Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Read an Excerpt from The Countess and the Cowboy by Linda Wisdom



Cowboys and Indians never fought like this!

When Letitia DeMarco took the deed, by gunpoint no less, to her
ex-fiance's Montana cattle ranch, she didn't know it came with a
negative cash flow -- and Tyler Barnes, a foreman with a state-size chip
on his shoulder. Before she could even unpack her designer boots, they
locked spurs and made the ranch the wildest honky-tonk in town.

Letitia was sultry, high society and Italian in every way but heritage.
Tyler was the soul of Montana's wide-open spaces. He had been born and
bred on a ranch: his easy chair was a horse's back. When they locked
horns, it was winner take all. And, come high noon, there would be only one winner in this showdown.


"Cara, have pity." His handsome liquid brown eyes and smooth Italian accent begged for understanding, but there was little hope of a reprieve. The beautiful woman’s furious aqua eyes told him not to expect such a thing even if hell froze over.

"Me, have pity? After what you did to me? Giancarlo, I should shoot you where you sit, you slimy snake, you sneaky underhanded worm, you conniving son of a..." She used both hands to brace the deadly weapon she aimed at him.

"Letitia, my darling, you are attracting attention." Giancarlo's gaze darted worriedly from right to left. He lowered his cultured voice to a confidential level. It began to show more than a hint of strain. But then, any man would feel some anxiety if he had a woman pointing a gun directly at his heart.

Letitia kept her eyes on the perspiring man seated at a cafe table on the shady patio. She was so focused on him, it was easy to ignore the mildly curious onlookers who had just walked off the golf course or the tennis courts in search of a cold drink. While the Southern California elite knew enough not to display vulgar interest in a woman standing on the clubhouse patio aiming a gun at one of the guests, many couldn't help but wonder who the pair was. When they joined the exclusive Bel Air club they had no idea such excitement was included in the exorbitant dues.

In the back of her mind, Letitia DeMarco realized this little incident would probably result in her guest privileges being revoked with no hope of ever being asked to join the club. Good thing such possibilities didn't upset her. Right now, she had more pressing matters to resolve. Mainly, Giancarlo,

“And to think I was almost fool enough to marry you," she snapped. "Tell me, Giancarlo, how many people have you duped over the years since your less than glorious retreat from Italy? Does anyone else know your family disinherited you because of a similar scandal with one of their friend's daughters? That they insisted you even drop your family name because they're so ashamed of you? Let me see."

She tapped her forefinger against her lips in exaggerated thought. Her one hand held the revolver with a steady grip. "Didn't it have something to do with getting your brother's fiancée pregnant and then refusing to-do the honorable thing by marrying her? Instead, you accepted a healthy settlement to stay away. And since then, you've proposed to dozens of women, as long as they're wealthy, of course. You'd get what money you could from them and take off for greener pastures. You have quite a little con game going on, don't you?"

Giancarlo Reynaldo, a.k.a. too many names to count, began to sweat under Letitia's deadly aim. The young woman he'd been romancing had fled the moment Letitia marched outside with the gun leveled at him. Letitia had smiled at the woman he was romancing as back up in case things didn’t work out with Letitia and suggested she might want to leave. The leggy blond didn't waste any time running into the bar screaming there was a crazy woman out there with her fiancĂ© and someone should call the police. The club executives being the types who disliked any kind of publicity, much less the negative kind, opted to alert their private security staff to the problem on the patio. They all were familiar with Letitia DeMarco, whom they had considered a very lovely and very reasonable woman. Until now.

Letitia hadn't stopped to think this could be a bad idea or that she could even end up in jail for threatening a man with a gun. She only knew the man cowering in front of her, the man she'd thought she wanted to marry, turned out to be the worst kind of man a woman could have the misfortune to hook up with.

Giancarlo managed a smile and slowly stood up with his arms wide open as if to embrace her. "Cara, let us go somewhere and discuss this," he crooned. "You know I would never do anything to hurt you. I love you." He took a step forward.

"Stop right there!" Letitia lowered the barrel. "You take one more step and I will shoot off what you hold so valuable."

His eyes widened in alarm as he realized she was now aiming at his crotch. "Letitia, you would not do such a horrible thing."

"Watch me." Her deep aqua eyes narrowed in concentration. She could hear voices murmuring in the background and realized her time was limited. "You owe me one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and I want it now."

"If there is a problem we can meet at my bank tomorrow and I will do all I can to help you."

Her laughter held no humor. "Which bank, Giancarlo? The one you claim to have an account at or the one that states your balance is twenty-three dollars and forty-six cents?" She dropped the bomb with ladylike aplomb. "I had a fascinating talk with your father last evening. He is very unhappy with you, Giancarlo. So unhappy that he isn't going to send you this quarter's check. In fact, you are now cut off from all family funds."

Giancarlo's face turned a sickly gray as he listened to his true past thrown out to the rapidly growing audience. Then his handsome features just as quickly turned sharp. As a man who lived by his wits and charm, he could see which would work with Letitia.

"What do you want?"

Letitia smiled. "My money."

"I do not have it and you seem to already know that," he snapped.

She nodded her agreement. "You probably spent it on your next victim. But that won't get you off the hook, Giancarlo. I did some checking and you do have some property. A cattle ranch in Montana. All you have to do is sign this transfer of ownership and we'll be even." She reached inside her jacket pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper. "I'm sure Lawrence over there will be only too happy to witness it for us. Won't you, dear?" She flashed a brilliant smile at a silver haired man standing off to one side. Lawrence's answering smile was feeble. "I assume he'll agree to help just to get me off the property within the next five minutes."

