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The Forbidden Brother

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«The Forbidden Brother» - Джоанна Рок

A night of passion and mistaken identity means unmistakable consequences…A close encounter with playboy Wyoming McNeills causes havoc with Jillian Ross – since it’s actually his reclusive twin, Cody, she’s fallen for! Could this turn into the adventure of a lifetime?
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One night of passion, mistaken identity...

and unmistakable consequences!

Jillian Ross craves adventure. And she gets it when her new career as a film scout leads her to the ranch owned by the wealthy Wyoming McNeills. Giving in to temptation with the playboy McNeill causes havoc—since it’s actually his reclusive twin, Cody, she’s fallen for! Now she’s pregnant—and still can’t get enough of her reluctant rancher. Is this adventure just beginning?

Four-time RITA® Award nominee JOANNE ROCK has penned over seventy stories for Mills & Boon. An opti-mist by nature and a perpetual seeker of silver linings, Joanne finds romance fits her life outlook perfectly—love is worth fighting for. A former Golden Heart® Award recipient, she has won numerous awards for her stories. Learn more about Joanne’s imaginative muse by visiting her website,, or following @joannerock6 on Twitter.

The Magnate’s Mail-Order Bride

The Magnate’s Marriage Merger

His Accidental Heir

Little Secrets: His Pregnant Secretary

Claiming His Secret Heir

For the Sake of His Heir

Discover more at

The Forbidden Brother

Joanne Rock

ISBN: 978-1-474-07657-9


© 2018 Joanne Rock

Published in Great Britain 2018

by Mills & Boon, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 1 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9GF

All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, locations and incidents are purely fictional and bear no relationship to any real life individuals, living or dead, or to any actual places, business establishments, locations, events or incidents. Any resemblance is entirely coincidental.

By payment of the required fees, you are granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right and licence to download and install this e-book on your personal computer, tablet computer, smart phone or other electronic reading device only (each a “Licensed Device”) and to access, display and read the text of this e-book on-screen on your Licensed Device. Except to the extent any of these acts shall be permitted pursuant to any mandatory provision of applicable law but no further, no part of this e-book or its text or images may be reproduced, transmitted, distributed, translated, converted or adapted for use on another file format, communicated to the public, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of publisher.

® and ™ are trademarks owned and used by the trademark owner and/or its licensee. Trademarks marked with ® are registered with the United Kingdom Patent Office and/or the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market and in other countries.

To Lisa Rivard for the friendship,

the party-bus rides and all the fun texts

that make me smile.

So glad we met!



Back Cover Text

About the Author


Title Page


html#uab440c7f-cd39-5508-9197-750d123c9ca2" id="back_uab440c7f-cd39-5508-9197-750d123c9ca2">Dedication
















About the Publisher


Jillian Ross ordered a bottle of the house’s best wine and tipped back in her chair at her table near the window. Considering that the bar, centrally located in downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming, was called the Thirsty Cow, and the best vintage available was a cabernet she could have picked up at her local grocery store, she was pleasantly surprised by how good the first sip tasted.

Maybe that was because Ordering the Best Wine Off the Menu was a line item on her list of One Hundred Life Adventures—a set of goals she’d composed during radiation treatments for breast cancer two years ago. She was determined to accomplish every single objective, and then some, now that she had a second chance at living. It felt incredibly satisfying to cross off another ambition, even if she wasn’t in a five-star establishment. Just being in Cheyenne fulfilled another goal, since Seeing the Western States had also made the list.

Actually, the travel category accounted for almost a third of her line items, now that she thought about it. She’d hoped her new job as a film location scout would put her in the perfect position to see the world—or at least the United States. Too bad she was already at risk of losing this gig.

“Can I get you anything else, miss?” asked a tall, harried waiter in a T-shirt printed with the name of a local college. Balancing a trayful of beers, he set her bottle on the table.

Country music blared through the Thirsty Cow, the Friday night crush a mix of local ranchers and tourists, peppered with military personnel from the air force base. Jillian had driven in from Pasadena three days before to meet with a wealthy ranch owner—the reclusive and powerful Cody McNeill—to try to change his mind about allowing a film crew on his land. Her mission was hampered by the man’s complete lack of presence online. How could she make a personal pitch if she couldn’t get a direct line to him?

