Texas Heritage, Book 2
Release Date:

Jan 12, 2023

ISBN:

978-1-958686-17-1

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The Texas Cowboy’s Lady

by

Debra Holt

Which shines brighter: Hollywood lights or the Texas stars?

Laurel Burkitt, who owns half of the mega-ranching empire known as the Aces High, shook the Texas dirt off her stilettos a long time ago. She’s all about high fashion, sleek cars, and adding movie awards to her shelves. No dark-eyed, sexy, hard-driving, country-living cowboy is going to rope her into being his country darlin’…as long as her brain keeps control over the traitorous yearnings of her heart.

Jaxson Hawkes, foreman of the Aces High, was born to the saddle and to being a cowboy all his days. So it took him a while to finally bare his soul to the spitfire he grew up adoring. He expected Laurel to choose between him and Texas and her dream of California gold. Her choice broke his heart.

Now Laurel’s back and her ideas of merging California with Texas aren’t sitting too well with Jaxson. There’s a showdown coming between them, and when the dust clears, will he send her packing on that shiny plane once and for all? Or will the lady claim the cowboy’s heart for good?

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The carpet wasn’t as red as she’d thought it would be. Just one observation among many assailing Laurel’s brain as she tried to remember to keep smiling, avoid tripping over her ball gown’s skirt, and keep in the line of sight of the armed guards watching her every move—or rather the couple of million dollars’ worth of emeralds adorning her neck, ears, fingers, you name it. And she couldn’t muddle the name of the French designer who’d created the stunning white gown of heavy satin and lace with the emerald-green trim, bustier top, and corseted waist—yet another reason she was having issues taking a deep breath.

Writing the movie was the easy part compared to walking the most famous red carpet in the world.

“Smile, step, pose, turn, smile, and repeat. Sort of like a washing machine cycle. Think of it that way and the smile becomes easier. By the way, you look like a pro and an absolute goddess,” came the whisper in her ear from the tall, blonde man in a perfect black tie and tuxedo as they posed for those cameras.

“A goddess who might upchuck any moment. Or fall flat on my face if one more person steps on the train of this gown. Don’t go too far away, I beg you.”

“You got this, babe. And don’t forget, our top-secret game plan is now in play. CeeCee will be at your table at the dinner at the Governor’s Ball later, right?”

“All is going as planned. It’s number thirty-nine on my mental list of things to do to survive this night. Right before the one where you stop being my friend and I promise not to write another word that puts me in this situation again. Much easier to watch this in my pajamas, at home on my sofa, with buttered popcorn and pizza.”

“Next year. And I’ll still be the friend who brings along the root beer you prefer over champagne. Now, go be marvelous in the interview they are calling you for this minute. See you later.”

We see you. Wow, what a dress. Are those your own jewels?

The text was from Laurel’s sister, Sammi Jo, who, along with her husband, Beaudry, and daughter, Lacy, were home at the family ranch in Texas, watching the evening on television. Laurel smiled as she replied from her seat in the front row, right before the show was to begin.

Sorry, no. They are on loan. Too bad if you wanted to borrow them.

LOL . . . they would really look great with my jeans and boots smeared with cow manure. Lacy wants to borrow the dress for her fall dance, though.

Wow, my niece is old enough to go to a dance already? Slow things down. I am missing too much.

Then get on a plane and get home. You know where it is.

For a brief moment, Laurel’s fingers stilled over the keyboard of her cell phone. Sammi Jo’s words gave her pause for some strange reason. But she didn’t have time to dwell on it as the orchestra and lights indicated they were about to begin. She needed to sign off.

Must go. Thanks for watching and sending all those good thoughts all day.

We wouldn’t miss this night. You got it. Granddad is boasting up there right now in Heaven and telling Grandmother that he had told her so all along. I knew you were meant to follow that dream of yours. Fingers crossed, and we are all waiting to hear your name called. BTW, you are missing a great party here.

Must go. Hugs to all.

“Hey, no time for frowns. Smile, babe. The camera is on you,” came Sean’s reminder from his seat next to hers. All the while, her brain was going over what her sister had just said. It seemed quite a crowd had gathered at the Aces High main house. And just as quickly, a flash of a certain cowboy’s face crashed into the thought.

Jaxson Hawkes. Would he be there too? Why not? He was in the family as the brother of Sammi Jo’s husband, Beaudry. He’d be waiting to see her fall on her face. He was not a fan, not after their last parting. That, too, she pushed out of her mind. She needed to pretend to laugh at the jokes and watch as others took their turns on the stage. She would practice the smile she would hold for the camera as they announced her category and someone else’s name was called. Then she could breathe, relax, maybe even take off the heels that were killing her feet. The bouffant skirt should hide them well enough.

But all of that plan went out the window as her name was announced for Best Original Screenplay and then again as Best Adapted Screenplay for a second movie, the one Sean had contracted her for. Her foot pain was forgotten, and a euphoria carried her forward as she received so many congratulatory hugs and posed for photos with half of the great names in Hollywood. She now knew what it was like to have been admitted into the close-knit club of the elite who possessed the same gold figurine. It cemented forever a place she had worked hard to earn and meant she was at the top of her game. When she caught her breath—whenever that might be—she would figure out where one went after the top.

