Read an Excerpt
The night breeze blew against Queen Houston's face, shifting her hair and cooling the sweat that had formed on her brow moments earlier. She hefted the shotgun to an easier position against her ribs and pressed closer against the outer wall of the house, confident, for the moment, that darkness hid her presence.
Her mouth thinned, and her eyes narrowed in anger as she watched the man who was standing in the shadows of the alley between their house and Whitelaw's Bar. She wondered how many times in the past he'd done what he was doing and gotten away with it.
Queen knew it was her sister Lucky's bedroom that had captured Morton Whitelaw's attention. Lucky was probably undressing. Queen mentally ticked off the garments that her sister must be removing by the way Morton Whitelaw increased the depth of his self-gratification. Her finger twitched on the trigger of the shotgun, knowing that it would take less effort to cock the hammer than it took to zip her blue jeans...and less time.
A small, distinct noise dampened Morton's lust. The click was loud and ominous and, to a man born to the Tennessee hills, as familiar as his own face. It was the sound of a hammer being cocked on a shotgun. Morton Whitelaw forgot he was at the point of climax as the woman's voice came drifting through the darkness.
"You sorry sonofabitch. If Johnny were still alive, he'd kill you," Queen said, stepping away from the wall of the house.
Morton paled, although his fear was hidden by the shadows in which he stood. It was Queen Houston! Even in thedarkness he recognized her by the tangle of wild red curls surrounding her face. He'd rather have been caught by any one of Johnny Houston's daughters but this one. She had a hate for men the likes of which he'd never seen. He knew it would take some tall talking to get away with what she must have been witnessing.
"Step out into the light," Queen said. "I think you've seen enough of the Houstons for one night."
He started to shake. It was the quiet, emotionless tone of her voice that made him afraid. That and the fact that she had the shotgun pointed at his crotch. He looked down, realizing as he did that he was still touching himself; he started to move his hand away when she hissed a warning.
"Leave it," she ordered. "You like that thing so much, I'd hate for it to get cold."
"Now, Queen, you don't understand," Morton began. "It isn't what you think. I was on my way over to your house to bring you girls your money, and I felt nature call. I was just about to"
"I know what you were about to do. I could hear your groans from here, you bastard. You want to jerk off, you use someone besides my sister for enticement."
"Damn," Morton muttered, and let his hand fall to his side. "What about the money for your property? You're still gonna sell, aren't you?" he asked.
Queen waved the shotgun toward his pocket. "Hand it over and then get the hell out of this alley before I find myself forced to shoot a prowler. I wouldn't be accused of anything other than a terrible accident and you know it. We just buried Johnny, remember? No one would blame the Houston girls for being nervous or for protecting themselves with their father barely cold in the ground."
"You bitch! When you get this money, that house is no longer your property."
"Maybe not," Queen said. "But you're buying the house and lot, not me and my sister."
He sighed and reached for the envelope he'd stuffed inside his shirt.
"No! Wait!" Queen ordered as Morton's hand dipped toward the pocket containing the checks. He did as he was told, frozen by the tone of her voice as well as by the ominous gleam of light on steel as the shotgun's direction was changed. She was now aiming toward his face.
"I'd rather you used your left hand, Whitelaw," she said, remembering what he'd been doing with his right one moments earlier.
He flushed and swore, but it did no good. Queen Houston didn't give an inch. Cursing soundly, he yanked the envelope from his pocket, flung it onto the ground between them, and turned and stalked away, silently willing her to hell and back.
The back door of Whitelaw's Bar slammed, and it was only then that Queen let out the breath she had been holding and bent down to pick up the envelope that Morton Whitelaw had tossed into the dirt. She walked out of the alley with the gun hanging in the crook of her arm, barrel downward, and paused long enough by the porch to read the names on the three cashier's checks inside the envelope. The glow of the red Christmas lights hanging across the front of Whitelaw's which hung there all year round, regardless of the season was bright enough for her to see the amount of each check.
Five thousand dollars! She still couldn't believe it. And it was all her sister Diamond's doing. The thought of Diamond's absence made her want to cry, but tears were not a part of Queen's life. Instead she stuffed the checks into the envelope and looked over her shoulder once more just to make sure that Morton Whitelaw was gone.
Remembering the look on Diamond's face as she'd walked out of their lives two days earlier on the arm of Jesse Eagle, one of Nashville's hottest singing sensations, was vivid. She'd left Cradle Creek with stars in her eyes and a dream in her heart. Queen envied her optimism, as...Queen. Copyright © by Sharon Sala. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.