The formal written request she’d sent to his business manager had generated a tersely worded refusal. But Jillian’s boss had fallen in love with the photos she’d taken of the Black Creek Ranch—photos she’d snapped before she’d known the land was so carefully guarded. She hadn’t seen any posted signs. But now that she needed formal permissions to move ahead, the higher-ups in her organization wouldn’t consider any of Jillian’s plan B spots, pushing her to sign the deal and book the Black Creek Ranch. Now, she was in town to convince ranching magnate Cody McNeill to change his mind.

“I’m all set, thank you.” Jillian lifted her glass to toast her retreating waiter. “This is perfect.”

She would never drink the whole bottle on her own, especially since she’d carefully avoided alcohol following her initial diagnosis. But she was at the two-year mark, damn it, and she liked the idea of having it on the table to top off the glass. Besides, who was she to question the wisdom of her One Hundred Life Adventures list, since it had been dreamed up under extreme duress?

She turned her attention to the notes on her tablet, studying who owned the lands abutting the Black Creek Ranch. Cody McNeill’s father, Donovan, had divvied up some parcels for his three daughters and three sons, giving the McNeill family expansive holdings in all directions. Those adjacent properties had some similar features to the Black Creek, but none possessed the iconic old barn that Jillian’s boss had fallen in love with. Still, there had to be something Jillian could do. Carson McNeill, one of Cody’s brothers, owned a ranch next door. She typed his name into her tablet. And...


Carson, in direct contrast to his phantom sibling, had current social media profiles like the rest of the world. His posts were mostly updates about the ranching industry, but every now and then there was a photo of the man himself. These seemed to be posted mostly by other people, female people, but in light of the man’s rugged good looks that was no surprise.

In a word? Yum.

In Jillian’s brief time working in the film industry this past year, she’d run across all manner of handsome men. Carson McNeill was every bit as attractive as any A-list star she’d spotted, but his dusty boots, perpetual five o’clock shadow and generally mussed appearance lacked Hollywood polish. Which was a plus in her book. His dark hair, strikingly blue eyes and charming grin drew attention, no question.

One photo showed him lugging a keg off the back of a pickup truck in the middle of a golden hay field, a hay baler behind him, a handful of workers surrounding him. Another image pictured Carson at a local bar, long legs sprawled out, booted feet crossed, while he slouched in his chair and grinned at the women, plural, seated beside him. There was a photo posted by the local newspaper—a throwback shot—that showed a younger Carson riding a bucking bull in a competition ring, a crowd of cheering cowboys in the background. Jillian could swear the man was grinning even then, his body arced backward, poised to slam hard on the ground.

Surely this seemingly good-natured rancher could be persuaded to help her win over his brother? Pleased with the new discovery, she took another sip of her wine and leaned back in her seat again, allowing herself a moment to daydream while the music switched to a slow country ballad. As two-stepping couples took the floor and a blue neon moon dropped from the ceiling, Jillian thought through the possibilities. If she could secure Cody McNeill’s permission to film on his ranch, she would ensure future work from her boss. And since this film location manager was well-connected in the industry, she might pass along Jillian’s name to her friends as someone who could find key locations and had the cinematography sensibilities to know what a director was looking for.

That meant more work. New travel. Additional items crossed off her list. Even better, that meant more ways Jillian was kicking cancer’s ass. And that was what she wanted more than anything. Triumph over the thing that had scared her—almost—to death.

She stared out the window overlooking the street, preferring not to dwell on romance and two-stepping couples while remembering a period in her life that had been frighteningly loveless. Her boyfriend at the time had bailed right after her surgery to remove a tumor. He couldn’t deal with chemo, he’d said. Let alone the radiation.

That still got to her. He couldn’t deal with it. Like he was the one having to slog through that hell and not her.

Closing her eyes to banish the old demons, Jillian took a bracing breath. When she opened them again, she had to look twice.

Because she could have sworn that out there on the street, in the rainy Cheyenne night, she saw Carson McNeill. Instantly alert, she craned her neck to follow his progress up the sidewalk. Decidedly handsome from the rear, the guy looked to be the correct height and build. His worn-in jeans were a feast for the feminine eye. His boots and his Stetson were the wrong colors from what she’d seen online, but a man could own more than one hat, couldn’t he?

Jillian gathered up her tablet and maps and shoved them into her homemade cloth satchel. Finding a couple bills in her wallet, she tossed them on the table beside her barely touched wine. The server was getting one heck of a tip, since she couldn’t wait around for change.

