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Excerpt of Her Scoundrel by Geralyn Dawson

Purchase


Bad Luck Brides
HQN
December 2005
Featuring: Kat McBride; Jake Kimball
384 pages
ISBN: 0373770723
Paperback
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Romance Historical

Also by Geralyn Dawson:

Season of Sisters, October 2011
e-Book (reprint)
Simmer All Night, August 2011
e-Book (reprint)
The Bad Luck Wedding Night, August 2011
e-Book (reprint)
Sizzle All Day, August 2011
e-Book (reprint)
Always Look Twice, September 2008
Paperback
The Loner, May 2008
Paperback
Never Say Never, October 2007
Paperback
Her Outlaw, May 2007
Paperback (reprint)
Give Him the Slip, October 2006
Paperback
A Season in the Highlands, February 2006
Hardcover
Her Scoundrel, December 2005
Paperback
Her Bodyguard, June 2005
Paperback
The Bad Luck Wedding Dress, February 2005
Paperback (reprint)
My Long Tall Texas Heartthrob, July 2004
Paperback
My Big Old Texas Heartache, August 2003
Paperback
The Pink Magnolia Club, August 2002
Paperback
Under The Boardwalk, June 1999
Paperback
The Bad Luck Wedding Cake, August 1998
Paperback

Excerpt of Her Scoundrel by Geralyn Dawson

Galveston Island, Texas, 1891

HE STOOD WAIST DEEP in water, shirtless, broad of shoulder and corded with muscle, his deeply tanned skin glistening beneath the winter sunshine. His dark hair was sun bleached and shaggy, and hung over his face as he gazed down at the object he carefully washed in sea water.

"Is that him?" Kat McBride asked her brother-in-law, Luke Garrett. "Is that Jake Kimball?"

"I think so. Most of our dealings were with his father. I only met him in person once, and at the time he was knee- deep in women and drowning in alcohol." Scowling, Luke added, "He looked different then. He had clothes on."

Seated beside Luke in the carriage, Kat's flamboyant grandmother, renowned sculptress Monique Day, glanced over her shoulder and winked at Kat and her sister, Mari. "Aren't we the lucky ones?"

Kat didn't care if the man was naked or clothed or wearing a dress, she intended to have a chat with Mr. Jake Kimball. The newspaper might call him an adventurer, a treasure hunter or an explorer, but she knew better. Jake Kimball was a scalawag and a thief.

But he was also the man who would make things right for the fatherless child Kat carried in her womb.

Kat wrapped her woolen shawl securely around her shoulders, climbed down from the carriage, and stepped to the edge of the grass-covered dune. "Mr. Kimball?" she called. "Mr. Jake Kimball?"

The man looked up, and Kat caught her breath. Kimball's scruffy beard didn't hide the rugged, masculine beauty of his sharp jaw, thin straight nose and eyes as blue and hard as the sapphire necklace hanging around Mari's neck. Something stirred inside of Kat when his gaze met hers, and she felt a flutter of awareness unlike any she'd known before. Different, even, from anything she'd felt with Rory when he'd drawn her under his spell. She clutched her shawl closer.

"Well, now." Monique clucked her tongue as she linked her arm with Luke's. "Isn't he a fine specimen? Reminds me of the model I used for the bronze Apollo Mrs. Astor bought for her Manhattan home."

Kat thought he looked more like a pirate than a Greek god, especially with the gold hoop earring dangling from one ear and a jeweled knife in his hand.

"Yeah?" His mouth lifted in a slow smile as he studied her face. "I'm Kimball."

Then his gaze slipped lower, locked on Kat's belly. He frowned, and a hint of alarm entered his eyes. His gaze flew back to her face, and he examined her features again. The alarm faded.

No, I am not a ruined lover come to seek the father of my babe. From his reaction, Kat suspected he'd experienced such a scene in the past. No wonder he did business with Rory. The two men were just alike.

"What can I do for you?" he asked as Luke stepped up beside her.

You could put a shirt on. Kat was annoyed that she found the man appealing. He was a means to an end for her, that's all. She'd had her fill of scoundrels.

She placed a protective hand upon her swollen stomach as Luke shot her a quick, curious glance, then took the lead. "I'm Luke Garrett, Kimball. My stepfather, Brian Callahan, worked for your father. You and I met once at his home in New York. May my family and I have a few moments of your time?"

"Yes, I remember you. I'll be right out."

Kimball sloshed toward them, and despite her best intentions, Kat couldn't drag her gaze away from the slow revelation of tanned, toned skin rising from the water. The man obviously spent a good deal of time outdoors without his shirt. The wet, dark hair on his chest lay flat against his skin and arrowed down his flat stomach to his navel and —

Kat gave herself a mental shake. Her mother had warned her that a pregnant woman's emotions ran the gamut, but Kat never expected to find herself staring at a man's washboard stomach and wondering how it might feel beneath her fingertips. This isn't good.

Luke stepped in front of Kat, blocking her view. "Perhaps you could join us at our buggy once you're, uh, decent?"

"He looks rather decent to me," Monique observed, she and Mari having joined Luke and Kat on the dune.

Luke muttered beneath his breath as he herded the women back to the carriage. Kat picked up words like "scoundrel" and "thieving bounder" and "home knitting booties." At the last, Mari glanced at Kat and rolled her eyes. Baby booties recently had become a rallying cry for the men in her family. Three days ago, after reading an article in the Fort Worth Daily Democrat about Jake Kimball and his discovery of a cache of treasures attributed to the pirate Jean Laffite, Kat proposed this trip to Galveston. Her father, Trace McBride, suggested she stay home and knit baby booties instead. Then he compounded the mistake by suggesting the rest of the females in the family join her.

