Fake Fiance, Real Revenge

By: Roxanne Snopek



Instantly she wanted to kill him again.

“Oh, I’ll be fine.” She injected every bit of sultry seductiveness she had into her voice. “But you, my friend, are in for a very rough time. A long, hard visit, you might say.”

She heard him suck in his breath.

“Damn, girl,” he said finally. “You’re not gonna make this easy, are you?”

“You have no idea, Mitch,” she said.

No idea at all.





Chapter Three

“Rory, I need you to run interference with Carson,” Mitch said, maneuvering his BMW around a rough patch.

Good going, Mitch. Waste time on small talk.

If he had a brain in his head, he’d have found a way to ease into the conversation with his sister-in-law. But if he had a brain in his head, he’d have taken the battered pickup he’d never been able to part with and left the turbo-charged status symbol in the garage. If he’d had a brain in his head, he wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

“Oh, Mitch. I almost didn’t recognize the caller ID. Good to hear from you. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Your niece is growing like a weed.”

Her voice came through the Bluetooth speaker loud and clear. She was pissed.

Bang!

He gripped the wheel and eased up on the gas. The Bimmer would need major surgery after this trip. Sport suspension was no match for elderly asphalt.

“Sorry, Rory.” He breathed deeply. “I suck as a brother and an uncle.”

“Don’t forget brother-in-law.”

He laughed. Carson lucked out when this filly landed in his field. “All right, all right. Now that we’ve gotten that established, can I get to the point before German engineering gets its ass kicked by I-90 and I end up on the evening news?”

He heard her gasp. “You’re in Montana?”

There was such joy in her voice. She put on a good show of being mad, but she didn’t have much in the way of family herself, and Carson had told him it really bothered her that the brothers weren’t close.

Close? Distance was the only thing that kept them from bloodshed.

“I hope Montana’s big enough for the two of us. The prodigal brother returns.” He swallowed. “Is that okay?”

“Of course it is, you idiot! Oh, wait until I tell Bliss! She’ll want to repaint the guesthouse and slaughter the fatted calf. Then, of course, she’ll string you up by your thumbs for a good old Lutherton tar-and-feathering.”

Mitch’s throat tightened at the thought of the scolding, apron-clad twin sisters, Bliss and Blythe, who’d taken it upon themselves to look after any and every wounded soul they came upon. But since the birth of Carson and Rory’s baby, Bliss had established herself at Three River Ranch as honorary grandmother, whenever Rory’s mom wasn’t around.

“I won’t be staying in the guesthouse, but she can fix it up anyway,” Mitch said. “Someone wants to make a donation to the sanctuary in exchange for a month on-site.”

Silence.

“Rory?”

“A month? How big is this donation?”

“Pick a number. You’ll understand when you meet the donor.”

Rory sighed. “We’ve done it before; Carson can’t freak out. Not completely, anyway. You might as well give me the details. He’s out near Havre right now and won’t be back until late tonight. Someone called the sanctuary hotline about some wild horses they want gone. You know Carson and his mustangs. “

“Can you wait a couple of minutes?”

“Why?”

“Because I’m pulling into the driveway right now.”

He ended the call mid-shriek, laughing. The wheels rolled softly over the neatly graveled driveway. Rory’d kill him first, then smother him with hugs, then set the dog on him.

And he’d only seen his niece, Lesley, once, last winter, so the kid would probably scream or something. What did he know about babies? Oh well.

He opened his window and sucked a deep breath in through his nose. Now that was air! So clean, so crisp. He’d grown to love the salt air on the coast, the hustle and bustle and excitement. Seattle was a great place for entrepreneurs. But up here, away from traffic, industry, high-density housing, where the environment was continuously cleansed and renewed by the vast stands of native forest, something inside opened up, something he hadn’t even been aware was locked down.

It felt good to be home.

He pulled into the yard, slowing down as the changes registered. He’d seen the enormous sign over the gate announcing the establishment of Carson’s dream project, the mustang sanctuary. The guesthouse where their father had lived when the main house had become too big and lonely was freshly painted, purple-flowering vines of some sort snaking up the arbor. Cozy. Perfect for Della and Paris.

He hoped.

There’d be changes in the old house, of course. But then he rounded the corner, passed a newly planted clump of decorative evergreens—that would be Rory’s touch—and realized he’d underestimated the magnitude of these changes.

And how it would feel like a boot to the gut.

The home they’d grown up in, the only place in the world he could still picture his mother’s face, was gone.

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