Authors: M.B. Buckner
by M.B. Buckner
All Rights Reserved
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to exceed 250 words embodied in book reviews.
The names of
people and places appearing in this book are products of the author’s
imagination and are not to be construed to represent any person living or dead in
any way. This book is a work of fiction and is intended to be used only for
the purpose of entertainment and is not to be exchanged, traded, shared, or
used by anyone other than the person who purchased the right to download it to
an electronic reading device.
This book is
dedicated to my wonderful family for their patience, support and love. To my
husband, Sonny, my best friend, my lover, my husband, the father of my children
and the one person I know I can count on for encouragement and understanding.
children; I’m so proud of you and hope you will always have the freedom to
spread your wings and fly.
And to my
sister Peggy; I love you and hope you don’t mind me borrowing the nickname I
stuck you with when I was a child. Like you, Poog, in the following story is a
warm, loving woman who knows that no one is perfect and loves without judgment
and without conditions.
Sweet Talking Cowboy
M. B. Buckner
Briann De Angelo stood looking out the window of the
hospital room, down at the paved parking lot five floors below where she stood.
The neat rows of multi-colored vehicles reminded her of the rows of flowers her
father planted in the field beside the highway, the spring before he died. Her
mother had been sick the entire winter and she’d been talking about how gray
everything looked. Briann knew he’d planted them to brighten her mother’s
days, but neither of them lived to see the flowers bloom. They’d died when a
drunk driver swerved into their lane of traffic coming home from a trip to the
doctor’s office. That had been almost fifteen years ago and it had been in
this same hospital she’d learned they hadn’t survived. Now, here she was again
waiting to have a doctor confirm information just as devastating.
The sun had been shining when she arrived here two hours
ago, but now clouds had darkened the sky and the first few drops of rain were
beginning to splatter atop the vibrant field of automobiles parked below in the
parking lot. A flash of anger and the sudden lurching of her heart were an
instant reaction as she recognized the familiar figure crossing the parking
lot, his long stride carrying him on starched, creased, Wrangler clad legs as
he tried to beat the rain and make it under the shelter of the hospital before
his grey felt Tony Lama western hat got wet. From a distance, not much had
changed about him. She’d pushed the pain of his betrayal out of her heart, but
all it took was a glimpse of him to resurrect that hurt. The hurt and the
Briann hadn’t thought she’d recognize him so easily, but there
was no doubt in her mind it was him. Glancing around, she wished for someplace
to hide, but a weak, gravelly voice behind her spoke her name. Uncle Mike was
awake! Briann pasted a smile on her face and turned to walk closer to the bed
where his shriveled body lay. He sounded so tired. The antiseptic smell of
the room had long since permeated her nostrils and as a result, she felt the
beginning of a headache. She hated the odor of hospitals, but in spite of that,
she was thankful for the relief Uncle Mike would receive while he was here.
“It’s time you woke up, sleepy head.” She jokingly scolded him
as she leaned over to place a kiss on his pale forehead.
“Where’s Poog?" he asked, his voice revealing how weak he
was. Briann cleared her throat, trying to get rid of the knot threatening to close
“Dr. Franks asked the preacher’s wife to take her home. She
looked exhausted and we don’t need her sick too.” She didn’t tell him Dr.
Franks had to promise Aunt Poog that Uncle Mike would be resting for the next
few hours before she agreed to leave. Aunt Poog was reluctant to go, even
though she’d been at his side since they’d admitted him to the hospital
“You look beautiful,” he said, lifting one hand to tug gently
at a strand of the dark brown hair that had worked its way free of severe knot
on the back of her head, and insisted on falling across her shoulder as she
continued to lean over him. “This must be bad….to get you down here….from Atlanta.”
Knitting her brows at him, her brown eyes sparkling with meticulously
restrained tears, she managed a weak smile. “I’ve been planning to come home
for a while, Uncle Mike. I put my place up for sale months ago, but you coming
to the hospital was just the excuse I needed to turn it over to a realtor and
come on home.”
A weak smile tilted the corners of his lips as he watched
her face with loving eyes. “Liar. I’m not afraid of……facing facts. I realize
better…….than Gerald Franks how fast my…….clock is ticking.” He paused to rest
for a minute before he continued. “I’m not afraid and…..I don’t mind going…. I
just hate leaving Poog……and you and Slade.”
Knowing he’d always hated any form of placating, she stroked
his cheek gently with one hand. “You know we’ll be fine. Listing my place in
Atlanta with a realtor was the best thing I’ve done in a long time. I’m home
to stay. It’s something I should have done a long time ago.”
He smiled, managing to nod his head weakly. “It’ll help Poog…
to have your little girl around… to keep her busy.” Finally he asked, “Have you
“Told Slade what?” A smooth baritone voice spoke from the
door and Briann’s face blanched; her heart lurched and threatened to close her
throat. She could hardly breathe.
