Remember, a dog, four pups, and now Bandit. My mom
will kill me if I bring any more home. Besides, I still
owe you for Jolie’s BOGO and tonight’s tickets. I hope
you take credit cards.” He’d tried to make light of the
situation, but watched Leah’s face. Obviously, she was
having an “Aha!” moment.
Her green eyes went wide and almost glowed as if
she’d discovered radium or some other deadly
substance. “I knew it! You aren’t perfect. You live with
your mother. Ashton Blaise is a mama’s boy. That’s
why I couldn’t find your number in the phone book to
The bow tie that went with the tux suddenly
seemed too tight around his neck. “Come on, this is the
South. Lots of guys still live at home if they aren’t
married. If you need the number, it’s under Hank
death. But, I have my own cell. Here, I’ll write the
number down for you.” Ash seized a pen attached to
one of the clipboards, but not a single sheet of plain
paper in sight and all the napkins were linen.
“I can write it on your palm!”
“Why not on my breast, oh most desired of all the
firemen in Chapelle?” Leah smirked.
“That would work for me, but the competition isn’t
that tough. Most of the men are married. Look, I have
extenuating circumstances. If you’d just give me a
legs, but Teddy only noticed the beauty of the face
surrounded by a halo of light brown hair, long and sun
streaked, surrounding a complexion too pale to have
subtle liner and shadow beneath deftly shaped brows.
Her nose was pert, her lips full, but not too heavy,
candy pink outlined in a darker color. Not a single
blemish marred its surface. Her hands lay crossed under
her chest. Their nails, lacquered pale pink, had white
tips. A French manicure his sisters called it. Gold and
black running shorts showed off her still shapely legs,
and the U-necked matching top revealed some cleavage
between two full breasts. An old man rehabbing his
knee on the next table ogled her, and other guys in the
gym definitely noticed, but weren’t as blatant about it.
Maybe that’s why she kept her eyes closed.
“Jessica,” Teddy murmured.
She must have heard him because her eyes opened.
They were green-gray hazel flecked with gold, large
and luminous. Her lovely lips opened. “What are you
staring at, jerk?”
Teddy had been stared at plenty in his life. In fact,
he headed home to shower because he hated the jock
atmosphere of the men’s locker room. He did know
how it felt to be gawked at, but he wasn’t gawking. He
worked his crutches to her side.
upgraded security system. A pale face with a small,
view. She couldn’t see the mouth, but it spoke loudly
into the box.
“Ella Sue Smalls to see Teddy Wilkes Billodeaux.”
Nell hadn’t heard a twang like that in Cajun country
since Teddy came to live at the ranch, and his accent
had faded considerably over the years.
“I’m sorry. Teddy isn’t home, and I am on my way
out. Could I take a message?”
“Figures. I spent my last dime on a taxi to get out
here. It’s hotter ’n the devil’s arse at eight in the
mornin’, and I’m about to die of thirst. Got no way to
get back into town, neither.”
Nell had heard it all over the years and did not
relent. “Teddy no longer lives here. Now, I have an
appointment to keep.”
The girl stepped away from the camera and put her
hands on her slim hips, which made the bulge of her
pregnant belly straining the seams of a thin cotton dress
all the more outstanding. “Well, I gotta talk to him.
Think I’m gonna faint.” Ella Sue swayed and gripped a
wrought iron upright of the gate keeping her out of
Teddy? Her adopted son crippled by spina bifida?
He’d be the last of her boys Nell would suspect of
putting a girl in the family way. Not that he wasn’t
capable of having sex or siring children. They’d done
the tests years ago to reassure him. He carried no
genetic flaw to pass along either. She guessed Joe had
taken care of seeing that Teddy lost his virginity. Her
husband had contacts from his old days as a playboy,
but she’d never asked. Now if it had been Mack, tearing
through women in Dallas according to the tabloids, she
wouldn’t be surprised—but sweet, gentle, courageous
“Ma’am, I ain’t had no breakfast neither, and I’m
feeling wobbly.” Her knees buckling, Ella Sue slid
down the gate and landed on the ground, sending up a
small puff of dust.