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Working on her second basket of chips, Gail glanced at her surroundings. Though you couldn't tell it from the decor, the place did a booming business. People overlooked the slightly depressing atmosphere for the food - mouthwatering, spicy hot Tex-Mex. Still, ancient chrome and Formica tables and equally old vinyl-covered chairs, along with a couple of velvet paintings of Elvis and a bullfight just didn't inspire you to linger. Which was fine with the management, who wanted to move as many people in and out as possible.
A few minutes later, Cat blew in. "Guess who's moving to Aransas City?" she said breathlessly, before she even greeted Gail.
"How can you look so good at nearly eight months pregnant?" Gail demanded as Cat pulled out a chair and sank gratefully into it. "I looked like death warmed over with both my girls." Her unlamented ex, Barry, had always rubbed thatin, too. "You just ... glow or something. It's disgusting. You were like that with Max, too," she added, referring to her three-year-old nephew. "I think I hate you."
"It's from living a virtuous lifestyle," Cat said, dimples dancing in her cheeks, dark brown eyes gleaming with humor.
They both laughed. "Okay, I'll bite," Gail said, pushing her hair back out of her face. "Who's moving to town and why should I care?"
Cat leaned forward and grinned. "I'm about to tell you some delicious gossip. Show a little respect."
Gail tapped her fingers on the table, lifted an eyebrow and waited.
"Think tall, blond and gorgeous."
"That could describe a lot of people. Male or female?"
"Male." Cat's lips curved upward. "Definitely male."
The waitress came just then and took their orders. As soon as she left, Gail said impatiently, "You know I'm no good at guessing games. Spill it."
Cat looked around the room, lowered her voice and said, "Jay."
Gail stared at her for a minute. "Jay Kincaid? Your brother-in-law?" Six foot two of pure male temptation. And the last time Gail had seen him, six months before, he'd been living with an equally tall, blond and gorgeous lady lawyer.
Cat nodded vigorously. "That's right." She grabbed a chip and bit down with satisfaction. "He's joining Dr. Kramer at the new clinic."
That got her attention. "What? How? He works in California."
"How do you think? He's moving here. He'll be in tomorrow night."
Jay Kincaid, moving to Aransas City? Living in the same town, instead of fifteen hundred miles away? She'd always imagined him as firmly entrenched in California.
"That's not all," Cat continued. "Remember Carla?"
The twinge of pleasure and anticipation she'd felt faded quickly. "Who could forget?" Gail said irritably. "The woman was draped all over him like a cheap fur coat at that family picnic you had last summer."
Carla had spent the occasion making it crystal clear that Jay was off-limits to other women. Especially Gail. Why the woman had felt threatened by her, Gail couldn't imagine, but she obviously had. Carla was smart, successful and beautiful. Gail was a struggling single mother five years older than Jay. And while she certainly wasn't dog ugly, she was no beauty queen, either.
"That's her," Cat said. "I was surprised she didn't leave claw marks on his arm. I never could figure out what he sees in her, but when I said that to Mark, he just laughed at me."
Gail snorted. "I don't blame him. Get real, Cat. She looks like a men's magazine model."
"Oh, that," Cat said, waving a hand. "But it's so obvious."
"Yeah." Gail sighed and looked at her own much smaller chest. Cat had inherited most of the curves in the family. Gail was slighter, not voluptuous at all. On the bright side, though, she ate what she wanted and didn't gain weight. "Let me guess. They're getting married, right?" A shame, really. Besides being to-die-for good-looking, Jay was a really nice man. Sometimes a little too nice, Gail thought darkly.
"Au contraire." Cat's eyes sparkled as she leaned forward. "They're over. Finito. Kaput. Jay said he moved out three months ago."
The waitress set their drinks down, promising to return with the food. Playing for a little time, Gail put sugar in her tea and stirred it before she spoke. "And I should care, why?"
Cat smirked. "Come on, Gail. Every time you and Jay are together there are vibes. Very sexy vibes."
Gail laughed. "Right. Pregnancy has addled your imagination."
Their food arrived, steaming hot and smelling like heaven. Gail thought she'd deflected Cat's interest, but no such luck. After a few bites, Cat laid her fork down and said, "You know, you can be as closedmouthed as you want, but I know for a fact something happened between you two during Mark's and my wedding."
"Do you?" Gail shrugged. "That was five years ago, Cat. Even if something had gone on, what would it matter now?"
"So you admit something happened."
"Nothing happened," Gail said flatly, pushing her suddenly tasteless enchilada aside. But not from lack of trying on her part. She still winced whenever she thought of the reception that evening, at their mother's stunning waterfront home. She and Jay had spent most of it together. Dancing. Talking. And late in the evening, in the darkened shadows of the terrace, kissing. She resisted the urge to fan herself as memories bombarded her. Oh, the man could kiss.
So when Gail's mother had offered to keep the girls at her house, Gail had asked Jay to come home with her. They'd driven to her house and then ... nothing. Jay had very nicely and very gently, turned her down.
Excerpted from A Marriage Made In Texas by Eve Gaddy 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.