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Authors: Diana Palmer

Denim and Lace

BOOK: Denim and Lace
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They Live In Two Separate Worlds, But Share The Same Desire

Bess Samson was raised in privilege, but always had a thing for Cade Hollister, the rough-and-tumble cowboy next door, even ignoring her controlling, class-conscious mother's warning to stay away from him. But he turned her down—hard. Humiliated, she grew up and moved on, but never truly gave up hope.

Cade has secretly always adored Bess—but is filled with disdain for the Samsons' wealth. Once, the families had been friends, until dark secrets and scandal caused a bitter rift, and now her family won't let him forget his blue-collar roots. But when an accident nearly costs Bess her life, the proud rancher must finally fight for the love he's never forgotten.

Diana Palmer

Denim and Lace

Dear Reader,

Denim and Lace
is one of my favorite novels. It is so lovely to see it back in print again, and in ebook form for the first time! It was written in 1990. That was still a time when many people smoked and were allowed to in hospital waiting rooms. It was so much a part of our society that nobody thought anything about it. Many phrases we used, many things we did, were commonplace. Those same things would be surprising to the generations that have come up since then.

I hope you enjoy the book. It is a bittersweet one. A socialite in love with a cowboy who fought his feelings for her, hoping to become rich enough to win her. Then, years later, a passionate encounter, leading to a marriage with a tragic secret kept too long. Cade is one of my favorite heroes, because you can see the insecurities and the flaws along with the sterling character he projects. Bess was rich and lost everything. She was left with her mother, who refused to give up her wild spending sprees and expected Bess to pay for them on her salary at an ad agency. Bess learns to stand on her own two feet and grows strong in adversity. As the story unwinds, she becomes more than a match for fiery Cade.

I loved telling this story. It was fun, too, mentally reliving the days in which I wrote it. Our son was ten years old when it appeared. He was interviewed by a national news reporter, who asked how he liked his mother's romance books. His answer was one word:
Yuck!
James and I almost died laughing at that totally off-the-wall response. Of course, for Christmas, our little boy got sticks and stones... Just kidding. He got an Imperial Walker from the Star Wars collection, and a Boba Fett, to boot!

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you enjoy it. And God bless everyone!

CHAPTER ONE

T
HE
MORNING
COFFEE
was well under way, and the bride-to-be looked as if she'd stepped from the pages of
Vogue
. But at least one of the guests was trying her best not to look bored to death as she stood amid the muted noises of conversation and coffee being served. These were familiar sounds to Elizabeth Ann Samson—the rattle of delicate rose-patterned china cups in their elegant thin saucers, the rustle of linen napkins, the whisper of skin against silk and wool. She smiled a little, thinking how quickly she'd trade those luxurious sounds for the hiss of coffee boiling over on a campfire and being poured into a cracked white mug. But there was no use hoping for that kind of miracle. Cowboys and debutantes didn't mix. Everyone said so, especially her mother, Gussie. And it didn't make a bit of difference that Cade Hollister had somehow scraped up ten thousand dollars in cash to invest in her father's newest real-estate deal. That wouldn't admit him to the elegant drawing room or to any party at the Samson mansion that Bess might invite him to. Bess was too shy to invite him, in the first place. And in the second, he had no use for her. He'd made that very clear three years ago, in a way that still made her faintly nervous around him. But love was inexplicable. It seemed to thrive on rejection. Hers must, she mused silently, because nothing Cade said or did stopped her from wanting him...

“Are you going to Bermuda with us in the spring, Bess?” Nita Cain interrupted her thoughts with a smile. “We thought we might rent a villa and get in some deep-sea fishing.”

“I don't know,” Bess said as she balanced her cup of black coffee in its saucer. “Mother hasn't mentioned what she wants to do yet.”

“Can't you go on vacation without her, just once?” Nita coaxed. “There are several well-placed businessmen on our stretch of beach, and you look sensational in a bikini.”

Bess knew exactly what Nita was saying. The older girl had affairs with elegance and ease, and she was beautiful enough to attract any man she liked. She thought Bess was missing out on life, and she wanted to help her out of her rut. But it wouldn't work. Bess didn't have affairs, because the only man she'd ever wanted or ever would want was Cade. Anyone else would be just a poor substitute. Besides, she thought, she'd never match Nita for beauty, even if she tried to be a swinger.

Nita was dark and sultry and outgoing. Bess was tall and lanky and shy. She had shoulder-length brown hair with delicate blond highlights, and it waved toward her face and down her back with delightful fullness. She had soft brown eyes and a complexion that any model would have killed for, but her shyness kept men from looking at her too hard. She didn't have spirit or grace, because Gussie had those things and didn't like competition from her only child. So Bess stayed in the background, as she'd been trained to do, speaking when spoken to and learning French and etiquette and how to plan a banquet when she'd much rather have been riding alongside Cade when he was rounding up calves at Lariat, the Hollisters' moderately successful cow-calf operation. It was a big ranch, but not modern. It was pretty much the same as it had been over a hundred years ago when one of Cade's ancestors came to Texas looking for trouble and found longhorn cattle instead.

