Wildest Heart

Wildest Heart

Virginia Brown

January 2013 $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-253-8

Book 2 of the To Love An Outlaw series

 
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He’s the most dangerous gunman in the West. She’s a "lady doctor" he can’t resist. Will his secret torments keep them apart? How can she handle a wounded outlaw no respectable woman should go near? Romance and intrigue are about to collide in a steamy Texas town where sin, scandal and violence rule the night.

A strange sort of current flowed between them, charged with as much intensity as a bolt of lightning. Devon felt it tighten around him, binding him to her in some inexplicable way that he couldn’t explain and didn’t want to acknowledge.

His tone was involuntarily savage when he mut­tered, "If I don’t leave soon, Maggie Malone, I may do exactly that.”

"Do—?”

He stood up, blood boiling in his veins as if heated. The memory of her soft skin was a temptation that he did his best to resist. "You know what I mean, dam­mit.”

"No. I don’t think I do. Devon . . . what are you—?”

Without pausing to think, he reached out to pull her to him, one hand around her wrist and the other hand moving to the small of her back. Maggie seemed to melt into him, her body boneless, soft breasts pressing against his chest as he pulled her close.

His mouth found hers, and he kissed her with a fierce urgency that grew hotter and higher when she made a small noise in the back of her throat. Ah God, she was so sweet and fine, so damn fine. He couldn’t help himself. He knew better than to touch her, better than to kiss her. He knew he wouldn’t want to stop at kisses, and Maggie deserved to be treated with more respect.

So why wasn’t he stopping?

 

Virginia Brown is the award-winning author of nearly fifty novels in historical romance, mystery and general fiction.

 


 

 

 

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

MAGGIE MALONE stared out the window of the stage as it rocked over rutted roads. Everything looked the same. Texas hadn’t changed in her absence, but she had. She wondered if Johnny was as changed as she, then smiled.

No, her brother would never change. He would be as hardheaded as ever, and as lovable. In a crusty sort of way, she amended with a smile. John Clark Malone may not win any prizes for a sweet personality, but he could be charming enough when he wanted to be.

As the miles rolled past, Maggie hoped that Johnny would choose to be charming when she told him her plans for the future. She never knew about him, and what might be acceptable one day would be beyond understanding the next. He was as changeable as the blue northers that roared through Texas every winter.

The stagecoach rocked heavily as it hit a rut in the road, and Maggie had to grab hold of the strap hanging from the side to keep from tumbling to the floor.

"Rough ride,” commented the man sitting across from her, and she nodded.

"As usual. Hank Whitten has always managed to hit every rut on this road in the past. I don’t suppose he’ll start missing them now.”

"You from here?”

"Yes.” Maggie freed her hand from the strap and looked out the window again.

"You don’t talk like you’re from west Texas,” the man said, and she stifled a resigned sigh.

She’d avoided personal conversation since boarding the stage, but now it seemed as if she would have to reply or be rude.

"I’ve spent the last four years in New York. At school.”

"School?” His eyebrows rose as if amazed that a woman would need an education.

"Yes, college.” Maggie smothered the impulse to add insult to injury and point out that she had a degree in medicine. Not many men wanted to believe a woman capable of such feats, much less accept a female physician.

"And now you’ve come home.” He cleared his throat, then ran a hand across his jaw, gazing at her for a long moment that seemed to draw out forever. "My name is David Brawley. I’m headed to Belle Plain to meet my partner.”

"I hope you enjoy your stay,” Maggie said politely. She turned her gaze out the window. She knew better than to ask many questions and give him the opportunity to tell her his life story. She’d much rather watch for the occasional tree relieving the rolling landscape and look into the distance toward the flat hills which rose stark and familiar against the horizon.

"Maybe you could tell me a little bit about the area,” Brawley suggested, and Maggie turned to look at him. He seemed nice enough: brown hair cut neatly, a three-piece suit with string tie and high, starched collars, rather dusty shoes, and a face that she supposed some women she knew would call handsome. His were regular features, with white, even teeth that showed in a pleasant smile.

"What would you like to know?” she asked. If only they would arrive in Belle Plain before this man got too friendly. She wasn’t looking for male companionship. Men would only complicate her life. Except for Johnny, of course.