Reading the truth on her panicked face, the old man
stretched out one weak hand toward the man who’d entered the room but ignored his
As the man approached the bed, Briann turned away and moved
back to the window, trying desperately to regain control of her seditious body.
After all this time, after his betrayal, she refused to allow any part of her,
heart, mind or body to find anything the least bit interesting about Slade
She couldn’t help hearing them talking softly in the background,
and occasionally felt the probing look of the man who now leaned over Uncle
Mike. She’d always known when Slade looked at her. It was like a physical
touch. She wasn’t sure how long she could stand rooted in place, undergoing that
caressing perusal. Then the gentle movement of air caught her attention as the
door whooshed open and Dr. Gerald Franks spoke her name.
She turned, a smile lifting the sides of her mouth, her
white teeth sparkling between her lips and walked across the room to almost
disappear in the hug of the large physician who’d known her all her life.
“Sweet Jesus!” he gasped, squeezing her tightly, “I couldn’t
imagine anyone getting any prettier than you were, but look at you! You take my
breath away!” He held her away from him and looked at her again. “I can’t
believe it! You look just like your mother when she was your age!”
Briann realized how her face had pinked and then became even
darker pink as Dr. Franks kept his arm around her, pulling her with him as he
stepped forward to greet big the man standing beside the bed.
“It’s good to see you too, Slade. Have you ever seen anybody
as gorgeous as this girl?” The doctor shook the swarthy hand, completely
unaware of the tension suddenly filling the room.
“Never have,” was the soft reply, and again Briann sensed his
eyes on her. She refused to look up at him, wishing she could avoid being
anywhere near him, but knowing under the circumstances that was not possible.
“Looks like…old home day,” Mike Hudson said from the bed, his
voice barely above a whisper. “Glad I.. I could bring about …. this little get-together.”
Now Gerald Franks became Dr. Franks and released Briann,
stepped past Slade Butler to the bedside of his patient. Once he finished a
brief examination of his patient, he turned and looked at the uncomfortable
couple behind him. “Could I get you two to step outside for a few minutes? My
nurse is coming in with a cart and we’re going to be busy here for a little bit.”
As he spoke, the door opened and the nurse arrived,
propelling a metal cart mounted with a large electronic medical device.
Briann walked quickly out the door, hoping to make it safely
to the ladies room down the hall, so maybe she could delay facing Slade
Butler. She barely avoided another cart being pushed by an orderly and dodged
a couple of people entering the hallway from another room right near Uncle Mike’s.
The bathroom was only a few steps away and she was sure if she slipped inside
she could stay there and avoid having to face Slade today, but she heard his
booted steps drawing closer.
Like a vise she felt a hand closing on her arm, just above her
elbow and the touch alone was enough to tell her it was him. She didn’t turn her
head, but tried to jerk her arm free, unsuccessfully. His steps brought him
even with her and when she would have ducked into the bathroom; his body
blocked her and propelled her on further down the hall. She felt helpless to
rid herself of his touch, but not because she was afraid of him. Briann had
never feared Slade, merely her own a response to him. Several people were
seated inside the first waiting room so he guided her on until he found another
one that appeared empty. He closed the door behind them, and released his grip
on her arm.
“Good to see you, Bri.” He said quietly. The words came
from his heart. He couldn’t imagine anyone else ever looking so good to him.
She ignored him and crossed the room to face the big window,
her back to him and the rest of the room. As she watched the falling rain
drops burst against the window pane, she heard his boots on the floor as he
moved around the small waiting room. In a minute he was at her elbow, a cup of
steaming black coffee extended to her. She hesitated for a minute, but the
smell was so good, she accepted it, making sure her fingers didn’t touch his in
“Thanks.” She muttered.
“When did you get here?” He asked, moving back to settle
into one of the straight-backed chairs that are a part of every waiting room in
every hospital in the country. There was so much more he wanted to ask her,
but he knew she was in flight or fight mode and didn’t want to make her feel
“A little while ago.” She didn’t turn as she spoke and kept
her back to him, but with the clouds having darkened the sky as dark as night;
she found it hard to ignore his reflection in the window. He looked a little
older, a bit harder, but every bit as strong physically as he’d ever been and unfortunately,
still as attractive. She was so afraid he’d ask questions she wasn’t prepared
for, she decided to steer the conversation away from her. “How’s your dad?”
“Hank’s still Hank. I doubt he’ll ever change. Tanya’s keepin’
him busy travelin’ and when they’re home, it’s at a condo over on Jacksonville
Beach. Jeffery married a woman just like his mother and has his headquarters
in downtown Jacksonville now. He’s very successful. Hank comes out to the
ranch a couple of times a month to make sure I’m not lettin’ the place get run-down.
And just to help me remember my place, I suppose, Tanya shows up at the house
occasionally. I think she wants to make sure I don’t move in there, as if she’d
ever have to worry about that.” His voice still had the distinctive, Texas
drawl that had always set him apart from everyone else, even here in North
Florida, where the locals had their own drawl.