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Georgette St. Clair

NYTimes Bestselling Author of Paranormal Romance

BBW romance, paranormal romance, and just all kinds of romance

The Big Girl And The Bounty Hunter (first 2 chapters of my BBW Western Romance)

Here’s the link to the book on Amazon if you’re interested in buying:

http://www.amazon.com/Curvy-Girls-Bounty-Hunter-ebook/dp/B00CH3SYKG/ref=pd_sxp_f_pt

Chapter One
“Get back…I mean it! I’m armed, and the police are on their way!” the voice coming from the kitchen was high and tinged with panic, and edged with anger.
Cooper paused, standing still in the tiny living room. He’d just come to Josephine’s house to talk, but when he pulled up outside, it was clear that the house had just been burglarized, so he walked in, uninvited, stepping past the front door that hung off its hinges.
It looked as if an angry whirlwind had spun through the room; bookshelves tipped over and books splayed across the floor, plants dumped out and planters smashed, pictures ripped off the wall, scattering sparkling shards of glass. Couch cushions had been slashed and were spilling their stuffed guts onto the wrinkled-back rug.
From where he stood, he could see the kitchen window, and Josephine Sawyer’s reflection. She was armed, all right…with a can of air freshener. She had her cell phone in her right hand; she probably was telling the truth when she said the police were on their way. He certainly hoped so.
“I’m not a burglar!” He called out. “I was driving by and saw that the front door had been kicked in! Are you all right?”
Raising both hands in the air to show that he was harmless, he walked into the kitchen.
Josephine stood facing him, wide-eyed, in the back corner of the postage-stamp-sized room. When he walked in, she quickly raised the bottle of air freshener and pointed it at him.
He raised an eyebrow. “Don’t worry, I promise not to attack. I don’t want to leave here smelling like Guava Passion.”
With a sigh of exasperation, she set the air freshener down on the kitchen counter, but her expression was still wary. Not surprising, considering she’d come home to find her house had been broken into and trashed, and now he, a perfect stranger, had walked in through the front door. “Who are you, exactly?”
The kitchen had also been savaged. Coffee cups and plates and glasses lay shattered on the floor, cupboard doors gaped open, dangling on one hinge.
“My name’s Cooper. Cooper Thomas.”
“You’ve been following me.” There was accusation in her tone. “I saw you the other day when I was going into the bookstore at the mall. And please don’t try to deny it; I’m not in the mood for games.”
Cooper felt a flash of irritation. She’d spotted him. Nobody ever spotted him. He was a pro at what he did. And yet, he’d let himself get distracted by the way the sun glinted in her silky brown hair, and the way her jeans hugged her generous rear end, and he’d let himself get careless as he tailed her.
It made no sense, because although she was pretty, she wasn’t stunning. She was a larger woman, voluptuous, with a friendly face and flowing brown hair. Her eyes were cornflower blue and a smattering of freckles scattered across her nose and cheeks. She wore little makeup and dressed to hide her figure.
But ever since he’d first laid eyes on her a few days ago, he’d felt oddly drawn to her. The way her face lit up when she smiled, her quiet strength, the way she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear…
He mentally shook himself.
She came from a family of criminals. She was harboring a criminal. He needed one thing from her, and one thing only: information. And he’d do whatever it took to get it.
He flashed a self-deprecating smile. His smile had a devastating effect on women; he was well aware of it.
“Guilty as charged,” he said. “I was just hoping to talk.”
“Really? About what?” Frost dripped from her words.
Okay, so it was going to take a little while to thaw her out.
“Maybe we could talk over a cup of coffee. After you fill out your police report, we could-“
“No.” She cut him off. “You can tell me why you were following me, or you can walk out of here, now.”
“All right, fair enough.” He was unsettled; he’d never asked a woman out for coffee, or for anything for that matter, and been turned down. And there was something about Josephine that made him feel slightly off kilter. “I was hired by the Benigno Brothers bail bonds firm. I’m looking for your brother.”
“So you’re a bounty hunter?”
“Something like that, yes.” Exactly like that.