“Are you going to be able to eat anything? So many people keep interrupting your meal.” CeeCee grinned across the table at her, catching her in a moment where she actually reached for a bite from her salad. Laurel smiled as she took another quick bite. “It’s crazy, isn’t it? I keep thinking I’m going to wake up in a moment and these two fellows will disappear.” She nodded at the gold statuettes close beside her plate, her hand still fingering the engraving of her name on each.

“They are very real, and you certainly worked hard enough for them. You can name your own ticket in this town. I’m in awe. And also taking notes. You went after your dream, and I want to do the same.”

CeeCee—such a beautiful person she had met by chance on the first day she arrived in LA. CeeCee was a transplant from New Mexico—“a neighbor” was how they termed it in Texas. CeeCee worked in a very well-known event planning business. Leaders and celebrities from all walks of life were their clients. But CeeCee’s real passion was weddings, and as she had seen some of the drawings and notes, Laurel knew her friend had something special to offer. That’s why Laurel had made plans to provide start-up funds as a silent partner.

Then along came Sean with his own idea to add to that plan.

“You know people out here are like lemmings—they follow each other blindly. One wedding involving a bride and groom from the rarified A list, and she’d have that magic key to the golden doorway.”

And that was the day Sean showed another side of himself to Laurel. He could be a very serious man. There was a definite heart beating inside that chest, and he was madly in love with CeeCee, since he had fallen at first sight. He had an idea. And she was needed to play a part.

Sean had been ready to propose and announce his good fortune to the world for several months. But CeeCee was more cautious and far more private. She had been more reticent and was hesitant to discuss a future for the two of them. It was apparent how much she loved Sean, but she had reasons to be careful that were hard for her to lay to rest. Her life had been far different from Sean’s. She came from a small town beset with drug issues, closed businesses, and very little hope for anyone who had dreams of bettering their life. There had never been any support for her getting away to a better life, to going after such mercurial dreams. But she had fought her way out and was slowly gaining her foothold on the road where her dreams could grow. However, CeeCee was adamant that her life not become the fodder for gossip columns and tabloids. The limelight was not for her. And that was the obstacle Sean—with Laurel’s help—was intent on surmounting.

Tonight, Laurel and Sean were going to pitch CeeCee an idea. She would be offered a wedding to plan . . . the most perfect one she could imagine. In fact, she was to imagine it was to be her dream day. Sean would offer them a ride home and, after dropping Laurel first, he had an ideal place along the coast road where he would get down on one knee beneath the full moon. He wanted the proposal to be perfect for her. And he would use his best persuasive tactics to get CeeCee to go along with the wedding planning, while he and Laurel would serve as the decoy couple. Paparazzi could come after them, not her. And they also had another plan to draw attention even further away from the real wedding plans, but that would be announced later.

So, Laurel did her best to keep a straight face when feigning yawns. Perhaps another Oscar performance? She clutched two, so a third might be pushing it as she waved them goodbye and shut the front door of her Malibu condo. She had a pretty good idea that CeeCee would not be coming home that evening. Lucky lady.

Sammi Jo had called earlier, and Laurel heard all the yells of congratulations and partying still going strong. Too bad she wasn’t there. Instead, she was now in a quiet condo looking out over an ocean, the sound of the waves crashing along the shore breaking the stillness of the early morning hour. She was alone with her two little gold men staring at her from the shelf she had placed them on. It wasn’t the first time she had felt alone that evening. Even in the huge auditorium with the famous names seated around her, there was still something most of them had that she didn’t. There was someone seated next to them, someone whose hand they could reach for to gain a confident squeeze of assurance, someone who they would share a heartfelt kiss of elation with if called to the stage, or someone to share a look of comfort with after the cameras moved on. Laurel knew she shouldn’t be selfish. She had achieved the highest level of acceptance in Hollywood . . . the world over included. Yet, there was something missing.

She had only herself. Sean had given her the hug of congratulations and that was good. But it wasn’t the same. His heart belonged elsewhere. And her heart . . . in the darkness of the house, she allowed the truth to join her. Her heart was far, far away, where it had remained the whole time after she had left her Texas roots. She could admit that. It wasn’t going to be a hindrance in her eyes or show a lack of determination on her part. Because she had won out. But a cowboy had once handed her his heart, much the same as she suspected Sean was doing at that moment with CeeCee. Only their story would have a far happier ending.

How different the evening might have been if it had been Jaxson’s hand in hers, his quiet confidence bolstering hers, and his kiss making the evening perfect. She stuffed the memories back behind that door once more and hid the key. Just another dream to file away.

You did it once before and look at you now. Where did that thought come from? There’s another dream, so go for it. What’s stopping you?

“Another dream, yes. And now, what would stop us? If not now, then when?” The words were spoken aloud so that made them so . . . or so she had been taught by her grandmother. A new fire began within her with that simple thought she voiced into the silent rooms. Never stop to rest when you have a goal within sight. That was purely her grandfather, Sam. She had them both inside her. And she was a Texan, born and bred.

Texas was calling. Laurel Burkitt was going home.

End of Excerpt

The Texas Cowboy’s Lady is available in the following formats:

ISBN: 978-1-958686-17-1

January 12, 2023

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