Authors: Merry Farmer,Culpepper Cowboys
Copyright ©2016 by Merry Farmer
his ebook is licensed
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill (the miracle-worker)
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ver since Culpepper Wyoming’s
female population was stolen away into marriage by pack of gorgeous underwear models after a snowstorm several years ago, Sly O’Donnell has been looking for a way to boost the female population of his hometown and its reputation as an up-and-coming metropolis. He thinks he’s finally discovered the way to do it by suing the underwear company, Korpanty Enterprises for negligence. He has no intension of winning the lawsuit, but he knows it will gain just the kind of attention Culpepper needs.
is plan is foolproof
…until he meets the CEO of Korpanty Enterprises, Rachel Korpanty.
achel has been trying
to hold her father’s company together and to make something of it since his death almost five years ago. Korpanty Enterprises is the only thing that she’s every truly given her heart too, but under the terms of her father’s will, she only has three more months to make a profit or the company will revert to her conniving sister, Bev. She has a chance to secure her company for good, until a freak lawsuit threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.
, when she goes to Culpepper to confront the jerk who is suing her, she falls for him instead. But can her pride handle the blow, and will her company survive the triple threat of love, family, and underwear models?
to make big changes around here,” Sly O’Donnell commented to his sister, Elvie, with a leonine grin. He turned his convertible to exit the highway and drove onto the scenic country road that would lead them into the center of their hometown, Culpepper, Wyoming.
The late-summer sun baked the ranchland all around them. In the distance, a herd of cattle chewed on wilted grass, and further beyond that, a collection of windmills turned lazily in the faint breeze. As hot as it was, Sly drove with the top down. The car was a leftover from his time in California and admittedly out of place in Wyoming. He figured he should get a truck soon, but for now he still liked the jazzy, silver sign of his success. Especially if it put that scrunched up look on Elvie’s face as her wild, long hair blew around as they drove. She was his sister. Irritating her was his job.
“You really think folks in Culpepper are going to let you walk in and make a bunch of changes?” She turned her pinched and doubtful look on him.
“Once they see what I’ve got in store, sure.” He nodded to emphasize his point. Elvie was only in a bad mood because her engagement had recently fizzled out. Not only was it his job to irritate her, it was his job as big brother to take her mind off her troubles. “They sure did like the Culpepper Stakes,” he argued.
Elvie’s grumpy look softened to a considering one. She shrugged, using both hands to smooth her flying hair back and hold it behind her head. “I’ll give you that much. Arch told me the race was fun, that he was glad to have come out here for it. And of course Doc loved it.”
“Because he won.” Sly grinned.
“No, stupid, because he got the girl.” Elvie let go an unladylike snort. “All you guys ever care about is winning.”
“That’s not true.”
“Ha! I know you, Sly. You’re going to argue with me until I admit that you won the argument.”
He put on his most charming smile for her—the smile that closed deals and had made him a fortune like no one else in Culpepper, Wyoming would be able to imagine.
“Not buying it.” Elvie shut him down.
Sly laughed out loud. He was so freakin’ happy that his sister was moving back to town—to help Doc expand his veterinary business—that it was borderline embarrassing. The O’Donnell family had always done better when they’d stuck together. He loved his siblings like some people loved money and power, and he would gladly have given up all of the latter to keep the former.
It would have been great to find a woman who felt the same way. Too bad there were none in his circles in California. He’d be lying if he said that wasn’t part of the reason he’d moved home to Culpepper. But as it turned out, women of any kind were as rare in Culpepper these days as polar bears were in Punta Cana.
He cleared his throat and pushed his thoughts back onto the track they’d been heading down. “I’m pretty sure that once I’ve gotten started, folks will love my plans for this beautiful old town.”
Elvie arched a brow and sent him a sideways look.
“First was the Culpepper Stakes,” he elaborated. “And you’d better believe we’ll be doing that next year and every year. Then there’s the rodeo next week.”
Elvie let out a breath, giving him a break. “I still don’t know how you managed to get the premier rodeo association to hold an event in Culpepper when the town doesn’t even have a proper facility for it.”
“Yet.” Sly raised a finger. “I’m working on that too. And it’s not a full competition, just an exhibition event.”
