Discover romance across America with Janet Dailey’s classic series featuring a love story set in each of the fifty states.
Jonni Starr has everything she dreamed of as a girl in Kansas: a glamorous modeling career in New York and a sophisticated fiancé who pampers her to no end. After six years away from the Sunflower State, she can’t wait to be back with her beau and show off her success.
But the happy homecoming is a little more complicated thanks to Gabe Stockman, Jonni’s father’s right-hand man. Jonni used to idolize him, even though he would never even glance at the boss’s daughter. But now, Gabe seems to do nothing but look at her. And he sees a side of the former country girl no one else does. Gabe is determined to remind Jonni of her roots, and the kind of down-home man she should be spending her life with.
Filled with Midwest charm and swoon-worthy romance, The Mating Season shows why Janet Dailey is a legend with over 300 million copies of her books sold.
About the Author
Janet Dailey, who passed away in 2013, was born Janet Haradon in 1944 in Storm Lake, Iowa. She attended secretarial school in Omaha, Nebraska, before meeting her husband, Bill. The two worked together in construction and land development until they “retired” to travel throughout the United States, inspiring Janet to write the Americana series of romances, setting a novel in every state of the Union. In 1974, Janet Dailey was the first American author to write for Harlequin. Her first novel was No Quarter Asked. She has gone on to write approximately ninety novels, twenty-one of which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. She won many awards and accolades for her work, appearing widely on radio and television. Today, there are over three hundred million Janet Dailey books in print in nineteen different languages, making her one of the most popular novelists in the world. For more information about Janet Dailey, visit www.janetdailey.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Mating Season
The Americana Series: Kansas
By Janet Dailey
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1980 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
THE COUPLE WALKED unhurriedly along the curved corridor of the airport terminal. Tall and willowy, the woman was unconscious of the attention she was receiving from the men she passed. Her ash blond hair, a little longer than shoulder length, was cut in a windblown style that framed her face and its features of picture perfection.
Her jeans were of polished cotton in a bold, jade green color. A sweater jacket of black suede and knit was belted at the waist, permitting only a glimpse of her green and black print blouse, which was open at the throat. Her black boots were high heeled, clicking on the polished floor.
The man at her side matched her graceful, long-legged strides. He was only an inch or so taller than she was. His gray topcoat carried an expensive label inside, as did the charcoal suit beneath it. With dark, almost black hair, he was as good-looking as she was in a polished sort of way.
As they approached a newsstand in the terminal he caught her hand and drew her inside to the magazine rack. Standing out among all the magazines was the cover of a fashion magazine. It was a portrait, caught forever by the camera, of the woman now gazing at it. Glistening lips held the hint of a smile while blue eyes radiated the brilliance of inner pleasure.
He took a copy from the shelf to examine the cover more closely. "Another magazine cover for your already full scrapbook." He cast her a sideways glance that was both assessing and admiring. "Jonni Starr, the hottest model in the country. How does it feel to have the most sought-after face?"
Jonni smiled somewhat wryly. "It doesn't feel any different until someone asks me a question like that," she admitted. She stared at the photograph on the magazine cover, knowing the face belonged to her yet seeing a stranger. "Sometimes it feels as if the woman is someone else, not me."
"There's only one Jonni Starr." He crooked a finger under her chin to lift her head and bring her eyes level with his. There was a teasing glint in his look. "And I don't care what your birth certificate says, I still believe your agent made up that name."
Soft laughter rolled from her throat. It was the same accusation Trevor Martin had made when they first met almost two years ago. They had met at a theater party for a new Broadway show Trevor had produced, one of Jonni's rare evenings out.
"My mother will verify it for you, if you like." She repeated the same two-year-old answer. "Jonni was the closest she could come to naming me after my father, John Starr."
"I promise I'm going to ask your mother about it when I meet her," Trevor warned, but with a smile. "I'll buy this magazine for her. Since it's only just come out on the stands, she probably hasn't seen it yet."
