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Authors: Lisa Jackson

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BOOK: Lone Stallion's Lady
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Realizing the old man was apparently having trouble with his son’s indiscretions, Trent didn’t say anything else. He walked through a long hallway to the main stairs but at the archway leading to the living room, his footsteps slowed. He heard Gina’s muffled voice.

“I said I’d be back as soon as this was finished, Jack,” she said hotly, then paused for a few seconds while the guy on the other end of the line had his say. “Yeah, I know, I know. I’ll wrap this up as soon as I can.”

Another pause.

Trent told himself to move on, that she deserved some privacy, but then he reminded himself that she hadn’t been all that interested in preserving his. For all he knew, she’d dug into the most intimate details of his life.

And didn’t you try to do the same to her? Didn’t you
hire a private investigator to find Celia O’Hara and when that didn’t pan out, have him look into Garrett Kincaid’s life?

He ignored the attack of sudden conscience.

“I’m not sure, Jack,” Gina said with a long-suffering sigh. “I’m still looking into it. But I’ll be back soon, I promise.” She laughed then, that deep, throaty laugh that had caught his attention in Dallas, and he felt a moment of jealousy. “Yeah, I miss you, too… Oh, come on, you know I do. What? …Now, listen, quit worrying! I can take care of myself.” He must’ve said something incredibly amusing again because this time she chuckled. “Fine, I’ll remember. If I’m not gonna be back in a couple of days, then you’ll just have to carry on without me, and yes, I’m sure it’ll break your heart, but believe me, Jack, you can handle it.” She listened again, then sighed theatrically. “Me, too. Okay, I’ve gotta run. I’ll call again.” Another minute’s hesitation while the guy on the other end of the telephone line said his goodbyes. “Love you, too,” she said as she hung up.

Trent, feeling like the eavesdropper he was, considered climbing the stairs and high-tailing it to his room. But that seemed a little sneaky and he’d always prided himself on being a straight shooter.

Jamming his fists into his pockets, he sauntered into the living room and found her nestled in the corner of a floral couch that had seen better days, staring at the cold grate of the fireplace. “Boyfriend?” he asked, startling her.

“What?”

He pointed at the phone. “I overheard the tail end of your conversation with your boyfriend. Sounds like he’s missing you.”

A smile tugged at the corner of those full lips. “Oh, he is.” She nodded, her green eyes flashing with amusement, as if she’d just pulled a fast one on him.

“Special guy?” He couldn’t help but ask and tried to ignore another jab of unlikely jealousy.

“Very.” He could see the pride in the way she held her head. She cared about the man very much. Sunlight pierced the windows and caught in the fiery strands of her hair.

“Known him long?”

“All my life.”

That bothered Trent. This guy Jack had watched her grow up while he’d only met her a few weeks earlier. “So, he’s kind of a boy next door?”

“You could say that.” She was more than amused now, he thought. Curled up on the faded sofa, her bare feet tucked beneath her, a notepad on her lap, she looked cozy and warm, as if she belonged in this rambling old house with its out-of-date, yellowed wallpaper and odd collection of memorabilia. There were all manner of guns mounted on the walls, antlers and animal heads, trophies from long-ago kills now collecting dust in the den and even, down one hallway, a showcase of old Western costumes and Native American paraphernalia.

Trent walked to the fireplace. “This guy—Jack,”
he said, nodding toward the phone. “Does he know about me?”

“He’s heard of you, yes.”

“About Dallas?”

She blushed and shook her head. “Nope. And I hope he never finds out.” She set her notebook aside, hesitated, and finally said, “I thought we were going to let what happened go.”

“Can you?”

She bit her lip. All hint of amusement left her face. “I don’t know,” she said, and it was the first statement she’d made that he believed. “But I’m going to try. Hard. It might be difficult the next couple of days since we’ll both be here, but I’m going to see if I can rise above it.” Her eyes narrowed a bit. “That is, if you would quit throwing it up in my face. You know, it wasn’t as if what happened was all my fault. As the old saying goes, ‘it takes two to tango.’”

“But one of us didn’t lie about it.”

“So flog me with a dozen cat-o’-nine-tails, or toss me in the pillory, or blaze my shirt with a scarlet A…or, oh—” She snapped her fingers and shot to her feet. “I know something even better! Why don’t you keep bringing it up and trying to throw some guilt on me, huh? How about that?” With that she turned on a bare heel and stormed out.

