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"TARGET AT ONE O'CLOCK."
Logan Montgomery listened to his eighty-year-old grandmother and groaned. "You've been watching James Bond again, Gran."
"Just Sean Connery. That Pierce Brosnan is too new and the other one is a pansy. He wouldn't know how to please a real woman if she bit him on the—"
"Gran!" Startled, Logan shot a glance at his grandmother.
An impish gleam lit her knowing gaze. She'd learned to use shock value to her advantage, he thought wryly. "I think that's enough."
"You never used to be a prude."
He stifled a laugh and chose to warn the irrepressible older woman instead. "And you never used to go so far. Better watch yourself."
The white-haired woman gave an unrefined, unladylike snort. "If you aren't careful you'll end up a stuffed shirt like your father."
"With your influence? Not a chance." He drank from a glass of hundred-dollar champagne, tasting bubbles and little else. Damn waste of money. A cold beer would taste a hell of a lot better, especially on such an unusually hot and balmy May afternoon. "So tell me why you summoned me to the annual Garden Gala."
He'd hoped he could ignore the formal invitation, hand-delivered to his house, as it had been hand-delivered to dozens of others. Although the Garden Gala was as much a part of Montgomery tradition as baseball was a part of spring, Logan didn't feel the same sense of anticipation for this event. His grandmother, Emma, was a different story. He adored her.
"Because of her." His grandmother waved a wrinkled finger in front of his eyes. "Over there by the Dogwood tree. She catered this whole party herself. Talent personified."
Logan narrowed his gaze. He couldn't see much besides the overwhelming sea of floral prints on the female guests and the stark black-and-white uniforms worn by the help. "All I see is a bunch of penguins," Logan muttered. "I believe waiter or waitress is the politically correct term," Emma said.
"Couldn't you get the judge to relax the dress code for God's sake? These poor people look like they're attending a formal wedding, not serving cocktails on a spring day."
He liked parties as much as the next guy but this uptight excuse for a gathering wasn't the way he'd choose to spend a Saturday afternoon.
"Your father has his standards," Emma said in her haughtiest voice, in imitation of her son, Judge Montgomery. "He believes the help should dress as such. Ridiculous," she muttered. "The man ought to come into the twenty-first century. Anyway, enough about Edgar for now. Look around. What else do you see?"
Logan took two steps to the right so he could see around a ridiculous-looking parasol held by one of his mother's friends, to protect her skin from the nonexistent sun and impending rain.
"Well?" A bony elbow nudged Logan in the ribs. He looked once more and was rewarded by what he saw at the elaborate bar set up in front of the pool house, on the perfectly manicured lawn—a delectable-looking creature in uniform. She stepped around the bar and into full view. The clouds had begun rolling in but this woman radiated pure sunshine. Not even the standard waitress uniform looked ordinary on her supple curves.
She reached over to clean the bar of used glasses, and Logan was treated to a backside view that was just as enticing. Black running shoes, obviously worn for comfort, and black tights with a vertical seam ran up the length of her well-toned legs. As she reached forward to sweep the top of the bar with a damp rag, the hem on her black miniskirt inched higher. He stepped closer in time to catch a hint of lace peeking beneath the black hem. Interest replaced curiosity and the temperature outside hitched up a notch. So did strategic body parts. He stuck one finger inside the constricting collar of his white shirt, giving himself some breathing room.
She rose to her full height, which wasn't much. Petite, with blond hair pinned on top of her head, she couldn't have been more than five foot three. Considering he had one sister who had traipsed more friends through the house than he could count on both hands, Logan considered himself an expert on all things female.
And this female intrigued him. His gaze traveled over her form-fitting white blouse, which was buttoned to her chin but failed to hide well-rounded breasts, lingered on the belt cinched over a small waist and settled on the white socks pulled over the sheer stockings. She wasn't a typical waitress by any means.
Didn't matter if he looked from the bottom up, or the top down, he liked what he saw. A smile edged the corners of his mouth.
"Quit drooling and tell me what you see."
"A damn sexy penguin," he muttered.
"Call her what you want," Emma said, resigned. "She's the solution to your problems."
"Didn't know I had any." Another glance as she swung back around the bar and he grinned. If he had a problem, he sure wouldn't mind this woman being his solution.
"Do you want to put an end to Montgomery expectations or do you want your parents and their big-money friends to keep hounding you to run for public office? No peace, no quiet. And bye-bye low profile job at the public defender's office. Once next Saturday is over, your life will be out of your hands."
"You don't have to sound like you're enjoying this," Logan muttered. But instinct told him his grandmother wasn't just trying to shock him now. Emma lived in this mausoleum along with both of Logan's parents. She was privy to details Logan wasn't and shared that information willingly. He turned his attention back to the older woman. "You can keep telling them no thank you." She patted her perfect bun into place as she spoke. Not even the humidity touched Emma's coiffure. "But your daddy's been stubborn as a mule and insistent on having his own way since he was in dirty diapers."
He stifled the urge to laugh again. She didn't need an audience. "You've really got to watch your mouth."
"Nonsense. Age gives me the right to say and do whatever youth prevented me from saying or doing. The expression is young and stupid, not old and stupid."
Logan grinned. "I know now why Dad wants you in a home." He gazed at the outspoken woman who had given him and his sister their only source of love and affection growing up. In their best interests, she'd undermined his parents' efforts at making their children clones of their own public-perfect selves. She'd accomplished her goal with his sister.
But with Logan, the only son, things had been more difficult. Though he'd traveled his own path, many of his choices—college, law school and his stint as district attorney—had paralleled his father's.
No one believed he intended to chart his own destiny. Not even the past two years spent working on the wrong side of the tracks, at the public defender's office, swayed his family's beliefs. To all the Montgomerys, Logan was the next generation, destined to follow in past footsteps.
Except to his beloved grandmother. To Emma, Logan was the grandson she'd raised, a man with his own beliefs. He turned his attention back to what she'd said minutes earlier. "Okay, let me have it. What's happening on Saturday?" he asked.
"I thought you'd never ask." She nudged Logan, urging him to walk with her. Resigned, he followed the sound of the crinkling taffeta of her long day-dress until she reached her destination. Emma gestured across the patio to where his father was holding court. "In one week your father and his conservative cronies plan on announcing your candidacy for mayor of our fair city. Hampshire needs some young blood and you've been handpicked. Perfect son of the esteemed Montgomery family on his first stepping-stone to even higher office."
"Never happen," he said.
"That's right and I'll tell you why. We're going to publicly disgrace you. Free you to live life outside the realm."
He drew a deep breath and forcibly stopped himself from rolling his eyes at her theatrics. "I don't need scandal to free myself from the family. They can talk politics until doomsday, but without a willing candidate, they've got nothing." And Logan was completely unwilling.
"You drove all the way out to Hampshire, so at least hear me out."
As usual, the older woman had a point. Besides, he had no place else to be and the view from this angle was good.
Logan folded his arms over his chest. "You mentioned a plan," he prodded. "So how can she save me?" He pointed to the blonde across the way.
Emma nodded. "You need a public trashing and who better to ruin your reputation than a woman born into poverty with a family history of prostitution behind her?"
He choked on champagne bubbles. "You're exaggerating." He glanced at Emma's target.
She'd left the covering of the bar and now tread with a light step, gliding among the guests, talking quietly with the help serving hors d'oeuvres. Her air of authority set her apart from the other hired help. So did the miniskirt she wore in place of the black pants favored by the rest of the waitresses. A black bow tie nestled below her chin, accentuating her heart-shaped face. How had he missed that before?