USA TODAY bestselling author Sara Orwig returns to Verity, Texas
All Wyatt Milan wants is a quiet life. That's why the billionaire rancher became sheriff of the sleepy town of Verity, Texas. But Wyatt's tranquility is disrupted when charismatic TV host Destiny Jones blows into town, determined to solve a murder mystery tied to a long-standing family feud.
Destiny's questions threaten to stir up the old Milan-Calhoun disputealong with the hottest desire Wyatt has ever felt. This woman has turned his town, and his life, upside down. Suddenly Wyatt's got a brand-new feud on his handsone a lot closer to his heart!
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What Sheriff Wyatt Milan liked most about his job was that he knew what to expect in his quiet town of Verity, Texas. But on this October afternoon when he turned his car around the corner onto Main Street he knew change was in the air.
A red limousine took up his parking space, plus some, right in front of city hall.
"What the hell?" he said quietly.
"Gosh almighty, there goes a quiet afternoon," Deputy Lambert whispered. "Will you look at that," he said louder.
Wyatt was looking. Directly in front of the small city hall building stood a prominent sign with large letters: No ParkingReserved for the Sheriff of Verity, Texas.
He had expected the usual big empty space where he could park Verity's official black-and-red sheriff's car. Instead, the red stretch limousine took every inch of the allotted area.
He and his family had money, as did many families in the town, but no one owned anything as flashy as an all-red limo. "That limo doesn't belong to anyone living in these parts," Wyatt said, more to himself than to his deputy, thinking something was about to shatter some of the peacefulness of his hometown.
"In my whole life, I've never seen a limo that big and that red," Val said with awe in his voice. "I'll go look for the driver."
"He may be inside."
"No one was scheduled to see you today, were they?"
"No," Wyatt said, halting beside the limo. "You write a ticket and stick it on the windshield. Come in when you're through. If the owner or the driver isn't here, we'll go look around town for him. The people who live here want a quiet, peaceful town. I want one, too. Thanks to my sister marrying a Calhoun, the old Milan-Calhoun feud has finally died down. I don't want something happening to bring trouble elsewhere in town."
"Amen to that. Why would anyone park a big limo in the sheriff's space?"
"Either he's lazy, starting trouble, unobservant or he's someone who thinks he can do whatever he wants. Who knows?"
Deputy Lambert stepped out and Wyatt drove around the corner and parked in the alley behind the building, in the small space allotted for two cars and a nearby Dump-ster. His life had had enough upheavalsan emotional breakup years earlier with his fiancée and then coming home to his brother fighting with a Calhoun neighbor, keeping the century-old family feud explosive. When people wanted him to run for sheriff of Verity County, based in the town of Verity, he'd had to quiet fights between his brother Tony and Tony's neighbor Lindsay Calhoun. Everything was finally coming under control. He didn't want someone to come to town and destroy the peace he had worked hard to establish. He shook his head as he entered city hall. He hoped this was settled quickly and quietly and the red limo drove out of Verity the same way it'd come in.
Entering the Verity County sheriff's office through the back door, Wyatt walked down the long hall. His boot heels scraped the scuffed boards as he passed the large file room, a small break room and a meeting room with a small table and chairs. The hallway continued, dissecting the stone building. To the right were the mayor's office, the town records office and the utilities office. To the left were the sheriff's office and a two-cell jail. The center reception area was lined with vinyl-covered benches and in the middle was a desk where a clerk sat. Wyatt looked at Corporal Dwight Quinby whose wide eyes sent a silent message that something was up here at the office. Dwight's tangled light brown hair became more snarled as he ran his fingers through it.
"Sheriff, there's a woman in your office. When she said she wanted to see you, I told her to have a seat out here, that you'd be back soon, but she talked me into telling where your office is and letting her go back there. I don't even know how she did it. First thing I knew she smiled and was gone," he said, sounding dazed.
"Dwight, slow down," Wyatt drawled quietly. "Who is she? What's her name?"
"I didn't get her name. I don't knowone moment she was here and the next she was in your office. I don't know what happened."
