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The numbered lot of Hereford cattle at this San Antonio auction had been a real steal at the price, but Tira Beck had let it go without a murmur to the man beside her. She wouldn't ever have admitted that she didn't need to add to her substantial Montana cattle herd, which was managed by her foreman, since she lived in Texas. She'd only wanted to attend the auction because she knew Simon Hart was going to be there. Usually his four brothers in Jacobsville, Texas, handled cattle sales. But Simon, like Tira, lived in San Antonio where the auction was being held, so it seemed natural to let him make the bids.
He wasn't a rancher anymore. He was still tall and well built, with broad shoulders and a leonine head topped by thick black wavy hair. But the empty sleeve on his left side attested to the fact that his days of working cattle were pretty much over. It didn't affect his ability to make a living, at least. He was a former state attorney general and a nationally famous trial attorney who could pick and choose high-profile cases. He made a substantial wage. His voice was still his best asset, a deep velvety one that projected well in a courtroom. In addition to that was a dangerously deceptive manner that lulled witnesses into a false sense of security before he cut them to pieces on the stand. He had a verbal killer instinct, and he used it to good effect.
Tira, on the other hand, lived a hectic life doing charity work and was independently wealthy. She was a divorcee who had very little to do with men except on a platonic basis. There weren't many friends, either. Simon Hart and Charles Percy were the lot, and Charles was hopelessly in love with his brother's wife. She was the only person who knew that. Many people thought that she and Charles were lovers, which amused them both. She had her own secrets to keep. It suited her purposes to keep Simon in the dark about her emotional state.
"That was a hell of an anemic bid you made," Simon remarked as the next lot of cattle were led into the sale ring. "What's wrong with you today?"
"My heart's not in it," she replied. "I haven't had a lot to do with the Montana ranch since Dad died. I've given some thought to selling the property. I'll never live there again."
"You'll never sell. You have too many attachments to the ranch. Besides, you've got a good manager in place up there," he said pointedly.
She shrugged, pushing away a wisp of glorious hair that had escaped from the elegant French twist at her nape. "So I have."
"But you'd rather swan around San Antonio with Charles Percy," he murmured, his chiseled mouth twisting into a mocking smile.
She glanced at him with lovely green eyes and hid a carefully concealed hope that he might be jealous. But his expression gave no hint of his feelings. Neither did those pale gray eyes under thick black eyebrows. It was the same old story. The wreck eight years ago that had cost him his arm had also cost him his beloved wife, Melia. Despite their differences, no one had doubted his love for her. He hadn't been serious about a woman since her death, although he escorted his share of sophisticated women to local social events.
"What's the matter?" he asked when his sharp eyes caught her disappointment.
She shrugged in her elegant black pantsuit. "Oh, nothing. I just thought that you might like to stand up and threaten to kill Charles if he came near me again." She glanced at his shocked face and chuckled. "I'm kidding!" she chided.
His gaze cut into hers for a second and then they moved back to the sale ring. "You're in an odd mood today."
She sighed, returning her attention to the program in her beautifully manicured hands. "I've been in an odd mood for years. Not that I ever expect you to notice."
He closed his own program with a snap and glared down at her. "That's another thing that annoys me, those throwaway remarks you make. If you want to say something to me, just come out and say it."