Lead into Naked Bluff, Texas series
COPYRIGHT 2011 by Anita Philmar –
All rights reserved.
Home from a long cattle drive to Abilene, Trent McCall just wants to unwind.
But in his absence, his father’s been making wedding plans…for Trent. The last thing
he wants is a spoiled and pampered socialite for a wife. What he wants is a hard drink
and a willing woman. An uncomplicated woman who understands a man’s need for release after
a hard ride. Good thing he’s got one waiting for him.
Four years back East haven’t changed Catherine Turnberry’s mind. Her heart is set on neighboring
rancher, Trent McCall. When an end-of-the-trail party threatens to put him into the arms of
another woman, Catherine grabs the bull by the horns. Taking the place of the whore hired to
pleasure Trent, she intends to give him a welcome he’ll never forget and show him what Texas passion is all about.
West Texas, June 1861
“Daggum-it, Tom. If you don’t tell me where Trent McCall is, no one else will.” Catherine gripped her hands at her sides and fought to control her temper. Tom, her best friend since the age of five, would help, even if the code for men in the west was to cover for each other.
Bare to the waist, Tom Hayes stood in a patch of light from the barn door, rubbing down his bay. The fresh scent of hay and horseflesh pulled her back to her childhood, the open range, riding bareback for hours, and swimming in the watering hole.
Tom shook his head. Golden locks, tied with a thin leather strip, hung down his sweat-slickened back. Beautiful curls any woman would give her eyeteeth to possess. “He’s still on the cattle drive and won’t be back from Kansas for a few more days.”
Catherine shoved auburn strands that escaped the tight knot at the back of her neck from her face. “Right. What you really mean is, Mr. McCall has already planned the end-of-the-trail party and doesn’t want me to know.” Dancing until dawn, drinking until they fell into a mindless stupor, and bedding every available woman, the men on the cattle drive loved celebrating their return home. “So how many whores are they planning to hire?”
Tom lifted the brush and pointed it at her. Thin lines streaming around his blue eyes showed the time he spent working in the sun. “Catherine Jansen, you best be watching that mouth of yours. Your pa hears you talking like that, and he’ll tan your hide.”
With muscular biceps and broad shoulders, Tom had every girl in the county chasing him during their younger years. Yet, he’d cared less, interested only in riding and hunting at the time.
’Course she’d missed the chase his wife had waged. The short trip Catherine had taken to visit her aunt in Boston had turned into a four-year stretch. But unlike the socialites of her aunt’s association, who fell for every rich man’s line of love, Catherine knew what she wanted. And it wasn’t some sweet talking dandy. No, even if her mother had wanted her to stay with her aunt to learn to act like a lady, she planned to marry Trent McCall and become a rancher’s wife in the greatest state in the union.
“Then tell me who he’s hired to work the party. Ms. Lillian? Or Madame Foch?” She stepped forward and caressed the bay’s neck. The smooth hair under her palm calmed Catherine’s nerves. For most of her life, she’d planned to be Trent’s wife. What if he didn’t find her desirable? “I don’t want him to be with another woman only hours before seeing me for the first time in years.”
She didn’t need the comparison.
Tom groaned. “He’s a man, Catherine. He’s bedded lots of women while you’ve been gone.” He dropped the brush in a nearby bucket and studied her face with a probing glare. “You’ve had outings with other men, too, right?”
She nodded. “But I never…”
The words backed up in her throat. She swallowed hard, dipped her head and stroked the bay. How could she tell him she’d known the appeal of the opposite sex, had seen the hunger in men’s eyes while cleaning up after the girls at the burlesque shows? Neither her mama nor her aunt knew about her job as a maid in the theater. They both thought she had attended to the needs of a pampered socialite.
But what other choice did she have? No other job paid as much so she’d lied. Her face burned. No one in Texas knew about her real life back East, especially not her parents. “For God sake, Tom, you know I grew up on my father’s ranch. I understand the basics of sex.” But I’ve never sleep with a man. I only ever wanted Trent.
She ignored the anger, bubbling through her veins at the thought of Trent bedding another woman and jumped ahead. “We’re practically engaged. He shouldn’t be fooling around.”
“Don’t see how you can stop him.” Tom ran his hand across his chest, and a frown marred his brow. “His dad has everything arranged for Thursday night. We’re setting up tables for food and drinks in here. We’re even having a fiddle player so the cowboys and ladies can dance. Ms. Lillian is bringing the girls around nine, and they’re not scheduled to leave until dawn.”
Four days. She scrambled for a plan to keep Trent away from those women. Feeling defeated, Catherine fought the tears burning behind her eyelids. “Do you think it’d help to talk to Ms. Lillian?”
“No.” He grabbed his shirt off a hook and shoved his arms into the sleeves. The ripple affect of his chest muscles sent a tingle of longing through her. Would Trent look as good without a shirt on?
“Ms. Lillian lives more than fifty miles away. There’s no way you can ride across the state without the whole county finding out about it.” Tom stomped past her and grabbed the bay’s reins to lead the horse into a stall.
The pungent odor of manure assaulted her senses. She glanced down and whipped her skirt from the mess on the dirt floor. What could she do? The man deserved to celebrate his safe return from the cattle drive.
“And what exactly would you say to her anyways?” Tom stepped out of the stall and closed the door. The sound rumbled through the large barn. “She won’t listen to you. The McCalls are one of her biggest clients.”
“Fine.” Catherine, struggling for a viable alternative, grabbed his arm. “Then help me arrange for him to meet me somewhere else that night.”
“Cat, the man hasn’t seen you in four years. He won’t want to give up a night of fun with a whore to have tea with you.” He scanned her blue, silk dress as if she still belonged in Boston. “Your mother would probably faint if she learned you wore such a get-up to parade through the barn.”
She tightened her grip and refused to let Tom step away. “I’m not serving him tea.”
His gaze met hers. She raised an eyebrow and caught the moment he deduced what she planned to offer Trent. “Your father will kill you if he ever finds out, and me along with you if I agree to help.” The slight slump in his shoulders and his grim smile signaled his defeat.
Catherine grinned and released his arm. Tom might be married, but he knew her dream and he wouldn’t let her down. “The hunting cabin out in the back forty should be the perfect place for us to meet.”
Tom stared at her a moment, his expression revealing his need to argue. Then, as if coming to terms with her stubborn determination, he nodded, pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket, and wiped his hands. “And how exactly do you plan to pull this off?”
“Texas Passion is an erotic and fast paced historical/western romance that you will enjoy.”
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