“Not that I have any reason to tell you anything, but I will tell you what I told the police. I have no idea where my brother is, or why he took off; it’s completely out of character for him.”
“Is it really, Josephine?” he asked. “He’s currently on probation for assault. And he’s been arrested several times for embezzlement. He has a reputation as a master computer hacker, and when he goes to work for people, large sums of money tend to disappear.”
She folded her arms and flashed him a challenging glower. “He is on probation for a bar fight. He stepped in to defend a friend of his. And the people who accused him of computer hacking were thieves themselves, white collar criminals who’d ruined investors lives and gotten away with their crimes. And every one of them dropped the charges against him.”
Three times, specifically. Three companies had accused him of embezzlement – and then abruptly refused to press charges.
“That only means he’s good at avoiding getting caught. Your brother’s got a reputation for being a charmer who can talk his way out of anything.”
“Well, if you’ve seen where my brother lives, and I’m sure you have, I guess it’s pretty obvious where he spends all of his ill-gotten gains. What with that mansion, and the fleet of fancy cars,” Josephine snapped. “And he hasn’t even hired a private attorney; he’s being represented by the public defender’s office.”
Cooper couldn’t argue with the fact that nobody knew what Jason had done with the money he stole. Jason worked as a bartender and lived in an apartment in a questionable neighborhood near his sister Bitter Valley, Pennsylvania. His car was ten years old.
But there were plenty of reasons that he might not be flashing his money around. The most likely explanation was that he was hiding the money and stashing it in an offshore bank account, for an early retirement.
“My brother was falsely accused of committing armed robbery, and the lawyer from the public defender’s office is just about useless. It’s possible that he took off so that he’d be able to investigate on his own and prove his innocence.” But Josephine’s face creased in a frown. Something about that explanation didn’t sit right with her, obviously.
“Or, more likely, he didn’t want to go to trial because he knew he’d be convicted and sent away for a long time.”
Josephine shook her head, clearly exasperated. When she did that, her silky hair flowed over her shoulders and the sunlight streaming in through the shattered kitchen window revealed hidden tones of honey and amber. Cooper tried very hard not to notice.
“I’ve talked to his lawyer. The case against him was circumstantial from the start, and it was falling apart by the time he was put in jail. That’s one of the reasons that he was released on bond. My brother had an airtight alibi at the time the armed robbery took place; he was at work that night, and dozens of people can vouch for that. My brother’s car was used in the robbery and then dumped and stripped. Why in the hell would he use his own car? There were several hairs found inside the car whose DNA came back to a known felon – a felon who worked as a chauffer for Jonathon Blacke, one of the men who claimed my brother stole from him.”
“And yet, he jumped bail and ran.” Cooper glanced around her kitchen. “Whoever broke in here was obviously looking for something. Do you think it has anything to do with your brother?’
“I don’t see how.” She shook her head, baffled. “Did they expect him to be hiding in a couch cushion, or under a begonia?”
“Is anything missing? I see that the TV and VCR are still in the living room.”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but no. As far as I can tell, nothing was taken.”
“And you have no idea where he might be?” Cooper watched her closely, and a shadow crossed her face, and she blinked once, quickly, and took a deep breath before she looked him right in the eye to answer him.
“No.”
She wasn’t a very good liar. And clearly, she at least had an idea where her brother was. Cooper felt a surprisingly sharp twinge of disappointment lance through him. He wanted to think that she was an innocent in all of this.
But how innocent could she be, with a brother like Jason and a father like Mack Sawyer?
Well, at least now he’d confirmed that he was on the right track; sticking close to her would lead him to Jason, he was sure of it.
A car whooshed by, without stopping. Cooper glanced at the door.
“What?” Josephine said.
“Oh, nothing. I was expecting the police to be here by now.”
A rueful smile flashed across her face. “You don’t know Bitter Valley very well, do you? The police force is understaffed and overworked. And when it comes to this area of town…they tend to take their time.”
Cooper frowned. “You should get an alarm system put in here. Better locks.”
She shook her head. “I can’t afford it.”
“Can you stay with a friend until the landlord fixes the doors for you, at least?”
