Finding My Love
Finding My Love
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- Fake Relationship
- Cowboy Romance
- Unexpected Love
Lanie Winters has it all together—at least that’s what she tries to make everyone think. She comes from the perfect family, and she’s worked her whole life to prove that she measures up to their expectations. Trouble is, it’s all an act. She’s about as unlucky in love as it gets, and finding her own perfect match is something she’s given up on.
Riley Westcott is one of the most eligible bachelors in town. As a multi-title-holding rodeo cowboy, he can’t catch a break from women trying to claim a piece of his heart—and his bank account. When he hires Lanie as his business consultant, he can’t deny her all-business attitude holds some appeal. And bonus points to her for not trying to rope him in.
After a late night at work, he comes up with a plan that could solve both their problems. Lanie jumps on board, but neither counts on the undeniable passion that could put both their futures in jeopardy.
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
"Lanie, I just don't understand why you won't even give him a chance."
Melanie Winters barely contained the frustrated groan that rose up at her mother's comment. Here we go again.
"Mom, I'm sorry, but he's just not my type. I don't want to waste my time."
Evelyn Winters, however, didn't bother restraining her frustration. She crossed her arms and glared at her second-oldest daughter.
"Not your type? He's exactly your type. He was the top of his class—undergrad and grad school—and he's working his way up the corporate ladder. He'll be a CEO in no time. Perfect for you."
"He sounds just like Sergei." Lanie did groan this time, sinking deeper into the sofa in her parents' living room. Discussing her love life was not how she wanted to spend the weekly family dinner night.
Mrs. Winters sat down on the couch beside her, looking baffled. "But that's exactly your type, honey. Everyone you've ever dated has fit the ambitious businessman profile. It's what you like."
"And we see how well that's turned out," Lanie exploded, sitting up straight and glaring, then immediately feeling guilty for losing her temper with her mother. "Look, Mom, I'm sorry. I don't mean to yell. But can we please not talk about this right now?"
Mrs. Winters patted her on the knee and gave her a pitying look. "I didn't mean to bring up a sensitive subject, dear. Of course we can talk about it another time."
Oh, she was certain they would. Matchmaking busybody Evelyn Winters never let anything go for very long. And getting her children well-matched and married off had recently become the focus of her efforts.
"Talk about what?" came a voice from the kitchen. Lissa. If there was anyone in town who could give her mother a run for her money on nosiness, it was her sister.
"Nothing," she called back.
"Don't give me that. You aren't getting off the hook that easily." Lissa waltzed into the living room and plopped herself down on the couch, looking expectantly at Lanie.
Her mother gave her the same look, tinged with a bit of hurt, and she was pretty certain was an act for Lissa's benefit.
"Lanie won't even give Theodore Upton the Third half a chance. Not one single date." She pressed her hand to her heart. "I just don't understand it."
God, the melodrama in this family.
Lanie rolled her eyes. "I thought we weren't going to talk about it." Then, seizing on an opportunity to get the attention off her, she said, "Where are those babies?"
Her mother immediately shifted her focus to Lissa. "Yes, young lady. Where are my darling grandchildren?"
Lanie grinned triumphantly at her sister behind their mother's back. She'd successfully put her mother's scrutiny onto Lissa.
"Jesse went to pick them up from Abby. They should be here any minute." Jesse's sister often kept their six-month old twins during the day when she wasn't helping out at the farm supply store Jesse and Lissa owned. It was a pretty perfect arrangement. Much like everything else in Lissa's life these days.
She had it all together. Unlike Lanie, who was a complete mess. She didn't begrudge her sister, really she didn't. She loved her dearly and was happy for her. But she was a hard act to follow. No matter how hard she tried, it seemed Lanie could never quite get her life in order.
"How are they doing?" she asked, keen to keep the conversation focused on anyone but her.
Lissa didn't bite. "You'll see for yourself soon enough. What I want to know is who is Theodore Upton the Third and why you won't go out with him."
