Konigsburg, Texas, Book 5
Deirdre Brandenburg has an MBA and a dream to become the coffee supplier for Konigsburg's growing restaurant industry. What she doesn't have is money, courtesy of her billionaire father's scheme to make her come home. All she needs is three months until her trust fund kicks in. Until then, she needs a job.
Hiring the new girl next door is a no-brainer for ex-gambler Tom Ames. He's already succeeded in making his bar, The Faro, a growing tourist draw. Deirdre's beauty will pull in the locals-particularly every red-blooded male in the Hill Country. As he watches her transform from tentative business wonk to confident, sassy barmaid, he realizes he wants first crack at her heart.
When Big John Brandenburg sends Deirdre's ex-boyfriend to drag her home, the plan backfires, leaving Tom's bar in shambles and Deirdre kidnapped by a band of loony Texas secessionists.
Things are looking pretty bleak-except the good people of Konigsburg have no intention of giving Deirdre up, either. Even if it takes every Faro employee, every last Toleffson, and one cranky iguana to give the honky-tonk lovebirds a chance at forever.
Warning: Contains dirty dancing, hot summer sex, a honky-tonk makeover, and one nippy iguana.
About the Author
A recent transplant to the Colorado foothills, Meg and her husband have lived all over the United States. Her favorite thing to do, when gas prices were low, was travel—preferably off the interstate. She is a retired journeyman teacher and freelance writer, mother of two sons and a variety of cats and dogs. She and her husband still indulge their wanderlust when the spirit moves, though these days they’re more likely to travel by planes and trains. Visit her web site at www.megbenjamin.com. Brand New Me is her fifth published title.
Read an Excerpt
Tom Ames could never figure out the attraction of the Dew Drop Inn. It was dark. It was dirty. The beer on tap tasted like dishwater and the bottled stuff was overpriced. The barmaids looked like they ought to be performing community service, and they acted like they were.
Tom took a sip of his draft, holding back his grimace with an effort. Ingstrom, the owner, was watching him from the bar. No doubt he wondered why the owner of the Faro Tavern was in his place at five on a weekday. Maybe he thought Tom was trying to steal his trade secrets. Tom wondered briefly what trade secrets Ingstrom could lay claim to, besides the flattest beer he'd ever tasted.
The Faro, his bar, had this place beat by a mile. The draft beer was cold, and the bottled stuff included all the regulars plus some microbrews. The barmaids, if not exactly Hollywood material, were still better looking and better tempered than the two women working the bar at the Dew Drop. Now if Tom could only convince the citizens of Konigsburg, Texas, of those facts, maybe he could start doing the kind of business he wanted to do.
Not that the Faro was doing badly, particularly on the weekends when they had music in the beer garden outside. Tom was more than satisfied with the Faro's take. But the customers were still mostly tourists, out-of-towners. They were drawing young professionals from Austin and the weekend music fans from San Antonio. He wished he had more Konigsburgers drinking in the evening. Sooner or later the tourists always went home. The Konigsburgers stuck around. Of course, the Konigsburgers all remembered what the Faro had been like before Tom took over. The weekly fights. The scary customers who were more interested in doing some black market deals in the back than sipping cold beer out front. And they all remembered good ol' Kip Berenger, former owner and all-around shady character, now long gone.
Tom surveyed the customers at the Dew Drop, most of whom were locals. Of course, none of the tourists would put up with the place. But the Dew Drop had longevity. It had been around a lot longer than the Faro, or at least the Faro in its most recent incarnation. God only knew who the customers had been when the Faro had been a barbeque joint back in the eighties. Sometimes he thought the place still had a lingering mesquite smoke musk from that period. However, what little repute the place might have had once had gone missing when Berenger had taken over.
Arthur Craven, the head of the Konigsburg Merchants Association, sat at a table three or four feet from Tom. He'd joined the association after he bought the Faro, but he'd never been asked to do much. Maybe that was because Craven always stopped off at the Dew Drop on his way home from work. And Ingstrom, the Dew Drop's owner, had been a member of the association longer than Tom had.
The mayor, Horace Rankin, was sitting with his wife in a booth at the side. Rankin was a vet in his normal life, but these days he spent most of his time running the town. The previous mayor was under indictment for fraud, and Horace had a lot of mopping up to do. Drinking a beer at the Dew Drop might make that more palatable, but given the quality of the beer, Tom doubted it. He had a feeling Horace might appreciate some of the IPAs he was getting from Colorado.