“I can't go without Mother,” Bess said, bringing herself back from the dreams again. “She'd be lonely.”

“She could go, too, and take your father with her.”

Bess laughed softly. “My father doesn't take vacations. He's much too busy. Anyway, he's been in something of a bind just lately. We're all hoping his new real-estate project will go over well and take the worry lines out of his face. How was Rio?”

Nita spent the next ten minutes raving over the Italian count she'd met in that fabled city and discussing the delights of nude bathing in the count's private pool. Bess sighed without meaning to. She'd never gone bathing in the nude or had an affair or done any of the modern things that with-it young women did. She was as sheltered as a nun. Gussie led and she followed. Sometimes she wondered why, but she always did it. That seemed to irritate Cade more than anything, that Gussie got her own way and Bess never argued. But Cade didn't want Bess. He'd made that clear three years ago, when Bess had turned twenty, and in a way, it was just as well. Gussie had bigger fish than Cade in mind for her daughter. She disliked Cade and made no secret of it, although Bess had never found out why. Probably it was because the Hollisters lived in an old house with worn carpets and linoleum and drove used cars and never seemed to get ahead. Cade dressed in worn denim and leather boots, and he always smelled of calf and tobacco. The men Bess was allowed to date smelled of Pierre Cardin cologne and brandy and imported cigars. She sighed. She'd have traded them all for one hour in Cade's arms.

She turned, idly scanning the crowded room. This coffee was for a newly engaged socialite. It was one of a round of coffees Bess had been to lately, and they were as boring as her life. Drinking coffee from old china stirred with silver spoons, aimlessly passing the time talking about holiday resorts and investments and the latest styles. And outside those immaculately clean windows, real life in the South Texas brush country was passing them all by. Real people lived in that world, which Bess had only caught a glimpse of. Real people who worked for a living, challenged the land and the weather, wore old clothes and drove old trucks and went to church on Sunday.

Bess glanced at Nita and wondered if she'd ever been inside a church except during the ceremony of one of her three failed marriages. Bess had gone once or twice, but she never seemed to find a place where she felt comfortable. The Hollisters were Baptist. They went to the same church where Cade's grandfather had been a deacon, and everyone knew and respected the family. They might not be rich, but they were well-thought-of. Sometimes, Bess thought, that might be worth a lot more than a big account.

Several minutes later she escaped out the door and climbed behind the wheel of her silver Jaguar XJ-S, sinking into the leather seat with a long breath of relief. At least here she felt at home, out in the country with no one to tell her what to do. It was a nice change from the house.

She headed home, but as she passed the dirt road that led to the Hollister homestead, she saw three calves wandering free of the cattle grid. Her brown eyes narrowed as she noticed a break in the fence. She scouted the horizon, but there was no one in sight. Turning onto the dirt road, she told herself that it was a necessary trip, not just an excuse to see Cade. It wouldn't do for the Hollisters to lose even one calf with the cattle market down so far because of the continuing drought. Hay had been precious and still was, and the calf crop was dropping early, because it was February and a month before Cade's cows usually dropped their calves. These little ones were obviously the product of cows who'd ignored Cade's rigid breeding program. She smiled to herself, thinking how brave those cows were, to defy him for love.

She was getting silly, she told herself as she wheeled into the yard, where chickens scurried to get out of her way. Her eyes moved lovingly over the big two-story clapboard house with its long porch. A weathered porch swing and two rocking chairs rested there, but only Elise Hollister, Cade's mother, ever had time to sit in them. Cade and Robert, his youngest brother, were always out on the ranch somewhere working. Gary, the middle brother, kept the books for the outfit, and Elise took in sewing to augment the money Cade won at rodeos. He was a top hand with a rope, and he'd made a lot of money on the rodeo circuit in calf roping and team roping. He was good at bareback bronc riding and steer riding, as well. Bess worried about him. Last time, at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December, he'd pulled a tendon in his leg and it had been weeks before he could walk without a limp. He had scars all over his arms and chest from the falls he'd taken and a couple of mended bones, as well. But without that extra money, they'd never have made their mortgage payments. Cade was a keen businessman, and since his father's death years ago he'd had the bulk of the responsibility for the ranch. It had aged him. He was only thirty-four, but he seemed mature and very adult, even hard, to Bess. Not that it affected her feelings for him. Nothing ever seemed to change that sad fact.

