Lone Star Seduction(2)

By: Day Leclaire

He leaned in, keeping his voice low. “Pays to know, Ms. Huntington. Better tips. And sometimes I pick up suggestions on how to get ahead in life, like from Mr. Montoya.” Richie’s eyes shone with hero worship. “He’s always helping out the staff.”

She stiffened. “I… I didn’t realize.”

And she hadn’t. Granted, she’d been out of the loop while living in Houston and learning how to run a retail business. But where had she been the past year since she moved back to Somerset? Working her fingers to the bone getting her lingerie shop, Sweet Nothings, established and in the black. And during her few precious hours off, she got together with her friends. If she were honest, she’d admit that she’d been careful not to listen to gossip about one of the TCC’s newest members, especially since the other recent members—like the Brody brothers, Darius Franklin and Justin Dupree—were at odds with Alex. But maybe it was time to pay closer attention. Especially now that Justin was poised to become Alex’s brother-in-law.

Kate appeared in the doorway of the café just then, scanning the tables for Rebecca. Tall and lanky, she was beautifully turned out in one of the chic pantsuits the two of them had selected on their Houston shopping spree. In one short day, her best friend had gone from country-bland to Southern sophisticate and Rebecca couldn’t be more delighted, especially since it had led to Kate’s then employer—now husband—tripping right over his tongue and into her bed.

Spotting Rebecca, Kate broke into a broad smile and worked her way around the blue-and-yellow floral-chintz tables. “So, what’s got you all worked up?” she asked as they exchanged hugs.

Was it that obvious? Not good. Rebecca took a stab at innocent denial. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m fine.”

Kate waved that aside with a sweep of her hand. “That won’t wash with me, and you know it. Something’s wrong and—” She broke off, her gaze arrowing across the room. “Okay, that explains it. I wondered when you two would finally bump into each other, and today must have been the day.”

Rebecca didn’t need to look to know precisely who Kate was talking about. Alex had returned to the club with a file in hand. He must have been on his way to his car to retrieve it when they’d run into each other. She could feel his presence like a low-level buzz of electricity. “Would it surprise you to hear that it didn’t go well?”

“No,” she retorted crisply. “The man is incredibly difficult. If Lance had his way, Montoya never would have been invited to join the club.”

“Money talks.”

Kate smiled thinly. “Well, he has plenty of that, doesn’t he? Amazing, considering he used to be the groundskeeper here. I just hope the rumors aren’t true.”

Rebecca eyed her friend in concern. “What rumors?”

Kate hesitated. “You must know he has ties to El Gato.”

“Paulo Rodriguez, sure. They’re childhood friends.” Understanding dawned and she inhaled sharply. “People think Alex made his money from drug trafficking?” She dismissed the suggestion out of hand. “No way. Not a chance. Not Alex.”

“Not trafficking,” Kate replied. “Shall we say…investing in some of El Gato’s activities.”

Rebecca shook her head, adamant. “Sorry, I don’t believe it. I can say a lot about Alex—plenty of it bad—but not that. Never that.”

Richie arrived just then with Kate’s coffee. Apparently, the crisp November weather had been the deciding factor on the choice of beverage. Based on Kate’s appreciative grin, he’d chosen right. “You ladies ready to order? Our special today is the mahi-mahi with our homemade zesty dill pesto. It’s really good.”

“I’m sold,” Kate announced.

“Make that two,” Rebecca agreed.

“Coming right up.” Richie jotted down a quick note and then gave a soft whistle. “Now there’s a sight I never thought I’d live to see. Alex Montoya and Lance Brody shaking hands. Even weirder, the earth hasn’t stopped spinning.”

Startled, Rebecca glanced over her shoulder and saw that Alex had been joined by Kate’s husband, Lance, his brother Mitch, and fellow frat brother, Kevin Novak. The three men were indeed shaking hands, though she could see the coolness and tension in their body language. As she watched, Justin Dupree and Darius Franklin joined the group, bringing all six of the newest, hottest TCC members together.

Rebecca couldn’t contain her curiosity. “Okay, what’s all that about?”

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