After darting and weaving through the crowd toward the exit, she levered open the door and stepped out into the rain. Just in time to see the fawn-colored Stetson disappear into a building a block up the street. She hugged her bag to her chest, wishing she’d taken the time to slip into her sweater. Cheyenne was windy on a good day, and during a rainy night, the gusts took on a brutal chill. Especially for a woman who still chilled easily. Sometimes she thought the chemo drugs would never fully leave her body.

She reached the building where Carson McNeill had disappeared and saw it was another bar. Wrangler’s wasn’t nearly as busy as the Thirsty Cow, so when she stumbled inside, in a rush to escape the weather, the patrons seemed to notice.

All five of them.

Hank Williams was playing on the jukebox and the dude behind the bar, with a grizzled beard halfway down his chest, was no college student. The wiry old guy gave Jillian a nod and went back to pouring a beer for the only other woman in the place—a middle-aged lady dressed like a biker in a leather vest over her long-sleeved T-shirt.

Wrangler’s definitely wasn’t the sort of joint where Jillian envisioned smiley, social Carson McNeill hanging out. But there could be no mistaking a man that good-looking. He was seated in a corner booth, and he’d just laid his phone on the table, flicking on the screen with his thumb before scrolling.

Jillian didn’t realize she was staring until the bartender called over to her, “Have a seat anywhere you like.” He gestured with a sweep of his arm to the empty tables.

Feeling silly for having been caught gawking, Jillian scooted into a booth across from her quarry. He hadn’t glanced up at her since she’d first walked in and she wondered now how it would feel to have those intensely blue eyes on her. Which was peculiar, given that she’d lost all her mojo where men were concerned.

Part of that was her former boyfriend’s fault, since he gave men a bad name. But the majority of the blame belonged to her disease and the treatment that had left her feeling like a dried-out husk of a woman. She’d read the brochures on what to expect after dealing with her chemo and radiation, so she knew that feeling was normal enough, and as side effects went, it wasn’t the worst of them. After all, what did it matter if sex and men held no appeal when she was focused on her career and her recovery?

But right now, stealing glances at the tall, well-built cowboy two booths away, Jillian could almost forget she hadn’t experienced deep physical arousal in two years. Because the man was intriguing. He wore a blue T-shirt under his gray-and-white work flannel, and she found herself fascinated by the play of muscle beneath the cotton. The edge of his jaw, shadowed with bristle, made her wonder about the texture and feel of him.

Then, to cap off a night full of surprises, Carson McNeill glanced up from his phone and stared back at her. His blue eyes narrowed. A fierce, intensely male energy vibrated all around him. She felt the electric jolt from that single look on her skin, tingling its way over her arms beneath the featherweight sleeves of her blouse. Her breath hitched in her throat with a soft, startled gasp. She couldn’t seem to pull her eyes away.

A shiver traced its way down to the base of her spine. But this wasn’t the kind of shiver that came with a chill. This one brought an undeniable flare of heat.

Her throat suddenly parched, she couldn’t speak. Only this time, it wasn’t because she felt like a dried-out husk of a woman. As she stared at a man who could hold the key to her professional future in his hands, she realized that her long slumbering libido had finally made a comeback.

* * *

For a moment, Cody McNeill wondered whether the lovely redhead seated in the booth across the way had mistaken him for his twin.

His whole life, he’d witnessed women stare at Carson in just that manner—like he was the answer to all their fantasies. It was strange, really, since he and Carson were supposedly identical. To people who knew them, they couldn’t be more different. Even strangers could usually tell at a glance that Carson was the charmer and Cody was...not. It was in the way they carried themselves. The propensity to laugh. Carson’s easygoing, leave-it-to-tomorrow approach was a far cry from Cody’s belief that the buck stopped at his desk.

But somehow the redhead hadn’t quite figured it out yet. She had been watching him since she stepped through the door of Wrangler’s. The local dive suited him, since the food was good, the beer didn’t require a dedicated menu and he’d bought the building a month ago to remodel for a more centrally located ranch office. Tonight, Cody needed a retreat from his family—mostly his twin. They’d been at odds for weeks over the sudden appearance of their paternal grandfather, a rich-as-Croesus hotel magnate from New York who’d disinherited their father over twenty years ago. Carson wanted to make peace with the guy, while Cody had no use for someone who’d betrayed their dad. The arrival of Malcolm McNeill in Cheyenne was tearing their already fractured family apart, and Carson had to make things worse by inviting the old man to dinner at the main house on Creek Spill Ranch. Technically, the property belonged to their father, Donovan, even though Carson oversaw the daily operations.

