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To Love, Honor and DefendTo Love, Honor and Defend

She's running from a nightmare...

Tess Sinclair must hide. Hunted by a powerful man who wants her dead, Tess flees her Texas home in search of anonymity, safety, and a new life. While a flat tire and stormy weather slow her escape, they prove the least of her worries. Just hours after her getaway, a hired gunman tracks her down. Grabbed in a parking lot, Tess is certain she'll be killed ... until a handsome hitchhiker intervenes. But can she trust the blue-eyed cowboy who appoints himself her guardian?

He's chasing a dream . . .

Nothing can stop Justin Boyd from his pursuit of a music career in Nashville--except a woman in peril. Haunted by his sister's murder, Justin can't walk away from Tess until he knows she's safe. Justin puts his dreams of the music spotlight on hold until he can make amends for mistakes from his past. Yet the stakes in this game of vengeance are higher than he ever imagined, and the price for freeing Tess might be his own life.


"Gifted new author Beth Cornelison delivers the quintessential Intimate Moments with her debut novel, TO LOVE, HONOR AND DEFEND. Ms. Cornelison's fresh voice and passion for her story is evident on every page of this spellbinding romantic suspense. Her multi-faceted characters, tight writing and innovative plot makes TO LOVE, HONOR AND DEFEND a fast-paced, delightful and fun read that will keep you up well past your bedtime." --Bestselling author Linda Castillo

"TO LOVE, HONOR, AND DEFEND has it all: a hero to die for, a heroine to cheer for, emotion that will tug your heart and suspense that will have you looking over your shoulder! With wonderful characters, deep emotion, and page-turning suspense, Beth Cornelison makes an unforgettable debut with TO LOVE, HONOR, AND DEFEND." -- Intimate Moments Author Jenna Mills

"TO LOVE, HONOR, AND DEFEND is a great read that will keep you turning the pages. Cal is a fabulous hero with very real flaws, and a heart-melting love for his little girl. Libby is tough as nails on the outside, but so soft under her facade. If you want a book that will keep you glued to your seat, while your heart races, pick up Beth Cornelison's TO LOVE, HONOR, AND DEFEND." --Cathy Cody, Senior Editor, Romance Junkies

"In her debut novel, Beth Cornelison explores the many facets of betrayal, the many faces of guilt and innocence, and a world where nothing is black and white. Her portrayal of this complex relationship goes well beyond the problem of simple forgiveness, delving deep into the characters' hearts so that they forge a new understanding that has the reader truly believing this relationship can last. As a bonus, the character of Cal's daughter, Ally, is heartwarming and realistic. I even liked the cat. Four Stars" --Karen Leabo, Booksforabuck.com, Amazon Top 500 reviewer

"With the emotional scenes between the main characters and the ever present threats to the heroine, new author Beth Cornelison has penned an engaging story. As the story progresses, readers learn about the characters’ backgrounds, and why they have such powerful reactions to certain situations. The suspenseful intrigue surrounding the heroine and hero keeps escalating until the shocking finale, which was much unexpected. TO LOVE, HONOR AND DEFEND is a thrilling romantic story, where emotions and suspense run high.  Brace yourself for an exciting rollercoaster ride.  TO LOVE, HONOR AND DEFEND is pure enjoyment. Pulsing with restless energy, this Silhouette Intimate Moments is fast, furious and thrilling." -- Amelia Richard, Cataromance.com

"Newcomer Beth Cornelison has created an intriguing tale, one brimming with several sub-plots. The author blended a second-chance romance churning with turbulent emotions together with a marriage of convenience, a stalker, a brewing custody battle, a drug addicted ex-wife, an injustice (at least to my way of thinking) and made it work. Beautifully... All in all, TO LOVE, HONOR AND DEFEND is extremely well done. If this story is any indication, I can't wait to read more from Ms. Cornelison." --Debbie Jett, Romance Reader at Heart

New author Cornelison has debuted with some great strength in writing..." -- Thea Davis, The Romance Reader

