- Publisher: Lazy Dazy Press
- First Published: February 3, 2015
- Formats: Trade Paperback, e-Book
- ISBN-13: 978-1-942680-00-0
- Pages: 294
The notorious cowboy meets his match…
Cord Lawson instantly distrusted the young woman in a smart suit who’d just arrived in Whistle Stop. She was very pretty and clearly a city girl—but with memories of his failed marriage still darkening his mind, he’s determined to steer clear! But she’s sniffing around his land—land that had been in his family for generations. There was no way he’d let it go—even if the bank was threatening to foreclose, and selling could give Whistle Stop a new lease on life.
Alexis Greer had one mission in mind—close the deal on the Granger estate; without it, her father’s land development company would go bankrupt. But the word around town is to keep clear of Cord and to stay away from his precious land. What in the world had happened to cause such a handsome cowboy to live such a solitary existence? However, determination was Lexi’s middle name, and she just had to keep on trying to breach Cord’s barriers, appeal somehow to his head and heart—even if it put her in danger of losing both of hers…to him.
Also in the series:
Alexis Greer had always been a little superstitious.
She especially believed the adage that bad things came in threes. So far today, her originating New York flight had been delayed, causing her to miss her connecting flight, leaving her stranded for hours, and when she’d finally arrived in New Mexico, her luggage had gone missing. At last count, that accounted for only two unfortunate events. The knot in her stomach wrenched tighter. She was due for one more bit of bad luck.
She inhaled a deep, calming breath as she stared out the dusty windshield of her rented SUV. The slanting desert sun added a glow to the red clay that stretched out on both sides of the two-lane road. The ding-ding-ding and flashing red lights of the railroad crossing had her tramping on the brakes.
First in line, she pulled to a stop as the passenger train rolled into view. The woo-woo of the whistle blew loud and clear. It wasn’t a new streamlined one. No, this was an older train that had been lovingly restored to its former youth and beauty.
Just beyond the engine were two passenger cars. Faces, both young and old, dotted each window. What a novel way to bring tourists to this small desert town. But then her gaze settled on the train depot. She frowned. The weathered building had been boarded up. The gray walls were peeling and overgrown vegetation had it surrounded. The station had certainly seen its better days.
When the red warning lights stopped flashing and the metal gate lifted, she eased the car forward. The tires rumbled over the tracks as her gaze latched on to a large wooden sign standing prominently on the edge of town.
Welcome to Whistle Stop, New Mexico
Population: room for more
Atmosphere: downright friendly
Weather: bright and cheery
Alexis smiled. Someone had a terrific sense of humor.
In the blink of an eye, Alexis had passed a variety of rustic storefronts and a number of attractive adobe-style houses. If it weren’t for the handful of modern pickups parked on either side of the paved road, she’d swear this quaint desert town had been cut off from the rest of the world for the last fifty or so years. She found something sweet and endearing in the thought. After growing up around the hustle and bustle of New York City, a slower pace was inviting.
Still edgy after the turbulent flight, she pulled to a stop along the curb in front of Sam’s Hitchin’ Post. She rubbed her temples. Her jangled nerves needed calming. She needed chocolate. More specifically, she needed a Choconut Bar—her favorite.
She’d jumped out of the car and stepped onto the sidewalk when Beethoven’s Fifth sounded from her cell phone. She sighed. Only one person had that ring tone, Howard Samuel Greer III, CEO and majority stockholder of HSG Holdings Inc. Her boss. And her father.
She stopped outside the store to fish her phone out of her purse. “Hello, Father. I just arrived in Whistle Stop.”
“Good. Did you make contact with the seller yet?”
Her shoulders sagged, allowing her purse strap to slip down her arm. “I had some delays getting here. I’ll meet with him tomorrow. Now stop worrying and go get some rest.”
“I've been resting for weeks.” His voice held a sour tone. “Don't boss me around. Tell me again your plans.”
“They haven’t changed. I’m handling everything.”
“Don't forget to negotiate for the buildings and the—”
“I told you, I've got this deal under control. I'll get the land and the buildings.”
“This is so important. I don't have to tell you that.”
Her stomach roiled. Little did he know how important. Their company was in trouble—big trouble. Ever since her father’s massive heart attack, she’d stepped up at the office—filling his very large shoes. This New Mexico deal was going to make or break their land development enterprise. She'd kept the condition of its finances from her father for the past several months, knowing the truth of their precarious situation would put too much strain on his already fragile heart. She would do anything to protect the one person who’d always been a constant in her life.
“I’ve still got time to fly out there.” His steely determination rang out in each syllable.
A shiver raced down her arms at the thought of him conducting an important business negotiation that had the potential to turn contentious. He didn’t need to risk another heart attack. Whistle Stop was in the middle of nowhere, and she’d be willing to guess their medical facility wasn’t state-of-the-art.
Alexis paced up and down the sidewalk. “I can handle this on my own. The doctor ordered you to rest, and besides, you have your physical therapy sessions. You can’t miss them.” She’d use any excuse possible to get him to give up the idea of joining her on this trip. “Just relax.”
Her father heaved a disgruntled sigh. “A man can only watch so much television. I need to be doing something. And don’t you dare suggest a crossword puzzle.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she said innocently, thinking of the four or five puzzle magazines she’d left on his bedside table.
“This doesn’t mean you’re the boss now. I’ll be back at the office sooner than you think.”
All the more reason for her to wrap up this deal quickly before he got released from his doctor’s care and returned to the office, where he’d undoubtedly uncover the truth about the company’s financial instability. She squelched the prick of fear jabbing at her chest.
