Authors: Judy Christenberry
Judy Christenberry has been writing romances for fifteen years because she loves happy endings as much as her readers do. A former French teacher, Judy now devotes herself to writing full-time. She hopes readers have as much fun reading her stories as she does writing them. She spends her spare time reading, watching her favorite sports teams and keeping track of her two daughters. Judy’s a native Texan, but now lives in Arizona.
HARLEQUIN AMERICAN ROMANCE
579—WHO’S THE DADDY?
612—WANTED: CHRISTMAS MOMMY
626—DADDY ON DEMAND
701—IN PAPA BEAR’S BED
726—A COWBOY AT HEART
735—MY DADDY THE DUKE
744—COWBOY COME HOME
773—ONE HOT DADDY-TO-BE?
777—SURPRISE—YOU’RE A DADDY!
785—THE LAST STUBBORN COWBOY
817—THE GREAT TEXAS WEDDING BARGAIN
842—THE $10,000,000 TEXAS WEDDING
867—RENT A MILLIONAIRE GROOM
878—STRUCK BY THE TEXAS MATCHMAKERS
901—TRIPLET SECRET BABIES
Dr. Jonathan Wilson opened the door of Randall Accounting, a grimace on his face. Two days in town and he already had to deal with a number cruncher. Not his favorite thing.
But Dr. Jacoby had insisted.
He’d expected life to be different here. After all, Rawhide, Wyoming, was a lot smaller than Chicago. He supposed he’d been unrealistic. Everything always seemed to come down to numbers, or maybe he should say dollars, even in this small town. After years of med school, he should know that.
“May I help you?”
The cool, educated voice snapped him out of his thoughts. Sitting in the large reception area, a petite blonde greeted him.
He guessed something else was the same as in Chicago. Beautiful women hovering near money. He’d bet this woman wouldn’t be able to tell a debit from a credit. She was there to find out who had money and how she could get some.
“Russ Randall, please,” he said briskly. He’d
learned his lesson from his poor father. Avoid blond leeches if at all possible.
Her delicate eyebrows lifted slightly, as if she heard disdain in his voice. Not a way to make friends in this small town.
“I’m sorry, he’s not in right now. May I take a message?”
Jon was surprised that Randall had such professional help in a small town. She sounded almost as businesslike as he. “When do you expect him back?”
“I’m not sure. Could you tell me the nature of your business?”
She really was quite beautiful, but then his mother had been beautiful, too. Beautiful, greedy and self-centered.
He tried to find a pleasant way to refuse to answer. He didn’t want to make her mad. Finally he said, “It’s private.”
Any friendliness he’d imagined he’d seen disappeared. Her face expressionless, she said, “Russ is at lunch. He’ll return in about an hour. You may wait, or I’ll ask him to call you.” Without waiting for an answer, she picked up a pen and turned to the papers on her desk.
He stood there, feeling the coldness of her manner. He pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. “Is there someone who could show me the apartment he has for rent? It had this same address.”
Her head came up and she stared at him. “Who sent you here?”
“Why? Is the apartment a secret?”
“Dr. Wilson, we’re normally a little more open in Rawhide. You might want to make a note of that.” She opened her desk drawer and pulled out some keys. “This way.”
“How did you know who I am?”
“Certainly not from your friendly greeting.”
She’d circled him and was going out the front door. He decided he’d better follow her. He could determine her source of information later.
The accounting office appeared to occupy half the ground floor of the small building. The other half was a newspaper office. According to the sign painted on the window, its name was the
Oh, yeah, that would probably be the same as the
with hard-hitting news and in-depth articles about scientific discoveries.
He sighed but kept going, following in the blonde’s wake, unconsciously noting her trim behind in nicely tailored slacks.
At the edge of the building, she turned a sharp left and began climbing a stairway that ran up the side of the building.
He peeked over the railing as he climbed and saw what looked like a parking lot behind the building. “Is there parking back there?”
Okay. She was mad at him. Good thing she wasn’t going to be his landlord. She’d never let him move in in the first place.
She reached the landing and then turned left again, going to the front of the building. She paused in front
of two doors and unlocked the door on the right. She walked inside and folded her arms over her nicely formed chest. Not that he noticed.
“The apartment has two bedrooms and two baths, a full kitchen, including a microwave, refrigerator and dishwasher. The floors are hardwood in here, but the bedrooms are carpeted. There’s no air-conditioning, but it has gas heat, and the fireplace is gas.”
