Long, Tall Texans: Tom

PROLOGUE

The christening was a delightful affair. It seemed that everyone in Jacobsville, Texas, was there to give their best wishes to Dr. Jebediah Coltrain and his wife, Dr. Louise Coltrain, on the birth of their son, John Daniel.

Afterward, at the reception, the champagne flowed like water. The beautiful day in mid-June was clear and warm.

Dr. Drew Morris was standing close to the punch bowl enjoying the company of his friends. Beside him stood Ted Regan and Ted’s foreman, Jobe Dodd, along with Ted’s sister, Sandy. Sandy was giving Jobe a black glare, which he was returning with interest. On the other side of him stood newcomer to town Tom Walker, who’d just opened an investment firm.

“I need to talk to you about some investments next week,” Drew told Tom with a grin. “I had a good year and I want to do something with my cash overflow.”

“I’ll be glad to do whatever I can for you, Dr. Morris,” Tom said with a grin on his dark, handsome face.

“By the way,” Drew added, “if you’re in the market for any computer equipment, Ted’s sister there is the lady to see.” He nodded toward Sandy. “She works for one of the big computer franchises, and she’s a whiz with electronics.”

“Sure is,” big blond Jobe Dodd said mockingly. “Pity she can’t stay on a horse.”

“The devil I can’t!” Sandy shot back, her blue eyes flaming.

“Now, now.” Ted separated them. “Go fight somewhere else. We’re here to celebrate a christening, not to start a war.”

They glared at him and went their separate ways.

“Whew!” Ted sighed. “It’s like that all the time lately! Coreen and I are about to the point of taking our baby and running for cover. I wish they’d kill each other and get it over with.”

“They do seem volatile,” Drew agreed, sipping punch.

“How’s your new employee working out?” Ted asked him.

“She can’t dress herself, she can’t walk through the office without tripping over something and she’s forever trying to work without her glasses because she thinks she looks better that way.” He threw up his hands. “It’s a pity they outlawed flogging…”

“How kinky,” Ted murmured.

Drew glared at him and stalked off.

Ted chuckled. His prematurely silver hair sparkled in the light as he glanced at Tom, the only companion left. “That just about clears away the group around the punch bowl,” he mused, and helped himself to another cup of champagne punch. “Don’t you want to glare at me and storm off, too?”

Tom grinned, his green eyes twinkling. “I don’t have any reason to, just yet. Besides, this punch is really good.”

“How’s business?”

“Going great,” Tom told him, sipping the drink. “Coming down here was one of the best moves I ever made. Matt Caldwell was right. I do have an open field here. I can’t keep up with all the work, and I’ve barely set up my office.”

“Glad to hear it.” Ted studied the younger man over his cup of punch. “Old man Gallagher said you had a dog.”

“He’s sort of a toothache with fur,” Tom murmured and then grinned at the other man. “I found him in a storm, under a city mailbox in Houston. He was just a little ball of fur and scared to death, so I took him home.” He took a swallow of champagne punch. “Now he weighs ninety pounds and he’s uncivilized. He is housebroken, in a sense, but I’d actually call him a housebreaker. I only have one ceramic thing left.” He glanced at Ted. “I don’t suppose you need a cattle dog?”

Ted chuckled. “No. Thanks. I gave Coreen a pup before we got married. He’s grown now and he’s smart enough to do what little herding I need around the place.”

“I wouldn’t really give Moose up, anyway,” Tom confessed. “I’m all alone, and he’s company.” His eyes had a sad, faraway look for an instant, before he wiped it away. “The Coltrain baby’s cute.”

“So he is,” Ted agreed, glancing at the two doctors with the baby. “I wonder if he’ll be a redhead like his dad or a blonde like his mom?”

“No telling,” Tom said. “How old is your boy?”

“Just a few months,” Ted said, sighing. “Never dreamed I’d become a father at my age. Hell, I never dreamed I’d get married.” His eyes searched the room and found Coreen’s blue ones. She had their little boy in her arms. They never left him for a minute, even with so many willing baby-sitters around. He was a treasure, like their love for each other.

Drew Morris saw that look, and poignant memories flooded through him as he rejoined the men. He’d loved his wife. After she died he’d never thought of finding someone else. He still mourned her. He glanced at Tom, who looked as alone and sad as he felt. Farther away, Jobe Dodd was glaring at Sandy Regan, who was standing near Coreen. He wondered if all that hostility had something beneath it?

He sighed and lifted his cup. Ted and Tom lifted theirs, too. The others in the room caught on, and Jobe Dodd lifted his with theirs toward the two doctors and their son. It was going to be quite a summer in Jacobsville.

“Cheers!” they all said in unison.

Three men in the privacy of their own minds stared at the child and wondered how it would be if they had families. Each of them was sure that he never would.