Texas Tiger - By Patricia Rice

Chapter 1

His leg ached from sitting still so long. Crossing it over his other knee, Daniel Mulloney idly massaged the rebellious muscle while staring out at the Ohio cornfields flying past. He should have ignored Evie's advice and ridden his horse. At least his leg would have felt better, and his pride—or whatever it was that made a man feel at home in one kind of suit and not another—would be satisfied. He was damned uncomfortable wearing this stiff collar and tie.

But the train was faster and more efficient, and he would be arriving home in some semblance of style. Evie had probably been right about that. She just didn't realize that there wouldn't be anyone there to appreciate his ceremonious return. He hadn't told anyone he was coming.

Thinking of his adopted sister's response to that information if he'd told her, Daniel grinned at his reflection in the glass. She'd have boxed his ears and insisted on coming with him. He could just imagine the reaction of the staid midwestern ladies and gentlemen of Cutlerville if Evie and her husband, Tyler, had shown up on their door-steps. Evie would no doubt wear one of her latest Parisian gowns with feathers in her hair, and Tyler would have his boots and Stetson and fifty-dollar smile. They would have the populace eating out of their hands before sundown.

In the wake of his adopted sister and brother-in-law, no one would even know Daniel had arrived. He'd liked it that way all these years, but it was time for things to change. And the first step in that direction meant confronting the family he'd never known. He had to know who he was before he could move on to what he wanted to be.

That might be a strange thing for a twenty-eight-year-old man to be thinking, but then, Daniel Mulloney hadn't exactly led a particularly normal life. He hadn't been expected to live any life at all.

Tired of staring at his reflection and endless fields and tidy farms, Daniel returned his attention to the other passengers. There was one in particular who had caught his eye from the moment she had entered the train back in Cincinnati. She had been chattering with the conductor as he carried in her bag and helped her store it, and Daniel had been fascinated with the animation of her expression. He could tell by her expensive clothes and hat that she was a lady, but she had conversed with the colored conductor as if they were the best of friends. She'd neglected to tip the man, he had noticed, but the conductor had still gone out grinning. A charming woman could easily have that kind of effect.

He had heard her chattering with the woman in the seat beside her at the beginning, but her morose companion hadn't exactly been a conversationalist, and the young lady had grown silent after a while. Daniel turned to see what she was doing now.

To his complete surprise, she was staring at him. A brilliant smile engulfed her face as she caught his look. She wasn't exactly what Daniel would call beautiful. She was too short and blond and round for his tastes, but she had the damnedest smile he'd ever seen, and a pair of blue eyes that laughed without even trying. He returned the smile and waited to see what would happen.

She didn't disappoint.

"I've been hoping you would look this way," she whispered loudly, nodding in the direction of the woman sleeping beside her. "You looked like you could use someone to talk to as much as I could."

He'd grown up in Missouri and Texas and Mississippi, and although the South was known for its hospitality and friendliness, Daniel didn't know a lady of his acquaintance who would have dared approach a strange male like that. He didn't think even Evie would be quite so bold unless she had something on her mind.

That thought made him restless, but Daniel gallantly tipped his hat and gestured to the empty seat beside him. "You're welcome to set a spell, ma'am."

She practically beamed at him as she gathered up her parasol and traveling bag and the long train of her skirt to transfer across the aisle. "I knew you were a Texan. You had to be with that hat. All the men I know wear black top hats, and even the shopkeepers wear bowlers. What is that thing called?"

Daniel carefully removed his broad-brimmed Stetson and set it on his lap. He was trying to keep