That latest bit of disloyalty made Cody mad as hell. His twin was too busy having fun all the time to ever think about the consequences of his actions. Which, of course, was why Carson attracted the kind of wide-eyed attention the woman in the opposite booth was currently exhibiting. Carson said yes to every entertaining opportunity that came his way, whether or not it was the right thing to do. Normally, that ticked off Cody. But at this moment, with the vivid hazel eyes of an attractive female following Cody’s every move, he had to ask himself why he played it straight all the time instead of taking a page from his twin’s book. If Carson was here, he’d have the decidedly sexy stranger under his arm in no time.

Between the dark mood hovering over Cody and the realization that he wouldn’t mind stealing away one of his brother’s admirers, he did something he hadn’t done since he was a schoolkid.

He pretended to be his twin.

“Would you like some tips on what’s edible around here?” He tested out the words with a smile. The expression was as fake as the pickup line, but he’d seen similar patter work for his brother a hundred times.

Hell, he ended up sounding just like him.

The grin gave the words the right amount of easy irreverence.

But the petite beauty in the booth nearby appeared to be stunned silent. Although slight in stature, she had a powerful presence. From her warm, henna-colored hair to the vivid blues and greens of her butterfly-printed blouse, and turquoise cowboy boots that had never seen a day’s work, the woman stood out. She shone like a light in the darkened bar.

“Edible?” The word was a dry croak from her lips, a belated response to his question. Her cheeks flushed pink with hectic color.

“On the menu,” he clarified, withdrawing his own laminated copy of Wrangler’s entree choices from the metal napkin holder. “There are some good options if you’d like input.”

The way she blushed, he had to wonder what she’d thought he meant.

And damned if that intriguing notion didn’t distract him from his dark mood. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d made a woman blush, and the telltale heat in her cheeks sent an answering warmth through his limbs.

“I, um...” She bit her lip uncertainly before seeming to collect her thoughts. “I’m not hungry, but thank you. I actually followed you in here to speak to you.”

Ah, hell. He wasn’t ready to end the game that had taken a turn for the interesting. But it was one thing to ride the wave of the woman’s mistaken assumption. It was another to lie, and Cody’s ethics weren’t going to allow him to sink that low.

The smile his brother normally wore slid from Cody’s face. Disappointment cooled the heat in his veins.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” It was a shot in the dark, and he was surprised to hear the words fall out of his mouth.

“Do what?” She frowned, confused.

The music in the bar switched to an old George Jones tune, a surprise choice from the jukebox, which was as ancient as the rest of the place. But the slow tempo gave him an idea to put off a conversation he didn’t care to have.

“Are you sure you want to talk?” Shoving himself to his feet, he extended a hand to her. “We could dance instead.”

He stared down into those green-gold eyes, willing her to say yes. He needed three more minutes to let the remnants of this hellish day slide away. Wanted an excuse to touch this pretty stranger who blushed for no reason. She took so long deciding he thought she must be debating a good way to refuse him. But then, surprise of all surprises, the sweetest smile curved her lips, transforming her face from pretty to...


It was like someone flipped a switch inside her, making her come more fully alive.

“That sounds great,” she agreed with a breathless laugh. “Thank you.”

Sliding her cool fingers into his palm, she rose and let him lead her to the dance floor. It was small and a little warped on one side, but then, they were the only couple out there. Cody turned her to face him before drawing her into the circle of his arms. She fitted there perfectly, even if she was a head shorter than him. It put her at the perfect height where he could have buried his face in her hair. The glossy red curls smelled like honeysuckle.

She tipped her head up to look at him as they began an easy two-step, moving together well enough. She let him lead, her feet mirroring his as he spun them in slow circles around the floor. The full sleeves of her blouse grazed his arms, gently clinging to him.

Sensual hunger stirred with new restlessness, reminding him of every single month he’d spent alone since his last relationship. All twelve of them, in fact. And he hadn’t been remotely tempted by anyone after discovering his ex-girlfriend’s faithlessness, a treachery she defended by saying he was “too cold” for a woman to love.