Shrugging, David Brawley said, "Oh, just little things, I guess. Things my partner wouldn’t think to tell me.”

Maggie laughed. "There’s not much to tell. Belle Plain was going to be the county seat, and was for a while, until the railroad bypassed us on its way to Abilene. Now people are moving out, sort of drifting toward Baird, where the railroad is selling its own lots and making money. The cattlemen have made Abilene a shipping point, and since it’s so close to Baird, the locals can ship merchandise from our county seat. Prices are cheaper.” She surveyed him for a moment. "What’s your business?”

"Hotels.”

Maggie was startled. "I had no idea that Belle Plain had grown enough to lure such businesses.”

"It was my understanding the cattlemen persuaded the railroad to build a spur to include Belle Plain. If so, the increased business will more than support a new hotel.”

"I wonder why Johnny didn’t tell me about that?” Maggie mused aloud.

"Johnny?”

"My brother. We—he—owns the Double M.” That still hurt, that their parents had left the ranch entirely to her brother, though she knew in her heart that she would never have wanted it. She’d been left furniture and a comfortable amount of money instead.

"The Double M? A ranch, I presume.”

Maggie smiled. "Yes. It’s the prettiest spread in Callahan County, though not as big as the 74 Ranch. But the Double M is doing well enough. I can’t take any credit for its success, however, as my brother runs it.”

"Then he is doubly blessed,” David Brawley said with a smile that Maggie recognized. She knew what was coming when he finished, "For he has not only a successful ranch, but a very beautiful sister.”

"I’m sure he would argue the point with you, sir.” When Brawley opened his mouth—to offer another flowery compliment, she was afraid—she added quickly, "There is Belle Plain just ahead.”

It wasn’t that she was falsely modest about her looks, for she knew she was attractive to men, but she found it the height of irritation to field easy compliments. If she agreed, she sounded vain; if she disagreed, she sounded as if she were fishing for a more elaborate description of her "exotic beauty.” The last was a recent depiction she’d found particularly hard to swallow and had made the mistake of bursting into laughter, thus angering the earnest young man voicing such sentiments.

When the stage rolled to a halt in front of Merchant’s General Store on Callahan Street, Maggie wrenched open the door and stepped down before David Brawley could offer to help. She caught a brief glimpse of his outstretched hand, but ignored it in her eagerness to see her brother again.

"I’m sure I’ll see you again soon, Mr. Brawley,” she called with a wave of one hand, and saw him pause uncertainly by the stage. Too bad. He’d have to accept disinterest gracefully.

With her skirts lifted just above her ankles, Maggie navigated the ruts in the dirt road and reached the wooden walkway in front of the store. She stepped up and into the shade, half-blinded by the transition from hot glare to diffused light.

Still holding her skirts in her left hand, she reached for the door with her right. A loud yelp sounded from just under her feet, and she jumped back, startled as a small dog bolted off the porch. Too late, she realized that someone was right behind her as she bumped into him. She heard a masculine whoof! and tried to regain her balance as she began to fall.

A low, rough oath sounded in her ear, but there was no time to be offended by language she’d heard from her brother on more than one occasion. She reached blindly for something to stop her fall. Strong hands grasped her upper arms, and Maggie was shoved upright.

She was turning to thank her rescuer when he growled, "There not enough room on that porch for you, ma’am?”

Maggie’s temper flared, and she shot back, "There is when I don’t have to share it with a dog and a cowboy at the same time.”

Half-embarrassed, half-angry, she wrenched free of the man’s steadying hand and looked up at him, shoving her hat back out of her eyes so she could see. The feather bobbed, and she felt the satin ribbons holding her hat give way, so that she had to grab the bonnet before it slipped from her head.

Her rescuer stared back at her coolly, and Maggie had the startling thought that she’d never seen eyes so blue. Or so cold. They regarded her from beneath a fan of thick, lush lashes that should belong to a woman if Mother Nature had any generosity at all, and were set in a dark face that was tanned even darker by the sun. It was obvious this man had Moorish ancestors in his family somewhere, because few men with hair that blond would be so dark.

Speech momentarily failed her, and Maggie stood like a tongue-tied schoolgirl while the handsome cowboy regarded her with growing amusement.

"Did you step on your tongue, ma’am?” he drawled.

