Don't Hex with Texas

Page 27


It took all three of us to detach the whimpering baby from Owen’s shirt, and Beth whisked her away before the whimpering could escalate into a full-scale tantrum. “My, but you do have a way with the ladies,” I teased. The quick flush that spread across his cheeks was a great relief to me. It meant he couldn’t have changed that much since I’d been gone.
But he had changed in other respects. I saw what Marcia meant about him looking thin and tired. That made him look older and more serious than I remembered him being. “So, I guess you flew here?” I said. “I mean, not like flying, just…”
“American Airlines,” he finished my sentence, another one of those sparks of humor lighting his dark blue eyes and almost making me swoon. It looked like the effect he could have on me hadn’t changed at all.
“Good, good,” I said, nodding. “And you had a good flight? I guess you flew into DFW and drove down?”
“No, for that leg of the trip I got out my flying carpet.”
Then he really smiled, for the first time since he walked in the store. “No, not really. That takes a lot of energy, and the magic lines here are weak enough that I thought I’d better save my strength. I got a rental and drove. It was an interesting trip. I guess I got to see a good part of the state.”
“Yeah, that’s a nice drive, a good cross-section of Texas.” I wanted to scream with frustration, even as I kept the small talk going. I’d missed him desperately for the past four months, and here we were talking about his travel arrangements instead of talking about us or even talking about the situation that had brought him here.
And then it was too late to get into the good stuff because my family started swarming. If I hadn’t been absolutely certain that Beth would never do such a thing, I’d have halfway suspected her of calling them all to tell them about my visitor. As it was, I had a feeling it was pure, dumb luck. First, Sherri showed up, at least half an hour late from her lunch break. She tottered in across the store’s uneven wooden floor in high-heeled sandals. Her skin-tight pedal-pusher jeans gave the impression that they once might have been regular jeans but had shrunk severely in the wash. She took one look at Owen and sucked in her stomach while inflating her chest.
“Well, hello there,” she cooed. I could hardly blame her for noticing him, since he was quite the hottie. He wasn’t what I’d really consider a hunk, since to me that implied big and brawny. Owen wasn’t all that big, and he had a slender frame, but he had a good amount of muscle packed onto that frame. At least, I was pretty sure he did. I hadn’t seen him without his shirt on, except for one time when I was bandaging an injured shoulder. But when he hugged me or even put an arm around me to steady me on the subway, I could feel that he had some solid muscles under his clothes. To go with that body, he had a face straight off a sculpture, all square-jawed and strong-cheekboned.
What I could blame Sherri for was flirting openly with him while being married to my brother.
Fortunately, Owen wasn’t impressed at all with Sherri’s type, yet another reason I was so crazy about him. He took a subtle step away from her and gave her the kind of look he usually reserved for unsavory things left on the sidewalk. “Sherri, this is my friend Owen from New York,” I said stiffly.
“Owen, this is my other sister-in-law, Sherri. She’s married to my middle brother, Dean, and she works here, too.”
Before she could properly throw herself at him, Teddy ran through from the back of the store, waving a piece of paper. “I think I’ve figured out the formula!” he shouted. “Twice the growth, and no weeds! Is Dad around? He’ll want to see this!” Then he was gone.
“That was Teddy,” I explained to Owen. “My youngest brother. Whatever you do, never ask him about fertilizer, how to grow greener grass, how to get more yield from your crop, or which seeds to plant. Trust me on this.”
Owen looked the least bit shell-shocked as he nodded. Molly then showed up, dragging a screaming Davy. “Is Frank around? I need him to watch Davy for a while.”
“Last I heard, he was making deliveries.” I very pointedly did not offer to watch my nephew, even though it might have been interesting to see what Owen could do with him. He’d tamed dragons, so a bratty preschooler couldn’t have been too much more difficult.
Just then, she noticed Owen. “Oh, I’m sorry, was I interrupting something? I shouldn’t barge in on you like that when you’re with a customer.”
I dutifully made introductions. Sherri sidled up to Owen and said, “So, how long are you in town for?” But before he could answer, George Ward came into the store and Sherri was all over him like white on rice. Mr. Ward may have been older and married, but he was rich, which moved him up the scales in Sherri’s world. Little did she know, but Owen probably could have bought and sold George Ward a few times over. I didn’t intend for her to find out, or else Owen might end up clubbed and dragged off to her lair.