Suzanne Caldwell shoved against the spot in the door of the
Old West Diner where the Waitress Wanted sign filled the
glass. The scent of fresh apple pie greeted her, along with
a rush of noise. Though there were no more than ten people
at the counter and in the booths, the place was as rowdy as
a party. Women wearing jeans and tank tops sat with men
dressed in jeans, T-shirts and cowboy hats.
She didn't get two steps into the room before the noise
level began to drop. As if noticing the stranger, people
stopped talking midsentence.
She clutched her six-month-old baby, Mitzi. There was
nothing like walking into a roomful of staring strangers to
make you realize how alone you were in the world. And she
was definitely alone. She'd run out of gas about a mile out
of Whiskey Springs, Texas, and, literally, had no one to
call for help.
No family. Her grandmother had died six months ago and her
mom had died when Suzanne was six. Her dad, whoever he was,
had never acknowledged her.
Her mom and grandmother were both only children, so she had
no aunts, no uncles, no cousins.
And no friends. The wonderful sorority sisters who'd vowed
to be her ally for life had dumped her when she got pregnant
by a popular university professor. It was her fault, they'd
said, and had accused her of trying to ruin Bill Baker's
career. As if. The guy had gone on a campaign to seduce her
and had wormed his way into her life because of her
grandmother's fortune. When Martha Caldwell made some major
mistakes in money management and lost the bulk of her
wealth, Professor Baker suddenly didn't want to see Suzanne
anymore. And he most certainly wanted no part of their baby.
So, yeah. She was alone. Alone. Broke. Desperate to make a
home for herself and her baby. And she'd left Atlanta bound
for Whiskey Springs, hoping to find some help.
But after walking the last mile on a hot June day, her heels
ached in her black stiletto boots. Mitzi squirmed in her
arms. Her heavy diaper bag was dislocating her shoulder.
Still, she kept her head high as she made her way to the
first empty booth. By the time she got there, the diner was
A waitress shuffled over. "Help you?"
She cleared her throat. "I'd like a piece of the apple
pie I can smell, a cup of coffee, a glass of milk and some
"What kind of pudding?"
She swallowed. Not one person had turned back to his or her
coffee or food. They just stared as if she were a zombie or
vampire or some other mythical creature they'd never seen
before. "What kind do you have?"
"Vanilla or chocolate."
"Mitzi loves vanilla."
Without so much as a word of acknowledgment, the waitress
"You're not from around here."
Knowing the man could only be talking to her, she followed
the voice and found herself staring into a pair of the
shrewdest eyes she'd ever seen. Cool, calculating, so black
the pupils were almost invisible, his eyes never blinked,
never wavered as they held her gaze.
Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.
"No, I'm not from around here."
"What's your business?"
"None of yours." She turned away from the
penetrating, unsettling eyes and shifted Mitzi on her lap.
To her horror, the man walked over and plopped down on the
bench seat across from hers. His full lips pulled upward
into a devilish smile. His dark eyes danced with pleasure.
"Now, see. That's not just a bad attitude. It's also
She should have been scared to death. He was big. Not fat,
but tall and broad-shouldered. The kind of guy who could
snap a little five-foot-five girl like her in two. But
instead of fear, a very unladylike shiver of lust rippled
down her spine.
"Everything that happens in Whiskey Springs is my
business because this is my town."
Not at all happy with herself for even having two seconds of
attraction to an ill-mannered stranger, she said,
"Your town? What are you, the sheriff?"
He chuckled. The people at the counter and in the booths
around them also laughed.
"No. I'm Cade Andreas. I own this town. I bought all the
buildings last year. I lease the businesses back to their
proprietors, but I still own every square inch, including
the one you're sitting on."
Oh, good God. This was Cade Andreas?
Fear and confusion immediately replaced attraction. Wasn't
the Andreas family broke? She owned one-third of Andreas
Holdings stock and hadn't been able to sell it because the
company was on the skids. What was he doing buying a town?
"And I'd like to know what brings you to my town."
She raised her gaze to his face. A day-old growth of beard
covered his chin and cheeks, giving him a sexily
disreputable look. His lips were full, firm, kissable. His
nose had been brokenundoubtedly in a fightbut it
wasn't disfigured, more like masculine. Definitely not
dainty. There was nothing dainty about this man. He was all
male. One hundred percent, grade A, prime specimen sexy.
