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Texas Heir Mass Market Paperback – September 9, 2008

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Cari Michaels was having a "take two Tylenol" type of day.

And it was only five minutes to eight.

With tires squealing, she swerved into her parking spot with the speed and arrogance of her sixteen-year-old nephew. She had five minutes to make the executive meeting on time.

Why was Reed Dalton Preston, CEO of Dalton's Department Stores, calling an impromptu gathering of his executives this early? The one morning her alarm clock chose to die.

Seconds ticked away.

No sweat. She'd make it.

Thrusting the gearshift into Park, she turned off the engine and grabbed her purse and briefcase. Then she was off at a run for the elevator, her heels tapping in three-quarter time across the pavement in the parking garage. She prayed Homer, the elevator operator, was waiting with the door open.

He was. She could see his smiling round face, and then she heard a snap. The next thing she knew she was kissing hard, dirty concrete. She moaned as burning needles of pain shot through her knee and elbow.

Damn! Damn! Damn!

Her day just got worse.

"Ms. Cari, are you okay?" Through a wave of humiliation she heard Homer's worried voice and rolled to her feet faster than a quarterback nailed for a loss.

"Yes, Homer. I'm fine." She brushed off her black Prada pantsuit and took a deep breath. "Just broke a heel." She raised her foot to remove the offending shoe and held it up, but she didn't have a moment to chat. Time was running out and she knew she'd get "The Look" from Reed if she slid into her seat one second late.

Homer picked up her briefcase and purse and handed them to her with a concerned look in his eyes.

"Thank you," she said, and hobbled into the elevator. "Can you make Louise fly?"

"No, ma'am," Homer replied, adjusting his bellman's cap with the Dalton logo on it. "She only goes one speed." Homer was mentally challenged and he took his job seriously. He'd named the elevator Louise and sometimes he stayed until every executive was out of the building because he didn't like anyone pushing Louise's buttons but him. Everyone loved Homer, including Cari.

As the elevator smoothly glided upward she removed her other heel. Being just five feet three inches tall, she really needed the heels for the extra confidence-boosting height.

Glancing down, she saw she'd ripped her slacks at the knee. There was also dirt on her cobalt-blue silk blouse. Great. Now she was going to look like a street urchin, but she wasn't missing the meeting.

Elevator music, Bach or Beethoven or something, played in the background and it started to get on her nerves. Why was this thing going so slow? Louise needed a checkup.

"My mama says it doesn't matter what you look like as long as you have a good heart." Homer's bit of wisdom made Cari wonder if she looked that bad.

"You have a good heart, Ms. Cari."

"Thank you, Homer. So do you."

The doors opened. She smiled at Homer a second before she dashed out and down the hall to the private door of her office.

Homer's "Have a good day" followed her.

She threw the shoes and her briefcase onto her desk and took a moment to glance at herself in the mirror by the door. Slipping her purse strap over her shoulder, she ran her fingers through her short, blow-and-go, dark brown hair. At the moment it was more blow than go.

Her sister, the beautician, had talked her into the style. Chic and stylish, Kitty had said—just what Cari needed for her busy lifestyle. Shaking her head, she hoped her hair looked chic instead of looking more like it had been cut with a weed-eater.

And who's going to notice, she asked herself as she darted out the door to the boardroom. Certainly not Reed Preston. Cari remembered vividly the first time she had seen Reed. He and Richard Preston, his father, were making a tour of the store, something Mr. Preston didn't do too often. But Reed was home for the summer from the University of Texas and Mr. Preston was priming him to take over the reins of Dalton's. Everyone had been on their toes, watching their p's and q's for the momentous occasion.

She'd been a naive, gauche teenager determined to make something of her life away from the small farm where she'd been raised. When she looked at Reed, she saw everything she'd been looking for and everything she could never have. He was tall with dark hair and warm, brown eyes. Cari knew Reed was as far out of her reach as Prince William. Not that she wanted the prince, but that's how she thought of Reed—as the Prince of Dalton's.

So did a lot of other women.

She kept her feelings secret. No one knew how she felt about Reed except Marisa Kincaid, Reed's sister, a woman whose struggles with her difficult, demanding family had put her in desperate need of a good friend.

When Marisa was seventeen she'd fallen in love with a rodeo cowboy, Colter Kincaid. Marisa was in training to be a concert pianist and her involvement with Colter was unacceptable to the Prestons. With lies and threats her family had broken them up, but Marisa soon discovered she was pregnant. Unable to locate Colter, Marisa had to deal with her parents alone. She refused abortion and adoption, intending to keep her baby. She had underestimated her parents, though.

Marisa had problems with the pregnancy, so the Prestons devised a plan. They told their daughter the baby was stillborn. In truth, they had called Colter and offered him the baby. For years Marisa grieved for her child.At the time she lived with her mother in NewYork, and she sank into deep depression, unable to play the piano. Her father had brought her to Texas to heal.

Once Marisa was in Texas, the lies and deceit began to unravel. Marisa found out her daughter was very much alive. It had taken a while, but she and Colter had fallen in love again, too. It hadn't been an easy time and Cari had been there for Marisa when she'd needed to talk. Cari admitted their friendship had undoubtedly helped her gain a vice presidency at Dalton's, but she also had earned it.

She had realized at an early age that she didn't want to spend the rest of her life as a salesclerk and, with four siblings, her parents couldn't afford to send her to college or even junior college. So that first year she'd saved every dime she could and took night courses at a junior college, finally finishing up her business degree at the University of Texas in Dallas while continuing to work for Dalton's.

