Read an Excerpt
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - The Icing on the Cake
Chapter 2 - No Offense, But . . .
Chapter 3 - Indecent Exposure
Chapter 4 - Making a Splash
Chapter 5 - Double Dog Dare Ya
Chapter 6 - Something Old, Something New
Chapter 7 - Dust in the Wind
Chapter 8 - Eat Your Heart Out
Chapter 9 - A Night to Remember
Chapter 10 - Rock My World, Little Country Girl
Chapter 11 - Wet and Wild
Chapter 12 - Makeover Madness
Chapter 13 - Making a Splash
Chapter 14 - Shop ’Til You Drop
Chapter 15 - Some Like It Hot
Chapter 16 - Hope Floats
Chapter 17 - Count Me In
Chapter 18 - Barefoot and Breathless
Chapter 19 - While You Were Sleeping
Chapter 20 - About Last Night
Chapter 21 - A Long Time Coming
Chapter 22 - Deal . . . or No Deal?
Chapter 23 - “Holding Out for a Hero”
Chapter 24 - A Rose by Any Other Name . . .
Chapter 25 - Pillow Talk
Praise for the Novels of LuAnn McLane
A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action
“Macy and Luke are fabulous lead protagonists. They make this tale work as a deep yet humorous character study with a strong support cast.”—Midwest Book Review
“[LuAnn McLane] has a knack for rollicking Southern romances, and her newest is no exception.”
—The Cincinnati Enquirer
“[A] fun and flirty contemporary romance about grabbing that second chance.”—Fresh Fiction
Trick My Truck but Don’t Mess with My Heart
“There’s . . . an infectious quality to the writing, and some great humor.”—Publishers Weekly
“This sweet, funny story of family, friends, and stepping out of the roles expected by others is a real Southern-fried treat.”
“[A] quick-paced, action-packed romantic romp.”
“With her honest and comical writing, McLane brings us a spunky new heroine. Readers will enjoy quirky Southern characters.”—Romantic Times (4 stars)
Dancing Shoes and Honky-Tonk Blues
“Abby shines as the sweet and lovable duckling-turned-swan. Lighthearted comedy and steamy romance combine to make this a delightful tale of a small town that takes Hollywood by storm.”—Romance Junkies
“A hoot a minute . . . a winning tale not to be missed.”
—Romance Reviews Today
“A fun story filled with plenty of laughter, tears, and all-out reading enjoyment.”—Fallen Angel Reviews
“Fabulous. . . . Get ready for a deliriously funny, passion-filled rumba.”—The Romance Readers Connection
“A fun small-town drama starring a delightful . . . lead couple and an eccentric but likable supporting cast.”
—The Best Reviews
“LuAnn McLane makes the pages sizzle.”
Dark Roots and Cowboy Boots
“An endearing, sexy, romantic romp that sparkles with Southern charm!”—Julia London
“This kudzu-covered love story is as hot as Texas Pete, and more fun than a county fair.”
—Karin Gillespie, author of Dollar Daze
“A hoot! The pages fly in this sexy, hilarious romp.”
—Romance Reviews Today
“Charmingly entertaining . . . a truly pleasurable read.”
Also by LuAnn McLane
A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action
Trick My Truck but Don’t Mess with My Heart
Dancing Shoes and Honky-Tonk Blues
Dark Roots and Cowboy Boots
Driven by Desire
Love, Lust, and Pixie Dust
Hot Summer Nights
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First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, March 2009
Copyright © LuAnn McLane, 2009
All rights reserved
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eISBN : 978-1-101-01970-2
Redneck Cinderella is dedicated to Kim and Terri.
You gotta kiss a lot of toads . . .
Thanks to country music fans who are spreading the word about my Southern-fried books. Your encouraging e-mails and message-board posts help to keep my fingers on the keyboard.
I’d like to extend a special thanks to my editor, Lindsay Nouis. Your enthusiasm brings out the best in my writing, and you have been a pleasure to work with.
As always, thanks so much to my agent, Jenny Bent. Your continued support, encouragement, and insight are highly valued and appreciated.
“I’ll get it, Daddy,” I shout from where I’m washing the supper dishes.
“Okay, Jolie,” he calls back from his workshop just off the kitchen. He’s busy whittling Christmas ornaments for a craft show and I don’t want to interrupt him. This year’s drought hurt our tobacco crop, so what started out as a therapeutic hobby now brings in much-needed income. Another sharp rap at the front door has me grabbing a towel and hurrying through the living room to see who might be coming our way on such a cold night.
“Hold your horses,” I grumble. Our farm is miles from town, so it’s not as if we often have visitors just dropping in for social calls. After wiping my wet hands, I toss the dish towel over my shoulder and open the door. Oh wow rings in my head but doesn’t reach my mouth. Now, I’m not usually one to be rendered speechless, but when I see who is on our doorstep, I get tongue-tied and flustered.
