Chasing Charlie: A Romantic Comedy (The Texas Two-Step Series Book 1)

BOOK: Chasing Charlie: A Romantic Comedy (The Texas Two-Step Series Book 1)
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Chasing Charlie
The Texas Two-Step Series
Kathy Carmichael
McGowan Press
Contents

C
HASING CHARLIE

Kathy Lynch Carmichael

C
opyright © 2000
, 2012, 2015 by Kathy Lynch Carmichael

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.

Published by MacGowan Press.

All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. 

Cover by eBook Prep

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mail
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Chapter 1

I
t was
love at first sight. Charlotte Nelson rocked back on her heels, closed her eyes a moment and then reopened them. There was no doubt about it. She’d fallen in love—with a dress.

"How’d you like to try
that
on for size?" asked the sales clerk, stepping up behind her.

"I’m just looking." Charlie sighed, casting one last longing look at the clingy red dress before replacing it on the rack.

The girl heaved a low sigh. "Me, too."

"Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never tried anything like that before." If she wore it, what would the neighbors think? But the feeling the dress evoked was palpable. Maybe the clerk had a point. "Does it come in black?"

"The hat?"

What hat? Charlie gave the clerk a double take.

"I suppose. But I wouldn’t change a thing." The clerk was positively drooling and her eyes were trained on…something other than the dress. Or rather, someone.

Oh, no. Not the Rhinestone Cowboy.

Charlie recognized him immediately, the Rhinestone Cowboy who frequented her library research department. He’d soaked up more books on cowboys and ranching than anyone she’d ever met. "I don’t
do
cowboys."

"My gain." After watching him until he was no longer in sight, the sales clerk grinned, then gestured toward the dress. "Red is your color. You ought to try it on."

"You think so?" Charlie bit her lip. Normally she wore muted colors, more fitting for her job as a librarian. She wore sensible fabrics: cottons, synthetic blends and wools. Certainly, nothing like this personification of everything she’d like to be and couldn’t.

But what about that lecture from her roommate, Joanne? Was it time for Charlie to let loose a little? Joanne certainly seemed to feel that way. In fact, she’d called Charlie a turtle, hiding from the world.

She ran her forefinger down the satiny smoothness of the fabric. How she wanted to be the type of woman who could wear a dress like this. She searched her memory for something, anything, she might own that felt so deliciously different, and came up empty.

"Go ahead and try it on," encouraged the clerk, nodding with perky enthusiasm, as if a dress could repair all that ailed Charlie.

Joanne had said the reason Charlie felt isolated was because she’d set herself up to feel that way, by withdrawing from life. She hadn’t withdrawn, not exactly. But putting her heart, herself out there, she risked being hurt—again. She risked that feeling of somehow never doing it "right," of never being able to measure up, of somehow lacking some essence that others seemed to carry confidently on their shoulders.

The dress might prove to Joanne and herself that of course she could. She’d start small, though. She’d experiment a little, take a few more risks like the satiny red dress. She nodded at the clerk who quickly snapped up the dress and led her back to the dressing rooms.

Charlie normally didn’t shop at Neiman’s and she’d never visited the dressing rooms before. They were larger than those in most stores and each had a chair and a real door. Soon she was alone behind the closed door and there was nothing in the room to look at save the mirror, the chair and The Dress.

She quickly stepped out of her neat lavender shirtwaist and laid it across the chair. Then she pulled the red dress off the hanger and slid it over her head. As if it had been custom made for her, it clung to her hips and hugged her form. Was that her in the mirror, looking excited and a little guilty?

She started at the sound of a knock on the door. Opening it a crack, the clerk peeked her head in. "Come out here and look at yourself in the full-length mirrors."

Before Charlie had time to refuse, the clerk managed to drag her to the mirrors.

"It’s perfectly lovely and fits you like a dream," said the clerk.

There, before Charlie’s eyes, were three of her, and she looked as poised as any magazine cover model. She looked like a woman who gulped life, didn’t measure it in risks taken. Was it her imagination, or did the very air around her crackle with excitement? The woman gazing back at her looked as though she was the life of every party, not the wallflower watching from a dark corner. No, this woman didn’t know dark corners existed. Could a dress do all that?

Oh, I couldn’t
, she argued with her little voice. But the voice was insistent.

