Read The Cowboy and the Lady Online
Authors: Diana Palmer
At sprawling Casa Verde, old flames still burn…
Seven years ago Amanda Carson watched her affluent, well-respected family lose both face and fortune. Then her childhood crush—ice-cold cowboy Jace Whitehall—made her an offer she had to refuse. Now Amanda has returned to Casa Verde, Jace’s luxurious home. And Jace isn’t about to let her forget who she is or what she’s lost.
Yet beneath their heated words, something simmers, waiting. For what once drove Amanda from this land may be the one thing that can make her stay.
New York Times
“Nobody does it better.”
—New York Times
bestselling author Linda Howard
“Palmer’s talent for character development and ability to fuse heartwarming romance with nail-biting suspense shine in
“Diana Palmer is a mesmerizing storyteller who captures the essence of what a romance should be.”
—Affaire de Coeur
“The dialogue is charming, the characters likable and the sex sizzling.”
Once in Paris
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“A love story that is pure and enjoyable.”
—Romantic Times BOOKreviews
Lord of the Desert
“Palmer knows how to make the sparks fly…. Heartwarming.”
The Harlequin Famous Firsts Collection™
NEW YORK TIMES
THE COWBOY AND THE LADY
To Frances Thompson and family
It is so interesting to look back at
The Cowboy and the Lady
, first published in 1982. It was written, however, in 1981, a momentous year in my life. Our son, Blayne, was just a year old. I was still working as a full-time newspaper reporter, on call twenty-four hours a day and writing books at night after I got off work. My husband, James, was working at a clothing manufacturing company. We drove a ten-year-old car, had very little money, lived in a rented house and watched the baby as much as we watched television for entertainment.
Twenty-seven years later Blayne is married and his wife, Christina, is expecting
first child. We are living in a home we own, not rent, and the car in the driveway is a very fast new Jaguar. I still work full-time, and have no plans to retire, ever. Like Harlequin Books, I seem to have the gift of endurance.
Harlequin is now sixty years old. I myself am also into my sixth decade. I am still filled with wonder when I think about the wonderful job I have—one I would gladly do for nothing.
I owe this to a lot of people: my husband and son, who put up with a lot of cold dinners; and my best friend, Ann, without whom I would never have sent off that first manuscript. To my extraordinary editor, Tara Gavin, and my agent Maureen Walters. And last but never least, my loyal readers who are very much a part of my life. They are my family. So is Harlequin and its amazing staff. All of us together, writers and others, make up this wonderful company, which has never lost its special touch as the oasis of pure romance in the world.
Congratulations, Harlequin, on your Diamond Anniversary. I hope that you, and I, will continue to warm the hearts of women around the world with love stories that never go out of style. And thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me a job in the first place.
With all best wishes to our readers everywhere,
Table of Contents
hey were at a standstill, the tall man and the willowy young blonde, poised like boxers waiting for an opening.
“Never!” she repeated, her brown eyes throwing off sparks. “I know we need the business, and I’d do anything for you—within reason. But this isn’t reasonable, and you know it, Terry Black!”
He drew a weary breath and turned to the window overlooking San Antonio’s frantic late-morning traffic, his hands rammed into his pockets, his thin shoulders slumping dejectedly.
“I’ll be ruined,” he said softly.
She glared at his back. “Sell one of your Cadillacs,” she suggested.
He threw her an irritated glance. “Amanda…!”
“I was Mandy when I came in this morning,” she reminded him, tossing back her long, silver-blond hair with a smile. “Come on, Terry, it isn’t all that bad.”
“No,” he agreed finally, “I guess it isn’t.” He leaned back against the wall beside the huge picture window and let his eyes drift over her soft, young curves, lingering where her beige shirtwaist dress made a straight line across the high, small curve of her breasts. “He can’t really dislike you,” he added absently. “No man with blood in his veins could.”
“Jason Whitehall doesn’t have any blood in his veins,” she said. “He has ice water and a dash of aged whiskey.”
“Jason didn’t offer me the account. His brother Duncan did.”
“Jace owns the lion’s share of the corporation, though, Terry,” she argued. “And he’s never used an advertising agency, not ever.”
“If the Whitehalls want to sell lots in that inland development project they’re working on in Florida, they’ll have to use one. And why not us?” he added with a boyish grin. “After all, we’re the best.”
