Rancher and single dad Jack Colton must face an assassin
in the thrilling first book of The Coltons of
A beautiful stranger appears at
the Colton ranch during a party, and Jack is none too
pleased. With ties to his ex-wife, Tracy McCain claims
to be on a mission to bond with his son. But this
intriguing widow also has a target on her back. As the
Colton family brings Tracy under its broad wing, a
relentless assassin puts everyone in jeopardy. Jack's
protective instincts go into overdrive…and only fuel his
secret attraction to Tracy. Living closely together
under Jack's roof, the heat between them starts to
sizzle. In fact, the only thing stronger than Jack's
heady desire for Tracy is his will to keep her safe…so
that one day they can become a family.
"Very good start to the new Colton
series. The suspense of the story is good and has
two parts. The final confrontation is intense, and had
me on the edge of my seat as I waited to see how it
would turn out." -- Susan,
"Cornelison weaves so many
different veins of suspense through this story that it
truly stands out as a novel to read (& re-read). She
kept me on my toes with plot twists and turns, all the
while creating a romance that will last. She brings this
world to life in a manner that’s easy to picture. I feel
as if I’ve actually been to the Lucky C. Not only
has Cornelison created a romantic suspense that I
wouldn’t hesitate to others, she’s begun a series that I
can’t wait to get my hands on." --Jonel Boyko,
"I really enjoyed this book. It
had action, suspense, romance, and a adorable little 5
year old. It's the 1st book of the series, The Coltons
of Oklahoma." -- Paula Legate,
"The love they have for a child
brings them together but at the same time she brings
danger with her. This is the first in a new series
and I have to say that I totally loved it and I can’t
wait for the next story. Cornelison is very
creative and did a wonderful job in starting this series
and I can’t wait to see what the next author has in
order for the next character. I totally recommend
this story!!!" -- Monica Cardoza,
"I thought that this book was
rather refreshing. I mean a lot of books that I've been
coming across lately have that instant love and can't
live without you vibe. Then there's the new/Adult books
that really focus on sex. This book had neither and
really didn't need it, I loved that they slowly
progressed with trusting and falling for each other. I
loved that what happened in the bedroom stayed in the
bedroom, leaving this book clean. I loved the suspense
on when the killer would strike. I loved that this book
was mainly the dual point of view. I thought the
characters were interesting. The storyline was fun,
interesting, and suspenseful. I recommend you lovely
readers to check it out." -- Jessica Figeroa,
"I enjoyed the story, the
characters are interesting, the ranch life full of
satisfying hard work. There were some questions left in
my mind, but this being the book one in the new series,
I am sure there will be answers in the future
installments. Fierce and intense start to the series
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side" --
Books & Spoons
"This book is a nice start to this
series. I would say this was a good mix of romance
and suspense to be a romantic suspense story." --
"I enjoy Beth Cornelison books in
any form (she writes in different genre), and this book
is not exception. This is a great book for people
who like romantic suspense that is not dark and graphic
and love that is slow with unwritten sex. Or just for
people like me who once in a while need some calm in
between the dark mainstream thrillers." -- Lisa,
"This is the start of a great new
contemporary cowboy romance/thriller series. Look
for great back story, character introduction and on
going mystery as you read. While one mystery is solved
one is left hanging. Even though Jack is taken there are
plenty of Colton’s available for future books. " -- Jo
(Mixed Book Bag),
"A great read,keeping you
wondering what is going to happen next from the first
page to the last. Keep them coming." -- Charmaine,
exciting and sensual romantic suspense tale is a great
start to a new series featuring the Oklahoma branch of
the Colton family. I am not familiar with the books that
are written by multiple authors about other members of
this extended family, yet had no trouble being drawn
into this particular story. There are several
threads that are left dangling, even though the
excitement and danger that surround the heroine are
dealt with in this tale, so I look forward to watching
more events unfold around this branch of the Coltons."
Night Owl Reviews
"You won’t go wrong getting in at
the start with the enjoyable and suspenseful tale,
COLTON COWBOY PROTECTOR." -- Jane
Romance Reviews Today
"Steady pacing and a solid plot,
complete with a dramatic, passionate ending, are all
hallmarks of one terrific romance." -- Melanie Bates,
RT Book Reviews
In one hundred feet, turn right
onto access road," the stilted voice of the rental car's
With a deep breath for courage,
Tracy McCain signaled the turn. She noted with interest
that the car ahead of her on the isolated stretch of
rural Oklahoma highway also made a right onto the side
road leading to the sprawling ranch of cattleman John
"Big J" Colton.
