That Night In Texas
Boat captain Gabe Randolph is a man who’s always been sure of what he wants and has worked hard to get it. He loves his work being out on the ocean and has no plans to ever do anything else. Until an accident one terrible night changes his entire future.
Dr. Lana McCoy knows how one night can change a person forever. When she comes to Redfish, Texas, to start over, she has no intention of including a man in her life. Then she meets Gabe, and though they seem to be opposites, they have more in common than she could have ever imagined. Each has been burned, and each is still working through life-altering events. These two wary survivors try to ignore the attraction pulling them together.
But can a passion too strong to be denied teach them both that they don’t have to let one night—no matter how traumatic—define the rest of their lives?
“So are you coming to dinner Saturday night? Best barbecue you’ll ever taste. I’m cooking.”
Dr. Lana McCoy looked up at the man lounging in her office doorway. “That depends on whether you’re trying to set me up with someone or not,” she replied.
Blond and handsome, her new partner was also very happily married. She’d known and worked with Jay Kincaid in an emergency room back in California, before he moved to Redfish, a small town on the Texas coast.
He grinned. “I’m not, but my wife probably is.”
“Then no. Thanks, but no thanks.”
He considered her a moment. “What do you have against men, Lana?”
“I have nothing against men. I just don’t want to date them.”
After her divorce was finalized, she’d started looking for a new job, a new life, but she hadn’t found anything suitable. Then she’d run into Jay at a medical conference and mentioned she was looking to relocate. Next thing she knew, she was on her way to Texas to work with Jay and his partner, Tim Kramer, at their medical clinic.
She’d come to the sleepy little town of Redfish for peace. And though she’d only been here a few short weeks, she thought she might have finally found her new home. If only she could convince her partners and their wives and nearly everyone else she’d met that she was perfectly happy being single and had no intention of changing that status.
Jay rubbed his chin. “Okay. I’ll tell Gail. But would you come if you knew it was simply a get-together and we promised not to try to set you up?”
She smiled at him. “Yes.” She didn’t mind making new friends. It was dating she had an aversion to. “Now go away, I have work to do.”
“Great. Seven o’clock,” he said, and left her.
By Saturday, she was having second thoughts. Still, why shouldn’t I go? she asked herself as she dressed for the barbecue in cool linen slacks and a pale blue sleeveless silk blouse. If she was going to make Redfish her home, then she should go out and meet people. What better way to do so than a casual get-together? She’d already met Jay’s wife, Gail, and liked her, and she knew that Gail and Jay had lots of family and friends in the area.
Of course, there would probably be single men at the party, but as long as no one tried to set her up, she could cope. She’d discouraged men before. Most of them didn’t stick around long enough to see if they could break the barrier she put up between them. Those who did gave up after a few tries and moved on to women who took less effort. Which was exactly what she wanted.
“Mamma mia, who’s the hot blonde walking this way?” Gabe Randolph asked his brother-in-law. She wasn’t just hot, she was smokin’.
Standing over the barbecue grill in his backyard, Jay flipped a burger, then turned to see who Gabe was talking about. “That’s my new partner. Lana McCoy.”
“She’s your new partner?” He looked at Jay, then back at the blonde. “Whoa. You’ve been holding out on me. So, tell me the bad news. Is she married?”
Jay shook his head, a smile playing around his mouth. “Divorced.”
“Okay, so what’s the problem? Why hasn’t Gail introduced her to me?”
Lana McCoy was single, beautiful and a doctor. The kind of woman Gabe’s sister would consider perfect for him, never mind that he wouldn’t have much in common with a brainiac.
Still, brainy or not, anyone who looked like this woman was definitely worth getting to know. But Gail hadn’t said a word, so there must be a problem.
Ever since his brother Cam had married Delilah a few months before, his two sisters, Gail and Cat, not to mention Cam’s wife, had been throwing every female they could find at him. They weren’t going to be happy until every damn one of their relatives was married. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen with him, but he didn’t mind going out with the women they kept finding for him.
Jay flipped another burger. “I told Gail she couldn’t. To get Lana to come tonight, I had to promise her we wouldn’t try to set her up with anyone.”
“So she doesn’t like blind dates. Who does?”
Jay shook his head and glanced at Gabe. Lana had stopped to talk to Cat. “From what I gathered, she doesn’t like dates period.”
Gabe tilted his head, considering her. “She doesn’t date? Why not?”
“Beats me,” Jay said with a shrug. “Guess you’ll have to find out.”
Well, maybe I will, he thought, watching her. He drank some of his beer. If she really wasn’t interested, she’d shoot him down, but big deal. He’d been shot down before and no doubt would be again. She was talking to Delilah now, so he made his way over to the two of them.
“Gabe,” Delilah said when she caught sight of him. She gave him a hug and smiled at him. “We haven’t seen you in the restaurant in weeks.”
“Start of the busy season,” he said. And, thank God, business had been booming lately. “I’m Gabe Randolph,” he said to the blonde, holding out a hand.
“Lana McCoy. I’m Jay’s and Tim’s new partner.” Though she shook hands, she dropped his quickly.
“You know, Gabe, it’s lucky you’re here,” Delilah said. “Lana was just saying how she’d never been deep-sea fishing. Or even fishing period.” She turned to Lana and smiled. “Gabe runs a charter fishing service. He’s just the person to show you the ropes.” She winked at Gabe. “I see someone I need to talk to. You’ll entertain Lana, won’t you, Gabe?” She walked off, leaving them alone.