Just like that, Evelyn was right back on track. She turned back to Lanie and fell into a recitation of all the finer qualities of the man and why he would be such a perfect catch. Lissa took that opportunity to grin evilly back at her and stick out her tongue.
They may have been grown women, but the sibling rivalry still ran strong. Especially when it came to giving each other a hard time. Though when it counted, they were best friends and could rely on each other like no one else. That time didn't seem to be now.
Lanie shook her head as Evelyn continued on, then when she was unable to listen to any more, cut her off, saying, "He's exactly like Sergei—and everyone else I've ever dated."
Her mother frowned. "I still fail to see your point."
She was really going to make her say it out loud, wasn't she? That she was terrible at relationships. That she couldn't pick a good guy to save her life. That when it came right down to it, she was a complete failure in the love department.
It was bad enough that Sergei had been cheating on her for God knew how long. It had been utterly humiliating, but she could have dealt with it if he were just one bad choice. But no. She'd been making round after round of bad choices with men her entire adult life.
She opened her mouth to try to explain yet again that she'd sworn off men—especially of Sergei and Theodore's variety—when commotion coming from the kitchen door drew everyone's attention.
"Lissa!" Mr. Winters' voice rang out. "Come help get these babies in out of this weather."
They all jumped up and headed into the kitchen and suddenly there were people talking and crowding in through the door, filling the cozy space with bodies and noise that was at once overwhelming and comfortingly familiar.
As one of five children, Lanie had never known a quiet house. Growing up, she and Lissa could go head-to-head in a battle of the wills. Their screaming fights were met by their two younger brothers' wild, boyish energy. And, of course, the youngest, Maggie, was never one to not get her fair share of attention and made sure everyone knew she was there, too.
Now they were all grown, but nothing had changed. It was just as noisy as ever, especially with the addition of Lissa's husband and twin babies, Charlie and Evie. It was crazy. It was pure chaos. The volume was nearly supersonic.
She wouldn't have it any other way.
Lanie stood back and watched as Jesse made it through the door with diaper bags and babies, handing one off to Lissa as he kissed her on the lips. She didn't miss the tender look that passed between them, and not for the first time felt a little twinge.
Not jealousy, not exactly, but it was a harsh reminder of how Lissa fit the bill of their parents' expectations so effortlessly, while she...didn't.
Evelyn cooed as she plucked the other twin—bow in the hair, that one had to be Evie—from Jesse and covered her face with kisses. Being a grandmother was apparently what she was meant for because she reveled in it. Good thing Lissa had already given her two, because at this rate she may not get one from Lanie.
She hadn't even noticed that Lissa was watching her until she sidled up next to her and whispered in her ear.
"Don't look so sad. I'm sure that Charlie and Evie will keep her occupied for at least another few months. Until you can secure the title of Mother to His Greatness, Theodore Upton the Fourth." She flashed that taunting grin again.
"You are pure evil, Liss," she muttered, but she couldn't keep a laugh from bubbling up at the absurdity of the idea. Even if she hadn't sworn off men, being some socialite wife to someone who was surely a pompous, conceited jerk was not something she would ever go for. Never.
As they all started making their way back into the living room, Mrs. Winters handing Charlie off to Lanie so she could finish up dinner, Jesse gave her a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"How's business?" he asked. "Saved any struggling CEOs lately?"
After putting together a business plan that had saved Jesse's family business from certain ruin, Lanie discovered that the best way to put her MBA to use was consulting for others. Never one who enjoyed sucking up to a boss, being independent was perfect for her. She was able to pick who she worked for, and she had a lot of freedom in implementing her ideas.
She laughed. "Maybe a few." The truth of it was, she was making quite a name for herself. "I've actually just been hired by Riley Westcott for consultation."
A sharp gasp from behind her had her whirling around. Her twenty-year-old sister Maggie had followed them in and was staring at her with wide eyes.
Lanie nodded, cutting her eyes sideways at Maggie. "Are you okay? I think you may have a bit of drool dripping off your chin."
Maggie swatted her in the arm. "Don't you know who he is?"
