Read Texas Rose Online

Authors: Marie Ferrarella

Texas Rose

CLUB TIMES
For Members' Eyes Only

Which Carson Has Been Playing in the Wainwrights' Sandbox?

I'
m not pulling a fast one over on you, members. One of our elders saw some, ahem,
cozy
behavior between a certain Carson cowboy and a “bookish” Wainwright female not too long ago. Now, I don't want to start World War III here, but I'm just saying that some Carson-Wainwrights sure ain't feudin'! The betting pool for which Wainwright and which Carson will take place in the Yellow Rose Café after the lunch shift this coming Sunday. We hope you understand that this is all in good fun, members. We don't want to aggravate Archy Wainwright's ticker or Ford Carson's cholesterol count.

As usual, we're holding our candlelight vigil for valuable member Luke Callaghan's safe return from wherever he is. The little scamp is probably in some hot air balloon wafting over Japan, with a harem to boot! Phone home, Luke!

Of course you know it's not our place to poke into anyone's affairs, but does anyone know why Carl Bridges has been so grouchy lately? He almost bit one nameless club employee's head off for pouring his coffee too slowly. We're not here to judge; it's just that we care about our members. On a related note, do y'all remember Carl Bridges's scallawag son, Dylan? Now there's a handsome buck who's always up to no good. Wonder what he's doing now….

As always, members, make your best stop of the day right here at the Lone Star Country Club!

About the Author

MARIE FERRARELLA

began writing when she was eleven. She began selling many years after that. Along the way, she acquired a master's in Shakespearean Comedy, a husband and two kids [in that order]—the dog came later. She sold her first romance in November of 1981. The road from there to here has a hundred and thirty-eight more sales to it, with a hundred and twenty being to Silhouette. She's been fortunate enough to have received several RITA
®
nominations over the years, with one win for
Father Goose
[in the Traditional Category]. Marie hopes to be found one day—many, many years from now—slumped over her computer, writing to the last moment…with a smile on her face.

She found working on the LONE STAR COUNTRY CLUB series especially fun since she originally learned how to speak English by watching old John Wayne movies on Channel 13 and has loved Westerns and anything with a western flavor ever since.

MARIE FERRARELLA
TEXAS ROSE

Welcome to the

Where Texas society reigns supreme—and appearances are
everything.

The search for Baby Lena's parents continue—and scandal spreads like wildfire through Mission Creek….

Matt Carson:
Although he is the target of the Wainwrights' wrath for ruining their daughter's sterling reputation, nothing is going to stop this spurned cowboy from reclaiming his true love. Even if it means following her to the bright lights of New York City.

Rose Wainwright:
When her forbidden tryst with her family's most hated enemy results in a shocking development, Rose makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect the man she cherishes. But the truth has a way of coming out….

The Undercover Investigation:
Is the Mafia behind the anonymous threats that Haley Mercado's trusted friend and secret cohort has been receiving? Residents beware: the Texas underworld might be on the verge of wreaking more havoc in Mission Creek!

To Margaret O'Neill Marbury,
for all the headaches
she endured.
Love,
Marie

One

“W
hose is it, girl?”

Archy Wainwright's question exploded like thunder, swallowing up the deathlike silence that had come a moment before. Stunned silence had been the initial reaction to Rose's quietly spoken announcement, delivered at the dining room table where her father, sister and brother had gathered for dinner.

The announcement had been an unwilling one on her part. If she'd had her choice, Rose Wainwright would have opted to spare her family the news altogether. Being told that his unmarried, thirty-year-old librarian daughter was pregnant wasn't exactly something a father wanted to hear—least of all the stern, volatile Archy Wainwright, respected land baron of one of the two oldest families in Mission Creek, Texas.

But it wasn't as if this was something that could remain a secret indefinitely. Even now, only six weeks along, Rose was certain she was going to begin showing at any moment. Despite her small waist. Despite the fact that her clothes still all fit just the way they always had. She
felt
pregnant. Hugely so.

Maybe it was the overwhelming weight of her secret that made her feel this way.

Or maybe it was because her world had been set on its ear ever since she'd stood in the bathroom within her wing of the sprawling ranch house, holding her breath, waiting for a small stick to decide her fate.

No, Rose amended, that wasn't really true. Her world had been upended ever since she'd first succumbed to Matt's charms and fallen in love with him. Ever since she'd first laid eyes on him. He'd leaned over the library counter and asked, with that devil of a twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes, if he could take out anything he found within the library. When she'd answered a tentative, “Yes,” he'd put his hand on hers and said that what he really wanted to take out was the librarian.

Rose remembered blushing to the roots of her jet-black hair. Even so, she'd taken exception to Matt's unabashed flirtation. She'd been schooled to be cautious because he was, after all, who he was. A Carson. The enemy. Forbidden fruit.

At least, for a Wainwright girl. Or a Wainwright woman, as she now most definitely was.

