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Authors: Melissa Cutler

One More Taste

BOOK: One More Taste
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Table of Contents

About the Author

Copyright Page

 

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I dedicate this book to my fourteen-year-old self, and to all the many women and girls who have had to discover that we are all braver and more resilient than we ever dreamed possible. Sisters, together we rise.

 

Acknowledgments

This book could not have been possible without the wisdom and patience of my editor, Holly Ingraham. Thank you for guiding me towards the light with Knox and Emily's story. May this be only one of many collaborations in a long and fruitful partnership. I also extend my thanks to David Morgan for freely sharing his extensive business knowledge, and to Natalie Morgan for being the very best cook I know and whose devotion to her culinary art was a huge inspiration for this book.

 

Chapter One

Not everyone was lucky enough to drive a haunted truck. Then again,
lucky
wasn't a word Knox Briscoe would use to describe his current predicament. On a prayer, he turned the key in the ignition, but the Chevy offered him nothing but a dull click in response.

“I don't believe in ghosts,” he said, although if anyone had actually heard his declaration, it'd have to be ghosts, or perhaps some unseen wildlife. Because there was nothing or nobody in this stretch of backcountry other than him and his truck, a roadside sign proclaiming Briscoe Ranch Resort straight ahead in three miles, and a wide, calm lake nestled in the Texas hills.

He tried the key again. Nothing but that maddening click.

He tapped a finger on the steering wheel, denying himself any more grandiose a reaction because Knox was nothing if not a man in command of his emotions.

He popped the truck door open to the crisp October day. His freshly buffed black dress shoes hit the gravel with a crunch. Given the statement he'd planned to make on this, his first day as part-owner of Briscoe Ranch, it wouldn't do to soil his suit with engine grease. He shrugged out of his sports coat, hung it on a hanger he kept in the back seat for just such a purpose, tucked the ends of his blue silk tie into his shirt, and rolled his shirtsleeves to the elbows before pulling the truck's hood up.

He'd never considered himself much of a car guy until he'd inherited this one through his dad's will three years earlier. It'd taken a lot of YouTube videos and conversations with his mechanic for him to get up to speed on maintaining the thirty-year-old truck, but it'd been worth every hour and dollar spent. None of that new knowledge was going to help him today, though. Nothing obvious was broken or out of place, and the engine had plenty of oil and other fluids.

Knox patted the truck's side. “Okay, Dad. Message received. You don't want your truck on Briscoe Ranch property. I get it. But don't you want to be there to see poetic justice done, even if it's just in spirit, with your truck?”

God, he felt like a moron, talking to his dead father, but what other explanation was there for the '85 Chevy Half-Ton's mystifying quirks or the neck-prickling sensation that he wasn't alone every time Knox got into the cab? Even in death, it seemed, his dad had decided to stubbornly hold his ground against the father and brother—Knox's grandfather, Tyson, and his uncle Ty—who'd excommunicated him from the family before Knox's birth. Even in death, his dad refused to let his prized truck lay one spec of rubber down on Briscoe Ranch property. Which sucked, to be honest. It would've been icing on the cake to have his dad's spirit there, watching Knox take control of the very business his dad had been robbed of.

Behind the wheel again, he gripped the key in the ignition and closed his eyes.
Please work. Please.

Click. Click. Click.

“Okay. But this sucks. I didn't want to show up for the meeting in a Town Car with a driver like a mobster goon who's there to shake everybody down. Would you at least let me get to the entrance of the resort before stalling the truck again?”

Wow. Bargaining with a ghost. Knox's freak flag was really flying this morning. “Never mind. I don't believe in ghosts.”

After another futile turn of the key, Knox grabbed his messenger bag and stepped out of the truck, then rummaged around the copies of the Briscoe Ranch shareholder contract his lawyers had prepared until he found his cell phone.

As the phone rang with his office in Dallas, he spotted a
for sale
sign ahead of him, demarcating a gated driveway a few yards from the lake. He walked along the road to it, the phone to his ear. Was there a house at the end of that twisty, tree-lined driveway? Did the property border the resort? Looked like it might. Perhaps he'd buy it and expand the resort even more than he'd originally planned.

Shayla, his younger sister, who also worked as Briscoe Equity Group's office manager, picked up on the fourth ring. “Don't tell me Ty Briscoe's giving you shit already. I told you that you should've brought Yamaguchi and Crawford with you.”

