Authors: Kari Lee Harmon
Kari Lee Harmon
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for you use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is available in print and at Amazon.com and many other online booksellers.
For more information, please direct your correspondence to:
The Story Vault
c/o Marketing Department
8326 Moyer Carriage
P.O. Box 11826
Cicero, NY 13039-8691
DESTINY WEARS SPURS
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2011 by Kari Lee Harmon
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
This book is dedicated to my best friend, Barbara Witek. She’s been my critique partner and has been a dear friend since 1994. This is the book that started it all! Thanks so much for cheering me on every step of the way. I couldn’t do this without you, and I’m cheering for you as well. You are one of the coolest women I know, and an amazingly talented author. I’m so lucky to have you in my life.
First and foremost I want to thank my amazing husband, Brian, and my children Brandon, Josh, Matt and Emily. As always, thanks for making this ride so much fun and supporting me along the way.
Second, I want to thank my fabulous agent, Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency. This is the book you signed me on. I can’t thank you enough for sticking with me and believing in me when I doubted myself. No agent out there works harder than you do. And a special thanks to Kelly Ferrara for her awesome cover designs and marketing skills. As always, you rock.
Next, I want to thank my special peeps, the original BC Babes: Barbie Jo Mahoney, Danielle LaBue, and Liz Lipperman. Best conference buddies ever
Last but never least I want to thank my extended family. Thanks to my parents, Chet and Marion Harmon, and my in-laws, Norm and Joan Townsend, for always being there for me. Thanks to the Russos, the Harmons, and the rest of the Townsends as well.
“What am I, a disaster magnet?” Monica Hammond asked herself, stumbling down the uneven walkway from her cabin toward the main lodge. The scent of pine hung heavy on the evening air. Pausing to rest her sore feet, she glanced up and her lips parted. The Colorado moon and stars shone brighter than any New York sky she’d ever seen, making her long for her sketchpad. But she wasn’t here to sketch the breathtaking scenery.
She was on a mission.
A mission to save her father’s company, even if the stubborn man didn’t believe Hammond’s Advertising Agency was in danger.
She focused on the gravel path and continued to wobble in torturous shoes that had to be made by a man. Probably the same man who’d lost her luggage. “I mean, how hard is it to load someone’s bag onto a plane? Check the tag, and then put it in the compartment. Simple, right?” She tripped over a tree root popping up out of the ground but regained her balance.
“Apparently not.” Cursing, she rubbed her ankle and then resumed teetering along, heels sinking into the gravel. Oh, what she wouldn’t do to be back in New York, dressed in normal clothes. And what a day it had been.
The most important business trip of her life, and then a would-be multi-tasker had attempted to sip coffee and snag his suitcase off the conveyor belt as she stood nearby. Not a great combination. Her favorite Italian silk pantsuit had paid the ultimate price.
Death by espresso.
As the other passengers grabbed their bags, she realized hers was MIA. She’d packed a carry-on, but not another suit. Not that she’d need a suit to work on this cattle ranch, but she’d wanted to wear one when she met her new potential client, Rafferty. Okay, her
client, providing her ad campaign proposal won him over and he decided to use their agency, but who was counting?
She came to a stop outside the rustic lodge, feeling completely out of her element, and the dreaded doubts crept in. Could she pull off this campaign? She made a quick adjustment to try to relieve the wedgie she had, and this time she wasn’t referring to her shoes. Tight clothes, heavy makeup, and big hair were not her idea of fashion, but they were perfect to win the Triple R’s “Most Outrageous Costume” contest.
At first, she’d been leery when her father’s golden boy protégé, Wendell, had mentioned the contest. He’d wished her luck, indicating he wanted to put aside the hard feelings between them. Like that would ever happen after what he’d done. She’d never trust him again. So she’d stopped at a local shop, and the woman behind the counter had confirmed there was indeed a contest and pointed Monica toward a pair of electric-blue stretch Capris, a lime-green crop top, and the devil shoes.
Monica had bought it all. She’d never dream of passing up an opportunity to show ole Golden Boy what she was capable of. Then she’d picked up some Final Net, a teasing comb, and viola, 80’s hair.
Okay, back to the present. Her dad needed her. She paced, practicing her deep breathing as she tried to form a game plan. Her father said Rafferty liked team players, people who weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and work with him. And the file she had on the man said he wanted someone who could devise a fun and creative ad campaign. Something unique that would make his ranch stand out. Well, she could do unique. She glanced down at her shoes. Somehow, unique wasn’t quite descriptive enough.
She could do this job. She had to. “I’m a team player,” she said, fiddling with her new pressed-on fingernails and gathering the courage to march through those doors with her head held high. Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward, but a screen door banged shut, echoing through the quiet night.
She glanced to the side and did a double-take. “Holy cowboy, what do they put in the water out here?” she whispered. The porch light illuminated a big hunk of a man in a wide-brimmed hat, standing on the steps of a large white farmhouse. Talk about breathtaking. He pulled on his boots. His faded jeans molded to strong thighs, revealing the play of muscles beneath. And those arms. Only hard work gave a man arms like those, all corded and defined, popping out of a tight T-shirt.
