Let’s Read The Word

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West Texas Barnes Brothers Series

West Texas Barnes Brothers Series

Author:Alison Kent


General Romance

"It's up to you." Brooke Bailey might be thirty-one years old but she still believes in Santa Claus. And since she won't be going home for her favorite holiday this year, she's determined to include the residents of her small apartment house in her celebration—even those who aren't fans of the jolly red-suited guy or reindeer games. For Dr. Duncan Cox, Christmas is nothing but a commercial disaster filled with disappointment and bad decisions; he sees both in Mercy Hospital's ER more than ever as the big day draws near. On top of that, this year he finds himself tasked with secretly filling Brooke's stocking with twelve gifts to help out a friend. Can Dr. Grinch's gifts give Miss Merry Christmas the very thing her celebration is missing? And can seeing Brooke's joy at receiving the anonymous gifts thaw Duncan's cold heart? How could a four-word sexy invitation scribbled on a business card drive a normally sensible woman to be so... impulsive? It wasn't Harley Golden's style to cal



"It's up to you." Mona Tedrick frowned at the cryptic message scrawled on the back of the business card. She flicked the white rectangle like the filter end of a cigarette and repeated, "It's up to you? That's it? Nothing else?"

Reaching across the corner of her rolltop desk, Harley Golden plucked the card from her shop assistant's hand She wasn't about to risk damage to a piece of paper that was her only connection to the man of her dreams.

A man she'd seen once.

A man she would never see again.

"Yes, that's it. No, there's nothing else." And since it's up to me, that's that. End of story.

Stroking her thumb over the bold raised letters, she slid the black—and—white souvenir of her fantasy under the corner of her desk blotter. With the memento out of sight, she released a weighty sigh, picked up her number—two pencil, and squinted down at the estate sale invoice.

She really did need to think about computerizing her customer accounts the same way she had her shop inventory, for her poor CPA's sake if not her own. It didn't make good business sense to keep her clients' idiosyncratic preferences filed away in her head.

But keeping the books in old—fashioned green ledgers just seemed so simpatico with her old—fashioned surroundings. Besides, her hands—on accounting method complemented the personal service she'd offered her customers since opening Golden's Touch.

"You've already decided not to call him, haven't you?"

Harley continued writing. "C'mon, Mona. I'm not the flake he obviously mistook me for. How many women do you think he pulls this 'call—me' routine on?"

Checking her reflection in the cheval glass behind Harley's desk, Mona smoothed her diagonally slashed hair from earlobe to chin. "Who cares? If this guy's the GQ material you say he is, I'd go for it."

"The guy was stuffed like a sausage in the seat of a 737." Harley recorded the invoice total in Mrs. Mitchmore's account, slammed the ledger, and tossed her pencil on top. "So he had a nice face. Even GQ would need to know more than that before pursuing the man."

Mona jackknifed her long legs into the easy chair she'd pulled up next to Harley's desk. A pensive look creased her brows into a dark V. "When you say sausage, do you mean Vienna? Jumbo frank?"

Harley glared.

"Polish link?"

"What I mean is that airline seats were not designed with the human body in mind. If Mrs. Mitchmore isn't satisfied with the blanket chest, then the next estate sale I hit I'm flying first class and tacking it on to her bill."

"Which is exactly what Mrs. Mitchmore has told you to do since the beginning of time," Mona reminded Harley.


"But you won't because traveling first class makes you feel like you're taking advantage of your clients."

"True, again."

"And being the Miss Goody Two—shoes that you are, you choose to suffer for the cause because it balances out the guilt you feel for enjoying what you do."

"True for the third time." Harley kicked off her heels, flexed her toes, and groaned. "Speaking of shoes, I've got to pick up a new pair in the morning. Something with cushioned heels. And soles. And toes. I'm going to be shopping most of tomorrow and my feet are hamburger."

Mona dismissed tomorrow with a wave of her elegant fingers. "You've been back two hours from a two—day buying trip. Take tomorrow off. I can handle a Saturday on my own."

Harley didn't have a doubt. She'd recruited the flamboyant arts major from an exclusive gallery where Mona's dramatic flair for setup and design had often outclassed artists' showings.

Here at Golden's Touch, Mona's eccentric eye for detail was responsible for more than one customer's return visit. And that's why Harley paid Mona close to what she paid herself.

"Much as I'd like to kick back tomorrow, I can't. I had a message on the answering machine. A patient of Dr. Fischer's insists she saw a Shaker syrup bottle in one of the antique stores in Spring. The good doctor sounded desperate."

"The good doctor always sounds desperate."

"Which is why I'm determined to finish both his office and his study before Christmas. That gives me two and a half months to finish the job. It's a good commission but what he's costing me isn't worth what he's paying me."

"Tell him you need more."

"What I need is to be done with this job."

Mona reached up to switch on Harley's Tiffany desk lamp, then pulled the business card from beneath the blotter. "Enough already about business. Tell me about this guy."

Harley breathed deeply. It was time to deal with the fantasy and put it to bed. "There's not much to say. The guy was gorgeous. End of discussion."

Mona blinked. "Oh. How stupid of me. I forgot. Harley Golden doesn't do gorgeous guys."

"Give me brains over beauty and brawn any day."

"Harley," Mona admonished. "You've got to quit judging every potential hunk by your ex. Just because Brad had abs and buns of steel, plus that other hard part that got him into trouble, doesn't mean all hunks are scum."

Harley stashed the ledger in a desk drawer, slamming it shut. "I don't want to talk about Brad."

"Why not? Ever since your divorce, the only men you talk about are René Lalique, Louis Tiffany, and Thomas Chippendale."

"At least they don't moan to me about their therapist, their mother, or their Pekingese." And they sure as hell don't sleep around, Harley couldn't help but mentally add.

"Pekingese, huh? You must be talking about Sahara."

"Admit it," Harley said, pinning her friend with a pained look. "The guys you fix me up with are weird."

Mona stuck her nose in the air. "My friends are not weird."

"Okay. Then they're just not my type."

"Was the mysterious Mr. Business Card your type?"

"Yes. No. I told you. He was too good—looking."

"So, then, why the major eye contact on the flight?"

"He started it."

"Which gives you the upper hand. He wants you. And doesn't know a thing about you. Call him. Create a new identity. Have phone sex."

"Mona!" Harley gasped, outraged… but not really.

"Do something wild and scandalous, Harley, before you become as fossilized as this room of antiques."

"I'm not old enough to be an antique."

"You're one—third of the way there."

"I'm ignoring you, Mona." Frowning, Harley pulled her organizer from her briefcase. Knowing she'd never decipher Mona's scrawl, she handed over the stack of message slips sitting beneath her paperweight. "Give me the rundown on who's called about what since I left Wednesday."

Mona covered the half—dozen or so requests and Harley jotted notes. "I can probably knock out two or three of these tomorrow."

"And then what?"

"What do you mean 'and then what'?" Harley asked.

Mona expelled a theatrical sigh. "I can't believe I'm saying this but there's more to a woman's life than shopping, Harley Golden."

"That coming from you? Anyway, this kind of shopping is the best of all. I get to spend obscene amounts of other people's money on totally extravagant items." She wiggled her brows. "And they pay me to do it."

"Ooh. Thrill me to death. Harley, do you realize when Gibson and I picked you up last Saturday night you were still in the shop?"

Harley's chair squeaked as she crossed one leg beneath her. "Of course I was. I live here."

"No, you live upstairs. You were down here. In the shop. Working."

"Saturday evenings are closure time for me. You know, updating the books and the customer files, rearranging displays to compensate for items sold." She shrugged. "That leaves my Sunday free to do what I want."