Back to Texas (Harlequin American Romance Series #1548)

Back to Texas (Harlequin American Romance Series #1548)

by Amanda Renee
Back to Texas (Harlequin American Romance Series #1548)

Back to Texas (Harlequin American Romance Series #1548)

by Amanda Renee

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Bridgett Jameson is the talk of Ramblewood…and not in a good way! With her newfound sister moving to town, her true father being exposed and the knowledge that her mother has lied to her since birth, Bridgett wants to get the heck out of Dodge. But when a handsome, mysterious stranger arrives, she finds her determination wavering. 

His family wants nothing to do with him, and Adam Steele can't say he blames them. He's denied their existence for years in his pursuit of fame and glory. Now he just wants to be a regular guy. Ramblewood may be the best place for a fresh start…especially if Bridgett sticks around. But will exposing his past—and the lies he's told—cost him a future with the woman he loves?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460381403
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 05/01/2015
Series: Welcome to Ramblewood Series , #5
Format: eBook
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 904,279
File size: 441 KB

About the Author

Amanda Renee was raised in the northeast and now wriggles her toes in the warm coastal Carolina sands. Her career began when she was discovered through Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013. Today, she writes full-time alongside her Schnoodle sidekick, Duffy. Whenever she’s not working, she usually has a camera in her hand. She enjoys road trips, songwriting, playing guitar and piano, and anything involving animals. You can visit her at

Read an Excerpt

"Who do you think should play us in the movie?"

"Do actresses even come in your size?" Waitress Bridgett Jameson poured her newfound sister, Abby Winchester, another cup of coffee. She drummed her fingers on the luncheonette counter waiting for her next order. This wasn't a conversation Bridgett wanted to have so early in the morning—let alone smack dab in the middle of The Magpie, where every word you said spread across town faster than a sneeze through a screen door.

Abby pouted. "What I lack in stature, I compensate for in charm."

Lack in stature. The nine-inch height difference between them made their recent discovery even more shocking. Fraternal twins. Bridgett didn't think she'd ever get used to the idea.

She grabbed a rag and wiped the counter, hoping someone would come to her rescue. She didn't dislike Abby. It was the situation she hated. A month ago, they'd been well on their way to becoming good friends. Maybe they'd have a chance at it again once Bridgett absorbed the fact that her mother had lied to her for the past twenty-eight years. And the revelation that her biological father was the town's mayor, Darren Fox. A man she'd seen almost every day of her life, but who had never acknowledged her existence. Heck, he didn't even leave her a decent tip.

Gutted by the lies private investigator Clay Tanner had unearthed regarding her and Abby's parentage two weeks ago, Bridgett was uncertain what she should do next. Up until then, she'd had a rather normal life in her hometown of Ramblewood, Texas. The people she worked with at the luncheonette, along with her friends and mother, had collectively formed the only family Bridgett had ever known, and it'd suited her just fine. Of course, she'd fantasized about who her father was. Who wouldn't? Especially after the way her mother had glamourized him.

Her mother had claimed Bridgett was the product of a love affair, and that Bridgett's father had been an Air Force pilot who had transferred overseas before Ruby had known she was pregnant. Never to be heard from again. Well, she was half right. Bridgett was the result of an affair. And Darren had been in the Air Force. But that was where the truth had ended and twenty-eight years of lies had begun.

"Why would anyone want to make a movie about us?" Bridgett stole a quick glance at the kitchen pass-through window once more for her order.

"All the crap we've just been through has amazing movie-of-the-week potential." Abby removed a bundle of magazines and notes from her bag, fanning them across the counter. "Please help me plan this wedding. New Year's Eve is in a few months. If Clay has his way, we'll be married in the barn with a beer-and-pretzel main course."

The private investigator hadn't merely discovered she and Abby were sisters, he'd officially become Abby's fiancé last week. In the span of seven days, the two of them had gotten engaged, packed up what Abby needed from the house she'd shared with her brother in South Carolina and moved her across the country to Clay's ranch.

"Between working here and at the Bed & Biscuit, I don't see where I'd have the time."

"But you have to." Abby reached for Bridgett's hand, her smile desperate, almost pleading. Bridgett suspected her sister was on the verge of asking her the question. The one Bridgett had hoped to avoid. At the very least, she hadn't wanted it to be a public event where the neighborhood busybodies listened in on their conversation. "I'm hoping you'll be my maid of honor," Abby said.

Bridgett stared down at the all-too-personal contact, recognizing that if she moved away she'd offend Abby. "I'm flattered, but we're virtually strangers. I'd think one of your friends would appreciate the honor."

"Sure, yeah, you're right." Abby withdrew her hand, returning her attention to the magazines. "One of my friends—no problem."

So much for trying to spare her feelings.

Abby dropped her eyes and rapidly thumbed through the pages. To say their lives had changed overnight was an understatement. On top of the twin-sister revelation, Darren had suddenly grown a conscience and had decided he wanted a relationship with his daughters. He could wait an eternity for all she cared. The likelihood of a reunion was zilch. Bridgett found it impossible to face the man who'd demanded her mother to get rid of her before she'd been born. At that time, Darren had known of only one baby. The birth of twins had been a surprise to them both.

