The town of Linhart had never seen a sophisticated beauty like Sydney Baines, and Russ Klein suspected that whatever had brought the long-legged detective all the way to the Texas Hill Country couldn't be good. And he was right--years of weaning his mother away from Las Vegas's high rollers would be wasted and her gambling addiction would be back in full swing once Sydney's news about his long-lost inheritance got out.
At first the big-city sleuth didn't believe it. The harder she pushed the stubborn Texan to take the money, the harder he resisted. Could she pass up the finder's fee her family desperately needed so the charming backwoods adventurer could keep his secret? Because it looked as if botching her assignment was the only way she could catch her man....
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September 10, 2007
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Excerpt from One Stubborn Texan by Kara Lennox
"Stranger's coming," Bert Klausen announced from his perch by the front window of the Linhart General Store. Bert, former owner of the store and now firmly retired, spent most of his winter days in a rocking chair warming himself by the wood-burning stove, staring out the window and munching on dill pickles. No one came or went in Linhart, Texas, without Bert's knowing.
Russ Klein added an extra scoop of coffee grounds to the pot he was making. Maybe it was a customer.
"It's a female, and quite a looker, too. She drives a beemer," Bert announced between crunches on his pickle. "A white one."
"BMW, huh?" Russ ambled to the front of the store, pretending to straighten the camping gear as he went. He stepped over Nero, the bloodhound asleep on the floor, and opened the stove to poke at the burning logs with a stick. That time waster complete, he closed the grate and peered out the window; a cold drizzle made everything outside look gray and depressing. He couldn't miss the snazzy white car parked across the street, but the driver was nowhere to be seen. "Went inside the post office," Bert said, answering Russ's unasked question.
"Maybe she'll come in here when she gets done there," Bert mused hopefully. The wilderness outfitting business wasn't exactly brisk this time of year, not like spring and summer, when tourists and college kids streamed in by the dozens to stock up on food, beer and camping supplies. Breaks in the winter monotony were scarce.
"Maybe," Russ agreed with practiced indifference, though his gaze never left the white car. He wondered what other excuse he could find to linger at the front of the store. A stranger in town on a cold, gray weekday was cause for curiosity. A female stranger in an expensive sports car was hard to resist. Russ was a sucker for flashy city women and he knew it. He never learned, not even after Deirdre.
The door to the post office swung open and she emerged, looking like a bird of paradise hatching in a sparrow's nest. Sonny Fouts, coming out of the hardware store, paused to stare at her, but she didn't seem to notice as she strode up the sidewalk, her briefcase swinging at her side, a cell phone glued to her face as she carried on an animated conversation.
Russ sucked in his breath as he surveyed her from the ground up, starting with the pair of dark green high-heeled boots with a row of fringe that swung to and fro with each bouncy step. Her snug black skirt skimmed over trim hips and stopped well above the knees, revealing sleek, slender legs. Above the skirt she wore a short suede jacket bearing an abundance of snaps and more streamers of fringe. Her hair tumbled in luxuriant black waves from beneath a beret.
Most people in Linhart wore hats--straw cowboy hats in the summer, felt in the winter, and gimme caps from the feed store. But not berets. Way too French for a town founded by German immigrants. Way too citified.
"Oo-ey, she's somethin' else, eh?" Bert said with his usual candor. "Kinda on the skinny side, maybe. Uh-oh, look out, she's headin' this way."
Bert quickly picked up a three-day-old newspaper and pretended absorption in it. Russ walked casually to the back of the store to check on the coffee, facing away from the door as if the lady didn't interest him much. It was a lie, of course. Her type always interested him.
Russ resisted the urge to turn around when the jingling doorbell announced the arrival of a customer. He heard the rustling of Bert's newspaper and the halfhearted thumping of Nero's tail against the wooden plank flooring.
"Help you, missy?" Bert asked politely. "Bert Klausen, at your service."
The woman dropped her cell phone into her purse. "Hello, Bert." The voice was honey-smooth, confident. "Yes, I'm sure you can help me. I was told I could find Russ Klein here."
Something inside Russ jumped at the realization that this bird of paradise was looking for him. He turned around, schooling his features. "I'm Russ Klein."
She smiled a hello, and he forgot any rational greeting he might have summoned. Lord, what a smile. What a face. She made him think of an impish angel in dress-up clothes as she came toward him with her arm extended. Her hand was cool and delicate when he shook it, the long nails painted a pumpkin color. He didn't squeeze too hard for fear he'd break something.
"What can I do for you?" he asked when he'd recovered enough of his wits to speak. Bert watched from the corner of his eye, pretending renewed interest in the newspaper.
"My name is Sydney Baines," she answered in an accent just shy of exotic.