Tonight he was anything but cold.

“I like this idea,” the redhead in his arms confided, her fingers flexing ever so slightly against his shoulder where she touched him. “I can’t remember the last time I danced with a stranger.”


Cody assumed she’d mistaken him for Carson. Did she not know his twin, either? He wasn’t sure how he felt about that. At first, he’d been just as glad to undermine his disloyal brother. But as his temper cooled, and the longer he held this vibrant woman in his arms, the more he appreciated the idea that Carson didn’t have any kind of prior claim.

“You’ve improved my Friday night a whole lot, too.” He liked the feel of her, his hand warming the cool skin through the thin blouse she wore. “It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about anything outside of work.”

Her eyebrows lifted. “Leading me to wonder what you could be thinking about right now.” Her lips curved. “Admiring the Wrangler’s decor? Or maybe remembering how much you like a good George Jones tune?”

He laughed appreciatively. “I do respect a bar that still plays a classic. But the vinyl upholstery in the booths isn’t doing much for me in the decor department.” His gaze skated over her features; he was looking forward to making her blush again. “And I was thinking about you more than anything else.”

His directness might have caught her off guard. She nibbled her lower lip briefly before meeting his eyes. “I haven’t been the center of anyone’s attention in...a long time.”

There was a story there. He heard it in her voice. Saw it in her eyes.

“You aren’t involved with someone else?” He needed to be sure before he let this go on any longer. But his pulse was already thrumming. “I don’t see a ring, but I have to ask.”

“I am very much unattached.” She shook her head, red curls catching the overhead light as she moved. “What about you? No one waiting at home?”

“The only ones who might be missing my presence right now are a couple of rowdy shepherds back at my ranch who would have preferred the night off.” He swayed with her. Her knee brushed his now and again in a way that fired right through him. “But no girlfriend. No wife.”

He respected that she asked, even though she was clearly feeling the same spark as him. And now that those formalities had been cleared away, he could simply enjoy the moment. The completely unexpected pleasure of having a beautiful stranger in his arms. He didn’t want to let go of her now. He wanted to take her outside into the fresh, rain-cleaned night and kiss her. See if she tasted as good as he imagined.

“The stars are aligning for us so far, aren’t they?” She peered up at him with something like wonder in her eyes.

He couldn’t remember a woman ever looking at him quite like that. As if he was the answer to a question. An answer that pleased her.

“It feels that way.” He didn’t want to scare her off with empty pickup lines, or come across as some lowlife playing games with a woman in a bar. But as the music shifted again—this time to an even slower, modern country love song—Cody wondered if he could convince her to let the spark between them run wild. To follow the heat wherever it led. “And since the stars aligning would be a first for me, I wonder if can ask you just one thing.”

He halted them in the middle of the floor, now that the two-step was done. Bringing her fractionally closer, he swayed to the slower tempo in a barely moving lovers’ dance.

She followed him seamlessly, her gaze never straying from his. She was fully focused on him. Framed by dusky brown lashes, those green-gold eyes reminded him of new grass and spring.

“Sure. Ask away.” Her voice had a sweet-sultry quality that made him want to listen to her speak more.

“Don’t you ever wish you could forget about the expectations of the world around you and just...choose your own adventure?” He remembered books like that when he’d been a kid, where you could test out different endings to a story.

For someone who’d always taken the safe route in real life, he had liked the option of seeing how another choice played out. At least in a book. Cody couldn’t do that with ranching. Or his family. But he could take a chance here. Tonight.

Her lashes swept down for a long moment, hiding her expression. But when she tilted a glance up at him again, there was a new curiosity there.

“Are you asking to share an adventure with me?” She sounded disbelieving. But maybe a little intrigued.

“I suppose I am.” He would never have made such an outrageous suggestion to a local—a woman who knew him or his family. But she had tourist and temporary written all over her. Surely there couldn’t be any harm in drawing out the flirtation? “What would you say to throwing away the rule book for a little longer?”

He let go of her hand for a moment to tip her chin higher, to see her face in the dim overhead light of the dance floor. Feminine interest flickered in her eyes. He inhaled as she released a pent-up breath. He could almost taste her in the space of silence between them.

Then he leaned closer to press his cause. “Choose me tonight.”


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