Bridgett cut Abby a slice of rum vanilla cream pie as a peace offering and set it next to her coffee. While the truth may have been hard for Bridgett to accept, she'd known who her mother was all along. When Abby had learned her parents had adopted her, she'd been rightfully outraged.

Ruby's reasons for separating her twin daughters disgusted Bridgett. Not knowing she even carried twins, Ruby had decided to give her baby up for adoption months earlier. When Abby was born, Ruby had refused to hold her, banning the infant from the room. She had already promised to give Abby to a couple in town— Darren's Air Force buddy and his wife. When Bridgett had unexpectedly arrived a half hour later, Ruby had believed it was a sign to keep the second baby.

Abby sliced her fork through the pie's tip and took a bite, appearing to savor the mouthful. "I think this became my favorite dessert the first time I ate here. Thank you."

"You're welcome." Bridgett grabbed the almostfull sugar dispenser in front of Abby and topped it up. Afraid her thoughts would betray her, she pretended to be busy.

Bridgett had mixed emotions about Abby. She'd always wanted a sister, but Abby's arrival had unearthed a mountain of drama. Ramblewood, Texas, might be a tiny dot on the map, but when Darren's paternity secret had surfaced the day before he'd announced his much-anticipated run for senate, their unsuspecting Hill Country town had become quite the spectacle. Complete with constant media coverage. If one more person asked her for an interview or snapped her photo, she'd scream. Luckily, it had begun to die down over the past two days when Darren had renounced his senate run. It still hadn't quelled the local gossip, though.

Ruby's lies had compounded from the day of the twins' births. The extent of the deception sickened Bridgett. Ruby had claimed she and the twins' grandparents had had a major falling out when she'd told them she was pregnant. Ruby maintained to this day that she had no idea where they lived. Bridgett wondered if the story was true or another fabrication. Their grandparents would probably be easy to locate, especially since Abby was engaged to a private investigator. But since they'd never tried to contact Bridgett, she had no desire to search for them.

Growing up, Bridgett had suspected Ruby was keeping secrets based on the quick way her mother had dismissed any questions she'd had regarding her grandparents or the name of her father. Eventually, Bridgett had given up and stopped asking.

Now Bridgett just wished people's tongues would stop wagging long enough for her to regain her footing. The media coverage had turned her and Abby into local celebrities. It irritated Bridgett how the reporters always found the need to mention their ages along with the fact that Bridgett was single. Since the news broke it seemed as if every bachelor within a ten-mile radius had asked her for a date. She didn't need any coddling and she certainly didn't need any extra baggage in her life. Besides, she refused to settle for just anybody.

"Order up," Bert called through the pass-through window, giving Bridgett the opening to walk away from the increasingly uncomfortable conversation with her sister. Her sister. Bridgett doubted she'd get used to those words anytime soon. She used to take waking up in a good mood for granted. Now she prayed for a normal day. No stares or whispers. No tearful phone calls from her mother. Normal was miles away from Ramblewood and she'd rather be anywhere but here. And hopefully that day would come sooner than later.

Bridgett refused to leave anything else to chance. Every afternoon she made of point of checking the Help Wanted ads online in the towns at least a hundred miles from Ramblewood. She'd jump at the first offer. For now, she kept her plans to herself, not wanting to risk anyone trying to talk her out of it. She wanted to secure a job before she left town. Her ultimate goal was to open her own restaurant, but until she found one she could afford, she'd make do managing someone else's.

Bridgett grabbed the plates and headed for her customer's table at the front of the luncheonette. When she passed Lark she whispered, "Take over counter duty for me." The other waitress nodded.

Bridgett had been hesitant when Maggie Dalton, The Magpie's owner, had hired Lark Meadow a few weeks earlier. Lark had rolled into Ramblewood on the bus. Disheveled, with not much more than a duffel bag and a guitar, Lark had said she was on her way to New Mexico after a disastrous string of Nashville auditions. She'd sold everything she had owned to take a gamble on her big dream and no longer had a home to go back to. Refusing to turn the woman away, Maggie had helped Lark rent a studio apartment above the florist's shop across the street.

Bridgett had a hunch the newcomer was on the run, but if Maggie wasn't concerned, she wouldn't pry, either. Lark seemed to appreciate the privacy and she'd turned out to be a welcome addition to The Magpie. Considering Bridgett planned to leave town soon, she felt less guilty knowing another waitress was already trained and in place.

Bridgett took a few more orders before she noticed Abby packing up her wedding explosion. The normally perky pint-size blonde's shoulders slumped as she mumbled a quick "see you later" on the way out. Bridgett sighed, wishing she hadn't been so abrupt with her sister. If only Abby hadn't asked her to stand up for her at the wedding.

Bridgett wanted to get to know Abby on her own terms, but Abby was relentless. She stopped in the luncheonette every morning for breakfast, called at night to share what she'd learned at her new job and sometimes she showed up at the Bed & Biscuit uninvited. It was too much, too soon.