“Jolie Russell?” our visitor asks.
“Ughaaaa.” Forgetting about my tongue-tied situation, I then try to respond but manage only this weird noise, which I then disguise as a sneeze. “Chu.” Sometimes you just have to think on your feet.
“God bless you.”
This time I’m smart enough to merely nod while rubbing my finger beneath my nose as if I really did sneeze.
“You are Jolie and your daddy is Wyatt Russell, correct?”
“Last time I checked.”
He gives me a half grin. “Good. The name and address on your mailbox were faded and I wanted to be sure I hadn’t taken a wrong turn in the dark. Cody Dean.” He extends his hand and I give him a firm handshake just like my daddy taught me.
“H-hey there,” I manage to sputter. Of course, like everybody else in Cottonwood, Kentucky, I’m already well aware of who he is. Cody, the elder son of Carl Dean, is back from his fancy Ivy League education to take over his daddy’s company. The Dean family is like royalty here in Cottonwood, with Cody being the prince. I also know that Dean Development has been buying up farmland for subdivisions all over Cottonwood, and I suddenly get light-headed at the prospect of why Cody is paying us a visit, because I’m pretty sure it isn’t to ask me on a date.
Ha! No, I’m certain he isn’t here to take little ole me out to dinner. Back in high school, having him ask me out was my secret fantasy. I bet he doesn’t even remember that we had a chemistry class together. I got a doggone C in the course, much to Daddy’s dismay, because I was too busy gawking at Cody when I should have been taking notes. Of course, he never noticed me, except for the day I caused a minor chemical explosion. Had I been paying attention to my experiment instead of looking his way, the incident would never have occurred. To say he’s out of my league would be the understatement of the year, which leaves me to wonder if he’s going to make us an offer to buy our acreage. My heart starts beating wildly at the prospect.
“Sorry to have stopped by unannounced, but may I come in?”
“Oh . . . why sure—where the hell are my manners?” I blurt out, and then wish my tongue had remained tied. “I mean, um, please, come on in,” I amend softly, since I tend to shout when I get jittery, even when it’s not necessary. With a smile that goes wobbly on me, I step aside for him to enter. As he passes me I get a whiff of expensive-smelling aftershave that makes me want to pant after him like a lovesick puppy. I firmly remind myself that it’s been almost six years since high school and I need to conduct myself in an adult manner. Oh, but he’s wearing a slick leather bomber jacket and fancy-looking black jeans and don’t ask me why, but I have a sudden, silly urge to take the dish towel from my shoulder, roll it up tightly, and zap him on the butt. “Pop a squat,” I offer, and gesture toward the sofa. “Um, I mean, have a seat.” God, I suck at this.
“Thank you.” Cody’s tone is refined, but the hint of amusement in his blue eyes has my chin coming up a notch. Mercy, did he know I was ogling his backside? I make a mental note to keep my eyes on his face. Admittedly, I’m a bit lacking in social graces, having lost my mama at the tender age of ten. I’m more at home fishing and four-wheeling with guys than dressing up for dinner dates, not that shaking Cody’s hand didn’t give me a hot little tingle that traveled all the way to my toes. I might be a little rough around the edges, but I still have all my girl parts, and Cody Dean is making all of those particular areas stand up and take notice. But I remind myself that I’m no longer a teenager and that unrequited love is a long and lonely road. Cody Dean is here for a reason, but it sure isn’t to romance me.
When his gaze sweeps the room, pride stiffens my backbone. Unlike him, we might not have much, but although everything is old and outdated, it’s clean and as neat as a pin. I’m starting to get a little out of sorts as I watch him look around our humble home with what seems like open curiosity.
“What brings you here?” My blunt question carries slightly more bite than intended.
Cody’s dark eyebrows shoot up at my tone. “A business proposition,” he answers smoothly. “Is your father home, Jolie?”
Oh, holy crap. I tamp down the don’t-mess-with-me attitude that tends to land me in hot water, putting a smile back on my face. “Why yes, he is. I’ll get him. Um, make yourself at home.”
“Thanks.” He inclines his neatly cropped head and sits down on the sofa. I hope he thinks it’s an expensive antique instead of an ancient hand-me-down, but then beat myself up for caring. Cottonwood is a fairly small town, but it has a large social gap between old Southern money and dirt-poor farmers. Carl Dean has been known to be hard-nosed in his business dealings, but it’s been rumored that Cody is trying to soften the family reputation for ruthlessness.