More interesting were the three
cars that followed her onto the long driveway, including
a television news van complete with a satellite dish on
top. What the heck was going on at the Lucky C ranch
The iron gates, normally requiring someone
at the main house to buzz you in, stood agape, allowing
the parade of cars to continue up to the house
unimpeded. As Tracy passed through the stone-walled
entry, she noticed the Lucky C logo, an upright,
good-luck horseshoe with a C inside, atop the posts on
either side of the iron gate.
She hoped the logo
boded well for her. She could use a bit of good luck
today for her mission. From what her cousin had told
her, the Coltons were a stubborn bunch, hard-nosed and
highly protective of their family and their business.
Tracy wiped her sweaty palms on the legs of her
slacks as the string of vehicles rolled closer to the
ranch buildings, past acre upon acre of prime grazing
fields. She looked for a place to pull off and park as
they approached the main house, but, trapped between the
SUV in front of her and the news van behind her, she had
no real choice but to pull right up the drive to the
front door of the Colton mansion. Laura had told her the
Coltons were wealthy, but the glorious estate before her
sent a fresh roll of trepidation through her. Holy
cow—or maybe she should say holy cowboy—the place
was big…and beautiful.
She knew how David must
have felt going up against Goliath. What were the odds
that she, an unemployed widow, a down-on-her-luck nobody
with only a tenuous right to the claim she wanted to
stake, could hold sway with the mighty Coltons?
She glanced at the snapshot of a small boy that she'd
laid on the passenger seat, and her spirits lifted. Seth
was worth the effort. And she owed Laura. Big time.
When the line of cars stopped on the cobbled drive
in front of the stone-facade mansion, a man in a white
button-down shirt and black pants yanked open her
Tracy gasped and shrank away as
he stuck a hand toward her. "Wh-what are you doing?"
He flashed a lopsided grin. "Offering you a hand
out. We cowboys are raised to be helpful to ladies."
"Oh…thanks, but no." She glanced around at the
manicured lawn. "Where should I park?"
She jerked a startled look back to the
dark-haired man, who either had a head start on his
summer tan or an enviable heritage lending him his
copper-toned skin. "Pardon?"
Had she been
recognized as an interloper? Was she being dismissed
even without getting to state her case?
cowboy chuckled and wiggled his fingers, indicating she
should get out of the car. "Parking is my job today. But
don't worry. I drive cars as well as I drive cattle. I
won't scratch it."
A car horn blasted behind her,
and another man in a white shirt leaned out of a vehicle
behind her and shouted, "Come on, Daniel. Schmooze the
ladies on your own time, man. You're holding up the
The cowboy-valet at her door smiled at his
cohort and deliberately scratched his temple with his
middle finger. Offering his hand to her again, he said,
With a nervous grin, she grabbed her
purse off the floor and took his callused hand to slip
out of the rental car. As the valet—Daniel, the other
man had called him—climbed behind the wheel, she
remembered her messenger bag. "Wait! I need that."
She pointed past him to the passenger seat. But
instead of the bag, he zeroed in on her snapshot. He
picked up the photo with a curious frown. "Hey, isn't
She snatched the picture, drawing a
deeper scowl from him. "My bag. Please."
retrieved the satchel and handed it to her, along with a
small piece of paper. "Write your tag number on this and
give it to whoever's manning the front door when you're
ready to leave. Someone will bring your car around."
With that, he closed the door and sped away.
"But I don't know—" She quickly shifted her attention to
the rental car's license plate and caught the first few
digits before her valet-cowboy turned out of the
circular drive and headed toward the back of the
property. As she crossed the driveway, headed for the
front door, she stuck the photo in her purse, then
fumbled for a pen to write the plate numbers down.
Tracy joined the stylishly dressed reporter and
bored-looking cameraman from the news station, climbing
the decorative concrete steps to the front door. The
reporter knocked on the dark wood door inset with an
ornate glass window. While they waited for an answer,
Tracy practiced in her head what she would say when she
confronted her cousin's ex. Honesty was a good policy,
but how open would the Coltons be to her proposal, if
they knew her past? She didn't have long to mull over
the question, as the door was answered quickly by an
effusive older woman with a dark bob.