Maggie swallowed. "No, but I think I dropped my manners. Thank you for catching me.”

"I always try to catch beautiful women before they knock me into the street.”

"Judging by the dust on your clothes, you must not be very good at it,” she said, and could cheerfully have bitten her tongue the moment the words were out. "I... I mean—”

"No, I guess I do have a few inches of trail dust on me.” The blue eyes softened slightly, making her think of the noonday sky, bright and painful at the same time. "Nice of you to remind me.”

Maggie felt a dull, hot flush creeping up her neck to her face. She’d rarely been so rude on so short an acquaintance. She gripped her bonnet tightly and cleared her throat.

"Really, I apologize for being rude. I shouldn’t have. I’ve frequently been told that I speak out of turn.”

"Have you?” A faint smile curved his hard mouth, easing the harshness of his features. He flicked a glance up and past her, then looked down. His smile widened. "Do you always shred your hats?”

"Pardon?”

His hand was warm, not as rough as she would have thought it would be when he reached down and took the hat from her hand. He held it up, and Maggie blinked as she looked at the shredded feather. What had been a thick, curved ostrich feather now looked as if it belonged to a scrawny chicken.

"I only shred feathers when I feel particularly embarrassed,” she said frankly, and he grinned. She barely had time to think what a nice, engaging smile he had when she heard her brother’s familiar bellow coming from across the street.

"Maggie! Maggie, what in Sam Hill are you doin’?”

She lifted a brow and saw the cowboy tense. "That’s just my brother,” she explained. "He’s more holler than harm.”

"I know you won’t mind if I don’t take your word for it.”

Maggie could understand. Johnny Malone could look mean as a yard dog when he chose, and she knew that he chose to more often than not. Kept trouble at bay, he’d once said, if he looked like he could skin a live panther with his teeth. But this man wouldn’t know that, and she could understand if he felt intimidated by Johnny.

When she turned to explain the situation to Johnny, she saw that he looked as worried as he did mad, and wondered why.

"Johnny,” she began when he drew near, but her brother cut her off.

"Get out of the way, Maggie.”

Slightly startled by his brusque order, she hesitated. He reached out and jerked her to him, and she stumbled.

"What is the matter with you, Johnny Malone?” she demanded angrily. "Have you taken leave of your senses?”

He flashed her a baffled look. "Have you? What do you mean, standin’ here chattin’ cozily with a man like him?”

"I’m not ‘chatting cozily,’ as you put it. I’m apologizing for being rude.”

Johnny’s square jaw thrust out. "Rude? You? Did this man insult you, Maggie?”

"No, you buffalo-eared lunatic, I almost knocked him into the street, and he saved us both from falling. What is the matter with you?”

Dark eyes darted from Maggie to the man’s carefully blank face, and Johnny snapped, "Don’t you know who this is?”

"No, we haven’t been properly introduced.” Irritated, and more than a little mystified by her brother’s behavior, Maggie glanced at the stranger again.

His lean frame was posed in a stance of masculine aggressiveness that said much more than her brother’s sharp words. Even his body conveyed a clear message that he would not tolerate insults lightly. Before Johnny explained, she knew what he must be, if not who he was.

"Cimarrón,” Johnny growled, as if that would explain everything. Maggie shrugged.

"Cimarrón. I don’t know who that is.”

"He’s a gunny. Killed Mort Baxter last month in El Paso. Killed a man named Jenkins yesterday down in Ed Murphy’s saloon.” Johnny glared at Cimarrón. "Man like that don’t need to be talkin’ to decent women.”

"I’m afraid he didn’t have much choice,” Maggie cut in when it looked as if her brother might say something else as insulting as the last. "After I almost knocked him into the street, he had to speak.”

A nervous shiver washed through her when she glanced at the man called Cimarrón and saw his cold gaze directed at her brother. Didn’t Johnny have any sense at all? If this man was what he said, then he’d be quite capable of drawing on her brother for insulting him.

She turned to him, but Cimarrón’s attention was trained on Johnny. He hadn’t spoken or moved, but there was something so predatory about him, so dangerous, that her voice came out shakily.

"Sir, I appreciate your courtesy. If there has been any misunderstanding, I’m sorry.”

