Table of Contents
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2009 by Kandy Shepherd.
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SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Berkley Sensation trade paperback edition / July 2009
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Shepherd, Kandy. Love is a four-legged word / Kandy Shepherd. p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-08214-0
1. Mutts (Dogs)—Fiction. 2. Women cooks—Fiction. 3. Attorney and client—Fiction. I. Title. PR9619.4.S543L’.92—dc22 2009009998
To all the four-legged friends
who bring such joy to my life.
My thanks to my wonderful editor, Allison Brandau, and the team at Berkley who helped craft my manuscript into this beautiful book.Thanks also to my agent, Miriam Kriss.
Top of the list of writing friends for me to recognize for their encouragement and help is Cathleen Ross. Thanks also to Anna Campbell, Elizabeth Lhuede, Isolde Martyn, and Christine Stinson—who always loved my mutt story. My gratitude also to Simone Camilleri, Beth Orsoff, Annie West, and Sandy McPhie, and to my critique group cheer squads. Thank you, too, for the incredibly supportive network at Romance Writers of America.
A special mention to Melinda and Luke Booker for always making me feel so at home in California.
To my neighbor Brutus Kell who—unlike my fictional Brutus—is a silky terrier of impeccable pedigree, thanks for the inspiration.
Most heartfelt thanks of all to my husband, James, and daughter, Lucy, for their unflagging faith in me.
Madeleine Cartwright didn’t look at all the type of female who’d boink an old man to death for his money.
Tom O’Brien saw that the second she opened the door of her apartment. His imagination had let him down big-time. How could he have got it so wrong? This woman was more girl next door than vamp. No silicone-enhanced breasts, skintight dresses, or big, bleached hair.
Rather, her slender shape was enveloped in a white chef ’s apron smeared with chocolate, and she had flour streaked on her pretty, heart-shaped face. She didn’t have big hair. She had, well, small hair—short and feathery and kind of mussed. It looked natural, not out of a bottle; her hair was the color of marmalade.
“You must be Tom O’Brien, Walter’s lawyer.” Her voice was sweet and musical, not sultry and seductive. “I’m Maddy Cartwright.”
She held out a hand to him in greeting. As she was wearing a blue-and-white-striped oven mitt, Tom hesitated to shake it. For a moment her eyes widened in surprise at his lack of response, then she glanced down at the offending mitt, flushed, and laughed as she slid it off.
“You’re early,” she said with a hint of accusation that Tom thought was quite unwarranted. “I’m right in the middle of testing a new recipe for brownies.”
Was she serious? Tom stared at her, speechless, still unable to reconcile the mental image he had of the sexy seductress with the reality of this engaging, fresh-faced girl talking about, of all things, a chocolate dessert.
“Come on in,” she continued. “I’ve got to get the brownies out of the oven at just the right moment or they won’t be nice and gooey in the middle.”
She turned and headed into her apartment. Her apron was tied in back with a pert bow; the long tails of the bow pointing to a nicely rounded rear end hugged by faded blue jeans. Despite his preconceived opinion of her, Tom couldn’t help but admire the view as he followed her inside.
She stopped suddenly and turned back toward him. Caught in mid-stride, he nearly collided with her, his briefcase banging into her thigh.
For a second she braced her hand against his chest to steady herself, and he could feel her warmth through the fabric of his suit. She only came up to his shoulders—probably five-six to his six-two—and this close he noticed her eyes were green and that she smelled of lavender and chocolate.
“Sorry,” he muttered, disconcerted by her closeness and his body’s instant and surprising reaction to her.
“My . . . my fault,” she stammered as she stepped back from him. “I . . . I stopped because I wanted to ask if . . . if you liked brownies.”
What was this woman up to? Tom was shaken at how exciting he’d found her sudden nearness. Shaken and annoyed.
Was this disarming, down-home-girl image some kind of ploy? A clever strategy to part gullible old men from their money? Madeleine Cartwright didn’t look the part he had mentally cast her in—but that didn’t mean she hadn’t played it.
