Matt Collingsworth: Texas charm, cowboy cache and totally loaded with male sex appeal!Coming to a woman's rescue was all in a day's work for the billionaire rancher. Little did Matt know that the woman in jeopardy he'd jumped off his horse to save was working undercover, investigating him. By way of his mother, no less! Trouble had never looked so good to Shelly Lane. Exposing the Collingsworths was a golden opportunity to prove she had what it took to be a real agent. But she could not let Matt Collingsworth distract her. Even though the man could fill out a pair of jeans--oh my! What Shelly had to do involved the highest national security and would in the end devastate the Collingsworth empire...and surely destroy her chances for a date with Matt.
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June 09, 2008
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Excerpt from Loaded by Joanna Wayne
Shelly Lane walked into the Country Caf� at one-forty on a Friday afternoon in the middle of June, following on the heels of Matt Collingsworth. Smells of fried chicken, cinnamon and fresh-brewed coffee greeted her. It looked like the sort of place you should seat yourself, but a short, plump woman with a knot of graying curls on top of her head was smiling and sashaying toward her.
"Hi, there," the lady said, her charming Texas drawl pulling her words into extra syllables. "You can just sit anywhere, and Jill will be around to take your order in a jiffy."
"Thanks." Shelly glanced around and noted that she was the only one eating alone. Most of the customers were family groups, though there were a few tables with just lone cowboy types. Several looked her way. Most grinned and nodded. A few waved. Colts Run Cross was a very friendly town.
Shelly located Matt--he'd joined a group of men and one super-cute young lady at a table near a window--then chose a spot where she could observe him without making it too obvious. Actually, she didn't mind him seeing her now that she was about to make contact with his mother.
The chair wobbled a bit as she slid it closer to the square wooden table covered in a blue plaid cloth. A simple vase holding two silk daisies sat in the middle, flanked by inexpensive salt and pepper shakers and a bottle of catsup.
Her attention returned to Matt. He was far more handsome in person than in the likenesses she'd studied of him. His hair was short, dark brown and only slightly rumpled by the Western hat he'd been wearing before entering the restaurant. His jeans were worn, but clean, and though she couldn't see it now, she knew from stealthily following him about town that they showed off his lean, hard frame to perfection.
He glanced her way and smiled. A treacherous skip of her heart forced her to take a deep breath and regroup. Even the slightest attraction on her part could compromise her mission.
Jill stopped at Shelly's elbow. "The special today is fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and pinto beans. That comes with corn bread or biscuits and a dish of peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert. Or you can order off the lunch menu. It's on the back."
The waitress turned the menu over and tapped the offerings with her index finger. "What would you like to drink?"
"Just tea, please, with lemon."
Jill stopped off at Matt's table, flirting shamelessly with him and his cohorts. Not that Shelly blamed her. They all had that sexy cowboy mystique about them. It was even more potent than Shelly had expected, but she knew that Matt Collingsworth was no simple cowboy. Nor was he your everyday Texas rancher.
Not only did his family own the second-largest spread in Texas, but they were sole owners of Collingsworth Enterprises, which encompassed the operations of Jack's Bluff Ranch as well as Collingsworth Oil and its related subsidiaries. Which meant they had ties to some of the most high-ranking businessmen and politicians in this country and in other key parts of the world.
The waitress arrived with the tea and Shelly ordered a grilled chicken salad, which arrived in short order. She lingered over her food, finally leaving though Matt was still engaged in a very animated conversation with the others at his table.
The sun was blinding when she stepped out the door of the small caf�. She fished in her handbag for her sunglasses and put them on as she crossed the street to her dark blue, nondescript sedan. She was opening the door when she spotted a black car rounding the corner, speeding toward her.
Sunlight glinted off the barrel of a revolver as it slid through the open window. Her instincts and training kicked in at the speed of light. She searched the empty streets for someone to warn, then crouched behind the car door as the sound of gunfire and bullets pinging against metal shattered the quiet afternoon.
Even if she'd had time to retrieve her weapon from the car, she wouldn't have had time to fire back. The car had roared past and she could hear the footsteps and voices of people rushing from the nearby shops, before she realized she'd been hit by a ricocheting bullet.
The keys slipped through her fingers and it felt as if a dozen wasps had all found the same spot on the back of her upper arm. Blood soaked the sleeve of her blouse. She stared; the incredulity of the situation made the facts difficult to register. This couldn't have happened. She was CIA and deep undercover. Not even her own mother knew she was in Texas.
"She's been shot," a female yelled.
But when Shelly looked up, she was staring right into the dark, piercing eyes of Matt Collingsworth. Trouble had never been more ominous--or looked so good.