He flicked her a glance at last, a quick, ice blue slice of his eyes that made her pulses leap. "No need to apologize, ma’am. Quick tempers seem to run in your family.” He touched one finger to the brim of his hat and moved past them. The door creaked as he opened it.

"What did he mean by that?” Johnny demanded when Cimarrón stepped into the store. He glared down at Maggie, and she didn’t know whether to sag with relief or tell him what an idiot she thought him for provoking a man he knew to be dangerous. Of course, Johnny wouldn’t think of it that way. He backed down for no man.

"He probably meant just what he said—we both have evil tempers.” Maggie tucked a hand into the crook of his arm. "I guess this is your way of telling me you’re glad I’m home?”

Johnny grinned suddenly, and Maggie saw the reason most of the females in Belle Plain threw themselves at him. He was a handsome charmer with dark hair like hers and eyes so dark gray they were almost black.

"Yeah, kinda. Actually, I wanted to surprise you with flowers, but all I could find was some bluethorn. That good enough?”

"From you, yes,” she retorted with a smile. "I wouldn’t expect anything different.”

"Where’s your stuff?” Johnny asked as he escorted her across the porch and out into the sunlight again. Heat struck her, and dust rose in a choking cloud as a wagon rolled slowly down the street.

"If I know Hank Whitten, it’s still on top of the stage.”

"Likely.” Johnny hugged her, one arm draped casually over her shoulders. "Glad you’re home. Now things can get back to normal.”

"I shudder to think what that might be.”

"Yeah. There’s been a bit of trouble lately, but nothing I can’t handle.”

"Trouble?”

"Somebody’s runnin’ a maverick factory. We just got to find out who and where.”

"Rustlers?”

"Made off with cattle from every ranch in these parts. I hear Zeke Rogan’s hired some fast guns to help him find ’em, but I don’t know if I want to go that far.” His eyes darkened to a stormy gray. "Brings in men like Cimarrón, and we don’t need that.”

"Is that why he’s here?”

"Hell, I don’t know. But if I have my way, he’ll be ridin’ out again quick like.”

"Don’t let your temper get you killed, John Malone,” Maggie said sharply, and saw her brother’s eyes light with that stubborn gleam she knew well.

"Did I say I was gonna do anything? That’s up to Ben.”

"If you mean Ben Whittaker, all of Callahan County could fill up with gunslingers and bank robbers, and he wouldn’t do anything.” She flashed him an impatient glance. "The only man more worthless than Whittaker is six feet under, as far as I’m concerned.”

"Aw, Maggie, you’ve still got a tongue that can skin a mule,” Johnny grumbled. "Didn’t that fancy school teach you anything useful?”

"Useful enough.” Maggie had no intention of telling her brother about her plans. There was time enough for that argument later. Now she just wanted a hot bath and a good meal. "Let’s have Hank bring my trunks to the hotel. I’m dying for something cool to drink and fresh clothes.”

"Go on then, sugar. I’ll take care of your stuff.”

"Be careful,” Maggie said. "Some of those trunks have very breakable things in them.”

"Sure thing, sugar. I’ll catch up to you.”

Maggie picked her way across the rutted street, waving at former acquaintances. Belle Plain hadn’t seemed to change that much at all. It was still a sleepy little town in the middle of the vast Texas prairie, sunbaked and serene in the noonday sun. Nothing ever happened in Belle Plain.


 

 

Chapter 2

"HEARD YOU killed two of Bart Starkey’s men in Dodge last year.”

Devon didn’t reply. He just stared at Zeke Rogan until the other man shifted and glanced toward the open saloon doors and deep night shadows outside.

"Yeah, well,” Rogan muttered, turning back to him. "After yesterday, I guess you’re quick enough. Frank says you got Jenkins before he cleared leather.”

"You want a recital, Rogan, or you want me to catch your damn rustlers?” Devon asked impatiently. "If you’re having second thoughts, I can give you back your money and ride on. It doesn’t matter a damn to me.”

"No, no second thoughts, Cimarrón.”

"Don’t call me that.”

"Cimarrón?” Rogan’s fleshy face creased in surprise. "Isn’t that your name?”

Devon shrugged. "Yeah. Forget it. What do you want me to do?”

"Like I told you, I need men to catch rustlers. I’ve lost too many cattle, and it’s costing me money. Maybe you could ride herd—”

"I’m not a cowpuncher.”

