EXCERPT: The Tycoon by Anna JeffreyTuesday, February 26, 2013 13:00
It’s been a while since I’ve read a sexy tycoon hero, and Drake Lockhart fills that bill perfectly. He’s successful, honest, loves his family, and knows his own heart when he meets the love of his life. He may have a few things trip him up here and there, just like all of us when it comes to life, but in the end he does the right thing. And he sits a horse quite nicely, which my cowboy heart loves.
Shannon has been through the wringer, hasn’t had it easy in life like the wealthy Lockhart family. It takes her a bit to accept the fact that Drake wants her. Just sex with him is first-rate, but she can’t keep her heart from from flinging itself at him.
Even when trust issues come between them, they still have something worth fighting for.
When wealthy Texas ranching scion and business tycoon, DRAKE LOCKHART, encounters stunning SHANNON PIPER at a fancy ball, the last thing he expects is a tryst he can’t forget with a woman who disappears in the middle of the night. Once he finds her, he recognizes his bachelor days are over, but she isn’t ready. She doesn’t trust him. She wants to restrict their relationship to “just sex.” Surmounting the barriers she erects isn’t easy, especially when without his knowledge, an associate in his powerful company yanks a coveted real estate buy out from under her. He loves her and she loves him, but how will he ever restore her faith in him?
And at that moment, glancing over the rim of her glass and across the room, as if the mob had parted just for her, a tall man some forty feet away caught Shannon’s eye. Her first thought was how different he looked from the others in the room, like a nineteenth century throwback who might walk outside, mount his horse and ride away.
An odd quiver shimmied through her stomach and as if a magnet held her eyes, she couldn’t keep from staring.
He was wearing a Texas tux, as were many of the men in the room—starched and ironed jeans, Wanglers, perhaps, or possibly Cinch—with a black tuxedo coat. The well-tailored jacket stretched across wide shoulders and emphasized a narrow waist. She didn’t see a tie. Instead, he wore one of those old-fashioned-looking collarless shirts. And cowboy boots. If he wasn’t in Texas—and Fort Worth, Texas, at that—he would look glaringly out of place.
He was too far away for her to see his face clearly, but his hair was a rich shade of brown, slightly sun-streaked. He had one of those sexy haircuts. Neither short nor long and skillfully layered to appear unruly and orderly at the same time.
He looked familiar, but Shannon came in contact with so many people, she often saw those who looked familiar but weren’t. Celebrity sightings were well known in North Texas and the NCHA World Finals were happening right now, a horse culture that was rife with big time celebrity horse owners. Was he someone famous? For a moment she speculated—cutting horse breeder, rodeo or country music star, professional athlete. Too young to be an oilman.
This is silly. She had no idea who he was and would never know.
Engaged in what appeared to be a serious conversation with a shorter, animated man, one of his hands clasped the bowl of a champagne glass. The other was stuffed into his jeans pocket, pushing back his coattail. He looked to be as relaxed as if he were having a drink in his den at the ranch as opposed to a fancy hotel ballroom.
Among the many things Shannon had learned in real estate sales was that she had an uncanny knack for reading people. Whoever and whatever this guy was, just watching his body language, she could tell he was a total alpha male. He had it—that maxed-out testosterone level, that arcane male confidence that had always caused her brain to short circuit.
Instinct told her that he would be a hunter, a fisherman, a poker-player—one of the boys. His credo would be lead, follow or get out of my way. That same instinct told her he was a man who went after what he wanted and got it—including women. Oh, he was bad all right. Bad to the bone.
As if all of those attributes weren’t enough, that same instinct told her something else. Underneath his clothing was a well-structured mass of powerful masculine energy. He would be good in bed. At that thought, a warm tingle buzzed in her most secret regions and her neck and face warmed. Lust. Raw and pure. Recognizing it, she fought it. She had to. She was a different woman now.
Though her good sense took control and determined the wisest thing was to give him a wide berth, the part of her she had never quite been able to control when it came to bad boys, the part that had driven her into regrettable associations in the past, wouldn’t allow her to stop watching him. Looking in a candy store window did no harm, did it?
“You look flushed,” Jordan said. “You okay?”
Trying to will her erratic pulse to calm, she gave a silly titter. “This crowd must be making me nervous.” She nodded toward the man who had seized her attention. “Who is that?” she asked.
“Who, the tall guy in jeans or the other guy?”
“The tall one.”
“You don’t recognize one of Texas Monthly’s most eligible bachelors?”
Was that a sneer in Jordan’s comment? She didn’t subscribe to Texas Monthly. The only place she ever read it was in her dentist’s office. “No, I guess I don’t.”
“It was two or three years ago. That’s his highness, Drake Lockhart.”
She suppressed a gasp. If one was a part of the real estate world, one would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to know of the cosmic Drake Lockhart. Articles about him appeared often in newspapers and trade journals. If he was still a bachelor, no doubt he had been deemed most eligible by any woman who ever met him.
