Authors: Katie Lane
Tags: #Fiction / Romance - General, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #Fiction / Romance - Western, #Western, #Erotica, #Fiction / Romance - Contemporary
She no more than blinked before he had her against the wall. He thought she would
scream. Instead she just studied him as if expecting his anger.
“You were the one who came to my room last night,” he growled.
Her face got even brighter, but she didn’t look away. “Yes. And I’d like to explain,
Mr. Cates, if you’ll just let me.” A tense smile tipped her lips. He had a hard time
looking away as she continued.
“I realize you probably won’t believe this, but it was all just a comedy of errors.
Minnie didn’t mean to shoot you, and Baby only drugged you so you wouldn’t call the
“And I suppose you handcuffed me to the bed and seduced me just to be hospitable,”
he said more than a little snidely.
Her eyes widened, and then suddenly she was laughing. Not a soft chuckle, but a full-out
laugh that brought tears to her eyes. It only served to piss Brant off more, and his
hands tightened on her waist.
“You think that’s funny, do you?”
She stopped laughing, but her eyes behind the glasses still twinkled with humor. “If
you knew me, Mr. Cates, you’d think it was funny, too. I’ve never seduced a man in
“So what were you doing in my bed last night?”
Her mouth opened, but nothing came out. She closed it and swallowed hard. Before she
could try again, a gunshot rang out. Brant exchanged looks with her for only a second
before he released her and headed down the stairs.
Minnie’s derringer was still smoking when Brant shoved open the front screen door.
He didn’t waste any time pulling the gun out of her hand.
“You crazy old woman. I should call the sheriff.”
“I don’t think we need the sheriff.” Beauregard poked his head around the trellis
of honeysuckle that surrounded the porch. “But after that scare, I might need a change
Henhouse Rule #10: Some men take a little more time to come around.
?” Beauregard Cates pulled off his hat, and his confused sapphire eyes, so much like
his brother’s, settled on her.
Elizabeth probably should be upset that Beauregard had found her at Miss Hattie’s,
but after discovering that the man she’d left handcuffed to the bed was also the president
of one of the biggest companies in Texas, Elizabeth had resigned herself to the fact
that the jig was up. And her life, as she knew it, was over.
“Hello, Beau,” she said, trying to keep the quiver of fear from her voice. “It’s so
nice to see you again.”
Beau still looked confused but was mannerly enough to play along. “The pleasure’s
all mine, ma’am. I sure enjoyed our evening together last night.”
“Last night?” Branston Cates’s gaze snapped over to her. “You were with my brother
Minnie cackled. “The girl has more potential than I thought she did. Fresh out of
bed with one, and on to the next. And brothers, no less. Although you need to be careful
with relatives, Lizzie. The Dickens boys got in a brawl
over me and caused ten thousand dollars’ worth of damage that they never did pay back.”
Elizabeth’s face flamed when it finally dawned on her what Minnie was talking about.
“No! Beau was just teaching me how to dance.”
Baby sighed. “That’s how it happened to me. One second, I was doing the jitterbug
with Jimmy Foster, and the next, my feet were brushing the roof of his daddy’s Cadillac.”
Before Elizabeth could defend her honor, Brant’s fingers bit into her upper arm.
“If you drugged my little brother,” he whispered in her ear, “so help me God, I’ll—”
“Okay, so what’s going on?” Beau cut in. “I get why you’re here, Brant—the same reason
I am—you were curious about the place where our great-grandfather got shot. But why
did you miss Billy’s wedding? And why are you wearing that ridiculous robe?”
Brant glared at Minnie. “Because she didn’t happen to miss me with the derringer.”
“She shot you?” Beau’s blue eyes widened right before laughter erupted from his mouth.
In fact, he got to laughing so hard, he had to sit down on the front step. “Wait until
I tell the family about big, bad bro getting taken down by a bunch of little old women,”
he gasped. “Billy and Beck are going to love it.”
Minnie’s eyes narrowed. “Who you callin’ old, Mr. Smartie Pants?”
“Beg pardon, ma’am.” Beau wiped at the corners of his eyes. “But you’ve got to admit
it’s pretty danged funny.”
A smile creased Minnie’s face as Sunshine sat down on the step next to Beau.