"Well, yeah. I do a little digging into who I'm working for before I just accept any old job."
"You may have to clue some of us in," Mr. Winters chimed in from where he was sitting on the floor playing with Evie, curiosity shining in his eyes.
Maggie stared at him as if he had grown horns. "Oh my god, Daddy, he's only, like, the most famous rodeo cowboy in the whole world. I can't believe you haven't heard of him. I mean, he's totally revitalized the rodeo world and made it more popular than it's been in, I don't know, forever?"
Lanie rolled her eyes as she bounced Charlie on her hip as she glanced at her father. "Translation: now a bunch of young females are interested in the sport. Or rather—in watching Riley do his cowboy thing."
"It's not like he's hard on the eyes," Lissa said, then smiled sweetly at Jesse. "Sorry, honey, but it's true."
Mr. Winters rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "You know, I think I have heard of him. Is he that one that's always got a couple of hot young—I mean nice young women by his side in those interviews?" He glanced toward the kitchen where Evelyn was still busy cooking.
Lanie handed Charlie off to him, too. "If by his side means draped all over him, then yes, that's the guy."
"But, Lanie." Maggie gripped her arms and looked at her urgently. "What do you mean you're working for him? Like, you've already met him?"
"Settle down there, Mags." She put her hands out in front of her and shook her head.
If Lanie was unlucky in love, Maggie was just the opposite. She flitted from boy to boy all through high school, and Lanie didn't think much had changed since she started design school last year. The prospect of meeting Riley Westcott was something Maggie would jump all over.
"Well, have you?"
Lanie forced herself to act nonchalant. "Yeah. We met a couple times last week to go over his business plans to make sure we were a good fit." She said it casually, but the two meetings had definitely been the highlights of her week. The cameras didn't do him justice, and that was saying something because he was easily the most attractive man she had ever seen in real life.
Her stomach did a funny little roll at the thought of it, but there was no way she would let on to her family. The next thing she knew they would be trying to set her up with him. And that was so not what she needed. In fact, it was the exact opposite. What she needed was for her family—her mother in particular—to stop pressuring her to find someone.
Especially someone like Riley. As far as ego went, he had more than enough. Top that off with the harem of women always following him around and it was a perfect recipe for disaster. Exactly the type of situation she seemed to always get herself into. And she'd promised herself she wasn't doing that again.
Besides, she had a rule about people she worked for. She just didn't mix business and pleasure, it was as simple as that.
"So, what is this business?" Maggie pressed. "Does it have anything to do with the fact that he hasn't committed to the next tour season?"
"Maggie, I can't talk about it. It's confidential. And before you ask, no, I'm not going to set up an introduction." She shook her head as Maggie started to protest. "This is my job. I have to take it seriously."
Before Maggie could say anything else, Mrs. Winters poked her head into the living room and said, "Dinner's ready."
Everyone headed toward the dining room, but Lanie felt Lissa grasp her arm and pull her back.
"I saw that," she said, her green eyes twinkling.
Lanie crossed her arms, schooling her face into a blank mask. "What?"
"That look on your face when you told Maggie about meeting him last week. The same one you have on right now. You're trying too hard to act like you don't care. Your voice sounded a little high-pitched too."
"Lissa, you're going to be as bad as Mom if you don't watch it. No, I take that back. You already are. You're trying to make something out of nothing." She started to turn, but Lissa wasn't done.
"He's a hell of a lot better than Thurston Howell the Third," she scoffed.
Giggling, Lanie said, "That's the old man from Gilligan's Island, you nut."
Lissa waved her hand dismissively. "Whatever. I'm just saying, you could do a lot worse."
"I know," she said dryly. "I have."
"Lanie..." Lissa leaned in for a quick hug. You know that's not what I meant."
"I know. But it's definitely what I meant. I'm sorry, but you and Mom are just going to have to accept the fact that I've sworn off men."
"Even someone like Riley Westcott?"
She didn't look convinced, but it didn't matter. Lanie knew what was best for herself. She set her mouth and nodded firmly.
"Especially someone like Riley Westcott."