"The property is worth much more than a hundred and fifty thousand dollars!" Giancarlo argued.

Her glorious eyes spat fire. "Either pay me the money or sign over the ranch. Those are your choices.

Unless you'd rather I call in the authorities. The first charge will be fraud, then all the others will fall neatly into place. I wonder how many victims I might be able to find who'd be delighted to testify against you."

Giancarlo looked around for any semblance of support. Each person he silently sought discreetly turned away.

"All right, give me the damn paper," he growled, snatching it out of her hand. He didn't bother to read it but merely scrawled his name by a red x.

"It also states if you step foot on the Montana property you will be shot on sight," she advised, using the gun to wave Lawrence over. "We just need two witnesses. Howard, my dear, would you mind? In fact, is there anyone here with a notary stamp?"

"Letitia, I never thought you were the type to make such a horrible scene," one bikini-clad brunette murmured from the sidelines. "There are other ways to handle such an impropriety."

"Oh please. Those ways take too long and the victim never wins, Buffy," she stated, stepping forward and keeping one eye on Giancarlo as she signed her name on the dotted line.

"This is not legal," Giancarlo argued, trying one last time. “You are forcing me to sign away my property.”

"Oh, it's very legal. I made sure of that," she assured him. "I had a very good lawyer draw up these papers. You just sold me your ranch and I have plenty of witnesses to attest to that." Her voice softened. "Face it, darling, you've lost your entree here. After today, invitations to parties will suddenly disappear, your calls won't be taken, you won't get a decent reservation at the 'right' restaurants and people will suddenly develop amnesia when they see you on the street. I suggest you look for new territory."

"Mrs. DeMarco, may I have the gun please?" One of the club's security officers approached her with caution when he thought she appeared more composed. And a lot less lethal.

She turned to hand it to him.

"It's probably empty anyway," Giancarlo sneered, finding his courage now that he felt her power was taken away from her. He lifted his drink to his lips.

Letitia spun around with the gun still in her hand. The loud report assaulted the viewers' ears just as Giancarlo's glass shattered in his hand, the liquid streaming down his silk-covered arm. His curse could have been a prayer as he stared wild-eyed at her.

"Mother's second husband believed women should shoot as well as men," she explained, handing the gun to the stunned security man, whose lips twitched with amusement and respect for a woman who knew how to make her point.

Letitia scanned the document and carefully tucked it in her purse. She flashed her winning smile at the on lookers who appeared as shocked as Giancarlo.

"I really hate to shoot and run," she told them. "You see, it's just this little quirk I have. I hate to be cheated and he was going to pay one way or another. Although, I am glad I didn't have to shoot him. Blood is so difficult to get out of silk.” She spared Giancarlo a quick glance as she was escorted out of the patio area with a security guard on each side. "Have a nice day."


"THAT SON OF A BITCH!" Tyler slapped the letter with the attorney's letterhead against his gloved palm.

"You seem a little upset, boy," JT drawled, taking the paper out of his hand and reading it. "So that Eyetalian bastard sold the ranch."

"He promised I would have first chance if he decided to sell," he growled, prowling the empty corral like a jungle cat who'd been caged. "And now he's sold it to a woman! Some flighty Italian socialite who probably doesn't know a damn thing about ranching or how I've had to run this place on a shoestring because he never came through with the funds we need so badly to keep this place going."

"If she’s some countess maybe she'll have the money to do what's necessary for the place. As for her not knowing anything, if she doesn't, show her."

The older man's quiet suggestion brought Tyler up short. "I will not work for a woman."

JT searched his pockets and brought out a pack of cigarettes, which Tyler immediately confiscated.

"You're not supposed to have these," he scolded. "Besides, we have a problem here."

"You have the problem, son. I’m just your trusty sidekick," JT grinned.

"I can see her now," Tyler grumbled. "Dark hair, brown eyes, sounding like someone in one of those foreign films, wears silk and lace. She'll take one look at this place and head back to Italy because there’s no fancy dress boutiques in town."

"This lawyer's office is in California," JT commented, looking at the letter.

"I don't give a damn where she goes back to, as long as she goes." Tyler's gray eyes turned cold. "Giancarlo was happy to keep his distance, although some contact would have been nice all the times I wrote to him about our problems. This place could be turned into a paying proposition if we just had the funds." Frustration laced his voice.

JT, who'd been ranch foreman until his retirement when Tyler took over, understood the younger man's frustration. "Then charm the money out of the lady," he joked.

Tyler looked at the letter again. "She's due to arrive next week." He looked off into the distance. "Some damn Italian countess. I give her less than twenty-four hours."

JT's eyes lit up. Minor gambling on the property was one of the men's favorite pastimes. "Sounds like the beginning of a pool here." He rubbed his hands with glee.

"Put me down for two hours," Tyler said grimly, before striding toward the rear part of the main house. "I guess I better give Myrna the bad news. I just hope she doesn't fly off the handle and bum dinner."

JT was on his way to the bunkhouse. "Guess I better start drawing up the pool. Once the other men hear, bets will go wild. Somebody is going to be making a lot of money on this."

"An Italian countess," Tyler groused. "Terrific."


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