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Authors: Diana Palmer

To Wear His Ring

BOOK: To Wear His Ring
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A rugged tycoon, a formidable single dad and a world-weary bachelor…

Extraordinary men deserve special women…

To Wear His Ring

Three dangerously attractive heroes from three favourite authors!

To Wear His Ring

International bestselling author

Diana Palmer
Jan Colley
Wendy Warren

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Circle of Gold

By

Diana Palmer

DIANA PALMER
has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humour. With over forty million copies of her books in print, she is one of North America’s most loved authors and considered one of the top ten romance authors in America.

Diana’s hobbies include gardening, archaeology, anthropology, iguanas, astronomy and music. She has been married to James Kyle for over twenty-five years and they have one son.

Look for a new novel from Diana Palmer,
The Maverick
, in December 2010 in Desire™.

Chapter One

K
asie Mayfield was excited. Her gray eyes were brimming with delight as she sat in the sprawling living room at the Double C Ranch in Medicine Ridge, Montana. There was a secretarial position available on the mammoth Double C, and she had the necessary qualifications. She was only twenty-two, but she had a certificate from secretarial school and plenty of initiative. Besides all that, the position was secretary to John Callister, the second son of the well-known family that headed not only a publishing empire in New York City, but a cattle empire out West.

There was a very interesting story about the ranch in a magazine that Kasie was reading while she waited her turn to be interviewed. The elder Callisters lived in New York, where they published, among others, a famous sports magazine. When they weren’t in the city, they lived in Jamaica on an ancestral estate. The Callister who had founded the American branch
of the family had been a British duke. He bought an obscure little magazine in New York City in 1897 and turned it into a publishing conglomerate. One of his sons had emigrated to Montana and founded the ranch. It eventually passed to Douglas Callister, who had raised the boys, Gilbert and John. Nobody talked about why the uncle had been given custody of both boys and left them the ranch when he died. Presumably it was some dark family secret. Apparently there wasn’t a lot of contact between the boys and their parents.

Gilbert, the eldest at thirty-two, had been widowed three years ago. He had two young daughters, Bess, who was five, and Jenny, who was four. John had never married. He was a rodeo champion and did most of the traveling that accompanied showing the ranch’s prizewinning pedigree black Angus bulls. Gil was the power in the empire. He was something of a marketing genius, and he dealt with the export business and sat on the boards of two multinational corporations. But mostly he ran the ranch, all thirty thousand acres of it.

There was a photograph of him in the magazine, but she didn’t need it to know what he looked like. Kasie had gotten a glimpse of him on her way into the house to wait for her turn to be interviewed. One glimpse had been enough. It shocked her that a man who didn’t even know her should glare at her so intently.

A more conceited woman might have taken it for masculine interest. But Kasie had no ego. No, that tall, lanky blond man hadn’t liked her, and made no secret of it. His pale blue eyes under that heavy brow
had pierced her skin. She wouldn’t get the job. He’d make sure of it.

She glanced at the woman next to her, a glorious blonde with big brown eyes and beautiful legs crossed under a thigh-high skirt. Then she looked at her own ankle-length blue jumper with a simple gray blouse that matched her big eyes. Her chestnut hair was in a long braid down her back. She wore only a little lipstick on her full, soft mouth, and no rouge at all on her cheeks. She had a rather ordinary oval face and a small, rounded chin, and she wore contact lenses. She wasn’t at all pretty. She had a nice figure, but she was shy and didn’t make the most of it. It was just as well that she had good office skills, she supposed, because it was highly unlikely that anybody would ever want to actually marry her. She thought of her parents and her brother and had to fight down tears. It was so soon. Too soon, probably. But the job might keep her from thinking of what had happened…

“Miss Mayfield!”

She jumped as her name was called in a deep, authoritative tone. “Yes?”

“Come in, please.”

She put a smile on her face as she clutched her small purse in her hands and walked into the paneled office, where plaques and photos of bulls lined the walls and burgundy leather furniture surrounded the big mahogany desk. A man was sitting there, with his pale eyes piercing and intent. A blond man with broad shoulders and a hard, lean face that seemed to be all rocky edges. It was not John Callister.

She stopped in front of the desk with her heart pounding and didn’t bother to sit down. Gil Callister was obviously doing the interviews, and now she was
sure she wouldn’t get the job. She knew John Callister from the drugstore where she’d worked briefly as a stock clerk putting herself through secretarial courses. John had talked to her, teased her and even told her about the secretarial job. He’d have given her a chance. Gil would just shoot her out the door. It was obvious that he didn’t like anything about her.

