Under Texas Blue Skies, page 1
Under Texas Blue Skies
by Debra Holt
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
UNDER TEXAS BLUE SKIES
Copyright © 2014 DEBRA HOLT
Cover Art Designed by AM DESIGNS STUDIO
My deepest thanks to Jan Oldham who asked me one day what my dream was and I replied, “To be in a cabin in the mountains, writing my books.” Her reply was “then do it.”
That impetus two years ago brought me to where I am now…two books about to be published and a dozen or more ready to be sent to other publishers!
I may not be in that cabin in the mountains yet, but I am writing and realizing my dream. There will be more dedications to others important to me in my journey in the books to come.
Thanks Jan for pushing me out of my comfort zone!
J.D. Sterling’s heartbeats were thumping loud as a bass drum at the sight of the red sedan as it pulled into the circular driveway, stopping just behind the other realtor’s Hummer. He had purposely seated himself in a corner of the wide porch, away from the glare of the noonday sun, where climbing vines and shade would enable him to be concealed from the woman’s line of sight. He didn’t want her to know he was there, at least not right away. J.D. needed to see her first, to get his feet under him. At least, that’s the excuse he'd given himself. For someone who always planted his feet solidly in the middle of any situation, this was one time the spotlight was not what he sought. His pulses were racing as he saw the driver’s door swing open and two slender ankles encased in gray high heels become visible as they touched the ground.
The woman stood up, one hand pushed her sunglasses further up on the bridge of her nose, and then she closed the car door behind her. She slung the straps of her leather bag over her shoulder and moved around the hood of the car, her heels making soft crunching sounds on the pea gravel along the drive. In the early afternoon stillness of the ranch, those sounds seemed to be amplified.
The eyes in the shadows drank in the features of the woman as she moved toward the house. Nowhere in sight was the country girl he had last seen. The vision that approached was confident in her stride, her head up and shoulders resolute. The girl he used to know was just short of being painfully shy and always hesitant to stand out of any crowd. Sunglasses concealed her eyes from view so he couldn’t see if they were still the amazingly vivid blue he remembered and had even immortalized in song once. They had filled his dreams on many a night and gotten him through some really hard times. It was those eyes he would see when he closed his own as he sang across the bright lights into the dark recesses of some huge arena, packed with screaming fans and loud music. He would sing to the girl in his dreams… the one he had left behind but never left out of his heart.
For just a second, he did experience a pinch of disappointment. That glorious blond hair, natural and not from any bottle, was gone. It used to cascade straight down her back past her waist. His fingers would get tangled up in it, and he had loved the way it fell in a silver curtain across them when she would bend down to kiss him. Better stop right there. He didn’t need to make a total fool of himself right off the start. His lower body was definitely in danger of doing that if he didn’t keep his thoughts reined in. However, those long tresses were gone, and the stylish cut she wore allowed her face to be framed before just grazing the top of her shoulders. The gray two-piece suit with a coral top showing above the one-button jacket was all business. Maybe the girl he had carried in his memory didn’t exist any longer? That thought unnerved him more than he wanted to admit. Had he left things too late? No, it couldn’t be too late. Not for them.
Amanda’s eyes caught sight of her boss, Morris Bagley, on the top steps of the veranda. “You look very pleased with yourself today. I hope you didn’t bring me out here on a wild goose chase, Morris. I was just about to close on the Farwell building. Where’s this client I just had to come and meet?”
Her voice was more refined than before, with a mature edge to it. It still struck a chord inside J.D., and he rose silently to his feet from his perch on the railing. Now he was just a few steps away but still not in her sight.
“Hello, Mandy,” he spoke softly from the shadows.
Amanda’s head swung in its direction. Her eyes sought to focus on the tall figure that stepped from darkness into light. She went to take a quick breath but found she couldn’t. In fact, for some reason, the light was receding, and the darkness was swallowing them all up.
The light slowly began to filter through her brain again. When her eyes next focused, she found herself watching odd shadows revolving against a white ceiling. It was the blades from the ceiling fan, slowly rotating above her. Why would she be looking up at them from her back? Her mind was fuzzy, but then sound began to filter into the recesses.
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea... this surprising her and all.”
Was that Morris? Did he actually sound concerned? Couldn’t be him. He didn’t have a caring bone in his body, except when it came to his bank account.
“Just get a glass of water from the kitchen and make it fast.”
Wait! That voice was not supposed to be in this dream. Amanda had to be dreaming. It was that voice that had made the lights go all funny the first time. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be. Oh please… not here, not now, not like this. She went to raise her head, but a hand on her shoulder stopped her and kept her still. Her eyes darted upward and then his face came back into view. She didn’t move, and she couldn’t speak.