He started after her and she sent him a look over one stiff shoulder that was guaranteed to freeze mercury. “Don’t, okay? Don’t run after me, don’t say anything more, and next time I’m on the phone, don’t put a glass
to the window or listen at the keyhole. It’s really none of your business.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, darlin’,” he drawled. “You were the one who started poking into my life. Remember? Not the other way around. So I think whatever you do here just might be my business.”

“Just stay out of my way.”

“That might be impossible.”

“Give it a try, okay?” She was out of the room and up the stairs like a shot.

Trent wondered where a man kept his whiskey around this house, and cringed when he heard Suzanne Harding call, “Okay, dinner’s on. Come and get it.”

 

Garrett had no idea what had gotten into Trent and Gina, but he didn’t like it. No, he didn’t like it one bit. All through Suzanne’s tasty meal of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, applesauce and green beans, they’d both picked at their food, tried their damnedest to ignore one another, and forced smiles onto faces that were both strained and drawn.

Something was up.

If he didn’t know better, he’d think they were having themselves some kind of lover’s spat. For that’s sure what it looked like. But that was impossible. They hardly knew each other.

Trent, shoving his plate aside, finally said, “Okay, so tell me about these other ‘brothers’ that I’ve got. How’d you find out about me and them?”

Garrett pushed his chair back from the long table and walked the few steps to the sideboard where Suzanne had left a pot of coffee. Filling three cups, he set them on the table and said, “I was going to explain all this to everyone at the same time, but being as you’re here now, I guess I may as well get down to it.” He settled into his chair again, felt a pinch of arthritis in his hip and ignored it. This was the tough part, trying to explain his only son’s irresponsible actions. “Let’s go outside, and sit on the back porch.”

Though the two hadn’t said a civil word to each other all night, they followed Garrett through French doors to a picnic table and benches. Gina took a seat at the table with Garrett. Trent stood on the porch, bracing his back against a pillar that supported the roof.

“Okay, so shoot,” Trent suggested.

Garrett cradled his cup in his hands. This was the hard part. Trying to explain about his son. It pained him. When Larry had been born more than fifty years ago, Garrett had been proud enough to pop. A son. A healthy, good-looking, robust boy. But as the years had passed, Larry had proven to be wayward and ornery, selfish and lazy. Even worse, he’d never been able to keep his hands off women, even as a teenager. But that had been a long time ago.

“This isn’t easy, you see. Burying a child, no matter how difficult he was, is painful.” Garrett frowned and stared into the dark depths of his coffee. “When Larry died, it about killed me,” he admitted, acknowledging
that black hole in his heart. “It hadn’t been long after Laura had passed away and I was just thankful that she wasn’t alive.” His lips folded over his teeth and he tamped down the pain that was always with him when he thought of his wife and firstborn. “Anyway, I went through all of Larry’s things after he died and I found a safe-deposit box key for a local bank. Larry had asked me to sign on the box years ago and I’d forgotten about it. When I opened it, I discovered a letter from Larry to me or Collin—”

“Who is his legitimate son?” Trent guessed.

“Right. Anyway, there was a smaller box inside the one in the bank and the most important document in that was a letter that explained about the other kids Larry had fathered.” He lifted one hand. “There were names, dates, and some addresses, pictures and canceled checks, notes, baby photos, birth certificates…even copies of old report cards. He must’ve kept everything he ever laid his hands on, and I guess he kept it in the safe-deposit box so when he died someone in the family would know about you and your brothers.”

“Thoughtful of him,” Trent said sarcastically.

“It was something. Not much, I’ll grant you that,” Garrett admitted, wishing there was some way he could defend his son. “But at least I found out about you.”

“No one else knew about us?”

“Just the mothers, near as I can figure, and they all kept their mouths shut.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Some of them were paid,” Gina said.

“You’re trying to tell me they bribed him or they were given hush money? Is that it?”

Gina lifted a shoulder.

“Who knows,” Garrett said. “I didn’t figure I should bother them. It’s between them and their boys.”

Trent let out a snort of disdain. “This family exceeds the limits of dysfunctional.” He tossed the rest of his coffee onto the parched grass.

“Then I guess it’s time we fixed that.”

