Texas Heroes: Volume 1
she turned.
    “Maybe tomorrow we can start your lessons.”
    Her smile was quick, her nod enthusiastic, before she turned back and walked away.
    Maddie forgave too easily. And it seemed he was always doing something that needed forgiving.
    “Maddie,” Jim called out.
    She turned back once more. “Have all you want, Jim.”
    “Oh, I intend to, but that’s not what I was gonna ask. Are you going to let Boone here take you to the rodeo dance tonight?”
    Her whole face lit up. “A rodeo dance?”
    He would kill Jim the minute Maddie was out of sight.
    “Yep. Ever been to one?”
    Her dark hair swung as she shook her head. “No, but I love to dance.” Then she went very still. “But Boone doesn’t have to take me. Just tell me where to find it.”
    Boone bit down on a groan. “I guess I can take you.”
    Maddie’s shoulders went stiff. “I’m a big girl. I can go by myself. I’ve lived in New York. Morning Star can’t be too tough.” She looked away from Boone. “Can you give me the directions, Jim?”
    Jim muttered under his breath. “Sure I can. But I’ll do you one better. Velda and I will pick you up and take you.”
    Maddie’s smile was tentative. “Would Velda mind?”
    “Aw, hell—I mean, heck, no. Velda would love havin’ a woman to chatter to.”
    Her smile reached full wattage. “Then thank you. I’d love to go.”
    “We’ll pick you up at seven. You like barbecue?”
    “You bet.” Maddie hesitated. “Well, I guess I’d better get to work in the garden. Thank you, Jim.” She pointedly ignored Boone.
    “Thank you for the bread. We’ll see you this evenin’.”
    When Maddie was out of sight, Jim turned on him. “You’re a damn fool, Boone Gallagher.”
    Boone shot him a quick glance, then headed to saddle up Slow Dance. “I didn’t ask you.”
    “You hurt that little gal’s feelings. How hard is it to take her to the dance?”
    “I don’t want to talk about it.”
    “She could be the best thing that ever happened to you.”
    “She won’t stay.”
    “How do you know?”
    “I know.”
    “Because she’s from the city, like Helen? You didn’t cause Helen’s problems.”
    “She’d be alive if not for me.” And so would my baby .
    “Maddie isn’t Helen.”
    Boone rounded on him. “She’s on a vacation, Jim. Anything can be fun for a little while. She’s got restaurants in New York begging for her to come back up there. Why would she want to be stuck on a ranch in Morning Star?”
    “Nobody said you had to marry her. Just enjoy her while she’s here.”
    Boone’s temper spiked. “Don’t you go talking like Maddie is only good for a quick roll in the hay. She deserves better than that.”
    Then Jim smiled and shook his head. “I never said she didn’t. So give her better.”
    “I’m not condemning another woman to a life she would hate.”
    “Damn, but I’m going to be glad when she leaves, even though I’ll miss her. You’re like a lion with a thorn in his paw, and it ain’t gonna get any better until you do something about it.”
    “There’s nothing to do, Jim, except wait. She’ll be gone soon enough. And so will you if you don’t get back to work.”
    Jim snorted. “Like you think you could run this place without me.” His grin didn’t fade.
    “Go away and leave me alone. I’ve got work to do.”
    Jim started to turn, then hesitated. “If you got any sense in that head of yours, you’ll be at that dance tonight. I can’t keep watch over Maddie and Velda both, and you and I both know Maddie’s going to be a powerful temptation to those cowboys.”
    Boone curled his lip. “It’s not my business. She said it herself—she’s a big girl.”
    Jim watched him for a minute, then he started chuckling. “You know, this is gonna be fun to watch, is all I got to say. That is, if we don’t kill you first.”
    Boone shot him a glare. “I only wish I could believe that was all you had to say. The day you quit jawin’ at me is the day we put you

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