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Montana Mavericks-Her Montana Millionaire
New York socialite Jinni Fairchild would take care of her sister, even if that meant sacrificing, temporarily, her jet-set lifestyle for the wilds of Rumor, Montana. No limos, no parties, no haute couture--she was barely surviving. Until she met Max Cantrell.
Tall. Dark. Gorgeous. And rich as Midas. Jinni knew how to handle men like him. With one flirtatious smile, she would have him eating out of her manicured hand. Except Max had his own agenda, one that involved long talks, gentle kisses and an unhurried sensuality that tempted this city girl to stop and smell the roses--with him!
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December 01, 2009
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Excerpt from Montana Mavericks-Her Montana Millionaire by Crystal Green
Just as Jinni Fairchild swooped into a prime parking space at MonMart, some uptight prig laid on his horn.
"Sorry, cupcake," she said to no one in particular. "I'm the best parking pilot there is."
Even in her younger sister's sardine can of a compact car, Jinni was the queen of smooth moves, the duchess of derring-do. Not that it mattered in a small town like Rumor, Montana, where the citizens drove down the autumn-hued roads with lazy-Sunday nonchalance. Put them on a New York street and they'd be road kill in a matter of seconds.
She sighed on this wave of nostalgia. She really did miss the city.
The runner-up in the parking lot contest jammed on his horn once more, but this time it was a long, angry blast. Almost like unintelligible curse words strung together by one, endless electronic howl.
Unconcerned, Jinni turned off the Honda Civic's trembling engine and yanked on the emergency brake. She had a lot to do at MonMart, shopping for her sister, Val, who was recovering from breast cancer.
That's right--cancer. Her own baby sister.
It was unnatural, a thirty-five-year-old woman contracting a life-threatening disease. Jinni was the eldest, the one who'd hit the big four-oh this year. Why hadn't she been the recipient?
Jinni shook off the sadness. Val wouldn't want her to break down in tears again, especially in the parking lot of a middle-class shopping mecca. Would she?
No, absolutely not. Instead, Jinni would concentrate on getting over the fact that she was about to enter a store that sold food products, clothing and goods at discount prices. Sadly, it was no Saks Fifth Avenue.
Yikes. Going inside might taint her forever.
Nonetheless, she'd brave this trek into primitive bargain territory for the sake of her sister. Besides, once Val got better Jinni could wave goodbye to MonMart and Rumor and return to her own life. And if this last week of sheer boredom hadn't hurt her, she'd survive intact.
Outside the car, a door slammed. Jinni paid it no heed. She was used to noise--lots of it. The snarl of traffic outside her Upper East Side window, the squeal of brakes and the rapid stutter of shouts, the shuffle of a thousand footsteps as they passed under her luxury apartment.
She whipped a tube of lipstick out of her Gucci handbag, tilting her starlet sunglasses down to the bridge of her nose in order to achieve maximum damage with the fiery cosmetic.
A polite tap shook her window. Wait, almost done with the lipstick. Blot, blot, blot. There, ready for the world.
She adjusted her glasses back over her eyes, finally giving the time of day to her caller.
The first thing she noticed was that it was a man. Oh, grrrr, and a good-looking one, too. Eyes the brilliant blue of airport lights against the night, hair dark and thick, touched with just a splash of gray throughout. A strong chin, slightly dimpled.
Jinni rolled down the window, allowing in the ash-bitten October air. The recently doused fire that had damaged the surrounding area still haunted the atmosphere with a tang of smoke and charred wood.
"Well, hello," she said, smiling.
The man stared at her as if she'd taken off her delicate lace brassiere and snapped him in the face with it. Then, after a moment, he stood to his full, impressive height--so high that Jinni had to crane her neck out the window to catch sight of his face again.
He motioned to his car, which was idling in back of hers, angled toward the parking place as if it could squeeze right on in and butt her out.
A Mercedes-Benz. In this speck on the map known as Rumor. Very interesting, indeed.
"You roared into my space like you owned it," he said, his voice deep, rich and livid.