The next booth held the Toleffsons, or two of them anyway. Tom squinted in the gloom, trying to identify which of the Toleffson brothers was sitting there tonight, given that they were all the same size — massive — and all had the same dark hair and eyes. He thought the one with his back to him was the County Attorney, Peter, and the other one was maybe the accountant, Lars. Lars Toleffson actually did Tom's books, and he was damn good at it. But in the darkness of the Dew Drop, it was hard to tell who was who.
The third man at the table was the dentist, Steve Kleinschmidt, the one everybody called Wonder, although Tom could never figure out why. He was smirking, as usual. Tom thought it was a miracle nobody had pushed some of Wonder's teeth down his throat by now, given the man's tendency to lethal sarcasm. Maybe that was why he'd gone into the dental business in the first place.
If Tom could only come up with some way to entice the Toleffsons to the Faro, he'd probably be able to siphon off at least some of the Dew Drop's business. Besides the County Attorney and the accountant, another Toleffson was Rankin's partner in the veterinary business and the fourth was the chief of police. Anywhere the Toleffsons congregated would be popular with a significant number of the citizens of Konigsburg. If he could build it, they would come.
Of course, uprooting the Toleffsons from the Dew Drop was the problem. They'd been sitting in that booth ever since the first one had moved to Konigsburg from Iowa. Getting them to change their habits would take something special. Something more than he had to offer at the moment.
Tom sighed. He could probably ask Chico Burnside or Clem Rodriguez for advice. He probably should do that — they were both Konigsburg natives, and they could help him figure out the town. But he knew in his heart he wouldn't. The Faro was his bar, his place. The first place he'd ever really had that was all his. He'd figure out a way to get the Konigsburgers to give it a try, and he'd do it on his own. His bar, his responsibility.
A barmaid approached his table through the gloom. She had on a violently turquoise T-shirt with the Dew Drop's logo, such as it was — a circle with something that was probably supposed to be a drop of liquid in the middle. For some reason it reminded Tom of post-nasal drip. Maybe it was the way the T-shirt stretched across the barmaid's significant rack. A nametag was placed low on the breast nearest his nose. Ruby, it said.
Tom did his best not to stare. Ruby's biceps looked almost as significant as her boobs.
"Ya want somethin' else?"
Actually, of course, he did want something else. Anything, as far as that went, instead of the watery beer in front of him. He shook his head. "Nope. Got to get going."
He started to slide out of his booth, but the barmaid didn't budge. If he kept sliding, he'd smash into her, something neither of them would probably enjoy. He dug into his pocket and dropped a limp dollar bill on the table.
The barmaid lifted her upper lip in a sneer, but she moved fractionally to the side to let him out. He headed for the door.
"So long, Ames," Ingstrom called. "Come back any time."
Tom let his lips slide into a sour grin, but he didn't bother to answer. With any luck, he'd be able to stay out of the Dew Drop for most of the foreseeable future.
With any luck.
Big John Brandenburg was having one helluva good day. His technology branch, B- Tech, had landed yet another federal contract, this time writing and administering some software for the GSA. Big John could see years of subcontracts and maintenance work ahead. His energy consortium, KMB, was closing in on a contract to set up a wind-power farm in Eastern Europe. And even the small part of Brandenburg, Inc. that was still part of the oil business was flourishing. Life was good.
He tuned out the droning presentation from the accounting division — he'd already read the report, no need to endure the accountant's monotone — and studied the others at the board table. In particular, one other.
His daughter, Dee-Dee, was taking notes, her forehead puckering slightly as she wrote. As if she really was interested in what the accountant was saying. Oh, she probably had some kind of academic understanding of what was going on — she had that degree from that expensive business school, after all, and her grades had been high enough to get her into some kind of fancy-schmancy business honors association. But, as Big John knew only too well, what you learned in school only went so far. And thus far Dee-Dee hadn't shown she had much going for her as a businesswoman beyond the book learning he'd paid for.
Dee-Dee. His mouth twisted slightly. She'd told him a few weeks ago she didn't want to be called Dee-Dee anymore. He was supposed to call her Deirdre, for god's sake. Okay, it was her name, but hell, half the people she worked with wouldn't be able to pronounce it. Why he'd let Kathleen give her that name he'd never know.
His expression softened as it usually did whenever his thoughts turned to Kathleen. Deirdre looked more like her every day, with her black hair and dark blue eyes. Nobody on the Brandenburg side looked like that. She'd picked up some of the Brandenburg size, but not as much as her cousin Docia, thank the lord. There was something unnatural about women who were six feet tall, like Docia and her mother, Big John's sister Reba.