“Or maybe it’s too late.”

“Well, I guess we won’t know until we try, now, will we?” Garrett asked as Trent cast Gina one last look and strode inside.

Gina attempted to act disinterested but Garrett had been around enough men and women in his life to recognize when two people were interested in each other. In Trent and Gina’s case, they were way beyond interested.

Gina had admitted to meeting Trent in Dallas.

Garrett wondered what had happened. But he didn’t ask. He figured he might just be better off not knowing.

Four

S
o much for the quiet of the country lulling her to sleep. Gina tossed off the covers in her tiny bed and padded barefoot across the room to grab her robe—a short cotton thing that worked better as a beach cover-up but was lightweight and easy to pack. Without making a sound, she walked downstairs and out the back door. The moon rode high in an inky sky littered with millions of stars—more stars than she’d ever seen.

Wrapping her arms around her, she hurried along a well-worn path to the stables and there, leaning over the fence railing, she watched the dark shapes of the horses shifting in the night. The air was warm, a light breeze dancing across the fresh-mown hay and playing in the overhead branches of a pine tree.

Peaceful. Serene. Panoramic. So different from the bustle of L.A., a city that was filled with the hum of traffic, beep of keyless locks and scream of sirens at all hours of the night. Here, the chirp of crickets, croak of frogs and occasional nicker from the horses were the only obstructions to a pure, almost ethereal silence.

And Trent Remmington was sleeping in the room next to hers at the main house. Unbelievable! Her fingers tightened over the top rail. So much for tranquility or peace of mind. How had she been so stupid as to get involved with him—if that’s what you’d call it. Crueler tongues might dub what had happened between them as a one-night stand or a bar pickup.

She flinched inwardly at the terms. She’d never been one to get involved easily, and, if any name had been fitting for her, it had been Ice Princess as she’d always had a hands-off attitude toward men. At least during the first few dates. She’d grown up watching her divorced mother struggle to make ends meet and eventually marry a man for financial security. Gina had decided then and there that it wasn’t a path she’d ever take. No way. No how. Not for her. She would never sacrifice her happiness nor her self esteem for a man—any man—and so, she’d never found one that had really interested her.

Until Trent. Blast the man. She’d been intrigued with Trent Remmington from the first time she’d opened Larry Kincaid’s box of memorabilia. The “bad twin,” Trent had been as rebellious and wild as his brother Blake had been good and conscientious. Trent
drank, smoked, rode motorcycles, boats and horses at breakneck speeds and had the citations, bruises, and scars to prove it.

He’d gone through baby-sitters and governesses like water, even managed to get kicked out of more than one boarding school. When Gina had read his profile, she’d been instantly attracted to the sexy, irreverent rebel. At fifteen he’d “borrowed” an idling bus and tried to drive it through the drive-in window of a local burger hut. At sixteen he’d jumped on a boxcar and rode across the country. At seventeen he’d climbed the ivy-enshrouded halls of his exclusive boarding school to steal a test and been expelled. A few years later, after dropping out of college, he’d bluffed his way through a high-stakes poker game to win. He’d put up the title of his sports car and had come out not only still owning the car—he had still owed Blake the five thousand dollars he’d borrowed for it—but also with the deed to a scrap of property on which he’d eventually discovered oil.

So the hellion who had come within a hair’s breadth of landing in jail had ended up a wildcat oilman who had struck it rich without benefit of a higher education or a grandfather or a father to grease the way for him. He’d made his millions by luck, grit and brains.

Trent had not only been strapping, good-looking and blessed with a killer smile, he had also been a child lost, a hellion of a teenager, and a man who, against all odds, had made good.

In retrospect, Gina decided on this starry night, she’d
been well-primed, ready to fall victim to his very serious set of charms.

It had been a night not much different from this one when she’d chanced to run into him. She’d had one last night in Dallas where she’d located Trent Remmington at a convention. Having already checked out his Houston-based corporation, Black Gold International, she’d come to Dallas and got a glimpse of the man himself. Gina had been ready to return to L.A. where Jack was waiting for her to wrap up this case, but, suddenly feeling in the mood for celebration she’d gone downstairs to the patio bar for a glass of wine.