Lord, her temperature rose. Her fingers reached for her high-buttoned collar but grazed bare skin instead. She blinked, remembering where she stood and what she wore. She needed to disappear before he saw her looking like a reject from the circus, but she couldn’t help staring as the tall, broad-shouldered, long-legged fantasy jogged down the steps.
When did they start making men who looked like that? She’d certainly never seen any in the city. He had no trouble whatsoever strolling along the so-called path with long, yummy strides, right...
Good Lord, right for her.
She couldn’t exactly hide now, but hopefully he hadn’t seen her gawking at him. Standing there with her mouth hanging open wasn’t any better. She had to say something. Anything.
“Hello.” She stepped forward. Great. The spike to one of her blasted toothpick shoes broke off, and she lost her balance. She landed hard on her backside. “Oh, sh--oof.” Her breath whooshed out of her lungs. “Oh, yeah, a disaster magnet, all right,” she muttered.
The big cowboy took a quick step forward and then leaned down to help her up. His gaze ran over her from head to toe, producing the strangest look on his face. “Gotta watch these gravel paths in heels like those, ma’am.”
The deep timbre of his voice struck a chord that vibrated in her midsection like a bass guitar. “You’re telling me,” she squeaked. The strong, confident businesswoman facade had disappeared along with her luggage, probably on the next flight to Tahiti. What she wouldn’t give to be there right now.
He took her hand and she stared, mesmerized. Hers looked small and pale, held firmly in his large, rough, copper-colored one. She swallowed hard. He tugged gently. The motion jarred her out of her daze, and she snapped her gaze up, staring at him with a sheepish grin. She let go, feeling like a complete imbecile. Must be the stupid clothes rubbing off on her brain.
“You’re, ah, mighty ... colorful ... this evening.” His gaze skimmed her body again, but somehow it didn’t feel like he was checking her out.
“Thanks.” At least she’d done one thing right. “I think I’ve got ‘outrageous’ hands down.”
“Uh, yeah, you could say that.”
“Good, then there won’t be two of me. Because you never know with these parties. The key is to be unique.”
“Ma’am, I don’t think I could find two of you in a hundred miles.” He took a closer look and shook his head. “Make that five hundred miles.”
“Perfect.” This outfit should make her a shoo-in for that contest. “So, are you going to the party?” Standing cockeyed, she rested a hand on her hip and tried to appear less idiotic. His slight smirk told her she hadn’t quite pulled it off. Well, at least she’d put more effort into her costume than he had. He looked like The Marlboro Man. A good look for him, but he didn’t stand a chance of winning. Poor guy.
“Nah. Don’t care much for parties. Besides, I’ve got too much work to do.”
“Work? At this time of night?”
He looked her over and said in that deep, shiver-inducing voice, “It’s called hard work, ma’am. We don’t quit at five around here.”
“What a pity.” She caressed him with her gaze, her eyes focusing on his bulging biceps. He cleared his throat, and she looked up, catching his thick, black arched brow. Pressing her lips together, she thought,
Where is the flipping duct tape when I need it?
Time to go to the party, do her job, and forget this guy before she made an even bigger fool of herself. She told her feet to move. Her toothpick didn’t budge.
A breeze ruffled the black hair hanging below his cowboy hat. She’d never liked long hair on a man, but on him--yum. His face appeared as hard as granite, but curiosity sparkled in his smoky gray eyes. He stared at her for an endless moment, as if he didn’t have a clue what to make of her, then his lips tilted up at the corners.
Her gaze zoomed in and lingered on those wide, bowed lips.
Heat ignited in her stomach then coiled through her limbs, setting her nerve endings ablaze.
Studly, on the other hand, looked cool as a mountain breeze.
She felt the blood flood her face and settle in her ears. He clamped his lips tight as though he were fighting off a smile. Apparently, amusement was all she’d ignited in him. If he laughed at her, she’d die of embarrassment. Voices rang out on the path, saving her the trouble. She glanced up at him, and he stared at her with that annoying arched brow, probably waiting to see what she’d do next.
She took a step back. “Whoops.” With her uneven heels, she tripped and lost her balance once again. This was the reason most sane women didn’t wear stilettos.
The big guy reached out and caught her as two cowboys rounded the corner. They nodded but kept walking until they stood in front of the lodge, deep in conversation. “You all right?” he asked, but didn’t let her go.
“Yeah.” His shoulders felt huge beneath her fingers, his muscles tight as he held her. An earthy scent caressed her, and she stared into his eyes until she felt like drowning, then she blinked. “I-I’m fine.”
“You sure?” He frowned.
She was sure she’d never felt that good in anyone’s arms, but said, “I’m sure I feel like an idiot. But thanks.”
“No problem.” He set her down.
The strongest urge to capture his chiseled features and square jaw on paper swept over her. She lifted her fingers to touch his face but caught herself and clasped her hands in front of her.
His brows made a deep V. “Enjoy the party, ma’am.”
“Like I said, I have work to do.”