The accountant droned on, flipping to the next PowerPoint slide. Big John's gaze slid to the man across from Dee-Dee. Now there was somebody who looked just right at six-foot-whatever. Craig Dempsey. Former running back for the Dallas Cowboys, traded to Tampa Bay, injured in his final season, probably a sure thing for the Hall of Fame. He was one of Big John's smartest hires. Good publicity for the company, and somebody who knew the benefits of team play. He was shaping up nicely as a junior exec, and Big John made certain Dempsey was visible whenever Brandenburg, Inc. had something public to do. Dempsey had even had the original idea about the wind farms in Eastern Europe, which had surprised the hell out of Big John. He'd never thought the kid had that much imagination where business was concerned.
Dempsey wasn't watching the presentation — he was watching Dee-Dee. As well he should. He was currently Big John's leading candidate for son-in-law. Not that they'd ever discussed it in so many words, but Big John had seen the two of them together, and Dee-Dee didn't seem exactly averse to the idea. Once Big John managed to get the two of them married, it would take a weight off his mind. There'd be somebody to run Brandenburg, Inc. whenever Big John decided he was ready to retire. He didn't want the company to move out of the family, and he sure as hell couldn't pass it on to Dee-Dee. Nobody would accept a woman running the show, even if her name was Brandenburg. Dempsey would do nicely.
At the podium, the accountant was wrapping up. Dee-Dee flipped another page of the slide printouts, jotting down a note quickly as the last slide flashed onto the screen. Big John glanced at the printouts in front of Dempsey. So far as he could tell, he hadn't turned the pages or written anything. A tiny prickle of doubt edged through Big John's consciousness. He suppressed it ruthlessly. Dempsey had probably already looked at the report, just as Big John had done himself. Why take notes if you already understood the points being made?
Yeah, that was probably it.
The accountant cleared his throat and glanced at Big John expectantly. Hell, he must have asked if he had any questions, and Big John hadn't been listening enough to know.
At the other side of the table, Dee-Dee waved a hand. "Mr. Kaltenburg," she began in her soft voice.
The accountant didn't hear her at first, and then glanced her way with more annoyance than interest. Big John frowned. Dee-Dee might be a female, but she was a Brandenburg female. He cleared his throat and watched a flush spread across the accountant's face.
"Yes, ma'am." He turned toward Dee-Dee.
"I have some questions about your third quarter projections. If you'll go back to slide six ..."
Big John sighed inwardly. This meeting had already stretched longer than he'd expected, but he supposed he needed to give Dee-Dee her chance to ask whatever was on her mind. He settled back in his chair.
Her questions took up another twenty minutes. Across from her, Dempsey was tapping his pencil on the table, his eyes glazed. Big John had to work to keep his own eyes open.
"If that's all?" Kaltenburg, the accountant, had an edge to his voice that Big John didn't like. On the other hand, the man probably didn't appreciate being questioned by some little girl, no matter how close she was to the boss.
"Just one more thing ..." Dee-Dee began.
"I think that's enough." Big John managed to drown her out. Kaltenburg turned off his computer gratefully, while Dempsey tossed his pencil on the table as he stood.
Big John glanced at Dee-Dee. She still sat at the table, frowning down at her notes. Probably some hurt feelings there. Oh well, he'd apologize later. He picked up his folder as his administrative assistant scrambled to gather up his papers. The girl needed to get a life of her own, something outside the business. The sooner Dempsey got on the stick, the better.
Deirdre stayed in her seat until the boardroom was empty, giving an excellent imitation of someone reading through her notes one more time. In reality, the notes had blurred in front of her eyes long before the last man had stepped through the door.
If she'd had any doubts about what she needed to do, her father's ham-handedness in the meeting had firmed her resolve. She was apparently the only one who'd understood the shaky reasoning behind the accountant's projections, but she was also the only one her father would never listen to.
Because she was Dee-Dee. His little girl — emphasis on girl. Who would, apparently, never be allowed to play with the big boys.
She stood, smoothing the skirt of her St. John knit suit. The longer she waited to tell him, the harder it would be. She might as well get it over with now, before she really had anything serious invested in her role here. While he could still replace her easily.
At this point she had precious little invested anywhere. Eight months out of business school, and she still felt like she was spinning her wheels, at least professionally. She'd given it a shot — she really had. But so far, she hadn't made a dent in Brandenburg, Inc. and its solidly male superstructure. Part of it was her father, but part of it was her.
"Face it, Deirdre," she muttered, "you're not cut out for this kind of work."
Oh, she might do the job competently enough — and lord knew she was more competent than a lot of the people around her father, including that screw-off Craig Dempsey. But by now she knew the difference between competence and joy. And at Brandenburg, Inc., joy was definitely lacking, at least for her.
Normally, Deirdre refrained from trading on her relationship with her father at the office. Not that he'd ever noticed, but it made her feel slightly less dependent on him if she went through the same channels as everybody else. Now, however, she walked toward his office door without slowing down for his admin, Alanis, to announce her.