"Debut author Beth Cornelison couldn't have written a better first book. It had all the ingredients for a fast paced exciting read. It was practically a one sitting read for me.  I enjoyed this debut book so much that I know I for one will be looking forward to more books from Beth Cornelison. I eagerly look forward to what else is in store from this fabulous author." --Kathy Boswell, The Best Reviews

"Cornelison sustains tension and suspense, and her dialogue is believable. Her characters live with the consequences of poor decisions, whether their own or those of others. The love scenes are somewhat explicit. Alternating points of view allow the reader to see into the thoughts and emotions of each of the main characters – and the misunderstandings and false assumptions caused by their pasts. The themes of redemption, forgiveness, and second chances are woven throughout the book." --Marie Disbrow, The Road to Romance


Libby's face, already pale with fright, blanched a shade whiter. Cal frowned and eased his grip on her arm. Something had her spooked. Badly. She'd bolted through the door from the stairs like she had the hounds of hell on her heels. "Are you all right, Lib?"

The bedroom-brown eyes he remembered were now bright with fear and glanced nervously around the empty parking garage. But was she looking for someone to help her or searching for whatever demon had her racing for her car?

The idea that she could be afraid of him gnawed his gut. No matter how much he hated what she'd done to his life, the years she'd stolen from him, the job he'd lost, he wasn't the kind of man who'd harm a woman. In all the months they’d spent together, hadn't she at least learned that about him?

"Mmmr wwrm," she mumbled from under his hand.

His scowl deepened, and he nailed her with a no-nonsense glare. "I'll let go of your mouth if you promise not to scream again. That last screech busted my ears."

Her dark eyes flashed indignantly.

Oh yes, he remembered her stubborn pride. A steel will ran through her, equal to her passion. And compassion.

He needed to reach her tender heart and her inordinate sense of responsibility today. She was his last hope, his only hope. Besides, she owed him.

Slowly he pulled his hand away, keeping a wary eye on her.

"How dare you scare me like that! What were you thinking? You deserve a face full of pepper spray for that stunt! Of all the--"

She swung at him.

But twenty-four months in prison had sharpened his reflexes, taught him to be quick on his feet and have eyes in the back of his head. He easily blocked her fist and pinned her wrist to the car. "Whoa! Settle down. What stunt are you talking about?"

She rolled her eyes then turned an icy glare on him. "On the stairs? The 'I'm gonna get you, *****' crack? Following me, hiding from me, purposely freaking me out?"

The stairs? He thought about the terror that had filled her face when she burst through the garage door and ran for her car. Unease jerked a knot in his gut. He cut a sharp glance to the stairs then back to Libby. "Someone followed you on the stairs? Did they hurt you?"

What had she said about a comment using the term '*****'? His disquiet ratcheted up a notch.

She yanked her arm from his grip and righted her silk blouse. The soft fabric clung to her curves and made no secret of the feminine body beneath. "You're not funny. What were you trying to prove?"

"It wasn't me."

"Yeah, right." As she moved to climb into her Camry, he grabbed her arm and brought her dark eyes back to his. She pressed her lips in a thin line of irritation.

"I've been over there in my truck waiting for you for over an hour." With a hitch of his head, he directed her gaze to his dilapidated Chevy.

Suspicion narrowed her eyes but soon gave way to the pale shaken look she'd worn when he'd first approached her. "You weren't just on the stairs? You swear?"

He snorted. "Not that my word has ever carried any weight with you, but ... yeah. I swear." He felt the shudder that raced through her, and his chest tightened. Releasing her arm, he cast another look toward the stairwell door. "Want me to go check it out? See if anybody's in there?"

Stiffly, she shook her head and sank onto the front seat. "I'm sure whoever was there is long gone now."

Her cheeks had regained most of their color. She pulled her lips into a pinched frown and raised her chin. "If I find out you're lying, I won't hesitate to have you hauled in for harassing an officer of the court."

