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The Inn Crowd
By Denise Belinda McDonald
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2007 Denise Belinda McDonald
All right reserved.
Chapter One"What made you come all the way to Texas all by your lonesome?"
"I just needed some time to myself. To relax."
She nodded. "I know just what you mean. This is a lovely place to relax. My girl does a good job at pamperin' her guests." Barbara Hughes winked. "Whatever you need, you just ask her and she'll set you up."
Anything? He didn't think a quickie out behind the gazebo he saw would be on the owner's list of amenities the inn provided. Jamie's face heated. When was the last time he blushed?
Mind out of the gutter, boy. And change the subject before your zipper busts and embarrasses all these lovely people.
"I hear congratulations are in order. Getting married soon."
A contented sigh escaped her, she gazed past his shoulder and her eyes lost focus. "Yes, sir. He is a sweetie." With a slight shake, she looked back at him. "How about you? You given much thought to marriage?"
* * *
Lorenna fought not to drop the hot plate of food she held.
"Mother." She set the dish in front of Jamie. Through gritted teeth she said, "Can I see you in the kitchen please."
"Well, you enjoy your dinner now." Barbara patted Jamie's hand then stood.
Jamie, obviously the only one at the table with manners, made to stand with Barbara, but Lorenna put a hand on his shoulder. "Stay. Enjoy your dinner." She shook off the heat that radiated at the brief touch. Imagination, that's all.
Then Lorenna pushed in her mother's chair. "Excuse us." She grabbed her mother's sleeve and tugged until she followed into the kitchen. When the door shut, she slammed her hands on her hips and glared at her mother. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Watch your mouth." Barbara crossed her arms. "I won't have you takin' that tone with me, young lady."
Lorenna ran her hand through her curls. "I'm sorry. But, Mom, why were you sittin' down talkin' with him? You know how I feel about that."
"I know no such thing. Just last week I exchanged recipes with that lovely woman from Dallas. You didn't seem so all fired upset with that. And I always visit with the Kellers when they're here."
"Well, Miss Barbara. What did he look like?" Ashley didn't let the familial argument stop her from jumping in.
Barbara clasped her hands to her chest and turned to the younger girl. "Oh I swear, that boy just about made me swoon right there in front of God and the world."
Lorenna snorted which earned her a narrowed gaze from her mother.
"I didn't see him walk in, he was already sittin' down, but I'll swear he's gotta be well over six feet tall. And he has that California bleached hair. All spiky in a just-rolled-out-of-bed tousled look."
Lorenna gasped. "Mother." She didn't need to hear this.
Wide-eyed, Ashley cut thick slices from the freshly-baked apple pie. "Go on."
"His eyes are a smoky blue, kind of a gray-" she turned to Lorenna, "-almost the same color as that cat you had when you were a girl. What was his name?"
"Mr. Whiskers." The name came out way too fast. She had contemplated the same similarity on her jog.
Her mother smiled a knowing smile. "Go refill his water and you can see for yourself, Ashley."
The girl snagged the water pitcher from the counter. "Oh, before I forget, my father asked that you have your vows to him by the end of the week so he can memorize them. He likes to make it look effortless when he performs a wedding." The girl shrugged then was out the door before Lorenna could stop her.
A moment later, she came back through the door and fanned herself. "You weren't lying, Miss Barbara. And the woman at table two agrees with you. She's practically falling out of her chair to watch him."
Lorenna almost missed as she plated the first piece of pie. The woman at table two was with her fiancé. Did some women have no shame?
She set all the plates on a serving tray as well as the whipped cream and pushed through the kitchen door. "Y'all behave while I'm out there." Barbara and Ashley both saluted but didn't even try to contain their huge, wild grins.
The flirty woman in question was the closest to the door so Lorenna stopped at her table first.
"Here y'all go." She had to force herself not to clank the plate in front of the stick-thin hussy. "Homemade apple pie."
"Oh, I don't think I could eat another bite." Little Miss Hussy, Lorenna knew her name actually to be Olivia from when she checked in, said in a high saccharine voice as she looked over at Jamie.
