When Sauk warriors pitched wigwams at Timberlake Lodge and started reenacting the wars of 1832, manager Sheila Lawson didn't blink an eye, until she caught sight of their magnificent leader.

She got to play his tent mate and wanted to make it authentic. But shockingly, Chief Black Hawk turned into her former high school history teacher, Mr. Wagner, who kept getting in the way of the fantasy.

In an act of insurrection she took him captive, ...

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Hero in Disguise

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When Sauk warriors pitched wigwams at Timberlake Lodge and started reenacting the wars of 1832, manager Sheila Lawson didn't blink an eye, until she caught sight of their magnificent leader.

She got to play his tent mate and wanted to make it authentic. But shockingly, Chief Black Hawk turned into her former high school history teacher, Mr. Wagner, who kept getting in the way of the fantasy.

In an act of insurrection she took him captive, demanding he forget about propriety and love her for her body, not her mind. Would a good warrior surrender?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781460322154
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 11/1/2013
  • Series: Hometown Reunion
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 218,511
  • File size: 279 KB

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Vicki Lewis Thompson’s love affair with cowboys started with the Lone Ranger, continued through Maverick and took a turn south of the border with Zorro. Fortunately for her, she lives in the Arizona desert, where broad-shouldered, lean-hipped cowboys abound. Visit her website at vickilewisthompson.com.

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Read an Excerpt

"Sheila." Abby Triblett grabbed Sheila's arm. "Look!"

Sheila Lawson glanced up from the Timberlake Lodge registration desk, where she'd been helping Abby untangle a booking error.

''The guy heading for the bar,'' Abby said in the same urgent undertone.

Sheila looked toward the bar entrance and caught her breath. A dark-haired hunk in tight buckskin breeches and a formfitting buckskin shirt strode into the dim interior, his moccasined feet making no sound on the polished wood floor. ''Be still, my heart,'' Sheila whispered.

''Who do you suppose he is?''

Sheila edged down the length of the registration desk and leaned over the far end to track the man's progress into the bar. ''One of the reenactors from the encampment, I guess,'' she said in a low voice.

''You didn't say any of those history nuts would look like that."

''The one who made all the arrangements didn't look anything like that.'' Sheila grinned at Abby. ''Ready to make a foray down to their encampment by the lake? ''First let's find out if he's the exception or the rule.'' ''How do you propose to do that?'' Sheila watched him skirt the tables and saunter over to the bar. He propped one foot on the brass railing running in front of it as he gave his order to the bartender, then shifted his weight, stretching the buckskin tight across his backside.

''One of us will engage him in conversation.'' Abby nudged Sheila with her hip. ''Don't hog the view.'' As she craned her neck for a better look, she sighed. ''He has nicer buns than Joe Montana.''

Sheila agreed. She also took note of wavy hair a little too long to be fashionable but just right for a woman to comb her fingers through. ''He could have an ugly face.''

''God wouldn't do that to me.''

Sheila poked Abby with her elbow. ''You realize this conversation is sexist and superficial.''

''I won't tell anybody about it if you won't. Check out those shoulders! Now there's a man who could carry me up the staircase.''

Sheila fantasized about his strong arms sweeping her into an embrace and felt goose bumps prickle her arms. ''He's probably married.''

''Then why isn't his wife in there having a drink with him?

''Good point.''

''I'll bet he's single. Sheila, we have to think up a reason for one of us to go in there and talk to him.''

''That's easy.'' A thrill of anticipation shot through her. ''We'll ask about his costume. Trust me, history buffs love explaining things like the origin of fringe.''

''I'd like him to explain how he makes that fringe ripple. Yum. I love fringe.''

Sheila laughed. ''I never would have guessed. How many times did you see Last of the Mohicans?"

''eleven, but who s counting? Okay, we have our topic of conversation. How do we decide which one of us goes?'' Abby glanced at Sheila. ''You're my boss, so I guess you could pull rank.''

''Not a chance.''

''Then let's flip for it.''

''I have a penny.'' Sheila reached in her skirt pocket for the one she d found, heads up, in the lodge parking lot on the way to work that morning. ''Call it.'' She flipped the coin in the air. ''Heads.''

Sheila slapped the coin onto the back of her wrist and lifted her hand. Tails.

''Damn,'' Abby murmured. ''Two out of three?'' ''Nope.'' Sheila slipped the penny back in the pocket of her wool skirt and pushed open the swinging door that separated the registration counter from the lobby. ''He's mine.''

''Maybe it ll turn out that he likes brunettes better than blondes,'' Abby said hopefully.

Sheila evaluated the physique of the man leaning against the bar. She turned back to Abby. ''Some things are worth dyeing for,'' she said with a wink.

''Very punny. Look, if you strike out, I think I deserve a turn at bat.''

''Abby, my dear, I plan to clean the bases.'' Sheila turned and started for the bar, feeling much less confident than she'd sounded with Abby. But darn it, she hadn't had a date since she d moved back to Tyler six months ago and it would be very nice to catch a movie or share a meal with someone of the opposite sex. Especially someone as gorgeous as the man leaning against Timberlake s polished mahogany bar.