"She'd like that." Jonni smiled her agreement with his thoughtful gesture. Trevor would have little difficulty charming his way into her mother's affection, but Jonni knew her father was a different matter. She waited while Trevor walked to the cash register and paid for the magazine. Trevor was a persistent and determined man. It had taken him two years, but he had finally won her over.
When she had first met him, Trevor had seemed too charming, too sophisticated, too worldly to be trustworthy. She hadn't been impressed by his wealth. The Starr family of Kansas, with its oil and cattle, could have matched him asset for asset. The expensive presents Trevor had showered her with did not turn her head.
When Jonni met Trevor she lived in the spacious and beautiful apartment she had occupied since arriving in New York six years ago. The rent was paid by her father until her modeling income allowed her to take care of it herself. She shared the apartment with a fellow fashion model, strictly for reasons of companionship, not for financial help. There had been nothing material Trevor could offer Jonni that she didn't have or couldn't get.
His status in the social and theatrical circles of Manhattan had not made an impression on her either. At their first meeting Jonni was already a highly paid and highly, recognized model. She didn't need the reflection of his power and success to give herself importance, so the usual ploys hadn't worked with her. She had kept Trevor at arm's length until he had eventually proved that his attentions were serious. It gave Jonni secure feeling to know it had been a conscious decision and she hadn't been swept of her feet.
Tucking the magazine under his arm, Trevor returned to her side and curved an arm behind her waist. "Shall we go and claim our luggage and find that air charter company? Or would you rather relax and have cup of coffee at the restaurant first?"
"No coffee for me, thank you." Jonni glanced at the large wall clock in the Kansas City terminal. "We still have to fly all the way across the state. I don't want to run any risks of arriving after dark — the runaway at the ranch isn't equipped with lights for night landings."
"There's plenty of time," Trevor assured her, but he didn't argue any further as he directed her down the corridor toward the baggage claim area. At a row of telephone booths he stopped and suggested, not for the first time, "Are you positive you don't need to call your parents so they'll be expecting us?"
"No." Jonni negated that suggestion with a firm shake of her head. "I want to surprise them," she insisted.
A raised eyebrow showed that he disagreed with her. "Surely there are some preparations that will be necessary before our arrival. I don't think it's right for us to come without giving them some warning."
Jonni just laughed at that. "What you don't understand, Trevor, is that in this part of the country the latchstring is always out. My mother doesn't need to get ready for company. She's always ready, just in case. Besides, I don't want the red carpet rolled out. I want to go home without any fanfare."
"It's one thing for you to do it. You're the daughter. But what about me?" he pointed out. "What kind of an impression am I going to make as their future son-in-law?"
"I don't want them to know I'm bringing my fiancé home," She didn't attempt to check her frank admission. "When mother and dad meet you for the first time, I want it to be without any preconceived ideas about what you'll be like."
"What you mean is that they won't be prejudiced toward the man who's stealing their daughter from them." Trevor flashed her a smooth smile as they continued along the corridor.
"More or less," Jonni agreed. "Once they meet you, I know they'll love you. Besides, they're both eager to have grandchildren."
"Not too eager, I hope," he murmured dryly. At her quizzical look, he explained, "I'd like you all to myself for a while."
"If I haven't forgotten some of the things I learned in my rural upbringing, such things take time." The gleam in her blue eyes laughed at the serious tone of her answer.
"So I've heard." Trevor's glance was both worldly and indulgent.
Her gaze dropped to the engagement ring on her finger. An enormous diamond solitaire reflected a rainbow of lights. "I only wish you hadn't been so extravagant over this ring. It's so huge it's almost obscene!"
Trevor did not appear concerned by her vague criticism. "I wanted it to be large enough for anyone to see it. There can't be any question that you belong to someone, namely me."
"No one could miss seeing it." Jonni adjusted the ring on her finger, not accustomed to the heavy weight.