“What about this one, Minnie?” She ran a hand along Beau’s cheek, which took the last
of the laughter from his eyes and replaced it with a look of discomfort. “Since Lizzie
got the last one, can I have this one?”
Before Minnie could answer, Beau politely extracted himself from Sunshine and got
to his feet. “So how do you fit in all this craziness, Ms. Murphy?”
All eyes turned to her, and she found her mouth suddenly dry. She had just worked
up enough moisture to speak when a car pulled up in front.
Not just any car, but a sheriff’s car.
Minnie’s eagle eyes landed on Brant. “So you called the law on us, did ya?”
“He didn’t call them. I did,” Elizabeth stated as she straightened her suit jacket
and tried not to act like her knees were knocking at the thought of spending time
behind bars. “What we did was wrong. And as owner of this establishment, I need to
take responsibility for that. No matter what the consequences are.”
Beau’s mouth dropped open. “The old maid of Bramble owns a whorehouse?”
“Watch your mouth, sonny boy,” Minnie warned. “Miss Hattie’s has never been a whorehouse.”
She shot a mean glare at Elizabeth. “It’s a gentlemen’s club that I refuse to let
be brought down by a snooty woman who doesn’t know shit from Shinola.” She zipped
the wheelchair over to the edge of the porch and pasted on a big smile. “Well, howdy,
Sheriff Hicks. You come to get your butt whipped at poker again?”
The man wending his way through the weeds looked nothing like Bramble’s sheriff. This
man was young, tall, and lean, and when he removed the tan cowboy hat,
a sharp gaze took in the occupants on the porch in one sweep.
“No, ma’am. I learned my lesson the first time.” He rolled the brim of his hat around
in his hands. “Havin’ a party, Miz Minnie?”
“It sure looks that way, don’t it?” She tipped her head and blew a puff of smoke up
in the air. “ ’Course we’re gonna need a lot more booze if that’s the case.”
Sheriff Hicks didn’t even crack a smile. “So what’s this I hear about a shooting?”
“It wasn’t really Minnie’s fault.” Baby clicked her way forward with a desperate look
in her magnified eyes. “It was all just a—”
“Minor accident,” Brant’s deep voice cut off Baby. Elizabeth watched as he discreetly
slipped the small gun into the pocket of the kimono before he reached out a hand to
the sheriff. “Branston.” He nodded at Beau. “And this here is my brother, Beauregard.
I was on my way to my brother’s wedding in Bramble when I got lost and ended up here.”
Sheriff Hicks’s eyes narrowed for a heart-stopping second before returning to Minnie.
“So you were waving guns around again. I thought I warned you last time about that.”
“I know, Sheriff,” Minnie looked duly chastised. “But you can’t expect three helpless
old women not to have some form of protection.”
The sheriff snorted. “I don’t think there’s a person on God’s green earth that would
call you women helpless.” His gaze wandered over to Elizabeth. “So I take it that
you’re the one who called.”
Elizabeth took a step toward him and held out a hand.
Unfortunately, her legs were still a bit wobbly, and she ended up tripping and almost
taking a nosedive off the porch. Only Brant’s quick reflexes kept her from it. His
arm encircled her, and she was pulled up against his hard chest. A chest that was
barely covered by the oriental-print kimono. How could a man be so blatantly masculine
in a thigh-high kimono? And why was she so aware of it? Every nerve ending in her
body tingled as if she’d just stuck her finger in a light socket. It took everything
she had in her not to melt at his feet.
What made matters worse was that Brant Cates seemed to know it. His hands tightened
for a fraction of a second before he released her and she was able to catch her breath.
But even then, her mind was so scrambled that she had trouble remembering what she
had been about to do.
Minnie reminded her—or more like took charge.
She waved the cigarette at Elizabeth. “This here is my niece, Elizabeth, who came
out for a visit. She’s a little slow on the uptake—somethin’ she gets from her mama’s
side, not mine. She called you without gettin’ the facts straight.”
Slow on the uptake?
There was a moment when Elizabeth really wanted to blurt out the truth and set Minnie
on her ear. But relief that Mr. Cates wasn’t going to press charges had her holding
Still, the sheriff stared at her for a good heart-stopping minute before he nodded.
“Well, I hope you enjoy your stay, Elizabeth.”