Jinni let his tone pour over her. Males. She loved the timbre of their words, the breadth of their hands. She batted her lashes, forgetting that she was wearing sunglasses. At least she could carry the flirty gesture over to her voice. It was a distinctive talent.
"Oh, did I goof? I didn't realize that you Montana men defend your parking spaces with such territorial zeal. How excitingly alpha."
She made sure that she didn't sound rude, just cheeky. But this guy wasn't getting it. In fact, he seemed even angrier.
"Listen, lady. The last thing I need is another confrontation, another thing to tick me off."
Well. This wasn't amusing at all.
With infinite care, Jinni rolled up her window, fixed a wide-brimmed black hat over her blond French twist, then opened the door and stretched out a stockinged leg, capped by a four-inch, black-and-white Prada pump. With clear fortitude, the man tried to keep his eyes on her face, but when she curled the other leg out of the car, he lost the battle.
But not for long. As she stood to her own five-foot, ten-inch frame--her height, oh, the misfortune of it since so many rich, famous men were deceptively short--she came up to just beneath his chin.
Jinni all but swooned. It wasn't often she had to peer up at a man.
"Hey, studmuffin," she said, her New Yawk accent emerging with a cheerful challenge, "you lost. Got it? I had the speed and the skill. Now, if your fragile male ego can't accept that fact, I and the rest of the female nation apologize profusely."
Was that a smile nudging at his lips?
No. Oh, no. It was a frown. Completely the opposite.
He nodded, as if each motion was another slashed pen stroke on a growing list of what he didn't like about Jinni Fairchild.
"Hmph." She turned around to lock and shut her door. Darn town. No limousine service, not even a nearby car rental agency.
When she faced him again, the man had taken a defensive stance, arms crossed over his heavy coat, crisp button down and classy tie. Looked like Armani, to Jinni. Even his wingtip shoes were polished, expensive, much like his linen pants with their dollar-bill-edged creases.
"You're not actually from this one-horse town, are you?" she asked.
Mr. I'm-So-Natty ignored her question and ran another gaze over her body, especially her legs. "Around here, we don't drive like bats out of hell and steal parking spaces. We're slow and considerate, easy as summer at a swimming hole."
Wait. She was still on the "slow" part. As in slow kisses, slow... Yow.
Now wouldn't he make a great diversion while she was in Rumor?
"Slow is nice for a good deal of things," she said, lowering her voice to a purr. "But driving isn't one of them."
He grunted. "Where're you from?"
"Jeez, no wonder. I should've known that you fit in about as well as Cinderella's stepsister trying to shove her foot into the slipper."
That sounded like an insult, especially since the stepsisters were known to be warty, shrieky supporting players. "Mister, from what I hear, you people already have some big-city attitude around here. Like New York, you have your share of violence."
She tilted her head in his direction, and he grinned. Not with happiness, really. It was the grin of the big, bad wolf slipping into the wrong fairy tale, only to find that wicked stepsisters were tasty morsels, too.
"Violence? Lady, remember when I said I didn't need something else to chap my hide? Referring to our recent rising murder rate would be one of those matters."
Jinni's sense of a good story surfaced. After all, she didn't make a fabulous living writing celebrity biographies without knowing how to ask questions.
With the most compassionate mien she could muster, she asked, "Is what they say true? That a man murdered his wife and her lover up on Logan's Hill?"
He stared at her, as if not believing she'd pursued the subject even after he'd warned her about it.
Jinni continued. "And what about the stories going around town? That he's, of all things, invisible?"
His silence stretched between them as Jinni raised her eyebrows in an open invitation to spill the facts. Somehow, through the years, she'd cultivated the ability to draw information out of people and transfer it to bestsellers.
But this guy wasn't playing that game.
"Don't ask again," he said, boring a hard glare at her before starting toward his car.
Intrigued, Jinni watched him pause at his door, then turn to face her again.
He said, "And I'll know if a long-legged stranger is strutting around town, nosing about. Curb your curiosity and learn to drive."