She remained in the center of the room, looking as unfriendly as ever.
“Thank you. May I look around?”
She sighed. “Of course. I’m returning to our office. Please lock the door when you leave.” Then she walked out.
And he still didn’t know who she was or how she knew his name.
several words under her breath in reference to the man she’d left upstairs. Her mother, Anna, had stopped by the office yesterday, bragging about the new doctor in town. According to Anna, the man was brilliant, handsome and single.
She’d have to take her mother’s word on two out of three of those traits. Anna worked part-time as a nurse and midwife in the area, so presumably she’d know.
He was handsome, all right. But Tori knew he was a snob and unfriendly. He’d thought he was dealing with a receptionist, and he was much too important
to even introduce himself. And he was going to be her neighbor?
She reached the office and sat down at her desk, trying to fix her mind on the work at hand. She had a lot to do. Business was good. After she’d gotten her accounting degree and the C.P.A. designation, she’d studied for her broker’s license, too. Their offices, hers and Russ’s, offered full financial services.
She’d bought in as Russ’s partner after Bill Johnson had died. He’d had the original practice and Russ had become his partner. When Bill passed away, Russ had bought the office building and the accounting business from his widow. That big an investment had made things difficult. He’d been pleased when Tori had expressed an interest in investing with him.
So, she decided, blowing out a long breath, she should’ve told the doctor who she was. Why had she reacted as coldly as she had? That wasn’t the way she was.
The office door opened and she looked up, expecting the doctor to have returned. Instead, she greeted her uncle, Griff Randall.
“Hi, Uncle Griff.”
“Hey, Tori. I was in town and thought I’d stop by to see if you’d read the Kiplinger letter yet. They just recommended the stock we bought last week. That endorsement should make the stock go up.”
“Yes, I did this morning.” She grinned. “Our timing was perfect.”
“I think we should hold on to it for a while. Its profit-to-earning ratio is good.”
“Very,” she agreed. “Let me show you something if you have time. I’ve been looking at another stock.” She turned to her computer screen and quickly brought up some research she’d done.
Griffin had been a broker in Chicago before he came to Rawhide. His mother had been her father’s aunt, but she’d left Rawhide as a pregnant teenager and no one had heard of her again. In the end, she’d asked her son to bury her on the Randall ranch.
When Tori had expressed an interest in the stock market as a teenager, her father had suggested she talk to her uncle Griff, who now lived on a neighboring ranch. He’d been her mentor ever since.
Griff circled the desk and was leaning over Tori’s shoulder to see the information she’d found when the door opened again and the doctor returned.
Tori stiffened and said, “Yes? Do you have any questions?”
“Yes, several. But don’t let me interrupt.”
Even though she was irritated with him, Tori couldn’t bring herself to be rude. Especially not in front of Uncle Griff. “Dr. Wilson, this is my uncle, Griffin Randall. Uncle Griff, this is the new doctor in town. Dr. Jonathan Wilson.”
Griff reached out his hand and the doctor shook it. “Glad to meet you. I hear you’re from Chicago.”
The doctor appeared surprised that Griff knew that information and Tori shook her head. He had a lot to learn about small towns.
“Yes, I am.”
“Me, too. Born and raised there.”
“So you’re visiting?”
“No. I live here now. Once Rawhide gets its claws into you, you never leave.”
The handsome man raised his eyebrows. “I will. I’m returning to Chicago in four years. I’m required to stay that long.”
Both Tori and Griff were surprised. At least, Tori guessed at Griff’s reaction when he asked the next question.
“Why four years?”
“It’s a government program. They offer interest-free loans to med students if they’ll work four years in rural areas after graduation.”
“And then you’ll just abandon the town?” Tori asked, her voice rising in horror. Doc Jacoby, the current doctor, had been in Rawhide for almost forty years. He wouldn’t be retiring now except that he was old and tired. He said he wanted to spend his sunset years fishing and visiting with friends.
“I’m sure the government will find someone else to do four years,” the doctor said, showing no concern for Tori’s reaction.
There was an uncomfortable silence. Then Griffin said, “Maybe you’ll change your mind.”
The man gave a brief smile, not the least bit warm, and said nothing.
“Do you want to leave a message for Russ?” Tori asked abruptly.
He looked at his watch. “I think I’ll get some lunch and come back. According to what you said earlier, he should be here in about half an hour, right?”
