The Calamity Janes: Gina & Emma

The Calamity Janes: Gina & Emma

by Sherryl Woods

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778317784
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 05/26/2015
Series: Calamity Janes Series
Edition description: Original
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 323,815
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

With her roots firmly planted in the South, Sherryl Woods has written many of her more than 100 books in that distinctive setting, whether in her home state of Virginia, her adopted state, Florida, or her much-adored South Carolina. Sherryl is best known for her ability to creating endearing small town communities and families. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 75 romances for Silhouette Desire and Special Edition.

Read an Excerpt

"Gina Petrillo has gone where?" Rafe O'Donnell's head snapped up at his secretary's casual announcement.

"Wyoming. She called an hour ago and rescheduled the deposition," Lydia Allen repeated, looking entirely too cheerful.

If Rafe didn't know better he'd think she was glad that this Gina had escaped his clutches. He scowled at the woman who had been assigned to him when he'd first joined the firm, Whitfield, Mason and Lockhart, seven years earlier. At the time, she'd been with the firm for twenty years and claimed that she was always assigned to new recruits to make sure they were broken in properly. She was still with him because she swore that, to this day, he was too impossible to foist off on a less-seasoned secretary.

"Did I say it was okay to reschedule?" he inquired irritably.

"You've been in court all day," she said, clearly un-intimidated by his sharp tone. "We reschedule these things all the time."

"Not so some crook can go gallivanting off to Wyoming," he snapped.

"You don't know that Gina Petrillo is a crook," Lydia chided. "Innocent until proven guilty, remember?"

Rafe held on to his temper by a thread. "I do not need to be lectured on the principles of law by a grandmother," he said, deliberately minimizing whatever legal expertise she might legitimately consider her due.

Typically, she ignored the insult. "Maybe not, but you could use a few hard truths. I've eaten at that restaurant. So have most of the partners in this firm. If you weren't such a workaholic, you'd probably be a regular there, too. The food is fabulous. Gina Petrillo is a lovely, beautiful young woman. She is not a thief."

So, he thought, that explained the attitude. Lydia was personally acquainted with the elusive woman and disapproved of Rafe's determination to link Gina Petrillo to her partner's crimes. As softhearted as his secretary was, she'd probably called Gina and warned her to get out of town.

"You say she's not a thief," he began with deceptive mildness in his best go-for-the-jugular mode. "Mind telling me how you reached that conclusion? Do you have a degree in psychology, perhaps? Access to the restaurant's books? Do you happen to have any evidence whatsoever that would actually exonerate her?"

"No, I do not have any evidence," she informed him with a huff. "Neither do you. But, unlike some people, I am a very good judge of character, Rafe O'Donnell."

Rafe was forced to concede that she was…usually.

"Now that Roberto," she continued, "I can believe he's stolen from people. He has shifty eyes."

"Thank you, Miss Marple," Rafe said snidely. "Roberto Rinaldi was not the only one with access to the money."

A good chunk of that money happened to belong to Rafe's socialite mother. She had been taken in by the man's charm. Rafe hadn't explored the exact nature of the relationship, but knowing his mother's track record, it hadn't been platonic. He was no more oblivious to his mother's faults than his father had been before the divorce, but he did his best to keep her from getting robbed blind.

"But Roberto is the one who's missing," Lydia pointed out. "He's the one you should be concentrating on."

"I would if I could find him," Rafe said, not bothering to hide his exasperation. "Which is one reason I want to talk to Gina Petrillo. She just might know where he is. Now, thanks to you, I don't even know where she is."

"Of course you do—I told you. She's gone to Wyoming."

"It's a big state. Care to narrow it down?" She frowned at him. "There is no need to be sarcastic."

Rafe sighed. "Do you know where she is or not?"

"Of course I do."

"Then book me on the next flight."

"I doubt that Winding River has an airport. I'll check," she said, her expression unexpectedly brightening.

"Whatever," he said, not one bit happy about the images of Western wilderness that came to mind. "Just cancel everything on my calendar and get me out there by tomorrow night."

"Will do, boss. I'll go ahead and cancel everything through next week. You could use the time off."

Lydia's sudden eagerness, the spring in her step as she started to leave his office, had him frowning. "I don't need time off," he protested. "I'll take care of this over the weekend and be back here on Monday."

"Why don't you just play it by ear?"

His gaze narrowed. "What are you up to?"

"Just doing my job," she said with an innocent expression.

