Highly Compromised Position

BOOK: Highly Compromised Position
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Highly Compromised Position

Texas Cattleman's Club: The Secret Diary

Sara Orwig

Prologue

From the diary of Jessamine Golden

November 4, 1910

Dear Diary:

On this day my heart is broken.

I think that love means trust. I love Sheriff Brad Webster with all of my being, but he doesn't believe what I'm telling him. He doesn't trust me and he accepts the accusations of others against me instead of considering what I tell him. I'm being honest with him. How it hurts to learn that he takes the words of others over mine.

I know the gold I am accused of stealing was taken by the mayor, Edgar Halifax. He has fooled everyone in this town! Including the sheriff. I'd
think your heart would tell you which person to believe.

I'm deeply unhappy now. The stronger my love for Brad grows, the more trouble I get into with the law. There was a poker game recently with fierce stakes. According to the word around town, Nicholas Devlin cheated Richard Windcroft. It's true! I know Nicholas had the mayor's help. Later I tricked Nicholas into admitting his cheating to me. He also told me that he knew Edgar filched the gold and laid the blame for the theft on me.

Nicholas knew the truth. I thought I could get him to reveal it to Brad…Sheriff Webster. My heart pounds just writing his name. How I longed to be Mrs. Brad Webster! My dearest Brad—you will never know how much I love you. My heart belongs to Sheriff Brad Webster who can only see that I have broken the law that he upholds.

My dear diary, my tears are falling on the pages as I write. Nicholas Devlin, my one hope, was murdered. I am certain it was by Edgar's hand, but I have no way to prove who the killer was.

Edgar Halifax—what a wicked, evil man!

Last week I took the gold from Edgar and sent him a note telling him. He can't accuse me twice, can he? My message dared him to confront me.

Mayor Halifax is remaining silent about the gold.

I have no choice. I am leaving town. I will disappear forever. I have the treasure of gold and I will slip away late in the night. I love you, Brad Webster. I am crushed and heartbroken to leave you….

One

W
as he going to change history? Thomas Devlin reflected as he turned his red pickup off the Texas state highway.

On a brisk November day Tom drove through Windcroft's iron gates and followed a gravel road. As he looked around, a sense of wonder gripped him. A Devlin had not legally set foot on the Windcroft horse farm for a hundred years. During that time the families had engaged in a bitter feud, and now he was embroiled in it.

“You can still turn around and go home,” he told himself aloud, his gaze traveling across Windcroft property that appeared so similar to Devlin land.

He looked at miles of mesquite-covered fields, the small trees bent because of prevailing southern winds. He liked the wide-open spaces and the blazing sunsets. He intended to settle here and had already bought a ranch that would soon be in his possession.

He liked the warmhearted people and his family. His uncle, Lucas Devlin, was levelheaded, friendly, a good man. Lucas worried that Tom's peace mission this morning was foolhardy, because his own overtures for conciliation with Will Windcroft had been rebuffed. Nothing tried, nothing gained, Tom thought.

Windcroft.
Not a common name, but not uncommon either. It conjured up a Windcroft he had met five months ago at a Houston computer conference where he had been keynote speaker. A twenty-eight-year-old, violet-eyed, black-haired beauty with whom he had spent a wildly passionate night. To his surprise, he hadn't been able to forget her when it was usually easy for him to walk away. They had intended to exchange phone numbers, but he had been called away unexpectedly when one of his clients had vanished in the jungles of Colombia. Tom remembered that Rose Windcroft lived in Dallas. It might be like finding a needle in a haystack to locate her in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but he intended to give it a try soon.

Erotic memories taunted him as he recalled too clearly the moment he had unzipped and slipped her silky black dress off her shoulders. Heat had consumed him when he'd looked at her full breasts pushed against the lacy bra she wore and the tiny strip of a thong that left most of her sensational body bare.

In his arms she had been wild, eager, and given him a red-hot night of sex that, too often since then, had made him wish he had her phone number.

When his pickup bounced over a bump in the road, he jerked his thoughts back to the approaching meeting with the West Texas Windcrofts. It probably wouldn't be an easy one.

Tom turned a bend and drove down a dip to cross a muddy creek. Beyond the creek, a shiny black car was parked off to the side, near the fencerow that paralleled the road.

A dozen horses were on the other side of the white PVC fencing, and one stood quietly while a woman petted it. Wondering if the woman was Nita Windcroft Thorne, who was supposed to be at the meeting, Tom glanced in that direction as his truck whipped by.

She twisted slightly to look over her shoulder, her chin-length black hair shiny in the sunlight. Snug jeans clung to her long legs and she wore a blue cotton shirt with a hip-length denim jacket.