"Tell Val when he comes in that I've found the limo passenger. Tell him to look around town for a uniformed driver and get that thing moved out of my parking place. Or call Argus and tell him to come tow that limo away from here."
"You might change your mind after you meet her," Dwight said.
Startled, Wyatt shook his head. "I don't think so. You call and get it towed," he said, curious now who was waiting in his office and why Dwight would say such a thing or look so dazed.
"Yes, sir," Dwight replied, glancing through the oval glass in the front door that offered a good view of the red limousine.
"Sheriff, you haven't ever met anyone like her," Dwight said, surprising Wyatt even more with such an uncustomary reaction.
With a long sigh, Wyatt headed for his office. Whatever the woman wanted, she'd have to move the limo before they did anything else. He hoped she wasn't moving to Verity. The town was filled with enough affluent people who thought they had special rights and privileges. It took tact and diplomacy to deal with them, including his own family sometimes.
In this case, he felt the owner of the limo lost all rights to tact and diplomacy when she had the limo parked in the sheriff's space.
Wyatt opened the door of his office and walked in. Instantly he forgot all about the limo.
His gaze focused on a long-legged redhead seated in a leather wingback chair that was turned slightly toward the door. Big green eyes immobilized him, a sensation that Wyatt was unaccustomed to. With an effort his gaze left hers, trailing over her while his breath left his body. Dimly, he wondered if another movie was going to be filmed in or near Verity and this was the star. A riot of curly auburn hair spilled over her shoulders, giving her a sensual, earthy look that heated his insides. Flawless, smooth skin heightened her allure. Her green dress emphasized the color of her eyes and clung to a figure that threatened to melt his thought processes. Lush curves turned the room temperature to the heat of a West Texas summer. He noted her tiny waist, but then his gaze traveled down where the dress ended at her crossed knees, down long shapely legs.
"Well, good morning to the illustrious sheriff of Verity County," she said, drawing out her words in a throaty voice that sounded like a suggestive invitation to sin instead of a greeting.
Without conscious thought of what he was doing, Wyatt walked toward her. He stopped in front of her. A faint hint of a smile gave a slight curve to her full, red lips and he couldn't keep from wondering what it would be like to kiss her.
"Good morning. It's Wyatt Milan," he said, waiting for her to respond and give him her name.
She smiled and his knees almost buckled. Her smile was dazzling and lit up her face as if she were the friendliest person in the state of Texas, and in that moment he understood why his clerk had been so dazzled.
When she held out her hand, he took it, his fingers closing around a dainty, warm hand that sent electricity streaking through him. A beautiful pearl-and-diamond band was on one of her fingers. He glanced at her other hand to see it was bare of rings.
"I'm Destiny Jones, Sheriff Milan. I'm from Chicago."
As if she had plunged a knife into his heart, Wyatt came out of his daze. He had never met the woman, but he knew the name and he knew about her. His wits began to work again and his breathing steadied, and he could almost view her without an intense physical reaction. As if his emotions were on a pendulum, his feelings about her swung in the opposite direction and he viewed her as pure trouble.
"Destiny Jones, as in Desiree Jones's sister," he said, recalling the headline-making, temperamental, stunningly beautiful movie star he had once had an affair with while she was on location in Verity. An affair that had ended badly. He remembered Desiree talking about her older sister who hosted a television show about unsolved mysteries and had written a bestselling book, Unsolved Mysteries of the South.
"Ah, you remember," she replied.
"I always remember a beautiful woman," he said, his gaze traveling leisurely over Destiny's features even as his guard came up. Both sisters were breathtaking, but they were both probably casual about their relationships. He had known that with Desiree and he guessed that now about Destiny.
"I've been waiting three years to meet the illustrious sheriff of Verity, Texas, and now I finally get to do so," she said with a smile that threatened to melt the polar ice caps. "You're a Milan, the family involved in a feud with the Calhouns."
"So you know about the feud," he said, suspecting trouble was coming his way within hours.
He turned a leather chair to face her and sat only a couple of feet away. "So you're in town for what purpose?" he asked bluntly, mildly amused that she had taken his parking place, made herself comfortable in his office and now with him. He saw no reason to waste time in polite chitchat. He was still idly curious, however, and he couldn't deny the thought of asking her to dinner crossed his mind.