She got out of the Jaguar, pausing to pet Laddie, the black-and-white border collie that helped the men work the cattle. Cade would get angry if he saw her because Laddie was a cattle dog, not a petting dog. He didn't like her showing affection to anything on his land, least of all to him. But she thought he might like to know about the wayward calves.

Elise Hollister was in the kitchen. She called for Bess to come in, and Bess opened the screen door, careful not to bang it, because the spring had come loose and there was a small hole in the screen. The linoleum floors were cracked and faded. Compared with the big Samson house the Hollisters' home was a shack, but it was always clean and neat as a pin because Elise kept it that way. Bess always felt at home on Lariat, and the lack of luxury didn't bother her one bit. It bothered Cade. He never snapped at her more than when she came here, which was rarely. She hadn't really had a good excuse since her father had persuaded Cade three years ago to give her riding lessons, and that hadn't lasted long. Gussie had managed to stop them just after they started, and Cade had seemed relieved. Of course it had been just after his successful attempt to get Bess to stop chasing him, and it had been something of a relief, even to her. Cade's callous behavior had upset her. She often wondered if he regretted it. She did, because it had left her slightly afraid of him. But her stubborn heart had never found another man to fasten itself on. Despite everything, it was still Cade.

He only came to the house to see her father, and that had been a very recent development. His attitude was somehow different. Gussie's hauteur bounced off him these days, for the most part, but the way he looked at Bess was new and a little unsettling. It was as if he was looking for something in her.

But he didn't like her on Lariat. She wondered if it might be because he disliked having her see how he lived, comparing his lifestyle with hers. But why would that matter to him when he wanted no part of her? She couldn't quite figure Cade out. She was in good company there. He was a mystery even to his mother.

Elise Hollister had gray hair, but she was elegant in her way, tall and slender and sharp featured, with kind, dark eyes and a ready smile. She was wearing a cotton print shirtwaist dress, and her eyes twinkled as she moved away from the sink to wipe her hands on a dishcloth.

“Hello, Bess,” she said, welcoming the younger woman like a long-lost daughter. “What brings you here?”

“Cade's got some calves out on the highway,” she said. “The fence is down, and I thought I'd better tell somebody.” She blushed, thinking how transparent she must seem to this warm, quiet woman.

Elise smiled. “That's very kind of you. You look pretty this morning.”

“Thank you. I've been to a coffee,” Bess said with a kind of sophisticated cynicism. “The daughter of one of Mama's friends is getting married, so I had to make an appearance.” She grimaced. “I wanted to go riding, but Mama says I'll fall off the horse and break something vital.”

“You ride very well,” Elise said. Coming from her, it was a compliment because she could ride every bit as well as the cowboys on Lariat.

“You're sweet, but I'll never be in your class.” Bess sighed, looking around the neat, clean kitchen. “I envy you, being able to cook. I can't boil water. Every time I sneak into the kitchen and try to learn from Maude, Mama explodes.”

“I love to cook,” Elise said hesitantly, reluctant to offend Bess by making any remarks about Gussie. “Of course, I've always had to. And around here, food is more important than anything—at least, to my sons,” she laughed. “I'm lucky to get a chicken bone at mealtimes.”

Bess laughed, too. “I guess I'd better go.”

Elise studied the quiet young face with eyes that saw deep. “Cade's out with some of the boys, checking on the heifers we bred last fall. Some of them are dropping early. I feel rather sorry for whoever let the bulls in with them too early.”

Bess knew what she meant. “I hope he can get work somewhere else,” she added. “It's some of the new calves that are out on the highway.”

Elise nodded. “I'll send Robbie out to get Cade,” she said. “Thanks again for stopping by. You wouldn't like some cake and coffee?”

“I would,” Bess replied. “But I have to check in by noon, or Mama will send out the Texas Rangers to find me. Thanks anyway.”

She climbed back into the Jaguar and pulled back onto the farm road that led to the highway. Her eyes restlessly searched the horizon for Cade, but she knew she wouldn't see him. She spent altogether too much time looking for him. Not that it would do her any good to catch him. Even if he had a wild, secret passion for her—a really laughable thought, she mused—he had too much responsibility on Lariat to marry anyone. He had his mother and two brothers and a respectable amount of land and cattle to oversee. It wasn't realistic to think that such a responsible man would chuck it all for the sake of any woman.

She darted a glance at the calves as she drove past them on her way home. Well, at least they were standing beside the road, not in it, and Robbie, Cade's youngest brother, would find him and tell him about them. But it would have been so nice if Cade had been at the house. She smiled, indulging yet another daydream that ended with herself in Cade's arms, with his dark eyes full of love as they looked down at her. Always the same dream, she thought. Always the same hopeless reality. She really would have to grow up, she decided. If only she could manage a way to do it without stuffing her overprotective mother into a croker sack and hiding her in the attic.

BOOK: Denim and Lace
4.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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