Where had her mind been? she upbraided herself, watching as her father's complexion turned from mildly ruddy to deeply red. What could she have possibly been thinking, falling for Matt Carson? Making love with Matt Carson? Was she completely insane?

Yes, yes, she was, Rose thought. Completely and
utterly insane. Insane about him. But that didn't change anything. Not the situation, not the outcome. She, a Wainwright, was pregnant by a Carson.

And nobody was ever going to find out that part.

Standing in her bathroom, she'd dropped the stick into the trash can, crumpled to the floor herself and cried her heart out. Then she'd placed her hand over her too flat belly and wept some more for the child who was to be born. The child she already loved.

Even though she couldn't hide the fact that she was pregnant and becoming more so with each passing tick of the clock, Rose was determined to protect those she loved by not telling them who the father was.
All
those she loved, including Matt. It would only add to everyone's grief.

Not telling meant withstanding her father's tongue-lashing. It meant enduring the stony stare of her older brother, Justin, who also just happened to be the sheriff of Mission Ridge, the small town that the vast Wainwright ranch bordered. It meant withstanding her younger sister Susan's incredulous look.

But there was no other way. She had already made up her mind to have this baby. Alone. Telling her own father that her baby's father was Matt Carson would unleash a torrent of trouble that could only be equaled to the tumultuous origins of the feud that had separated the two once-friendly families and placed them on opposing ends of everything for the past seventy-five years.

Because it was unthinkable for a Carson and a Wainwright to actually entertain the idea of marriage, she deliberately hadn't told Matt that she was carrying his baby. She'd been afraid that he'd do something stupid, such as marry her because of the baby and estrange himself from his family. It was a guilt she felt unequal to bearing.

And worse still, she'd been afraid to tell him because she couldn't bear the thought that he might turn his back on her and tell her she was on her own. That getting pregnant was her fault, despite the precautions she'd taken. It was better to suppose, but not have the actual confirmation.

Though the thought of bearing Matt's child had drawn her closer to him emotionally, she had gone out of her way to instigate an argument that had led to the end of their clandestine affair.

Remembering that day, the day she'd broken it off, was painful. She'd lied for the first time in her adult life and told Matt that she wasn't excited by the thought of being with him any longer. That she was bored of it all and of him.

The words had tasted bitter in her mouth. Bitterer still had been enduring the look she'd seen in his eyes. His beautiful blue eyes had pain in them. Pain she had put there.

But there had been nothing else for her to do.

Rose clenched her hands in her lap as she stared
up into the face of the first man she had ever loved: her father.

Archy rubbed his chest in small, concentric circles, his eyes pinning her to her chair, as if willing his daughter to answer.

“Well?” he demanded when she made no response. “Who's the tomcat who's been sniffing around your skirts, girl? What's the name of the man whose hide I'm going to nail to the barn door?” His eyes became small slits beneath his bushy eyebrows. “Out with it, Rosie. I'll make him wish he was never born.”

She lifted her chin. She'd always been a dutiful daughter, but that didn't mean that her spine had the consistency of wet spaghetti. She was, above all else, her father's daughter and could be just as stubborn as he was. “No.”

“No?” Archy thundered in stunned disbelief. Rose had never been this blatantly defiant before, never challenged his authority.

Susan and Justin exchanged looks, waiting for the inevitable fallout.

Archy stared dumbfounded at his firstborn daughter. It had been only yesterday that he'd held that tiny, fragile little life in his large hands, amazed that something so tiny had such a will to live. Rose Ann Wainwright had been a preemie, born two months before she was scheduled to appear. The doctor had given
her only a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the first forty-eight hours.

His Texas Rose had fooled them all. She'd not only lived, but thrived. Rosie was the quietest of them all, but he had always known there was a vein of stubbornness beneath the quiet.

Still, she'd been obedient to a fault, and he had to secretly admit that he liked it that way. This refusal to answer was the last thing he would have expected from her. The rebelliousness he saw in her eyes took him completely by surprise.

Surprise gave way to anger. “What in Sam Hill do you mean, ‘no'?”

Rose clenched her hands harder. This was for everyone's good, she kept telling herself. She had to stay strong, had to refuse to give up Matt's name.

“Just that. No.” She raised her chin, aware of the fact that her brother and sister were staring at her as if she'd suddenly turned into a giant condor right in front of their eyes. Her voice gained strength and volume as she continued. “No, I won't tell you who the father is. No, I won't be marrying him. And no, I won't let you bully anyone in my name.”


Our
name, girl,
our
name,” Archy reminded his daughter heatedly, his eyes as dark as the sky just before a Texas twister. “You're not some mongrel puppy, you're a Wainwright. Damn it, girl, that means something around here.”

She refused to look away, even though she wanted
nothing more. But now wasn't the time to be a coward. She had to stand her ground. For her baby's sake. And for her father's.

“I know that, Dad.”

Archy struggled to control his outrage and his pain. “No, I don't think you do. If you did, you wouldn't have gotten yourself in this state.” With effort, his voice softened as he looked at her. “Are you sure, girl? You look so damn thin. Maybe it's just a mistake. You know, with the calendar.”