Lana didn’t look very happy about that. Man, she’s one classy number. Long, straight, pale blond hair spilled to her shoulders. Her eyes were ocean-blue and right now as frosty as an ice-cold mug of beer. Her mouth was generous, unpainted and frowning. He wanted to see
her smile. “Sorry, she’s not very subtle,” he said.
“Subtle?” She looked blank for a moment, then frowned again. “Oh. I take it you’re single.”
“Free as a bird,” he confirmed cheerfully. “And obviously, so are you. Do you really want to go fishing or did Delilah dream that up?”
“No, I did mention I’d like to try it sometime.”
“Great. How does tomorrow sound?”
“I don’t know. How much does it cost?”
He smiled. “For you, nothing.”
“That wouldn’t be right. I can’t ask you to take me fishing for free.”
To any other woman he’d have said, “Make it a date,” but according to Jay, that wouldn’t work with her. “It’s no big deal. Think of it like a welcome gift for newcomers. How about it, Lana? Will you let me take you fishing tomorrow?”
She seemed to consider that for a moment, then something like regret flashed across her face. “Thanks, but I really can’t.”
He knew he should drop the subject, but the devil inside him made him ask, “Can’t or won’t?”
Their gazes met and held before she dropped hers. After a moment she said, “I don’t date.”
“We don’t have to call it a date. It’s a little fishing.”
“You don’t have to call it a date for it to be a date. And going fishing on your boat sounds like a date to me.”
“Nope.” He shook his head. “There’s where you’re wrong. If I was asking you on a date, I’d have done it completely differently.”
“How would—” She stopped and held up a hand. “No, don’t tell me. How did I get into this conversation?”
“Well, I asked you if you wanted to go fishing and you said you—”
She interrupted him by laughing. “Stop. You’re not going to get me to change my mind by making me laugh.”
“Worth a try.”
“Are you always this persistent?”
He couldn’t help smiling. “No. But most women I meet aren’t as pretty as you are.”
Something hit him hard in the middle of his back. He stumbled forward and his beer pitched out of his hand. Splattering all over Lana McCoy’s pretty silk shirt.
Gabe turned around ready to rip someone’s head off, only to find his niece Mel and a little friend of hers. He swallowed the curse that had been on his lips.
“I’m sorry, Uncle Gabe,” she said, looking younger than her ten years. “I was showing Patty my cartwheel. We’re both on the Middle School Cheer Squad and it’s our new move.”
Middle School Cheer Squad? Middle school? How had that happened? She’d been five years old just last week, hadn’t she? God, he felt old.
“Tell the lady you’re sorry, Mel. I spilled my drink on her.”
“Uh-oh,” she said, looking at Lana who was ineffectually wiping beer off her shirt. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I didn’t mean to. Are you mad with me?”
Gabe was ready to step in, but it wasn’t necessary. The irritation had left Lana’s face and she smiled at the little girls. “No, of course not. It was an accident.” She held out a hand. “I’m Lana McCoy.”
When she smiled like that...oh, man, it almost made him forget his name.
They talked to the girls for a few minutes, then Mel and her friend ran off. Lana looked at him. “You thought I was going to yell at her.”
“The thought crossed my mind,” he admitted. “And I couldn’t really blame you.” Her shirt was soaked. She was going to smell like a brewery. “I really am sorry. I’ll pay for the dry-cleaning. But for now, let’s go ask Gail to lend you a shirt. Mel’s her daughter, so it seems only fair.”
“Yes, you do,” he interrupted. “You can’t drive home smelling like you drank a six-pack. If a cop stops you, he’ll throw you in jail in a heartbeat.” He started walking toward the house and after a moment, she followed.
“Gabe?” She hurried to catch up with him, so he slowed a bit to let her. As they walked, she kept darting worried glances at him. “About what I said, it’s not you. I’m, um, not interested in dating.”
“I don’t want you to think—well, that it’s personal. It’s not.”
“I’m sure you’re a perfectly nice man, but I just don’t date.”
He continued walking toward the house. “Lana, it’s no big deal. I invited you fishing and you said no. End of story. You don’t need to explain it to me.” She didn’t say anything else. He opened the kitchen door to let her walk inside. “I’ll go get Gail and tell her what happened.”
“Thanks.” She smiled at him. “I appreciate it.”
“No problem.” He hesitated before he left, then decided what the hell. “Can I ask you something?”
“Is this ban on dating a permanent thing?”
She stared at him a moment. “I don’t know,” she said slowly. Then she added, “Probably.”
At least she hadn’t said yes, he thought philosophically as he went to find his sister.
After that, he didn’t talk to Lana again until late in the evening. The party was winding down and he was ready to leave. He was a little surprised when Lana stopped him on his way out.
“Would you mind if I walked out with you?”
“Sure.” He wondered why. Maybe she’d changed her mind. He watched her say her goodbyes and thank Jay and Gail for inviting her. Nah, he couldn’t get that lucky.
He walked her to her car, a candy-apple-red Porsche. “Nice ride.”
“Thanks. I like it.” She had her keys out and was surveying the street, looking all around. Her key ring had one of those pepper spray canisters hanging from it. Obviously, she was a city girl. Redfish didn’t have much crime. She unlocked the door and he opened it for her.
“Thanks for walking me out,” she said, and got in.
“Not a problem. Drive safely,” he said, and shut her door.
So much for her changing her mind. A balmy spring night, a beautiful woman and him. And they were both going home alone.
“Bummer,” he muttered and got in his truck.