He couldn't get his breath and his heart pounded. He knew her. Even from the distance he could see the violet-blue eyes—or did he just remember them? He slammed on the brakes, then wished he hadn't as gravel flew and dust stirred. When he backed up, she continued to watch him. Lucas had referred to Nita Windcroft a lot, but he had never mentioned Rose. Rose Windcroft, hot and sexy—and if she was standing here on Windcroft land, she had to be a member of the West Texas Windcrofts!

Tom parked in front of her car and climbed out, his pulse accelerating with each step he took. Rose Windcroft. It was
her.
The woman of one magic night and, afterward, his erotic dreams and fiery longings.

He knew the moment she recognized him. Her mouth opened, and he felt that his surprise was nothing compared to her reaction. Her face flushed, her jaw dropped farther and she blinked rapidly. Dimly in his mind he thought that she should never play poker because her expression gave away her thoughts as much as if she had voiced them.

“What are you doing here?” she asked breathlessly.

He was beginning to gather his wits and he smiled while his gaze swept over her one more time. “Looking at the sexiest woman in Texas and thinking this is my lucky day,” he said in a husky voice. Her mere presence stirred physical responses in him.

She flushed a brighter pink, closed her mouth and became more composed. “That doesn't answer my question,” she said coolly, and her manner puzzled him.

“You're a Windcroft,” he said. “A Texas Windcroft.”

“You knew that.”

“From what you told me, you live and work in Dallas. I didn't know you're related to this particular family.”

“I came home because my father and my sister are having some difficulties.”

Wanting to be closer, Tom walked up to her. Her perfume beckoned him to come closer, and he had to fight the urge to wrap his arms around her.

“What are you doing here?” she blurted in a tone that she might use if she discovered a trespasser on the property.

“I have a meeting with your family concerning the feud,” he replied patiently, certain she already knew why he was here.

“You're related to the Devlins.” Turning pale, looking as upset and shocked as if he had struck her, she winced and stepped back. Her gaze ran over his features. “My God, you're a Devlin!” she repeated.

“You're right, I am a Devlin. Isn't that a surprise? I'm Lucas's nephew. When I was born, my mother gave me up for adoption. Frankly I'm damn glad to find this family,” he said, his curiosity mounting, wondering if she was that much into the old feud. “You're surely not
taken aback because of the feud. You can't consider me an enemy.”

There was no mistaking when her eyes flashed with fire. “That's an understatement for how shocked I am,” she said.

“At the time we met I didn't know my true background,” he replied patiently, surprised that a generations-old feud stirred her emotions. Lucas could see the pointlessness in it—why couldn't Rose, especially when she didn't even live here? Frowning at him, she inhaled deeply, and he all but forgot their conversation as her breasts strained against the fabric of her shirt. His gaze went to her wide mouth and full, sensuous lips, and his temperature climbed. He could feel the electricity snap between them.

“Closed adoptions make it very difficult to locate parents,” he continued. “Besides, I figured if someone gave me up at birth, they didn't want me to reappear and try to claim them years later.” Open at the throat, her top revealed her creamy skin and cleavage, the beginning of the curves of her full breasts. When his hand touched her, her eyes darkened. He heard her quick intake of breath, and satisfaction as well as desire heated him.

“Lucas came searching for me.” Tom lowered his voice. “Judging from the looks of it, you'd rather he hadn't found me.”

“I'm surprised,” she said, but there was hesitancy in her voice, and her glance slid away, causing him to wonder what she was hiding. She appeared to be choosing her words carefully and avoiding mentioning something to him, but he couldn't imagine what.

“No one has mentioned a Tom Morgan since I ar
rived. I've heard them speak of Tom Devlin.” Her gaze bored into him.

“I thought I'd use the Devlin name. I have a blood family who wants to claim me and I'd like to claim them.”

“Do you realize that a Devlin hasn't set foot on this land for almost a hundred years?”

“Then it's time one did. When we meet today, I want to talk to your father and sister, and hopefully you, about ending the feud.”

“That's impossible! For months now Devlins have been playing havoc with the Windcrofts. That's why I've moved back.”

His pulse jumped again. “You live here now?”

“Yes. I've come home to see about the trouble and help take care of my father. Daddy has a broken leg because of a Devlin,” Rose snapped, and fires blazed in the depths of her eyes.

“We're not responsible for any of the calamities that have been happening to your family. My uncle and my cousins swear they're not involved, and I believe them. I promise you, we're not.”

“I hope you mean what you say,” she said softly.

“There,” he said, lowering his voice. “Finally. That's the way I remember you. Our time together was the most fantastic evening in my life,” he declared. Images of her naked in his arms danced in his inner vision. She had a fabulous body, and he ached to press her against him.

