Read Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series Online

Authors: Corrissa James

Tags: #Contemporary Western Romance

Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series (6 page)

BOOK: Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series
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When she saw the mess they’d left in the kitchen the night before, she panicked. She despised a messy kitchen, and all her brothers knew it. One look and Andrew would know something happened last night. She spun around and walked back toward the living room just as Andrew was moving to follow her into the kitchen. She pushed past him and was about to head to her bedroom when she realized that Andrew would follow her there too. For some reason she didn’t want her brother seeing her disheveled bed, where she and Tate had reveled in each other’s passion. She turned back to look at Andrew, unable to stop the flush to her neck and face.

“Aw, I think it’s kinda cute. Susannah and Tate, sitting in a tree...”

“Andrew, enough. I do not have a crush on Tate. He’s like a brother to me. Thinking of him in that way is just...ew!” She shuddered to add to the effect.

Andrew laughed, then shrugged. “Sorry, man.”

But he wasn’t speaking to Susannah anymore. He was looking over her shoulder. She froze, afraid to turn around and see Tate standing right behind her. How much had he heard?

Andrew pushed past her to clasp Tate on the shoulder. “Although I do think maybe she’s protesting too much.”

The icy silence Tate gave Susannah made her want to scream. It wasn’t fair! They’d had such a wonderful night, and she really thought there might be something more between them, even if maybe that was just her schoolgirl crush coming back to the forefront. Still, she had a right to find out, didn’t she? And now Andrew was ruining it all. She gritted her teeth and kept silent. She knew Andrew too well, though. He was always itching for a fight, and even the hint that Tate had taken advantage of her in any way would send fists flying. Andrew wouldn’t care that Tate was the sheriff. If anything, that would just add fuel to his fire.

“Why don’t you give me a ride to my car.” Tate spoke to Andrew coolly, as if this were any ordinary situation. But as Andrew made his way toward the door, Susannah sneaked a glance at Tate. The anger in his glare made her blood run cold, and she reached for the back of a nearby chair for support. The two men stepped through the door. When Tate turned to close it behind him, he gave Susannah one last long look.

She stared back at him, letting the thoughts of the night before well up inside, hoping that she was conveying to him just how much she still wanted him. She took a step forward, wanting to touch him again, to feel his kisses on her skin. He let his gaze travel up and down her body, as if making love to her with his eyes. She shuddered in excitement, but when their eyes finally met once again, he frowned and slammed the door shut, leaving Susannah to wonder about his parting look, so full of hate and fury.

Chapter Ten

 

In the twenty minutes it took for Andrew to drive Tate to his SUV back at the ranch, there was not a moment of silence. Andrew took it upon himself to catch Tate up on all the boys they grew up with. Tate let him ramble, occasionally adding a detail or asking about someone specifically. It didn’t seem to register with Andrew that Tate had already been back in the area for several months. He also didn’t seem to understand that he was implicating himself in about a dozen misdemeanors as he spoke. Or he didn’t care. Tate thought it was more of the latter.

Tate didn’t like Andrew. He never had. Even in their youth Andrew had been a troublemaker, and Lucas had dragged Tate along on multiple outings that involved saving Andrew from yet another mess. More than once Tate had told Lucas to let the younger Clark fend for himself. Maybe if he didn’t have his older brother always stepping in to save him he’d quit instigating trouble. But Lucas was quick to explain away Andrew’s problems, dismissing them as growing pains or Andrew trying to grow into his own.

As Andrew turned down the lane to Dalton James’ ranch, Tate clenched his fists. Lucas could forgive Andrew for every possible indiscretion, even when he knew Andrew was at fault, but he refused to even consider that Tate was innocent of the charges leveled against him by Mary Ellen. And now those same charges were affecting whatever he might have with Annie—if there even was anything between them. Had it all been an act? She’d said something about messing with the neighbors when Andrew had arrived that morning. Had the brothers intentionally stranded him at the farm with their little sister, who then charmed him with her feminine wiles? The more he considered it, the more he convinced himself that he had been set up by the Clarks, putting him in a precarious position that would prevent him from carrying out his duties as sheriff.

