  Her skin crawled and she immediately wanted to shrug him off. Theo was a notorious, disgusting, very married womanizer, who liked to hit on his leading ladies, especially on location. But he was also a brilliant director, so one had to take the bad with the good. "I need a shower after my run, Theo. And I've already made plans to run lines with Colt over dinner. You're welcome to join us, though. We could knock out discussion about tomorrow's scenes then."

  Theo paused, then shook his head. "No, that's all right. We'll do it in the morning during prep. I'll see you then."

  "Okay. See you tomorrow, Theo."

  She stepped up her pace before Theo came up with any more pervy ideas.

  "Cornered you, did he?"

  She smiled at Colt Stevens, her costar. "He did. Why weren't you loitering nearby to save me?"

  "Sorry, babe. I was on the phone. I saw Theo hook on to you as soon as you got back on set. Did you have a good run?"

  "I did. Did you have a good phone call?"

  His eyes gleamed. "I did."

  Des looked around to make sure they were alone. "And how is Tony?"

  "Pining away for me, as always. I wish he could be here."

  "I wish he could, too." Des wrapped her arm around Colt's waist. "Why don't you just come out of the closet and be done with it already?"

  They'd reached her trailer. Colt opened the door for her, and Des stepped in. Colt followed and shut the door. "Oh, right. Smokin'-hot movie star who gets all the sexy, romantic roles comes out as gay."

  Des shrugged. "So? It's the twenty-first century, Colt. And you kiss better than any leading man I've ever worked with. I doubt any of your future leading ladies would be deterred."

 
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