Read MM03 - Saturday Mornings Online

Authors: Peggy Webb

Tags: #the Donovans of the Delta, #the Mississippi McGills series, #bad boy heroes, #humor, #romantic comedy, #small-town romance, #Southern authors, #romance ebooks, #romance, #Peggy Webb backlist, #Peggy Webb romance, #classic romance, #comedy, #contemporary romance

MM03 - Saturday Mornings

BOOK: MM03 - Saturday Mornings
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Saturday Mornings

 

(The Mississippi McGills, Book Three)

Peggy Webb

 

 

Copyright 2012 by Peggy Webb

Cover art copyright 2012 by Kim Van Meter

Publishing History/Bantam Loveswept/Copyright  1990 by Peggy Webb

 

 

Prologue

“Margaret Leigh, this poodle wet the rug again.”

Margaret Leigh put her purse on the hall table, hung her blazer in the hall closet, and carefully tucked a stray wisp of hair back into her French twist. She smoothed down her skirt—the good navy-blue one she'd bought on sale last year—and turned to face her Aunt Bertha who was descending the stairs.

Aunt Bertha wasn't merely coming down the stairs. She was floating along on a wave of White Shoulders perfume and yellowing lace and pink chiffon, Aunt Bertha's signature color. Sometimes Margaret Leigh got so tired of pink she wanted to scream. She never did, of course. Ladies didn't scream. They politely endured. And if there was one thing Margaret Leigh was, it was a lady.

She sighed. Sometimes she wished she had the courage to cuss. “I’ll clean it up. Aunt Bertha. I'm sure Christine didn't mean to make a mess.”

“She most assuredly did. That poodle peed on the rug deliberately. She's been misbehaving ever since I came for my little visit.”

Margaret Leigh rolled her eyes. Aunt Bertha's
little
visit. She'd come to Tupelo the previous April to find an apartment and to get away from the cold, damp weather in Chicago, where she'd been staying with Margaret Leigh's sister Tess. Now it was October, and Aunt Bertha was still in Margaret Leigh's house.

Of course, Margaret Leigh wouldn't dare complain. She'd been taught family loyalty, and family loyalty meant taking care of homeless maiden aunts, especially one who had practically raised her. Sometimes, though, she wished she had a little less loyalty and a little more backbone. Like Tess. Tess always said what she thought.

“Poodles are a nervous breed, Aunt Bertha. Christine will settle down in time.”

Aunt Bertha was at the foot of the stairs now, panting and wheezing.

“Are you all right, Aunt Bertha?”

“Just let me catch my breath a minute.” Bertha put a dimpled, bejeweled hand over her breast and sighed dramatically. “If I die tomorrow, all this will be yours, Margaret Leigh.” She held out her hand so her fake diamonds would flash in the late-afternoon sun.

Margaret Leigh smothered a laugh. Aunt Bertha had been threatening to die for twenty years. Everybody in the family coddled her, pretending that both her diamonds and her aches and pains were real.

“Do you want to see a doctor, Aunt Bertha?”

“No, dear. I just need relief from that poodle of yours, and so I’ve made a few little arrangements.”

“What arrangements?”

“I’ve engaged a dog trainer for Christine. And not just any old trainer, a genuine dog whisperer.”

Margaret Leigh drew a big breath in anticipation of dealing with Aunt Bertha's latest effort at meddling. “That was… kind of you, Aunt Bertha, but I can't afford a dog trainer.”

“Nonsense. A smart girl like you, making her way up the ladder of success at the library. You can't afford not to have a professional dog whisperer. A woman bent on making something of herself can't have a dog that doesn't know how to behave in polite society.”

“Number one, at thirty-two I'm hardly a girl. And number two, I'm not sure cataloguing books is making my way up the ladder of success. And even if it is, I can't see how making something of myself has anything to do with Christine's manners.”

“She wets rugs, Margaret Leigh. And that's all there is to it. Now, I've already taken care of everything. You’re supposed to take Christine tomorrow.”

Margaret Leigh knew she'd been out-maneuvered, but she felt obliged to make at least a token protest. After all, she had her pride, even if it was always sitting on the backseat behind her manners.

“But tomorrow's Saturday. The trainer probably doesn't work on Saturday.”

