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The Rich Man's Son
By Judy Duarte
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Want some company?"
Rowan Parks looked up from his long-necked bottle of beer and caught the appreciative smile of a bleached-blond cowgirl in a red, low-cut blouse that threatened to pop a button if she took a deep breath.
"Afraid not." He motioned for the waitress, indicating he wanted to close out his tab and get on his way to nowhere in particular.
The blonde took a seat across from him anyway, put her elbows on the table and leaned forward. "My name's Charlene."
Rowan didn't respond. Women often sidled up to him in a bar with the intention of warming his bed. But sex was the furthest thing from his mind this evening.
And so was company.
"What's your name?" she asked, not at all put off by his silence.
Rowan wasn't up for this. He'd been stewing in his anger and his grief for days. And he wasn't ready for a change of mood. Nor was he willing to knock off the chip that weighed heavily upon his shoulder.
It felt too damn good to be miserable. Especially in a seedy little hole-in-the-wall like this.
Brenda Wheeler, his father's housekeeper and the woman who'd raised him and his siblings, had always made a big deal about being courteous. Polite.
But Rowan couldn't see any point in being honest. He glanced at the wood-paneled room, caught a whiff of stale beer and tobacco. Listened as an old country western song boomed from a red-and-chrome jukebox - Hank Williams at his best.
The tune wafted through the air like a curl of cigarette smoke, giving Rowan a quick and easy pseudonym. "My name is Hank."
Her blue eyes lit up, and she smiled, revealing a chipped front tooth. "Hank? No kidding? Just like the singer?"
He nodded, wishing the waitress would hurry up. The Watering Hole had been nearly empty when he'd first parked his Harley outside, trudged up the graveled walk and took a seat in the far corner, hoping to quench his thirst and wash the dust from his throat. But as more and more locals began to fill the wooden tables and red-vinyl corner booths, their laughter and Southern twangs played havoc with his sullen mood.
The blonde, Charlene, glanced at the diamond stud he wore in one ear, the platinum Rolex on his wrist, then studied his face with a good deal more interest than he wanted to cultivate.
"You're not from around here, are you?"
She had that right.
Rowan was as out of place in this Texas honky-tonk as he'd always been in the San Francisco mansion in which he'd grown up. But he didn't see any reason to comment. He wasn't into chitchat. Or revelations of his hell-bent flight to anonymity and peace.
When the waitress brought his check, he reached into his jeans pocket, pulled out a roll of cash wrapped in a rubber band, withdrew a twenty-dollar bill and set it on the brown Formica tabletop.
"Things really get hoppin' around here on Friday nights," Charlene said, offering him a friendly grin.
"And the band will be settin' up pretty soon."
Rowan wasn't interested in boot scootin' or twosteppin', and the only mood music he felt like listening to was the blues. But something told him he wouldn't find a darkened jazz club out in the sticks.
"The band is really good. In fact, they've even had gigs in Austin. I know, 'cause my brother plays steel guitar." She tried to urge a smile from him, but it didn't work. "You're not going to up and walk away, are you?"
That's exactly what he was going to do. And it was exactly what he'd done a couple of days ago - he'd walked away for good. And right now he only wanted to be left alone.
"Has anyone ever said that you look like Antonio Banderas?" she asked, apparently not giving up. Not used to being ignored.
Blessed with black hair, deep-set dimples and blue eyes, Rowan was the only one in the whole family to inherit his mother's ability to stop people in their tracks because of his good looks.
It had been a double-edged sword, though, since he'd had a feeling it was his physical resemblance to his mother that caused his father to shun him.
"I like the look of a five o'clock shadow on a man," Charlene said. "It makes y'all look kind of dangerous and sexy."
And rebellious, Rowan supposed. His refusal to shave every day had really irritated his old man. So had his troublemaking. But at least his rebellion had finally finagled a reaction out of his father.
You ungrateful bastard. Why can't you be more like your brother, Cade?
And less like your mother, Rowan had always internally supplied.
Was that what made his dad ignore him? The fact that Rowan looked like the woman his father had committed to a sanitarium in Switzerland?
Or had the jewelry baron merely found Rowan lacking?
Either way, as the black sheep of the family, Rowan had done everything he could to rebel against his father, a man who'd shown his ruthless side one time too many.
Excerpted from The Rich Man's Son by Judy Duarte Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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