“Mmm hmm.” Elvie swiped at her hair again to gather up the ends that had escaped.
“But besides the rodeo, I’m bringing in all sorts of businesses. There’s this guy, Bob, who wants to start a restaurant, Bob’s Burger Barn. That’s definitely going to be a hit.”
“Bob’s Burger Barn?” Elvie grinned.
“Sure, why not? And after that, I want to find a way to bring a top-rated chef in to set up a five-star restaurant. Maybe someone who won one of those cooking competition shows.”
“There you go again with the competitions.” This time Elvie laughed.
Sly loved the sound. It reminded him of some of the better days of their childhood. Heaven only knew there’d been enough bad days, what with all the problems their parents had—with each other and with the bottle. Most of the time, it had been the four O’Donnell children against the world. It still was, as far as he was concerned, but in a far more positive way than those dark days.
“Why don’t you do something charitable?” Elvie asked. “I mean, you’ve got me and Doc working together at Doc’s clinic now. Maybe we could all band together and do something to protect wildlife.”
“Sounds like a good idea,” Sly nodded, then rushed on with, “but I’ve got an even better one. A wedding chapel.”
“A what?” Elvie’s voice rose an octave.
“A wedding chapel. You know, like they have in Vegas. Wyoming is a no-wait state too. And everyone around here has taken to getting married at the drop of a hat, without long engagements. Heck, the Culpepper brothers all had marriages that were arranged by a matchmaker.”
“I heard about that. Not sure what to think.” Elvie’s face darkened, and she fell into chewing her lip, an old habit when she was upset.
Sly reached over and squeezed her arm. “Hey, it’s okay, sis. That guy was a jerk. I’m glad you didn’t marry him. Your time will come, though. I just know it. I mean, you’re the best woman in the world. How could it not?”
Elvie’s tight frown turned into a look that was partway between rolling her eyes at Sly’s praise and thanking him for it. If she continued to doubt herself, Sly would have to intervene. Not that she’d like that much.
“And what about you?” Elvie turned the tables on him. “Are you going to marry the first woman you see in town now?”
Sly laughed. “I don’t think marriage is for me.”
He shrugged and used the excuse of keeping his eyes on the road to hide the disappointment he was sure was written on his face at the prospect. “I’ve never met a girl I cared about enough to marry.”
“That’s just sad.”
“Maybe.” It was sad. He’d dated more than his fair share of women, some of them rich and gorgeous, one or two that were a little famous. None of them had given him that feeling of home that he’d always longed for.
“Okay, so why not test the Culpepper waters, now that you’re back?” Elvie pressed him. “There’s got to be some awesome single women here.”
Sly laughed out loud. “Actually, there isn’t.”
“No single women?”
“Let me put it this way.” He shifted in his seat, sending her a quick, teasing look. “The second you step foot in town and put out your shingle, you’re going to have three dozen lonely cowboys and ranchers banging on your door with flowers and chocolates. The men of Culpepper are so desperate for women that they’re willing to import them.”
Elvie crossed her arms. “Well, after Andrew, I’m not ready to date yet. They’ll just have to accept that.” Sly was on the verge of attempting to say something comforting or asking about it—which he had no idea how to do right—when she went on with, “Although the chocolate and flowers wouldn’t be so bad.”
He laughed. “Give it time.”
She sighed and reached up to gather her hair again.
“Anyhow, I have plans to fix the girl situation in Culpepper.” He grinned from ear-to-ear over the plan he’d already started to put in place.
Elvie gave him a wary look. “Sly, what did you do?”
Her scolding reminded him of the ones they would get as kids when they’d crossed the line with their mischief. He put on the same pretend innocent face that he wore back then. “Nothing. I just got to the root of the problem.”
“What’s the root of the problem?”
“Korpanty Enterprises.” He broke into a wolfish smile.
“Oookaaaay.” Elvie drew out the word. “What’s that?”
Sly’s predatory grin grew. “Korpanty Enterprises is the company that held that underwear ad shoot a couple winters ago.”
“The one where all the women in Culpepper got snowed in with a bunch of underwear models for two weeks?” Elvie laughed as she spoke.
“That’s the one.” Sly slowed down and made another turn onto the road that would take them right into the center of town. The spattering of businesses that made up Culpepper proper rolled into view, the relatively new hotel rising up on the other side.
