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Good Husband Material
By Susan Mallery
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKari Asbury fully expected to have trouble cashing her out-of-state check, she just didn't think she would have to put her life on the line to do it.
It wasn't just that the check was drawn from a bank in big, bad New York City; it was that her driver's license was also from that East Coast state. Ida Mae Montel would want to know why a girl born and raised in Possum Landing, Texas, would willingly run off to a place like that ... a place with Yankees. And if a girl had to do such a thing, why on earth would she give up her Texas driver's license? Didn't everyone want to be from the Lone Star State?
No doubt Sue Ellen Boudine, the bank manager, would mosey on over to examine the check, all the while holding it like it was attached to a poisonous snake. They'd make a few calls (probably to friends, letting them know that Kari was back in town and with a New York driver's license, of all things), they'd hem and haw, and sigh heavily. Then they'd give Kari the money. Oh, but first they'd try to talk her into opening an account right there at the First Bank of Possum Landing.
Kari hesitated in front of the double glass doors, trying to figure out if she really needed the cash that badly. Maybe it would be better to pay the service fee and get the money out of the ATM machine. Then she reminded herself that the quicker everyone realized she'd returned to town for a very temporary visit, the quicker all the questions would be asked and answered. Then maybe she could have a little peace. Maybe.
There was the added thrill of finding out if Ida Mae still wore her hair in a beehive. How much hair spray did that upswept style require? Kari knew for a fact that Ida Mae only had her hair done once a week, yet it looked exactly the same on day seven as it did on day one.
Still smiling at the memory of Ida Mae's coiffure, she pulled open the door and stepped inside. She paused just past the threshold and waited for the shrieks of welcome and the group hug that would follow.
Nothing happened. Kari frowned. She glanced around at the bank - established in 1892 - taking in the tall, narrow windows, the real wood counters and stylish paneling. Ida Mae was in her regular spot - the first position on the left - as befitted the head teller. But the older woman wasn't talking. She wasn't even smiling. Her small eyes widened with something that looked like panic, and she made an odd gesture with her hand.
Before Kari could figure out what it meant, something hard and cold pressed against her cheek.
"Well, lookee here. We got us another customer, boys. At least this one's young and pretty. What my mama used to call a tall drink of water. That's something."
Kari's heart stopped. It might be nearly ninety in the shade outside, but here in the bank it felt closer to absolute zero.
Slowly, very slowly, she turned toward the man, who was holding a gun. He was short, stocky and wearing a ski mask. What on earth was going on?
"We're robbin' the bank," the man said, as if he could read her mind.
His astuteness startled her, until she realized his deduction wasn't much of a stretch.
She quickly glanced around. There were four of them, counting the man holding a gun on her. Two kept all the customers and most of the employees together at the far end of the bank, while the last one was behind the counter, putting money that Ida Mae handed him into a bag.
"You go ahead and set your purse on the floor," the man in front of her said. "Then start walking toward the other ladies. Do what you're told and no one will get hurt."
Kari flexed her hands slightly. Her chest tightened, and it was nearly impossible to speak. "I, uh, I don't have a purse."
She didn't. She'd come into the bank with a check and her driver's license. Both were in the back pocket of her shorts.
The robber stared at her for a couple of seconds, then nodded. "Seems you don't. Now head on over there."
This couldn't be happening, Kari thought, even as she headed for the cluster of other customers huddled by the far end of the counter.
She was halfway to the safety of that crowd when the rear door of the bank opened.
"Well, hell," a low voice drawled. "One of us has bad timing, boys. You think it's you or me?"
Several women screamed. One of the masked men by the crowd grabbed an older woman and held the gun to her head. "Stay back," he yelled. "Stay back or the old lady dies."
Kari didn't have time to react. The man who had first held a gun to her jerked her arm to drag her back to him. She felt the pressure of the pistol against her cheek again. He wrapped one wiry arm around her neck, keeping her securely in place.
"Seems to me we've got a problem," the man holding her said. "So, Sheriff, why don't you just back out real slow and no one will get hurt."
The sheriff in question gave a sigh of the long-suffering. "I wish I could do that. But I can't. Want to know why?"
Kari felt as if she'd slipped into an alternative universe. This couldn't be happening to her. One second she'd been too scared to breathe, and the next, Gage Reynolds had walked back into her life. Right in the middle of a holdup.
Eight years ago he'd been a young deputy, tall and handsome in his khaki uniform. He was still good-looking enough to make an angel want to sin. He was also the sheriff, if the gleaming badge on his shirt pocket was to be believed. But for a man of the law, he didn't seem all that interested in the robbery going on right in front of him.
He took off his dust-colored cowboy hat and slapped it against his thigh. His dark hair gleamed, as did the interest in his eyes.
"Don't make me kill her," the gunman said, his tone low and controlled.
"You know who you've got there, son?" Gage asked casually, almost as if he hadn't figured out what was going on in the bank. "That's Kari Asbury."
"Back off, Sheriff." The robber pressed the gun in a little deeper. Kari winced. Gage didn't seem to notice.
"She's the one who got away." Kari could smell the criminal's sweat. She was willing to bet he hadn't planned on a hostage situation, and the fact he might be in over his head didn't make her breathe any easier. What on earth was Gage going on about?
"That's right," Gage continued, setting his hat on a table and stretching. "Eight years ago, that pretty lady there left me standing at the altar."
Excerpted from Good Husband Material by Susan Mallery Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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