Courtship of the Recluse (Chapter One, page 1 of 15)

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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.

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