“Thank you,” she said, although she had no intention of staying there for longer than
it took to sell the house. If she had learned anything in the last twenty-four hours,
was that her mother was right. Miss Hattie’s was nothing but trouble.
The sheriff slipped his hat back on and pointed a finger at Minnie. “And you had better
call me the next time some stranger shows up, instead of waving around guns.”
“Will do, Sheriff,” Minnie said with an innocent look that wasn’t fooling anyone.
The Sheriff’s car had barely pulled out of the driveway before she was holding out
a hand to Brant. “I’ll take my gun back now.”
“I don’t think so,” Brant said. “Just because I didn’t turn you over to the sheriff,
doesn’t mean I’ll forgive and forget.”
Beau snorted. “That’s an understatement. He’s still holding a grudge about the baseball
mitt I borrowed and left at the park—and that happened more than twenty years ago.”
“Now, I can’t see any reason for you to hold a grudge,” Minnie said as her twinkling
eyes landed on Elizabeth. “Seems to me you’ve been paid in full for any damages—virgins
are high commodities here at Miss Hattie’s and don’t you forget it.”
Beau choked so hard that Sunshine raced over to pat his back while Elizabeth stared
at Minnie in stunned shock. Did the old woman have dementia or had she just lost her
ever-loving mind? Elizabeth hadn’t had sex with Branston Cates. But before Elizabeth
could deny it, Brant latched onto her arm and pulled her back inside the house. He
paused for a moment to look around the entryway, then chose the first door on the
It was the library, the only room in the entire house that Elizabeth wanted to own.
Or at least she wanted to own the
contents of the room. She would’ve loved to take home the first-edition classics that
lined the shelves. Unfortunately, she might own the house, but the hens owned everything
in it. And they refused to part with anything that had belonged exclusively to Miss
Hattie or her ancestors.
The door slammed shut, and Elizabeth turned away from the book-filled shelves to look
at the man who leaned against the door with arms crossed and dark scowl in place.
“You’ve got exactly five minutes to explain what a virgin was doing in my room last
night before I call that sheriff back out and have you arrested for sexual assault.”
“Sexual assault?” She placed a hand on her chest where her heart was thumping out
of control. “I did not sexually assault you.”
“Are you saying you weren’t the woman in my arms last night?”
Her face flamed with heat. “No. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that I
didn’t force you to do anything you didn’t want to.”
“I was drugged, for Christ’s sake!” he snapped as he came away from the door.
Elizabeth was not used to being yelled at, and she didn’t care for it one bit. She
wasn’t blameless, but she certainly wasn’t the villain he was making her out to be.
“I wasn’t responsible for you being drugged, Mr. Cates,” she said. “You have the hens
to thank for that. In fact, I didn’t even know you were drugged until we almost…”
The word drained the embarrassment right out of her and replaced it with anger.
“Watch your mouth, mister.” She pointed a finger at him. “And no, we were not even
close to that. I merely stumbled into your bed by accident.”
“So Minnie didn’t send you?” He answered the question for himself. “Of course she
didn’t send you. She’s not the owner of the henhouse. You are. Which makes me wonder
if you weren’t doing exactly what Minnie said you were—trying to seduce me into not
It was hard to think when the kimono had come undone again. The glimpse of hard thigh
was bad enough, but the teensy weensy peek of dangly flesh had her blushing so much
she now could empathize with her mother’s hot flashes.
She turned away and walked over to the bookshelves. “I told you before, Mr. Cates,
that I’m not the seducing type. The only reason I was there was because I was curious
as to why Sunshine was so anxious to get upstairs.”
He moved up behind her, so close his breath ruffled the hair on the back of her neck.
“So we didn’t have sex?”
There was a pause before he continued. “Then explain how your panties got in my bed,
She froze, her hand resting on the binding of
War and Peace
. Since there was no way she could talk with this man about what had taken place in
Miss Hattie’s bed without dying of embarrassment, she stretched the truth a little.
“I don’t know what panties you’re talking about.”
Only a fraction of a second slipped by before she was spun around. The kiss he laid
on her was as hot and steamy as her nightly baths. It had the same effect: her muscles
turned to jelly and she was ready for bed.
Miss Hattie’s bed. With this hot angry man who was an extremely good kisser.