She cocked her head to the side, still not taking her eyes off him. “I’ve read about him.”
Jordan swallowed a sip of champagne. “Well, that’s him. One and the same. But don’t get too excited. He’s a real asshole. A big feeler.”
“You know him? Why do you call him that?”
“He’s so damned full of himself. I’m surprised his ego fits in this room. He’s one slick dude, I’ll tell you. He’s aced me out of a couple of sweet deals in Dallas.”
Shannon’s opinion of one of the most successful young businessmen in the city was not negatively impacted by Jordan’s remarks. If anything, she was more intrigued. And since Jordan’s words sounded small-minded and catty, she chose not to reply to them. Instead, she said, “I know of the Lockhart family. They’re big ranchers in Drinkwell.”
“Drinkwell? Is that a town?” Jordan gave a condescending laugh Shannon often heard from city people when discussing small rural towns.
“You’re such an urbanite, Jordan. It’s thirty-five miles southwest of Camden. When I was in high school, we played their sports teams. The Lockhart family owns the old Double-Barrel Ranch. And has forever. It takes up most of Treadway County.”
Just then, a model-thin blonde joined the subject of the conversation and possessively slid her arm around his. Tanned, tall and svelte like him, they were a magazine layout couple. The flutter in Shannon’s stomach died as she compared her own milky-white skin that never tanned, her disorderly hair and her more voluptuous shape. Not that she was overweight, but she wasn’t pencil-thin like the woman who was now hanging onto his arm. “Oh. He has a girlfriend.”
“That’s Donna Schoonover,” Jordan said. “Donna Stafford Schoonover to be precise. You know Don Stafford, the oilman? The Cadillac dealer? He’s her daddy. Schoonover’s the name she got from a Dutch soccer pro she was married to for a while. People are saying Drake’s going to be her fourth husband.” Jordan followed up with one of those knowing “men” laughs.
Who in North Texas didn’t know of the Staffords and their millions? “Why do you laugh?”
“Because she hasn’t landed him yet and my money says she won’t. Too many have tried before her. He’s a lone wolf. Her family’s bucks aren’t a temptation to a high-roller like Drake. And if she hasn’t figured that out, she’s dumber than I think.”
Lone wolf. High-roller. The words stuck in Shannon’s brain as if they had been thumb-tacked. If they were true, the guy was even more dangerous than she had first thought and that idea sent another potent surge through her. “How is it you know him so well?”
“I just do.”
As Shannon puzzled over that non-answer, the beautiful couple and the short man were joined by a striking middle-aged woman with silver shoulder-length hair. She, too, was tall and slender and draped in silver lame that fell to the tops of silver cowboy boots. She wore chunky Southwest style jewelry. Boots and turquoise were not choices Shannon would have worn with that particular dress, but the look had an old-world panache and screamed I’m-from-Texas-and-proud-of-it.
“And there’s his mommy,” Jordan said snidely. “Drake Lockhart’s a mama’s boy and everybody knows it.”
Shannon gave Jordan a look. “You really don’t like him, do you?”
“Like I said, he’s an asshole.”
The silver-haired woman and the blonde walked away together, but Drake continued in conversation with the shorter man, seemingly unaware that half the women in the room must surely be drooling over him. Then, he raised his head and for absolutely no reason, turned Shannon’s way. His eyes roved over her, undressing her and thoroughly examining her. Her whole body grew warm. Their gazes locked for the briefest moment and her heartbeat stuttered.
She turned quickly toward a server and exchanged her empty champagne glass for a full one.
Drake was taken aback. He had to make himself stop staring at the red-haired woman. She was wearing one of those glittery dresses and in the room’s special lighting, she looked like an exquisite emerald. The eyes of every hard-leg in the room had to be glued to that centerfold body. For sure, she had the attention of that bastard, Jordan Palmer, who practically had his tongue in her ear. An uncharacteristic pang of possessiveness zinged through Drake, which made him wonder about his own sanity.
But it was more than her looks or the envy of a man Drake disliked immensely that captured him. Like chain lightning, something he couldn’t define or explain sizzled straight from her to him, clear across the room. His thoughts instantly turned to how fine it would be to slowly remove that dress from such a delectable body.
He had come here with no interest or intention of anything other than doing his duty by making a purchase, getting through the evening and returning to his condo. Alone. But suddenly the idea of this beautiful stranger’s company was downright enticing. At the very least, he had to know who she was.
“Anson,” he said to his friend, “see the redhead over there in the green dress?”
“Sure do,” Anson said, looking toward her with an unabashed leer on his face.
“Who is she? Do you know?”
Anson gave a lascivious chuckle. “No, but I’d like to.”
Drake glared with resentment at the man’s profile, then checked himself, lest he reveal his own wicked thoughts. He sipped from his champagne glass, plotting the best approach to meet her, given that he was with a date and Jordan Palmer didn’t appear to be going away.
But before he could devise a plan, Donna returned and dragged him off to the silent auction.