"Hell, I know that. I’ve got plenty of those. I need a man who’s quick with a gun to ride along, see what he can find out, then take care of it.”

"Thought the law handled that sort of thing.”

"Normally, they do. Texas is too damn big, and the law ’round here is too damn slow. Sheriff Whittaker’s all right at shootin’ stray dogs, but I’m losing money, and I don’t want to sit around and wait for a tin star to show up and decide he can’t handle it either.”

Devon nodded. "Fine. When do you want me to ride out?”

"Tomorrow’s soon enough. Frank here will show you around the Bar Z.” Zeke Rogan’s chest swelled. "It’s so damn big you can’t ride it all in a week.”

Devon watched the beefy rancher as he began to brag. He wasn’t at all certain he wanted to take this job. Catching rustlers wasn’t new to him, but he disliked being tied down to one spot too long. Folks got to wondering about him when he did, asking questions, thinking that maybe he wasn’t as fast as they’d heard, that they might make a name for themselves as the man who’d killed Cimarrón. It could be a damn nuisance, and he might have moved on if he didn’t have another reason for being in Belle Plain. This job would save a lot of unnecessary questions being asked.

He stood up abruptly, interrupting Zeke Rogan’s monologue of success. Devon tossed a coin to the table to pay for his drink and ignored Rogan’s look of surprise.

"I’ll meet you at the livery stable in the morning.”

"Sure, sure, Cimarrón,” Rogan said, glancing at his hired hand. "Frank can be there at daybreak.”

"Eight’s soon enough.”

Rogan looked confounded, but recovered quickly. "Sure. I guess eight’s fine.”

Devon felt their stares, as well as most of the others in the saloon as he strode to the swinging doors and pushed them open. It always made him edgy to have men at his back. He’d been shot at from behind too many times to trust them.

He was glad to feel the wash of cool air on his face and breathed deeply. Belle Plain was a quiet little town. It boasted two saloons, a few stores, a blacksmith’s, one hotel, and a livery stable. Other than that, the neat stone buildings belonged to the citizens. It had been laid out in a perfect square by the founding fathers, but the railroad’s fickleness might doom the town. Too bad.

Devon stepped off the sidewalk and into the street. Off in the distance, a coyote howled. A dog barked an answer, and the wind blew softly. He crossed to the hotel and paused before going in.

Habit made him look up and down the street, and when he caught a glimpse of movement, he turned swiftly, his hand dropping to the gun on his thigh.

"Wait!” a feminine voice said. "I’m harmless.”

"That’s a matter of opinion,” Devon said when Maggie Malone stepped into a pool of light streaming through one of the hotel windows. "Your brother almost shot me today just for talking to you.”

"You’re a big boy. I think you can handle my brother.”

Her saucy reply made him smile. He remembered how she’d looked at him earlier, her big gray eyes wide and assessing beneath a curtain of lashes. He’d liked it. And he liked the way she took up for him, even though it had irritated him at the time. Maggie Malone was a potent female, and he knew better than to get involved. His entanglements with women were usually swift and painless. No fuss, no bother, no trying to hang on. That’s the way he wanted it.

Maybe that’s why he was surprised to hear himself say, "Maybe I can handle your brother, but I’m not so sure about handling you.”

"What makes you think I can be handled?”

"Quick and to the point, aren’t you?” Devon drawled.

"It saves time.”

"And what do you do with all that time you’ve saved, Maggie Malone?”

Her dark head tilted to one side, and he spared a moment’s admiration for her before she said, "Insult cowboys who try to help me.”

"I’m not a cowboy.”

"And you weren’t helping me. You were just trying to keep from being knocked into the street.”

Amused, Devon leaned back against a wooden porch post and reached into his vest pocket for his cigarette makings. "So where’s your watchdog?”

"Johnny? If I know my brother, he’s showing one of the prettiest girls in Belle Plain the stars.”

"Not a bad idea.”

"It’s our main attraction. Besides coyotes and cactus, that is.”

Devon struck a match, held it to his cigarette, watched her over the curl of smoke that drifted up. "So why did you come back to Belle Plain?” he asked when it was lit.

"How’d you know I was gone? Been asking questions about me?”

"No.” He pinched the match out. "I saw your brother helping unload your trunks. No one hauls around that many trunks unless they’ve been gone a while.”

