Mac's Law, page 1
An Ellora’s Cave Publication, September 2004
Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
ISBN MS Reader (LIT) ISBN # 1-4199-0028-5
Other available formats (no ISBNs are assigned):
Adobe (PDF), Rocketbook (RB), Mobipocket (PRC) & HTML
MAC’S LAW © 2004 SARAH MCCARTY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. They are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
Edited byPamela Campbell.
Cover art bySyneca .
For Joy: A woman who generously shares her gift of laughter with us all. Joy, may you always laugh, always find pleasure in the moment, and most of all, may you find that special man who delights in you, the way you’ve always dreamed.
Oh Hell! Homer Lone Tree was at it again.
Mac sat on the bar stool in the local bar and grill, pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, and willed his headaches to go away—the one throbbing behind his eyes, and the one walking down the street with the purpose of a man bent on proving a point.
He sighed. His day only needed this. It wasn’t enough the cook he’d hired through some fancy employment agency inDallashad pulled a no-show. Now he had to watch Homer make a fool of himself with the only person who had gotten off the late afternoon bus—a delicate, citified woman with blonde hair. With one hand, he rubbed the ache from behind his eyes while motioning to the bartender with the other.
Bull stopped his perpetual wiping down of the orange Formica counter. “Tough day, huh?”
“It’s only going to get tougher,” he answered grimly. “That new cook that was supposed to turn up on thesix p.m.bus?”
“He pulled a no-show.”
“That’s the third one this month!” Bull whisked away the beer and supplanted it with two fingers of whiskey. Mac looked at the glass, looked at Bull, and cast a longing glance at his beer.
Bull intercepted the latter. “Forget that namby-pamby stuff.” He pushed the glass an inch closer. “You’re going to need every drop of this, if not for courage, then for anesthesia.”
Mac grimaced. “The men will understand.”
Bull emitted a noise that crossed the line from laughter to hoot. “You made a promise, Mac.”
His fingers curled around the glass. “Yes, I did, and I’ve done my best to fulfill it.”
“I see,” The older man resumed wiping the counter. “And I assume you’re expecting the men to be satisfied with that, to continue to do their best work, even though you keep slopping them like hogs?”
“The beans weren’t that bad. Just a little scorched.”
“A little light in the description, aren’t we?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I heard about what you tried to feed the men last night.”
Mac winced. A cook he was not. “What do you mean, ‘heard’?”
“I mean exactly that. The men are fed up, son. For two months you’ve been shoveling them garbage like that.”
“It hasn’t been all garbage. Granny Ortiz sent over some stuff.”
“Well, it couldn’t have been frequently enough then, because the men have been wandering around town all day garnering sympathy for their plight.”
“I’m a rancher, not a cook.”
“Well, you’d better learn to tie an apron quick,” Bull countered. “Because the men are talking strike and no one in town is against it.”
“Damn.” That was not good news. Mac took a sip of his whiskey, forgetting what a kick Bull’s favorite brand possessed. He smothered the sound of his cough with a squeak of his vinyl-topped stool. God, he hated whiskey.
The bell over the door rang. Bull looked up and smiled in anticipation. “I guess it’s just not your lucky day. Here comes Homer.”
Mac sighed. “I don’t know why you keep insisting he’s my problem. I’m the Justice of the Peace. I’m supposed to be marrying people, not arresting them.”
Bull shrugged, obviously unconcerned with such trivial hairsplitting. “A Justice of the Peace is as close as we get to law around here.”
“We could call in the county sheriff,” he countered dryly.
“Ah hell. No one wants to see Homer arrested. He’ll work it out of his system soon enough.”
“He’s either got to get it out of his system, or that theme park has got to hire him,” Mac said as he turned his stool around. “He can’t go around harassing our female visitors forever. Too few of them stray our way in the first place.”
“Ain’t that the truth?” Bull agreed, scrubbing at an imaginary spot. “But for the life of me, I can’t see what they expect to find inDallasthat they can’t find here.”
“A night life?”
“Hell, we’ve got night life. We’ve got Homer.”
Mac laughed. “I’m not sure that qualifies as a life. More like a nuisance.”
“That’s no way to be talking about your own.”
“I’m best friends with his brother, Bull. We’re not blood.”
Yeah, he supposed it was. In a town as small as Round the Bend, Texas, playmates were hard for a kid to rustle up. Once a playmate was discovered, he or she tended to become part of the extended family. “Well, kin or not, I wish Homer would pick something less embarrassing to do with his Saturdays.”