He tossed a pen onto the desk and nodded toward the chair facing it. “Sit down.”

She felt vulnerable. The door was closed. Here she was with a hungry tiger, and no way out. But she sat anyway. Never let it be said that she lacked courage. They could throw her into the arena and she would die like a true Roman…She shook herself. She really had to stop reading the Plinys and Tacitus. This was the new millennium, not the first century A.D.

“Why do you want this job?” Gil asked bluntly.

Her thin eyebrows lifted. She hadn’t expected the question. “Because John is a dish?” she ventured dryly.

The answer seemed to surprise him. “Is he?”

“When I worked at the drugstore, he was always kind to me,” she said evasively. “He told me about the job, because he knew I was just finishing my secretarial certificate at the vocational-technical school. I got high grades, too.”

Gil pursed his lips. He still didn’t smile. He looked down at the résumé she’d handed him and read it carefully, as if he was looking for a deficiency he could use to deny her the job. His mouth made a thin line. “Very high grades,” he conceded with obvious reluctance. “This is accurate? You really can type 110 words a minute?”

She nodded. “I can type faster than I can take dictation, actually.”

He pushed the résumé aside and leaned back. “Boyfriends?”

She was nonplussed. Her fingers tightened on her purse. “Sir?”

“I want to know if you have any entanglements that might cause you to give up the job in the near future,” he persisted, and seemed oddly intent on the reply.

She shifted restlessly. “I’ve only ever had one real boyfriend, although he was more like a brother. He married my best friend two months ago. That was just before I moved to Billings,” she added, mentioning the nearby city, “to live with my aunt. So, I don’t date much.”

She was so uncomfortable that she almost squirmed. He didn’t know about her background, of course, or he wouldn’t need to ask such questions. Modern women were a lot more worldly than Kasie. But she’d said that John was a dish. She flushed. Good grief, did he think she went around seducing men or something? Was that why he didn’t want her in his house? Her expression was mortified.

He averted his eyes. “You have some odd character references,” he said after a minute, frowning at them. “A Catholic priest, a nun, a Texas Ranger and a self-made millionaire with alleged mob ties.”

She only smiled demurely. “I have unique friendships.”

“You could put it that way,” he said, diverted. “Is the millionaire your lover?”

She went scarlet and her jaw dropped.

“Oh, hell, never mind,” he said, apparently disturbed
that he’d asked the question and uncomfortable at the reaction it drew. “That’s none of my business. All right, Kasie…” He hesitated. “Kasie. What’s it short for?”

“I don’t know,” she blurted out. “It’s my actual name.”

One eye narrowed. “The millionaire’s name is K.C.,” he pointed out. “And he’s at least forty.”

“Thirty-seven. He saved my mother’s life, while she was carrying me,” she said finally. “He wasn’t always a millionaire.”

“Yes, I know, he was a professional soldier, a mercenary.” His eyes narrowed even more. “Want to tell me about it?”

“Not really, no,” she confided.

He shook his head. “Well, if nothing else, you’ll be efficient. You’re also less of a distraction than the rest of them. There’s nothing I hate more than a woman who wears a skirt up to her briefs to work and then complains when men stare at her if she bends over. We have dress codes at our businesses and they’re enforced—for both sexes.”

“I don’t have any skirts that come up to my…well, I don’t wear short ones,” she blurted out.

“So I noticed,” he said with a deliberate glance at her long dress.

She fumbled with her purse while he went over the résumé one last time. “All right, Kasie, you can start Monday at eight-thirty. Did John tell you that the job requires you to live here?”

“No!”

His eyebrows arched. “Not in his room, of course,” he added just to irritate her, and then looked satisfied when she blushed. “Miss Parsons, who has
charge of my daughters, lives in. So does Mrs. Charters who does the cooking and housekeeping. We have other part-time help that comes infrequently. Board and meals are provided by us, in addition to your salary.” He named a figure that made Kasie want to hold on to something. It was astronomical compared to what she’d made working at the drugstore part-time. “You’ll be a private secretary,” he added. “That means you may have to travel with us from time to time.”

“Travel?” Her face softened.

“Do you like to travel?” he asked.

“Oh, yes. I loved it when I was little.”

She wondered by the look he gave her if he assumed that her parents had been wealthy. He could not know, of course, that they were both deceased.

