BOOK 3 OF TEXAS HEROES: THE GALLAGHERS OF MORNING STAR
Texas Bad Boy, the final book in The Gallaghers of Morning Star trilogy…
Everyone thinks Lacey DeMille is the next thing to royalty, a society girl with beauty, brains and money–but bad boy Devlin Marlowe knows better. Twenty years after being exiled in disgrace for daring to want her, the boy from the wrong side of the tracks has sweet revenge in his grasp…for only he knows that her whole life is built on a lie.
And revenge may be more costly than either of them can imagine.
Read an Excerpt from Texas Bad Boy
Nineteen years ago
Moonlight drifted over her skin like the kiss of a lover. Devlin’s hands weren’t quite steady as they traced Lacey’s tender curves. With a reverence he hadn’t expected to feel, he brushed his lips against hers.
When Lacey gasped softly and tightened slender fingers in his hair, every last vestige of Dev’s desire for revenge flew away. Who her father was and how much Dev hated him didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was that after this night, they would be forever changed. Forever bound.
“Dev?” Her voice trembled as his hands had.
“Shh, it’s all right. You’re so beautiful, Lacey.” At eighteen, his experience was not vast, but it was far greater than hers. He smiled, rewarded by the answering curve of hers, that lush, full mouth that drove him crazy.
“You’re the one who’s beautiful.” She trailed her fingers across his chest, and Dev thought he might die of pleasure.
“I’m a guy. I can’t be beautiful,” he protested.
She laughed faintly. “Shows what you know. If you could see yourself the way I see you…”
He wanted to ask what she saw, this girl who had everything, whose father kept Devlin’s family in thrall like a feudal king oppressed his serfs. But he didn’t really want to know–not tonight, when she was heaven in his arms. All that mattered tonight was that she wanted him–enough to make him her first. Her last, if he had anything to say about it.
He paused, looking solemnly into her wide, innocent silvery eyes. “Are you sure about this?”
He could see the pulse beating in her throat, feel the tremor of her nerves. His heart sank, but this was too important–she was too important–to rush.
Then she smiled, and the fear vanished. “I’m only afraid because I don’t know what to do. I want it to be you, Dev. Only you.”
His throat tightened. Lacey DeMille, the River Oaks princess, wanted Devlin Marlowe, the bad seed from the wrong side of the tracks. Dev kissed her with all the wonder he felt. Then he sat back on his heels in the moon-silvered gazebo and imprinted her on his memory for eternity–the girl he would never forget.
Lacey reached for him, and he bent to press another kiss as his hands began to unbutton his jeans–
“Lacey, is that you?” her father called out. “Is someone with you?”
The magic shattered under harsh, blinding light.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Charles DeMille’s voice fractured the night, bludgeoning its beauty with jagged, angry blows.
Lacey screamed, shrinking from the flashlight’s glare, wrapping her arms around her body.
Dev grabbed his t-shirt and slipped it over her head. He moved in front of her to protect her.
Her father knocked him to the ground with a roar of rage. “You worthless piece of trash–I told you to stay away from her. Who do you think you are, putting your filthy hands on my daughter?”
Dev jumped up to defend Lacey, but she scampered away from his touch as though it were poison. He tried to catch her gaze, but she was sobbing hysterically and grasping for her clothes.
“You can’t do this. Lacey and I–we’re in love.” Defiantly, Dev faced his nemesis.
“Love!” Charles DeMille’s laughter was a harsh bark. “You’re not fit to lick her boots.”
Dev waited for Lacey to speak up, to tell her father that it was true, that she loved him as he loved her, but she didn’t look at him, didn’t say a word. “Tell him, Lacey. We’re going to be together. Come with me now, tonight. I’ll take care of you, I swear I will.”
But Lacey only looked frightened.
Her father laughed at Dev as he had for three years, ever since the night Dev’s father had died in disgrace and everything had changed. “You can’t even take care of the family you have, can you, son? You’ll never amount to anything, and you damn sure won’t ever get near my daughter again. I’ll kill you if you try.”
Dev stared at the ground then, his mind roaring with rage at being humiliated in front of Lacey. He’d tried to care for his family, but DeMille held all the cards.
“Get back to the house, Lacey,” her father ordered.
She turned away, a look on her face so wounded that Dev felt her pain himself. “Lacey…” he called out, hating himself for not being able to beat Charles DeMille, almost hating her for denying what was between them.
And then she was gone.
He would not show this man fear. DeMille had savaged his pride too hard, too often.
“First thing tomorrow, you are joining the military. You’ll be on the first bus to basic training.”
“I won’t leave her.”
Clipped tones answered him. “If I’d known she was sneaking around to meet you, you’d already be gone. You’d better thank your lucky stars I caught you when I did.”
Dev wanted to hurt him. “How do you know it was the first time?”
His head snapped from the force of DeMille’s blow, but Dev stood his ground. The man leaned right in Dev’s face, smelling of expensive Scotch and smuggled Cuban cigars.
“You will leave, or you’ll go to jail. Lacey’s underage, or hadn’t you thought about that?”
What would they do?
“Maybe you should have thought about them before.” DeMille shoved a finger in his chest. “You aren’t calling the shots here, boy. I am. You won’t be much good to your family if you’re in prison. This way, you’re only gone for two years–unless you get wise and sign up for more.”
Dev refused to drop his stare, but he knew he was defeated. DeMille had the power. Dev was afraid of what another disgrace would do to his mother. She’d been drowning herself in drink for three years. But his sisters and kid brother–what would happen to them without him?
He summoned every ounce of strength within him and met DeMille’s stare with equal force. “I want your promise that my family won’t pay for this. They’ll pay enough, just having me gone.”
Oddly enough, though he hated DeMille, Dev knew his word was good on this one thing. He had never understood why his father’s old boss had stepped in when their world had fallen apart–or why Dev’s mother had let him.
Dev hated being a charity case, despised what they’d become. He resented that his mother had faith in DeMille but not in him. The family was Dev’s responsibility, not his.
DeMille nodded sharply. “You’re the only bad apple in the bunch, Devlin. I’ll take care of them. And if you’re wise, you’ll stay gone a long time. Just write your mother so she doesn’t worry.”
Dev would leave, because he had no choice. But it wouldn’t always be like this.
He had to make certain of one more thing. Though her abandonment cut him to the bone, Dev had to know that Lacey wouldn’t suffer. “What about Lacey?”
DeMille snorted. “I know who’s at fault here. I’ll give her everything you could never provide.”
Dev’s pride demanded its due. “You’re wrong. I love her. I can take care of her.”
Charles DeMille just shook his head. “Your father was headed for prison when he died. You think you’ll ever be good enough for my daughter?” He clapped Dev on the shoulder, smug that he had won. “Son, you’re nothing. You never were.”
Then his face turned harsh again. “Now get out of here before I change my mind and call the cops.”