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Authors: Caroline Clemmons

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Be My Guest

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***

Be My Guest

Caroline Clemmons

 

Smashwords Edition

Revised and Expanded from the 1998

Kensington Publishing Corp. edition

 

Copyright 2011 by Caroline Clemmons

 

Cover Graphics

Lilburn Smith

 

Cover Model

Jimmy Thomas

Romance Novel Covers

 

Prairie Flowers Photo

Caroline Clemmons

 

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the
rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system
or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written
permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of
this book.

 

Author contact information
Mailto:[email protected]

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons living or dead, businesses, events, or locales is purely
coincidental.

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgments

To my husband, who is always my Hero, for
encouraging me to write and helping me in every possible way. A
true Hero!

To my father, for encouraging me to read, and
teaching me how--even if it was so he wouldn’t have to read me Bugs
Bunny comics. I miss him.

To my husband’s cousin, Glen Dotson of
Lubbock, Texas who bought nine copies of the original edition of
Be My Guest
to share with family.

To Karren Lucas who has faithfully bought
each of my books.

 

 

 

 

Be My Guest

Caroline Clemmons

 

Prologue

"
Kelly
, I don't want to talk about
it." Will Harrison sat with a small saddle balanced between his
right leg and the kitchen table. His left leg, entirely in a cast,
stretched out before him. His left foot rested on a kitchen chair.
The saddle, once treasured by his wife and her mother before her,
now belonged to his daughter Kelly. Though lovingly cared for all
of its years, the aging leather now required mending.

Kelly threw her arms around his neck.
"Daddy, please just think about it." She gave her father a loud
kiss on his cheek. "After all, Mommy wouldn't want you to be all
alone forever."

Will sighed. "I'm not alone, Punkin'. I have
you." He tried unsuccessfully to avoid thoughts of the times he
believed himself totally alone. Many nights he lay awake long past
midnight, unable to quiet the hollow, lonely ache that became a
part of him when Nancy died. Would this pain torture him for the
rest of his life? He reminded himself those thoughts served no
purpose. Best to concentrate on the saddle and his feisty
daughter.

"But Daddy, I'll go away to college, and
then you'll be really alone. I don't want to worry about you here
all by yourself while I'm trying to study."

Will paused his mending and raised his head,
a mixture of amusement and exasperation warring within him. "Kelly,
you're ten years old. I believe I have a few years yet before you
go off to college. Besides, I have your Aunt Lori Beth and Uncle
Tommy Joe, and Grandma, and Aunt Rose, and Lily here and her
family."

He glanced at the housekeeper standing at
the kitchen counter nearby. As she slid a dish into the dishwasher,
Lily Chapa flashed Will a look that told him he would get neither
support nor sympathy from her on this issue.

"But Daddy-y-y," Kelly pleaded, "You need to
date a woman and then get married again. If you take off your
wedding ring, a nice lady will want to date you. Marcie's mom said
you're a real hunk."

"Kelly Marie Harrison, the subject is
closed!" Will pulled so hard he almost broke the leather lace he’d
threaded through the saddle cover. Where did Marcie's mom get off
talking to his daughter about him in those terms? And since when
did ten-year-old girls call men hunks--especially their own
fathers?

Surely Kelly knew whenever he used her full
name it signaled time to change the subject. It meant his patience
wore thin, yet his precocious daughter could not resist one more
try.

"Please, promise me you'll at least think
about asking a really nice lady for a date. Oh, please, please,
please." She stood in front of him, a pitiful look on her face and
her hands clasped together as she pleaded.

Will stopped his work on the saddle. His
daughter knew just how to get around him. With a resigned grin, he
acquiesced. "Okay, we'll make a deal. I promise to think--that's
just think, about it, mind you--if you and your aunt promise to
stop talking about this dating thing."

He wondered how his little girl could change
so fast. It seemed only yesterday her topics of conversation were
limited to horses and dolls. True, they'd talked about things that
involved men and women who loved one another. How much did she
actually understand about dating and sex? Did she use terms like
"hunk" every day now? If he couldn’t man up now, how was he to cope
alone with her teen years? Being the only parent of a spirited girl
struck terror in his heart at times, even though the terror mixed
with pride at the beautiful young woman who stood in front of
him.

He’d definitely met his match in
stubbornness, and he hated this talk of late in which they seemed
endlessly involved. "If I ever meet a woman who interests me, I'll
ask her out. In the meantime, you are not to mention it again. Is
that a deal?"

Kelly's pony tail switched back and forth as
she hopped in glee. "Oh, thank you, Daddy. And promise me you'll
think about taking off your ring, too. That way, when you meet
someone nice, she won't think you're married."

He held up a hand to halt her speech. "I'll
take off the ring when and if I meet someone who interests me. Now
are you happy?" Damn, but he was weary to death of this
subject.

She kissed his cheek loudly and gave his
shoulders a hug. "Oh, yes. I just know you'll find me a new mother
if you look. I can hardly wait."

