She'd thrown that up at him once.

You only want me because I belong to your brother.

Well, she'd been wrong. Larry had been dead five years, and here was Grant. He was such a fool for her, he'd come the minute he'd found out where she was.

Why? None wasn't the traffic-stopping kind of glamorous beauty Grant usually dated. But she was lovely in her own way. It wasn't her black hair, her red lips, her breasts, not her slim body-none of the things he had wanted from other women. It was her, her personality, something inside her that captivated him. Something that was quiet and powerful and completely honest.

He loved the way she liked to read quietly. The way there was always an aura of contentment around her. The way she was so gentle with children. The way she'd almost tamed Larry. Even the bright, offbeat styles she dressed in appealed to him. None didn't try to pretend to be something she wasn't.

Grant had gotten off to a bad start with her. He hadn't met her until Larry had written to their mother that he was seriously interested in her. Georgia had become hysterical. 'This girl's different, Grant! Smarter! Larry's going to marry her if you don't drive up and stop him!'

'Maybe she's okay.'

'No, she's a gold digger like all the others who've tried to trap him before.'

It had never occurred to either Grant or his mother that Larry might be trying to stir her up and get some maternal attention.

Bad start. That was the understatement of the year. That first night in Austin had been a disaster.

Just like tonight, Grant thought coldly, suddenly furious with himself for coming. Why the hell had he bothered? She was as unfriendly as ever. He'd driven all this way, wrecked his car, and she'd hardly had a single kind thought.

'So, how long are you here for?' she asked.

'That depends on you,' he replied grimly.

'There's no motel in town, and I don't feel like driving twenty-five miles to get you a room and then back again. It's nearly Christmas, but I-I can't very well put you in the stable.'

He knew she didn't want him anywhere near her. But the mere thought of sleeping in the same house with her made him shiver with agonizing need.

'Cold?' she whispered.

'Thanks for the invitation,' he muttered, getting a grip on himself.

She started nervously twisting knobs on the dashboard, adjusting the heater. 'We'll call the wrecker in the morning.'

A gust of hot air rushed across his face. His hand covered hers on the knob, and he felt her pulse quicken. 'Hey, there's no reason to be so flustered. Honey, it's just one night.'

She pulled her hand away and let him fix the heater.

'Right. It's just one night,' she murmured, with an air of false bravado.

'I hope I'm not putting you out,' he said softly. Without touching her again, he swept his gaze over her body.

The silence in the cab was breathlessly still.

'Oh, I have a spare bedroom.'

'Then you live alone?'

There was another long moment's silence, and he wondered if there was a new man in her life. He thought she blushed.


She was lying. He felt it. 'What a shame,' he murmured, pretending to believe her.

But she didn't hear him. She was leaning on the steering wheel, turning the truck, braking in front of a locked gate.

She got out and unlocked it. The least he could do was slide across the seat and drive the truck through.

So he did. She relocked the gate and climbed back inside.

'So, do you do this often?' he demanded, the mere thought making him angry all over again.


'Drive home alone? Get out and struggle with that damned gate in all kinds of weather?'

'As often as I have to.'

'You need a man.'

'So I've been told.'

That rankled.

'But I don't want a man.'

His taunt was silky smooth. 'Then you've changed.'

And that made her good and mad.

She stomped a muddy white boot to the accelerator so hard his head snapped back. A sudden blaze of pain exploded somewhere in the middle of his brain.


'Sorry,' she said.

But he knew she wasn't.

He rubbed his head. At least she wasn't indifferent. But then, she never had been. Neither had he. That had been the problem.

Chapter Three

So this was where None had been for five damn years. This was what she preferred to the kind of life a Hale could have given her, the kind of life he could have given her.

As she drove, Grant stared in wonder at the small farm, the falling-down picket fence, the white, two-story, frame house built on a scant rise beneath towering pecan trees. The windmill. Why had she chosen this instead of him? Instead of everything he could give her?

The house was probably eighty or ninety years old. He'd been in old houses like this one before, houses that were built so they would catch the summer breezes and the windmill would be driven. In the winter such shabby structures were too vulnerable to the cold north winds.

A screened-in porch was on either side of the building and there was a veranda across the front. A solitary yellow bulb by the front door was the only source of light. He noted the tumbledown cistern in the backyard and the large flowerbeds where she could grow flowers in spring and summer. A clothesline was strung from the corner of the house to the back gatepost. There was a small enclosed yard.

She parked the truck in front of the house. Everything seemed so bleak and cold to him-so remote. He was used to living in the middle of town, in a beautiful home, surrounded by beautiful things-antiques, carpets, tapestry, crystal.

'It's not the Hale mansion,' she whispered.

Was he so obvious? 'You ran from all that.'

'I never belonged.'

'You could have.'

'No.' The tortured word was torn from her throat.

For a second longer she stayed beside him, so close he could almost feel the heat of her body. Then she threw open her door and ran up to the house. He followed at a much slower pace.

He felt almost sure there was no man in her life. Even though it was dark, he saw that the grass was too high. There wasn't much firewood left. The gate latch needed fixing. He stumbled and nearly fell when the bottom two steps gave beneath his weight because the wood was rotten. A splintering pain centered in his hurt knee, and he had to stop for a second.

'You okay?' she whispered.


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