Langston Collingsworth was a man to be reckoned with. Powerful and president of the family oil business, opportunists looked at him and saw money, but he saw the land as his life force. So when the Collingsworth empire was threatened...it was personal.
It happened innocently enough...a young girl needing his help. But her mother was none other than Trish Edwards--Langston's high school sweetheart. Trish and her daughter were trapped in a blackmail and murder investigation and had been on the run since the day Trish gave birth to a Collingsworth heir.
Could Langston trust Trish after the years of deception? He had no choice if he wanted to protect her child--his child--and face down the trouble headed their way.
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July 10, 2007
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Excerpt from 24 Karat Ammunition by Joanna Wayne
Lenora Collingsworth smoothed her ash-blond locks and noticed the new smattering of gray. At fifty-six, a few gray hairs were to be expected, but that didn't mean she had to like them. She liked the chaos that was contributing to their arrival even less.
She looked down and let her gaze linger on the picture of her late husband, marveling as always that she missed him after all these years. Things would be different if Randolph were still alive. He'd take the reins of control of his family company from his ailing father. The transition would be flawless and uncomplicated, with no one questioning his authority.
But Randolph wasn't here, and Lenora was seriously concerned that all hell was about to break loose in the Collingsworth clan. Not that either of her daughters would want any part of running the empire. Her youngest daughter, Jaime, avoided responsibility at any cost, sure it would lead to her immediate demise as a free spirit. And her older daughter, Becky, was far too busy holding a grudge against her estranged husband and trying to raise her twin seven-year-old sons to concern herself with business affairs.
Lenora's four sons were a different story. Langston, Matt, Bart and Zach each held their staunchly individual views of how Collingsworth Oil and the ranch itself should be run. Now, with their grandfather both mentally and physically incapacitated, she was afraid those differences would tear apart her close-knit family.
She turned at a rap on her bedroom door. "The old fart's here," Jaime announced, opening the door and stepping just near enough that Lenora could see that her skimpy blue shorts fit low on the hips, revealing lots of skin between them and the white blouse tied just below her breasts. "He said he's ready to start the meeting when you are."
"Thanks. Tell him I'll be right down." Nigel Slattery was not only the family attorney but an old and very dependable family friend.
"Don't hurry. Becky went upstairs to change clothes and she's not down yet."
"Speaking of changing clothes, you could exchange those shorts for a skirt or a pair of jeans. This is a business meeting, Jaime."
"It's in our dining room. Besides, a bunch of us are going down to the lake when we finish up here. Don't count on me for dinner. We'll be back late."
As usual. Late to bed and late to rise was Jaime's preferred lifestyle. She had changed majors so often that it had taken her six years to get a four-year degree in sociology, and then she had spent a year traveling in Europe to find herself before she started on a career. She was twenty-five now and the only job she'd pursued with any enthusiasm or longevity was spending the remainder of the trust from her late great-grandfather that she'd received on her twenty-first birthday.
Lenora took a last sip from her glass of iced tea and straightened the front of her denim skirt and white blouse before walking into the hall. Loud voices and boisterous laughter rang in her ears as she descended the winding staircase to the first floor. Her four sons would already be sitting around the massive oak table that overlooked the giant oaks that Jeremiah had planted the year he'd built the house for his wife.
The table, like the house itself, had been built to withstand the hot south-Texas summers and the hurricanes that blew in from the Gulf of Mexico. But it was the winds of change that threatened now, and Lenora wasn't sure even the Collingsworth blood that ran through all her children's veins could withstand that.
Langston was the first to his feet when she stepped through the door, and she noted that her older son had already taken over his grandfather's seat at the head of the table. She wondered what his brothers thought about that.
He kissed her on the cheek. "We thought for a minute you'd run out on the meeting."
"Now why would I do that?"
Matt pulled out her usual chair at the other end of the table. "Maybe because you hate business discussions."
"I like discussions. I don't like arguments."
"We never argue," Bart teased. "We just have heated dialogue until these guys come around to seeing things my way."
"Like that last brainstorm you had about inviting students from A&M out to run the spring roundup and branding," Matt said. "Was it my fault they sent us coeds who got sick every time the iron touched the thick hide of a cow?"
"Hey, don't knock that experiment," Zach said. "I managed a few dates with that hot blonde before she decided to transfer back to UCLA and become an actress instead of a large-animal vet."