Husbands on Horseback (Long Tall Texans #15)(9)

By: Diana Palmer & Margaret Way


He chuckled and called to the other three men, one of whom was a Jacobsville city policeman. “Here she is! She hasn’t met with foul play.”

They came at a lope, bringing a harassed-looking Joe along with them.

“Oh, Miss Mobry, thank the Lord,” Joe said, wringing her hand. His hair was grayer than ever, and he looked hollow-eyed.

“Whatever’s wrong?” she asked.

“They thought I’d killed you and hid the body!” Joe wailed, looking nervously at the law officers.

Dana’s eyes widened. “Why?”

“Mr. Grant came over and couldn’t find you,” Joe said frantically. “I told him you’d gone away, but I didn’t know where, and he blew up and started accusing me of all sorts of things on account of I wouldn’t tell him where you were. When you didn’t come back by today, he called the law. I’m so glad to see you, Miss Mobry. I was afraid they were going to put me in jail!”

“I’m sorry you were put through this, Joe,” she said comfortingly. “I should have told you I was going to Houston, but it never occurred to me that Mr. Grant would care where I went,” she added bitterly.

The deputy sheriff grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, he said you’d had an argument and he was afraid you might have done something drastic…”

She glared at him so furiously that he broke off. “If that isn’t conceit, I don’t know what is! I wouldn’t kill myself over a stuck-up, overbearing, insufferable egotist like Mr. Grant unless I was goofy! Do I look goofy?”

He cleared his throat. “Oh, no, ma’am, you don’t look at all goofy to me!”

While he was defending himself, Hank came around the side of the house to see where the search party had disappeared to, and stopped when he saw Dana. “So there you are!” he began furiously, bare-headed and wild-eyed as he joined her. “Where in hell have you been? Do you have any idea how much trouble you’ve caused?”

She lifted her chin. “I’ve been to Houston. Since when is going to Houston a crime? And since when do I have to inform you of my whereabouts?”

He snorted. “I’m a concerned neighbor.”

“You’re a royal pain in the neck, and I left town to get away from you,” she snapped. “I don’t want to see you or talk to you!”

He straightened his shoulders and his mouth compressed. “As long as you’re all right.”

“You might apologize to poor Joe while you’re about it,” she added pointedly. “He was beside himself, thinking he was going to jail for doing away with me.”

“I never said any such thing,” he muttered. He glanced at Joe. “He knows I didn’t think he’d done you in.”

That was as close as he was likely to come to an apology, and Joe accepted it with less rancor than Dana would have.

“Thanks for coming out,” Hank told the deputy and the others. “She was missing for two days and I didn’t know where she was. Anything could have happened.”

“Oh, he knows that,” the city policeman, Matt Lovett, said with a grin, jerking his thumb at the deputy sheriff. “He and his wife had an argument and she drove off to her mother’s. On the way her car died. She left it on the river bridge and caught a ride into town to get a mechanic.”

“Matt…!” the deputy grumbled.

Matt held up a hand. “I’m just getting to the best part. He went after her and saw the car and thought she’d jumped off the bridge. By the time she got back with the mechanic, the civil defense boys were out there dragging the river.”

“Well, she might have been in there,” the deputy defended himself, red-faced. He grinned at Hank. “And Miss Mobry might have been eaten by one of her young steers.”

“Or carried off by aliens,” Matt mused, tongue in cheek. “That’s why our police force is always on the job, Miss Mobry, to offer protection to any citizen who needs it. I’d dearly love to protect you at a movie one night next week,” he added with twinkling green eyes. “Any night you like. A good movie and a nice big burger with fries.”

Dana’s eyes were twinkling now, too.

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