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Save By A Texas-Sized Wedding
By Judy Christenberry
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSuzanne McCoy stepped out on the front porch, closing the door behind her, and drew a deep breath. The air was quite different than the air in Dallas, where she'd lived until six days ago. That was when her life had drastically changed. Her cousin Mary Lee and her husband had been killed in a car accident; an elderly man had had a heart attack at the wheel of his truck and crashed into them.
Mary Lee and Rodger had moved to Cactus, a small town in west Texas, a year ago. Suzanne had missed them so much. Josh, now four, had been three years old. And Mandy had only been one, just walking and talking. She'd changed so much in a year.
Suzanne leaned against the railing on the porch. Mary Lee had left the children to her to raise. It hadn't taken much time for Suzanne to decide to give up her life in Dallas and come here. Pushing papers at an insurance company didn't seem important compared to helping Josh and Mandy deal with their loss and helping them grow up. She'd always wanted children, but she hadn't been nearly as interested in marriage. That involved men, and every man in her life from her father on had betrayed her.
Since everything seemed peaceful inside the house where the children were sleeping, Suzanne moved off the porch to walk slowly toward the bunkhouse. Until today, she'd scarcely had time to think about, much less do anything about, their situation, other than care for the children. Now she had a couple of questions. She figured the best person to answer them would be the manager Rodger had hired.
A soft breeze blew this evening, sending a shiver or two up her spine. As she got closer to the bunkhouse, the peace went away, too. She could hear voices. There was even laughing. She hadn't laughed since she'd gotten the news about Mary Lee and Rodger. She paused outside the door, not wanting to interrupt. She heard someone banging on something, as if calling everyone to order. She relaxed, until she heard a man declare, "We're all going to be rich! We've made a good start. And we'll get more 'cause the boss lady don't know nothing about ranchin'. She's too busy with those kids."
Suzanne froze. Then, liquid heat bubbled through her, past any logical thought or careful planning. She threw back the door and stomped into the room, marched up to the man at the head of the group and slugged him as hard as she could. Then she looked at the rest of them. "This boss lady catches on fast. You've got fifteen minutes to clear out. The sheriff will be here by then and I'll be pressing charges!"
Pandemonium reigned. As her anger receded to a more manageable level, she realized it would've been better to creep away and call the sheriff first. But it was too late for that now.
When the dust settled, only an old man sat in the corner of the room, whittling on a piece of wood.
"Aren't you scared about the sheriff's arrival?" she asked with disdain.
"Nope. Haven't done anything wrong. I've been working here since I was fifteen. I didn't rob you, ma'am. I told them I'd have nothing to do with those shenanigans."
"Why didn't you warn me?"
"I was thinking about it. They didn't get away with too much. You've still got a herd left. Just won't have as much profit as you might've had. But you've got a real problem."
"Who's gonna do the work?"
"Better that I do it than to let them get away with robbing those two children blind!"
"Yes, ma'am. But I don't think you know anything about cattle ... or ranching." He turned and spit tobacco juice to the side. Since there were already a few stains on the floor, she didn't stop him. Besides, she was beginning to realize he was right. She had a real problem.
"How many cowboys do I need to run this place?"
"Well now, if they were trained like Ryan's men, you could manage with four or five. But his men are a mite above average."
"Who is Ryan?"
"Ryan Walker. Neighbor to the west."
"Then I probably met him at the funeral."
"Mebbe. He knows ranching better'n anyone."
"Do you think he'll loan me some help?"
"Nope. He has a big place."
Suzanne sighed in frustration. "Then what am I going to do?"
"Go talk to the sheriff, first thing in the morning."
Excerpted from Save By A Texas-Sized Wedding by Judy Christenberry Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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