(Yes, it is just as great.)
The Texan Quartet series
by Claire Boston
Piper Atkinson uses the truth as a weapon, but her latest interview candidate is more than just a headline.
Piper wants to be the kind of journalist who makes people sit up and take notice of the issues, and in Houston, Texas, there are plenty to go around. In the city’s high-end restaurant world, reclusive Native American chef Taima Woods is discussed in reverential whispers, so when the opportunity to interview him arrives, Piper jumps at it.
But getting to Tai is tougher than she expected. He has a deep mistrust of reporters, and a private life he’d prefer to keep hidden. There are two passions in Tai’s life – his cooking and his tribe – and he means to keep it that way. But the closer Tai gets to Piper, the closer he comes to conceding a third.
Through Tai, Piper discovers a world she knew nothing about – a damaged and ostracized community in need of a voice. But the more Piper wants to help them, the more Tai understands that to love Piper is to turn his back on his people.
Will Tai reject the one woman who’s ever understood him? Or can Piper show him that hardening his heart helps no one?
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The bar was one of those hip places where the design was minimal and the prices were maximal. The tables were small to encourage intimate groups and conversations. Piper Atkinson scanned the faces in the dim lighting, hoping to catch sight of her friend, George. Stagehands were checking the microphone and equipment up front. George would be somewhere nearby, perhaps giving his client Adahy some last-minute words of encouragement.
Piper hadn’t heard the singer yet, but Adahy had played at her friend Elle’s café and she’d said he was fabulous. A fusion of modern music with Native American beats.
Close to the stage there was an empty table with a reserved sign on it. It was probably reserved for George.
She ordered a drink and something to eat, and stood at the bar, waiting.
“Is your daddy a baker? Because you’ve got a nice set of buns!” a deep male voice behind her said.
Piper rolled her eyes and debated whether to ignore the pickup line or tell the guy off, when someone grabbed her butt. She whirled and slapped at the hand. “What the hell are you doing?”
The man who’d both groped her and tried the cheesy pickup line was tall and built like a linebacker. His muscles bulged out of his too-small shirt and the glaze in his eyes told her he’d been in the bar a while.
“Just checking out how fresh they are.”
“Take a hike,” she said.
Before he could respond, there was a tap-tap on the microphone. They both turned to the stage where one of the staff stood. He cleared his throat. “Let me introduce you to tonight’s entertainment. He’s a born and bred Texan – Adahy Woods.”
A young man in his mid twenties walked on to the stage. He had short, dark hair and was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
“He’s a damn Indian,” the linebacker said. “Didn’t think they’d let that sort in a place like this.”
Luckily his comments were drowned out by the applause. Disgusted, Piper grabbed her drink and moved away.
There were now two people seated at the reserved table and one of them was George. She wandered over, and George looked up and smiled. The other man didn’t notice her.
“Hi, George, mind if I join you?” Piper asked.
“Sure, we’ve got an extra seat.” George indicated one of the chairs and she put her drink on the table and pulled it out.
As she sat, the other man tore his attention away from the stage to look at her.
His gaze was intense. Chocolate brown eyes, glaring in annoyance at the interruption, chiseled features and loose, wavy, shoulder-length brown hair. Piper’s whole body flushed warmly, and there was a delicious shiver down her spine.
“Tai Woods, this is Piper Atkinson, she’s a friend and a reporter for the Houston Age.” George turned to Piper. “Taima is Adahy’s brother.”
The name sparked something in Piper’s memory. She’d just read it at work. “The chef of The Wooden Spoon.”
Tai looked surprised but nodded once before turning his attention back to his brother.
Piper’s editor had assigned her to do a set of profiles on people of Houston. Taima Woods was the one person on her list of interviewees she actually wanted to interview, but the reclusive chef famously didn’t talk to the media. This was a great opportunity to break the ice.
“He sounds great,” Piper said to George, and nodded toward Adahy.
“He does. We’re going to release a single next month.”
The waitress delivered Piper’s order of nachos to the table.
“Help yourself,” she invited the others.
Tai frowned at her. He was obviously there for the music and not the company.
Pity even his dirty look made Piper shiver. What was wrong with her? She’d dated plenty of men, but none had given her this kind of frisson, especially not a man who was completely uninterested in her.
Still, if she was going to be interviewing him, she didn’t want to get him off side. She shut up, ate her nachos and listened to Adahy sing.
He was amazing. His tone was warm and the way he mixed Native American drums and pipes with modern pop/rock music gave it an edge, a difference that was refreshing.
Piper found herself tapping her foot to the music and when he finished his set, she added her voice to the shouts of approval coming from the crowd.
George got to his feet. “I’ll be back in a minute.” He headed to meet Adahy.
The applause died down and was replaced by voices.
“Oh my God. He’s so hot. I can’t wait to hear more of his songs,” said a woman who was sitting at the table next to theirs.
“Sounds like he was a success,” Piper commented.
Tai grunted non-committedly.
“You must be proud of him,” she tried.
“Ada’s achievements are his own.” Tai scanned the crowd.
Wow. This guy really didn’t do small talk.
Interviewing him was going to be a whole lot of fun.
