Brothers of Cooper Ranch

By: Leslie North

"Why am I here, Sawyer?" Maybe steering clear of their surprise marriage was a better way to extract answers from him. Bella drew her knees up and banded her arms around them.

Sawyer sighed again and rose. "Here. Lie back down. Makes me nervous that you were on your feet at all to begin with."

"I'll lie down if you tell me why we came to Montana together," Bella said, even as she slipped obediently beneath the covers he held aloft for her.

Sawyer chuckled. "Always in a mood to negotiate." He gazed at her for a long moment. Bella sat upright against the pillows and crossed her arms. His eyes flickered down for a split second before he appeared to catch himself, and she realized that in trying to show her defiance, she had unintentionally pushed her breasts together. The slinky nightgown presented them well enough already with her assistance. "In part, we came here to pursue a business opportunity."

Bella nodded. "That makes sense. I checked my text messages earlier—yes, I know the doctor advised against it—but my friend Shannon's been trying to confirm a meeting with Marketspace tomorrow. I told her yes. I didn't know what else to do…when she mentioned it was something all three of us had been looking forward to for weeks…" She sat up straighter when she noticed Sawyer's dismayed expression. "Sawyer, what is this meeting about?"

"You're half-owner of Farm2U," he said finally. "The company I started. It'll sink without your help, Bella. All the farmers I've convinced to come onboard will go into debt for the season if we don't pull off this meeting tomorrow."

"Holy shit," Bella muttered as she sank back into the bed. "I think I really do need to lie down after all."



This meeting was a total disaster, and it hadn't even started yet.

Sawyer sat beside Bella, jogging his leg and staring expectantly at the laptop screen in front of them. The office at the farmhouse was enormous, with an immense polished oak conference table circled by thirteen black leather chairs. They sat together at the head of the table—not sharing the same chair, of course—with two untouched mugs of coffee steaming beside them.

"So…" Bella began hesitantly. "They'll call us?" She had asked the question at least three times already.

"Yes." Sawyer shot a glance at the clock overhanging the office doorway, then checked his watch for good measure. They still had five minutes.

Bella might mistake his obvious jitters for anxiety about their important meeting, but in all honesty, they were a combination of a lot of things. Sawyer had already helped himself to two cups of coffee, for one—like a good cowboy, he rose with the sun, but he still required a little bit of early-morning stimulation to get him going. What Bella didn't know was that he had paced outside her door after the second cup, until the telltale sounds of a body rousing from within had sent him skulking back downstairs like a guilty stalker rather than a perfectly legitimate husband.

Now, Bella watched him engage the point of his pen, in and out, by bouncing it on the surface of the table.

"Are you sure Shannon doesn't know about your accident?" he asked her, just to get the attention off himself for a minute.

"Yes," Bella confirmed. "Why? Is there something I should know?"

"You keep trying to mine me for information," Sawyer noticed with a small smile, his first of the morning. "It isn't going to work. You're just exhausting yourself."

"What I find most exhausting is all the secrets being kept around here!" Bella collapsed back into her chair with a sigh. "How am I supposed to remember what it is I'm supposed to remember if nobody gives me a clue about where to start?”

"Sorry, Bells. Doctor's orders."

"'Bells'?" she repeated uncertainly. Her blue eyes hunted his face, appealing to him without words…and just for a moment, Sawyer slipped. Maybe Bella was right. What harm could there be in trying to jog her memory?

"Bells," he confirmed in a quiet voice. "It's my nickname for you." Then, against his better judgment—but fully listening to the yearning of his heart—Sawyer reached for her knee beneath the table and cupped it reassuringly in his palm.

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