This dress should prove to Joanne, and to herself, that she was a risk taker. Sure, she didn’t take heedless chances, but the occasional rash purchase was perfectly within her capability. What had really stung was when Joanne accused her of not changing toothpaste brands, or even flavors, in a decade—and it had been true. She couldn’t remember ever using another product. She’d immediately gone out and bought three other brands but hadn’t tried them yet.

Joanne had been right.

But not anymore.

"I’ll take it."

"
A
ll I want is
to be a cowboy," R. Davis Murphy said to Jim Turner, long-time family friend and boyfriend of Davis’s widowed mother.

The candy department of the store wasn’t nearly as crowded and congested as the rest of Neiman’s and the aroma of chocolate and other sweets was enticing. But Davis was here on a mission to select Valentine’s gifts and Jim had come along to pick out something for Davis’s mother.

Davis picked up a chocolate cowboy hat stuffed with a popcorn bull and red foil candy hearts. "Not only do I want to be a cowboy, I want five—better make it six of these hats. Don’t want Bambi to feel left out."

Jim silently shook his head. His tall, thin frame looked as out of place in a candy department as a calf would look in a pen of bulls. "Aren’t you ready to step away from Murphy Title yet?"

"You bet." Davis was more than ready. For the past eight years, he’d been wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and silk tie instead of the Resistol hat and jeans he craved, affixing his name to contracts instead of putting his brand on cattle. When his father had died, leaving Davis and his mother nearly destitute, the only asset they’d had was Murphy Title. Davis had stepped in, and after years of hard-learned lessons and even harder work, made it profitable enough it didn’t need him anymore.

The time for pursuing his lifelong dream, to be a cowboy like his grandfather, had finally arrived. "I promoted Lily to President last week. There’ll be a transition period while she gets up to snuff, and then I’m out of there. In the meantime, I’ve put a few calls in to real estate brokers."

"I’m sure the perfect ranch is out there waiting for you. You’ve made your mother and all of us proud, Davis. It’s good to know you’ll soon be doing something for yourself. I’d hate to head off to Tokyo and think of you working at a job you don’t enjoy." Jim leaned close to the glass counter, checking out the selection of truffles. "You know, if I’d had my way, you wouldn’t have had to worry about money. But your mother wasn’t willing to accept my charity then, and still isn’t ready for anything more."

Davis patted Jim on the back. It wasn’t any wonder his mother and Jim had come to fall in love. And Jim’s job transfer to Japan would take place in only two weeks. Who knew when, if ever, he’d be back? "Knowing you were there made it all possible."

The older man waved away Davis’s gratitude. "You and your mother are all the family I have."

"All you need is the perfect Valentine’s gift to convince Mom to go to Japan with you," said Davis.

"You know I’ve proposed more times than I can count and she’s always turned me down. I finally realized she’s not going to marry me until you’re safely settled."

Davis froze. A momentary shame washed over him. Mom was holding back because of him? Had he been so caught up in running the business that he hadn’t been paying attention when he should have?

Jim seemed to know exactly the direction Davis’s thoughts had run, because he cringed. "I shouldn’t have said that."

Davis chewed it around in his mind. "You’re right, though." His mother was very much in love with Jim. What else but worry over her only son would keep her from getting married?

His mother had sacrificed a lot for him. She wouldn’t leave Davis alone, not after how she’d felt so alone after his father had died. It was time for Davis to return the favor. If she wanted to see him settled before she’d feel free to marry the man she loved, then Davis owed it to her to make it possible. Although there wasn’t much time, there had to be a way to pull it off.

He ran his hand through his hair, thinking over the women he’d been dating. Although they were all attractive, enjoyable women, he couldn’t work up anything more than a mild interest in any one of them. Which explained the identical Valentine’s gifts. He wasn’t ready to marry someone simply for the sake of his mother’s happiness.

But…what if he pretended to be engaged? His mother would feel free to marry the man she loved. "How about if I introduce her to my fiancée? Think that would do it?"

Jim started, then dourly eyed the six chocolate hats Davis had lined up on the counter. "Why haven’t we heard anything about her until now? Who is she?"

"I’m not sure yet. The women I’ve been seeing won’t do." Davis shook his head, thoroughly swept up by the idea. "No, I need a woman who’ll understand it’s just a temporary engagement."

Two weeks. Surely most any woman would agree to be engaged to him for two weeks. "And she’d darn well better be one Mom finds acceptable, or else she’ll never run off with you."

