The Cowboy's Secret Bride

By: Cora Seton

Camila glanced at Maya. Was it? The Turners were good people, worked hard, went to church sometimes, participated in town events, but as far as making a contribution to civic society… didn’t that require something more?

Jed must have sensed her skepticism. “We built the high school,” he exclaimed.

“Back in 1953,” Maya returned. “What have we donated since then?”

“How many high schools does one family have to build?” Jed answered huffily.

“It might be a case of ‘What have you done for me lately,’” Fila put in.

Camila was grateful to her friend for saying so. Jed was better behaved toward outsiders than he was to Turners—real or honorary.

“Bah!” he waved a dismissive hand. “I served on the town council for forty years. I’ve done my bit. I’m a shoe-in for the prize.”

“If you say so,” Camila said slowly. She didn’t like any of this. It was a set up for trouble.

Jed turned on his heel and strode off, mumbling under his breath.

“Hi, ladies. How’s it going?” said Maya’s sister, Stella, slipping into the booth from the back. “Sure looks busy.” Twenty-seven years old with dark curls and bright hazel eyes, she scanned the customers waiting for their turn.

“We’ve had a lineup for most of the day,” Camila told her.

“Uncle Jed’s on a tear,” Stella said to Maya. “I’m here to hide for a minute.”

“About the Founder’s Prize? He’ll be pissed if someone else gets that land,” Maya said. “He’s pretty sure he deserves it just for being born.”

“You really think the Coopers will try for it?” Camila asked.

“Jed’s underestimating Virginia Cooper if he thinks they won’t,” Stella said. “But I don’t know what we can do about it, either. It’s not like we have any spare cash to donate another school.” She bit her lip, caught Camila watching her and smiled. “Doesn’t matter. The Coopers are worse off than we are. Still, the next six months might get messy. This might be the right time to move out—not that I want you to go,” she hastened to assure Camila. “I’ve loved having you around the place, but didn’t you say you had an appointment with Megan Lawrence about buying a house? How did that work out?”

“Not so well, but I’m going to view a place tomorrow.” It wasn’t technically a lie, even if she was going to view it with Carl rather than Megan. She’d gotten in touch with the realtor mostly to save face, thinking Carl had lost interest in her. She’d thought maybe if she bought her own little house in town she could hold her head up even if Carl fell for someone else.

Now she didn’t have to worry about any of that.

She caught Fila’s eye. “I have a really good feeling about this one.”

“Carl, would you give me a ride? I forgot something.”

Carl was grateful when Olivia Cooper tugged on his sleeve an hour later. It was only six-thirty. Two hours to go before the fireworks finale to the fair, too long to wait for his first real date with Camila. He’d perused the vendor booths, ridden a couple of the carnival rides, and was just contemplating going back for another round of nachos when Olivia appeared. Blonde and full of energy, equal parts common sense and wildness, she was always a good distraction.

“Where’s your truck?”

“I rode in with Lance, but he’s determined to win some dumb prize at one of the game booths. He keeps plunking down change and chucking baseballs at pyramids of bottles. Waste of time and money if you ask me. So how about it? Can you drive me?”

“Sure thing.” Thorn Hill was only twenty minutes away. He’d be back plenty early enough to meet Camila if they left now. Chauffeuring Olivia around would kill time.

He followed her through the crowds to the field the town had turned into a parking lot and located his deep blue Chevy Silverado in the sea of vehicles just as his phone buzzed in his pocket.

“Sven. What’s up?” he asked when he took the call. Not another problem, he prayed. He didn’t have time to fly to California right now.

“You won’t believe it.” Sven’s excited tone stopped Carl in his tracks.

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