And stop expecting him to step in at the crucial moment to save his ass.
“Personally, I hope he keeps it up for at least another month,” Bull countered. “Saturday afternoons used to be slow, but with all this extra money, I might just make enough to get my son that fancy bike he wants for his birthday.”
Pushing his battered black Stetson off his brow, Mac watched Homer zero in on his unsuspecting prey. And sighed. Ever since that theme park had refused to hire Homer for one of their shows, claiming he didn’t look “Indian” enough, Homer had been staging his own impromptu shows, bent on proving them wrong.
Mac redirected his gaze to the woman. She looked the type to scream at a mouse. Lord knows what kind of ruckus she was going to throw when Homer got near. She’d probably bring down the roof, just as the last victim of Homer’s temper had. Then everyone would deem it his responsibility to save the hysterical damsel in distress.
He’d rather be nibbled to death by ducks.
He glared through the plate glass window. If he focused his gaze dead center between the “Bull” and “Bar” of Bull’s Bar and Grill, he could see Zach, standing in front of his law office, grinning from ear to ear, no doubt anticipating the show he’d be able to see through the window. He flipped Zach an obscene response to his grin. He just shrugged and shook his head.
If not him, then who?
Mac pulled his hat back over his brow, ducked his chin, and from beneath the protective shadow of his Stetson, studied Homer’s approach from a different slant. He wondered if maybe Grandma Ortiz, the town’s matchmaker, had been the one to put the wild hair in Homer’s pants. If this was another of her efforts at getting him married, at least her taste in victims had improved. This woman was a far cry from the pretty, brassy redhead she’d tossed his way last Christmas. Not only had that woman had a mouth that would have done a sailor proud, but she hadn’t had one smidgeon of humor in her fully stacked body.
He took a more cautiou
He pushed his glass aside when Homer stopped just short of the woman. Ah, hell he really was going through with this. Again.
As Homer straightened his buckskin shirt and arranged the feathers on his shield, the patrons of the grill did something Mac hadn’t thought possible. They shut up. With a deep sigh of resignation, he settled back on his stool. The show was about to begin.
Homer stepped in front of the woman’s booth. This was the first of several well-rehearsed, predictable moves. If he called out right now, Mac knew, he could put an end to this foolishness. He was halfway to committing social suicide when Bull flicked him with the bar towel.
“Don’t be spoiling things, now,” Bull whispered. “Homer’s entertaining, but harmless.” He shook the bar towel to reinforce his point. “And you know it.”
“Yeah, right. He may be harmless to the women, but not to me. I damned near lost an eardrum the last time he pulled this stunt.” He pointed his finger at Bull. “If this one’s a screamer, I’m quitting.”
“Twenty dollars says she’s not a screamer.”
Mac redirected his gaze to the woman. She had screamer written all over her. “You’re on.”
“No,” Bull corrected as Homer stepped in front of the woman’s booth. “I’d say you are.”
“Nice woman,” Homer said loud enough to carry. Mac winced. He had spoken to Homer before about his dialogue. If the kid was going to create these scenes and expect him to charge to the rescue at the appropriate time, he felt he was within his rights to demand a little attention be paid to the script. He noticed the woman had also winced, and wondered if it was Homer’s breath or choice of words she found offensive.
“Thank you,” the woman said coolly, accompanying the reply with a slight incline of her head.
“Must be her mom taught her manners carried the day,” Bull whispered.
“Yeah.” Despite himself, Mac was impressed. It wasn’t every woman who could maintain her cool when a nineteen-year-old Comanche Indian in full war paint and slightly moth-eaten regalia popped up at her elbow. Impressed enough that he handed over the twenty, not taking his eyes off the unfolding drama. Not only because he didn’t want to miss his cue but also because the more he watched the woman the more interesting she became.
Homer thumped his closed fist against his chest. “Me great warrior.”
“I could tell that from the feathers attached to your shield.”
Titters of laughter ebbed and flowed around the room.
“This ought to be good,” Bull whispered. “Nothing gets Homer going faster than being humored.”
That’s what Mac was afraid of.
And rightly so, because in the next second, Homer attempted to catch the woman’s hand in his and succeeded in knocking over her cup instead. It tumbled off the table and onto the worn linoleum where its contents formed a puddle. The woman jumped up from the seat, and tried to stop the flood with her paper napkin.
