Read an Excerpt
The Last Crawford Bachelor
Chapter One"Logan, are you sure I won't be in the way?"
Michael Crawford looked at his older brother. Though now twenty-eight and as tall as Logan, he knew Logan still saw him as his kid brother.
"Don't be silly, Mike. How could you get in the way on a ranch the size of the Circle K? Besides, you know that manager's house is empty. I'll help you clean it up, then you can come and go as you please."
Michael looked at the small white frame house one more time. "I appreciate it. This way, I won't miss the family so much since I'll be in the middle of yours."
"True. The kids have already decided you're quite a special uncle," Logan said with a chuckle.
They had just started back toward the main ranch house, where Logan and Abby, his wife, lived, when a car came down the long driveway.
"Guess you've got company," Michael said.
Logan shrugged his big shoulders. "We're not expecting anyone."
The car stopped near them and a beautiful young woman got out. "Excuse me. I'm looking for Mrs. Beulah Kennedy. Is she here?"
Michael knew that Kennedy was Abby's maiden name, but he looked at Logan to answer. After all, he was just a guest.
Logan stared at the slender blond woman. "Who's asking?" he said politely.
"Daniele Langston. I'm a - a family connection."
Logan extended his hand. "I'm Logan Crawford. My wife, Abby, is part of the Kennedy clan. Maybe you'd better come talk to her."
"Would that be all right?" the woman asked.
"Yes, of course. Come with us."
Michael followed his brother and the blonde, wondering what she wanted. Abby and her sisters had inherited the ranch and a lot of money when their elderly great-aunt Beulah Kennedy had died. He figured this Langston woman intended to stake a claim to the inheritance. No doubt she was some scam artist.
He hid the smile he felt coming on. His sister-in-law always accused him of being too cynical because he was an attorney. She could be right. But he reserved the right to wait and see.
They entered the big kitchen, where Abby was setting the table. "I was about to send one of the kids to -"' She stopped when she glanced up and saw the stranger. "Oh. Hello. I'm Abby Crawford."
Logan put his arm around his wife. "This is Daniele Langston. She says she's a family connection to Beulah."
Abby flipped back her long braid and looked at the young woman. "You are?"
"Yes. I ... I wanted to meet Beulah, if that's possible."
Abby skittered a look at Logan before facing the newcomer again. "I'm sorry, but Beulah is dead. She passed away over seven years ago."
Michael watched Ms. Langston carefully, sure she already knew that information. He was amazed to see surprise and sadness in her eyes. Boy, he thought, she was a good actress.
"I see. I'm sorry I bothered you." She turned toward the door.
"Wait!" Abby called out. "What kind of connection did you have with Beulah? Are you a niece or -"
"She was my grandmother."
"No, that can't be," Abby insisted. "Beulah had no children. You must have the wrong person."
"Yes, of course," the young woman agreed, and walked to the door. "I apologize for disturbing you."
Abby moved toward her. "Don't go! I'd like to hear why you came here. And I could introduce you to my sisters."
"I don't want to cause any trouble." The woman was still edging toward the door, as if she intended to leave. Michael decided that was a nice touch. She looked the picture of reluctance.
"Nonsense," Abby said. "You must join us for dinner."
As if on cue their housekeeper came in. "Ellen," Abby said at once, "I've invited this nice lady to join us. Her name is Daniele Langston." She put a hand to her head. "Where are my manners? Daniele, this is Ellen, our housekeeper and the world's best cook." She looked to Ellen. "There'll be plenty of food, right?"
"Yes, of course," Ellen said, her graying blond hair bouncing as she nodded.
"And I want to invite the family over for dessert. Will we have enough?"
"I can make a cake while we're eating," Ellen said. "It'll be ready in no time."
Abby turned back to Daniele. "There, you see? It's no trouble." She smiled warmly. "Now, tell me. Where did you come from?"
"West Texas. I was born and raised in Amarillo." Daniele drew a deep breath and added, "Please, call me Dani."
Abby smiled at her. "Did my husband and brother-in-law introduce themselves?"
"I met your husband," Dani said.
Michael stepped forward and extended his hand.
"I'm Michael Crawford."
She put her hand in his, again with reluctance, it seemed. Her smooth skin seemed to burn against his. She was an odd combination of fire and ice.
"Pleased to meet you," she said, and stepped back, withdrawing her hand quickly. Michael made no attempt to hide he was watching her closely. Not even his sister-in-law's obvious hospitality deterred him.
"I'm going to call my sisters," Abby said. Then she turned to Logan. "Honey, would you corral the kids and make sure they're washed up?" Taking her husband's agreement for granted, she hurried out of the kitchen.
Michael realized he needed to seize the opportunity to warn Abby. Once again she was far too friendly for her own good. "Excuse me," he said to Ellen and Dani and hurried after his brother's wife.
Knocking on the office door, he opened it and stuck his head in. Abby was already on the phone, but she waved him in. After she finished her conversation with Melissa, she looked at him. "Is something wrong, Mike?"
"Could be. I'd be careful about taking in strangers who might try to claim some of your inheritance."
Abby laughed. "Cynical Mike! Surely you don't think she's running a scam."
Excerpted from The Last Crawford Bachelor by Judy Christenberry Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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.