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Breaking Bailey's Rules

By:Brenda Jackson

Prologue

Hugh Coker closed his folder and looked up at the five pairs of eyes staring at him.

“So there you have it. I met with this private investigator, Rico Claiborne, and he’s convinced that you are descendants of someone named Raphel Westmoreland. I read through his report and although his claims sound pretty far-fetched, I can’t discount the photographs I’ve seen. Bart, every one of your sons could be a twin to one of those Westmorelands. The resemblance is that strong. I have the photographs here for you to look at.”

“I don’t want to see any photographs, Hugh,” Bart Outlaw said gruffly, getting out of his chair. “Just because this family might look like us doesn’t mean they are related to us. We are Outlaws, not Westmorelands. And I’m not buying that story about a train wreck over sixty years ago where some dying woman gave her baby to my grandmother. That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

He turned to his four sons. “Outlaw Freight Lines is a multimillion-dollar company and people will claim a connection to us just to get what we’ve worked so hard to achieve.”

Garth Outlaw leaned back in his chair. “Forgive me if I missed something, Dad, but didn’t Hugh say the Westmorelands are pretty darn wealthy in their own right? I think all of us have heard of Blue Ridge Land Management. They are a Fortune 500 company. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Thorn Westmoreland can claim me as a cousin anytime.”

Bart frowned. “So what if they run a successful company and one of them is a celebrity?” he said in a cutting tone. “We don’t have to go looking for any new relatives.”

Maverick, the youngest of Bart’s sons, chuckled. “I believe they came looking for us, Dad.”

Bart’s frown deepened. “Doesn’t matter.” He glanced at Hugh. “Send a nice letter letting them know we aren’t buying their story and don’t want to be bothered again. That should take care of it.” Expecting his orders to be obeyed, Bart walked out of the conference room, closing the door behind him.

Sloan Outlaw stared at the closed door. “Are we going to do what he says?”

“Do we ever?” his brother Cash asked, grinning while watching Hugh put the papers back in his briefcase.

“Leave that folder, Hugh,” Garth said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I think the old man forgot he’s no longer running things. He retired a few months ago, or did I imagine it?”

Sloan stood. “No, you didn’t imagine it. He retired but only after the board threatened to oust him. What’s he’s doing here anyway? Who invited him?”

“No one. It’s Wednesday. He takes Charm to lunch on Wednesdays” was Maverick’s response.

Garth’s brow bunched. “And where is Charm? Why didn’t she attend this meeting?”

“Said she had something more important to do,” Sloan said of their sister.

“What?”

“Go shopping.”

Cash chuckled. “Doesn’t surprise me. So what are we going to do Garth? The decision is yours, not the old man’s.”

Garth threw a couple of paperclips on the table. “I never mentioned it, but I was mistaken for one of those Westmorelands once.”

Maverick leaned across the table. “You were? When?”

“Last year, while I was in Rome. A young woman, a very beautiful young woman, called out to me. She thought I was someone named Riley Westmoreland.”

“I can see why she thought that,” Hugh said. “Take a look at this.” He opened the folder he’d placed on the conference room table earlier and flipped through until he came to one photograph in particular. He pulled it out and placed it in the center of the table. “This is Riley Westmoreland.”

“Damn,” chorused around the table, before a shocked silence ensued.

“Take a look at the others. Pretty strong genes. Like I told Bart, all of you have a twin somewhere in that family,” Hugh said. “It’s—”

“Weird,” Cash said, shaking his head.

“Pretty damn uncanny,” Sloan added. “Makes the Westmorelands’ claims believable.”

“So what if we are related to these Westmorelands? What’s the big deal?” Maverick asked.

“None that I can see,” Sloan said.

“Then, why does the old man have a problem with it?”

“Dad’s just distrustful by nature,” Cash answered Maverick, as he continued to stare at the photographs.

“He fathered five sons and a daughter from six different women. If you ask me, he was too damn trusting.”