“I did some investigating. He hardly works at all unless he absolutely has to—not the kind of man I'd want any of my family consorting with under ordinary circumstances. But they say he's good. The best dog whisperer in the country.”

“I had planned to rake leaves tomorrow.”

Aunt Bertha's face crumpled and both her chins trembled. “Of course, if you'd rather not, by all means, don’t go. I know when all my hard work is not appreciated.”

Stricken with guilt, Margaret Leigh patted her hand. “I'm sure you worked very hard, Aunt Bertha, and I do appreciate it.”

“Well, don’t do anything you don’t want on my account. I’ll survive. Dog pee and all.”

“I suppose it won't hurt to talk to him.”

“Oh, goodie!” Aunt Bertha clapped her hands like a little girl. “I just know he’ll make a new woman of Christine.”

The old Christine was all right with Margaret Leigh, but she didn't say so. Keeping the peace was what she did best.

“You always have my best interests at heart, Aunt Bertha. I’ll go tomorrow. After all, what can one little visit hurt?”

 

Chapter One

Andrew McGill loved Saturday mornings. He hung one long leg over the side of his hammock and pushed, setting the swing back into motion. Dry leaves crunched under his foot. Folding his hands behind his head, he listened to the music of autumn—wind soughing through the trees, quail calling to one another in the nearby fields, and his bird dogs baying in the backyard. The sky was so bright and shiny, it looked as if it had been scrubbed by industrious angels.

He sighed, content. Just give him an old pair of blue jeans, a few good bird dogs, and a lazy Saturday morning. What more could a man want?

The sun warmed his face, and he dozed for a while.

It was the barking that woke him up. Although his dogs had been baying when he'd gone to sleep, there was a new tremor in their voices, an edge of excitement that penetrated his sleep and brought him fully alert. Without getting up he swiveled his head and surveyed his surroundings.

Everything looked the same—the log cabin with its blue chintz curtains, compliments of his sister Jo Beth; his old faithful Ford pickup, and his do-it-yourself flower bed, abloom with bronze chysanthemums that made him think of football games and soggy hotdogs and bands playing too loud.

Then he saw the car. He couldn't believe his eyes. It was a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. He hadn't seen one of those in eighteen years. He shaded his eyes against the sun and watched the car rattle and bang its way down the dusty lane toward his cabin. The driver looker like a woman, but at a distance he couldn't tell.

He lay in his hammock, biding his time. He hadn't counted on company this Saturday morning, friends or otherwise, but he didn't mind the interruption. He would either send them scooting on their way so he could get back to his nap, or he would invite them to stay for a root beer.

The little car came to a sputtering halt beside his truck, and out stepped a tall woman. The next thing he noticed was the way she walked, regal, like a queen, but a bit stiff in the legs and back as if she weren't quite at ease. He grinned. She probably wasn't. His home was a shock to most women.

The woman paused in front of his cabin, eyeing it with the mortified look of a committee member on a mission of beautification. That was all he needed to ruin his Saturday morning—a do-gooder out to reform him. He closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep.

o0o

Margaret Leigh got over the shock of his cabin—it wasn't even painted, for goodness' sake—and plumped up her nerve enough to approach the man in the hammock. She tightened her hold on Christine, letting the familiar, warm body of the little poodle give her courage.

The man was sprawled every which way, one arm flung backward over his head, one hanging off the side of the hammock, and his legs spread-eagled in total relaxation. He was tall and blond, and every inch of flesh showing was deeply tanned. She'd bet a penny he slept naked in the sun.

Her breath sucked in a little at the thought. Aunt Bertha had warned her about such men. Beer-drinking scoundrels who would never amount to a hill of beans. She would have thought the advice hopelessly old-fashioned if it hadn't proven to be true. The few Jones women who had had the misfortune of linking their fate with such a man had lived to rue the day. Her own sister was one of them.

As she stood watching the man, she felt a bead of sweat inch down the side of her face. A fly buzzed around her head, then finally settled on the man's right thigh. She watched in fascination as the fly marched across the tight jeans. A lump formed in her throat, and she discreetly cleared it.

“I don't bite except on Wednesdays.”

