Brothers of Cooper Ranch

By: Leslie North

Regrettably, Sawyer had other game he was after tonight. He waited until he saw the curious flash of Bella's eyes on him; she wondered about his delay in approaching her, but as always, refused to break away from what she was doing and pursue him herself.

Sawyer allowed himself one last obvious visual drink of Bella, before he turned to stalk another Whitmore across the room.

This specimen was far less lovely. Tristan Whitmore was Bella's esteemed father, and the captain at the helm of Whitmore Shipping. The CEO was a tall man, though not as tall as Sawyer, and sturdy as the marble pillar he casually leaned against. He straightened when he noticed Sawyer approaching, the bored, inebriated glaze that had come over his eyes appearing to vanish. Tristan Whitmore's face was square, grim, and ugly, but commandingly, fascinatingly so. It was a lot like his personality, Sawyer reflected, as he now stepped directly into the path of said personality.

"Great show tonight," he commented as he slipped in beside Mr. Whitmore. "I feel the hard reality of the west has really been captured by the show's selections."

"Coming from a man like you, I'd say that's the best review one of our fine Boston artists can hope for," Mr. Whitmore returned. Sawyer inclined his head. "How are you, Sawyer? You look good."

"You look the same, sir." He aimed a suggestive glance at what he calculated to be the man's fourth glass of wine.

"Business could be better," Whitmore grunted. Sawyer knew exactly what he alluded to. Whitmore Shipping had recently launched a viral campaign that had gone down in flames when an internet sleuth very embarrassingly called out their covert attempts to appeal to a younger demographic. Now the younger demographic was tearing them a new one across every available social media platform.

"Your press could be better, you mean," Sawyer corrected politely. Whitmore had offered him as good a segue as any, and he took it now. He knew the other man didn't like to beat around the bush. "Sir, I can't help but feel that, given the evening's decorations, now is as fine a time as any to approach you with my own particular solution to your problem." He doubled down now on his Montana twang, knowing that in this instance it might actually improve his chances of being persuasive. "I'm telling you that Farm2U—my new take on the old farm-to-table premise—is exactly the type of project your company needs to wed itself to right now."

"Remind me what you're talking about, boy," Mr. Whitmore said as he sipped his wine. His eyes were trained on a picture of horses surging through a flooding canyon with the waves at their fetlocks.

Sawyer didn't let the other man's drunken distraction deter him. "Think of it: a virtual farmers market that's only a mouse-click away for any city slicker, on either coast. They fill up their shopping cart, check out, and the food is delivered farm-fresh to their door with a two-day shipping time."

"Two days?" Mr. Whitmore echoed.

Sawyer nodded. "That's where Whitmore Shipping comes in. I've got access to the farmers and their food. They're ready to go ahead with it, and even Marketspace is willing to come onboard…"

"Marketspace?" Mr. Whitmore repeated. His focus seemed to sharpen a bit at the namedrop, as well it should. Marketspace had risen up in the past ten years to become one of the biggest e-commerce companies in the world.

Sawyer nodded. "But we need the infrastructure in place to hit that delivery window. You're the best shipping company in the world, sir, but if I may be honest, you're lacking a niche project like this one. Coming onboard with us is the first significant step toward helping the world forget your company's recent marketing gaffe. If you want to reach the younger demographic, you can't market to them against their will. Go the way of culture: food culture. Farm-fresh culture."

Mr. Whitmore laughed lustily in the way that only old money could. "Sawyer, my boy, you've taken on way too much! You're promising more than you alone are capable of delivering. Trust me, I know: delivering is my business. Since we're being honest, I'm going to tell you you're a fool to take on such a risk."

Sawyer bristled. "Actually, I've already spoken to Bella about—"

"Ha! Bella." Mr. Whitmore ejected the name of his daughter as if it was something he needed to clear out of his throat. "Bella is the same way. She spends all her time preparing to do a job I'd never ask a woman to do."

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