Finally, their eyes connected. Her chest tightened. Her
breathing stalled. She could have blamed that on her
unwitting attraction, but refused. A guy who bought a town
had to be more than a little arrogant. Definitely past vain.
Maybe even beyond narcissistic. And she'd learned her lesson
about narcissistic men with Mitzi's father. It would be a
cold, frosty day in hell before she got involved with
another self-absorbed man. So she refused to be attracted to
Cade Andreas. Refused.
But she still needed a job. She might own stock worth
millions of dollars, but nobody wanted to buy it. Potential
didn't sell stock these days. Dividends did. And in the past
two years Andreas Holdings hadn't paid any. So she was
hoping that since she owned one-third of the company they
could at least let her work there. The choice to approach
Cade Andreas, the youngest of the three brothers who owned
controlling interest of Andreas Holdings stock and ran the
company, was simply a matter of practicality. Texas was
driving distance. New York City, the headquarters for the
corporate offices, wasn't. Still, if they gave her a job,
she'd get there somehow. She'd go anywhere that she could
put down roots and make a home. Maybe find some friends.
"What brings you to my town?"
This time the words were harsh. Not quite angry, but
definitely losing patience.
She glanced at the waitress who stood behind the counter,
balancing a coffeepot and Suzanne's piece of pie, obviously
holding them hostage until she answered Cade.
She looked back at him. His already-sharp eyes had narrowed
in displeasure, and she had the sudden, intense intuition
that if she told him who she wasin front of his
adoring friends and the frozen waitresshe would not
jump for joy. She would bet her last dollar that none of
these people knew how much trouble Andreas Holdings was in
and Cade would not be happy with the person who announced it.
There was no way she could say who she was and why she was
here without talking about something he would no doubt want
kept private, and no way she could explain her presence in
this two-bit town so far from a major highway that no one
was ever just passing through.
She glanced around, saw the sign in the door advertising for
a waitress and grabbed the first piece of good luck that had
come her way in over a year.
"I heard about the job for a waitress, so I came."
"In your fancy boots, with your baby all dolled up?"
"We put on our best stuff," she said, making herself
sound as if she fit the part of a waitress. She regretted
the deception, but if anybody ever deserved to be played,
this guy did. Owned a town, huh? She potentially held the
future of his family's company in her hands just by choosing
whom to sell her stock to, yet he'd never once considered
that she might be somebody worthy of his time. "For the
A short, round dark-haired woman wearing an apron scampered
out of the kitchen. "You're looking for a job?"
"Yes." The truth of that brought her back to
reality. Her purpose for coming to Whiskey Springs had
been to get a jobfrom Andreas Holdings. Now that
plan was on hold. She wasn't exactly here to be a waitress,
but money was money. And she needed some. Now. Today. She
had enough cash to pay for her piece of pie and even buy
extra milk for Mitzi, but after that she and Mitzi were
sleeping in her car.
"I'm Suzanne Caldwell." Because her grandmother had
held the stock in a trust, her name wasn't mentioned on any
documents, so she could give it without worry. "This is
my baby, Mitzi."
Mitzi picked that exact moment to cry. The little brunette
scrambled over. "I'm Amanda Mae and if you want a job,
you've got it." She shot Cade an evil look, causing
Suzanne to immediately love her. "Real men don't make
Cade held up his hands innocently. "Hey, I was on my own
side of the booth the whole time. I didn't touch her."
"You're threatening her mama."
His face fell. "I never threatened her!"
"Just your voice is threatening."
He sighed. "Yeah. Right. Whatever."
She took the baby. "Would you like a bottle, little
Suzanne said, "I ordered some milk and pudding for her."
Amanda Mae looked horrified. "June Marie, where are you
with this baby's food?"
The waitress hustled over, set Suzanne's pie in front of her
and poured her a cup of coffee before she rushed away and
got both the pudding and the milk.
Eyes narrowed, Cade studied the woman across the booth from
him. She was a pretty little package. Eyes so blue they
bordered on the purple color of the wildflow-ers that grew
on his pasture in the spring. Black hair cut in a straight,
blunt line at her chin, giving her a dramatic look that
didn't fit with a woman who needed a job as a waitress. And
those boots. Black stilettos. The kind a man envisioned on
his chest, pinning him to a bed.
