The meadow was dew-misted, and the morning had the chill of November
breeze to give it life. I tossed my long brown hair back and laughed
with joy. The sound startled the chestnut horse I was riding and he
began to dance over the damp ground.

"Easy, boy." I said soothingly, as I ran my hand over his mane.

He calmed, reacting to the familiar caress. Sundance (named after the
Sundance Kid) had been mine since he was a colt, a present from Mark on
my sixteenth birthday. Sundance was a mature 5-years-old now, but some
of his coltish behaviors stayed with him. He was easily startled and
high-strung just like me.

I was so excited as a studied the long horizon under the pink and amber
colors of dawn. It was so good to be home again. The exclusive girls'
school had polished my manners and given me the poise of a model, but it had done nothing to damper my passion for Blue oaks.

Despite the fact that the Callaway's Texas ranch was my home by tragedy, not by birth, I loved everything about it, just as if I were a Callaway myself.

A flash of color caught my attention, and I turned Sundance as Glenn
came tearing across the meadow toward me on a thoroughbred Arabian with a coat like black leather. If Mark ever caught him riding one of his prize breeding stallions like that it would mean disaster. But lucky for Glenn, Mark was in Europe on business. Brenda might indulge her youngest, but Mark indulged no one.

"Hi!" Glenn called.

He stopped just in front of me and tossed back his long red hair with one hand. His eyes twinkled with mischief as they swept over my slender figure in the riding outfit. But the mischief went out of them when he noticed my bare head.

"No helmet?" Glenn said.

I pouted at him with my lips.

"Don't yell. It was just a little ride and I hate wearing a hard hat all the time."

"One fall and you'd be done for," Glenn stated.

"You sound like Mark!"

He smiled at me and said. "Too bad he missed your homecoming. Oh, well, he'll be back at the end of the week - just in time for the Patterson's party."

"Mark hates parties," I reminded him, lowering my eyes to the leather of my saddle. "And he hates me too, most of the time."

"He doesn't," Glenn returned. "It's just that you set off his temper, you rebellious little witch. I can remember a time when you all but worshipped my big brother."

"Did I?" I laughed. "He was kind to me once, when my parents died."

"He cares about you. We all do." Glenn said, sadly.

I smiled at him warmly and reached out a hand to touch his sleeve.

"I'm ungrateful, and I don't mean to be. You and your mother have been
wonderful to me. Taking me in, putting me through school, how could I be ungrateful?"

"Mark had a little to do with it." Glenn pointed out.

"I suppose." I replied, tapping the horses' sides to go again.

"Finishing school was his idea." Glenn said, following me.

"And I hated it! I wanted to go to the university and take political
science courses."

"Mark likes to entertain buyers. Political science doesn't teach you how to be a good hostess."

I shrugged.

"Well, I'm no going to be here forever, despite the fact that you guys have tried to take care of me. I'll get married someday. I know I owe your family a lot, but I'm not going to spend my whole life playing
hostess for Mark. He can get married and let his wife do it. IF he can
find anyone brave enough." I laughed.

"You've got to be kidding, because they follow him around like ants on a sugar trail. Mark could have his pick when it comes to women and you
know it." Glenn said, remembering back through all the women Mark had been with throughout the years.

"It must be his money because it sure isn't his cheerful personality that draws them."

"You're just sore 'cause he wouldn't let you go away with Hunter Helmsley for the weekend." Glenn laughed.

"I didn't know Hunter had planned for us to be alone at the cottage. I
thought his parents were going to be there." I said, briefly remembering that weekend. "I'd like to forget."

"I'll bet you would. You've been staring daggers at Mark since. You
don't bother him, do you?"

"Nothing bothers Mark. He just stands there and lets me yell until he's
had enough, then he turns that cold voice and walks away. He'll be glad
when I'm gone." I said sadly. There was a time that Mark never yelled at me, never got mad at me.

"You're not going anywhere, are you?" he asked suddenly.

I gave him my mischievous smile.

"I had thought about going the police academy. Do you think I could get my application accepted before the weekend?"

He laughed, "In time to escape Mark? You know you've missed him."

"I have?" I asked, putting a hand to my heart.

"Six months is a long time. He's calmed down."

"He may have calmed down but Mark never forgets." I pointed out.

"Don't work yourself into a nervous breakdown. Come on, race you back to the house and we'll have breakfast." Glenn said, getting a head start toward the house.

Chapter 2

Brenda's eyes lit up when we came into the dining room and sat down at
the oak dining table. She had the same pale skin and sharp eyes as her eldest son, the same straight-foward manner and quick temper. Brenda was nothing like Glenn.

She lacked his gentleness and easy manner. Those traits came from his
late father, not his maverick mother, who thought nothing of getting a
bank president or company CEO out of bed at two in the morning to explain something to her.

"It's good to have you home, baby," Brenda said, reaching out a hand to
touch my arm. "I'm surrounded by men."

"That's the truth," Glenn said, as he helped himself to some scrambled
eggs. "Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson nearly came to blows over her at
a cocktail party last week."

Brenda glared at him. "That isn't true."

"Oh?" I asked with a smile as I sipped my orange juice.

Brenda shifted uncomfortably. "Anyway, I wish Mark were home. It was
bad timing, that crisis at the London office. I had a special evening
planned for Friday night. A homecoming party for you. It would have
been perfect..."

"I don't need Mark to make a party perfect," I yelled without thinking.

Brenda's brows went up. "Are you going to hold it against him forever?"

My fingers tightened around my glass. "He didn't have to be so rough on
me!" I protested.

"He was right, Jaime, and you know it." She leaned forward, resting her
arms on the table. "Darling, you have to remember that you're just
barely twenty. Mark's thirty now, and he knows a lot more about life
than you've had time to learn. We've all sheltered you. Sometimes, I
wonder if it was quite fair."

"Ask Mark," I returned. "He's kept me under lock-and-key for years."

"His protective instinct," Glenn said with a grin. "A misplaced mother
hen complex."

"I wouldn't let him hear that, if I were you," Brenda commented.

"I'm not afraid of my big brother." Glen began. "Just because he can outfight me is no reason...on second thought, you may have a point."

Brenda laughed. "You're a delight. I wish Mark had a little of your
ability to take things lightly. He's so intense."

"I can think of a better word," I said under my breath.

"Isn't it amazing," Glen asked his mother, "how brave she is when Mark
isn't here?"

"Amazing," Brenda nodded. She smiled at me. "Cheer up, sweetheart.
Let me tell you what Dani Johnson ahs planned for your homecoming party
Friday night...the one I was going to give you if Mark hadn't been
called away."