“Better get a mop and another cup of coffee ready,” Mac whispered over his shoulder.
“She’s drinking tea.”
As if he needed anymore reminding that she was city. “That figures.”
He returned his attention to the scene. He could tell from Homer’s scowl that he was embarrassed. The woman wasn’t so easy to read. The expression on her face could be either pained or amused, probably the former from the way all ten fingers were flattened on the top of her purse.
“If this is some kind of Western pickup, I’ll have to decline.” Her voice was all prim and proper. Definitely Eastern. She shrugged. “It’s not that I don’t find your approach…unique. I’m just not in the market.”
Homer wasn’t having any of that. He scowled so hard, his war paint cracked. Mac couldn’t blame him. If Homer succeeded in dragging this blonde home, his girlfriend Molly definitely would sit up and take notice. Probably just long enough to load Homer’s ass with buckshot.
The woman grabbed more napkins as the first turned to mush and dabbed at the spill on the table. Homer, out to impress, captured her hand in his. With muscles honed through years of construction work, he pulled her away from the booth and up against his buckskin-clad chest. She promptly sneezed.
Mac rubbed his hand across his mouth to hide his amusement at Homer’s astonishment.
Homer whipped out a rubber tomahawk and raised it threateningly. “You now my woman.”
“I don’t think so.” The dismissal was coolly to the point. Homer was having none of it.
Mac sighed. It was probably time to do his hero to the rescue routine. He slid off his stool.
Homer wrapped the woman’s fat braid around his wrist. “Come, woman.”
“Look, big guy,” the woman said, with a twitch of her lips. “I already told you this caveman approach is wasted on me, so why don’t you find someone else to harass and let me get back to my tea?”
“You’re pulling my hair.”
Homer switched his grip to her arm. “Come.”
“I’m warning you,” she said. “I’m going to hurt you if you don’t let me go.”
Homer, of course, did nothing of the sort. What was one delicate city woman against a big strapping country boy?
The woman sighed. Then on a “Have it your way,” she turned in his grip. Mac marveled that she could still appear delicate and fragile as she dropped the six-foot-two-inch teen with a hard jerk of her knee.
Mac very slowly backed off until his legs hit the stool he’d just vacated. He ran his eyes over the woman from the top of her head, with its elegant French braid, to the tips of her pretty pink toenails peeking out from her open-toed pumps. He watched as she gingerly stepped over Homer’s prostrate form, slung her purse over her shoulder and walked up to the counter.
“Do any of you know where I might find Mac Hollister?” she asked, coming around the counter and scooping ice into a large dishtowel. Silence greeted her question. The woman pulled herself up to all of her five-foot-nothing height. Mac figured they were supposed to be impressed.
Not a single man let his eyes stray toward him. Mac, in turn, watched the woman as she harrumphed “Figures” and strolled across the worn gray linoleum to shove the ice pack into Homer’s hands.
“Try to remember in the future that manhandling a woman is not the safest course to choose in these troubled times.”
Homer just stared incredulously at her, his hands automatically clutching the ice pack to his groin.
Mac glanced around and was relieved to see that he wasn’t the only one who was gaping like an idiot. Bull cleared his throat meaningfully. Mac turned to the redheaded man and got the message loud and clear. Someone had to deal with this crazy woman, and from the looks he was getting, it appeared he was elected. Sliding off the stool, he settled his hat. It might just be his pleasure.
“I don’t think Homer’s likely to forget that in the near future, ma’am.”
* * * * *
Jessica slowly straightened and looked at the man before her. She’d noticed him the moment she’d walked into the grill. What red-blooded woman wouldn’t? The man practically oozed testosterone, drawing the eye whether a woman wanted it drawn or not. His indolent posture, easy confidence and raw masculinity just screamed “bad boy”. Top that off with the way he was attired—worn, blue denim shirt tha
And he was now standing before her. All six feet, two hundred mouthwatering pounds of him. This close, she could see his hair was thick and chocolate-brown with a tendency to curl where it brushed his collar. He was around thirty. His eyes were deep blue with faint lines at the corners. The laughter lurking behind the politeness in his gaze told her those lines were created as much by a sense of humor as by long hours in the sun. A sense of humor was high on her list of qualities in a potential lover, and this man definitely had potential. She gave him a small smile and nodded toward the teen on the floor. “Does he do this often?”
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