Again, her thickly lashed eyes darkened with pleasure. Her lips parted and she licked them. “It was special,” she whispered.

“Go to dinner with me,” he said.

She hesitated and frowned, puzzling him. He tilted his head, studying her. “Something's wrong. Have you
met another man?” he asked, surprised how much her answer mattered to him.

She shook her head. “You're a Devlin even if you're called Tom Morgan.”

“Surely you're not influenced by the feud that doesn't have anything to do with us. This is one Devlin who has no animosity toward the Windcrofts.”

“Windcrofts and Devlins do not and have not associated with each other.”

“So let's be the first to start patching things up,” he argued with finality in his tone. He glanced at his watch. “I don't like to be late. We'll talk at the house. Are you staying here on the farm?”

There was an instant's hesitation before she nodded, and again he suspected something bothered her besides the family feud. “I live in the guesthouse,” she said.

“That's where I'm staying on the Devlin ranch. If I don't leave now, I'm going to be late to see your father and sister.” Even knowing it would delay him, he ached to kiss Rose. “Dammit. Come here, Rose,” he said, slipping his arm around her waist, closing the distance. Her hands flew to his upper arms. When her eyelids fluttered and her lips parted, he knew she wanted the kiss as much as he did.

Excitement pulsed in him, a throbbing heat that gathered below his belt. He slipped his arm around her waist again and pressed her against him.

The moment his mouth touched hers, desire scalded him. He tightened his arm around her, bending over her and deepening his kiss, taking possession.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and wound her fingers in his hair. Her soft curves burned like a brand. He imagined her naked, loving with abandon. His
tongue went deep, stroking her tongue. Aroused, he was rock-hard. He wanted her badly enough that he was tempted to make love to her right here and be damned the consequences.

She returned his kiss, her tongue going into his mouth, heightening his desire. She shook in his arms while her hips thrust against him and she moaned softly. Intense and hot, her responses sizzled. He slipped his hand beneath her jean jacket, sliding his fingers lightly over her breast and feeling the hardened bud pushing against the fabric. He twisted free the top buttons, slipping his hand beneath her blouse and cupping her breast.

She trembled and caught his wrist with one hand and pushed against his chest with the other.

He looked down at her. “If we weren't out here on the road and I didn't have an appointment with your family, I'd kiss away your objections,” he declared. He trailed his lips to her ear. “I want to kiss every delicious inch of you.”

She leaned back, and for a moment, such heat blazed in her eyes that he reached for her again. Shaking her head, she stepped away while she buttoned her blouse.

“You can't guess what you do to me,” he said.

“You go now,” she replied softly while her cheeks flushed a deeper pink.

His gaze lingered on her until he nodded and walked away. At his truck, he turned to look at her. With one hand on her hip and wind blowing locks of her black hair, she stood watching him. She took his breath away and he had to cool down before he met with anyone.

Tonight he would be with Rose.
As he slid behind the wheel of his pickup, his eagerness to be with her surprised him. In the past he could walk away and forget
a woman. He had always known there would soon be another appealing woman—the world was filled with them. But after meeting Rose, he hadn't been able to forget her and other women paled in comparison.

When he drove away, he glanced in the rearview mirror. She was already in her car and pulling onto the road behind him. She would attend this meeting—something that he hadn't dreamed would happen.

Soon the Windcroft house, main barn, stables, corrals, stallion pens and training pens came into Tom's view. The horse farm appeared peaceful, yet he knew it was fraught with danger. Too many bad things had been happening to the Windcrofts. To Tom's way of thinking, someone was hoping to drive the Windcrofts off their land.

Tom passed white fences and turned up the circle drive to the stone-facade house that held a welcoming front porch with rockers and pots of fall flowers. When he stepped out of his pickup, he leaned against it to wait for Rose. Staring at the long curving limbs of a nearby oak, Tom suspected the tree was as old as the anger between the two families. Uncle Lucas swore there was no one in the Devlin family fanning the fires of the feud, and Tom believed him.

The hundred-year-old Devlin-Windcroft feud had ignited over a poker game where Richard Windcroft lost half his land to a cheating Nick Devlin and then Windcroft supposedly murdered Devlin. At that time Jessamine Golden, Royal's most notorious outlaw, stole a treasure of gold and disappeared. When the mayor vanished, it was rumored she'd murdered him. Through the years legend indicated that the hidden treasure was on Windcroft land, and Tom knew his uncle thought that
speculation was behind all of the Windcrofts' recent trouble. Tom looked over the green acres and wondered where the treasure was hidden. His gaze swung back to the porch. If Jessamine Golden's treasure really did exist and was hidden on the Windcroft place, it could be anywhere—even beneath the house or barn.

BOOK: Highly Compromised Position
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