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The knock at the door surprised Zane Chisholm. He'd just spent the warm summer day in the saddle rounding up cattle. All he wanted to do was kick off his boots and hit the hay early. The last thing he wanted was company.
But whoever was knocking didn't sound as if they were planning to go away anytime soon. Living at the end of a dirt road, he didn't get uninvited companyother than one of his five brothers. So that narrows it down, he thought as he went to the window and peered out through the curtains.
The car parked outside was a compact, lime-green with Montana State University plates. Definitely not one of his brothers, he thought with a grin. Chisholm men wouldn't be caught dead driving such a "girlie" car. Especially a lime-green one.
Even more odd was the young, willowy blonde pounding on his door. She must be lost and needing directions. Or she was selling something.
His curiosity piqued, he went to answer her persistent knock. As the door swung open, he saw that her eyes were blue and set wide in a classically gorgeous face. She wore a slinky red dress that fell over her body like water. The woman was a stunner. She smiled warmly. "Hi."
"Hi." He waited, wondering what she wanted, and enjoying the view in the meantime.
Her smile slipped a little as she took in his worn jeans, his even more worn cowboy boots and the dirty Western shirt with a torn sleeve and a missing button.
"I wasn't expecting company," he said when he saw her apparent disappointment in his attire.
"Oh?" She looked confused now. "Did I get the night wrong? You're Zane Chisholm and this is Friday, right?"
"Right." He frowned. "Did we have a date or something?" He knew he'd never seen this woman before. No red-blooded American male would forget a woman like this.
She reached into her sparkly shoulder bag and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. "Your last email," she said, handing it to him.
He took the paper, unfolded it and saw his email address. It appeared he had been corresponding with this woman for the past two days.
"If you forgot"
"No," he said quickly. "Please, come in and let's see if we can sort this out."
She stepped in but looked tentative, as if not so sure about him.
"Why don't you start with how we met," he said as he offered her a seat.
She sat on the edge of the couch. "The Evans rural internet dating service."
"Arlene's matchmaking business?" he asked in surprise. Arlene Evans, who was now Arlene Monroe, had started the business a few years ago to bring rural couples together.
"We've been visiting by email until you "
"Asked you out," he finished for her.
"Are you saying someone else has been using your email?"
"It sure looks that way, since I never signed up with Arlene's matchmaking service. But," he added quickly when he saw how upset she was, "I wouldn't be surprised if Arlene is behind this. It wouldn't be the first time she took it upon herself to play matchmaker." Either that or his brothers were behind it as a joke, though that seemed unlikely. This beautiful woman was no joke.
She looked down at her hands in her lap. "I'm so embarrassed." She quickly rose to her feet. "I should go."
"No, wait," he said, unable to shake the feeling that maybe this had been fate and that he would be making the biggest mistake of his life if he let this woman walk out now.
"You know, it wouldn't take me long to jump in the shower and change if you're still up for a date," he said with a grin.
She hesitated. "Really? I mean, you don't have to"
"I want to. But you have the advantage over me. I don't know your name."
She smiled shyly. "Courtney Baxter." She held out her hand. As he shook it, Zane thought, This night could change my life.
He had no idea how true that was going to be.