"You’re very observant.” She walked to the edge of the porch and looked out over the street. He could smell a faintly familiar fragrance, and it took him a moment to recognize it.

Roses.

His belly knotted, and his eyes closed with pain he’d hoped to put behind him. The sweet scent of roses always hit him hard, made him think of things he wanted to avoid. When he opened his eyes, she was looking at him curiously.

"Are you all right?”

His voice was harsh. "I’m fine. Why are you out here talking to me? Aren’t you afraid your brother will get mad?”

"Aren’t you?” she countered.

"I’m used to angry men.”

"So I hear.”

Devon felt a spurt of irritation. "Got an answer for everything, don’t you?”

She wet her lips with her tongue in a female gesture that made him ache suddenly. Her voice was a soft whisper. "No, I don’t. I’ve got lots of questions without answers.”

He shifted restlessly. "Yeah. So do I.”

A silence fell between them. It wasn’t uncomfortable, nor awkward. He was surprised by that. It should have been. The few decent women he’d had contact with in the past years had been uneasy in his presence, and he’d grown used to it. Saloon girls were more his style, and those were taken only to satisfy a basic physical need.

Maggie Malone was definitely not a saloon girl. Though she was no longer wearing the fancy dress with too many yards of material that hid a woman’s best curves, she was still every inch a lady. Her outfit showed off her small waist and tempting curves without making a man feel like he’d be hugging horsehair and crinoline instead of warm female. It was a tempting thought.

"Have you ever looked through a telescope?” she asked, and he gave her a startled glance.

"No.”

"You ought to. There are more stars than I ever dreamed existed, and if you’re using a powerful lens, you can see almost into infinity.” She turned and looked at him, and he noticed how dreamy her eyes were, soft, luminous, light-tricked in the pale glow of a lamp. His heart lurched oddly, and it took him a moment to decipher her next words.

"I have a telescope I brought back home with me. Would you like to look at the stars?”

Before he realized it, Devon said yes, and Maggie smiled at him.

"Good. Come on.”

He hesitated. "Where is it?”

"In my room upstairs. We can take it up to the roof. The town lights sometimes diffuse things.”

"I don’t know,” he began, but she was already walking to the hotel doors, obviously expecting him to follow. For some reason, Devon did.

The lobby was almost deserted. A man stood behind the desk and looked up and frowned when he saw them come in together.

"Miss Malone, are you having any problems?”

"No, of course not. Is the door to the roof unlocked?”

The man looked startled, and Devon almost sympathized with him.

"Unlocked?” he repeated, flashing Devon a tight glance. "Why—”

"I want to go onto the roof, Mr. Brawley.” Maggie paused and turned around. "That should be obvious. Would you mind unlocking it if it’s fastened? I won’t be but a moment.”

Devon’s amusement grew at the baffled rage on the man’s face when Maggie turned away, obviously expecting Brawley to grant her request. As he followed Maggie’s slender figure up the stairs to her room, he could imagine the thoughts running through Brawley’s mind. He’d be wondering, too, if it was him.

Maggie stopped, fished a room key out of her pocket and held it out to Devon. It took him a noticeable instant before he realized he was supposed to be gentlemanly and unlock her door, and he hoped he wasn’t flushing like a kid.

"I’ll wait out here,” he said when he’d swung it open for her. At her laughing glance, he added wryly, "I’m not in the mood for fighting big brothers tonight.”

"Excellent thinking. I won’t be but a moment.”

Maggie Malone, Devon discovered a few minutes later, was a complete surprise. After their first introduction, he hadn’t expected to see her again, much less be invited to view stars through a telescope. Yet, here he was, up on a roof in Belle Plain, Texas, looking at stars through a clumsy apparatus that resembled a thick lead pipe on legs.

"Do you see anything?” Maggie asked, absorbed in fiddling with knobs and dials on the telescope.

"A blur.” Devon squinted. "Ah. Now I see something.”

"What?”

"It looks like... a pink cigar.”

"That’s my finger, silly. Look again.”

Laughing, he did, and saw a flash of brilliant white. He recoiled, then squinted again.

"Damn,” he breathed, fascinated. "It looks like white fire.”