Needless to say, the suggestion didn't go over well with the McBride women. Though the females in the family understood that Trace equated knitting with safety, Kat, her sisters, her mother and grandmother dealt with the issue by rolling their eyes, wrinkling their noses and going about their business.

In Kat's case, her business was planning the trip to Galveston to confront Jake Kimball. Her father argued against her going, but she presented her point just as strongly. Then, because Trace McBride had been unable to refuse her much of anything since she'd returned to a family who for months had mistakenly believed her dead, he'd given in. Mari volunteered to accompany Kat, naming her husband's history with Kimball and the opportunity to visit his sister who lived in Galveston as justification to make the trip. Monique tagged along because she claimed to be suffering a case of ennui and yearned for the scent of salt air. "So here we are," Kat said softly as the babe in her womb gave her a kick. Kat didn't care that the newspapers called Jake Kimball a courageous explorer, a brave adventurer. To her he was nothing more than a criminal.

A criminal who even now climbed the sand dune while buttoning a blue cotton shirt. Kat's eyes widened at the sight of his dripping denim pants cut off above the knees. He was barefoot.

"Luke Garrett." Kimball's mouth quirked in a crooked smile. "I wondered if I might run across you or your brothers during my time here in Texas. How are Rory and Finn?"

"Dead."

Kat didn't believe Kimball's expression of surprise, and she stepped into the fray by announcing, "I married Rory Callahan, Mr. Kimball." It was true enough, in spirit if not in fact.

The pirate arched a brow. "You've made quite a discovery here on Galveston Island, sir, and I believe it's fair to say that wouldn't have happened if not for Rory."

Kimball's gaze swept her from head to toe, pausing again briefly upon the bulge of her seven-month-gone belly. Sympathy colored his tone as he said, "I employ many individuals in the course of my pursuits, Mrs. Callahan. I pay them well for their assistance, extremely well, whether their help results in a find or not. I do not offer shares in the discovery, ma'am, so if that is what you seek, I am afraid —"

"I want the altar cross."

His gaze shifted from her to Luke, then back to her. The slight narrowing of his eyes told her he knew very well what she meant. "The altar cross?"

Kat lifted her chin. "The Sacred Heart Cross that was lost almost a hundred years ago when pirates attacked the Spanish ship bringing it to America. It is solid gold and encrusted with jewels, including a heart-shaped ruby at its center. You stole it from Rory Callahan. I want it back."

He studied her, taking her measure. His gaze once again slid to her swollen womb, and pity softened his eyes. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I did not steal the cross from your husband. Rory sold the piece to me for a substantial amount of money."

Eyeing the sincerity in Jake Kimball's expression, Kat's stomach did a slow somersault. Had Rory lied about that, too? Lied as he lay dying? As Mari reached over and took her hand, Kat went hard and brittle inside. Had Rory Callahan been totally without redemption?

No. No. No. He'd saved Mari, hadn't he? In the end he'd done what was right. In the end he'd tried to provide for Kat and their child.

"I don't believe you." When the pirate simply shrugged, Kat continued, "He told my sister that the altar cross was our child's inheritance. He said it as he was dying. Not even Rory would lie at a time like that."

"Maybe he referred to the money I paid him," Kimball suggested. "The account is in a New York bank. As his widow, you must have records of it. Perhaps the money is still there."

"I'm not," she said softly. "His widow, that is. It turned out our marriage wasn't legal."

"Oh." He glanced at a scowling Luke. "I see."

Kat closed her eyes against the pity in Jake Kimball's gaze. She'd seen too much of that from her family in the months since returning to Fort Worth. It made her feel like a fool.

Of course, that's exactly what she was. She'd married the King of Liars, hadn't she? A man already married, already a father. If he'd lied about that, why wouldn't he lie about the cross?

Luke placed his hand on her shoulder. "If the money is there, Katrina, we'll get it for you. Rory would want your child to have it."

"Perhaps I can help with that," Kimball said. "Let me write to —"

"No." Kat shook her head. "No, I don't want money." She wanted the cross. She had to have the cross. It was the answer. It was the key to everything! It would fix the trouble she'd caused, help wipe away the shame.

Kat straightened, her chin came up. "Very well, sir. I will buy it back from you. I trust we can reach a fair price. I won't begrudge you a profit over what you paid Rory."

"I'm sorry, but the cross is not for sale." Frustration rolled through her like a storm. "Everything is for sale, Mr. Kimball."

"Not the Sacred Heart Cross."

Beneath her skirt, Kat's toes took to tapping. "Mr. Kimball, I come from a family of business people so I appreciate the fine art of negotiation. However, at this particular moment I have neither the time nor the inclination to dicker. Please, sir, name your price."

He folded his arms and shook his head. "Listen to me, lady. The cross is not for sale, not under any circumstances, for any price."

"Why not?"

Kimball looked toward Luke. "Your father worked for mine for many years. Surely you recall my father's passion for his quests?"

"Brian was my stepfather," Luke was quick to correct. Even in her agitation, Kat noted how he always made the distinction that her family hardly ever made with Jenny. It illustrated one of her great worries for her child. Her baby should have a stepfather who was simply a papa, just like Jenny was a mama to the McBride girls.

That's one reason why it was so important for Kat to succeed in securing the Sacred Heart Cross. She needed it for her child, for the hope its restoration to its rightful place could bring.

Kimball continued, "My father collected art, coins, toys and even butterflies, but his special interest was artifacts related to Texas. With your family's help, he amassed quite a collection of Texana before he died. While he continually added and deleted items from his other collections, he never surrendered a single piece of Texana. That is the way of collectors."

Excerpt from Her Scoundrel by Geralyn Dawson
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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