Authors: Paige Cameron
The Billionaire Cowboy Takes a Wife
Samantha Riley's grandfather gives her an ultimatum: marry or lose her inheritance. Her solution? Propose to Jackson Stone, her neighbor and long-time friend. When she has second thoughts, Jackson won't let her cancel their agreement.
While in Houston to choose a ring, Samantha realizes she doesn't know this tantalizing Jackson, especially when a strong desire ignites between the two. In spite of the temptation, she is resolved their marriage will be a business union. Jackson doesn't agree. Strong willed and stubborn, she wants to be in control, but in him she's met her match.
Jackson makes quick arrangements for their wedding. Samantha is torn between her desire and her determination not to fall in love. When her closest friend helps Samantha realize her fears of commitment, Samantha faces the truth. She loves Jackson. But will their love be strong enough to keep them together when her fears return?
THE BILLIONAIRE COWBOY TAKES A WIFE
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IMPRINT: Everlasting Classic
THE BILLIONAIRE COWBOY TAKES A WIFE
Copyright © 2011 by Paige Cameron
E-book ISBN: 1-61034-455-3
First E-book Publication: April 2011
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Copyright © 2011
Jackson Stone sat back and enjoyed watching Samantha Riley pace across his home office. Her T-shirt and tight jeans gave him a good view of her curves and sweet derriere. Sunlight from two large windows sparkled over her golden hair and lit up her sherry-colored eyes. He only half-listened to her angry mumblings regarding her grandfather.
Suddenly, she stopped and leaned over his desk. She directed her glare at him.
leaned further back in his chair.
“Marry me. It will tickle Gramps, and our two ranches will connect as one. Although,” she took a breath and added, “I still plan on managing mine.”
“Sit, slow down, and start over. I must have missed something important in all your rantings.”
Her sherry-colored eyes flashed. “You weren’t listening. Gramps has threatened to disinherit me if I don’t marry and give him a grandchild.” She swung away and began to pace again. “I don’t care about the inheritance, except for the Diamond R Ranch. If my cousin, Floyd, gets it, he’ll sell the ranch. Gramps knows this. He can’t be serious.”
“And yet you believe it enough to propose to me?”
She flopped into the chair across from him. “Well, what else can I do? You and I have been friends since I moved here. We’d do all right as a couple.
“What happened to Mr. Perfect?”
A flush crossed her face. “We weren’t suited.” She glanced toward the windows. “He said I was too independent, outspoken, and a number of other such adjectives.”
His laugh brought a frown his way. “Sorry. But you know he’s right.”
“Maybe,” she admitted reluctantly. “Will you?”
“Will I what?”
“Don’t be dense. Will you marry me?”
studied her face. He remembered when she came to live at the Diamond R Ranch after her parents’ death in an auto accident. The ten-year-old, gangly girl followed her grandfather around constantly and in the process met Jackson, who was fourteen. They became good friends.
He’d taught her to ride and shoot a gun. On hot summer days they went swimming at an old water hole on his ranch. His parents loved her.
Over the years she’d occasionally been an annoyance, teasing him about his dates, and once tried to run a girl off that she didn’t like. Of course, he’d retaliated by dunking her in a mud hole. He smiled in remembrance of her fury.
, you’re not listening to me.” Her voice snapped him back to the present. “Will you help me or not?”
“Helping you with a project at school or on the ranch is a little different than going into a marriage.”
“I know that. Think about it and come to dinner tonight. You can ask Gramps about his ultimatum. He’ll tell you.”
“All right, I don’t mind enjoying one of Maria’s good meals, but I’m not promising anything.”
“Right. Dinner’s at six.” She waved and disappeared as quickly as she’d come.
He went to the window and watched her swing up onto Princess, her favorite mare. She had a good seat. Without looking back, she galloped across the field toward home.
went to his side bar. He reached for a crystal glass, filled it with ice, and poured bourbon in. A little early for a drink, but he needed one. His body throbbed with desire, and his cock was rock hard. He’d fought to not show his emotions.
Never did he expect to have what he wanted most tossed into his lap. He’d hidden his real feelings from her for over ten years. Even now, he could recall the first time a flash of desire for her had coursed through him.
She’d been eighteen and just out of high school heading for college. He’d just returned from his college graduation. He hid the new feelings, thinking to wait until she had time to get her own college degree. He’d kept in touch. He still waited. She’d never seen him as any more than a friend.
She’d shared with him her funny tales of love and love lost, not realizing the sense of relief that washed over him each time her relationships ended. Determined to win her, he’d asked her out on a date. It’d been about seven years ago. She’d laughed.
“We can’t date,
. We like each other too much, and it might ruin our friendship.”
Resigning himself to finding someone else, he’d dated a number of beautiful, talented women, but none had Samantha’s fire, none touched him inside.
He took a long swallow of bourbon. The liquid burned his throat and warmed his belly. Did he dare take her as his wife? He certainly wouldn’t agree to a platonic relationship. The men she’d dated and tossed aside were right. She was all the things she mentioned—independent, headstrong, with too much sass in her talk. He smiled and savored another swallow of his drink. But unlike them, he wasn’t afraid of the challenge she represented, and her timing was perfect. He had almost all the arrangements made to turn over his conglomerate of businesses to someone else. He just hadn’t made the final decision of who he’d choose, and no one, not even Samantha, could know his plans yet.