"That’s what it is. Some of them are in colors. Let’s see if we can find a planet. Those don’t twinkle.”

"What—do you have a map of the sky or something?”

"Or something.”

She stepped dose, and he caught a whiff of fragrance again, sweet and pleasant. Maggie Malone smelled good, damn good, and it made his belly knot.

When she edged in front of him and adjusted the telescope to her height, he stayed where he was, enjoying the feel of her so close. Her shirtwaist dress was feminine without frills, and her silky black hair was braided into a sensible coil on her neck. But to Devon, she was the most alluring woman he’d seen in a long time.

He felt a pang of betrayal and stepped back.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Physical need was one thing; actually liking awoman was another thing entirely.

As if she felt his withdrawal, Maggie turned around and surveyed him for a long moment. "You don’t have to look at the stars, you know.”

"I know.” He looked away from her, gazing out over the rooftops, then looked back. "What are you doing up here with me, Maggie Malone? Don’t you know what people will say? What your brother will say?”

"No. What will they say?”

His voice was rough. "They’ll say you must be crazy to come up here with a man like me.”

"What kind of man are you?”

"Didn’t you listen to your brother?”

"Johnny blows steam like a boiling tea kettle. What was I supposed to hear?”

"I’ve killed men, Miss Malone.”

Starlight illuminated her face, and she gazed up at him with serious gray eyes. "Yes, I know that.”

Devon stared back at her in exasperation. "Don’t you care?”

"Not as much as you do, I’m willing to bet.”

When Devon couldn’t reply, thunderstruck, she smiled faintly. "You don’t seem like the kind of man who kills for the pleasure of it. If you were, you wouldn’t have listened to my brother’s insults today.”

"The way he was shouting them, it would have been hard not to listen,” Devon muttered.

"You know what I mean. Your reputation as a mad-dog killer is slightly in error, I believe, Mr. Cimarrón.”

Devon raked a hand through his hair and sucked in a deep breath. "My name’s not Cimarrón.”

"What is it?”

"Devon Conrad.”

She repeated it softly and smiled. "I much prefer that to the other. Do you mind if I call you Mr. Conrad?”

"Devon suits me better.”

"Devon then.” She glanced away from him, and he thought she had the purest profile he’d ever seen. When she looked back at him and said, "I think Venus is visible now,” he felt like agreeing. She was beautiful. And she expected him to stare up at the sky. He obliged.

"I’ll never look at the stars the same way,” he said, peering through the telescope.

"Neither will I.”

He turned and looked at her and felt an odd loosening in his chest. He knew, then, that this girl was going to matter to him, and he didn’t want that. He looked away, focusing on stars that were as distant and unattainable as the hopes he’d once held so dearly.

 


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Virginia Brown

$14.95 June 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9821756-5-1

Moonlight. Magnolias. Murder. The Dixie Divas are on the case.

Our Price: US$14.95

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Drop Dead Divas

Virginia Brown

$14.95 October 2010
ISBN 978-1-935661-96-2

Book 2 of the hilarious Southern mystery series

Our Price: US$14.95

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Dixie Diva Blues
Virginia Brown

November 2011 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-059-6

Book 3 in the Dixie Divas Mystery Series
Our Price: US$15.95

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Dark River Road
Virginia Brown

November 2011 $26.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-055-8

Unchallenged, until now.
Our Price: US$26.95

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Hound Dog Blues
Virginia Brown

February 2012 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-097-8

In the land of the King, she is the queen of sleuths.




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Harley Rushes In
Virginia Brown

March 2012 $13.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-098-5

Book Two of the Blue Suede Mysteries
Our Price: US$13.95

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Comanche Moon
Virginia Brown

May 2012 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-138-8

Can love grow from revenge and possession?


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Suspicious Mimes
Virginia Brown

July 2012 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-099-2

The third book in the Blue Suede Mystery Series.
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Divas and Dead Rebels
Virginia Brown

September 2012 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-205-7

Book 4 of The Diva Mystery series

Our Price: US$15.95

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Capture the Wind
Virginia Brown

October 2012 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-211-8

A rogue pirate. A beautiful Englishwoman. Who would win their battle on the high seas?

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Wildflower

Virginia Brown

January 2013 $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-247-7

Book 1 of the To Love an Outlaw series.


Our Price: US$16.95

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