Novel Excerpts

**Love, Lies, & Typewriters**

Thirty minutes later they were both gobbling up hamburgers, fries, and milk shakes. “I don’t see how you keep that figure if you eat like this all the time.”

Lucy’s cheeks warmed at the compliment. “Ranch work.”

“Ranch work.” But he said it with a hint of sarcasm.

“What’s that mean?”

He waved a fry at her. “Do you have any idea how citified and feeble I feel in this place, surrounded by gritty cowboys and women who are tougher than I am? I’m trying to learn . . .” He trailed off with a disgusted look, as if understanding the Cowboy Code was beyond him.

Lucy wasn’t about to mollycoddle him. Bryce was too good for that. Maybe he just needed a little reminder. “I thought folks from New York City were supposed to be tough. I’ve heard you beat up a mugger. Held him for the police.”

His eyes widened. “How did you hear about that?”

“Your receptionist has lunch at the store once or twice a week. She likes to talk.”

“Beatrice. I knew she was a nosy old biddy.”

“Oh, don’t fuss at her. She’s been at the paper longer than the sportswriter and knows more about every person in this town than you ever will.”

“I had no idea she was such a Lois Lane.”

“Don’t make fun. She’s a doll.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Lucy laid her napkin down. “Well, I guess I’d best be getting home. Thank you for dinner.”

Bryce didn’t say anything right away but his eyes did. Only, Lucy had no idea what he was trying to say . . . or she wasn’t brave enough to listen.

“My pleasure.” He slurped the last sip of his shake. “I’ll pay and walk you to your truck.”

She hugged her coat closer and waited for Bryce at the entrance, as she was not eager to face the cold. Shoving his wallet into his pants pocket, he held the door open and she stepped into a biting gust of wind. Adding insult to injury, the awning overhead creaked and unceremoniously dumped several inches of snow on her.

She squealed from the shock and started jittering, shaking off the icy flakes as if they were spiders. “Oh, gee,” Bryce rushed to her aid, brushing the snow off her shoulders, “I’m so sorry.”

Naturally some of the mess made its way inside her coat. She gasped as the snow drifted down her back, taking mean little bites out of her skin. Bryce apologized again, but in a funny, choked voice.

Lucy plainly heard the laughter lacing his voice and frowned at him as she fluffed her hair. “I can tell you’re sorry.” She flapped her lapel sharply. “You sound all broken up.” Ready to give him a tongue-lashing, she looked up. The light from the diner reflected in his glasses but it didn’t hide his gentle, green eyes. He reached out and brushed a strand of snow-speckled hair from her cheek. The half-grin on his face instantly melted away and his hand paused where her jaw met her neck. His unveiled expression of longing mesmerized Lucy.

Dale doesn’t look at me that way. No one does.

The desire to tilt her face into his hand, to touch his lips, or run her hand down that scruffy jaw rushed over her like a warm tidal wave. As if pulled by an invisible magnetic force, they both moved toward one another. She wanted him to kiss her. She would do anything to make it happen. A hunger for Bryce—deep, intense, almost painful—welled up in her.

A cowboy exited the restaurant, cutting between them, breaking the magic spell. “Oh, sorry, folks.” He lifted his hat with the apology.

Lucy blinked and looked away, stunned by her desire. She could feel Bryce gazing at her, but she wouldn’t—couldn’t—look at him again. She didn’t know for sure if she loved Dale, but she loved Joey. If for no other reason, she could see this through with Dale because of her brother. And every other serviceman those bonds would help.

She had to walk away. “Why is everything so complicated?”

“Maybe it isn’t, Lucy.”

She flinched, unable or unwilling to face something. “Goodnight, Bryce.”

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