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By Laurie Paige
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe twin engines of Michael O'Day's new plane purred steadily as he buzzed the field in preparation for landing at Mission Ridge, a "fly in, fly out" community on the outskirts of Mission Creek, Texas. A private shuttle was off to one side, passengers filing down the plane's steps. No aircraft were on the runway, and none was heading in for a landing, other than his.
From the air, he could pick out the home he'd purchased last year. It was a big house for a bachelor, not yet completely furnished, but he was pleased with it.
With the private airstrip practically at his door and the Lone Star Country Club golf links nearby, he could indulge his two favorite pastimes: golfing and flying. He planned to retire here.
But not anytime soon. At thirty-four, he had a ways to go before riding off into the sunset. However, with the new, faster plane, it would be a piece of cake to fly the two hundred fifty miles back and forth to Houston where he had a penthouse and an office. As a heart surgeon, he kept a busy schedule.
He set the nimble four-passenger plane down on the tarmac and taxied off the runway, heading for his hangar at the back of his two-acre lot. Instead of pushing the plane inside when he arrived, he left it on the apron. He was running late forlunch with his friend and golfing buddy, Flynt Carson. He'd take care of the aircraft later.
He dashed across the back lawn, activating the remote to open the door of the garage attached to the house. Inside, he swung his legs over the car door and into the seat of the low-slung convertible he kept at Mission Ridge.
Another indulgence, he admitted, but he didn't regret the cost. The time here in the heart of Texas ranching country gave him the necessary rest and relaxation to perform his surgeries with confidence. During his internship, a wise use of one's time had been stressed, over and over by his mentor, one of the foremost cardiac surgeons in the country.
Usually Michael flew in on Friday afternoon, but he'd been delayed by emergency surgery yesterday, then had overslept this morning, making him late taking off.
Checking his watch, he grimaced and turned the ignition key. He drove out of the garage, hit the button to lower the door behind him, glanced to his left and, seeing no traffic, gunned the engine.
And immediately threw on the brakes. The car came to a screeching halt about six inches from a tall, lithe beauty who was standing in the middle of the street. She turned flashing green eyes on him.
"You baboon!" she said in an angry, albeit melodious voice. "You shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel, driving like a maniac down a residential street."
"Well, honey," he drawled, amused and irritated by her lofty manner, "I didn't expect some female - translation: some ditz -to be sashaying down the middle of the street."
"I am not 'sashaying' down the middle of the street. I happen to be crossing it."
He studied her, then glanced across the street and back to her. "You might not know it," he mentioned in a helpful, philosophical tone, "but the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Going straight across the street gets you to the other side faster than ambling across at an oblique angle. It could also save you from getting run over."
"And watching where you're going could save you from killing someone and getting thrown in jail."
"A point well taken," he agreed, unable to kill the grin. In blue slacks and a knit top that outlined her to perfection, she was very easy on the eye. Besides which, he'd always been attracted to women with fire.
He watched her march on across the street, her head high, her light brown hair swinging about her shoulders. He'd never seen anyone move the way she did, with the grace and dignity of a fairy princess. And the righteous anger of a tent evangelist.
A name came to him. Susan Wainwright. He'd never met her, but he'd seen her a few times onstage. She was a lead ballerina with the Houston Ballet.
Her sister had recently wed Matt Carson. A surprising affair, considering the Carsons and Wainwrights had been feuding for nearly as long as the Hatfields and McCoys, or so he understood. But Michael recalled hearing a rumor of a truce for the wedding.
Watching the delectable sway of her hips, he formed a new appreciation for a dancer's grace of movement. To his surprise, a vision came to mind - him and her in a wide bed, long legs wrapped around him -
Whoa! Shaking his head, he forced those thoughts aside. "Hey," he called, "you need a ride somewhere?"
Susan gave him a drop-dead glance. "No, thanks. Someone is picking me up."
A fleeting notion indicated he'd like the "someone" to be him. Forget it, he advised. That little gal was a heartbreaker from the get-go. Besides, he wasn't looking for any lengthy entanglement. His life was fine just as it was.
Grinning at himself, he eased down on the pedal and left the enticing and oh-so-haughty beauty behind.
At the Lone Star Country Club, located deep in the heart of Lone Star county, he tossed the keys to the valet and dashed inside. The Yellow Rose Café was dark compared to the bright mid-September sunshine. He paused to let his eyes adjust.
"Michael, over here," Flynt Carson called. Michael had performed bypass surgery on Flynt's dad five years ago. He'd visited their family ranch many times since then. He and the two Carson brothers, Flynt and Matt, had become good friends.
"Hey, man, what's been happening?" Michael asked, taking a chair. A waiter hurried over with the menu and took his order for a tall glass of iced tea. "Not Texas style," he added.
Texas tea could set a man on his rump after one glass of the potent blend of liquors with a smidgen of tea and fruit flavors to round it out.
Flynt grimaced when they were alone. "I guess you heard the news about Carl Bridges?"
"Yeah, I saw it on TV. Any more info on it?"
Flynt nodded. "Spence is keeping his cards close to his chest, but they have arrested someone."
Spence Harrison was also a golfing buddy and the local district attorney handling the case.
Excerpted from Heartbreaker by Laurie Paige Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.