“You fainted,” the silky tones informed her. His eyes… those jade green eyes that had stolen into her heart so easily once were much too close and just as devastating as she remembered. “I guess I should have let Morris break it to you first, before I arrived. But you know how I always did like to surprise you.”
Her heartbeat threatened to race off again, but she had enough wits about her to take a deep breath and gain some control just in time. Was his remark supposed to be funny? Did he think she would laugh? Surprise her? Oh yes… she remembered his surprises, and nothing about this situation was in the least bit funny. Nor was the fact she was still flat on her back with this man bending over her. The one place she vowed to never be again.
“Here’s the water and a damp rag, too. I thought maybe that would help,” Morris said as he came back into view — a glass and rag in his hands. He gladly handed them over to the other man. The damp rag was applied to her forehead, and J.D.’s hand slid under her neck… its touch burning the spot along her skin wherever it reached.
“Let me help you sit up a bit and take a few sips from…” J.D. didn’t get to finish.
Amanda was fully awake and intent on taking back control over her own body and the whole ridiculous situation. He was seated on the edge of the couch next to her. Much too close.
Her hand swatted away his that held the glass, causing a few drops to slosh out on his denim-covered leg. She didn’t care, and the rag was grabbed off her forehead and launched in the general direction of Morris Bagley, who tried to catch it before it hit the glass-topped coffee table, but only managed to bat it down onto the cre
“I don’t need your help. I’m fine now. And you can get off me.” She emphasized the last with a shove of her hips as she swung her long legs off the edge of the couch.
For a second, the man did not budge. Then perhaps he thought better of it, and moved to stand a few inches from where she managed to regain her feet.
Even in her heels, her head still only came to just beneath the man’s chin level. She was forced to look up into those eyes again, but she would not faint away this time. Amanda Lawson had regained control of her brain and every memory inside it. It was those memories that had served her well over the last thirteen years without him. They'd spurred her forward through dark times and reminded her of the past so that the good times had been sweeter when they'd finally come.
“Why are you here?” She bit the words out.
“He wants to buy this place, Amanda. Isn’t that great? I think—” Morris was interrupted by the silent look the man tossed his way before he spoke.
“I think we can handle this from here,” J.D. interjected. “I’m sure you have other business that requires you back in town.” Here’s your hat and there’s the door... could it have been any more clear?
“I have other business in town also,” Amanda spoke up. “I don’t know why I was called out here but…”
“Because I want you.” Those jade green eyes pinned her to her spot.
J.D.’s choice of words knocked the air out of Amanda’s lungs for a moment. Did he think that he could turn that look on her, along with that famous half-grin that sent deep grooves down his cheeks and made fingers itch to touch them and females swoon at his feet? She may have literally swooned, but it wasn’t because she wanted him or anything connected with him. J.D. Sterling may be God’s gift to women… other women… with his wide shoulders encased in the dark chocolate, western-cut suit jacket, the deep jade-colored shirt open at the throat, long legs in black jeans with his custom-made boots and black Stetson. But he was still the lying, no good cowboy who had played her for a fool and then left her behind when the bright lights beckoned. He wanted her? Well, he'd had her once, but never again.
Cold blue eyes pinned him. “People don’t always get what they want, J.D. But sometimes they do get what they deserve.”
Morris Bagley looked like a man who sensed that a very large sale was slipping away from his bank account. He placed a hand on Amanda’s sleeve and smiled over at the client.
“My associate and I need a moment or two. She’ll be right back with you.” He propelled her forward, and, to be certain they were out of earshot, he didn’t stop until they stood at the bottom of the front steps. Even though they were outside at that point, he still spoke in a low whisper.
“Listen to me. This sale is way too big for you and your personal opinions to make a mess of it. Need I remind you that you want to be made a partner in the business? Well, young lady, you better reel this big fish in, or you can kiss that prospect so long.”
Her eyes snapped to his. “And need I remind you that I have worked for ten years and brought you in plenty of money, Morris. You can’t decide now that all that was for nothing, just because you’re starstruck like everyone else over that man.”
“That man as you call him, has a pocket full of millions of dollars, little lady. He’s ready to invest it, and he needs to do that through Bagley Realty. He asked for you and you alone to show him this place, and he’ll only deal with you. So you make this sale or forget about ever being made a partner.”
“If I make this sale, then I get the partnership?”
“Make this sale, and I retire and the place is all yours. Just make it happen, Amanda.”
“Shake on it.” Her hand went out, and her shrewd gaze leveled on his. Amanda knew him well enough to know Morris loved two things… money and the deal. He also believed in handshakes. A little redeeming quality still existed inside him. The man stuck out his hand, and they shook on it.
Amanda squared her shoulders and slowly retraced her steps up to the top of the porch. J.D. Sterling stood with one shoulder leaning against the door jamb of the house, his eyes watching her approach much like a hawk settling on its lunch.
