THE COWBOY WINS A BRIDE
by Cora Seton
All Jamie Lassiter wants is to marry his best friend's sister and settle down for the rest of his life in Chance Creek. He's saved his money, bought into the Cruz Guest Ranch and he's ready for that wedding, but Claire Cruz is nowhere to be found.
Claire's too busy leaving Montana behind to care about cowboys or their wedding plans. She's got plans of her own - a trip around the world. She'll go as soon as she buys her tickets and she doesn't care if she ever sees Chance Creek again.
Desperate to change Claire's mind, Jamie proposes a bet: give him six weeks to convince her to marry him. If he can't, he'll pay for her round-the-world tickets himself.
Claire can wait six weeks if it means free tickets and a chance to get a little revenge on a man who once broke her heart. She's got only one stipulation: Jamie can't touch or flirt with her - or any other woman - while the bet is on.
Now Jamie's on the run from a bevy of cowboy-groupie ranch guests, and Claire's learning she cares about the ranch - and Jamie - more than she dreamed possible.
Maybe it's time to lose that bet.
As long as Jamie loses it first.
Ethan tugged her closer. “Stop it – you’ll hurt someone with that fake smile. Why didn't you just say yes to Jamie? You could be as happy as I am. Wait a minute – are you wearing his ring? Did you say yes?”
Claire gaped at him, her eyes stinging once more. She couldn't believe Ethan was in on this joke and would carry it to such an extreme – on his wedding day. She and her brother had their spats over the years, but he'd never been cruel. She opened her mouth to tell him so, but he pulled Jamie into a man-hug, pounding him on the shoulder.
“Congratulations! When's the happy day?“
He was in on the joke, wasn't he? But he was doing an incredible job acting like it was real. She couldn't remember ever seeing Ethan this happy – especially not since their parents' deaths.
“Labor Day,” Jamie said emphatically and grinned at her, daring her to deny it.
She looked from one to the other, at a total loss for what to do.
“You're getting married?” Autumn shrieked, grabbing her hand and pulling it close to see her ring. “Oh my gosh, Claire – it's beautiful. I'm so happy for you!” She threw her arms around Claire and gave her a stifling hug.
This can't be happening, Claire thought, waiting for Jamie to tell them it was all a joke – waiting for Ethan at least to let Autumn in on it. Her stomach twisted when she realized both of them were going to play it straight. Ethan was beaming, and Jamie…he looked like the cat who'd swallowed the canary.
Damn it, she wasn't a helpless bird.
But as she turned to set Autumn straight, her new sister-in-law cupped her hands to her mouth and called out, “Everybody! Everyone – can I have your attention? Yoo-hoo!“
The crowd immediately quieted, all eyes turned to the bride.
“I just have to share the happy news – I'm so excited!” Autumn's face was flushed and her eyes shining. She pointed to Claire.
“Wait…” Claire began, but Autumn rushed on.
“Claire and Jamie have just gotten engaged – they're getting married on Labor Day, so everybody better save the date! We'll all be right back here in a couple of months to do this all over again.“
As the crowd cheered and clapped, Claire turned to Jamie, begging him silently for help. He just threaded an arm around her waist and kissed the top of her head. As people surged in to offer their congratulations, she once more pasted a happy expression on her face.
She would be a laughing-stock when September rolled around and no wedding took place.
If she survived this day she would never speak to any of them again.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Cora Seton loves cowboys, country life, gardening, bike-riding, and lazing around with a good book. Mother of four, wife to a computer programmer/eco-farmer, she ditched her California lifestyle nine years ago and moved to a remote logging town in northwestern British Columbia.
Like the characters in her novels, Cora enjoys old-fashioned pursuits and modern technology, spending mornings transforming a neglected one-acre lot into a paradise of orchards, berry bushes and market gardens, and afternoons writing the latest Chance Creek romance novel on her iPad mini. Visit www.coraseton.com to read about new releases, contests and other cool events!
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