"For one thing, I hope I can have an interview with you about the Lavita Wrenville house. I think it will be a wonderful subject for my Unsolved Mysteries television show."
Her words made him focus more rationally on her. He smiled only to be polite. The Wrenville house was where a Milan and a Calhoun had once fought over the same woman and both men, along with her father, had been shot to death. Century-old murders that could stir up the feud again.
"The Wrenville house," he said. "That place really isn't very interesting and there is nothing you can do at this time to solve the murders that happened in the house. That was over a century ago, old news with cold clues. At best, you might come back next year when the town of Verity has full rights to the property."
"That's interesting. I'd like to hear more about the town getting full rights. Even if I can't get a solution, I'd like to present the story about the house and family because it's unknown, unusual and I think it could be of interest to my audience."
"You might check Texas history because I think you'll find other unsolved mysteries that are far more fascinating in places far more appealing."
"That's interesting to know, too, Sheriff Milan," she said, giving him a sweet smile. "But I really want to do this one. And you should know I pursue what I want."
"And I imagine you're accustomed to getting what you want," he said, his gaze flicking over her. He guessed most men found it difficult to tell her no, especially with her devastating smile.
"That happens often," she said, leaning forward and shortening the gap between them. "I'm curious, Sheriff Milan," she said in a pleasant tone that probably ended most men's resistance, "why are you so set on discouraging me about the Wrenville house?"
"Verity is a quiet town with residents who like the status quo. As sheriff, I definitely like peace and quiet. If you'll look around, you won't find any tourist attractions. We do have a tiny museum, but it's not very interesting. Ditto our small library."
She smiled. "I assure you, I'm not planning to make this a tourist attraction. Maybe it's well you don't work for the Chamber of Commerce or the Tourist Center."
"We don't have a Tourist Center," he said quietly. "That should give you an idea."
From the moment he had discovered the red limo, this woman had been surprising him, but her purpose for being here was an even bigger surpriseand an unpleasant one.
"I'm sorry you came all this way, Ms. Jones. You should have contacted me and I could have saved you the trouble. Lavita Wrenville was the last surviving Wrenville and she deeded the place to the town of Verity. According to the deed, we can't do anything to the grounds or house until next year, when it reverts totally to the town. I'm sheriff and I'm not opening that house."
"I am so sorry that you're unhappy about this, Sheriff Milan." Leaning back, she rummaged through a large purse. Gold bangles jingled on her arm and while her attention was on her purse, he looked her over from head to toe once again, his insides tightening as he envisioned her without the dress. As he gazed at her, she withdrew two envelopes and held them out to him. With a sinking feeling, he recognized the logo on one. "I wrote the governor of Texas, and I've written the mayor of Verity. I have letters from both stating clearly that I may look through the Wrenville house. Actually, I'm here as a guest of the state of Texas. You have such a nice governor. If you'd like to read the letters, here they are."
Wyatt held back a groan and resisted swearing. The last thing he wanted was someone stirring up the old family feud and drawing tourists who would want to walk through the Wrenville house. The dread that he experienced earlierthat his peaceful life and the public serenity of Verity were on the brink of destruction by one headstrong, sexy redheadwas coming true before his eyes.
A few moments later, after he'd read the letters, Wyatt made a mental note to talk to the mayor. Gyp Nash hadn't let him know one thing about Destiny Jones coming to Verity to see the Wrenville house. Gyp didn't like conflict, so that's probably why he had avoided telling Wyatt. But for the mayor to say how "thrilled" the townspeople would be that the Wrenville story would be the subject of one of her shows Did Nash know this town at all?
He gave her back her letters. "Very nice," he said in clipped tones, trying to think what he could do to get rid of her.
"The Wrenville house is a big, dusty, empty house. There are all sorts of rumors and a legend about the property. People and kids have looked through it over the years until finally there's no interest in it. I want to keep it that way," he said. He felt a clash of wills with the charming, breathtaking bit of trouble that was sitting only a few feet from him. Along with the friction was a strong physical appeal that he didn't want, but couldn't shake.
"I suspect you've been through the house?"
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