Tate decided it was time to make some changes. He’d prove to Annie and Lucas that he was not some play toy.

Andrew stopped his truck next to the sheriff’s SUV, but Tate made no move to get out.

“So your sister tells me you all have had quite the struggle going on with your neighbors here.”

“Who, him? Nah.” Andrew shook his head and laughed. “Now his sister—she’s a different story.”

“Miranda James, you mean?”

“Yeah, she fancies herself some kind of cattle baroness.”

Tate looked at the two-story farmhouse. He knew that the land extended for more than a thousand acres behind it. “I heard they were building a horse ranch.”

“Miranda runs the land on the other side of us, to the north of our land and your daddy’s land.”

“You mean by that old watering hole?”

Andrew frowned. “Exactly. She thinks she can just take our herd’s stragglers for herself.”

Tate eyed Andrew for a moment. “Want me to talk to her? Put the fear of the law into her?”

“Don’t bother.”

“If you change your mind...” Tate shrugged, sharing a look that he hoped said he was on Andrew’s side.

“Thanks, man, but we got it handled.”

Tate waited, but Andrew didn’t elaborate. He knew Andrew was a braggart. It was just a matter of finding the right trigger. Tate glanced out the window again. “Huh. New to the area and already acting as if they own the place.”

“Don’t worry. They won’t be here long. We’re making sure of that.”

Tate hid his smile as he turned back to Andrew. “Let’s you and me have a little talk. Down at the station.”

 

 

Tate deposited a red-faced Andrew in the county holding cell, ignoring his demands to be set free. The sheriff was having a hard time keeping the smile from his face. “Don’t worry. I’ll let your family know.” He wouldn’t be able to keep Andrew for long, not based on what he’d told the sheriff so far, but it still felt good to close the cell door and see Andrew’s face turn an ever deeper red.

“I still get a phone call.”

“And I’ll make sure to send a deputy back as soon as one is free,” Tate called over his shoulder as he headed back to the office area. He stopped at one of the deputy’s desks. Terry Kruse had only been on the job for a few weeks, and Tate was going to use his lack of experience to ensure that they could get enough evidence to put Andrew away for a while.

“In twenty minutes, I want you to call Lucas Clark to let him know his brother’s been arrested.”

Deputy Kruse looked up at Tate and nodded.

Tate started to walk on, then stopped. “Don’t tell him the charges, though.”

“Sir?”

“Just tell him that you’re calling as a courtesy call. And speak only to Lucas.”

“But–”

“Just a little friendly advice, Kruse.” Tate slapped him on the shoulder. “Of course, if you want to waste your time and get an earful from one of the other brothers, that’s your choice. Personally, I prefer to deal with people who won’t talk back.”

Kruse nodded in understanding.

“Remember, twenty minutes.”

“And what about Clark’s phone call?”

“We haven’t officially arrested him. Yet.” Tate glanced back at the door leading to the holding cells where Andrew was still yelling. “He’ll get bored soon enough.”

Twenty minutes later, Tate and another deputy were parked in the sheriff’s SUV down the road a bit from the lane to the Clark homestead. They didn’t have to wait long for Susannah’s truck to whip out of the lane. Tate could make out Lucas’s hulking figure in the passenger seat. He smiled. Just as he expected.

He made a quick call to deputy Kruse, telling him not to let anyone speak to Andrew Clark until he returned. As an afterthought, he added, “And don’t let them know I’m not there. Let them think I’m in the building somewhere.”

“You want me to lie, sir?”

“No, no. Nothing like that. Just ask them to wait and don’t volunteer any info.”

Tate wasn’t normally a vindictive man, but he certainly was enjoying the idea of making Lucas and his sister feel as foolish as they had made him feel.

Chapter Eleven

 

Susannah was fuming when the deputy finally told them that Tate was not in the building after all and they’d have to come back the next morning to speak to Andrew. Her anger was sent over the edge when she and Lucas finally got home and realized that, while they’d been sitting at the courthouse, Tate had come to the farm and arrested Daniel and Jonathan. She had known Tate would be able to handle her brothers. She just hadn’t realized that he’d be handling her in the process. Sunday morning they were at the sheriff’s office by nine o’clock, but Tate was still making himself scarce. The same deputy nervously informed them that charges had been filed against all three brothers for vandalism and destruction of property. Their arraignment was scheduled for late Monday morning.