Hamm, KRQY News," the reporter said, offering her hand.
"Of course! I'd know that pretty face anywhere!" the
woman at the door gushed, ignoring the proffered hand
and swooping in for a girlie hug and air kisses on each
cheek. "Come in, come in! I'm Abra Colton. Thank you for
Tracy's stomach flip-flopped. Abra
Colton. Seth's grandmother. As matriarch of the
Colton clan, Abra could be key to whether Tracy was
accepted by the family or not.
waved the cameraman and Tracy through the door without
so much as a "hello." Abra clearly had use only for the
newswoman, and she continued buzzing over her like a bee
to the sweetest rose. "The media room is to the right at
the back. We'll have our big announcement in just a
little while." She hooked arms with Veronica, ignoring
Tracy and the cameraman as she walked the reporter into
the house. "In the meantime, help yourself to the buffet
out by the pool, and a glass of champagne. Big J and I
ordered cases of the best bubbly from France for the
As the cameraman trailed after Abra
and Veronica like an obedient puppy, Tracy lingered
awkwardly in the entry hall. She glanced around at the
high ceilings, marble floors and triple arches leading
into the formal living room, and her pulse picked up
How had Laura walked away from all this
grandeur and wealth? Seth clearly had a better life here
than what she could have offered, but leaving her son
behind had been harder on Laura than she pretended to
the Coltons. She'd done what she had because she'd
wanted the security and opportunity that a life with his
father could afford Seth.
"A little less ogling
and a little more giddy-up if you don't want to get
separated from the rest of your crew."
gasped and spun to face the man who'd spoken. She found
herself staring up into the bright green eyes of a
cowboy with broad shoulders, shaggy chestnut hair and a
somewhat surly expression.
Her mouth dried as she
held his level stare. He had the rugged good looks Laura
had said the Colton men all shared, and a commanding
presence that made Tracy's toes curl in feminine
appreciation, despite his less than welcoming greeting.
"I'm, um…not with the news crew."
and Sullen grunted. "In that case, the food is out by
the pool. Eat up, 'cause your hostess spent as much on
that buffet as two pure-blood, registered breeding bulls
would cost at auction." With that, he strode away, his
gait brisk and confident, and disappeared into the crowd
When the doorbell sounded a few
seconds later, Tracy was still standing in the foyer,
gaping at the spot in the mingling crowd where the
devilishly handsome but curt cowboy had joined the
soirée. A woman wearing a housekeeper's uniform and her
silver hair twisted up in a bun scurried out from a side
door and balked when she saw Tracy.
sake, don't just stand there, girl!" The older woman
flapped her thin hands as if to shoo her out of the
entry hall. "There are guests to serve and drinks to be
poured. Get busy! Don't make me report you to the
Tracy gave a self-conscious
chuckle. "I'm not with the caterers. I'm looking for—"
The woman jostled her out of the way to open the
front door. Tracy's opportunity to ask for directions
was lost as the housekeeper greeted the arriving guests
with enthusiastic smiles and hospitality.
than continue to stand at the door like a bump on a log,
Tracy sidled into the living room. She clutched her
messenger bag close to her body to avoid jostling anyone
or knocking over one of the numerous champagne flutes
resting on trays in the exquisitely furnished room.
Dressed in basic khakis and a simple print blouse the
same caramel color as her hair, she noted that she was
underdressed for whatever event the Coltons were
celebrating. Feeling all the more out of place, and
hoping to camouflage herself against the French-vanilla
walls, she began inching her way through the clusters of
Maybe she should just leave. Clearly, now
was not the time to approach Jack. She was an uninvited
interloper at a high-society event. She didn't belong.
Story of her life.
Sighing with resignation,
she'd started weaving her way back toward the front door
when a large, boisterous man with a thick shock of
silver hair caught her arm.
"Hey, little darlin'.
sorry. I was just leaving."
darlin', the party's just getting started good."
She recognized the green eyes that flashed at her with
mirth. Tall, Dark and Surly's eyes had mesmerized her
with the same bright emerald shade, and the gruff cowboy
could be this flirtatious gentleman in thirty years…if
he added this man's playful smile.
"Why is your
hand empty? You should have a glass of bubbly. This is a
celebration, darlin'!" He snagged a glass of champagne
off a passing tray and shoved it at her. "Bottoms up!"