She threw up her slender hands. “So you keep telling me.”
“We need the account,” he persisted. His thin, boyish face grew thoughtful. “Do you realize just how big the Whitehall empire is?” he asked, as if she’d never heard of it. “The Texas ranch alone covers twenty-five thousand acres!”
“I know.” She sighed, and her soft brown eyes were sad with memory. “You forget, my father’s ranch adjoined the Whitehalls’ before—” She broke off. “Anyway, it’s not as if you couldn’t go by yourself.”
He looked briefly uncomfortable. “Uh, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
She blinked at him across the luxurious carpeted room with its modern chrome-trimmed furniture. “I beg your pardon?”
“It’s no deal unless you come along.”
“Because we’re partners,” he said stubbornly, his lower lip thrusting forward. “And mostly because Duncan Whitehall won’t discuss it without you. He’s considering our agency because of his friendship with you. How about that?
came looking for us.”
That was strange. She and Duncan had been friends for many years, but knowing how his brother felt, it was odd that he’d insist on her presence for business.
“But Jace hates me,” she murmured, wide-eyed. “I don’t want to go, Terry.”
“Why does he hate you, for heaven’s sake?” he asked, exasperated.
“Most recently,” she admitted, “because I ran over his quarter-million-dollar bull.”
“Well, I didn’t actually do it. Mother did, but she was so afraid of Jace that I took the blame. It didn’t endear me to him, either—he was a grand champion.”
“The bull!” She folded her arms across her chest. “Mother can’t accept the fact that the old days, when we had money, are gone. I do. I can stand alone. But she can’t. If she wasn’t able to visit Marguerite at Casa Verde for several weeks a year, and pretend nothing has changed, I’m not sure she could manage.” She shrugged. “Jace hated me anyway. It just gave him a better reason to let him think I crippled the animal.”
“When did all this happen?” he asked curiously. “You never mentioned it after your trip…of course, you looked like death warmed over for a couple of weeks, and I was head over heels with that French model….”
She smiled. “Exactly.”
He sighed. “Well, it doesn’t change things, anyway. If you don’t go with me, we forfeit the account.”
“We may forfeit it anyway, if Jace has his way,” she reminded him. “It’s only been six months. I promise you he hasn’t gotten over it.”
His pale eyes narrowed. “Amanda, are you really afraid of him?”
She smiled wanly. “I didn’t realize it showed.”
“That’s a first,” he observed, amused. “You aren’t the shrinking violet type, and I’ve seen that sweet temper of yours a time or two in the past year.” His lips pursed. “Why are you afraid of him?”
She turned away. “Now, there, my friend, is a question. But I’m afraid I don’t have an answer.”
“Does he hit?”
“Not women,” she said. “I’ve seen him deck a man, though.” She winced at the memory.
“Over a woman?” he fished, grinning.
She averted her eyes. “Over me, actually. One of the Whitehalls’ hands got a little too friendly with me to suit Jace, and he gave him a black eye before he fired him. Duncan was there, too, but he hadn’t got his mouth open before Jace jumped in. Trying to run my life, as usual,” she added unfairly.
“I thought Jace was an old man.”
“He is,” she said venomously. “Thirty-three and climbing fast.”
He laughed at her. “Ten whole years older than you.”
She bristled. “I can see what fun this trip is going to be.”
“Surely he’s forgotten the bull,” he said comfortingly.
“Do you think so?” Her eyes clouded. “I had to watch Jace shoot him after the accident. And I’ll never forget how he looked or what he said to me.” She sighed. “Mother and I ran for our lives, and I drove all the way home in a borrowed car.” The skirt of her dress swirled gracefully around her long, slender legs as she turned away. “It was a lot of fun, with a sprained wrist, too, I’ll tell you that.”
“Don’t you believe in burying the hatchet?”
“Sure. So does Jace—about two inches deep at the peak of my forehead….”
“How about if you go home and pack?” he suggested with a grin.
“Home.” She laughed softly. “Only you could call that one-bedroom efficiency apartment a home. Mother hates it so. I suppose that’s why she spends her life visiting old friends.” Visiting. There was another word for it: sponging, and Jace never tired of using it. If he’d had any idea that Beatrice Carson, not her daughter, had steered that car broadside into Duke’s Ransom, he’d have thrown her out for good, despite all his mother’s fiery protests.