Tate hadn’t been in the courtroom either, instead sending a deputy to handle her brothers’ arraignment. Susannah was convinced that he had coordinated their arraignment to fall to Judge Winthrop, who had a long history with the Clark brothers but had never been able to put them away for anything. The vandalism charge was all he needed, and he held them over without bail until the trial, which would take place the following week as the judge was anxious to put them away before his summer vacation. Susannah had stormed out of the courtroom, more furious that Tate was clearly avoiding her than the fact that her brothers were sitting in jail. They deserved their punishment; she didn’t.

When they left the courthouse, she and Lucas drove straight to Dalton James’ ranch. Luckily, both he and his wife Trish were willing to talk to her, which didn’t surprise Susannah. She had saved their lives, even if her brothers had been the ones vandalizing their fencing. She sat with them on their wraparound porch, drinking lemonade while Lucas sat in Susannah’s truck. The whole scene seemed surreal, too elegant and refined for what she had to discuss with them. She didn’t know where to start, so she just stared at her lemonade.

“I’m going to take him some lemonade.” Trish was making her way down the steps before Susannah could stop her.

Dalton noted Susannah’s apprehension. “Don’t worry. She’ll just pepper him with questions, but nothing more than boring pleasantries.”

Susannah winced. “I’m afraid she won’t get very far.”

“Oh, my wife is as tenacious as they come.”

She looked at how Dalton watched Trish, a secret smile tugging at his lips. She felt a pang of regret as an image of Tate’s stoic face came to mind. She shook her head, pushing the image from her mind. “Lucas doesn’t talk.”

Dalton glanced at her. “Seriously, my wife doesn’t give up.”

“Almost a decade now.” Susannah stared down at her lemonade.

They sat in silence for several moments before Susannah continued.

“He went to Afghanistan and everything was fine. He came home to a dead wife and a newborn daughter and hasn’t said a word since. Except to Jenny, his daughter. But even that’s in private.”

Dalton reached out to squeeze her hand. She looked up at him, and he nodded toward the truck. Trish was leading Lucas to the riding ring, where Dalton’s prized stallion waited for them, pawing the ground. Lucas held out a hand, and the stallion nuzzled it, moving closer until Lucas could rub his head. Susannah smiled.

Dalton looked at Susannah out of the corner of his eye. “Cyrus judges people better than anyone I know.”

“Lucas has always had a gift with animals. He’s worked miracles on our farm. I swear, he reacts to a stampede before the cattle even know it’s happening.”

“So it’s not just horses that he can work his magic on?”

Susannah laughed. “No, but horses are his first love.”

They fell into silence again, watching Lucas and Trish as they moved into the ring. Moments later, Lucas was on Cyrus’s back. Trish threw open the gate and Lucas took off through the field, giving Cyrus just enough rein that the horse felt free while still being under Lucas’s control. Dalton whistled in appreciation.

“Just what I was thinking,” Trish said, walking back toward the porch. “I think I found our new hired hand.”

“No, you can’t!” Susannah blurted.

Dalton and Trish both looked at Susannah.

“I mean—oh, that didn’t come out right.” She fumbled to set her lemonade down, sloshing the liquid over the side and down her pants. “It’s just, well, our farm—I can’t work it by myself, and it’s going to be bad enough now that–” She stopped, realizing that this was not how she wanted to broach the subject with Dalton James, who was now frowning at her.

Trish jumped up the steps and patted her husband’s shoulder. “Oh knock it off. You’re scaring the poor girl.” She glanced at Susannah and shrugged. “Men. They just don’t get it sometimes. I’d like to hire Lucas—he’s got a real gift—but you need to do what’s right for your farm. Maybe I can suggest that my husband talk to Sheriff Trudell. After all, I think your other brothers might be willing to call off their ‘extracurricular activities’ if our families are working together, yes?”

BOOK: Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series
10.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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