"I've never claimed modesty as one of my virtues," Trevor admitted without remorse. His innate arrogance was part of his special brand of charm. Jonni accepted that, even though it irritated her at times. "I'm grateful you aren't cursed with any sense of false modesty. You're beautiful and successful, and you know it." An idle curiosity flickered across his handsome features. "I've never asked what your parents think about your career."
"They're proud, naturally." Jonni shrugged. "In their eyes, I could never do any wrong."
"Then why are you so concerned about them finding out about me before the fact, so to speak?" questioned Trevor.
"Because they'd ask where we'd live after we're married, and I'd have to tell them New York," she explained. "They still regard that as a terrible place to live, with muggings, rapes and burglaries going on all the time. I haven't been able to convince them any differently."
"Didn't you mention that they'd visited you in New York?" He looked amused by her comment.
"Yes, I usually see them twice, sometimes three times a year. But this is the first time I've been back to Kansas since I left for New York six years ago." It didn't seem that long ago to Jonni. Yet, at the same time, it seemed much longer. Conflicting statements that were still true.
"Any particular reason?" he asked.
"The first year I was in New York, I didn't want to go back until I'd made some kind of success. When I did, I didn't have time to go back. If mom and dad hadn't visited me so often, I would probably have arranged to have enough free time to come home," Jonni admitted. "With Gabe in charge, it was easier for mom and dad to visit me."
"Gabe? Who's Gabe? I don't remember his name being mentioned before," Trevor commented with a thoughtful look.
"Gabe Stockman is dad's general manager." They arrived at the baggage claim area and Jonni's thoughts veered from Gabe Stockman. "There's the carousel with the luggage from our flight," she said, pointing.
When their luggage was retrieved from the rotating rack, Trevor signaled for a porter. The porter guided them to the gate where the chartered, twin-engine aircraft was waiting to fly them across Kansas to the Starr Ranch. They climbed aboard while the pilot stowed their luggage in the baggage compartment.
"All buckled in?" the pilot inquired, glancing over his shoulder at his passengers in the rear seat as he settled into the left seat.
"Yes," Jonni answered, but Trevor responded with only an uninterested nod.
"It'll just take me a couple of minutes to run through this checklist and we'll be on our way," the pilot promised. He was past middle age, all crisp and professional with a decidedly military air.
The next few minutes were filled with revving motors and lifting ailerons and flaps. Then the pilot requested permission from ground control to taxi. A staccato response over the radio gave him taxiing instructions.
When it came their turn to roll down the runway, Jonni felt that familiar exhilaration. As the plane's wheels left the ground and tucked with a thump into the belly of the aircraft, she experienced a leap of excitement that came with flying. She glanced at Trevor, who was passively looking out the window as the plane gained altitude, then settled back in her seat, realizing Trevor didn't feel the same tug at his heart because she was the one winging her way home, not him.
Soon the plane turned west, crossing the Missouri River and flying over the flat wheat lands eastern Kansas. After six years of living in the concrete city of New York, where the closest Jonni had come to grass and trees was Central Park and occasional forays into the surrounding suburbs, she suddenly realized how much she missed the wide open feel of the country.
Below, the ground was laid out like a patchwork quilt in fields of varying shades of brown and green. The green of spring was tinting the pastures. The horizon stretched almost limitlessly without obstruction. The vastness of the sky was a clear blue, broken only by a puffy cloud and the glare of the sun.
The drone of the engines had made conversation difficult, but Trevor made an attempt. "Rather monotonous, isn't it?" he remarked, referring to the almost unchanging landscape below them.
"Concrete buildings are monotonous. Mother Earth is always changing her clothes," Jonni corrected without trying to argue. His expression revealed disagreement and she laughed. "Not everything west of the Allegheny Mountains is wasteland, Trevor."
"No there's Los Angeles," he conceded dryly.
"Look below," she instructed. "We're flying over the Flint Hills. Aren't they fascinating?"
