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Cathy Gillen Thacker
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A Laramie, Texas Christmas

Chapter One

Kevin McCabe knew thirteen-and-one-half days of pure unadulterated bliss were too good to be true. It figured that on his way back to Laramie, Texas, he would see something that just had to be investigated. And that the unmarked white van currently backed up to the rear door of the Blackberry Hill mansion would be in an area with no cell phone connections. Had he been driving his work vehicle he'd have had a way to communicate his concern. Instead, he was driving the battered four-wheel drive Jeep he'd owned since high school. It had no two-way radio or communication system.

After pulling over to the side of the winding rural road and watching a woman carry armloads of stuff out of the house, stash it in the van, then dart back into the residence via the side door, he decided to scope out the situation himself. If it had been just material possessions in question, Keven would have waited for backup. But an eighty-five-year-old woman owned the property. And Miss Sadie had had a bad year already, losing her husband of sixty-two years. Kevin wasn't sure if she was back yet from that six-week recuperative cruse she had been on, but he knew, as did everyone else in the close-knit community, that she was due home any day. Chances were, she wasn't there now, hadn't walked in to witness the theft, or worse, been there when the thieves arrived. But if she was there, Kevin couldn't drive off and leave her. Not without first making sure Miss Sadie was okay.

Keeping an eye out for anything else suspicious, he drove slowly toward the pink brick Georgian house with the weathered gray hutters, stopping just short of the white van. Wishing he had a way to check the license plates, he cut the engine and got out. He walked down the long, tree-lined driveway toward the open side door, then paused to look in the windows of the rented van. It was loaded with Miss Sadie's valuables, all right, he noted grimly. Everything from a Tiffany lamp to her jewelry box and favorite rocking chair.

"May I help you?" a feminine voice asked coolly from the top of the steps. Christmas music floated merrily from the interior of the house.

Time to appear clueless about what was going on Kevin turned away from the loot with his best "Aw, shucks, ma'am, I'm just a dumb country boy" grin, and immediately noticed several things about the woman standing beneath the portico. She wasn't a local. He was sure of that because had he ever encountered this very beautiful woman, even in passing, he definitely would have remembered her. She was dressed in a pair of olive wool slacks that lovingly gloved her slender hips and long lissome legs. A white cotton shirt, open at the throat, lay beneath an argyle sweater vest and tweed blazer. Her accent said Texas, born and bred. Her boots were the high-heeled, soft-leather type city slickers wore, their only purpose to change the tilt of her posture and make her legs look damn good. Which they did.

Reminding himself he would need to make a positive ID later, Kevin estimated the interloper was around five foot six, one hundred and twenty pounds, close to his own twenty-seven years in age and, as previously noted, curvy in all the right places. Her copper hair fell to her chin in a riot of springy curls he found incredibly sexy. And his attraction to the perpetrator didn't end there. She had an angelically round face with a straight, slender nose and a thin upper lip countered by a full lush lower lip, just right for kissing. Her peachy skin was fair and flawless save for the sprinkling of freckles; her savvy blue eyes were intelligent, wide-set and long-lashed.

Not surprisingly, she was incredibly nervous--and pretending not to be, even as she stood there with a five-foot-high plastic candy cane beside her, cupped loosely in her right hand. Although he couldn't fathom what she was doing with that ridiculous thing. The faded red-and-white plastic lawn ornament didn't look like something anyone would want to steal.

Reminding himself she could be a lot more dangerous than her sweet and sexy appearance indicated, he paused at the bottom of the stairs. Tipping his hat in her direction, he acted every bit as oblivious to the criminal wrongdoing going on as the situation demanded. "Hello. I'm Kevin McCabe."

A Laramie, Texas Christmas

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The McCabes American Romance Book Series by Cathy Gillen Thacker

Cathy Gillen Thacker is the bestselling author of witty romantic comedies and warm, family stories whose books are published in 17 languages and 35 countries.