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Courtship of the Recluse


Chapter One
Cynthia Turley was in the middle of cleaning his favorite table when he walked
through the diner door. Something about the lean rancher urged her to reach out to him.
Maybe it was the fact that he never smiled, or the loneliness in those green eyes.
Whatever the case, she always made sure his table was ready when he arrived. She
could set her clock by his arrival - eight o’clock every Friday night - in a blue plaid
western shirt and battered black cowboy hat.
His tall frame swayed across the room with feline grace. Removing his hat, he glided
into the booth. He glanced up at her; the sun darkened face with its thin lips completely
devoid of emotion.
“The usual,” he said.
She nodded. He wasn’t much for conversation. Other than occasional attempts to
draw him out, she respected his privacy. She moved to the counter without writing
anything down.
“Steak and Potatoes,” she announced to the cook, ignoring the stifled snickers of the
other two waitresses. Why they found it so amusing that Mr. Cade was a recluse
evaded her comprehension. Right now he was simply a customer.
She poured a cup of coffee and delivered it to him - along with a cheerful smile.
“Cold out there, isn’t it?”
He shrugged. He never wore a coat and she wondered if he even felt the cold west
Texas wind.
She started to walk away, but his adverse response lured her to pause.
“Spring is around the corner.”
She smiled again. “It’s still two months away, though. I can hardly wait.”
He nodded again and turned away, staring out the window while he sipped the
coffee. The conversation was over - or so she thought.
When she delivered his meal, he glanced up at her.
“What time do you get off?”
She stared at him. “Nine.”
He nodded. “I’d like to talk to you. May I wait here until then?”
She nodded, still regarding him with disbelief.
“Of course.”
What would he have to talk to her about? If all their conversations in the three
months he had been coming to the diner were put together, it was doubtful that they
would make a respectable paragraph. On the positive side, at that rate their
conversation should be over by five minutes after nine. Then she could walk home in
peace. The clattering of dishes, the hectic scramble at lunch, and the incessant
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