TEXAS LADY - a historical Western romance from Sandy Sullivan
Elizabeth has loved Jeff since she was 16, but he couldn't see past her pigtails and trousers. Now she's all grown up and hunting for him. Boarding school did wonders for her grace and womanly attributes, even getting her a marriage proposal. Gregory isn't who she wants, Jeff is.
Jeff grew up with Elizabeth tagging along behind her brothers. Pest was her nickname, but now her luscious curves have him stunned. When she returns from back east, dragging along a dandy easterner, he's surprised at the unexpected jealousy surging through him. She's only the next door neighbor's kid sister, right?
Rustlers are invading the Texas countryside and stealing cattle left and right. The Johnson's ranch is in financial peril from the loss. Can Elizabeth tuck away her love for Jeff and marry the wealthy Gregory to save the family farm? Will Elizabeth and Jeff's one night of passion waylay her plans?
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Jeff was completely surprised at the vision standing in front of him. He hadn’t seen Elizabeth since the spring dance four years ago when she had unceremoniously shoved him into the horse trough after she had caught him kissing Aubrey Dillon. She had been so proud of herself that night, but he had spent an uncomfortable ride home in wet clothing.
“Of course, it’s me, you ninny. Who else would be swimming in this pond? After all, it is on Double J property. Now, please turn around like a gentleman so that I can get dressed.”
“Well, you never know. Besides, it’s half on Rocking W property too, you know.” His eyes met hers. Desire raced along his nerves. He’d caught a peek of some luscious curves before she’d grabbed her clothes. After another quick glance, he turned around. “I didn’t know you were home. I’m surprised Ray hadn’t mentioned it since I had just seen him in town last night,” he said over his shoulder.
“I just got home a few days ago,” she replied, her words muffled slightly as she pulled her shirt over her head. “You may turn around now.”
He turned to see she’d mostly returned her clothing to its proper place, but her hair was beginning to dry and wildly tangled about her head. Her blue eyes shot daggers at him when he raked his eyes appreciatively over her, and he began to smile.
Elizabeth had changed dramatically from the last time he had seen her. At the time, she’d been only sixteen and hadn’t completely filled out her womanly form. The woman standing before him was magnificent! Soft rounded bosom and a tiny waist showed off the curves to perfection. Although she didn’t know it, he had seen even more of her beautiful body when she had emerged from the pond. Of course, at the time, he hadn’t known it was Elizabeth. He really hadn’t come here with the intention of spying on whomever was swimming in the pond, but he’d heard a horse nicker softly to his when he rode near the nearby. He hadn’t recognized the horse so he had gotten down to investigate. With so many rustlers in the area, he had to be careful.
“Would you please stop looking at me like that?”
“Like what?” His gaze slid over her again.
“Oh, never mind.” She slipped her boots back on and stomped off to where her horse stood tied.
He followed behind her, watching her backside sway with appreciation. Why hadn’t he noticed how nicely her backside fit in her brother’s trousers before now?
When she approached her horse and attempted to slide her foot into the stirrup, he came up behind her, grasped her small waist, and easily lifted her into the saddle.
Elizabeth landed with an unladylike thump, and she grabbed for the reins quickly.
* * * *
Staring down at him from atop her horse, she realized he was still the most handsome boy she had ever seen. Man, she corrected herself in her mind. After all, he is twenty-four years old now and had easily grown another three inches since she had been gone. Her head barely reached his shoulder, and she was tall for a girl at five feet eight inches herself.
“Are you headed back to the ranch house now that you are well refreshed?”
“Yes,” she said with a sheepish smile. “Mother is going to kill me, I’m sure. She never did understand how I could swim in the pond anyway, much less now.”
“I’m sure all will be forgiven, even if you do look a little disheveled.”
“It’s not all that bad, Elizabeth. You just look, um, how shall I say this without sounding crude?”
“You look like you’ve just had a wild romp with someone in the field.”
She could see the laughter in his eyes. “I do not! Do I? I can’t go home like this!”
“It will be fine. Just run your fingers through your hair. Do you have anything to tie it back with?”
“No. I didn’t bring anything with me. I really hadn’t planned on going for a swim this afternoon when I headed out here.”
Taking the bandana from around his neck, he said, “Here. You can borrow this to tie back your hair until we get back to your parents’ place.”
“Thanks.” She took it from him, ran her fingers through her long hair as she attempted to make it somewhat presentable, and then tied his bandana around it at her nape to secure it in place the best she could.
“Shall we go?”
“Yes, I supposed we should. Why were you out here today anyway?”
“I was riding out to check on some of the cattle in the pasture back to the east, and your horse nickered at mine so I thought I’d check it out.”
“You really don’t have to ride back to the house with me. I know the way.”
“I’m sure you do, but there have been some problems out here lately, so I just think I’ll ride along, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind, I guess.” She really didn’t want him riding home with her. Her parents and her brothers didn’t need to know they had run into each other near the pond. She would have enough explaining to do about her appearance without explaining Jeff’s presence, too.
Glancing at him, she wondered what he was thinking. Several times he looked at her when he thought she didn’t notice. The changes in him weren’t glaring, but apparent to her, none-the-less.
His eyes had gotten a slightly deeper brown, if that was possible. His hair was a bit longer near the collar and had a little bit of a curl at the ends that she could see under his black cowboy hat. His chest was broader, and she could see small springy curls of brown hair from around the opening of his shirt near his neck.
I wonder what it would feel like to run my fingers through those curls. She quickly looked back at the road in front of them. My goodness! Where did that come from? You would think I’m some sort of brazen hussy with all that’s flittering through my mind at the moment.
A talk with her mother might be in order this evening. Then again, maybe not. Mother wouldn’t understand.
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