 

She’d drunk two glasses of wine in less than an hour. Which wasn’t so bad, except for the fact that having not eaten since breakfast, the Cabernet had immediately gone to her head. Seated at a table near a planter, she looked across the dance floor toward the bar and spied none other than the object of her most recent hunt: Trent Remmington.

To him, she was a stranger, but from months of researching his life, she felt as if she already knew him. She’d spent weeks tracking him down and piecing together his life as the fifth illegitimate son of Larry Kincaid. She’d seen pictures of him, read every article ever written about him, been fascinated by him.

On this spring night she couldn’t help but stare as he sipped what looked like a Scotch and water. When he’d glanced her way, she’d dropped her eyes and decided to
leave before she did something stupid like introduce herself to him.

She started to leave, but before she could sign off on her tab, the waiter appeared with another glass of wine. “Compliments of the gentleman at the bar.”

Her stomach dropped to the floor. She didn’t have to look to know that he meant Trent, who, though not staring at her directly, was viewing her in a beveled mirror suspended above the bar.

This is a mistake, she told herself, but managed to smile at the waiter and accept the drink. She glanced at Trent again and, heart knocking ridiculously, held the glass aloft and mouthed, “Thanks.”

He nodded, but remained on his bar stool, nursing his drink. A live band tuned up in the corner and a few brave couples, some with incredible dance skills, took over the floor. Gina finished her wine, felt a little light-headed and was about to leave when another glass of Cabernet appeared.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t,” she said, shaking her head.

“The gentleman insists.”

“But—” She started to argue, but the waiter breezed away, taking an order at a nearby table, and Gina was left with the drink. She didn’t have to drive, only had to make it up to her room where she’d already asked for a wake-up call, but she didn’t need another glass of wine. Didn’t want one.

She looked over to the bar and Trent was assessing her, his blue eyes bright in the reflection of the mirror. There
was amusement in his gaze, the hint of a smile toying with his lips, and she felt an instant surge of anger.

He was getting off watching her try to decline the stupid glass of wine. And what would happen if she downed it? Would he send over another? Spying the challenge in his silent gaze, she sat, drank the wine and rose again.

Another appeared, just as she’d expected.

“I really couldn’t,” she insisted, but the waiter wouldn’t take no for an answer and she was left with a glass of expensive wine on the table in front of her.

Again the look in the mirror.

Great.

Though a part of her brain nagged at her that she was making an incredible, irreversible mistake, she felt bolder than she should have. Picking up the stemmed glass and carrying it carefully, she wove between the dancing couples and made her way to the bar.

“I suppose I should thank you for the drink—no, drinks,” she said, unable to hide a trace of sarcasm in her voice.

“My pleasure.” A crooked grin slashed across his jaw.

Damn the man but he was enjoying this. The twinkle in those blue eyes gave him away.

“Have a seat.” He patted the vacant stool next to his.

She knew she shouldn’t, but found it impossible to resist. “Trent Remmington,” he said. To her horror she found his boyish grin incredibly endearing.

“Uh, Celia…” she said. Though tipsy, she realized
she couldn’t admit her real name or true calling. Besides, she was just thanking the man for buying her a glass of wine. “Celia O’Hara.”

“In town for the weekend?”

“Yes.”

“Business or pleasure?”

“Just visiting my sister,” she lied, telling herself she was getting into this way too deep. “You?”

“Convention here in town.”

“Business, then?”

“For the most part.”

“You live around here?”

“Houston, actually. As I said, just here for a convention.” He finished his drink. “Want to dance?”

She hadn’t danced in ages. “Dance?” She was certain she shouldn’t. It wasn’t a good idea to be this close to Trent Remmington when she was sober, let alone when she was feeling a little giddy. However the wine seemed to control her tongue and actions and she angled her head up and flirted outrageously.

“Why not?”

A million reasons raced through her head. This is dangerous. He’s your client, for God’s sake, whether he knows it or not. He’s got a reputation for living on the edge. If he finds out you lied to him, it will be a disaster. A calamity! But she didn’t stop herself.

The song was a slow country tune that she should have recognized but didn’t. Trent’s fingers touched her elbow, guiding her to the floor, and she felt her pulse
leap. Oh, God, this was worse than she thought. He folded her into his arms and she realized she was in trouble. Big trouble. Kincaid-handsome, he was strong, smelled faintly of musk and he felt warm and, oh, so right. Her stupid heart began to race, and as his breath brushed her hair, she imagined kissing those blade-thin lips that she’d seen in so many of the photographs Larry had hidden away.