No way would he be sucked in by her wiles. He knew what ruin lay at the end of that particular path.
“Who doesn’t like brownies?” he said abruptly. “But, Ms. Cartwright, I—”
“Good. Then you can help me test them. The kitchen’s through here.”
Delicious, chocolaty smells wafted toward him, and for a moment Tom was tempted. Very tempted. He was aware he’d only had a tuna fish sandwich for lunch. But he had practice at resisting temptation. A man as determined as he to be a partner in a law firm before he turned thirty-one didn’t let much get in his way.
He braced himself. “Ms. Cartwright, I am not here to eat brownies. I am here to talk to you about the will of the late Walter Stoddard.”
Maddy Cartwright stilled. “I know,” she said, and it was as if a fizzing glass of soda had instantly gone flat. Even the brilliance of her hair seemed to dim. “I’ve been dreading it.”
Dreading it? Tom looked intently at her face, watching for excitement, anticipation, gloating greed. But all he saw was a profound sadness in her eyes and a downturn of her bow-shaped pink mouth.
“I still can’t believe he’s gone,” she said in a voice that wasn’t quite steady.
Tom’s eyes narrowed. Why would she say that? Shouldn’t she be turning cartwheels of joy?
“Is there somewhere we can discuss this? Now. It’s important,” he said.
She gestured with the oven mitt around her living room. “We could talk in here, but I really have to rescue the brownies first. Just let me dash to the kitchen, I’ll be back in a minute.”
Still stunned by the reality of Madeline Cartwright—oven mitt and all—Tom paced impatiently as he waited for her. Not that there was much room for pacing.
Her living room was small and decorated in a style Tom could only call twenty-first-century girly. It was way too cluttered for his taste. The walls were painted pale blue; the squashy old sofa covered in a faded floral print; and blue-and-white-patterned china was propped on every surface. On the narrow mantelpiece, tucked between a small vase of pink rosebuds and a framed photo of a smiling older woman, was a china statuette of a pony.
There were piles of cookbooks and copies of
Martha Stewart Living
magazines stacked haphazardly on the floor. A well-thumbed copy of food writer Anthony Bourdain’s
lay on the dollhouse-sized coffee table alongside an ancient, yellowing
The Lily Wallace New American Cook Book
The room made him feel distinctly uncomfortable.
So did Madeleine Cartwright.
She wasn’t at all what he’d been expecting. Not cunning but cute. Pretty, not predatory. More Reese Witherspoon than Paris Hilton. In fact, if he were meeting her under any other circumstances, he might have been tempted to ask her out.
But, although as a lawyer he strove to be impartial, he found what he suspected she had done despicable. And he couldn’t get past that. She couldn’t be more than twenty-five or twenty-six, and his client Walter Stoddard had been eighty-two. Yech! It made his thirty-year-old flesh crawl to think of it.
A sudden thought had him abruptly stop his pacing. Where was the dog? That all-important dog. He looked around the room for evidence of canine occupation.
He detected a gnawed corner of the sofa and a much-chewed toy gorilla that could indicate the animal was in residence.
But thoughts of the dog fled as Maddy Cartwright came back into the room. Her face was free of flour. She had discarded the apron. While her breasts weren’t pumped up as he’d expected, they rounded out her pink T-shirt nicely.
nicely. He tried not to look. Or at least make it not too obvious he was looking.
She was carrying a plate of brownies. Cholesterol city. They looked like they were studded with macadamia nuts. His favorite. Tom felt his mouth water. How long since he’d allowed himself an indulgence like that?
“I thought you could try one of these with coffee after we’d had our discussion,” she said in that gently chiming voice.
After? So she was not only a temptress but also a torturess. “Right.” He nodded. “After.”
He steeled himself not to drool at the luscious chocolate squares. Or the equally luscious woman who had baked them.