Blame it on Texas
A full moon shone and stars twinkled in the velvety sky overhead. It was shaping up to be a beautiful October evening, Lewis McCabe thought, as he strode briskly up the steps of the Remington ranch house. Before he could press the doorbell, the front door opened. Jenna Lockhart Remington stepped across the threshold, the look on her face anything but welcoming. "I know why you're here," the elegant older woman said firmly.
"You do?" Lewis McCabe murmured. Darn it, had his four brothers phoned ahead to make his plan public before he put it into action? If so, there was going to be heck to pay, he decided grimly, and then some.
"And although---" Mrs. Remington paused to shrewdly peruse Lewis from head to toe, none of her customary hospitality evident "---I can see your need is dire--"
How could she have known how long it had been since he'd had a date? Lewis thought in irritation. Then again, this was Laramie, Texas, where everyone was family, and nothing stayed secret for long.
"Lexie is here on vacation."
"Exactly," Lewis said, glad they were no longer talking at cross purposed. "I figured since your stepdaughter's in town again I'd use the opportunity to---"
"Take advantage of her kind and generous nature?" Mrs. Remington scolded, clearly annoyed.
Was mrs. Remington intimating he was a pity date? Lexie would only go out with him if she felt sorry for him? "I assure you, Mrs. Remington, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Lexie," he said sincerely, determined to do whatever it took to get an audience with the woman he'd had his eye on for what seemed like forever. "I hold her in the highest regard."
"Which is, of course, exactly why you are here," Mrs. Remington interrupted. "Because Lexie is so successful."
Given the fact that this conversation had started off on the wrong foot, and had been going down the wrong path ever since, Lewis wasn't sure what to say to that. "Of course I admire what Lexie has done professionally," he admitted. "Everyone around here does." Thanks to her stunning fashion sense, she'd become every bit the celebrity her clients were.
Footsteps sounded in the background. Jake Remington, Lexie's father, appeared at his wife's side, his tall, lanky frame filling the doorway. Jake nodded at Lewis. "McCabe."
"Mr. Remington." Lewis stuck out his hand. After a moment, Jack shook it. Encouraged, Lewis continued, "I was just telling Mrs. Remington that I---"
"My wife is right." Jake Remington interrupted imperiously. There is no way Jenna and I are going to let Lexie see you. Because if we do and you ask her what darn near everyone else around here wants to ask her right now---"
Lewis swore inwardly. "Other guys have been here ahead of me?" He thought he had gotten the jump on this, since Lexie had only arrived here from London, via her father's private jet, earlier in the day.
"Let's just say you're not the first to come calling," Mrs. Remington replied. "And the answer to everyone was the same. Lexie is not receiving guests at this time."
"Well, when will she be?" Lewis asked, doing his best to maintain a positive outlook. Not easy, given how unfairly he was being shot down.
Jake and Jenna looked at each other. "As far as we're concerned, never," Jake said. "At least during this visit."
The thought of letting Lexie leave town without seeing her--again---did not sit well with Lewis, maybe because so many chances to connect had already passed them by. Deciding he wasn't going to let the Remington's assessment of his chances with Lexie decide the matter, Lewis inisted as politely as possible, "I just need a moment of her time. I won't stay. I promise."
Jenna sighed, looking thoroughly conflicted. She ran a hand through her short red-gold hair before frowning at Lewis. "She'd say yes, you know. All it would take is one look at you, and she'd be agreeing to whatever you asked."
"And that would not be good for her," Jake Remington clapped a firm hand on Lewis's shoulder. "You need to go, son."
Lewis dug in his heels. He did not want to leave it like this.
"Maybe next time she's home," Mrs. Remington offered gently before putting an abrupt end to the conversation. The door shut and silence fell on the wide front porch of the elegant limestone ranch house.
Lewis stood there a moment longer, aware he hadn't felt this foolish since he was twenty-three and failed to get up the nerve to talk to Lexie when she was home from college on fall break. Eight years had passed...and apparently little had changed. Swearing silently to himself, he turned out and started down the porch steps to his SUV. He was almost there when he heard what sounded like a tapping noise. He turned in the direction of the house and saw Lexie Remington framed in an upstairs window, looking as heart-stoppingly beautiful as ever. She motioned to him, and pointed urgently toward the rear of the house. Then, with one last glance over her shoulder, to see if he were following, she disappeared from view.
A mixture of anticipation and excitement rippling through him, Lewis strode around the rance house. At the rear of the house, Lexie was standing in an open second-floor window in what appeared to be an old-fashioned white lawn nightgown, with a high neck and long, billowing sleeves. Her strawberry-blond hair flowing in untamed waves around her slender shoulders, she looked like a princess in a turret. All she was missing was the tiara and he wouldn't have been surprised if she'd had one of those around some place. Arms on the sill, she leaned down toward him and invited him in a soft, mischievous voice that further fueled his dreams, "Come on up."
Lewis didn't know whether to laugh or try and wake himself up from what was obviously the wildest fantasy he'd ever had. "How?" he whispered back, aware it was only seven-thirty and Lexie was already dressed for bed. Another anomaly in this increasingly bizarre situation. The Lexie he recalled had always been as much of a night person as he was. No way she would have gone straight from dinner into bed, even if she had just crossed the Atlantic Ocean. No way she would have worn such a ridiculously old-fashioned nightgown.
"Climb up the trellis," she urged merrily, her alluring lips curving into a sexy smile.
Blood rushed through Lewis's veins. Had her breasts always been that curvaceous and full, her features so delicate and sensual. "You're kidding." He couldn't take his eyes from her face.
Her lovely features took on an air of challenge. To his disappointment, she tossed her head and shrugged as if it didn't matter to her in the least. "Do you want to meet with me or not?"
Lewis didn't have to be asked twice.