She wondered whether the paper had contacted him about the special feature yet. The woman she’d phoned this evening had been expecting the call. She guessed Tai wouldn’t be.
As she was about to broach the subject, he pushed back his chair and left, walking toward Adahy and George, who were standing next to the stage.
No. Social skills really weren’t his forte.
Tai said something to his brother, gave him a hug and then wove his way through the crowd and out of the bar.
Piper sat there, unsure whether to be amused or offended by the man’s lack of manners. She decided on amused and made a mental note to ask her editor, Geraldine, why Tai was on the interview list.
George brought Adahy over to the table and introduced them.
“That was a fantastic set,” Piper told him. “Let me know when you next play and I’ll tell our music reporter.”
“Great idea,” George told her and grinned. “I’m getting drinks, do you want one?”
“Yes, please.” She wasn’t in any rush to get home and tomorrow was miraculously free, with no interviews booked or events she had to attend.
Adahy took the seat next to her and sighed in satisfaction. “That was fun.”
When had Piper last thought her work was fun? She couldn’t remember associating that descriptor with her job at all. Even the usual positive fallbacks interesting, fulfilling and educational couldn’t be used to describe the last few months in her new position. “You looked like you were enjoying yourself,” she said.
He nodded. “You work for a paper?”
“The Houston Age,” she told him. “I was hoping to talk to your brother about a series we’ve got coming up, but he left before I could.”
Adahy laughed. “Good luck with that. Tai’s not one for talk.”
“I noticed,” Piper said.
He laughed again.
George returned with the drinks and handed them out. “What brings you out tonight, Piper? No one to interrogate?”
“Not tonight. I felt like going out and Elle said you’d be here.” She’d tried all of her friends – Libby, Imogen and Elle – but none of them had been available. Elle had suggested Piper meet her fiancé, George, at the bar.
“We haven’t seen you much lately,” George said.
Piper felt a twinge of guilt. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help clean up after the break in at Elle’s café.” Elle’s ex had trashed the place in a fit of jealousy.
“We had plenty of hands,” George said. “Besides, the piece your reporter buddy did when Elle reopened the café got so many people interested that she’s constantly busy. She’s pretty happy.”
“I’m glad.” Piper had called in a favor and asked the social pages reporter to attend Elle’s bookshop café reopening. The guy had been so impressed by the set up he’d done more than a little paragraph – he had requested his editor make it the spotlight of the week.
George turned to Adahy to discuss the performance. Piper found it fascinating to listen to people talking about subjects she knew little about. Here it was all about the music – pitch and tone, notes and keys – as well as the performance itself.
Some of George’s suggestions were good and made Piper review the set in a whole other light. It wasn’t just about singing and playing: it was about entertainment. She’d like to interview George about his work, but she’d never be allowed to because the music reporter guarded her turf.
Still, she’d chat to George about it some day when they were both free.
Piper stifled a yawn and checked the time. If she wanted to do anything constructive tomorrow – and she had to do more research on those profiles – she should go to bed. She got to her feet, said goodbye and headed home.
On the way out she caught herself looking for Tai, wondering if he had indeed gone or was waiting for her to leave.
Annoyed he was on her mind when he’d not paid her the slightest bit of regard, she reminded herself it was a purely professional curiosity. She had to interview him.
She ignored the fact her body didn’t usually respond like that to people she interviewed.
It was nothing to worry about.
Tai was introduced in Under the Covers (George’s story) and I knew that I wanted to find out his story, but at the same time I was afraid that he’d be too militant about his tribe. I shouldn’t have doubted Boston. She does a great job of showing his dedication to his people and detailing their struggles. You feel for everything they’ve been thru and can understand why they might be a little hesitant to trust outsiders. And that commitment sets up the conflict, and resolution, well.
Piper is going thru a little personal life crisis – she had an idea of what she wanted to do with her life and unfortunately things aren’t going the way she expects. Throw in a new romance and she could easily have been overwhelmed but I really like how she faces it all head on. She’s a great match for strong, sensitive Tai.
I have really enjoyed Boston’s Texan Quartet (although I missed Book 2, not sure how :)) – every time she gives her readers fantastic, individual characters with realistic issues. (As with the other stories, this can easily stand on its own – returning readers will enjoy seeing their favorite characters again, but new readers won’t have trouble keeping up.)
Claire Boston is the best-selling author of The Texan Quartet. In 2014 she was nominated for an Australian Romance Readers Award as Favourite New Romance Author.
Her debut contemporary romance novel, What Goes on Tour caught the attention of Momentum’s Joel Naoum when her first scene was read aloud at the Romance Writers’ of Australia (RWA) conference in 2013. This led to a four book contract for The Texan Quartet series.
Claire is proactive in organising social gatherings and educational opportunities for local authors. She is an active volunteer for RWA, as a mentor for aspiring authors and the reader judge coordinator.
When Claire’s not writing she can be found in the garden attempting to grow vegetables, or racing around a vintage motocross track. If she can convince anyone to play with her, she also enjoys cards and board games.
Claire lives in Western Australia, just south of Perth, with her husband, who loves even her most annoying quirks, and her grubby, but adorable Australian bulldog.