Rafe seriously doubted her innocence, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out why Lydia was so blasted anxious for him to jet off to Wyoming. She was not the kind of secretary who used the boss's absence to sneak out and shop or even to take long lunch hours. No, she was the kind who meddled, the kind who took great pride in making his private life a living hell with her well-meant pestering.

And she liked this Gina Petrillo, he thought, suddenly making the connection.

"Lydia!" he bellowed.

"You don't have to shout," she scolded. "I'm just outside the door."

"When you book my room in Winding River, make sure I'm all alone in it."

She feigned shock. "Why, of course I will."

"Don't look at me like that. It wouldn't be the first time some hotel mixup had me sharing a room with a woman you thought I ought to get to know better."

"I never—"

"Save it. Just make sure of it, Lydia, or you'll spend the rest of your career at Whitfield, Mason and Lockhart doing the filing."

She shot him an unrepentant grin. "I doubt that, sir. I know where all the bodies are buried." Rafe sighed heavily. She did, too.

When the Winding River Wildcats did a class reunion, the festivities went on for three solid days. There was a welcome barbecue on Friday night, a rodeo during the day on Saturday, a dance Saturday night and a farewell picnic on Sunday. It all flowed right into the town's annual Fourth of July celebration.

Gina was less interested in all of that than she was in spending a few quiet hours with her oldest and dearest friends. For just a little while she wanted to forget all about that slime Roberto Rinaldi and the financial mess he'd left her to clean up.

"Couldn't we just go down to the Heartbreak, have a few beers, listen to some music and chill for a few hours?" she pleaded, even as the others were coaxing her off her parents' front porch and toward a car on Friday night.

"There will be beer and music at the barbecue," Emma told her. "Besides, since when have you ever turned down the chance to party? The only one in our crowd who was any wilder was Cassie."

At the mention of Cassie, Gina's spirits sank even lower. "I wish she'd come tonight."

"She's promised to be at the dance tomorrow night," Karen reminded her. "And you know perfectly well why she stayed away."

"Because of that run-in with Cole earlier," Gina said. "She really was shaken by that. He came within seconds of bumping face-to-face into their son."

"It might have been best if he had," Karen said. "I think she's just postponing the inevitable."

"Maybe so, but as much as I wish she were here, I am not going to let it spoil tonight," Lauren said. "Now, get moving, you guys. I've been living on lettuce a long time now. I haven't had a decent barbecue in years, and I am ready to pig out, no pun intended." She herded them toward the fancy sports utility vehicle she had rented for her visit.

Twenty minutes later Lauren turned into the parking lot at the school where they had shared some of the best times of their lives. Known far and wide as the Calamity Janes, the five of them had stirred up more trouble than any graduate before or since. Cassie had been the ringleader, but the rest of them had willingly gone along with whatever mischief she devised.

Now Karen lived on a ranch, Lauren was in Hollywood, Cassie was still struggling to keep her son a secret from his father and Emma was a hot-shot attorney in Denver. Like Emma and Lauren, Gina was considered one of the class success stories. The daughter of an insurance agent and a high school secretary, in high school Gina had earned much-needed spending money by working as a waitress right here in town. Now she owned her own very exclusive restaurant in New York. By anyone's standards, it was a rags-to-riches story.

If only they knew how close it was to turning around the other way, she thought with a sigh as they approached the football field that had been turned into giant picnic grounds for the night. A stage had been set up under the goalpost at the north end, a pit for the roasted pig was at the opposite end and in between were rows of tables with every kind of food imaginable, all catered by the town's restaurants. Huge galvanized steel tubs were filled with ice and crammed with soft drinks and beer.

Classmates had already staked out spots for themselves by tossing blankets on the ground, but at the moment nobody was sitting. Everyone was milling around greeting people they hadn't seen since graduation ten years before.

Suddenly Gina felt an elbow being jammed into her ribs. "Hey," she protested, turning to face Lauren.

"What was that for?"

The woman who had been declared most likely to succeed because of her brains, not her now-legendary beauty, gestured toward the bleachers, where a lone man sat, legs stretched out in front of him, elbows propped on the bench behind. He looked aloof and out of place. He also happened to be handsome as sin, but in the last few days Gina had sworn off the type. If she never met another sexy charmer, it would suit her just fine. In fact, at the moment, Bobby's disappearing act had made her view every male with healthy suspicion.

"Who, pray tell, is he?" Lauren asked. "He's definitely not one of us. Nobody we went to school with could improve that much in twenty years, much less ten."

