With an OverDrive account, you can save your favorite libraries for at-a-glance information about availability. Find out more about OverDrive accounts. Dane Lassiter, former Texas Ranger and Branntville rancher, was the head of the Lassiter Agency, a group of crack Houston private detectives. Soul-scarred by love, he existed only for his work--until the night his assistant, Tess Meriweather, became the target of drug dealers. Dane vowed to keep her safe, no matter what the cost.
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Today had really been one of those days. She'd blown a stakeout and gotten the cold shoulder from Dane all day for it. She hoped she could sneak out at quitting time without being seen.
Otherwise, she was going to catch it for sure. She'd known him for years; their parents had almost gotten married. But a tragic accident had killed them both, and the only one Tess had left in the world was Dane. She carefully put away her equipment with a quick glance at the clock and reached for her trench coat. The coat was her pride and joy, one of those Sam Spade-looking things that she adored. Working for a detective agency was exciting, even if Dane wouldn't let her near a case.
Someday, she promised herself, she was going to become an operative, in spite of her overprotective boss. He looked like the ultimate private investigator in his three-piece suit. She had to drag her eyes away. Even after what he'd done to her three years ago, she still found him a delight to her eyes.
Once she was inside, he half closed the door and came closer to her, noticing involuntarily how she tensed when he was only a few feet away. Her reaction was predictable, and probably he deserved it, but it stung.
He spoke much more angrily than he meant to. I thought the stakeout you mentioned was going to be one of those wee-hours-of-the-morning things. I hardly expected two professional detectives to be skulking around a toy store in the middle of the afternoon!
I thought Helen was buying her boyfriend's nephew a present. You just told me to keep out of the way. Houston," she added haughtily, "is a big city. We didn't all used to be Texas Rangers who carry city street plans around in our heads!
His dark eyes stared her down through a cloud of smoke firing up from the cigarette in his fingers. She coughed as the smoke approached her face. He smiled at her. Neither moved. A timid knock on the door startled the tall, rangy, darkhaired man and the slender blonde woman.
Helen Reed peeked around the half-opened door. Nick needs some backup while he stakes out our philandering husband. I hate Nick! Anyway, I've got a date with Harold! You go with Nick, and I'll reconsider your pink slip. She opened the door the rest of the way and made a huge production of going down on her hose-clad knees, her long black hair dragging the floor as she salaamed, her thin body looking somehow elegant even in the pose.
She studied ballet and had all the grace of a dancer. Actually, I love anchovies! He ran a restless hand through his thick black hair, disrupting a straight lock onto his forehead. I asked. The entire staff had pitched in to buy it.
They'd also pitched in to send him to a stop-smoking seminar. He'd sent them all on stakeouts to porno theaters. Nobody ever suggested another seminar. Dane did install big air filters, though, in every office. Dane was a renegade. He went his own way regardless of controversy. Tess might disagree with him, but she had to respect him for standing up for what he believed in.
She watched him move, her eyes lingering on his elegant carriage. He was built like a rodeo cowboy, square shoulders and lean hips and long, powerful legs. When he was tired, he limped a little from the wounds he'd sustained three years ago. He looked tired now. She watched him, remembering how it had all begun.
When he'd opened the detective agency, he'd remorselessly pilfered the local police department of its best people, offering them percentages and shares in the business instead of salaries until the agency started paying off. Dane had been a Houston police officer years before he made it to the Texas Rangers.
He'd been a good policeman. He had plenty of clout in intelligence circles, and that assured his success. Being a Texas Ranger hadn't hurt his credentials, either, because in order to be considered for the rangers, a man had to have eight years of law enforcement experience with the last two as an officer for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Then the top thirty scorers on the written test had to undergo a grueling oral interview. The five leading candidates to pass this test were placed on a one-year waiting list for an opening on the ninety-four-member force.
Dane had been one of the lucky ones. He'd worked out of Houston, ranging over several counties to assist local law enforcement.
A ranger might not have to fight Indians or Mexican guerrillas, but since Texas had plenty of ranchland left, a ranger had to be a skilled horseman in case he was called upon to track down modern-day rustlers. Dane was one of the best horsemen Tess had ever seen. Despite his injuries, he still was as at home on the back of a horse as he was on the ground or behind the wheel of a car. She was awed by him after all the years they'd known each other.
But she was very careful these days not to let him know how awed. One taste of his violent ardor had been enough to stifle her desire for him as soon as it had begun. He glanced at her, his expression guarded. He seemed to make a point of never looking too closely, or for too long, as if he found her very existence hard to accept. She shifted restlessly, averting her face.
Taking photographs of explicit situations? Tracing an accused murderer across two states and apprehending him on a bail-bond forfeiture? I get the point. I guess I couldn't handle that. But I could be a skip tracer, if you'd let me. That's almost as good as going out on cases. He was a passionate man, despite his cold control. She very rarely allowed herself to remember how he was with a woman.
Just thinking about those strong, deft hands on her body made her go hot and shaky, but not with desire. She remembered the touch of Dane Lassiter's hands with stark fear. He glanced at her suddenly, his eyes piercing, steady, as if he felt the thought in her mind and reacted to it. She went scarlet. She clutched her purse.
She'd given up on men some time ago. He wouldn't know that, or know why, so she just shrugged and smiled and left. The streets were dark and cold. The subdued glow of the streetlights didn't make much difference, either. It was a foggy winter night, stark and unwelcoming. Tess pulled her trench coat closer around her and walked toward her small foreign car without much enthusiasm. Tonight was like any other night.
She'd watch old movies on television until she grew sleepy, and then she'd go to bed. The next day would be a repeat of this one. The only difference would be the movie. Ordinarily, she might go out to a movie with her friend Kit Morris, who worked nearby.
The Case Of The Mesmerizing Boss
THE CASE OF THE MESMERIZING BOSS
The Case of the Mesmerizing Boss