|Название||The Dangerous Jacob Wilde|
|Автор произведения||Sandra Marton|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Modern|
A glance in old man Chambers’s cracked bathroom mirror told her she looked like a New Yorker dressed for a Western costume party….
And wasn’t it amazing that she’d fallen into calling Charlie’s ranch, her ranch, by its former owner’s name the way everybody else still did?
Finally, she’d looked in the mirror and said, “To hell with it.”
The sound of her voice had set a mouse to scampering in the walls.
Good thing she wasn’t afraid of mice, she’d thought, or bugs, or the big snake she’d swept off the porch of the miserable pile of shingles she now owned.
She wasn’t afraid of anything.
That was what had taken her from Trailer Park, USA, to Park Avenue, New York City.
So she’d changed to a black silk Diane von Furstenberg wraparound dress. It was very ladylike until you noticed how low the neckline dipped, and how the silk clung to her when she moved. Black kid, sky-high Manolo Blahniks were the finishing touch.
Another look in the mirror and she’d tossed her head.
Stories about her had reached Wilde’s Crossing before she did.
When she’d questioned the Wildes, they’d both blushed.
The sight of grown men blushing had some charm, but Addison wasn’t interested in charm. She was just damned tired of people talking about her.
Tonight, no matter what she wore, people would stare. Why not give them something to stare at, never mind that her dress and stilettos wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow back home.
She’d suspected that most of the women would wear jeans or what she thought of as tea dresses—frilly, flowery prints that only looked good on six-year-olds.
Right on all counts, Addison thought now, as she swapped her empty wineglass for a full one from the tray of a passing server.
Right about the women’s clothes and the town’s attitude. The women were the real pains in the ass because they weren’t just judgmental, they were holier-than-thou.
Like the one watching at her right now.
Frilly dress? Check. Too much lipstick? Double check. And big hair. Did Texas wives not know that big hair looked good on Dolly Parton and nobody else?
Addison flashed the smile a cat might offer a mouse.
The woman flushed and looked away.
Pleased to meet you, too, Addison thought coldly, and then she also thought, Why did I come here tonight?
Because Travis and Caleb Wilde had asked her.
Back to square one.
They’d asked, and in a moment of uncharacteristic weakness, she’d told them she’d do it, she’d go to their brother’s homecoming party, which wasn’t supposed to be a party at all.
“Just family and a couple of old friends,” Caleb had said.
“Well, maybe one or two more,” Travis had added.
Right, Addison thought, with a mental roll of her eyes.
Just family and old friends. She should have known better. When Travis fell into that good-ole-boy drawl of his, anything was possible.
What looked like a zillion “old friends” had gathered in the enormous great room at El Sueño.
El Sueño. The Dream.
Addison hid a wry smile in her wineglass as she lifted it to her lips.
In Spanish or English, that was a pretty fanciful name for half a million acres of scrub, rolling grassland, flower and vegetable gardens, dusty roads, expensive horseflesh and gushing oil wells, but one of the things she’d discovered during the time she’d been here was that Texans could wax poetic about their land as easily as they could raise a sweat working it.
Even Charlie, who had not been a Texan at all, but like her was a born and bred Easterner, though from a very, very different background, even he had somehow let the poetic part draw him in.
Not the sweat part.
It was impossible to imagine Charlie had ever raised a sweat on anything more labor-intensive than his stock portfolio.
Perhaps if he had, if he’d flown down to take a hard look at the Chambers ranch, ridden its seemingly endless dusty acres instead of relying on a picture-book spread in a fancy real-estate catalogue, he wouldn’t have bought it.
But he had bought it, sight unseen, and died a week later.
Losing him had just about broken her heart—and then had come the shock of learning he’d willed her the ranch.
She’d done nothing about it for a while. Then, because the place had obviously been important to Charlie, she’d done what he hadn’t.
She’d strung together all the vacation time she hadn’t taken in two years, added this year’s allotment and flown down to see it.
What she’d found wasn’t a ranch at all, not if you watched old John Wayne movies on late-night TV.
The Chambers place was umpteen thousand acres of scrub, outbuildings that looked as if a strong wind would topple them, a ranch house that had its own wildlife population, half a dozen sorry-looking horses and not very much else.
Which was the reason she had the Wildes as her advisors and—
“Now, little lady, how come you’re drinkin’ red wine when there’s champagne flowin’ like a stream to the Rio Grande?”
A big man wearing an even bigger Stetson, a flute of champagne in each oversize paw, flashed her a big smile.
Oh God, she thought wearily, not again.
“Jimbo Fawcett,” he said. “Of the Fawcett Ranch.”
How could somebody manage to tuck an entire pedigree into six words? Another Jimbo Fawcett look-alike already had, with the clear expectation that she’d want to spend the rest of the evening listening to him explain—with some modesty but not much because, after all, this was Texas—how incredibly lucky she was that he’d picked her out of the herd.
Except for the Stetsons, big-shot New York attorneys and Wall Street tycoons did it much the same way, so she was used to it.
“How nice for you,” she said pleasantly.
“You jest got to be Addie McDowell.”
“Addison McDowell. Yes.”
Fawcett gave a booming laugh. “We’re not so formal down here, little lady.”
What the hell, Addison thought, enough was enough.
“Mr. Fawcett.” Addison gave him a bright smile. “In the next couple of minutes, you’re going to tell me that I’m new to Wilde’s Crossing and what a sad thing it is that we haven’t met before.”
“And I’m going to say yes, I’m new and we haven’t met because I’m not interested in meeting anyone, and then I’ll tell you that I prefer red wine and that I’m sure you’re a nice guy but I’m not interested in champagne or anything else. Got it?”
Fawcett’s mouth dropped open.
Addison took pity on the man and patted his arm.
“Thanks anyway,” she said, and she turned her back to him, wound her way through the crowd until she found an empty bit of wall space near a big Steinway grand piano and settled into it.