Her father looked up sharply as she opened the door, then let his face relax. "Hi, sweetheart. Sorry about cutting you off back there, but I didn't want the boys dozing off." He gave her a conspiratorial wink. "Bad for the image, you know."
She did know. The "boys" tuned her out, largely because her father did it first. "I've got something I need to discuss with you, Dad." Her father waved a hand, grimacing. "No more about that accounting right now. Kaltenburg will get it straightened out."
"No, this isn't about that." She took a breath, drawing her thoughts together. Center yourself, Deirdre. "Actually, I'm here to give you my two weeks' notice."
"Your ... what?" Her father blinked at her, then let his mouth spread into a wide grin. "Goddamn! That boy should have told me!"
Deirdre had practiced her speech in front of a mirror. She'd brainstormed every possible response her father could make and the way she'd deal with each one. She had not, however, anticipated this. "What boy? Tell you what?"
"Dempsey. Why didn't he tell me you were getting married?"
"Married? To Craig Dempsey?" She managed to keep herself from snarling, but only just. "I'm not getting married to Craig Dempsey. I don't even like Craig Dempsey."
Her father's grin faded. "Then who are you marrying, Dee-Dee?"
Deirdre felt like shaking her head. How had this conversation managed to wander so far into La-La Land so quickly? "I'm not marrying anybody, Dad. Whatever gave you that idea?"
Her father looked genuinely confused. "Why else would you quit?"
Okay. She sighed. Now she was back on reasonably familiar ground. "Because I want to do something on my own. Something separate from Brandenburg, Inc."
Excerpted from "Brand New Me"
Copyright © 2010 Meg Benjamin.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed visiting with all the characters that live in Konigsburg, Texas - it was nice to get to know some of the other people in town and I hope she continues to write more books - and continue enlarging the cast of characters in this series. It was good to see the way Deirdre developed as a person once she got away from her controlling father and begin to live her dream of a gourmet coffee shop. She learns to live without her money and how to work in an environment which is totally foreign to her. She finds out that she can do much more than everyone in her family thought she could. There are some very funny scenes when she deals with some Texas separatists who tried to kidnap her - and she finds romance as well in Konigsburg. It was a very enjoyable read. I have the Nook book version of this book
Welcome back to Konigsburg, Texas. Won't you stay awhile? Catch up with familiar faces, and meet some new ones. Deidre Brandenburg has taken up residence in this little town, hoping to start a new life for herself instead of being under her father's fairly controlling days. In her mid-twenties, it's about time Deidre follows her own heart and dreams, even at the cost of Big John's angriness. Thank goodness Tom Ames owns the empty building that Deidre wants to use to run her coffee business. Problem is, she's got no access to major funds. Working for Tom seems to be the logical thing to do, though she knows nothing about waitressing. Things are really going to get interesting around this town, that's for sure! Deidre strives for independence. The stubborn woman doesn't want anyone taking pity on her, nor does she want help. She needs to do this on her own, to be on her own. After years of being under Big John's thumb and living ever so cautiously, it's time for things to change. Oh, they change all right. She meets her match in Tom -- he is as stubborn as she and doesn't accept help easily either. Their growing attraction to one another gets mighty intense. Both want to help the other out and have to learn to allow it, or their building relationship won't work. Enter an ex-boyfriend sent by Deidre's father and here comes trouble. Craig is up to no good and has an ulterior motive of his own. I spent the rest of this book wondering whether he was going to come between Deidre and Tom. Brand New Me is an engaging contemporary read full of emotions and wonderful characters that you can't help but love. I applaud Deidre for her quest to finally branch out and make a life of her own, and she stuck with it well, considering the financial strain and the lack of support from her father. In Konigsburg, she found new friends that welcomed her. She transformed from a stuffy woman in a suit to a woman who is able to let loose and open her heart to new possibilities. She and Tom are a perfect match. Ms. Benjamin really knows how to create memorable characters and put them through plenty of drama. If you enjoy a fiercely independent heroine who finally chooses her own destiny, a hero who would do anything for her, a small town full of unforgettable people, then plan your visit to Konigsburg. When you leave, you'll be smiling. Originally posted at The Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
I have really liked all of the books in this series. I have only been to Texas once in my life. I got heatstroke and went into convulsions. If Texas is mentioned to me, that is the first thing I think of. This series of books actually make me want to go to Texas again. The town sounds very real as do the people. They aren't perfect, but they try to be good people. The love stories are nice. I read a lot of shapeshifter stories as well as romantica from both Samhain and Ellora's Cave. Sometimes a more down to earth storyline is a nice refresher and Konigsburg sounds like a nice place to be.