The only reenactor she d met, Charles Ridenour from Milwaukee, had told her that the group drew members from all over Wisconsin, so this cutie-pie could be from anywhere in the state. Sheila hoped he didn't live too far away from Tyler.

At four in the afternoon the bar wasn't busy. Aside from the buckskin wonder, only one couple occupied a far corner table. In fact, the lodge itself was low on bookings this weekend, probably due to March s unpredictable weather, Sheila had concluded. The reenactment group hadn't wanted any rooms, so she d worked out a rate for camping on the grounds. The Tyler Citizen had run a story about the mock battles to be staged on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and spectators should fill the Timberlake dining room on both days, at least. Too bad the newspaper story hadn t included a picture of the man in buckskins, she thought. Female attendance would have tripled.

As she entered the bar, she framed her first question. I couldn't help noticing your costume. Now there was an understatement. Who do you represent? Or was it whom? Oh, well. If he cared that much about grammar, she wasn't interested, anyway. She reached up to tap him on the shoulder just as he put down his empty glass and turned, nearly colliding with her. She gasped. ''Mr. Wagner?"

Startled, he stepped back. ''Why, it's Sheila. Sheila Law-son. Sixth-period government.''

''Class of eighty-three,'' Sheila said automatically as she stared in dismay at her high-school history teacher. Her married high-school history teacher. She knew the blush was coming and could think of no way to hide it. She'd been admiring Mr. Wagner's buns. Abby would split a gut. ''I—I didn't recognize you from the back.'' She closed her eyes in mortification. ''I mean…the buckskin makes you look different. I never dreamed you were…Mr. Wagner.''

His eyes twinkled. She'd never realized they were such a captivating shade of green. ''I'll admit the costume's a little tight,'' he said. ''The guy who played Chief Black Hawk before me was smaller, but he insisted I had to wear this. Hand-beaded buckskin isn't that easy to come by.''

''Chief Black Hawk?'' She registered the scent of his aftershave, a woodsy fragrance she remembered from the hours she'd spent in his classroom.

''Come on, Sheila.'' He smiled, and she remembered the smile, too. It had always made her feel wonderful. ''Don't tell me I wasted my time on that statehood unit. Surely you know who Black Hawk was.''

Suddenly she was seventeen again, sitting in the front seat, third row, and she hadn't done her homework. She struggled to think of something, anything about Black Hawk. ''He was good-looking,'' she blurted.

He rolled his eyes.

''Okay. Okay, now I remember. He couldn't get the other tribes to help win back their land, so he and his braves had to fight alone. I think you compared his idealism to Don Quixote's.''

''So you were paying attention.''

Sometimes, she thought. And sometimes she'd daydreamed in a vague, seventeen-year-old fashion about what it would be like to be married to him, although she d never admitted that to anyone for fear of ridicule. All his students had known he was practically engaged to a woman who taught over in Sugar Creek.

''You were a good teacher,'' she said. ''It's just that I haven't thought about history in years.'' Or that other business, the matter she'd pushed to the back of her mind. The last time she d had a conversation with this man, she had admitted to plagiarizing a friend's essay. To hope he'd forgotten would be stupid. He was a history teacher and recalling the past was his specialty.

''You probably don't have much reason to think about Black Hawk these days,'' he said. ''I'm sure you have a very successful career by now, and I doubt it has anything to do with Wisconsin history.''

She was surprised he'd assume she was successful, considering what his opinion of her must have been thirteen years ago. ''Actually, I'm the manager here at Timber-lake.''

''Really? That's great.'' He glanced up at the beamed ceilings. ''I'm glad Judson Ingalls's granddaughter talked him out of tearing the place down.''

''Liza's very protective of Timberlake. In fact she got me the job as concierge here five years ago.''

''That's right. You and Liza were in the same class.'' He leaned a hip against the bar. ''So you've been working here five years?''

''No, Mr. Wocheck sent me to intern with one of the Addison chain's Chicago hotels. Six months ago I transferred back here.''

''You know, when Wocheck bought this for the Addison Corporation, I figured the special character of the lodge would disappear, but it hasn't.''

''I think Liza had a lot to do with that.''

''Probably.'' He smiled. ''I remember she always had a tendency to get her way. I saw her the other day in the library with her daughter. I never thought Liza Baron would settle down, but here she is, a happily married lady with a four-year-old.'' His glance flicked down briefly to her left hand. ''How about you?''

She held up her ringless hand. ''No husband and no kids.''

He nodded, as if in approval. ''There's no rush. I'm just glad you didn't end up with Dennis Hopkins.''

So was she, but she was amazed that Mr. Wagner remembered who her steady had been back in high school. ''He had a convertible, and he was a jock, she said with a dismissive shrug. ''Those things impress you when you're young.''

He chuckled. ''And now you're an old lady? What does that make me?