She managed a grim smile that told him the landlord would be in no rush to make any repairs. “It’s not really your concern, Cooper. I’ve told you all that I know, and more than I needed to. You can keep following me all you want; I have no idea where my brother is. And you need to leave now.”
“All right. But I’m waiting outside until the police show up, in case whoever breaks in here tries to make a comeback.”
“Not necessary.”
“And yet, I’m doing it. I was raised to be kind to damsels in distress.”
He turned and made his way through the living room with its obstacle course of debris, crossed the neatly trimmed strip of yard, climbed into his Ford Taurus and turned on the ignition and the air conditioning. Then he waited. And waited. And waited.
It was mid-day, and he might as well have been parked in a ghost town. All up and down the street were houses that were a carbon copy of Josephine’s, little square brick houses cramped into tiny little lots and partitioned off by laughably useless chain-link fence that a burglar could swing his leg over without even blinking. Every fourth or fifth house was marked with the boarded up windows, day-glo gang graffiti, and weed-choked yards that revealed complete abandonment. The neighborhood, once modest, was now decrepit, since the crash of the steel industry in the 1970s. The city had started dying before Josephine was born.
Finally he turned off the ignition and rolled down the windows; the hot breeze was like the blast from a furnace, and sweat pasted his collar to his neck.
The sun beat down, and he grabbed a tissue from a box in the glove compartment to mop the sweat beading on his forehead. He could just drive off and leave her, he knew; why should he help a woman who was aiding and abetting a criminal? But the thought of leaving her alone in a house with shattered windows and a kicked-in door made his gut twist, and he leaned back against his leather seat with a sigh.
She wasn’t kidding about police response time in her neighborhood. He was still sitting in his car outside her house 45 minutes later when she emerged from her front door, holding a bottle of water.
He watched as she approached his car. Her silky hair glimmered in the light and fired up the bank of embers burning low in his groin.
Smiling at her, he leaned out the window, and smelled the light, flowery scent of her perfume. He wondered what it would be like to smell her sun-warmed skin
“Hello again. Long time no see.” Cooper flashed her an ingratiating grin, which she did not return.
She held the bottle of water out to him. “I shouldn’t be encouraging you in any way, but since it’s hot out, here’s some water.”
“Thank you. You’re too kind.”
“Not really. I’m an EMT. If you get dehydrated and pass out, I’m legally obligated to try to revive you.”
“Right. You’re in a profession where you help people. And yet, you’re helping to conceal a criminal, someone who hurts others for a living.”
Josephine’s eyes flashed with anger. “My brother has never hurt anyone. He defended a friend from a bully at a bar.”
“All right. We’re not going to see eye to eye on this. I’ll back off. But may I come in and use your restroom?”
She looked at him through narrowed eyes. “Are you going to search it while you’re in there?”
Cooper couldn’t help but smile. “You want the truth? Yes, of course I am.”
To his surprise, she laughed, a rich, musical sound, and he found himself staring, fascinated by how beautiful she was when she smiled. “Fine. I do appreciate a man who’s brutally honest. Search away, I’ve got nothing to hide.”
As he followed her into her small, trashed house, he found himself watching her walk and liking what he saw. The sway of her full hips, the swing of her hair…it was just too bad that she was harboring a criminal. And lying to protect him. And — Aw, hell. There was just no way.

Chapter Two
Well, this wasn’t very promising…Josephine had been in Crooked Creek less than five minutes, and already a horse was trying to kill her.
At least, she was pretty sure that’s what the horse’s intentions were when it wrinkled back its lip to bare enormous teeth, rolled its eye at her, and stamped its foot, sending up a swirling cloud of dust.
And the killer horse was standing between her and lunch. She’d skipped breakfast in her rush to make it to the plane on time, it was noon, and damn it, she was hungry.
Fortunately, the horse was tethered to a hitching post by the boardwalk outside of the Dry Gulch Saloon, or Josephine was pretty sure she’d be a goner. An embarrassing headline, stomped to death under a whirl of slashing hooves. What did that horse have against her, anyway? She was a nice person. She helped old ladies reach groceries on high shelves. She paid her taxes.