“Keep the eye on the prize,” she muttered under her breath as she steeled herself. No way would she allow this man to step back into her life and ruin it again.
"You’ve seen the living room and the den. The kitchen is spacious and has the freezers and workspace for a caterer to work from. I assume you will want to entertain your celebrity friends, so this will certainly be a plus for you. The doors open off the cozy room onto the…”
“Cozy room?” J.D. asked the question, pausing in his steps. From the beginning of the tour, he had followed behind her, making her every nerve attuned to where he stood and how close, as he moved from room to room, listening to her professional spiel about woodwork, flooring, square footage, and room-flow. His hands were clasped behind his back as he moved along behind her lead.
“That’s my term. Others might call it a gathering room. Many country kitchens these days have this large space added to it — for couches and more tables — added room for people to congregate while the food is being prepared. It’s a room for good friends or family to enjoy a less-formal get together. For instance, on a Sunday afternoon for a football game on the big screen — which, by the way, is hidden above the fireplace. It is also perfect for a holiday dinner with family and friends. It’s cozier than the formal dining room, therefore, the term cozy room. However, you can certainly call it anything you like.” She turned on her heel and proceeded toward the staircase.
“I like that.” His words halted her foot on the first step. “It’s a nice idea. Makes a nice picture... loved ones gathered together on special occasions. Do you have one in your house?”
“No, I don’t,” Amanda tossed over her shoulder as she moved up the staircase without another pause.
“You’ve seen four bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms, and all with access to the veranda that runs the length of the house and overlooks the patio and pool beyond. The master suite is basically its own wing… through these doors.” Amanda had saved this area of the tour for the last. It was the one area she didn’t wish to spend a lot of time on, for reasons she didn’t care to delve into. She stepped aside to allow him to enter ahead of her. He did so slowly… much too slowly as he lingered for just a moment in front of her. She could smell the cologne that mixed with his male scent. It was expensive but definitely fit the man. It touched something in the recesses of her mind, but she slammed the door shut before it could travel further.
“This is the sitting area, fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows on either side. You have a view of the front of the property. Bookshelves and built-in desk along the far wall. There is more than enough space for a flat screen on the other wall. Through the archway, is the bedroom area, with its private balcony overlooking the back patio.”
J.D. turned toward her with raised brows. It was clear he meant for her to precede him into that area. Squaring her shoulders, Amanda coolly walked past him and stood just inside the arch, her arms lightly folded across her chest. He sauntered past her again… much too close… as there was plenty of space in the room. Her eyes narrowed a bit.
“This is certainly a large space. It will still have plenty of room in it once you put a king-sized bed in here.” His voice was casual, but his tone was not. It definitely suited a bedroom scenario. Amanda supposed that sultry voice had come in handy in his seductions. Over the years, she had seen the tabloid fronts at the checkout stand of the local grocery or pharmacy. She had always turned a blind eye to them. She hoped those women had found out what he was all about a lot quicker than she had.
“The master bath has a glass-walled shower with steam room, and the sunken tub is quite large and is jetted. There are his and her vanities, and the closets, his and hers, are walk-in and separated by a common dressing area.”
“And the door there,” he asked,
“It’s a smaller room. It could be used for whatever you choose.” She knew better, but she was not going there. Not with him.
Instead of leaving the suite, he moved to the door and opened it, stepping through. There was a large window seat to the left, more built-in bookshelves, and the walls had been painted a pale blue to match the pale blue carpet.
“A nursery? Blue for a boy, not a bad idea.” J.D. made the comment as he surveyed the room.
Amanda reacted as if she had not heard his words. Her footsteps were muffled as they went down the stairs. He caught up to her just as she reached the front door.
“Hey, what’s the rush? Are we finished inside the house?” What had spooked her? His hand reached out to touch her sleeve and she jerked it back to her side. A flash of something in her eyes banked itself as she lifted her chin to meet his concerned gaze.
“There’s a lot to see outside before we lose the light, and I do have another appointment this evening. Shall we continue, or have you seen enough?”
“Well, I thought we could look over the land tomorrow morning. This evening we could discuss the other details over dinner. Everything always goes better over some of Carl’s barbecue ribs, as I recall,” J.D. said, flashing her that half-smile/half-grin again.
“I don’t mix business with pleasure, and this is strictly business to me. I have a dinner date already. Shall we say nine in the morning, or is that too early for you?” Her cool blue gaze and controlled voice gave him no hint of her inner thoughts.
His eyes narrowed at her words. For a moment, it seemed he was debating with himself about arguing the point further. However, he let it go. “Nine will be just fine. Although I suggest you wear something a bit more appropriate to being out on the ranch other than those high heels and tight skirt. While I enjoy them both, I wouldn’t want you to get bit by anything.”
Other author's books:
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