Lone Star Millionaire

By: Susan Mallery

Chapter 1

“Madam must agree that it’s very beautiful,” the store clerk said.

Sabrina Innis stared down at the diamond tennis bracelet glinting on her wrist. “Madam agrees,” she told the well-dressed young man, then glanced at her boss. “Stunning. And ten carats, too. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather buy her a little car? It would be cheaper.”

Calhoun Jefferson Langtry, all six feet three inches of him, raised his eyebrows. “I’m not interested in cheap. You should know that by now. I want to send something meaningful, but elegant.” He motioned to the diamond pin the clerk had first shown them. “Nothing froufrou, though. I hate froufrou.”

The “froufrou” in question was an amazing diamond-and-gold pin that cost what the average family of four earned in three or four months. It had clean lines, a zigzag ribbon of gold dividing a stylized circle, with a large four-carat diamond slightly off center. Sabrina loved it and would have chosen it in a hot minute. But the gift wasn’t for her.

She unclasped the tennis bracelet and placed it next to the other finalists—a gold bangle inlaid with diamonds and emeralds, and a Rolex watch. “I sense a theme here,” she said. “Things that go around the wrist. Shackles, in a manner of speaking. Is this your way of telling Tiffany that she shouldn’t have tried to tie you down?”

Her impertinence earned her a scowl. She smiled back. Cal’s temper existed mostly in his mind. Compared to the screaming in her house when she was growing up—four siblings all with extreme opinions on everything—his mild bouts of ill humor were easy to tolerate. Not that the man couldn’t be stone cold when it suited him. She made sure never to cross him in important issues and counted these tiny victories as perks of the job. If nothing else, they kept her wit sharp—a definite advantage when dealing with the wealthy and privileged.

“This one,” she said, pointing to the emerald-and-diamond bracelet.

The clerk paused, waiting for Cal’s approval.

“You heard the little lady. Wrap it up.”

“Yes, sir.”

Sabrina rose to her feet. After six years of being in Texas, she’d grown used to being called “little lady.” She often accused Cal of being trapped in a John Wayne western. Not that he couldn’t be urbane when he chose. When it suited his purposes, he could talk about world events, pick out the perfect wine and discuss the changing financial market with the best of them. But with her, he was himself—Cal Langtry, rich, Texas oil tycoon and playboy. She looked at the piece of jewelry the clerk tucked into a velvet box. A soon-to-be unattached playboy.

“Does Tiffany know?” Sabrina asked as Cal signed the credit card receipt. The clerk held out the bag, not sure to whom to hand it. Sabrina took it. Even though the gift wasn’t for her, she was responsible for mailing it to the recipient, after she’d composed a suitable note.

Cal led the way to the front of the store, then held open the door for her. “Not exactly.”

Sunlight and the spring heat hit her full in the face. Despite having lived here six years, she still wasn’t used to the humidity. She felt her hair start to crinkle. So much for the smooth, sophisticated style she’d tamed it into that morning. The hair-care industry had yet to invent a hair spray that could outlast the Houston weather.

They crossed the sidewalk to the waiting limo. As always, Cal politely waited until Sabrina had settled into the seat. She liked to think it was because he enjoyed watching her skirt climb up her thighs. The truth was, he never bothered to look.

It was better that way, she told herself, wondering when she was going to start believing it. After all, if she was as good-looking as her boss, they would cause a stir wherever they went and all the attention would grow annoying. As it was, she was able to slip into the background and live her life in peace and quiet.

She chuckled softly and glanced out the window.

“What’s so funny?” Cal asked.

“I was wondering if we were going to have a storm this afternoon,” she said. It was almost the truth. She’d really been wondering if her outrageous lies, told only to herself, would cause her to be struck by lightning.

She set the carefully wrapped gift between them. “Tiffany’s for Tiffany,” she said, pointing to the name on the bag. “I wonder if your soon-to-be ex-girlfriend will appreciate the irony.”

“Don’t start with that, Sabrina,” Cal warned. “Tiffany was a splendid girl.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

He eyed her, as if he didn’t believe what she was saying. “Okay, so she wasn’t the brightest person on the planet,” he admitted.

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