When a car horn sounded outside, Lily dried
her hands on her apron. "Your Aunt Lori Beth is here for you. Don't
keep her waiting, and don't forget your overnight bag for your
Grandma's tonight."

With Kelly gone, Will shot Lily a pensive
look. "I just don't understand why all the fuss about my wedding
ring and dating lately. What brought all of this on?"

The housekeeper resumed her chores and her
rapid-fire words kept time with her movements. "Ha, perhaps the
fact that Kelly's best friend Marcie is going to have a new brother
or sister soon has something to do with this, verdad?"

Understanding spread across Will's face.
"Ah, I see. Marcie's father remarried last year. That's about when
this hounding started. And with Lori Beth expecting a baby soon,
Kelly thinks every family should have one." He ran his fingers
through his hair. "So, I'm supposed to find a wife just because
another dad remarried?"

Lily stood, hands on her hips, in front of
Will. "No, not just because of this Marcie's father. For your own
sake you should find someone. Now you know that I would never
interfere in your business, but Kelly is right, amigo."

"Not you, too, Lily?" Why did all women
insist on matchmaking for every unmarried man?

"Si, mi tambien. Ha, you live like a monk,
Will." She shook a forefinger at him. "Thirty-three is too young to
be alone. You know Kelly is right. Your Nancy would not want you
alone forever."

Will looked down at his hands, then off into
space. "It's too soon, Lily."

Both her expression and voice softened, but
she remained resolute. "No, mi amigo, three years is long enough to
mourn. It is time now to get on with your life, pronto."

He shook his head then let his eyes meet
hers. "Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure I remember how to ask a
woman for a date. Besides, there's no one I find interesting in
that way." Will let the saddle slide to the floor and reached for
his crutches.

Lily lifted her face and hands upward.
"Madre de Dios! He is weakening." To Will, she said, "This I can
promise, Will Harrison, you will find someone if only you let your
heart look."

Will was skeptical “Maybe. Right now I have
to find some fresh clothes and give that talk in Snyder. Ask one of
your boys to take this saddle back to the tack room for me,
okay?"

"Si. Hector will do this." Lily turned back
to her tasks as if the matter were closed and Will was as good as
married again. "A wife will be good for you Will. I am glad you are
going to look for such a woman."

Will shook his head and muttered under his
breath as he hobbled on his crutches out of the room. He would
never understand women--not if he lived to be a hundred.

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

The
clock on the dashboard displayed
one o'clock by the time Aurora was free to concentrate on lunch in
Snyder. Clouds gathered and rumbled with thunder over the West
Texas town. Aurora's empty stomach rumbled with them. After a
hazardous morning, fatigue overshadowed her usually cheerful
nature. She passed by the fast food places before she spotted the
family restaurant recommended to her by the Texas State Trooper a
few minutes ago.

Cars and trucks filled the parking lot. What
a lucky break, she thought, when she spotted illuminated taillights
and a car backed out of the prime parking slot at the entrance.
Aurora saw the lone man in the dusty red pickup truck facing her,
waiting for the space. He sat in the very same type and color truck
used by two ruffians who had terrorized her earlier in the morning.
Although she knew he could not be one of those two men, an
unreasonable anger bubbled up in her directed toward all cowboys,
especially those in red trucks.

Her normally pleasant nature turned
aggressive and she zipped the Mustang into the vacated park before
the less maneuverable truck could occupy the space. The man honked
the truck horn at her as she got out of her car. She just smiled
and blew him a saucy kiss as she hurried into the restaurant. After
all, any real gentleman would have let a lady have the only space
in the first place, she told her nagging conscience.

Her conscience would not be quieted so
easily. She must be in shock from her morning encounter. Never had
she acted so rudely. Regretting her impetuous actions already, she
thanked goodness the exchange occurred with a stranger and not
someone she might meet again.

Seated in the corner booth, Aurora ordered a
hamburger, French fries, and a large Dr Pepper. While she waited
for her food, she reviewed the items listed under the town of
Snyder in her Texas guidebook. Suddenly, she sensed someone
standing beside her booth. As she looked up--and up--a huge cowboy
with most of his left leg in a cast leaned his crutches against the
side of the booth. He slid onto the seat beside her, which pinned
her in the booth with him.

Aurora scooted to the right as far as
possible. "Hey, who do you think you are? This is my booth, and no
one invited you to share it with me!"

"Your car's sitting in my parking space, so
I'll sit in your booth," he said calmly as he removed his Stetson
and ran his fingers through sandy brown hair. He turned in his seat
to hang the hat on the hook at the end of the booth by his
crutches.

Aurora blushed when she realized this must
be the man whose parking space she mischievously stole. Oh no, how
terrible. How embarrassing! He must have had to park a long way
from the door and hobble in on those crutches. The one time in her
life she acted rudely, her victim turned out to be a man
handicapped by a leg cast and crutches. Still, he had his nerve
sitting beside her without so much as a "may I?”

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