"If you say so." But his agreement was strictly an indulgence, not an endorsement. "I'm still waiting to see a sunflower. Kansas is the Sunflower State, isn't it?"
"Yes, but they don't grow all year round," Jonni chided him, then smiled. "I should be grateful you didn't get it mixed up with Iowa, the Corn State."
If Trevor had exhibited more interest Jonni would have pointed out the route of thee old Santa Fe Trail, which had wound the breadth of Kansas in the pioneer days. Instead she kept silent, watching the changing terrain the plane's shadow covered. When the plane banked southwest, the lowlands of the Arkansas River were beneath them. Farther along the river, out of sight, was the historic town of Dodge City where the trail herds from Texas had driven their beef to the railhead.
They were nearing Starr country, where the Cimarron River snaked through the red hills. It was too soon to look for the ranch boundaries yet. Jonni leaned back in her seat. So much of the flight had been in silence that she glanced at Trevor to see if he was still awake. He was, his gaze steadily watching her.
"I'm glad I insisted on taking two weeks off," she said. "It's going to be good to be home for a while. Are you certain you can't stay longer than the weekend?"
"I definitely have to be back by Tuesday," Trevor stated. "Business, my dear. Besides, I would rather arrange to spend my free time on a long honeymoon than share it with you chaperoned by your parents. From all you've told me, they sound old-fashioned."
"Yes, but they're very nice. You'll like them," Jonni responded with total confidence. Being old-fashioned was a trait Trevor made fun of, but it was also one he admired. Jonni was fully aware that part of her appeal had been the fact that she hadn't been easy to win. Once he had won her, he had no intention of letting her go, which suited Jonni just fine.
"Couldn't you stay a couple of extra days?" she asked. Saturday and Sunday would speed by so quickly. He would barely have time to become acquainted with her parents before he left. "I'd like to show you around the place."
"I'm afraid not," he replied without hesitation. "It would probably be all very interesting, but the great outdoors is not my style. A view from the air is sufficient."
Jonni knew that and had become resigned to it. "Daddy will want to show you the operation. He's quite proud of what the Starr family has built."
"I promise you I'll be dutifully attentive and interested when he does," Trevor assured her in a dryly mocking tone.
"You absolutely can't stay longer?" She repeated the statement as a question.
"I absolutely can't." Trevor took hold of her hand and carried it to his lips. "We haven't even arrived and you're already missing me before I leave. No wonder I'm in love with you!"
"I love you, too, Trevor," Jonni murmured.
Her hand curved itself to his strong jaw. His skin was tanned brown by the rays of a sunlamp he kept in his apartment. She knew he had a sunlamp because she had made use of it herself on one two occasions. Leaning over, she placed a lingering kiss on his mouth.
The changing pitch of the engine's drone informed her that they were losing altitude, beginning their descent. She straightened back to her own seat, exchanging a warm look with Trevor as the pilot partially glanced over his shoulder.
"We'll be coming up on the airstrip soon," he told them.
After rechecking her seat belt to be certain it was securely fastened, Jonni glanced out the window. She was positive they were flying over Starr acreage even though it had been six years since last she saw it.
"Do you know what kind of condition this private runway is in?"
"It's a grass runway, but you can be sure it's in the best condition. My father has always insisted on that," Jonni replied with quiet authority. "It's on that plateau just beyond the buildings coming up on the right."
"I hope your parents are home," Trevor remarked. "I'd hate to think we've come all this way only to find out they're on vacation."
"Don't worry, I talk to them every week. Last Sunday they were very definite they wouldn't be going anywhere until the heat of the summer," she reassured him.
The white, two-story building of the main house stood like a quiet sentinel of the plateau. The branches of the towering trees that surrounded it looked bare from the plane's height, but a new carpet of green grass was on the ground. Hay was stacked in great mounds near the barns and equipment sheds. The red hides of Hereford cattle dotted the rugged land around the ranch yard.
Excerpted from The Mating Season by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1980 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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