Josephine took a few steps back from the horse and considered her options. Folding her arms, she took a moment to admire the scenic beauty of the Crooked Mile, the main street that ran through the little town.
Crooked Creek, Colorado, was one of the prettiest towns that Josephine had ever seen – not that she’d seen many, outside of Pennsylvania.
In June the weather was warm and mildly breezy, and the air was light and clear and tasted like sunshine. The main street of the town, which had been built in the 1860s, was lined on both sides with a broad wooden plank boardwalk, and all the stores and restaurants could have been featured in a Western movie, but the paint on them was shiny and new, in shades of green and gold on some stores, brown and tan and black on others.
In the distance, emerald-carpeted hills climbed higher and higher until they finally gave way to towering blue mountains with the faintest of white caps of snow remaining on their peaks. It was heaven; it was as far from the grimy, faded mill town where she’d grown up as the Earth was from the sun.
It was too bad that her stay there was going to be so short.
“Ma’am? The horse won’t hurt you. She just wants you to give her a treat.” Startled, Josephine turned to look at the man who’d walked up behind her. Handsome, olive skin, dark curly hair, wearing a sheriff’s deputy uniform and a wedding ring. His nametag read “Mancini”.
The deputy held an apple slice out to her and she took it, uncertainly.
“Put it in the palm of your hand. Keep all your fingers together so the horse doesn’t bite one of them off, by accident.” He looked amused.
Josephine scowled. She was sure she was quite the comical character, cringing in terror from a horse that was tied to a pole.
“That’s supposed to be reassuring? And why are you carrying around an apple, anyway?”
“My wife always gives me a bag of apple slices when I head out for work. Never know when you’re going to run into a horse around here.”
Reluctantly, Josephine put the apple on the palm of her hand and held it out to the killer horse, certain that he’d swallow her arm all the way to the elbow.
But the horse reached down and with surprising gentleness, gathered the apple slice from her palm with its soft rubbery lips, and then chewed, seeming to forget her existence completely.
“Wow.” Josephine glanced at the horse in surprise. She’d misjudged the animal. Gingerly, she reached out and stroked its silky soft neck, letting her hand rest for a minute there, marveling at the solid strength she felt under the warm fur.
“Thanks,” she said to the deputy, who nodded at her, said “Enjoy your visit here,” and walked off with a respectful tip of his hat.
Was it that obvious? Of course it was. She was standing there with a suitcase resting at her feet, wearing size 16 designer jeans and a flowing zebra print blouse (from a consignment store) and strappy black low-heeled sandals. She practically had a big neon sign hanging over her head blinking the words “tourist”…which was the story of her life, anyway. She’d grown up in foster homes, gone to a dozen different schools before she graduated from high school; she was always an outsider.
Sighing, she reached down and grabbed her suitcase from the boardwalk, and walked towards the Dry Gulch saloon…only to see a woman burst through the swinging double doors, cursing up a storm.
The woman paused long enough to untie the waitress apron from her waist and throw it on the boardwalk. Then she threw her red cowboy hat on top of it. Then she stomped off.
Josephine bent down and scooped up the apron and the hat. “There’s money in here!” she yelled at the woman, but she just screamed “Keep it!” and kept walking.
In a doorway across the street, hidden in shadow, Cooper was watching Josephine with keen interest and a scowl on his face.
Had that cop been flirting with Josephine? He’d seemed to be acting professional and respectful, but…had he? And why should it even matter to him? It didn’t matter, not in the slightest, he reassured himself. It’s not as if he were jealous of a woman who hated his guts and was helping to hide a criminal. He just hated to see someone take advantage of Josephine; from what he’d been able to glean of her history, she’d been through a lot.
Josephine walked into the bar, to find…total chaos. Dozens of tables. One harried waitress, a skinny, pretty brunette with cateye glasses, who wore a red cowboy hat just like the one the waitress had hurled onto the boardwalk outside. Tables piled with dirty dishes. Angry customers, yelling and pounding their fists for attention. A chef poking his head out the order window, banging on a bell over and over again and yelling “Order up! Order up!”
Scenes from her childhood flashed through her head, scenes of dirty dishes mounding on the counters and the kitchen table, garbage spilling from the can. Memories of stealthily cleaning the kitchen table without waking her father as he snored with his head in his arms, reeking of bourbon.