"Oh, I'm not—" She stopped short as she realized who
this animated man was. She'd seen his picture when she'd
researched the Lucky C on Google before coming to
Oklahoma. "You're Big J! I mean.J-John Colton."
Though John laughed and nodded amiably, she felt her
cheeks heat with embarrassment. Great. She'd just called
one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the
ranching industry—heck, in all of the United States'
agribusiness—by his nickname. Way to make a good
"Yes, I am, darlin'. Yes, I
am." He took a step back and gave her a slow once-over
that brought the stinging flush back to her cheeks. "And
who might you be? I believe I'd remember meeting you, if
I'd ever had the pleasure."
"Tracy McCain. I'm
actually here to speak to Jack. Can you point me toward
"I could, but…I'm still enjoying your
company." The older man winked. "Besides, Jack is
probably hiding somewhere until time for the
Big J gave
her a you've-got-to-be-kidding look. "Greta's
engagement. That's why we're all here lifting a glass."
"Oh." Tracy fumbled for anything Laura might have
told her about Greta.
But Big J seemed oblivious
to her mental catch-up and helped her out by adding,
"It's not every day a daddy gets to toast his only
daughter getting hitched, so we went all out for my
Only daughter…of course. Greta was Jack's
sister. The youngest of the Colton children. Tracy
smiled and raised the glass John had foisted on her.
"Well, here's to Greta."
"To Greta!" Big J
clinked his glass with hers, so hard the contents of
both drinks sloshed out.
Without warning, he gave
a shrill whistle, startling Tracy so much that a shot of
adrenaline raced through her, tripping her pulse.
"Brett! C'mere, son." Big J waved someone over, and
a tall, athletic-looking man with short brown hair
separated himself from a circle of cloying women and
strutted across the room.
Tracy goggled as he
approached. Dear God, did the Coltons have an account at
hunkycowboys…com? She had yet to meet one who didn't
look as if he'd walked off the pages of a
Big J put his hand on
Brett's shoulder when he reached them, and jerked his
glass toward Tracy. "Brett, my boy. This lovely filly is
"I am going to
leave her in your good hands," Big J continued, as if he
hadn't heard her correction. "She's looking for Jack.
But before she talks to your brother, I think she needs
something to eat."
"No, really, I'm not here to
eat. I just need to speak to Jack." Tracy's stomach
chose that inopportune moment to growl. Thankfully, the
din of the party conversation and background country
music muffled the sound.
Brett took her hand and,
rather than shaking it, merely left his fingers wrapped
warmly around hers as he gave her a smile that twinkled
in his trademark Colton-green eyes. "My dad's right. You
don't want to meet my brother on an empty stomach.
Besides, the brisket is so tender it will melt in your
mouth. Follow me."
He tugged her hand as he led
the way out to the pool, where a small acoustic band was
playing the country tunes she'd heard inside. Brett
steered her to a buffet table piled high with beef
brisket, rolls, fresh fruit, veggies and dips, cheeses
of all types, and an array of the most sumptuous-looking
desserts Tracy had ever seen. Her mouth watered, and she
decided it would be a good idea to have at least a
little something to eat. She and Brett both picked
up plates and started down the buffet. "Wow!"
chuckled. "I know, right? Abra knows how to put out a
spread, huh?" He used the tongs from a tray of cheeses
to pile sliced beef and bite-size meat pastries onto
Tracy's plate. When melodic laughter drifted to them
from a small group by the desserts, he called, "Hey,
Ryan, save some of those brownies for the rest of us."
"You snooze, you lose," a muscular man with telltale
green eyes marking him as another Colton quipped. "Greta
said I could have hers."
The brunette woman
beside Ryan elbowed him. "I said you could have mine,
not the rest of the tray!"
Brett hitched his head
toward the group. "Tracy, have you met this crew? My
brother, Detective Ryan Colton of the Tulsa PD, and of
course, the honorees, my baby sister, Greta, and her
The russet-haired man next to Greta laughed as he
offered his hand to Tracy. Brett's face sobered, and he
gave Mark a squinty-eyed glare. "I'm not joking, man."
Greta shoved her brother's shoulder. "Brett, stop
trying to intimidate my fiance, you big goof."
Brett grinned broadly. "Yeah, okay." But when Mark
smiled in relief, Brett blanked his face again in an
instant and raised an eyebrow. "But I mean it."
"I already warned Mark that I know a hundred ways to
kill a man and hide the body without being caught," Ryan