“Do you want the job?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“All right. I’ll tell the others they can leave.” He got to his feet, elegant and lithe, moving with a grace that was unequaled in Kasie’s circle of acquaintances. He opened the office door, thanked the other young women for coming and told them that the position had been filled. There was a shuffle of feet, some murmuring, and the front door closed.

“Come on, Kasie,” Gil said. “I’ll introduce you to…”

“Daddy!” came a wail from the end of the hall. A little girl with disheveled long blond hair came running and threw herself at Gil, sobbing.

He picked her up, and his whole demeanor changed. “What is it, baby?” he asked in the most tender tone Kasie had ever heard. “What’s wrong?”

“Me and Jenny was playing with our dollies on the
deck and that bad dog came up on the porch and he tried to bite us!”

“Where’s Jenny?” he demanded, immediately threatening.

A sobbing little voice answered him as the younger girl came toddling down the hall rubbing her eyes with dirty little fists. She reached up to Gil, and he picked her up, too, oblivious to her soiled dress and hands.

“Nothing’s going to hurt my babies. Did the dog bite either of you?” Gil demanded.

“No, Daddy,” Bess said.

“Bad doggie!” Jenny sobbed. “Make him go away!”

“Of course I will!” Gil said roughly, kissing little cheeks with a tenderness that made Kasie’s heart ache.

A door opened and John Callister came down the hall, looking very unlike the friendly man Kasie knew from the drugstore. His pale eyes were glittering in his lean, dark face, and he looked murderous.

“Are they all right?” he asked Gil, pausing to touch the girls’ hair. “It was that mangy cur that Fred Sims insisted on bringing with him when he hired on. I got between it and the girls and it tried to bite me, too. I called Sims up to the house and told him to get rid of it and he won’t, so he’s fired.”

“Here.” Gil handed his girls to his brother and started down the hall with quick, measured steps.

John stared after him. “Maybe Sims will make it to his truck before Gil gets him,” he murmured. “But I wouldn’t bet on it. Are my babies all right?” he asked, kissing their little damp cheeks as the girls clung to either shoulder.

“Bad old doggie,” Bess sobbed. “Our Missie never bites people!”

“Missie’s a toy collie,” John explained to a silent Kasie with a smile. “She lives indoors. Nothing like that vicious dog Sims keeps. We’ve had trouble from it before, but Sims was so good with horses that we put up with it. Not any more. We can’t let it endanger the girls.”

“If it would come right up on the porch and try to bite them, it doesn’t need to be around children,” Kasie agreed.

The girls looked at her curiously.

“Who are you?” Bess asked.

“I’m Kasie,” she replied with a smile. “Who are you?”

“I’m Bess,” the child replied. “That’s Jenny. She’s just four,” she added, indicating the smaller child, whose hair was medium-length and more light brown than blond.

“I’m very glad to meet you both,” Kasie said, smiling warmly. “I’m going to be Mr. Callister’s secretary,” she added with an apologetic glance at John. “Sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” John asked amusedly. “I only flog secretaries during full moons.”

Her eyes crinkled with merriment and she grinned.

“Gil won’t let me hire secretaries because I have such a bad track record,” John confessed. “The last one turned out to be a jewel thief. You, uh, don’t like jewels?” he added deliberately.

She chuckled. “Only costume jewelry. And unless you wear it, we shouldn’t have a problem.”

There was a commotion outside and John grimaced. “He’ll come back in bleeding, as usual,” he
muttered. “I just glare at people. Gil hits.” He gave Kasie a wicked grin. “Sometimes he hits me, too.”

The girls giggled. “Oh, Uncle Johnny,” Bess teased, “Daddy never hits you! He won’t even hit us. He says little children shouldn’t be hitted.”

“Hit,” Kasie corrected absently.

“Hit,” Bess parroted, and grinned. “You’re nice.”

“You’re nice, too, precious,” Kasie said, reaching out to smooth back the disheveled hair. “You’ve got tangles.”

“Can you make my hair like yours?” Bess asked, eyeing Kasie’s braid. “And tie it with a pink ribbon?”

The opening of the back door stopped the conversation dead. Gil came back in with his shirt and jeans dusty and a cut at the corner of his mouth. As he came closer, wiping away the blood, his bruised and lacerated knuckles became visible.

“So much for that little problem,” he said with cold satisfaction. His eyes were still glittery with temper until he looked at the little girls. The anger drained out of him and he smiled. “Dirty chicks,” he chided. “Go get Miss Parsons to clean you up.”

John put them down and Bess looked up at her father accusingly. “Miss Parsons don’t like little kids.”

BOOK: To Wear His Ring
8.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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