Of all the Kincaid heirs, Trent was the one who had touched her, who had reached through the reams of paper to find her heart. She felt as if she already knew him intimately, had shared his most private secrets, his quiet pain.

But that was crazy.

Or was it?

As the band’s lead singer crooned an old love song, it seemed so natural to be held close to him and imagine she could hear the beat of his heart over the music, the buzz of conversation and the clink of flatware. Hundreds of tiny white lights winked through the boughs of the potted trees placed strategically around the patio and a soft, warm breeze caressed her face.

Though she wasn’t the greatest dancer around, Trent made the steps seem easy. He held her close without crushing her, twirled her through the other couples without any effort, and never once did she even step on his toes. All in all, it was a miracle. A blessing. A…catastrophe! She couldn’t be dancing with one of her clients, one who didn’t even know he was the object of her search, one to whom she’d already lied.

When the song stopped, he held her a little too long and she could barely breathe. Her skin tingled and her heart was drumming in her ears. She wanted to sag against him, but fortunately he released her. She took one deep breath, then he took her hand and, after snagging their drinks from the bar, led her to a booth in a darkened corner where he settled onto a bench beside her. She tried to convince herself that she had to leave, that she couldn’t trust herself this close to him.

“So tell me about yourself,” he suggested, his thigh pressing against hers. Deep inside she started to melt. Swallowing hard, she picked up her glass and took a sip of wine that she suddenly wanted to gulp. “Are you married?”

“No.” She held up the bare fingers of her left hand as proof and told herself that she was getting into hot water.

“Ever been?”

She shook her head.

“Why not? And don’t give me some line about not meeting the right guy.”

“Okay, I won’t. I’m just a wallflower by nature.”

His eyes narrowed on her and she had to swallow a smile. She’d worn a tight black minidress, strappy high heels, and added gold earrings and a necklace. She’d even gone so far as to twist her hair onto her head, letting only a few soft wisps fall around her nape and face.

“Wallflower,” he repeated, then shook his head. “Nice try, Celia. But I’m not buying.”

She lifted a shoulder. “You asked. How about you?”

“Been lucky so far. Never even gotten close.”

She knew this, of course. He had a reputation of short-term relationships that never developed into anything serious.

“So are there any exes lurking in your past?”

“Not much of a past to lurk in, I’m afraid,” she admitted, and he seemed skeptical.

“Got a job?”

“Paralegal. Thinking about becoming a lawyer.” Jeez, how did these lies fly out of her mouth so quickly?

He cocked a dark eyebrow and took a sip from his drink.

She pretended she didn’t know a thing about him. “So you’re trying to convince me that you don’t have an ex-wife and a dozen kids stashed away somewhere.” Candlelight cast gold shadows across his bold features.

“No, I was lying earlier. I’ve really got four ex-wives and, get it right, fifteen children. Not just a dozen.” He chuckled and his smile seemed more sincere, his interest obviously piqued.

Careful, Gina, you’re treading in dangerous waters here,
the sober, nose-to-the-grindstone private investigator part of her mind screamed. But the other part, the feminine, ludicrously romantic side, wanted to wade ever deeper and couldn’t resist stepping closer to the whirlpool that she sensed was so near.

“So what do you do for a living that allows you to support all those kids and still leaves enough change left over to buy strange women glasses of expensive
wine?” she asked innocently, wondering if he would tell the truth.

“Well, I’m a millionaire several times over, have oil wells and real-estate ventures all over the state, and saw you sitting all by yourself and thought you looked interesting.”

She smiled and sipped her wine. “Does this line of yours usually work?”

“Usually.” He said it without a trace of arrogance.

She wanted desperately to keep this game going, but she knew instinctively that she would only cause herself the kind of problems she didn’t want or need in her life. She leaned over as if to kiss him, but said instead, “Well, it’s not working with me. Not tonight.”

“And you’re a lousy liar.”

“No, I—” With one hand he reached up and cupped the back of her head, and held her face firmly close to his. His eyes were suddenly so close she noticed the different shades of blue fusing together. His lips were near enough that when he spoke they brushed against hers.

BOOK: Lone Stallion's Lady
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