Authors: Katie Lane
Tags: #Fiction / Romance - General, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #Fiction / Romance - Western, #Western, #Erotica, #Fiction / Romance - Contemporary
Without even being aware of it, her lips opened, and her tongue greeted his in a slide
of heat that had her releasing a deep moan. She hooked her arms around his shoulders
and started to thread her fingers through the curls at the back of his neck when he
For a second, Brant stared at her with confusion, as if he didn’t quite understand
what had just happened, then just as quickly the confused look evaporated and hard
anger slipped back into place.
“You’re a liar,” he stated. “I remember your kisses.” He leaned down and his hand
slipped under her skirt and over her panties. “I remember your panties.” Two fingers
dipped beneath the elastic, and Elizabeth closed her eyes and tried not to groan.
“And I remember your heat.”
His hand slipped away, but it took a full minute for Elizabeth to realize that he’d
moved. She opened her eyes to find him standing by the door. His lips still held the
wet glimmer of shared heat, but his eyes remained as cold as an arctic sea.
“I’m not through with you, Ms. Murphy. Not by a long shot.”
Henhouse Rule #4: Pleasure is best shared.
Brant looked back at Beauregard, who had stopped in the doorway of Miss Hattie’s room
to stare at the massive bed that covered one entire wall. Even after spending a night
handcuffed to it, Brant had to agree with his little brother. The bed was impressive
and an antique that he would love to add to his collection. The wood was a rich walnut,
the carving on the headboard and footboard definitely early eighteenth century. Since
most colonists at the time had made practical furniture, Brant would almost bet that
this ornate bed had been brought over from Europe—more than likely, from England.
“The infamous Miss Hattie’s bed,” Beau breathed. Tossing his cowboy hat onto a chair
in the corner, he strode over and bounced down on the high mattress. “It’s about as
comfortable as a bed can get. No wonder Miss Hattie did so well. Most men would’ve
paid good money just to sleep here for the night.”
“I doubt seriously that the mattress is over a hundred years old,” Brant said as he
placed the suitcase he’d gotten
from his truck on the end of the bed. The old women were a sneaky lot. They’d hidden
his truck out behind the barn in a forest of weeds.
“Hey, don’t screw with my fantasies.” Beau flopped back, and his breath whooshed from
his lungs. “Damn, is that her? Is that Miss Hattie?” He scooted over on the mattress.
“It’s like I’m lying in bed with her right next to me.”
Why the thought of his brother in the bed with a woman who had been dead for over
fifty years should bother Brant, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he wanted Beau
off the black satin sheets as quickly as possible.
“What, were you raised in a barn?” He reached out and knocked his brother’s boots
off the end of the bed. “Mama would yank a knot in your tail if she saw you disrespecting
someone else’s property like that.”
Beau rolled to a sitting position and cocked a brow. “No more than she plans on yanking
a knot in yours and Brianne’s for not showing up to Billy’s wedding. I’ve got to tell
you, Brant, Billy was pretty hurt.”
The thought of hurting his brother had Brant mad all over again at the crazy group
of women. Especially Ms. Elizabeth Murphy. Or maybe he wasn’t as angry with the woman
as much as he was with his reaction to her. What in the hell was the matter with him,
anyway? He could understand what had happened when he was drugged. But what had caused
his reaction to her only moments ago in the library? One second, he’d been angry about
her lying, and the next thing he knew he’d wanted to press her back against the shelves
and dip into her like a tortilla chip into hot salsa.
And Elizabeth was hot. Which meant that Minnie was
wrong. No uptight virgin would heat up as quickly as that woman did. Every time he
touched her, she was wet and ready. It was like she walked around in a constant state
of arousal. Just the thought had his dick coming to life. Not wanting to embarrass
himself in front of his little brother, he tried to get his mind back to their conversation.
“So I take it Billy didn’t come to his senses and call off the wedding,” he said as
he unzipped the suitcase.
Beau shook his head. “He loves Shirlene, Brant. And when you meet her, you’re going
to love her, too. She’s Billy, but in a woman’s body.”
“Last time I checked,” Brant said as he took out a pair of jeans, “Billy wasn’t a
In a flash, Beau jumped up from the bed with his fists clenched. “Shirlene’s not a
gold digger. She’s a sweet gal that we had no business kicking out of her house.”