“Approximately.” Russ usually had lunch with Abby, his wife, at the elementary school. He’d be back when Abby’s afternoon class started, but Tori didn’t feel like sharing any personal information with the new doctor.
“All right. Thanks.” The doctor started turning toward the door when Griff stuck out his hand.
“Glad to meet you, Dr. Wilson. Hopefully my family won’t be in too frequently.”
“Of course, glad to meet you, Mr. Randall. Anytime I can be of service.” Then he nodded to Tori and left the office.
“As long as it’s within four years,” she said, mocking the man’s words. “And probably not unless it’s convenient! I can’t believe that jerk is going to replace Doc!”
Just as she finished her complaint, the door opened again and the doctor reappeared. “I forgot to ask. Is the other door another apartment?”
Her cheeks flushed, she nodded.
“Is it rented?”
“Yes,” she snapped.
“Will I have nice neighbors?” he asked.
She couldn’t believe his nerve. He wouldn’t be a nice neighbor. How dare he expect better than he’d give?
Griff gave her a quizzical look. Then he answered the doctor’s question. “You bet. Your neighbor is the cream of the crop.”
When they were alone again, Griff said, “I gather
you didn’t bother to inform him that you live in the other apartment.”
“No. It wasn’t any of his business. He hasn’t rented the apartment yet.” She sighed, then said, “I didn’t mean to be rude. But he wouldn’t even introduce himself. How’s he going to replace sweet old Doc?”
“Doc deserves his retirement.”
“I know, but…you’re right. Hopefully, I won’t get sick in the next four years!”
“I’ll vote for that. Say, can you print those pages so I can take them home and look them over? I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Sure.” As the pages were being printed, Russ came in. After greetings all around, Tori gave Griffin the pages and he said goodbye.
“Anything happen while I was gone?” Russ said as he shrugged out of his jacket.
“Yes. Our lovely new doctor came to see you.”
“Oh? Well, that’s not a surprise. Doc asked me to hold the apartment for him.”
“Well, I think you should rent it to the first drunken cowboy you can find!”
Russ froze, staring at his cousin in astonishment. “Why?”
“Because he’s awful! Cold and stiff. Rude. And he’s leaving in four years, like the people don’t matter!”
“I know. Doc told me. But he’s hoping he’ll decide to stay. Doc figures he will get him married before the time comes for him to go.”
“Fine! Just make sure my name’s not on the potential-wife list!”
“Wow, he really ticked you off, didn’t he?”
“You’d better believe it. I wouldn’t—”
The door opened again. She was grateful she’d stopped when she did. She didn’t like the man, but there was no point in announcing that to him.
“Mr. Randall?” the doctor said, as he closed the door behind him before extending his hand.
“Yes, make it Russ. You’ll soon find there are a lot of Randalls in this neck of the woods,” Russ told him warmly.
Tori kept her gaze down, fighting the urge to tell him not to waste any charm on this jerk.
“Thanks, Russ,” the man replied, his voice as friendly as Russ’s.
Tori stared in surprise. Had he had a personality change in half an hour?
“Your receptionist showed me the apartment and I definitely want it. It’s very nice.”
“Good. I’m glad you liked it. But Tori—” Russ began.
The doctor interrupted. “Could we talk in your office?”
“Sure. This way.” Russ gave Tori an apologetic look over his shoulder.
NCE THE DOOR
to the office was closed, Russ offered his guest the chair in front of his desk. “Please, sit down.”
Jon did so, relaxing. He liked this man. He felt
comfortable with him, which was more than he could say about the sexy blonde in the front office.
“Before we go any further,” Russ said, still smiling, “I think I should tell you that Tori is my cousin.”
Jon pursed his lips, glad Russ had made his relationship to the blonde clear. Not that Jon had intended to insult the woman, but he had considered complaining about her behavior. For Russ’s sake. He probably thought the woman was perfect.
Russ wasn’t finished. “And an equal partner in the firm.”
“Has her C.P.A. and her broker’s license.”
Jon stared at him, trying to take in that information. And Dr. Jacoby thought these people should do his bookkeeping for him? He thought he’d better find someone else. “Well, that’s wonderful. I definitely want the apartment. Can we discuss terms?”
Jon appreciated the way the man did business. He told him what he charged for rent, explained all the details and then waited.
“Sold! When can I move in? I’m staying with Dr. Jacoby right now, and I’d like to get settled in.” As he asked that question, he drew out the new checkbook he’d gotten from the bank that morning and began writing a check for the deposit and the first month’s rent.