Maybe another boss would've bristled at such insubordination, even by a blood relative, but Knox had developed a deep mistrust of kiss-asses over his years as an entrepreneur, which was why he valued Shayla's loyalty and honesty so much. And, in this case, she was absolutely correct. Linda Yamaguchi and Diane Crawford were his firm's lawyers, who Knox should have brought along today as he usually did for business acquisitions. But Knox wanted to close this deal on his own, eye-to-eye with the uncle he'd never met before they'd started this negotiation—the uncle whom Knox was going to ruin, just as Ty had ruined Knox's family.

“You can tell me ‘I told you so' later, but that's not why I called. My truck broke down three miles from Briscoe Ranch. I need a driver, and I need him to get here in—” He lifted the flap of a clear plastic box affixed to the
for sale
sign and pulled out a flier.

The photograph gracing the center of the flier drew his eye. A grand, modern house sitting on a hill overlooking the lake. It was exactly the kind of dwelling Knox was hoping to move into somewhere in the vicinity of Briscoe Ranch since he couldn't very well run the show from his home base of Dallas, five hours away.

“Hello? Are you still there?” Shayla asked.

“Sorry. Something caught my eye. If you could have the driver here in less than an hour, that would be great. Can you find me someone?” His meeting with Ty Briscoe wasn't for another two hours, but he wanted to take one last walk around the resort without any of the employees knowing who he was or why he was there.

“I can't imagine that being a problem.” He heard the fast click-clack of keyboard typing. “And … let's see … Nope, no problem. Your car will be there within the half hour.”

“Thanks, Shay.”

“You bet. And Knox? I'm proud of you. Dad would be proud, too. You know that right?”

Knox eyed his broken-down truck. He had to believe Dad would be proud of him for taking ownership of the family business, despite this hiccup. Otherwise, what would be the point of Knox putting himself through all this? “Thanks, Shay. I'll talk to you soon.”

As the call ended, the crackle of tires on gravel snagged Knox's attention. He pivoted around, expecting to see a Good Samaritan pulling to the shoulder to see if Knox needed help, but his truck was the only vehicle in sight—and it was rolling backwards, straight toward the lake.

Dropping the flier, his messenger bag, and his phone, he took off at a sprint. “No! No, no, no. Shit!”

This couldn't be happening. He'd engaged the emergency brakes—hadn't he?

The truck was picking up speed as it backed towards the lake. Knox lunged toward the door handle. He was dragged along a few feet before finding his footing again. He dug his heels into the ground and yanked. The door swung open. He staggered and hit his back against the side of the hood, but managed to rebound in time to throw himself in the cab.

He stomped on the parking brake. It activated with a groan, but the truck wouldn't stop. He pumped the manual brake. Nothing happened. The truck bounced over rocks hard enough to make Knox's teeth rattle. He turned the key. Again, nothing. Nothing except a splash as the back of the truck hit the water.

“Jesus, Dad! Help me out, here!” he shouted.

The truck slammed violently to a stop, pitching Knox forward. He bit his tongue hard. The burst of pain and taste of blood was nothing compared to his relief that the truck, with him in it, hadn't submerged any deeper in the water. His pulse pounded in his ears, even as his labored breathing turned from panicked to annoyed. “I don't get it. What are you trying to tell me? I thought this was what you wanted.”

With a hard swallow, he thumped a fist against the steering wheel, jolting himself back into composure. All this talking to ghosts was getting out of hand. Today, of all days, he could not afford to be off his A-game. He fixed his Stetson more firmly on his head and gave himself a stern mental lecture to get a grip.

All business again, he assessed the situation. Not knowing what had caused the truck to stop or if any sudden movements would jostle it back into motion, he rolled the driver-side window down and peered over the edge to stare at the brown-green water, thick with silt and mud that roiled through the liquid like thunderstorm clouds. The water lapped at the bottom of the door, not too deep, but the back tire and back bumper were fully submerged. If the truck had rolled only a few more feet into the lake, Knox would've been in real trouble.

As things stood now, though, Knox's main problem was that there was no way for him to avoid getting wet on his walk back to shore. Carefully, so as not to jar the truck back into motion, he unlatched his belt then opened the zipper of his pants. Shoes off, socks off, then pants. If he got to his first day at Briscoe Ranch on time, in one piece, and dry, it would be a miracle.

Clutching his pants, socks, and shoes to his chest, and dressed in only his shirt, a pair of boxers, and his black hat, he opened the door and stepped into the water, sinking knee deep. Silt and muck oozed between his toes. The cold ripped up his bare legs, making his leg hairs stand on end and his balls tighten painfully. Grunting through the discomfort, he shuffled away from the door until he could close it.

BOOK: One More Taste
9.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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