He glanced at his clock. There was a lot of work to get done before dinner. He looked forward to the challenges he’d meet tonight. There were no doubts in his mind that she’d have second thoughts. He’d have to stay one step ahead of her.
* * * *
Samantha pulled up at the barn and dismounted, handing her reins to one of the ranch hands.
“Your grandpa said to tell you he wants to see you in his study,” the man said.
She nodded and strode across the dusty ground toward the house. The enormity of what she’d done hadn’t hit her until she was riding home. She’d actually asked
to marry her. Last night’s argument and her lack of sleep must have knocked her senseless.
was her best male friend, but she’d not thought of him in a romantic way since she was sixteen and had a secret crush on him. Why she hadn’t pursued a relationship, she wasn’t sure.
He was handsome and apparently a successful businessman. She’d never really asked much about his work outside of his ranch. She was certain women found him attractive. He’d had a number of girlfriends in high school. But, she’d always sensed strength in him that wouldn’t bend or waiver, and while that might be a good characteristic in a friend, she wasn’t sure she wanted it in a husband.
She admitted she was independent, sassy, and stubborn. She didn’t plan to change. No, she had made a mistake. A marriage between them could never work. Two strong-willed people like Jackson and her would butt heads. A marriage between them would be a disaster.
The problem was how to take her offer back. If Gramps got wind of it, he’d hold her to her words.
Stepping onto the wide porch, she took off her hat. The temperature dropped several degrees in the shade. The old homestead had been built a hundred years ago, and she loved the history and feeling of love captured inside the walls. Here she felt safe and loved.
She let the screen door slam behind her. “I’m home, Gramps.”
A tall, lean, white-haired man stepped into the hall. “I know when the door slams, it’s you,” he grumbled.
“Grumble, grumble, don’t you love me anymore, Gramps?” Her smile belied her question.
“Don’t need to ask. You know the answer. Doesn’t mean I’m recalling what I said last night. It’s time a man took control of you and this ranch. I’m getting too old, and I want a great grandson or granddaughter to bounce on my knee before I die.”
“Did the doctor tell you your end is near?” she teased, knowing he might be old, but Gramps was a long way from spending his time in a rocker.
“Don’t get smart. You’ve had plenty of time to find a man on your own. I’ve been patient, and now I’m taking over.”
Samantha strolled toward the kitchen door. “Is Maria here yet?”
“Course she is. You’re just trying to change the subject. It’s fine with me. You have six weeks to show me an engagement ring before I change my will.” With those words, he strode out the door and headed to his car.
Opening the kitchen door, she saw Maria rolling out a pie crust. “Smells good in here, Maria. What’s for dinner?”
Maria turned toward her. “It’s not lunch yet. Why are you interested in dinner?”
“We’re having company.
will be joining us.”
Maria grinned. “He’s not company, more like family. I’m baking an apple pie. That’s his favorite. I’ll set an extra plate.”
“Thanks.” Samantha poured herself a cup of coffee and grabbed a biscuit from a platter. “If anyone’s looking for me, I’ve gone for a walk.”
“Hiding from your grandfather won’t solve your problems.”
“Do you know what he wants me to do?”
Maria nodded. “I didn’t eavesdrop. Anyone inside the house couldn’t avoid hearing yesterday’s discussion.”
“He can’t be serious,” Samantha repeated for at least the tenth time.
“He is, and I think he’s right.”
Samantha’s mouth dropped open. “How can you agree with his ridiculous demand?”
“He wants what’s best for you.”
“Yeah,” Samantha snorted and went out the side door. A line of trees created a shady area behind the house, and she walked to the most distant one and sat with her back against the rough bark.
Not since she’d first come to live with her grandparents had she felt so unsettled. Three years ago her grandmother died. After a year of private grieving, Gramps turned his attention back to work, and now her.
Samantha pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and speed dialed her best girlfriend, Janice. The phone rang four times before the familiar answering machine picked up. Samantha snapped her phone shut and stared across the open fields at the cattle and horses gazing in nearby pastures.
She could not lose the ranch. The ranch had been the one constant in her life. She had lost too much of her family to death. She couldn’t control the circumstances that took them from her. But, the land and the work she’d been sure she’d have forever. She studied agriculture, and after getting her degree, she’d come home expecting to stay. In her mind whoever married her would want to live on the ranch and help her.
Well, maybe her dreams had been a little unrealistic. That’s why she’d thought of
this morning. He had other businesses, but since his parents sold him the ranch, retired, and went traveling,
had come home more often. Married, she’d be a help by being here all the time and taking care of both places.
He’ll want a real marriage.
The thought of Jackson and her in bed sent heat rushing through her veins. His six-foot-three-inch frame was lean and hard. Add golden brown hair, eyes the color of the summer sky, a dimple in his left cheek, and a girl could melt into a puddle at his feet. He exuded raw masculinity. Before today, she’d never allowed herself to consider him in a romantic way. She wasn’t sure why.
She hated to admit it, but he was stronger than her, and not just physically. Her demands and arguments had always rolled off his broad shoulders. She’d been the one to apologize because she didn’t want to lose his friendship. Being married to him, she might lose herself. It was too much of a risk.