BLACK HILLS OUTCAST, Black Hills Rendezvous, Book 5
Excerpt © Loner Llama Press:
Rachel stood in the doorway of the kitchen and sipped her glass of water as she watched Rufus charm his miniature audience. He’d removed his tie an hour or so earlier and opened his pristine white shirt collar a few buttons. She didn’t understand why she found that glimpse of flesh so provocative, but she did. So much so, in fact, she’d made up an excuse about needing a drink of water simply to give herself some breathing space.
“Your date seems to like children,” a voice observed. Rachel started. Her mom-radar must have malfunctioned.
“They seem to like him, too,” Rachel returned cautiously, wondering where this conversation would lead. Nowhere good, she was sure.
“I wonder why that is,” Mom said. “Perhaps because he’s a bit…simple?”
Rachel put the glass to her mouth and forced herself to drink. It was that or scream. And she couldn’t scream because her father never would have allowed it. The man worshipped his wife and let her get away with all sorts of small cruelties.
“You’re basing your judgment on what? A two-second conversation?”
“I asked around. People who drop out of society, as he did, usually do so for a reason, Rachel. Do you know what that reason is?”
No. “He’s my client, Mom. I’m on a need-to-know basis, and his personal life is something I don’t need to know—as long as he pays my bill. I invited him tonight because I thought his business would benefit from the local exposure.”
Rachel was pleased by how logical and composed she sounded. For a minute, she thought her mother bought it.
Mom shook her perfectly coifed head. “Don’t kid yourself, Rachel. You’re attracted to him. And, with good reason. He’s quite handsome. But I thought you told me you’d learned your lesson where handsome men were concerned? I believe your exact words included hook nose and bald.”
Rachel set her glass on an antique sideboard then crossed her arms. “I may have said something to that effect, but, Mother, surely you’re not labeling all handsome men as cheating scoundrels who can’t keep their dicks in their pants. I could point out half a dozen hunks in this room—including your son—and each one is a faithful, trustworthy and decent human being who loves his wife and knows how to honor his marriage vows.”
“There’s no reason to be crude, Rachel. All I’m saying is you need to look beyond the superficial. You have a tendency to jump in to everything with both feet. In a relationship, by the time you discover how shallow the man is, something’s broken.”
Rachel gave her mother credit for creating an apropos metaphor. She’d been fighting an attraction toward this man since that first day. But what did she know about him? She hadn’t known he was drop-dead gorgeous. Or good with kids. Or even that he owned a suit.
“There you are,” a deep voice said, taking both women by surprise. Rufus leaned in and brushed a quick, micro-kiss on Rachel’s lips. “Sorry. Those kids are great. Jordie reminds me of my little brother when he was that age.”
Rachel had to fight to keep from touching the spot he’d kissed. “N…no problem,” she stuttered. “Mom and I were catching up. She’s just returned from Florida.”
“Florida…,” he said, reaching up to touch his ear. “I used to own a condo in Miami.”
His obviously unconscious gesture made her realize something was different between his right ear and his left. She didn’t have time to dwell on the fact because she could tell by her mother’s skeptical snort that Mom didn’t believe him.
Escape, her brain cried. They needed to leave now before Mom said something really humiliating. “Rufus, if you want, we could take off.”
He smiled at her warmly, then lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. She was almost certain her knees weren’t going to hold her, but then he turned to Mom and said, “Not yet. I haven’t had a chance to talk to your mother. I spotted a quiet nook near the stairs…”
There was a hint of “I dare you” in his tone, and Rachel had never known her mother to walk away from a challenge.
Mom passed Rachel her highball glass—Jack Daniels neat. “Very well.”
As polite as any gentleman she’d ever met, Rufus escorted her mother out of sight. Rachel took a sip of the booze in her mother’s glass, despite the fact she hated whiskey.
“What’s going on?”
Coughing slightly, she glanced to her left to find her brother and future sister-in-law peering out of the kitchen. “I don’t know. Mom and Rufus are talking. I’m pretty sure neither is armed, but you might want to put your finger on 9-1-1 speed dial just in case.”
Black Hills Outcast available here: