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Justin Morant can't believe he answered an online dating ad! Turns out, beautiful Mackenzie Hawthorne is looking for a ranch foreman, not a husband. Good thing, because marriage isn't in the injured bull rider's future. Justin is happy to take up the cause of saving the Hanging H ranch—and then there's the bonus of playing stand-in father to the sexy single mom's four angelic newborns.
Mackenzie doesn't know what miracle brought Justin to Bridesmaids Creek, Texas, but she'd be a fool to fall for the hunky cowboy who wears his rebel status like a badge of honor. Justin's a natural with her daughters and a whiz at ranching…yet one day she knows he's going to gallop off into the sunset. Unless, of course, the marriage-minded townspeople get their hands on him!
Now enjoy an excerpt:
Justin leaned against a post, crossed his arms. “Why are you so interested in Mackenzie’s welfare?”
“It’s not just her. It’s you, too. And Bridesmaids Creek, if you really want to know.”
“You’re trying to bring men into Bridesmaids Creek.” Justin shook his head. “They have a matchmaker here, you know. Aren’t you kind of bumping the competition?”
“Just giving the matchmaker some material to work with.”
“Why?” Justin’s curiosity was getting the best of him.
“You’d had to have grown up here to understand.” Ty shrugged. “The Haunted H was a great draw. Lots of jobs were lost when the Hawthornes had to close it down.”
“That’s what this is all about? Bringing jobs back to your hometown?”
“Not exactly.” Ty wouldn’t meet his gaze.
“Oh, I get it.” Justin thought he suddenly saw into the cracks of his buddy’s mercurial brain. “You’re trying to find a man for Mackenzie.”
Ty shrugged. “It’s complicated.”
“Not that complicated.” Justin snorted. “When did you decide to play guardian angel to Mackenzie?”
“Since I was the guy with the not-too-swift idea of setting her up with her ex. My onetime good buddy, who turned out to be a weasel of epic proportions.”
Justin stared at his friend. “Have you ever considered that maybe Mackenzie doesn’t want another husband?”
Ty snorted. “Don’t be silly. She’s a woman. A woman needs a husband to feel complete.”
“I’m not sure I ever saw this chauvinistic side of you before.”
“Yes, you did. You just didn’t recognize it, because you and I were thinking alike.” Ty laughed. “Don’t worry, good buddy. I’m not including you in my plan. Just the opposite. I’m clearing you out to make room for some cowboys who don’t wear the rebel badge as enthusiastically as you do.”
If being a hard-baked bachelor earned him that honor, he supposed he’d go with the rebel badge of honor. “And that’s why I’m being dragged on a recruiting tour? You want me out of the way so your matchmaking has a better chance of succeeding?”
“Look. The idea came to me after I’d sent you here.” Ty looked at him patiently. “I realized that Mackenzie didn’t just need help bringing back the old place—she needs a husband and a father to those children. I’m the man who fixed her up with the loser, so I’m going to put it right.”
“Why don’t you just put your own neck into the marriage noose and save everybody some agony if you feel so guilt-ridden?” Ty put up his hands as if to ward off the very idea. “My conscience is guilty but not stupid.”
Justin stared at his friend. It was true. Ty wasn’t husband material.
Neither was he.
Justin sighed heavily. “I think you’re nuts. But whatever. It’s not my town. Nor are these my friends.”
Ty brightened. “So you’ll do it? The lead stallion agrees to head off and leave the pen to the lesser junior stallions?”
“You make it sound like Mackenzie’s ever looked my way twice in a romantic way, which I can assure you she hasn’t. We haven’t spoken that much since I’ve been here.”
“Call it a hunch. Clearing out the pen, as they say. The ladies always want the one they can’t have. Mysterious types seem romantic. Like Zorro.”
Justin shrugged. “I think you took one too many falls off the mechanical bull, Ty, but whatever. I’ll go with you,” he said, “but you better hope Mackenzie never finds out what you’re up to. I have the feeling that little lady doesn’t think she needs any man to rescue her.”
“Mechanical bull! I was no dime-store cowboy,” Ty said, following Justin as he headed back to work. Justin couldn’t stand around examining the holes in his friend’s head any longer. Mackenzie hadn’t given one signal that she might be interested in him in more than a foreman–boss lady relationship.
Still, he had a slightly uneasy feeling about leaving her to the romancing of the Three Dating Daddies—a thought that totally brought him up short.
That’s what one of those men might become: a dad to Mackenzie’s four little girls.
Maybe the most troubling thought of all.