It wasn’t surprising that Beau stood up for Shirlene. Ever since he’d been a kid,
he’d had a thing for helpless girls—or what he viewed as helpless girls. From what
Brant knew about Shirlene Dalton, she was about as helpless as a barracuda. But for
some reason, she made Billy happier than he’d been in years, and his family’s happiness
was all that mattered to Brant.
“So Brianne didn’t show up at the wedding either?” He pulled a shirt out of his suitcase,
annoyed by the wrinkles that creased the sleeves and waist.
“No,” Beau said and flopped back down on the bed. “Brianne might be getting a 4.0
in college, but she’s dumber than a box of rocks if she thinks Mama will forgive and
forget. Mama’s almost as good as you are at settling scores.” He glanced back at Brant.
“Please tell me you’re not planning on kicking that group of harmless old
women out on the streets just because our granddaddy was supposedly killed here. I
would’ve thought that you learned your lesson after trying to ruin the town of Bramble.”
An hour ago, Brant would’ve delighted in tossing the old broads out on their behinds.
But his temper had cooled since then. At least, toward the old hens. The new one was
a different matter.
“The only lesson I learned was ‘check your facts more thoroughly,’ ” he said. He pulled
on a pair of boxer briefs. “And the only proof we have that our grandfather was shot
here at Miss Hattie’s is the word of Moses Tate, a man you said yourself is as ancient
as the hills and spends most of his time sleeping on the bench in front of the Bramble
pharmacy. Moses probably has trouble remembering his name, let alone a story he heard
from his grandfather years ago.”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if you’d met the man,” Beau said as he leaned over the
opened nightstand drawer. “He’s more alert than half the people in town.” He lifted
a long, phallic-shaped object from the drawer and squinted at it. “But even if Moses
Tate got his facts wrong, and our grandfather really was killed in Bramble, it’s not
going to change anything. You can’t get revenge by closing down Dalton Oil, Brant,
not when Bramble is Billy’s new home.”
Beau had a point. With Billy and his new family living there, closing Dalton Oil was
out of the question. It was a hard pill to swallow. In the last year, revenge on Bramble
had consumed Brant’s thoughts. Now all he had were the nightmares and bizarre dreams
of Miss Hattie.
“So if you feel that way, why did you come all the way out here?” Brant asked.
Beau tossed the antique dildo back in the drawer and grinned brightly. “Because I’d
never been to a whorehouse before and I wanted to see one before I die.”
Brant might’ve laughed if Beau hadn’t just finished up chemotherapy. There was nothing
funny about his little brother dying.
“What did the doc say at your last visit?” he asked as he walked over to one of the
chairs in front of the fireplace and sat down to tug on his boots.
Beau rolled his eyes. “You sound as bad as Mom. She calls me every day to ask how
much sleep I’ve gotten and what I had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Of course,
she worries about everyone in the family. She thinks Harvard has ruined Beckett. Brianne
is too spoiled and headstrong to ever catch a man. And you’re a recluse who will end
up as nutty as Aunt Milly.”
“Aunt Milly isn’t off her rocker.” Brant tugged on a boot. “She’s just a lonely old
woman who lives in the past.” When Beau didn’t say anything, Brant looked up at his
brother, who was watching him with what could only be called sympathy. “Are you saying
I’m a lonely old man who lives in the past?”
“No,” Beau said. “I’m saying you’re a man who’s still grieving for his wife and son
and is looking for anything or anyone to blame. The legend of the Cates Curse just
happened to be a convenient explanation. But I think both of us know that the tornado
that killed Mandy and B.J. wasn’t caused by something that happened a hundred years
There was a part of him that knew Beau was right. Up until Mandy and B.J. had died,
the Cates Curse had only been a ghost story he and his brothers had delighted in
retelling when they were camping in the backyard with their flashlights and sleeping
bags. But if he didn’t have the curse to blame for the huge emptiness that his family’s
death had created inside him, then what could he blame? There was nothing he could
do about fate. And if he blamed God and renounced all faith, then he couldn’t believe
in heaven. And without heaven, his wife and son would just be decaying in the hard,
Brant couldn’t live with that.