All of the sudden, Lorenna found herself possessive and protective of her new guest. How could a woman openly flirt with a man with her fiancé sitting right there next to her? But instead of calling the woman out, she smiled and gave Randy, Olivia's beau, a slice of pie and a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. Oblivious, he tore into the pie after he passed on the whipped cream.
Then onto the Kellers' table.
"You just serve the best food, Lorenna." The older gentleman leaned back in his chair and patted his paunch.
"Thank you, Mr. Keller." She pinched his cheek, which elicited a tsking sound from his wife, despite the laughter in her eyes. Lorenna gave him a piece of pie and heaped on the whipped cream, just the way he liked it.
"My dear," Mrs. Keller motioned for her to move closer, "that young man over there. He wouldn't happen to be that actor fellow would he?"
Lorenna glanced at Jamie. He was very attractive and had one hell of a body, but an actor ... She shuddered at the thought.
"No, ma'am." She set Mrs. Keller's plate in front of her with just a dab of whipped cream on the side. "He's a veterinarian."
"Well, I'd swear he's the boy who starred in those military movies. You know which ones I'm talking about, don't you?" She looked at her husband but his attentions were focused solely on the dessert.
Mrs. Keller shook her head and bit into her pie. "Mmm-mmm. As good as I knew it would be. You are a marvel, my girl. I told all the ladies at the club about your little place." She reached up and patted Lorenna's hand.
"And I thank you. I think I have two of your friends booked at the end of the summer."
Mrs. Keller nodded and took another bite. "Heavenly." Then her gaze moved to Jamie. "But are you certain he's not that acting fellow?"
"Yes, ma'am. I think he just has one of those faces." One of those faces that made a woman's heart beat faster. One of those faces that made a woman don a gauzy floral dress. One of those faces that, coupled with an amazing body, elicited raw and primal fantasies. Lorenna resisted the urge to fan herself after her wicked imagination cranked the room temperature up a few notches. "You enjoy your dessert."
She turned and saw Jamie studying her with such an intense gaze her mouth dried. She had to clear her throat. "Here ya go." She set the pie on the table. "Would you like some whipped cream to go with that?"
"Is it homemade like the pie?"
"Is there any other kind?"
"Some people buy it in that little plastic tub."
She scooped out a huge spoonful of white, fluffy ecstasy. "That's blasphemy in these here parts." She laid her accent on thick and got a deep belly laugh from her hunk of a guest.
Jamie took a bite of the pie, closed his eyes and moaned. "So good." He glanced up at her. "May I have more?"
"Uh, sure." Lorenna set the bowl next to his plate. "Help yourself."
Jamie heaped a mountain of whipped cream on his pie. He smoothed the confection over the top of his pie.
Heat once again crawled up Lorenna's neck when he brought the fork up to his mouth and licked it clean. She hadn't seen someone so blissfully happy since ... She couldn't remember if she ever had. Maybe he was a sugar junkie. Because if not, if he reacted that way to other earthy pleasures, a person could burn up in flames just watching him enjoy himself. Before she realized it, she did fan herself with the tray.
Jamie opened his eyes. "You okay? You look a little flushed."
She flattened the tray to her chest and crossed her arms over it then waved away his question. "Kitchen's a bit hot."
Jamie's eyes narrowed and a frown tilted down his mouth. "What happened to your hand?"
Lorenna looked down at the bandage which covered most of her right hand. "Stupidity. I burned it on the potatoes."
Jamie looked at his plate. Though he'd eaten every bite, remnants of rice pilaf were stuck to his fork. She could almost read his mind when he looked back up.
"Yeah, and then I dropped them on the floor. Hence rice with dinner."
"Are you okay?" He wiped his mouth with his napkin and dropped the linen on the table before he grabbed her hand and examined it. "Did you see a doctor?"
"I thought vets only worked on the four-legged variety." A dark tint colored his cheeks as she pulled her hand free. If Lorenna wasn't mistaken, she made Jamie blush.
Excerpted from The Inn Crowd by Denise Belinda McDonald Copyright © 2007 by Denise Belinda McDonald. Excerpted by permission.
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