She glanced at him. She'd never really thought too much about his age. He'd been her teacher, so he'd been older, wiser, superior to her in every way. Yet if she set that aside and looked at him simply as a man, he didn t seem any older than other men she'd dated. His hair was dark and full, with no traces of gray, his skin supple, and his body…well, she'd already evaluated his body, and she'd be wise not to think of that now at the risk of blushing all over again. But she was curious about his age, now that he'd brought it up.

''I'm thirty-five,'' he said, as if reading her mind.

She made a quick calculation. ''You were only twenty-two when I was a senior?

''Barely twenty-three. Fresh out of college and so green I was sure all of you would see right through me.''

''No way! We thought you knew everything.''

He laughed.

''No, really. I don't think anybody ever stumped you with a question.''

''I prepared for those classes like you wouldn't believe.''

She was intrigued with the idea that he hadn't been as confident as he'd seemed. ''Just about everyone admired you, especially the kids in the scuba club. That was when the first Indiana Jones movie had come out, and we pictured you going all over the world looking for treasure like he did, only underwater instead of on land.''

His smile faded, and a haunted look came into his eyes. ''I was no Indiana Jones.''

Just like that, the cheerful atmosphere had evaporated, and she had no idea why. Uncomfortable with the tense silence, she searched for something more to say. ''Do you still sponsor the club?


It was obviously a sore subject, but she didn t know him well enough to ask any more questions. ''That's too bad,'' she said lamely. The conversation seemed to have hit a snag, and Sheila decided the safest plan was to extricate herself and go back to work. ''Well, it was great seeing you again, Mr. Wagner.'' She held out her hand. ''Have fun with the encampment.''

He seemed to pull himself back from the dark place to which he'd retreated. His smile looked a little forced, but his eyes focused on her with a new intensity as he took her hand. ''First of all, I'd count it a big favor if you'd call me Douglas instead of Mr. Wagner. When a thirty-year-old woman calls me Mr. Wagner, I feel about a hundred and two.''

The request tantalized her with renewed awareness of him as a man, not an icon, and the firm pressure of his hand closing over hers set off a little explosion of unexpected pleasure. ''All right.'' She looked into his eyes and tried out his name. ''Douglas.'' Immediately she felt an erosion of formality, an expansion of possibilities.

''Second of all, can you get away from your job anytime tomorrow and visit the encampment? I think you d be interested.''

It was an invitation that could be interpreted many different ways. Perhaps it was an empty courtesy, although the warmth in his eyes belied that assumption. Or maybe he was only behaving like a teacher who jumped at every chance to instruct an available student. Or he might be asking her as a man would ask a woman to spend time with him. The last possibility had her heart beating faster. Then she remembered his wife. A year after Sheila graduated he'd married the teacher from Sugar Creek.

She pulled her hand from his and pasted on a smile. ''I can sure try, Mr. W—Douglas.''

''Good. I'll look for you. I'd better get back, and I'm sure you have work to do. See you tomorrow.''

He left before she could throw out some statement about not being positive she could make it. She was pretty certain that he expected her, but she didn't want to go. There was no point in kidding herself; she was still attracted to him.

In high school she d thought of it as a hopeless crush, considering that he was a teacher and had a girlfriend. Thirteen years later it was still a hopeless crush, unless Douglas was the kind of man who didn t let marriage stop him from engaging in flirtations or even full-blown love affairs. She didn t want to discover that about somebody she d always admired.

With a sigh she returned to the registration desk.

Abby was busy with a couple who needed directions to Gates Department Store on the square in downtown Tyler. Abby obviously hadn t recognized Douglas Wagner as he walked out, either. When she'd supplied the couple with a map and sent them on their way, she turned expectantly toward Sheila. ''Well? Got a date with that handsome devil?

''You mean that handsome devil who s taught government at Tyler High for thirteen years?

''Get out of here! That wasn't Mr. Wagner!'' ''I'm afraid it was.''

''I don't believe it,'' Abby sputtered. ''It's not possible. Not with a behind like that.'' She clapped a hand over her mouth in horror and glanced around, as if worried that someone might have overheard her. ''You're not kidding me, are you? It really was him?

''Yes, it most certainly was. You were drooling over your high-school history teacher.''

''How embarrassing! I'll bet you just about died. Did he recognize you right away?

''Right away.'' Sheila hadn't thought much about it at the time, but it was remarkable, considering he d had hundreds of students over the years.

''Well, your hair's the same color, and you still look a lot like you did back then. I'll bet he wouldn't remember me, though.''

Sheila thought of Abby in high school, a chubby girl with dyed blond hair and a fondness for old Army jackets and ripped jeans. Sheila had been a model student, so Abby's grungy style and rebellious attitude had kept Sheila from pursuing a close friendship. Now brunette, slim and tastefully dressed, Abby didn t look anything like her high-school self and had mellowed considerably. She'd become Sheila's frequent companion for movies and shopping expeditions. ''Even I didn't recognize you when I walked in here the first day on the job,'' Sheila admitted.

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