“Korpanty Enterprises is to blame for there not being enough women in Culpepper for all the men who live here,” he went on. “So I’m suing the company.”
“I filed the lawsuit last week.”
“What could you possibly sue them for? Theft of hearts? Breach of promise?”
“Willful negligence,” Sly answered triumphantly. “I’m making the case that Korpanty Enterprises was willfully negligent in failing to bring a suitable production staff for that photo shoot, and for employing locals without full disclosure of the dangers of the job.”
“Uh, the danger of meeting a smoking-hot guy and marrying them?”
Elvie shook her head as they slowed down and headed for Doc’s office. “You know how stupid that sounds, right?”
“Of course it’s stupid.” Sly chuckled. “Just stupid enough to gain some attention from the media.”
Elvie quirked an eyebrow, so he went on.
“It’s a frivolous lawsuit that I have no chance of winning. But it will gain attention—attention for Culpepper. Not only that, I plan to highlight some of the single, desirable men in town who are now without any prospects locally.”
“Because there are a lot of women out there in the world who would give their eye teeth to relocate to a town packed full of hot, single cowboys, that’s why. And they’ll bring their businesses and spending dollars with them. It will be the perfect boost to the economy and morale of Culpepper. It’ll make the guys happy too.”
“So you’re suing someone to get attention.”
Sly’s grin faltered. His little sister sure did have a way of raining on his parade.
“It’s a win-win situation,” he argued, pulling into a parking spot in front of Doc’s building. “I’m not going to win the lawsuit, so I won’t be hurting Korpanty Enterprises, not really. Just helping Culpepper.”
“You’re sure about that?”
“Of course I am. I’m—”
Whatever he was going to say faded. He turned his head, following a flash of sunlight on golden blonde hair as the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen rose from staring inside the hood of a car just outside of the Culpepper Diner. It was like an arrow hitting him in the heart.
* * *
f Rachel Korpanty
never saw another inch of Wyoming for the rest of her life, it would be too soon. And whose idea was it not to have an airport in a town as far off the map as Culpepper anyhow? She’d had to fly from L.A. to Salt Lake City, and then rent a car to drive all the way out into the middle of nowhere.
A rental car that had just decided to give up the ghost for some ungodly reason.
“Why?” she growled at the car’s engine. “What’s wrong with you?”
The question echoed the words she’d asked herself a few too many times. She wasn’t entirely hopeless. She knew about cars, for one. Her father’s driver had taught her everything she knew about engines during long, lonely afternoons when her father and his new family had decided to ignore her. She knew her alternators from her carburetors. So why couldn’t she figure out why the dang rental car had stopped?
“I should have gone for the upgrade,” she sighed, straightening and unhooking the rod that kept the hood open. The hood fell with a satisfying slam, but it didn’t change the fact that she was stuck where she was, alone and up against impossible odds. Because the entire reason she hadn’t gone for the upgrade of the rental car was that she was on the verge of losing everything—her company, her livelihood, and her pride.
Well, she wasn’t going to take it lying down. She straightened and looked around, searching for someone that could help her. There were dozy businesses and dirty trucks as far as she could see. At least one of the trucks might be able to help tow her to a garage. Not that she’d seen any of those on her way into Culpepper. In a small parking lot outside of a vet’s office across the street, a man and a woman were getting out of a convertible, which looked as out of place in the little town as she felt. Not much use to her unless they had recommendations of where she could have her rental repaired, but—
Her thoughts stopped dead and her frustration poofed into a haze as the man getting out of the convertible turned toward her. God Almighty, he was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. Tall with broad shoulders and dark hair, he looked like he might just belong in this rustic town, but for the stylish suit he wore. It fit him like a second skin. Better still, their eyes met across the distance, and he smiled. Rachel could see how straight and white his teeth were, even with a parking lot and a road between them.
“Thank you, Jesus,” she breathed out.
Her pulse shot up as the man said something to the woman—who turned and headed into the vet’s office—then began a slow, confident stride across the parking lot and street toward her. His walk was so smooth and enticing that there should have been an accompanying soundtrack of bow-chicka-wow-wow music. He was like a walking commercial for some high-end cologne.