Unlike her childhood, though, she could fix this up easily enough.
She looked around to find a place to set down the cowboy hat, but couldn’t find an empty table, so she clapped it on top of her head, tied the waitress apron around her waist, and headed over to the window.
The chef was leaning out the order window, hand raised to bang down on the bell again, when she snatched it out of the way.
“There is one waitress here, with 20 customers,” she informed him coolly. “She is doing the best she can. So settle the hell down. Now where do these dishes go?”
The chef peered at her skeptically. “You our new waitress? That was fast. The old one just quit two minutes ago.”
“No, but I’ll serve the customers until you can get someone to cover for her. In exchange, I want one cheeseburger and a side of onion rings.”
“Will do, Hot Tomale. There’s the map of the tables.” He pointed to a laminated map with the table numbers on it, on the wall by the window.
“Hot Tamale?”
“I give all the girls here nicknames. That’s my nickname for you. On account of your sassy mouth. Wait, maybe I should call you Sassypants. Yeah, I like that better.”
No wonder the previous waitress had quit.
“You may call me Josephine. I’ll help you out through the lunch rush,” she said. “Don’t forget the cheeseburger. Medium.”
“I’m on it, Sassypants. And if you’d like to help yourself to a side order of Chet…”
She stared at him, with his round, sweaty red face, toothpick pressed between his lips, and his stained white t-shirt.
“Let me guess. You’re Chet.”
He winked at her. “That’s right, Sassypants.”
Josephine, who’d had years of practice waitressing and dealing with cooks, muttered a curse under her breath and expertly stacked the dishes on her arm and delivered them, dealing them out to the customers like cards from a deck.
In between delivering dishes, she quickly cleared off the tables in the section that she was working.
“Are you our new waitress? I’m Betsy. Watch out for Table 12, he’s a butt pincher,” the harried looking waitress told her, indicating a potbellied trucker sitting by himself and studying his menu.
“I’m only helping you guys through the lunch rush. I’m just in town for a few days.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.” Betsy’s pretty little face pinched with disappointment. “It’s hard to keep waitresses here; the crowd can get kind of rowdy.” Betsy rushed off before Josephine could answer.
The stream of customers was never-ending. But so were the tips, which quickly filled Josephine’s apron pockets, and, she had to admit, would come in very handy. She had emptied out her bank account to buy a plane ticket here and pay for a motel room, and she only had enough money to pay for two days.
If she couldn’t find Jason by the end of those two days, she didn’t know what she’d do.
At least she’d shaken that jerk of a bounty hunter, booking a plane ticket and motel room using her middle name and her mother’s maiden name.
A mental image of him flashed through her mind, and she couldn’t help herself…she could feel her heartbeat quicken, and a ripple of heat shuddered through her. She’d felt an instant attraction flare through her body the second that she’d laid eyes on him, but she’d firmly tamped it down, stamping it out like the embers of a fire that threatened to roar out of control and burn everything in its path. Thank heavens she’d never see him again; a distraction like that was the last thing she needed when she was fighting to save her brother from his own stupidity.
An outraged yelp caught her attention, and she swung around to see Betsy leap back away from Table 12. A table full of cowboys in dirty jeans and plaid button front shirts were howling with laughter.
Well, Josephine just wasn’t in the mood.
She stalked over to the table, grabbed the trucker by the front of his shirt, and yanked him to his feet.
That was one advantage of being a larger girl; she could hold her own in a fight. And growing up in a string of foster homes and flophouses, she’d been in more than a few.
Swiftly, Josephine spun him around, bending his arm up behind his back.
“Hey! I was just fooling around,” the man whined.
“So am I. This is my idea of fun. If I see you touch her again, everyone in this bar is going to watch you get your ass kicked by a girl.”
The table full of cowboys next to them was hooting and hollering now, and the whole bar was watching.
She let him up, and he turned and fled the bar, his meal half-eaten, cheeks flaming with embarrassment.
