The Cowboy's Secret Bride

By: Cora Seton


At least, he meant it to be. He couldn’t wait for the day he’d wrapped up all his business in California for good. Sven Andersson, an old friend and key employee, had asked Carl to invest in his startup when Carl sold off his own businesses. Carl had gladly said yes because Sven had come through for him a hundred times during his journey to becoming a millionaire, but investing rapidly turned into consulting, and that had turned into a nearly full-time gig. Despite what he’d promised to Camila about staying put, he’d ended up flying out to California an awful lot these past few years. He figured Sven had helped make him rich. The least he could do was return the favor. At least the company—Andersson Robotics—was doing quite well. Carl hoped the worst of it was in the past. He had to focus on Chance Creek now.

“Not just money,” Virginia said. “The whole shebang. We need to blow all the other contenders out of the water. Which means we need a killer idea. We’ll take the town by storm and leave everyone else in the dirt.”

Carl caught sight of Camila bending over the grill. She tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear…

Virginia kicked his shin.

“Hey!” Carl focused on the old woman again.

“Anyone can donate money to the town. We need to donate something big. Something everyone will remember forever.”

“Like what?” His ten minutes were ticking away. He needed to shake Virginia.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking you for ideas.” Virginia pursed her lips. “Something that goes back to our roots. We Coopers built Chance Creek’s first elementary school in 1898, and every generation since has us to thank for their education. Maybe we’ll build a new high school.”

“The town already has a high school,” Carl pointed out.

“And a sorrier piece of work I’ve never seen. The Turners were responsible for that travesty. Now the roof leaks in a dozen places, the auditorium is much too small and it’s ugly.”

Carl frowned. If Virginia tried to tear down a Turner building and replace it with a Cooper one, the two families would be fighting in the streets before construction even began. At the same time, he remembered a conversation he’d had with Sven recently about how the lack of technology in schools in poorer districts meant that kids were being left behind before they even graduated from high school. That gave him a better idea.

“Chance Creek doesn’t need a new school. It needs a way to train its students for the future. You can fix up the current high school—and offer them a better education at the same time.”

Virginia snorted. “You can gild a trash can, but it won’t smell any better.”

“Hear me out.” Carl warmed to the idea. If he was going to give back to Chance Creek, this was a good way to start. “Schools these days are changing. They’ve got 3-D printers in the computer labs, tablets in classrooms, technology everywhere. The workplace is changing, too. Not all our students are going to be ranchers. The rest need to be ready to work in an automated world—and I doubt Chance Creek High is doing much in that regard. You could do something to fix that. Launch some kind of program that really sets our high school apart from the others.”

“Like what?” Virginia sounded skeptical.

Carl thought about it. “You still need to repair the building. But once that’s done, I’d look for an idea that makes people sit up and take notice.” He thought of Sven again. “Like… robotics. That would get press like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Robotics, huh?” Virginia mused. “I like it. No one will see that coming.” She nodded as if it had been settled. “I’ll need the proposal next week.”

“The proposal?”

“That’s right.”

“Next week?” Carl laughed but faltered when Virginia’s chin lifted in anger. How had his role escalated from pitching possibilities to being in charge of the project? “Virginia, I’m just giving you ideas, remember?”

Virginia smacked her umbrella on the ground. “I thought you needed a ranch.”

“I already found one. Going to put an offer in tomorrow.” He’d like to help bring Chance Creek High into the twenty-first century, but he hadn’t signed on to be Virginia’s lackey.

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