Margaret Leigh jumped at the sound of the deep voice. Her gaze left the fly and flew to the man's face. It was crinkled with laughter.

“You startled me.” She felt the heat of a flush on her cheeks.

“Are you real, or am I still asleep?” The man put his hands behind his head, hung one foot over the hammock and set the swing into motion again. Since she'd already ruined his nap, he decided he might as well have a little fun. “Only good girls blush. Are you a good girl?”

“Dear me.” She fanned her face. “It's too hot for October.”

“It's too hot for anything, even lovemaking.”

“Goodness gracious.” Margaret Leigh took a step backward. She could spot a scoundrel every time. They were interested in nothing except a woman's body.

Andrew McGill held back his chuckle. Keeping a serious face, he continued his outrageous behavior.

“Have you ever made love in a hammock?”

Her deepened color was his reward. Women nowadays didn’t blush. Who was she, this old fashioned woman with the body to die for?

“No, I guess not. You probably prefer cool white sheets and a four-poster. I'll bet you even wait until dark.”

“My private life is none of your affair.”

It was the first flash of spunk Andrew had seen. He was a bit relieved. He'd hate to be making mincemeat of a timid woman.

“The thing about making love after dark is that you have to do it mostly by feel. I prefer to see my lovers, don't you?”

The woman clutched her poodle closer to her chest and spun around. For a minute he thought she was going to leave. Then she whirled back, her cheeks rosy and her eyes blazing.

“If you would be so kind as to tell me how to find the dog trainer, I'll be happy to leave you to your lewd and lascivious remarks.”

Andrew roared with laughter. The hammock rocked so hard with his mirth that when he sat up, he almost toppled out.

“I've been called many things, but never lewd and lascivious.”

“If the shoe fits, wear it.”

“It pinches a little.” Andrew stood up, but he didn't offer his hand. He was certain she wouldn't touch him, tarnished as he was. “Andrew McGill, at your service. Dog trainer extraordinaire.”

“Good grief!”

“You could say that, too, I suppose, although most grief I’ve come across is not too good.”

He was laughing again. Margaret Leigh had never seen a man who talked such foolishness and laughed while he was doing it. It only confirmed her first impression. He might be the country's best dog trainer, but he was first and foremost a scoundrel. Only her desire to keep the peace with Aunt Bertha made her stay.

“Aunt Bertha warned me that you were not the sort of man I'd want to consort with.”

“Consort!” He laughed even harder. “Good Lord, woman, you call this consorting?” He reached out and ran his hand down the side of her flushed cheek. “I call
this
consorting.”

Her cheek felt so soft and downy, he decided to do it again. So he did.

She stepped back. “A gentleman would never touch a lady without her permission.”

“I'm no gentlemen.”

“You're a scoundrel.”

“Most likely.”

“And I wouldn't still be standing here if it weren't for Christine.”

“Another moralistic aunt?”

“My dog.”

Andrew looked over the quivering little animal in her arms. “Sorry. I don't train poodles.”

“It's just as well. I wouldn't have wanted to leave her with you anyhow. She's nervous around strangers.”

Andrew never could resist a challenge. He plucked the little poodle from her arms. With firm, sure strokes and soft, soothing words, he calmed Christine.

Margaret Leigh nearly fainted when the poodle licked his hand. Good grief, even her dog was bent on betrayal.

“Animals are like women: they respond to a master's touch.” Andrew winked at her.

“They said you were good with animals—”

“And women.”

“—that's why I came to you.”

“You did?”

She blushed again. “Because of Christine... and her problem.”

He waited for her to elaborate. When she didn't, he prompted her. “You said Christine has a problem.”

“It's her manners. She forgets them from time to time.”

“She uses a spoon instead of a fork?”

“No. She...” Margaret Leigh paused. She'd never discussed things of an intimate nature with a man. She'd never even had a chance, what with nursing her sick father for six years and then taking care of whichever maiden aunt and down-on-her-luck cousin happened to come along. “She wets the rug, but only since my Aunt Bertha came to stay with us. Frankly, I think Christine is just a little jealous, and this is her way of vying for my attention. It's probably a passing thing, and she’ll get over it in time.”

BOOK: MM03 - Saturday Mornings
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