Wiping her hands on her apron, Josephine turned to see two women who’d just walked into the bar, standing and watching her. One was a tall, strikingly beautiful blonde and the other was a short, voluptuous woman with flowing, wavy black hair, who was carrying a denim baby’s diaper bag as a purse. There were pictures of twin boys in heart shaped frames on the pocket of the diaper bag.
The blonde was wearing an apron and a cowboy hat.
“Let me guess. I’m fired?” Josephine said. “Actually, I just came in here for lunch and one of your waitresses had quit, so I started helping out. I don’t really work here.”
The blonde held out her hand.
“Cheyenne Larkin. I’m one of the managers. Betsy just called to tell me about Emily quitting. Fired, are you kidding? You are soooo hired,” she said. “What days are you available? I’ll start making up your schedule right now.”
“Oh, no, I’m just in town for a few days.”
The blonde’s face fell. “Damn,” she said to her friend. “She would have been awesome.”
Her friend nodded, and stuck her hand out in introduction. “Carlotta Mancini. That was the best show I’ve seen in days. Too bad you’re not sticking around.”
“Mancini? I think your husband helped save me from that horse outside. I thought that thing was going to kill me.”
Carlotta threw her head back and laughed. “A city girl, I take it?”
“It’s that obvious? Listen, I tell you what,” Josephine said. “Let’s see, today’s Wednesday…I can promise to work here until Friday. Dinner shift works best for me. After that, I honestly don’t know how long I’ll be in town.”
“I’ll take what I can get. Early dinner shift starts at 4:30 and lasts till about midnight. Late dinner shift is 6:30 to 2:30 a.m. If you end up staying longer, you can call in any day you want to work. I guarantee you we can use you. Can you bartend?”
“In a pinch. I’m not good with fancy frou-frou drinks though.”
Cheyenne hooted with laughter and gestured at the room full of rowdy cowboys. “Honey, if our customers ordered a frou-frou drink, they’d be laughed out of the bar and down the street. Welcome to Dry Gulch saloon! Now get your ass over to Table 18 before they blow a gasket.” And she hurried behind the bar to help out the bartender.
“Rum and coke! And make it Bacardi, not that cheap crap! I can taste the difference!” Carlotta yelled after Cheyenne. “I’m sitting in Josephine’s section. I want to see her beat someone else up.”
Josephine stifled a laugh.
Well, working here would slow her down a little in her search for her brother, but she could look for him during the day and work at night. And if she earned enough in tips every night, she could keep paying for the motel until she found Jason.
During one of her brief breaks, she called the motel to let them know that she was still coming.
The restaurant was so busy that she didn’t finish with the lunch shift until well after 8 p.m., but at least she got a free lunch and dinner out of it, as well as a bulging pocket full of ones, fives, and tens.
“You were a lifesaver today,” Cheyenne told her as she grabbed her suitcase from the kitchen where she’d stashed it. “When you work the midnight shift, I’ll make sure someone gives you a ride back to your motel.”
The room that she’d rented was actually a small cabin, at the end of the Crooked Mile. She had to walk down the boardwalk through the center of town to get to it, but lamp posts lit her way until she got to the end of the boardwalk.
Then the boardwalk ended and she could see the Crooked Creek Motel sign glowing up ahead, a lone beacon lighting the darkness.
And it was dark, indeed. In Bitter Valley, streetlights cast a sickly white glow over the city streets until the sun came up, and security lights glared their broad beams down from businesses and warehouses.
Here there was true, honest night, illuminated only by the ivory orb of the moon. Instead of screeching tires and shouted cursed and blaring TVs and gunshots, the night’s soundtrack was a chorus of birds hooting and cooing, and insects creaking in chorus.
Somehow, she found the stillness soothing.
The Crooked Creek Motel was actually a scattering of several dozen cabins, and hers was located far back from the road. Little yellow lanterns along the walkway lit her way.
She was so tired that she barely noticed her surroundings as she trudged back to her cabin, and fished out the key that she’d been told would be left in the mailbox to the left of her door.
She walked in to darkness, fumbling for the light switch, and then she heard it. Floorboards creaking as somebody stealthily moved towards her. Her heart dropped to the pit of her stomach.
Somebody was in her room.