When she entered the boardroom, Cari summoned her years of experience and quietly took her seat at the polished oak table, which could seat twenty people. The paneling on the walls was made of the same vibrant wood, trimmed in an ornate, hand-carved pattern unlike anything Cari had ever seen. Photos of all the stores across Texas, as well as the store's founder, Harold Dalton, hung on the walls. The first time Cari had stepped into this room the sight of it had taken her breath away.

An arrangement of white irises and lavender lilacs took pride of place in the center of the table. Fresh flowers always adorned this room. Their delicate fragrance drifted to her and Cari relaxed, uncaring that her slacks were torn and her blouse was dirty.

The executive team had already taken their seats and Reed stood at the head of the table, looking directly at her. She stared back at him. Yet those honey brown eyes didn't waver for a second.

Nor did hers.

"Nice of you to join us, Ms. Michaels," he said in his deep, smooth voice that usually curled her toes into her shoes. Since she wasn't wearing shoes, her toes curled against the polished hardwood floor that felt cool to her stocking feet.

She smiled sweetly, not rising to the bait.

"I know you're wondering why I called this meeting." Reed turned his attention elsewhere and she let out her breath, not even realizing she was holding it. Her elbow was throbbing and she just wanted to go to her office and regroup for the day. She was sure she'd left her pride somewhere on that garage floor and she desperately needed to get it back.

George, the man on her right, sat with a pen in his hand ready to jot down every word out of Reed's mouth. Mike, across from her, was poised the same way. Cari's pen was in her purse and she didn't see the need to fish for it. Reed's personal assistant always sent memos just in case anyone missed anything.

"I'll make this short," Reed said. "I know you're eager to get back to your jobs. Or at least I hope you are."

That caused a round of muffled laughter.

Cari took a moment to study Reed. In jeans, a crisp white shirt, a lightweight sports jacket and cowboy boots—she couldn't see them but she knew he always wore custom-made Kincaid boots— he appeared to have stepped out of the pages of Texas Monthly magazine. His tall lean frame showed off the clothes, but there was something about him that bespoke power and wealth. Maybe it was the way he looked directly into your eyes. Or that strong chin. Or that razzle-dazzle, made-for-Hollywood smile. Or an elusive quality that was embedded in the way he moved and spoke.

But to her it was none of those things. She admired the man within, the man who was striving to prove to his father he could run Dalton's with strength and compassion. Reed was more involved with his employees than Mr. Preston had ever been. Homer had a job because of Reed. Mr. Preston would never have allowed Homer to be hired.

Reed had new ideas and a new way of doing business. It was showing results. Profits were at an all-time high and Cari enjoyed working with her boss, being on his team. But she wondered if he'd ever see her as a woman.

A desirable woman.

At thirty-four, marriage and family were becoming important to her. If she kept waiting for Reed Preston, her biological clock was going to spit and sputter and run out of time.

"I wanted to let my executive team know before the news hits the papers," Reed was saying. "Daphne Harwood and I are engaged. We're planning an early spring wedding."

What did he say?

People jumped up, shaking his hand and congratulating him. Cari felt herself turning to stone. All her dreams, everything she'd ever hoped for, ended in...


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037375230X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373752300
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 4.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,324,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Linda Warren loves happy endings. The Rita® nominated and award winning author has written 26 books for Harlequin, including SuperRomance, American and Everlasting Love. Drawing upon her years of growing up on a farm/ranch in Texas, she writes about sexy heroes, feisty heroines and broken families with an emotional punch all set against the backdrop of Texas. She lives in College Station with her husband and spends her days doing what she loves--creating unforgettable love stories--with happy endings.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By RNS Sarah on September 5, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A spin off from The Christmas Cradle, Texas Heir brings us back to the Preston family - but the story can stand alone. But with this book, Linda was able to bring a greater depth to the family. I was amazed how the family could be ripped apart and put back together for the better. The pairing of Cari and Reed are excellent - especially how they get through thick and thin together. And it just proves how blind men are. *wink*

RT honored this book with a Top Pick this month, and this book greatly deserved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By NativeTexan on December 19, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This lady can really write, and this is yet another fine example of that. Great story, great writer, TEXAS! How can you go wrong?
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By Judy melvin on March 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent read. Wonderful character development and a believable intriguing story. Could not put the book down. I would highly recommend the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First off let me say that I'm a sucker for stories that deal with the small town life. I grew up in one, so maybe that's the reason I'm drawn to them. Linda Warren writes some really fantastic stories about people who happen to live in small towns, and for that alone I have become a huge fan.I must be since I've read at least 20 or more of her books so far, and will be looking for more of her works to read in the future.

.This book however, is spin off from The Christmas Cradle. Texas Heir brings us back to the Preston family, where we also get to learn a little more about what's been happening with the people from Christmas Cradle since we last seen them.

Cari Michaels has known for a long time that Reed Preston is the only man for her. Her heart has taken a hit when she discovers that the man she loves, Reed Preston, CEO of a family-owned department store chain, has just announced his engagement...to another woman.

She has no idea how she'll be able to do it, but she knows she'll need to get over Reed. But when a plane crash strands her in the west Texas desert with the man she loves, she can't hide her feelings like she had planned on doing.. And now they have only each other to depend on for their survival. Soon things start to change when he finally gets to see who she really is and is really impressed by her determination and strength.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, along with all the other books in this series, too.
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