My knees are a little shaky as I walk toward the doorway, but I suddenly remember my manners. “Would you like something to drink? Sweet tea?” I’m about to add crumpets just for fun, but I’m not sure what a crumpet is and I’m quite sure we don’t have any. About the best I could do is Oreos, and that’s if Daddy hasn’t eaten them all. Well, okay, I might have had one or two, starting with the icing first. The finer points of Southern hospitality must be in me somewhere, but because we so rarely have visitors, except for those who come for outdoor activities like four-wheeling, fishing, and such, I have few opportunities to practice those finer points. Still, I’m trying. “Anything?”
“No, thank you,” he says, but then adds, “On second thought, a bottle of water would be nice.”
Well, la-di-da. “Um, all I have is plain old water from the cistern.” My daddy thinks that buying bottled water is the dumbest damned thing ever imposed upon the American public, and I’m pretty much with him on that one. When Cody hesitates I add, “We’re fresh out of Perrier, but the tank is clean.”
His mouth twitches as if he isn’t sure if he should smile or not, but then he waves a hand at me. “That’s okay. I’m fine. Don’t go to any trouble.”
“Oh, it’s no bother.” Of course I’m going to bring him a glass of water just to be ornery. I’m bad that way. “I’ll go find Daddy.”
I walk slowly out of the room, wishing I were wearing something better than worn jeans and a George Strait T-shirt, but when I get to the kitchen I scurry into the workshop. “Daddy!” I say in what is a whisper for me but what is a normal tone for most folks. “Guess who’s sittin’ on our very own sofa?” Daddy blows sawdust off an angel, but when he opens his mouth to make a guess I blurt, “Cody Dean!” Dean comes out so high-pitched that our old mutt, Rufus, lifts his head and whines.
“Ya don’t say.” Daddy frowns and looks down at the angel with a critical eye.
“He wants to talk to you!” I tell him.
When Daddy doesn’t move, I reach over and tug him by his flannel shirt. “Hurry,” I urge, and all but drag him from the room. Although I love the farmhouse, I hate raising tobacco, the very crop that’s responsible for the death of my mama. “Just a second.” I pause to draw a glass of water from the faucet and make a mental bet with myself as to whether Cody will drink it.
When we enter the living room, Cody politely stands up and shakes my daddy’s hand. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Russell. May I have a few minutes of your time?”
Daddy nods, but I see the stubborn set of his jaw and my hope plummets. He eases down into the overstuffed chair while I march over and hand Cody the glass of water.
“Thank you,” he says, and while looking at me drains half the contents before setting it on the scarred coffee table. He gives me an I’m-on-to-you smile, and I can’t help but grin back at him. His smile deepens, causing a little dimple in his left cheek, and I have to grab the back of Daddy’s chair for support. I hang out with guys all the time, and while I’ve been sweet on one or two of them, none have ever turned me inside out with a mere smile.
“So, what brings you here?” Daddy asks, even though we suspect the reason. Rufus, who must sense the excitement in the air, sits back on his haunches and we all three look expectantly at Cody.
After clearing his throat, Cody leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees. “There’s no reason to beat around the bush, Mr. Russell. I’d like to make you an offer for your land.”
“I’m not interested,” Daddy tells him.
What? “Daddy, hear him out,” I say.
Cody shoots me a grateful glance. “I’m prepared to offer three million.”
When my knees give way I grab on to the back of the chair so hard that my fingernails dig into the nubby fabric.
“Sorry, Cody,” Daddy says.
Oh no! A little whimper escapes me.
“Three and a half million,” Cody counters, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Who knew that Daddy could bargain like this? I arch an eyebrow in an expression that says, See, we’re not as stupid as we look.
“Money isn’t the issue, son. This here land is where I lived with my dear wife, Rosie. I’ll never leave it.”
Oh . . . emotion suddenly clogs my throat. I can’t argue with his reasoning, but I also have to think that Mama somehow has a hand in this sudden windfall. Color me crazy, but I tend to feel her presence now and then.
Cody steeples his fingers and for a long moment remains silent, but then says, “You don’t have to leave your land. I’ll set aside your plot and you can keep several of the wooded acres as well. Now, you would have to rebuild. Mr. Russell, this isn’t going to be your average subdivision. I’m proposing a gated community with upscale homes. I might add that this would bring in much-needed tax dollars to Cottonwood.”
Daddy shakes his head. “Who could afford homes like that around these parts?”
“Kentucky horse money. I’ve done my homework. There are plenty of wealthy Kentuckians. These homes will sell quickly. Of course, we would build your house first.”
Daddy slowly runs a hand down his face and then looks back at me. “Jolie? What do you think?”
I kneel down beside the chair and put a hand on his arm. “Daddy, I know that Mama would want this for you. It seems like a good thing all around.” I squeeze his arm. “It’s okay to do this,” I assure him, and then hold my breath.