Clenching his teeth, he fought down the rise of bile that rose in his throat. The last thing he needed was to give his parole officer an excuse to send him back to prison. "I thought you'd already done that. Isn't that what the last two years of my life have been about? Your revenge for my leaving you to marry Renee?"

Her eyes flickered with shock, and her lips parted in protest. "I didn't–"

"Trust me, marriage to Renee was a punishment in itself. Ally's the only good thing to come from that mistake."

Libby's expression softened a degree at the mention of Ally. Maybe his mission wasn't a lost cause.

As quickly as the tenderness appeared, it dissipated, replaced with hard-edged anger. "Your prison time had nothing to do with us, and everything to do with the fact that you attacked a man!"

"My actions were justified! Was I supposed to stand back and let him beat the hell out of that woman?"

Libby threw her hands up and shook her head. She jabbed a well-manicured finger in his chest and drilled him with a stony glare. He remembered that stare from the courtroom two years ago. Cold. Flat. Void of emotion. "Save it. It's over, and I won't debate this with you."

She tried to close her door, and he blocked it. "Hang on. There's something else we need to discuss."

With a trace of suspicion still coloring her expression, she tipped her head. "What?"

Cal straightened and met her eyes. This was it. Everything he cared about rode on convincing Libby to go along with his plan. Drawing a deep breath, he plunged in. "I need your help."

She scoffed. "My help? Why?"

He crouched down to her eye level. When he braced a hand on the head rest by her cheek and leaned toward her, she stiffened. He moved close enough to smell the subtle musk scent of her perfume, close enough to feel her breath on his face, close enough to hear the sexy catch in her breath. His own pulse scrambled from the proximity.

Damn! She still affected him. Mesmerized him. Tortured him.

"Because the way I see it, you owe me."

She frowned and rolled her shoulders, clearly struggling to keep her cool. "I don't owe you squat, Walters."

He tensed as if she’d kicked him in the teeth. He'd expected this reaction from her, but that didn't make it easier to take. Curling his fingers into fists, he plowed on, struggling to rein his temper. It wouldn't serve his cause to blow up at her now, put her on the defensive.

"Look me in the eye and tell me you didn't have anything to do with your office’s hardball negotiation on my plea agreement. Tell me that during my sentencing you didn’t once think about how I hurt you when I married Renee."

Surprise flitted across her sculpted, heaven-sent face.

"Yeah," he whispered. "I know I hurt you. And I'm sorry."

She knit her brow and turned away, but not before he glimpsed the pain in her eyes. Taking her chin in his hand, he angled her face toward him, felt her tremble.

The wall of her defenses came up in her eyes. The cold, blank prosecutor look returned. "What do you want, Cal?"

"I want my daughter. I want custody of Ally, but my prison record and my being a single father work against me."

"You want me to take your case? Is that it? Sorry, I don't do custody cases, but I'll be happy to recommend someone–"

"I have a lawyer."

She huffed. "Then why do you need me?"

"Respectability. Stability. Image."

Her face darkened. "I don't follow."

But the wary glint in her gaze said she did understand. The fluttering pulse at her throat gave away her panic.

"Hear me out, Libby." He ran his thumb along the line of her jaw, and heat flared in her eyes.

Good. He still affected her too. He tugged his mouth sideways in a satisfied grin.

"You see, Renee's got a bum for a boyfriend and a new drug habit. She's neglecting Ally. I want to make a home for my daughter, a better one than the hellhole she lives in now. You can help give me that edge."

She was already shaking her head. But he wouldn't take no for an answer. Libby was his last chance.

"I want you to marry me, Lib. I need a wife."
 

April 2005
Silhouette Intimate Moments #1362
ISBN 0-373-27432-7

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VOTED CATAROMANCE READERS CHOICE FOR FAVORITE SERIES BOOK OF 2005, BEST FIRST BOOK, AND BEST SILHOUETTE INTIMATE MOMENTS!!

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.  Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.  All rights reserved.  ® and ™ are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.

 

 

 

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