Wealthy Texas widows need loving too … which is why Bebe Kent joined a dating service for "discriminating" seniors soon after relocating to the swanky Belle Meade retirement community. Unfortunately, Bebe didn't even live long enough to meet "Mr. Right." And though doctors declared her death totally natural, extravagant blue-blooded Dallas socialite Cissy Blevins Kendricks believes her old friend's demise was hastened—and she's ready to check herself into Belle Meade incognito to prove it.
Cissy's rebellious, sometimes-sleuthing daughter, Andrea, wants no part of her mother's crazy schemes—yet she's anything but pleased that Cissy is going off on her own, playing a highbrow Miss Marple. So she has no choice but to join her mom in search of the truth—especially when more well-heeled widows start turning up dead …
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The Lone Star Lonely Hearts ClubA Debutante Dropout Mystery
By Susan McBride
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Susan McBride
All right reserved.
Getting old was murder.
Make no mistake about it.
Sarah Lee Sewell tugged on the loose skin of her cheeks and frowned at the mirror, wondering if it wasn't time she got a little nip and tuck. Every woman her age in Dallas -- and not a few of the men -- had been doing it for years. But, as long as Eldon had been alive, Sarah Lee hadn't put too much stock in her faded appearance.
"I love you for what's inside, honey pie, not for the gift-wrapping" -- his blue eyes had twinkled as they'd looked her up and down -- "though I've got no complaints about that, either."
The smile that formed on her lips at the memory fast died, and she sighed at her tired reflection.
"Oh, Eldon," she said, to no one but herself. "How I miss you."
She missed his wit.
Missed his scent, of tweed and pipe tobacco.
Missed having a hand to hold. That, most of all.
After five decades of marriage, two years seemed a long time to go without the touch of a man. Maybe some women could stand it, but Sarah Lee couldn't. It was a slow death in itself, like being starved or suffocated. Even cats needed to be stroked now and then.
Sarah Lee was only human.
Which was why she'd gone and done what she had, something she never in her wildest dreams imagined she'd do and still wasn't too all-fired sure about.
She'd started dating.
She hadn't told any of her friends what she was up to and wasn't certain she'd stick it out, but she'd promised herself she'd give it a decent shot before she chucked the idea as pure insanity.
She'd been out to dinner twice already with several different gentlemen, the conversation pleasant if not a little awkward. They had asked if they might call on her again, and Sarah Lee hadn't objected. Though getting used to being courted at this point in her life gave her butterflies as big as B-2 bombers.
She fumbled with a silver tube of lipstick, swiping her thin mouth one last time with a well-used crimson. Then she pinched her cheeks and nodded, knowing she'd done the best she could with what she had.
Which is when her legs began to tremble.
Dear God, why on earth was she doing this?
Because you're lonely, a tiny voice reminded her. Because Eldon's been gone for years, and you don't like to be alone.
It wasn't even sex. She merely wanted to be held in the snug circle of a man's arms. Was that such a terrible thing?
She sighed and steadied herself against the marble counter.
Before her recent outings, the last real "date" she'd been on was back in high school, and her suitor had been a sixteen-year-old Highland Park football star named Eldon Sewell. Sarah Lee had been top of her class at Ursuline Academy, smart enough to know a catch when she'd hooked him. At eighteen, they'd married, living in off-campus housing in Fort Worth as they'd worked their way through TCU, building a foundation that had lasted "till death do us part." They'd still be together if that damned cancer hadn't chewed Eldon's life away from the inside out.
She'd never been with anyone before him, nor since. Not in the biblical sense. Which made her something of a freak in these fast and loose times, didn't it? She was an eight-track tape in a digital era, and the way her friends kept dying off, pretty soon they'd all be extinct.
You're morbid, Sarah Lee, she thought and laughed at herself.
But death scared her far less than the dating game she'd been playing.
She patted her hair, styled in the same teased and sprayed coif she'd worn for too many years, and she figured it was time for a change. She was a different person than she'd been: more self-assured and assertive.
Maybe she'd try that fellow at the Plaza Park Salon about whom her terribly chic friend Cissy Kendricks had been raving lately. She'd get his name when she saw Cissy Wednesday at bridge, because it wouldn't be appropriate to inquire at the church service for Bebe Kent the next morning.
Ah, poor Bebe.
With bent fingers, she reached for her brush.
The doorbell chimed.
Startled, the brush dropped from her hand, clattering into the bowl of the sink, and she turned toward the hallway, her heart zigzagging in her chest, it beat so loudly.
Who could that be? she wondered, because she'd arranged to meet her date at the restaurant, as she'd done with the two before him. A neutral spot, because she didn't want strangers in her home, not at night when she was by herself, despite the relative security of her surroundings.
Probably just a neighbor, or one of the staff come to sweet-talk her into submission. You'd think for all she'd paid to live in this highbrow retirement home, Housekeeping could come more than twice a week, her toilets would flush properly, and they could keep the damned squirrels out of her attic. No matter if it was the director herself, panting like a puppy dog and begging to please, Sarah Lee wasn't letting her in. They could discuss her complaints at her convenience or she surely would drag in her lawyer.
Oh, dear, she realized, smoothing the hem of her dress. She had to leave in fifteen minutes flat if she wanted to be on time for the dinner reservation.
She took a deep breath and shut off the bathroom light as she stepped into the hallway.
The bell chimed again.
"Coming," she trilled and hurried toward the noise, passing the photographs of herself and Eldon hanging on the walls, not seeing them, too curious about the visitor who waited for her on the other side of the door. She seriously hoped it wasn't her date, to whom she'd stated quite plainly that she preferred to drive . . .
Excerpted from The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club by Susan McBride Copyright © 2006 by Susan McBride. Excerpted by permission.
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