NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Ethan Cruz should be mending fences on his Montana ranch, but instead he’s driving to the Chance Creek, Montana, airport – to pick up the bride he didn’t know he had. This latest salvo in his ongoing practical joke battle with his best friend, Rob Matheson, has gone too far, and Ethan plans to send his “bride” right back home, then get busy plotting his revenge. One look at Autumn Leeds changes his mind, however. Perhaps he needs a bride, after all. A breathtakingly beautiful city bride.
Autumn Leeds needs a story – fast – or she’s going to lose her lucrative contract with CityPretty Magazine, so when she sees the crazy video plea for a modern mail-order bride for a cowboy, it sounds like the story of the century. Making a video of her own, she casts herself as the perfect mail-order bride for a rancher, but when she finally reaches Montana, she’s surprised to find Ethan’s the perfect cowboy husband-to-be. Against her better judgment, her plan to keep her handsome groom at arm’s length disintegrates into a night of passion spent in his arms.
Ethan knows he can’t keep playing this game – he has to come clean with Autumn and tell her the truth; about the practical joke and about the state of his ranch. He’s about to lose it all because of the debts his mother racked up before his parents’ deaths. Now his sister, Claire, wants to sell the ranch and collect what little money they can. He’ll be out of a home and a job, and in no shape to support the bride he desperately wants to marry, after all.
Autumn’s in bigger trouble than ever. Not only has she fallen in love with the subject of her expose – she might be carrying his child. If she doesn’t write this article and secure her contract for another year, she’ll lose everything – her career, her apartment, and more importantly, her family’s approval. The only alternative is to stay and marry Ethan. But how can she trust a man she’s just met when she knows too well that men always let you down?
Can a love based on lies last?
What was a practical joke has gone way out of control. A video of a drunk Ethan describing his perfect wife is put out on the web by his friends. They picked a woman and now she’s arrived. Ethan plans to have her right back out on the next flight, that is until he sees her.
Autumn with the help of her best friend put together the response to Ethan’s video. For her this is a last ditch effort to keep her job at CityPretty, the article that would come from this would be priceless. Then she starts to realize Ethan really is everything she’s ever wanted in a man. No matter what her mother and sister’s philosophy on the subject is.
The one thing Autumn didn’t expect was to start loving this place and the man who runs it.
A visit from Ethan’s sister puts some interesting facts on the line and new decisions to make.
This is a favorite scene.
Claire put her hands on her hips and leaned closer to him. “She said she’s your fiancee. Your fiancee! When were you going to tell me, Ethan? After the wedding? And you obviously didn’t tell her about your money problems. That’s not right! None of this is—where did you even meet her?”
Autumn felt her face burning and even Ethan looked flushed. “That’s none of your business. What are you here for, anyway?” He crossed his arms.
“This ranch is half mine. Did you forget that?” Claire shook her head at him and the severe edges of her bob brushed her chin. “It’s time to sell. Let’s get what we can from it and move on. I’ve mocked up a listing. Look it over and see if I got it all right.” She shoved the folder into his hands.
“And what about me, huh, Claire? It’s all right for me to be an employee all my life?” He kicked a watering can across the garden. “I’ve worked this ranch since I could walk.”
“You can do something else.”
“I don’t want to do something else.” Claire clenched her fists. “Then buy me out. This dream is over, Ethan. The ranch is done.”
But she’d already stormed off across the yard. In a moment she was out of sight around the corner of the bunkhouse and they heard an engine start up.
Ethan turned slowly around. “I’m sorry. Claire’s right; I should have told you. I just didn’t expect…”
“How bad is it?” She didn’t know why she was asking. She’d be gone in a week or two, back to her old life and old job. She hoped, anyway. This man was nothing to her. So what if he lied? The cold burn of fire in her gut told her it mattered a lot, but she forced that thought away. All men were liars. She’d known that since she was nine and watched her mother—her fun-loving, wonderful, warm mother turn overnight into an icy automaton, too busy and too hurt to open her heart to anyone—even her own daughters. She remembered the pain of that first year after he’d left. Her attempts to make her mother happy again.
“Bad. My mother,” he waved the folder in dismissal. “I loved her, but she didn’t belong on a ranch. She wanted to travel, live the high life. My Dad let her spend all he had, and then let her spend a whole lot more he didn’t have.”
A familiar tension twisted in her stomach as she remembered taking on the task of managing her family’s budget. Always good with numbers, and a better cook than Lily, first she took over the grocery shopping and meal preparation, then the rest of the bills as Teresa finished med school and began work. Adding up numbers that didn’t add up over and over again. Trying to make too little money stretch too far. Finding fifty ways to prepare beans and rice. “And just exactly when did you plan to say something—on our wedding night?”