Gina forced herself to give the stranger a closer inspection. True, he was gorgeous, in a citified, sophisticated way. Even in jeans and a chambray shirt—which looked brand-new from this distance—there was no mistaking the man for a cowboy. He was too polished, his chestnut hair a little too carefully trimmed, his complexion a little too pale, his cheekbones a little too aristocratic. He all but shouted that he was some Yankee blueblood.

"Well?" Lauren prodded. "Do you know him?"

Gina was certain she'd never seen him before, but that didn't seem to stop her heart from doing a little lurch or her stomach from taking a dip. It was possible he was someone's husband, sitting on the sidelines because he felt uncomfortable among all the strangers. She didn't think so, though. She had the uneasy sense that his penetrating gaze was locked directly on her. Not on Lauren, who tended to captivate any male in a room, but on her, Gina Petrillo, with the untamable hair, too-wide hips and a ten-year-old sundress she'd snagged from the back of the closet in her old bedroom.

Lauren, ever confident from years in the limelight, didn't seem to notice that the man's attention was elsewhere. She grinned at Gina. "Only one way to find out."

Gina wanted to tell her not to go over there, to steer as far away from the man as she could, but she knew the warning would only draw a hoot of laughter. There wasn't a person born who could intimidate Lauren once her curiosity was aroused. That confidence was something new. In high school Lauren had been as shy as she'd been brainy. The adoration of millions of fans had given her self-esteem a much-needed boost.

Gina deliberately turned her back on the scene and went in search of a desperately longed-for beer. She had just tipped up the can for a long, slow swallow when she heard Lauren say, "Oh, here you are. Gina, sweetie, this incredibly gorgeous man is looking for you. Aren't you lucky?"

Gina's stomach plummeted as she slowly turned to face them. With every fiber of her being she knew she wasn't the least bit lucky. Never had been, and certainly not lately. No, this man was not looking for her because he'd been dying to get her recipe for fettuccine.

"Gina Petrillo, Rafe O'Donnell," Lauren said, relinquishing him to Gina with a broad wink and then abandoning the two of them as if she'd just accomplished the matchmaking success of the century.

Gina recognized the name with a sense of inevitability. She forced herself to look straight into the man's unreadable topaz eyes. There was little point in pretending that she didn't recognize the name. Nor did she have to work very hard to figure out what he was doing here. She was not going to let him rattle her, though. She would remain cool, calm and collected if it killed her. She refused to let him think for a second that she was harboring any sense of guilt.

"A long way from home, aren't you, Mr. O'Donnell?"

"As are you, Ms. Petrillo."

"No, this is my home," she said firmly.

"And New York?"

"Where I work."

"Not any longer, if I have anything to say about it."

She gave him a wry look. "Then I guess the battle lines are drawn. It's a good thing you're not either judge or jury. I might be quaking in my boots."

"You should be, anyway. I'm very good at what I do."

"And what is it that you do, Mr. O'Donnell? Condemn people without a trial?"

"Get at the facts, Ms. Petrillo. That was the whole purpose of that deposition you skipped out on."

She regarded him with indignation. "I didn't skip out on anything. Check your appointment book. I rescheduled."

"Without my permission."

"Your secretary didn't seem to have a problem with it."

"Yes, well, Lydia sometimes forgets who's in charge."

If it had been anyone else under any other circumstance, Gina might have grinned at his resigned expression. Instead, she said only, "You must find that extremely annoying."

"Mostly it's just an inconvenience," he corrected.

"Yes, I imagine chasing halfway across the country after bad guys like me must play havoc with your schedule."

To her surprise, he chuckled.

"You have no idea," he said. "I had really big plans for this weekend."

"Oh? A ball game with the kids? Maybe a charity event with the wife?"

"No kids. No wife."

That news set off totally inappropriate little butterflies in Gina's stomach. To her deep regret they seemed to be doing a victory dance. She refused to let him see that he could disconcert her in the slightest way—especially not in that way.

She studied him thoughtfully. "A hot date, then?"

"Nope."

"Surely you weren't spending the weekend all alone, Mr. O'Donnell."

"Afraid so. Of course, I would have had my share of entertainment. Before I left I got a subpoena for the Café Tuscany books. I had someone pick them up yesterday morning. I understand your assistant was very helpful. Too bad you and your partner aren't that cooperative. Where can I find Rinaldi, by the way?"

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The Calamity Janes Gina & Emma 0 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wish i had fiends like these Wonder if its real or just wishful thinking. It is a story but enjoyable
Anonymous More than 1 year ago