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they were together.
"I've been looking for you," Harley said with a grin as he paused just in front of her. "The Cattleman's
Ball is Saturday night and I want to go, but I don't have a date. I know it's late to be asking, but how
about going with me? Unless you've got a date or you're going with your dad...?" he added.
She grinned back. "I haven't got a date, and Dad's away on business and has to miss the ball this year.
But I do have a pretty new dress that I'm dying to wear! I'd love to go with you, Harley!"
"Really?" His lean face lit up. He knew Janie was sweet on Leo Hart, but it was rumored that he was
avoiding her like measles these days. Harley wasn't in love with Janie, but he genuinely liked her.
"Really," Janie replied. "What time will you pick me up?"
"About six-thirty," he said. "It doesn't start until seven, but I like to be on time."
"That makes two of us. I'll be ready. Thanks, Harley!" "Thank you!" he said. "See you Saturday." He
was off in a cloud of dust, waving his hand out the window as he pulled out of the yard. Janie sighed
with relief. She wanted nothing more in the world than to go to that dance and show Leo Hart how
wrong he was about her chasing him. Harley was young and nice looking. She liked him. She would
go and have a good time. Leo would be able to see for himself that he was off the endangered list, and
he could make a safe bet that Janie would never go near him again without a weapon! As she
considered it, she smiled coldly. Revenge was petty, but after the hurt she'd endured at Leo's hands,
she felt entitled to a little of it. He was never going to forget this party. Never, as long as he lived.
Chapter Three
The annual Jacobsville Cattleman's Ball was one of the newer social events of the year. It took place
the Saturday before Thanksgiving like clockwork. Every cattleman for miles around made it a point
to attend, even if he avoided all other social events for the year. The Ballenger brothers, Calhoun and
Justin, had just added another facility to their growing feedlot enterprise, and they looked prosperous
with their wives in gala attire beside them. The Tremayne brothers, Connal, Evan, Harden, and
Donald, and their wives were also in attendance, as were the Hart boys; well, Corrigan, Callaghan,
Rey and Leo at least, and their wives. Simon and Tira didn't attend many local events except the
brothers' annual Christmas party on the ranch.
Also at the ball were Micah Steele, Eb Scott, J. D. Langley, Emmett Deverell, Luke Craig, Guy Fenton,
Ted Regan, Jobe Dodd, Tom Walker and their wives. The guest list read like a who's who of
Jacobsville, and there were so many people that the organizers had rented the community center for it.
There was a live country-western band, a buffet table that could have fed a platoon of starving men,
and enough liquor to drown a herd of horses.
Leo had a highball. Since he hadn't done much drinking in recent years, his four brothers were giving
him strange looks. He didn't notice. He was feeling so miserable that even a hangover would have
been an improvement.
Beside him, Marilee was staring around the room with wide, wary eyes.
"Looking for somebody?" Leo asked absently.
"Yes," she replied. "Janie said she wasn't coming, but that isn't what your sister-in-law Tess just told
me."
"What did she say?"
Marilee looked worried. "Harley Fowler told her he was bringing Janie."
"Harley?" Leo scowled. Harley Fowler was a courageous young man who'd actually backed up the
town's infamous mercenaries Eb Scott, Cy Parks and Micah Steele when they helped law
enforcement face down a gang of drug dealers the year before. Harley's name hadn't been coupled
with any of the local belles, and he was only a working-class cowboy. Janie's father might be
financially pressed at the moment, but his was a founding family of Jacobsville, and the family had
plenty of prestige. Fred and his sister-in-law Lydia would be picky about who Janie married. Not, he
thought firmly, that Janie was going to be marrying Harley....
"Harley's nice," Marilee murmured. "He's Cy Parks's head foreman now, and everybody says he's got
what it takes to run a business of his own." What Marilee didn't add was that Harley had asked her out
several times before his raid on the drug lord with the local mercenaries, and she'd turned him down
flat. She'd thought he bragged and strutted a little too much, that he was too immature for her. She'd
even told him so. It had made her a bitter enemy of his. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]