The fury in her words made him flinch and she barely understood her own anger. After all, she was lying to him as much as he’d been lying to her, so why did it hurt so bad to find out that her cowboy groom was as big a jerk as her father?
Because her father hadn’t just broken her mother’s heart when he left; he’d broken hers, too. How many nights had she lain awake as a girl wondering what she’d done to drive him away. Was it the way she looked? The way she cried sometimes when she got hurt? The way she got a bad grade in spelling? For nine years he’d been a mainstay in her life—at the breakfast table in the morning, reading the newspaper when he got home at night, tucking her into bed with a tousle of her hair and a kiss on the forehead. Telling her he loved her.
But he didn’t. One day he was there. The next he was gone. And her mother might as well have gone, too. Even Lily changed. Suddenly mad all the time, ordering her around, pinching her when she made mistakes. “The house has to be clean. Hurry up, the dishes need to be done before she gets home. Clean up your toys, you want Mom to leave, too?”
“You have every right to be mad. I didn’t…” He hesitated. Making up more lies? “Listen, Autumn—I had no idea this would work.” He waved a hand to include the two of them. “I thought you’d leave as soon as you got to know me and saw what life out here looks like. You’re a city girl—why would you want to marry me and live like this? Even without the debt, it’s not like we’re ever going to be rich. You could have any guy. Why would you stay here with me?
His question struck her squarely in the gut. Why would she stay with him? Was it possible this handsome, self-confident cowboy had doubts of his own?
Maybe he did, she conceded, his explanations finally catching up with her. Sounds like his childhood wasn’t all roses and sunshine, either.
Well, she wasn’t going to stay, was she? Except she wanted to with every fiber of her being. She knew that a life with Ethan meant hard work and the ups and downs of being dependent on your own two hands to make a living, but she also knew it would never be boring and that the challenges would most likely bring them together in a way city living never could. And Ethan…over the last few days he’d driven her all over the ranch, showing her the land he loved and the cattle herds he depended on to make his living. He talked about how he was considering raising buffalo, and he told her stories about growing up here and learning to ride. The funniest stories, however, were the ones that included Rob, Cab and Jamie. She couldn’t believe how much trouble they’d found over the years, or the way they tormented each other with practical jokes. It was amazing they’d never landed in jail—and even more amazing that Cab grew up to be a sheriff.
Ethan was so patient around the animals, and so dedicated to running the ranch right. After dinner each night he spent time in the tiny office off his bedroom updating the ranch’s accounts. She had a feeling he kept track of his money down to the penny. Now she knew why.
But it was the evenings she loved the most. After he’d done his books and she’d downloaded her photographs and written her notes, they’d meet again on the back porch to hold hands, talk and swing. They’d decided heavy petting was allowed, which often turned into a romp on top of the covers on Ethan’s bed. As much as they did their best to satisfy each other without actually making love, Autumn didn’t think she could ever be satisfied until she had him again—body and soul. She wanted to stay here with Ethan more than anything else in the world. She wanted to be his wife.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Ethan said gruffly when she hesitated too long. “You don’t. And Claire’s right—I probably have to sell. Might as well get it all over with. I’ll take you to the airport in the morning.”
With that he strode to the back door and let it shut behind him with a bang. Alone in the garden, Autumn looked at the neat rows of plants reaching for the sun. She surveyed the fields that ran to far off mountains.
She didn’t want to go.
The large house across the yard caught her attention and once again she thought it was a shame no one lived in it. It was a beautiful log home, with wide decks and a stunning view of the mountains. If she was on vacation she’d spend a mint to rent one of those rooms.
Autumn’s heart skipped a beat, recalling a bunch of brochures Becka brought home from a travel agent’s office back in New York when she was trying to learn all she could about her prospective cowboy husband. They were advertisements for guest ranches and together she and Becka had laughed about the rustic accommodations and tourists dressed up like cowboys in shiny new boots.
A guest ranch—that was the answer to Ethan’s problems.
And she could help.
Seton, Cora. Cowboys of Chance Creek Vol 0 – 2. One Acre Press. Kindle Locations (2690-2749). Kindle Edition.
Plenty of ups and downs, and more interesting facts about Lacey as this tale unfolds.
Filled with Love, Laughter, Tears, Solutions and so much more, I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!
5 Contented Purrs for Cora!
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USA Today and NYT Times bestselling author 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 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.