“Maybe he learned his lesson, considering that some of our mothers—not calling any names—turned out to be gold diggers,” Sloan said, chuckling.

Hugh shook his head. It always amazed him how well Bart’s offspring got along, considering they all had different mothers. Bart had managed to get full custody of each of them before their second birthdays and he’d raised them together.

Except for Charm. She hadn’t shown up until the age of fifteen. Her mother was the one woman Bart hadn’t married, but the only one he had truly loved.

“As your lawyer, what do you want me to do?” Hugh asked. “Send that letter like Bart suggested?”

Garth met Hugh’s gaze. “No. I believe in using more diplomacy than that. I think what has Dad so suspicious is the timing, especially with Jess running for senator,” he said of their brother. “And you all know how much Dad wants that to happen. His dream has been for one of us to enter politics. What if this is some sort of scheme to ruin that?”

Garth stood and stretched out the kinks from his body. “Just to be on the safe side, I’ll send Walker to check out these Westmorelands. We can trust him, and he’s a good judge of character.”

“But will he go?” Sloan asked. “Other than visiting us here in Fairbanks, I doubt if Walker’s been off his ranch in close to ten years.”

Garth drew in a deep breath and said, “He’ll go if I ask him.”





One

Two weeks later

“Why are they sending their representative instead of meeting with us themselves?”

Dillon Westmoreland glanced across the room at his cousin Bailey. He’d figured she would be the one with questions. He had called a family meeting of his six brothers and eight cousins to apprise them of the phone call he’d received yesterday. The only person missing from this meeting was his youngest brother, Bane, who was on a special assignment somewhere with the navy SEALs. “I presume the reason they are sending someone outside their family is to play it safe, Bailey. In a way, I understand them doing so. They have no proof that what we’re claiming is the truth.”

“But why would we claim them as relatives if they aren’t?” Bailey persisted. “When our cousin James contacted you a few years ago about our relationship with them, I don’t recall you questioning him.”

Dillon chuckled. “Only because James didn’t give me a chance to question anything. He showed up one day at our Blue Ridge office with his sons and nephews in tow and said that we were kin. I couldn’t deny a thing when looking into Dare’s face, which looked just like mine.”

“Um, maybe we should have tried that approach.” Bailey tapped a finger to her chin. “Just showed up and surprised them.”

“Rico didn’t think that was a good idea. From his research, it seems the Outlaws are a pretty close-knit family who don’t invite outsiders into their fold,” Megan Westmoreland Claiborne said. Rico, her husband, was the private investigator hired by the Westmorelands to find members of their extended family.

“And I agreed with Rico,” Dillon said. “Claiming kinship is something some people don’t do easily. We’re dealing with relatives whose last name is Outlaw. They had no inkling of a Westmoreland connection until Rico dropped the bomb on them. If the shoe was on the other foot and someone showed up claiming they were related to me, I would be cautious, as well.”

“Well, I don’t like it,” Bailey said, meeting the gazes of her siblings and cousins.

“We’ve picked up on that, Bay,” Ramsey Westmoreland, her eldest brother said, pulling her ear. He then switched his gaze to Dillon. “So when is their representative coming?”

“His name is Walker Rafferty and he’s arriving tomorrow. I thought that would be perfect since everyone is home for Aidan and Jillian’s wedding this weekend. The Atlanta Westmorelands will be here as well, so he’ll get to meet them, too.”

“What does he intend to find out about us?” Bailey wanted to know.

“That you, Bane, Adrian and Aidan are no longer hellions,” Stern Westmoreland said, grinning.

“Go to—” Bailey stopped and glanced at everyone staring at her. “Go wash your face, Stern.”

“Stop trying to provoke her, Stern,” Dillon said, shaking his head. “Rafferty probably wants to get to know us so he can report back to them that we’re an okay group of people. Don’t take things personally. Like I said, it’s just a precaution on their part.” He paused as if an idea had come to him. “And, Bailey?”

“Yes?”

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