“Why don’t you take some time off,” Beau said. “You haven’t had a vacation in years.
We could go hiking through Europe or motorcycle riding through Taiwan—or climb Mount
There was a tap on the door, and Baby walked in with a silver tray that held two cut-crystal
glasses and a bottle of brandy.
“Minnie thought you two would like a little refreshment.”
Beau didn’t hesitate to hop up from the bed. “That would sure be nice, ma’am. I’m
pretty parched myself.”
“Don’t touch that,” Brant said. “Miss Hattie’s likes to slip people mickeys.”
Baby giggled as she brought the tray over to the table next to Brant’s chair. “Minnie
thought you would feel that way, so she had me get an unopened bottle.” She peeled
off the seal and removed the cap, then splashed a little in a glass. “It’s the best
bottle of cognac we had. But nothing’s too good for our guests.”
Even with the seal, Brant refused to take the glass, but Beau had no such reservations.
He accepted the drink with a smile that had Baby’s eyes almost bugging through her
glasses before he took a seat in the chair next to Brant’s.
Baby quickly slipped a footstool under his feet, then hurried across the room and
returned with a humidor.
She flipped it open right in front of Beau, who examined the contents.
“Of course.” Baby smiled. “Miss Hattie’s wouldn’t have anything else.”
After a careful inspection, Beau selected a cigar and ran it under his nose. “Nice.”
Since Beau had probably never had a Cuban cigar in his life, Brant had to grin. Baby
held the humidor out to Brant. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t resist the smell
of rich tobacco. When he chose one, Baby looked like she was about to burst with happiness.
“Would you boys like a foot massage?” she asked as she lit his cigar.
“I would—” Beau started, but Brant cut him off.
“No, thank you, Baby.”
“What about a back scratching?” she asked.
“That would be great—”
Brant threw his brother a warning look. “Thanks, but we’re good.”
Baby’s face fell. “All right then, I guess I’ll just leave you two to enjoy your cigars.”
Once she had clicked her way out of the room, Beau relaxed back in the chair and blew
out a puff of smoke. “This is the life. The gals might be old, but they sure understand
what men like.” He took a sip of the brandy and closed his eyes in ecstasy.
“You might feel differently when you wake up handcuffed to a bed,” Brant said as he
sat back and savored his own cigar.
Beau cracked open one eye. “I noticed those. Don’t tell me the old hens took advantage
“Not the old hens, but the young one.”
Beau’s eyes popped open. “Ms. Murphy? Are you kidding me? I thought Minnie was joking.”
“Not in the least.” It was hard to keep the anger from his voice. “What do you know
Beau laughed. “A lot less than you seem to know.” Brant sent him a hard stare, but
his little brother only grinned wider. “Not much. She’s the librarian in Bramble who
helped Billy with research. The first time I’ve ever talked with her was last night
at the wedding after she caught the bouquet Shirlene tossed.”
The thought of the woman going to a wedding and celebrating while he was chained to
a bed had Brant almost snapping the cigar in half.
“She sure doesn’t seem like the type to force herself on a man.” Beau continued. “But
I guess it makes sense with her being the owner of Miss Hattie’s and all.” He shook
his head. “What a great disguise. She’s the last person I would think of as a madam.”
The word “madam” bothered Brant more than he cared to admit. Or maybe what bothered
him the most was the image of other men getting what he’d sampled but couldn’t remember.
“Of course, it’s not like she’s a real madam,” Beau continued. “Miss Hattie’s isn’t
a working whorehouse.” He puffed out a stream of smoke and glanced over at Brant.
Before spending the night handcuffed to a bed, Brant might’ve agreed. Now he wasn’t
The airy voice had them both turning to the door where Sunshine stood holding a plate
of chocolate chip cookies. Homemade chocolate chip cookies that Brant could smell
clear across the room.
Beau put his drink down on the table and rubbed his hands together. “This place just
keeps getting better and better.” He collected a handful of cookies from the plate
before Sunshine offered them to Brant. The image of her without her shirt flashed
through Brant’s mind, and he shook his head.
“No, thank you,” he said. “But I do have a question. Just how did Ms. Murphy get ownership
of Miss Hattie’s?”