Through the vinyl magpie-bird cutouts on the luncheonette's picture window, Bridgett watched Abby trudge to her car and drive away. She hated hurting Abby, but Bridgett wasn't ready to embrace the happy family-unit idea yet.

"May I have a refill, dear?" Charlotte Hargrove, one of Ramblewood's biggest gossips, waved her cup in the air. Bridgett removed the coffee carafe from the brewer and wondered how long it would take before her mother called and demanded she be nicer to Abby. Twenty minutes was the norm for Charlotte's gossip to spread, but it had been known to travel faster than a bee-stung stallion when it was particularly juicy.

"Are things okay between you two?" Charlotte asked when Bridgett arrived with the coffee.

Hesitating, Bridgett tried to figure out how to answer the question without feeding into the rumor mill. "Abby's a bit overwhelmed with the wedding plans."

"Won't she be a beautiful bride?" The older woman's round cheeks brightened when she spoke. "Tiny as she is she'd probably pass for a cake topper in her gown. I do hope they start a family soon. I bet they'll have the most darling children."

And there was the knife twist. Charlotte wasn't a fool. She knew Bridgett wanted kids. Growing up, Bridgett had longed for a big family, begging her mother to marry and have more children. Ruby had delighted in her daughter's dreams and shared them with her clients. Because of her mother's well-intentioned meddling, half the town seemed determined to set Bridgett up on one embarrassing blind date after another.

After many failed attempts and a few short-term romances, Bridgett had learned to say no to any further matchmaking. So she hadn't found the one. She refused to settle. What was the rush anyway? Although, she did have to admit, it had smarted when her sister had blown into town and snagged herself a husband. Not that Bridgett had been interested in Clay. She never went for the strong silent types. But he and Abby suited each other perfectly.

Bridgett totaled Charlotte's bill and left it upside down on the table. "They'll have beautiful children. Enjoy the rest of your day."

Hoping for a mental break, Bridgett headed into the kitchen. From his position at the grill, Bert briefly glanced her way. No one worried about their beloved, yet rough-around-the-edges cook asking too many questions. Bert kept mostly to himself.

"Do you need any help?" Bridgett asked. The breakfast rush had wound down and she'd had enough of the remaining customers' endless stares. They acted as though she'd break at any moment.

"I'm good." Bert plated a stack of pancakes and set them on the pass-through. "Lark, table four." He smacked the silver service bell.

"I'll take it out." Since she'd asked Lark to cover the counter, Bridgett could manage delivering one of her orders. Besides, Charlotte was on her way out.

Bridgett had begun waitressing at sixteen and twelve years later here she remained. The Magpie wasn't exactly her career choice. She enjoyed her job to a certain degree, but she'd meant for it to be a stepping-stone to owning her own place. When Bridgett was nine, she'd stumbled across a weathered Betty Crocker cookbook at a yard sale. Her mother couldn't cook to feed an ant, so Bridgett had begun preparing their meals out of necessity. Cooking for two had been fine at first, but the more Bridgett experimented with different spices, the more she wanted to share her creations with someone other than her mother. Maggie gave her kitchen time when they were slow. A few of her recipes had been house specials, and her Mexican cemita sandwich filled with pork, avocado, cheese and chili had become a regular menu item. When Maggie had converted the upstairs offices into a second kitchen, she'd asked Bridgett to be her sous-chef during catering events. It allowed her more cooking time and the extra money she made went into her restaurant fund.

Bridgett delivered Lark's order and started another pot of coffee. Life wasn't perfect, but whose ever was? Bridgett had been reasonably happy up until recent events, and although she still kept an eye out for Mr. Right, it wasn't a priority. She had enjoyed her quiet, unassuming existence until she'd headlined the evening news. She'd contemplated dipping into her savings account and leaving town immediately, but her restaurant dream was the one thing that kept her going on most days. Until she could find a better solution, she'd opted to move out of her mother's house.

When her friend Mazie had offered Bridgett a room at the Bed & Biscuit, she couldn't have packed fast enough. She needed to break away from the one person she'd never imagined would betray her. Of course, Mazie had given her a room rent-free, but Bridgett refused to be a charity case. Bridgett assisted Mazie in the kitchen and cleaned the inn to repay her friend's generous hospitality.

Bridgett thought she had made it clear she wanted—scratch that—needed time to think, but very few people seemed to listen. She was confused by the truth and hurt by the lies. Surely a little breathing room wasn't too much to ask for.

Bridgett clipped another ticket to the order wheel and spun it to Bert. He and Maggie may have taught her how to run a restaurant, but Mazie instructed her on the finer cooking techniques she had learned at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Bridgett studiously took notes and added each lesson to her own overstuffed dream book.

Unlike most of her friends, Bridgett hadn't had the desire to go to school to learn a trade or earn a degree. She preferred the hands-on approach. That was the lie she told herself anyway. She couldn't afford to go to school then or now. Darren had managed to send all three of his legitimate children to Ivy League schools. Abby's parents had sent her to college—seven years' worth for her to become a physical therapist. Out of Darren's five children, Bridgett was the only one without a career or college degree. Her jaw tightened. Jealousy wouldn't solve anything. She had the strength and determination to make it on her own. And she would make it, too. Someday.

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