Husbands on Horseback (Long Tall Texans #15)(6)

By: Diana Palmer & Margaret Way

She fixed a light lunch and a pot of coffee and thought about going back out to see about that downed fence. But another disaster would just be too much. She was disaster-prone when Hank was anywhere near her, and she seemed to be rapidly getting that way even when he wasn’t. He’d rescued her from mad bulls, trapped feet in corral fences, once from a rattlesnake and twice from falling bales of hay. He must be wondering if there wasn’t some way he could be rid of her once and for all.

It was nice of him not to mention those incidents when he’d rescued her from the fence, though. Surely he’d been tempted to.

Tempted. She colored all over again remembering the intimacy they’d shared. In the seven years they’d known each other, he’d never touched her until today. She wondered why he had.

The sound of a car outside on the country road brought her out of the kitchen and to the front door, just in time to see Hank’s black luxury car pull into the driveway. He wasn’t a flashy sort of man, and he didn’t go overboard to surround himself with luxurious things. That make of car was his one exception. He had a fascination for the big cars that never seemed to waver, because he traded his in every other year-for another black one.

“Don’t you get tired of the color?” she’d asked him once.

“Why?” he’d replied laconically. “Black goes with everything.”

He came up onto the porch, and the expression on his face was one she hadn’t seen before. He looked as he always did, neatly dressed and clean-shaven, devastatingly handsome, but there was still a difference. After their brief interlude out in the pasture, the atmosphere between them was just a little strained.

He had his hands in his pockets as he glanced down at her body in the pretty ruffled blue sundress.

“Is that for my benefit?” he asked.

She blushed. she usually kicked around in jeans or cutoffs and tank tops. She almost never wore dresses around the ranch. And her hair was Iong and loose around her shoulders instead of in its usual braid.

She shrugged in defeat. “Yes, I guess it is,” she said, meeting his eyes with a rueful smile. “Sorry.”

He shook his head. “There’s no need to apologize. None at all. In fact, what happened this afternoon gave me some ideas that I want to talk to you about.”

Her heart jumped into her chest. Was he going to propose? Oh, glory, if only he would, and then he’d never even have to know about that silly clause in her father’s will!

Chapter 2

She led the way into the kitchen and set out a platter of salad and cold cuts and dressing in the center of the table, on which she’d already put two place settings. She poured coffee into two mugs, gave him one and sat down. She didn’t have to ask what he took in his coffee, because she already knew that he had it black, just as she did. It was one of many things they had in common.

“What did you want to ask me, Hank?” she ventured after he’d worked his way through a huge salad and two cups of coffee. Her nerves were screaming with suspense and anticipation.

“Oh. That.” He leaned back with his half-drained coffee cup in his hand. “I wondered if you might be willing to help me out with a little playacting for my ex-wife’s benefit.”

All her hopes fell at her feet. “What sort of acting?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

“I want you to pretend to be involved with me,” he said frankly, staring at her. “On this morning’s showing, it shouldn’t be too difficult to look as if we can’t keep our hands off each other. Should it?” he asked with a mocking smile.

Everything fell into place; his odd remarks, his “experiment” out there in the pasture, his curious behavior. His beloved ex-wife was coming to town and he didn’t want everyone to know how badly she’d hurt him or how he’d grieved at her loss. So Dana had been cast as his new love. He didn’t want a new wife, he wanted an actress.

She stared into her coffee. “I don’t guess you ever want to get married again, do you?” she asked with studied carelessness.

He saw right through that devious little question. “No, I don’t,” he said bluntly. “Once was enough.”

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