Barefoot in Lace - Roxanne St. Claire

Roxanne St. Claire - The Barefoot Bay Brides Trilogy #2 - Barefoot in Lace

Barefoot in Lace (The Barefoot Bay Brides Trilogy #2)
Roxanne St. Claire


Chapter One

“Thomas Jefferson DeMille? You expect me to believe that’s your real name?”

Ten feet away, the cashier’s question stopped Gussie McBain dead in her tracks, almost making her drop two liters of Diet Coke in the aisle of the convenience store. Thomas Jefferson DeMille? She stared at the back of a tall man, who swiped back a handful of dark hair while broad shoulders rose and fell with obvious frustration.

Hadn’t she read somewhere that that was famed photographer TJ DeMille’s real name?

“Clear the card,” he ordered in a sandpaper whisper.

“No can do.” Charity Grambling, owner of the convenience store and undisputed Most Obnoxious Human on the entire island of Mimosa Key, tapped a credit card on the counter while she peered through bifocals to read what was in her other hand. “Because the name on this shiny black American Express does not match the one on this expired New York state driver’s license, so I won’t accept either one.”

“What the hell are you talking about? Expired?” He leaned over the counter, the move pulling a white T-shirt tight, straining corded muscles and drawing Gussie’s eye to a tattoo script wrapped around his forearm. “It’s still me, whatever the date. See? TJ DeMille, right there.”

Gussie bit her lip. It was him! One of the most talented and famous photographers in the world was standing in the middle of the Super Min.

Charity remained unimpressed, raising a thickly drawn brow. “Thomas Jefferson, really? I wasn’t born yesterday.”

“No shit,” he mumbled.

“The hippie hair and devil’s paint are a dead giveaway.”

Giveaway of what? Gussie took a few steps closer. Hippie hair? Hardly. More like handfuls of dark chocolate silk that fell carelessly over his neck and grazed his shoulders. Some strategically placed ink only added to his allure.

“I use my initials for work, and that’s a business credit card.” He bit out each word, impatience rolling off him.

“Sorry.” Charity handed the AmEx and license back to him. “We do accept cash, however.”

He snapped the cards from her hands. “Where’s your ATM?”

“You’ll need to visit the Mimosa Community Credit Union, over at the corner of Harbor and—”

“Never mind!” He gave a push to a pile of magazines, nearly toppling a bottle of Snapple onto a jumbo bag of Fritos. He turned away and marched out the door.

“Charity!” Gussie exclaimed when the welcome bell dinged in his wake. “Do you have any idea who that was?”

“The list of possibilities is long, but I’m going with a prison escapee. Did you see those marks on his arms?”

“They’re called tattoos. Pretty mainstream these days.”

“And that little silver earring? I’m almost certain that’s a sign of an ex-con.”

Gussie glanced outside to spot him standing next to a small white sedan, thumbing a cell phone. Not the car she’d expect a man like him to drive, she mused, her heart rate increasing with each second she lingered over his delicious physique and chiseled, if angry as hell, features.

“I mean, just look at him,” Charity said.

“No problem.”

“What else can you think about a man with all those…those…”


“Exactly.” She huffed. “Steroids, I’d bet my life.”

“You’d lose that bet,” Gussie said, squinting to get a better view of a body that looked more like he played rugby than pumped iron.

Charity rolled her eyes, shoving his pile of merchandise to the side, obviously not as concerned with a lost sale as the possibility of stopping a hardened criminal. “I don’t trust a man who buys raspberry tea, Fritos, girlie magazines and”—she grabbed three supersized Milky Way bars—“more chocolate than a woman with PMS.”

Maybe he’s feeding a starving model. Gussie’s attention slid to the top magazine, instantly recognizing TJ DeMille’s masterful ability to capture both an ethereal yet utterly honest expression on his subject’s face.

“Vogue is a girlie magazine now?”

“What kind of man buys it?” Charity demanded.

“The man who shot the covers,” Gussie informed her. At Charity’s confused look, Gussie pointed at the picture. “The top-notch, well-respected, highly in-demand photographer responsible for that image.”

For a second, interest flickered in Charity’s gray eyes, her weakness for local news and notoriety showing. “That explains the raspberry tea, then.”


“He’s gay.”

Actually, rumored dalliances with models would say differently, but Gussie ignored the gross generalization. “You should have given him the magazine and asked for his autograph.”

“The only autograph I accept is on the credit card machine, as long as the card isn’t stolen and the license is valid.