The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire(5)

By: Cora Seton

Rob nodded and put an arm around his wife’s waist. “Don’t you worry about a thing. We’ve got your back, Bella.”

“The show’s coordinator is coming in twenty minutes,” Hannah said. “She’ll ask you a lot of questions, go over the paperwork and you’ll have to sign a bunch of forms. Your flight to Canada leaves tonight at seven.”

“Tonight?” Bella squeaked. This was all happening way too fast. “I haven’t even agreed I’ll do the show! And why Canada?”

Hannah bent forward and gripped her face in her hands. “Five million dollars, Bella. Focus on the five million dollars. All you have to do is win a couple of contests. It’s in Canada because it’s located in Jasper National Park—you know they use a new exotic location for each show. Just be grateful you don’t have to fly to Australia.”

“Although Australia would be pretty cool,” Morgan put in. “But Jasper’s great, too. I’ve been there a bunch of times.”

Fine, she was grateful. Not. She couldn’t believe Hannah and Morgan were ganging up on her, and just because Morgan—a Canadian by birth—vacationed in Jasper, didn’t mean it would be any fun at all to film a reality television show there. In fact, it sounded downright cold. “What if I lose?”

“Uh… you’ll have to…” Hannah held the clipboard in front of her face and mumbled something unintelligible.

“I’ll have to what?” Bella demanded.

Hannah’s face grew red again. “I already agreed to that part—there’s no way to change it now,” she said, lowering the clipboard slowly. “If you lose, you have to marry the billionaire for a year.”

* * * * *

Evan Mortimer picked up his cell phone on the first ring. “Speak to me.” He sat at an oversized mahogany desk in the plush headquarters of Mortimer Innovations and he’d been waiting for this call from his longtime personal assistant, Amanda Hollister. Amanda was the one person he could count on—he knew this because he paid her ten times her worth, footed the bill for all six of her grandchildren to attend private universities and matched her contributions every year to her rather hefty pension plan. Every expense was worth it. He had to have an ally he could trust implicitly in this cutthroat industry. He’d learned the hard way that people like Amanda were few and far between.

“I still can’t believe you’re doing this crazy show,” she said.

“We’ve been over all of that. What’s the dirt on this Bella woman?”

“She’s a cowgirl,” Amanda said flatly. “Wait until you see her photograph—hat and everything.”

A cowgirl? Evan stifled a chuckle. “What else?”

“She’s thirty-one, lives in Chance Creek, Montana, and seems like a nice girl,” Amanda said, making the adjective sound like a dirty word. “Smart—graduated top of her class in Chance Creek Senior High. Did well in veterinary school, too. Attended Montana State University for undergrad, Colorado State University for the vet program. Came back home to Chance Creek to start her own clinic. Specializes in house pets.”

“House pets? You said she lives in Montana—shouldn’t she be handling livestock? I bet she’d make more money.”

“You’d bet right,” Amanda said. “Here’s where it gets interesting. Bella has an older brother, Craig. Five years older. Looks like big brother sewed up the livestock veterinary business and left Bella to take care of the cats and dogs.”

“You’d think Montana might require more than one livestock vet.” Evan ran a hand through his thick, dark hair and gazed out the window at downtown San Jose. If he lived on the east coast, he’d be high over some city in a penthouse office, but no one built skyscrapers in earthquake country. Still, this was home—always had been. San Jose suited him. Some of the best minds in the world toiled away just minutes from his office, and he was positioned to capitalize off the fruit of their mental labor. Mortimer Innovations bought up patents from aspiring scientists and inventors and held on to them until the market suited his exact needs—only then did he resell the patents; right at the point he could make the most money off of the companies dying to get their hands on them. The millions he made each year went to funding his own innovative projects. Evan had a dream that one day instead of factories that ate up resources and produced waste and products that ended up in landfills, he would build closed systems that produced useful objects whose components could be reused again and again.

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