"Wait." She took a few steps toward him, making sure to wiggle while she walked. Just for effect. "I have to say that you're the most fun I've had since coming to this place. I mean, really, no one knows how to yell about parking spaces like you do. And as far as shopping goes, this MonMart is the only store for miles, and there's not a trace of DKNY or Versace to be found."
He was assessing her again, wearing a miffed frown, almost as if she was a wild child who'd scampered out from the woods in a burlap sack. Yeesh. The image even gave Jinni the shivers.
She snapped open her handbag, retrieving a pad of paper and a pen. As she scribbled down her name and number, Jinni didn't stop to think that he might not have taken a fancy to her.
Why wouldn't he? She always got her man.
When she finished, she tucked her information in his jacket pocket. His disbelieving gaze followed her manicured hand.
"I'm Jinni Fairchild, and that's my number. Call it."
He chuffed, staring at her again.
"Really. I should've been in London this week, chatting with Prince Charles over dinner at a posh restaurant." Don't dwell on that, Jinni, she thought. It's no use musing about the biography that should've been and never will be. The big fish you haven't been able to catch. Just like Princess Mo-nique of Novenia.
Instead, she reasserted her smile. "You can take my mind off what I'm missing."
She waited for him to give her his number, but it didn't happen. He merely slid into his expensive car, shaking his head, muttering, "Incredible."
Maybe he'd forgotten to return the gesture in kind, but it didn't matter. Him not being attracted to her wasn't even a possibility. Men loved her as much as she loved them.
She sighed as he drove away. He'd call, all right. Not that she'd be waiting.
Life had too much to offer for her to be lounging by the phone.
Damned long legs.
As Max Cantrell drove down Logan Street, back to his estate, he tried to cleanse all impure thoughts from his mind.
Gams. A French starlet mouth pouted with red lipstick. A svelte figure covered by an elegant black-and-white dress suit. An Audrey Hepburn half smile and sunglasses covering a face with high cheekbones and pale skin, making him itch to see what she really looked like beneath the shade of her glamorous hat.
Where had Jinni Fairchild come from, for God's sake? Did New York really grow women who were that out of the ordinary?
For about the thirteenth time since leaving the parking lot, he looked at her name and number, clutched in the same hand that guided his steering wheel. He'd thought about throwing it out the window, but Max didn't take too kindly to anyone-- even himself--ruining the beauty of the fence-studded grass, the pines and cottonwoods lining a stream that ran parallel to a massive iron gate that announced his driveway.
In the distance, the Crazy Mountains loomed over the top of his mansion, a Tuscan-styled wonder of architecture with its multileveled, beige-bricked pile of rooms resembling a quaint, meandering village he'd visited in Italy during his honeymoon. He'd been such a damned sucker for romance when he'd built it. Eloise, his ex-wife, had requested the style, back when she'd almost loved him.
Ah, what good did it do to think about Eloise, especially now, after she'd left him and their now fourteen-year-old son, Michael, so many years ago?
Max crumpled Jinni's number, letting it fall from his fingers to the carpeted floor of the Benz. He didn't need to bother with another woman. Even one whose attractive figure had just about socked him in the gut with all the inactive hormones he'd been keeping under thumb.
Max sped up his driveway, zipping past the twenty head of cattle, the few ranch-hand houses he kept on his artesian well-irrigated ninety acres. It was almost as if he was driving like a demon to get away from MonMart and the confrontation he'd had with that crazy New York woman.
Hell, he'd even jumped straight into his car, deciding to forget his plans to pick up some steaks for dinner. Running into that lady inside the store would've sent him over the edge for certain, and the last thing he needed was more grief in his life.
After parking the Benz in his spacious garage between the Rolls-Royce and the Hummer, Max headed into his mansion through the massive, echoing kitchen.
"Hello, sir," said Bently. His right-hand man-- one of the reasons Max had become a multimillionaire by the age of thirty--was garbed in a full-length apron, slicing vegetables at the enormous cutting block in the room's center. "No steaks tonight?"
"Bently, I am not a sir. Not even when I'm seventy will I be a sir. What's cooking?"
"Vegetables julienne, sir."