He stopped those thoughts. She might be a pretty with her
perfect nose and full, tempting lips, but he wasn't interested.
Still, he had no doubt that he had to keep an eye on her.
Something wasn't right with her. It wasn't just her
city-girl clothes. Her demeanor didn't fit. Waitresses
didn't have smooth hands, perfect posture, an unblinking stare.
He rose from the booth. "Well, seeing as how you seem to
have gotten the job you wanted, I guess we'll be running
into each other from time to time."
She only smiled. A cool, remote smile that heated his blood
and all but challenged him to turn on the charm and see how
long it would take to get that smile to thaw. Luckily, he
was smarter than that.
Amanda Mae said, "Do you have someplace to stay, honey?"
She faced the diner owner. "I No. Actually, I need
a place to stay."
"Hotel's in the next town over," Cade said, striding
back to his seat at the counter and his now-cold coffee.
Amanda Mae shot him another evil glare. "Or she could
use the apartment upstairs until she gets on her feet."
"I'd like that." Suzanne pressed her fingers to
Amanda Mae's hand in a gesture of appreciation that stopped
Cade cold. Maybe she was in need of a little help? Her crisp
white blouse and fancy jeans could be the last good things
she owned. He hadn't heard a car drive up. He glanced out
the big front window into the street. He didn't see a car.
She could be dead broke
Nope. His business sense wouldn't accept that. Something
about her screamed money. Big money. If she was pretending
she didn't have any, there was a reason.
Damn. He was going to have to keep an eye on her.
Immediately after Cade left, Amanda Mae took Suzanne
upstairs to look at the little furnished apartment.
"One of the waitresses always lives here," she said,
leading Suzanne into the tiny bedroom that barely had enough
space for a crib and a double bed. "So we keep it
Gratitude weakened Suzanne's knees. At least they wouldn't
have to sleep in her car tonight. She turned to Amanda Mae
with a smile. "Thanks. I appreciate it."
Amanda Mae stuffed a few bills into her palm. "And
here's some money to go to the secondhand store down the
street and buy some sheets and towels."
Her face reddened. This time last year she was telling her
grandmother she was three months pregnant and that her
baby's daddy wanted no part of her. Her wonderful, loving
grandmother had taken her hand and told her not to worry.
That everything would be okay. Even though she'd made some
bad investments, they still had the Andreas Holdings stock.
A couple of months hadn't just changed everything; they'd
taken away her home, her only family. Instead of being a
well-loved granddaughter, she was a broke single mom. So
alone her only contacts had been lawyers and accountants,
until her grandmother's estate was settled. Then even they
Tears welled up. She caught Amanda Mae's gaze. "I'll pay
Amanda Mae squeezed her hand. "In good time. For now,
I'm just happy to have some help for the breakfast crowd."
Driving back to his ranch, Cade speed-dialed the number for
his assistant. "Hey, Cade."
"Hey, Eric." He'd hired Eric right out of grad
school because he was sharp and educated, but also because
he had total recall. If someone mentioned an aunt, cousin,
sister, brother or long-lost friend even once in a
conversation, Eric would remember him or her. "Have you
ever heard of Suzanne Caldwell?"
"Can't say that I have."
"Who is she?"
"Just a woman who came into the diner today. She took
the waitress job, but something just didn't seem right about
"Ah. I'm guessing your business sense kicked up."
He scowled at the phone. "Don't poke fun at my business
sense. It's made me rich enough that I'd never have to work
another day in my life. While you, on the other hand, still
work for me."
He disconnected the call. But when he thought of Suzanne,
the hair on his nape snapped up. Damn it! Why would a
waitress activate his business sense? And why was he going
back to his ranch when his instincts were screaming that he
should be checking into this?
Slamming on the brakes, he manipulated his truck through a
fishtail and headed back into town. He pulled it into a
parking space at the diner, but when he walked by the huge
front window, he saw that the new waitress wasn't inside.
His instincts calmed, his intuition quieted and he cursed
himself for being the suspicious fool that Eric hinted he
was. But before he could turn around and go back to his
truck, he saw Suzanne coming down the outside steps from the
second-floor apartment, carrying her baby.