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Tex Times Ten
By Tina Leonard
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTex Jefferson's brothers, Frisco Joe, Laredo and Ranger, had tried so hard to outrun a matrimonial state that they'd swerved and crashed headfirst into it.
Tex simply wasn't going to be caught like that. Running was not a fail-safe cure. His brothers had married good women, and they were happy changing their worlds to suit their new wives.
But I, Tex thought, know that marital stability is not my thing. He could ride the orneriest bull. He could bust heads when defense was necessary and sometimes when it wasn't. Rope, ride and range.
But he would die coming home to an Annabelle, a Katy or a Hannah every night. Good girls, every one of them. And Tex was happy for his brothers.
And Mimi Cannady, their next-door neighbor, had put a knot in his eldest brother Mason's life then married someone else. Merry hellfire was Mimi. Tex thought he could almost handle a woman like that.
Maybe. If forced.
But why should he fall for a lady he had no intention of marrying? Mason hadn't married Mimi, and surely that was an example to follow!
But Mason was miserable. Tex was glad to have temporarily left a house that only he and Mason were currently sharing, Tex wandered into one of the riverboat's many bedrooms. He couldn't see himself living on a boat the way Hannah's friend Jellyfish did. Too confining. Too narrow. Louisiana's Mississippi River had its charm but nothing like the great open spaces of Texas and the Union Junction ranch. He was a man of the soil, not a man of the water.
Of course, land was in Tex's blood, as it was in the blood of his eleven brothers: Mason, Frisco Joe, Fannin, Laredo, Calhoun, Ranger, Archer, Crockett, Navarro, Bandera and Last. The men shared three houses on the Union Junction ranch. With Frisco, Laredo and Ranger married, the quarters were getting less crowded, leaving room for Helga the Housekeeper. Tex suspected Mimi had sicced Helga on them to keep Mason "safe" from other women - but since Mimi had married Brian, maybe that thought wasn't honorable. Still, Helga had overseen the Jefferson brothers like a strict governess, making the sprawling ranch seem confining.
Startled, he realized he'd stumbled into the newly decorated honeymoon suite - Hannah's bedroom converted for that purpose, as Ranger had mentioned. There were white roses galore and two crystal flutes on the nightstand. Fascinated, Tex ogled the place where love ended up. You met a girl, you married a girl and then you bedded down with the girl, every night for the rest of your life.
Sheesh. Not me, Tex thought.
Next to the crystal flutes was a book that bore Hannah Hotchkiss's name. She was Hannah Jefferson now, since Ranger and she had just said their vows. Through the window, Tex could hear the sound of dance music and happy guests on deck.
He knew he was foregoing dancing for snooping. But he had thought Cissy Kisserton might make it to Hannah's wedding, since the two of them had gotten close during their infamous road trip with Ranger. He'd hoped for a glimpse of that platinum-haired man-magnet; a glimpse was about all a man could handle. But she hadn't attended.
Being nosy, Tex picked up Hannah's book. A picture fell to the floor, which he scooped up guiltily.
And there was Cissy Kisserton, looking like no Cissy he'd ever seen. She wasn't dressed in a mini-skirt and high heels. She wasn't wreaking havoc on a man's groin by wearing catsuit jeans.
This Cissy was dressed for church.
Whew. She was a wicked brew of sin underneath that churchy lace thing. Who was she trying to fool?
Tex wasn't admitting it, but he'd stayed on that bull, BadAss Blue, just to impress Cissy. Sure, she'd lied about the other bull, Bloodthirsty, pulling left so that Tex's twin, Laredo, wouldn't be able to stay on.
But Tex sort of admired a woman with gall.
And he'd stayed on his bull just to show Cissy Kisserton what he was made of. He figured she'd be appropriately admiring and grateful after the rodeo.
She hadn't been.
It was as if she had too many things on her mind to be bothered with him. A winning cowboy, and she hadn't given him the time of day. He'd beat his own brother - not that it was difficult since Laredo couldn't have stayed on a bull if he'd had crazy glue in his jeans - just to get her attention.
Tex turned his gaze back to the picture. Seven children stood around Cissy, some of them clinging to her. There was a church in the background. In fact, she was standing in a church parking lot. The baby stroller at her side held what looked like two more infants, and, he saw with a growing sort of horror, her left hand was on the stroller handle!
Tex's jaw sagged as if he'd been punched in a bar brawl. The nine little moppets of varying ages were going to church with her.
Excerpted from Tex Times Ten by Tina Leonard Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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