"Forget it, Davis." Jim shot him a stern look. "You can’t come dragging home some woman simply to trick your mother."

"You said yourself that Mom won’t marry you until I’m settled. I’m not ready to settle down yet. I’m still too busy trying to buy my ranch—but I can at least give her this, Jim. Mom deserves her happiness."

"You’re crazy. This isn’t the way to go about it. Eventually your mother will come around."

"Yeah, and I get to watch her mope with heartache while you’re having the time of your life in Tokyo. No. I just have to find the right woman."

"You have more women than you know what to do with already. This isn’t a good idea."

Davis waved away Jim’s misgivings. He wracked his brain, trying to think of someone who would fit not just his but his mother’s requirements for an ideal mate. The harder he thought, the larger the blank. His jaw clenched. There had to be someone out there. "Another thing, it’s got to be someone I’m attracted to. Otherwise, Mom would catch on that I’m not serious."

Bouncing dark-gold curls drew his attention, framing the face of a woman who could only be described as cute, right down to the single dimple he could see from a distance of fifty feet away. He started to dismiss her, then recognition hit. "Hey, I know her."

Jim turned to look. "Who is she?"

"She’s a librarian…" Davis threw some money on the counter.

"Come down to earth, Davis. You can’t do this."

"And I bet she’s single. Finish paying for these, okay? I’ll see what I can do and catch up with you at the office."

"Hey, where do you think you’re—"

Abruptly, Davis cut him off. "I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing it for Mom." Davis turned and dashed after the blonde. He was certain he knew the woman’s name. Nelson. Charlotte Nelson. That was it. He’d seen it often enough on her name tag. She was smart and surprisingly good looking for a librarian. She was
exactly
the type of woman a man brought home to meet his mother.

He crossed the crowded aisles to catch up with her. "Miss Nelson."

She stopped and looked back.

"Miss Nelson, er, Charlotte." Davis soon joined her. "This is the first time I’ve seen you anywhere other than the library."

She laughed. "I assure you, even librarians have lives." She gazed directly at him.

Davis was struck by the richness of her hazel eyes. Not green, or blue, or brown, but some intriguing mixture of the three. Staring into her eyes was like looking into a kaleidoscope. Why hadn’t he noticed before? Maybe the lighting at the library was different from the mall. Mentally shaking himself, he said, "Could I buy you a cappuccino or coffee or something?"

She shook her head, sending her burnished gold curls into motion. "My lunch hour is almost over and I need to get back to work."

She was perfect, not beautiful in any conventional way but pretty and natural and darn cute. She held a red dress on a hanger, wrapped in plastic. "That looks heavy. Can I carry it for you?"

Actually it looked pretty daring for a librarian to wear. Charlotte Nelson would be a knockout in it. When she looked hesitant, he added, "Maybe I could call you for a date?"

Charlie had one rule in life. The words cowboy and date did not go together, no matter how cute the cowboy.

Too bad he wasn’t cute. No. Davis Murphy was down right gorgeous.

He was the type that had women turning their heads, fantasies running through their thoughts. She had to stop thinking like this. Turning to go, she said, "I think I can handle this
heavy
dress by myself. I’ll see you at the library. Bye!"

She dashed toward the exit. When he’d first begun coming to the library, she’d been rather intrigued by his looks. Dark hair, trim physique and eyes so dark you could lose yourself in them. He’d made her heart speed up—until he asked where to find information about purchasing farm equipment. Her interest had instantly chilled when she realized he was only interested in one subject, the subject she liked least in the world.

She heard him call out, "Wait!" Lowering her head, she pretended not to have heard. Some of the aura from her new dress must have clung to her; good-looking men did not try to pick her up. She stepped up her pace and pulled the dress bag closer.

She had to admit it was fun to feel attractive. Buying the dress made her feel like a risk-taker. And even though she’d never be interested in a cowboy, the dress was a start. She felt pleased with herself.

She saw Davis following her. Walking a bit faster still, she headed for Sears. Her car was parked outside that entrance.

Men. They weren’t easily discouraged. Thank goodness she was a librarian. Men had to be quiet in libraries. Even if someone like her brothers, Monty Joe and Bobby Gray, stormed into her workplace giving her orders, she could legitimately tell them to shush. If only she could figure out a way here and now to discourage Davis.

BOOK: Chasing Charlie: A Romantic Comedy (The Texas Two-Step Series Book 1)
8.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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