Husbands on Horseback (Long Tall Texans #15)

By: Diana Palmer & Margaret Way

Chapter 1





The summer sun was rising. Judging by its place in the sky, Dana Mobry figured that it was about eleven o’clock in the morning. That meant she’d been in her present predicament for over two hours, and the day was growing hotter.

She sighed with resigned misery as she glanced at her elevated right leg where her jeans were hopelessly tangled in two loose strands of barbed wire. Her booted foot was enmeshed in the strands of barbed wire that made up the fence, and her left leg was wrapped in it because she’d twisted when she fell. She’d been trying to mend the barbed-wire fence to keep cattle from getting out. She was using her father’s tools to do it, but sadly, she didn’t have his strength. At times like this, she missed him unbearably, and it was only a week since his funeral.

She tugged at the neck of her short-sleeved cotton shirt and brushed strands of her damp blond hair back into its neat French braid. Not so neat now, she thought, disheveled and unkempt from the fall that had landed her in this mess. Nearby, oblivious to her mistress’s dilemma, her chestnut mare, Bess, grazed. Overhead, a hawk made graceful patterns against the cloudless sky. Far away could be heard the sound of traffic on the distant highway that led around Jacobsville to the small Texas ranch where Dana was tangled in the fence wire.

Nobody knew where she was. She lived alone in the little ramshackle house that she’d shared with her father. They’d lost everything after her mother deserted them seven years ago. After that terrible blow, her father, who was raised on a ranch, decided to come back and settle on the old family homeplace. There were no other relatives unless you counted a cousin in Montana.

Dana’s father had stocked this place with a small herd of beef cattle and raised a truck garden. It was a meager living, compared to the mansion near Dallas that her mother’s wealth had maintained. When Carla Mobry had unexpectedly divorced her husband, he’d had to find a way of making a living for himself, quickly. Dana had chosen to go with him to his boyhood home in Jacobsville, rather than endure her mother’s indifferent presence. Now her father was dead and she had no one.

She’d loved her father, and he’d loved her. They’d been happy together, even without a huge income. But the strain of hard physical labor on a heart that she had not even known was bad had been too much. He’d had a heart attack a few days ago, and died in his sleep. Dana had found him the next morning when she went in to his room to call him to breakfast.

Hank had come immediately at Dana’s frantic phone call. It didn’t occur to her that she should have called the ambulance first instead of their nearest, and very antisocial, neighbor. It was just that Hank was so capable. He always knew what to do. That day he had, too. After a quick look at her father, he’d phoned an ambulance and herded Dana out of the room. Later he’d said that he knew immediately that it was hours too late to save her father. He’d done a stint overseas in the military, where he’d seen death too often to mistake it.

Most people avoided Hayden Grant as much as possible. He owned the feed and mill store locally, and he ran cattle on his huge tracts of land around Jacobsville. He’d found oil on the same land, so lack of money wasn’t one of his problems. But a short temper, a legendary dislike of women and a reputation for outspokenness made him unpopular in most places.

He liked Dana, though. That had been fascinating from the very beginning, because he was a misogynist and made no secret of the fact. Perhaps he considered her safe because of the age difference. Hank was thirty-six and Dana was barely twenty-two. She was slender and of medium height, with dark blond hair and a plain little face made interesting by the huge dark blue eyes that dominated it. She had a firm, rounded chin and a straight nose and a perfect bow of a mouth that was a natural light pink, without makeup. She wasn’t pretty, but her figure was exquisite, even in blue jeans and a faded checked cotton shirt with the two buttons missing, torn off when she’d fallen. She grimaced. She hadn’t taken time to search for a bra in the clean wash this morning because she’d been in a hurry to fix the fence before her only bull got out into the road. She looked like a juvenile stripper, with the firm, creamy curves of her breasts very noticeable where the buttons were missing.

Also By Diana Palmer & Margaret Way

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