“Tate. Wake up, Tate.”
Sound asleep, Tate Bravo heard the taunting whisper. He knew the voice. Molly. Damn her. What right did she have to come creeping into his dreams?
And why so often? Seemed like not a night went by that she didn’t appear to torment him.
“Hey. Pssst. Tate…”
With a groan, Tate pulled a pillow over his head. “Go ’way, Molly,” he muttered, still half-asleep. “Get outta my dreams…”
“Tate Bravo, wake up.”
Tate opened his eyes under the pillow. He blinked. “Molly?” He tossed the pillow away and sat up. The window opposite the foot of the bed was open, letting in the warm wind from outside. And Molly O’Dare sat in the leather-seated rocker in the corner, not far from that open window.
“Huh?” Tate squinted into the darkness, still not quite believing it could really be her. But it was. Molly O’Dare, big as life and twice as exasperating. Even through the shadows, with all her clothes on, he knew the shape of her, couldn’t mistake the wheat-gold gleam to her hair or the velvety curve of her baby-soft cheek. Her perfume came to him on the night breeze; flowers and musk all mingled together in a scent that seemed specifically created to drive a man wild.
Tate indulged in a slow, knowing smile. “Well, well. Look who’s here.” He thought a few things he had the good sense not to say. Things like, Couldn’t stay away, could you? and I knew you’d be back.
But no. He wasn’t going to gloat, at least not out loud. He’d missed having her warm, soft body beside him in bed. Missed it a lot—much more than he ever intended to let her know. Now that she was finally here, he wasn’t doing anything to send her off in a snit.
Keeping his mouth firmly shut, he helpfully held back the covers so she could climb in bed with him where she belonged.
Fat chance,” she muttered. Her tone was not the least bit lustful.
Irritation born of frustrated desire sizzled beneath his skin. But he didn’t let her rile him. Not this time. Calm as you please, he gave her a shrug and tucked the blanket back in place. “Then if you don’t mind my asking, what the hell are you doing in my bedroom at—” He paused to peer at the bedside clock. “—two in the morning?”
Molly, in a short skirt and a tight-fitting white top that seemed to gleam in the darkness, rocked back in the chair. She crossed those beautiful legs and folded her hands in her lap. “I’ve got…news, I guess you could say.”
Though he was known to be tougher than a basket of snakes, at that moment, Tate Bravo felt the cold kiss of dread at his cheek and a kind of creepy hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. If Molly had news for him, it probably wouldn’t be good.
Tate speared his fingers through his sleep-scrambled hair and let out a low grow of pure suspicion. Why the hell was she here? His best guess, being as how a little hot sex seemed ruled out, was that she must have come up with some new way to rescue the needy—at great expense to the town coffers, of course.
As he had a million times in the past six months, Tate cursed the day Molly managed to get herself elected mayor of his town. It was the women who’d done it. They all hung out at Molly’s beauty shop. When she’d decided to run for mayor, they’d rallied around her, making it possible for her to claim fifty-four percent of the vote.
If you asked Tate, Molly’s mayorship had been a disaster from the get-go. To Tate’s mind—and to the minds of every other red-blooded businessman and responsible citizen in town—Molly O’Dare had been the worst thing to happen to Tate’s Junction, Texas, since a disgruntled contingent of Comanche warriors on the run from the Oklahoma reservation took over the place for three days back in 1886.
It was a problem of comprehension, Tate thought. Molly refused to comprehend the way things worked. She insisted on thinking independently. A very bad choice, as everyone knew that the job of mayor required no thinking at all. It was so simple. Tate Bravo, like his grandfather before him, decided what needed doing. Tate informed the mayor and the town council. They voted as per his instructions. And Tate got what he wanted for the town’s betterment.
It had always been done that way.
From her first town council meeting, Molly refused to do things the way they’d always been done. Molly thought independently and came up with a lot of very bad ideas. When Tate wanted a bond issue, she wanted a sales tax increase. When Tate proposed a plan to improve parking access on Center Street, Molly fought him tooth and nail. Making it easier for the townsfolk to spend money on Center Street could wait, she said, brown eyes flashing, those gorgeous full breasts of hers stuck out high and proud. Oh, no, she insisted. Top priority should be putting her plan in place for indigent and shut-in care.
Truth was, Tate had his head screwed on straight when it came to what was best for the Junction—and Molly didn’t. Sure, he was all for helping out the needy. But the priority had to be supporting what kept any town running: business and commerce. Molly, a businesswoman herself, ought to have known that. But as mayor, she’d been all heart and no sense and that was a plain fact.
Tate had been seething with fury since the day she won that damned election. And since their constant head-butting struck sparks in more ways than one, he’d also burned to get her into bed.
And he did get her into bed—a few months back. For a marvelous and thoroughly stimulating three weeks, that ripe, lush body of hers was his. In bed, he ruled her. However, once on her feet and wearing her clothes, Molly O’Dare continued to be the usual sharp thorn in his side.
Tate leaned forward a little, straining to see her better. No doubt about it. Tonight, those amber-brown eyes had a strange light in them—determined and angry at the same time. Not good.
“I have debated,” she continued bleakly, “debated for a couple of weeks now, whether to tell you this. I don’t want to tell you this. But I can’t see any way around it in the end, being as how this is not something that I plan to hide. And since you’re bound to know eventually, I’ve decided you might just as well know sooner as later. You can start getting used to it. You can start figuring out how you plan to deal with it—because, one way or another, you are going to be dealing with it.”
Tate dragged himself back against the hand-hammered copper inlay of his bed’s massive headboard and reached over to switch on the lamp. In the golden spill of light it provided, he could see the sneer on her soft mouth and the dark circles under those pretty eyes. Something warm and uneasy curled through him. It might have been concern for her. She really didn’t look right.
What the hell was going on? “Spit it out,” he commanded.
And that was just what she did. “I’m pregnant, Tate Bravo. Over two months along. Sometime next January, you’re going to be a dad.” She stood, leaving the rocker pitching back and forth behind her. “Your mouth is hanging open,” she said.
And that was it. Before Tate could collect his scattered wits and stop her, she turned, threw a slim leg up over the sill, and slipped out the window the way she had come.
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