“No,” she replied quietly, “it's not a mistake with the calendar.”

Rose watched her father's face fall. She knew she was taking away his last line of defense, his last hope. The euphemistic way he attempted to tiptoe around the delicate subject of monthly cycles touched her. Ordinarily her father had the finesse of a wrangler. If Archy Wainwright couldn't rope it and brand it, he couldn't deal with it.

But in his own clumsy way, he was trying.

And in his own clumsy way, Rose knew her father loved her. No matter how much fire he breathed and how loud he got. He didn't know how to show affection, only unadulterated anger.

Archy's face fell a full two inches. “Then you really are—?”

Her heart ached for him and if she could have gotten around the truth, she would have. “Yes, I really am.”

Archy felt numb from the top of his head to the bottom of his toes. Numb, like the time his brother had accidentally dropped his rifle and shot him in the hip and shock had set in. “And you're keeping it?”

The question was half-rhetorical—because he was fairly confident that she wasn't the kind to simply wash away a life—and half stunned that his baby, his daughter, was carrying another man's seed. An unknown man at that. It took his very breath away.

Rose raised her eyes to her father's face without saying a word. She didn't have to. The look in her eyes said it all.

Archy blew out a long breath in frustration as diverging thoughts in his mind warred with his heart. How did he keep her protected from damning public opinion now that she'd gone and done this?

“Good,” he barked, “because that's a life you've got inside you and it's half a Wainwright. But it's the other half I'm concerned about. Why won't you tell me who the father is, girl?”

Rose felt like crying and screaming. Ever since this baby had been formed, her emotions seemed to have settled on a constant roller-coaster ride that refused to come to a stop.

“Because you'd kill him and then Justin would have to arrest you,” Susan spoke up, coming to her older sister's defense.

Under his breath Archy said something unintelli
gible and best not repeated. He waved an impatient hand at Rose, then looked at his son.

“Talk some sense into her, Justin. She's got an obligation to tell me who the young whelp is who did this to her.”

He made it sound as if she'd been attacked instead of enjoying the most beautiful experience of her life. Rose felt the hair on the back of her neck rising.

“Did it ever occur to you that we did this to each other?” she asked evenly.

A fresh wave of thunder descended across her father's brow. “What did you say?”

There was a dangerous note in his voice and at any other time she might have backed off. But this time she had to take a stand.

“This is a love child, Dad.” Her mouth was dry as she tried to make her point. “That means that the baby's father and I made—”

Archy quickly cut her off. “I don't want to hear it,” he bellowed. “Besides,” he scoffed, “what do you know about love? You've always got your head stuck in some book.”

Justin laughed shortly. He'd always known there was more to Rose than his father gave her credit for. Still waters ran deep.

“Well, her head wasn't in a book at least one time,” he commented. His father looked at him sharply. Trouble was definitely brewing and he was going to get caught in the middle. “Rosie, tell him
who it is before he rides off into town with his twelve gauge under his arm, threatening to shoot every man above the age of puberty.”

Rose pressed her lips together. There was no way he was getting the information out of her. For all she knew, her father could kill Matt with his bare hands. And then someone from the Carsons would kill him and so on, perpetuating the awful feud.

“It's my business, Dad. I'm a grown woman and I don't have to tell you if I don't want to.”

Justin nodded thoughtfully. “She has a point.”

Archy had expected support from Justin, not dissent. “She has a bun in the oven, boy, and that's a Wainwright oven,” Archy bellowed. “I'm not going to become the laughingstock of the county, with people whispering about us behind our backs.”

Susan rolled her eyes. Her father was too provincial for her to endure. “This is the twenty-first century, Dad. Nobody throws rocks at virgins who fall from grace anymore.”

He looked at her sharply. “Stop right there, Suzy girl, or I'll have your brother lock you up in your room until you get so old, you'll be storing your teeth in a glass next to your bed.”

This was going nowhere. Upset, Rose threw down her napkin and got to her feet, ready to run out. “You're impossible.”

Her father rounded the table like a long-distance sprinter and headed her off. For his age and size, he
was still surprisingly agile. He caught her by the shoulders before she could leave the room.

Justin was on his feet, ready to intervene if it came down to that. For now, he kept his peace.

“I'm head of this damn family and I still have a say in what goes on in it. Now tell me who this son of a bitch is who doesn't have enough guts to face me like a man.”

She looked at his hands on either side of her. Suddenly aware of what he was doing, Archy dropped them to his sides.

Only then did she volunteer any more information. “He doesn't know.”

Archy's mouth dropped open as he stared at her. “What is he, stupid?”

She felt very protective of Matt. “I didn't tell him.”

Archy didn't understand her. In the world he dealt with, a man was supposed to pull his own weight and own up to his responsibilities. To do that, he couldn't be kept in the dark. Unless there was more to this than she was telling him. She
had
been abused, he thought suddenly.

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