The bank holding the note on the piece of land she needed had assured her the seller was desperate—they were about to foreclose on his property. Alexis planned to swoop in with an irresistible offer for the acreage, including the ghost town, and HSG’s new Wild West-themed resort would be a sure deal. Her father would never have to know how close his illness had come to driving the business into bankruptcy.
She knew all too well the importance of this company. It was her father’s life’s work. When her mother had up and left her father, the only thing the woman had wanted was HSG Holdings—not her own daughter, her own flesh and blood. The memory slashed at the scars on Alexis’s heart.
In the end, her mother had walked away without the company and without a backward glance at her only child. How could a mother do such a thing? Why didn’t her mother love her?
No matter how many times Alexis contemplated those questions, she never got any closer to the answers. And now wasn’t the time to be dredging up ugly family history. Thankfully, she did have one parent who loved her and cared for her—her father. Now it was her turn to care for him.
“Father, it’s time you consider retiring. The company is too much for you, especially after what happened.” She couldn’t bring herself to mention how this latest coronary episode had caused permanent heart damage.
“No!” His voice vibrated the phone. “My life is HSG. Since when did you become so anxious to take over? Maybe you’re more like your mother…”
Her father didn’t have to finish the sentence for her to know what he meant. “I’m not like my mother. I’ll never be cold and uncaring like her—”
“I know.” He exhaled a weary sigh. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said such a thing.”
Unable to let the subject drop, she had to make sure her father understood what drove her. “I don’t want to push you out of HSG so I can take over.” She stopped herself short of saying that she wasn’t even sure she wanted to take over—ever. “I just want to take care of you. I…I couldn’t bear it if…if anything happened to you.”
“Hush now. I’m not going anywhere. And I know you’re nothing like that woman. Forgive an old man for his careless ranting.”
Alexis blinked repeatedly. “Already forgotten.”
“But I still worry that you’re not experienced enough to close this deal.”
“I can do it.”
Once she saved HSG, her father would never doubt her ability to run the company, and maybe then, he’d take a step back from the business. A crackle and hiss filled the line. “The connection is breaking up. Don't worry. This deal is in the bag.”
She only wished she felt as confident as she sounded.
Her need for a Choconut Bar multiplied significantly as she ended the call. Her father had never been an easy man. He liked having things done his way.
She’d be the first to admit he’d been a loving father. He’d raised her as a single parent and was always there when she needed him. Whenever times got tough at school, he’d listen to her and then give her a Choconut Bar. Once she’d devoured the rich chocolate coating with a gooey caramel and pecan center, she’d unwind and things would work out. She needed that optimistic feeling now.
A little bell tinkled above her head as she stepped inside the Hitchin’ Post. She glanced up to find a little brass bell. How quaint. Her stilettos clicked across the worn tiles. A menagerie of scents greeted her, from leather to cinnamon and cloves.
She glanced around, awed by the vast amount of food and other necessities crammed into every nook and cranny. Overhead, cowboy hats in earthen tones were suspended from the ceiling. How did someone squeeze so many goods into such a small area?
In no time at all, her gaze latched on to the candy rack at the front of the store. She rushed over and immediately spotted the familiar gold emblem of the Choconut Bar. Her mouth watered. She reached into the box but grasped nothing but air. Empty. No, this couldn’t be happening. Not now.
Not ready to give up, she clutched the cardboard box and rushed to the checkout. She plunked it down on the worn linoleum counter. “Do you have any more of these?”
An older man behind the counter with a name tag that read Sam grabbed the box to read it. He was a tall, lanky man. A few strands of silver hair were combed across his balding head. Through gold, round-rimmed glasses, his kind eyes glanced at her, and then he pointed to the right. “Sold the last one to him.”
Alexis followed the line of his finger to a cowboy headed for the door. “Hmm…thanks. Maybe I’ll have a word with him—”
“I wouldn’t. He’s…he’s not exactly social. Best to leave him be.”
What a strange warning. Well, it wasn’t like she wanted to strike up a friendship or anything. It’d be a simple business transaction, and then she’d be on her way.
Alexis’s attention zeroed in on the cowboy’s chambray shirt tucked into a pair of faded denim jeans that hugged his trim waist and firm backside. A breath hitched in her throat. Her gaze trailed down his long legs to his dusty cowboy boots. Her mouth grew noticeably dry. They sure had some mighty fine cowboys in these parts. She wrenched her gaze to the back of his hat.
Keep your mind on the task at hand.
Alexis had never actually considered asking someone for their candy, but then again she’d never been under this much pressure. She started after the cowboy. Drat. Her black suede heels gave her some desperately needed height, but they prevented her from running after the man.
“Excuse me, sir.”
The cowboy turned. He shot her a questioning look, and her brain stuttered at the intensity of his brown gaze. His golden tan and muscled physique reminded her of a drool-worthy model on the cover of a sexy romance novel. If she was interested in having a little bit of fun in the sun, this cowboy would definitely be her first choice—but she didn’t have time to be entertained. She had a job to do. And everything would be so much easier with that candy bar.
Alexis moistened her dry lips and implored him with her most charming smile. “The clerk over there. He, um, said you bought the last Choconut Bar. It’s the only kind I eat. I was hoping you’d consider selling it.”
His brows arched up beneath the brim of his hat and then lowered into an uncompromising line. “No.”
The familiar brown wrapper peeked out of the pocket of his shirt as though taunting her. If she were like either of her parents, it’d be her father because once she set her mind to something there was no backing down. Besides, if she couldn’t persuade this man to sell her some candy, how on earth was she going to sew up the land deal?
The cowboy turned away.
“Please wait.” She rushed to stand between him and the exit. “I can make it worth your time.”