Public relations whiz Matthew Beaumont won't let scandal ruin his brother's Christmas wedding. Yet scandal is Whitney Maddox's middle name. He grudgingly allows the outrageous child star turned horse trainer to stay in the wedding party…as long as she behaves herself. But soon he's the one misbehaving with this irresistible maid of honor.
Determined to shed her troubled past, Whitney traded parties—and men—for a quiet life years ago. But one tumble into Matthew's strong arms has her thinking that a hot night with the best man might be the perfect holiday gift…a gift that could last forever.
Be sure to read other scandalous stories from The Beaumont Heirs series by Sarah M. Anderson, only from Harlequin® Desire!
NOT THE BOSS'S BABY TEMPTED BY A COWBOY
TEMPTED BY A COWBOY
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Matthew Beaumont looked at his email in amazement. The sharks were circling. He'd known they would be, but still, the sheer volume of messages clamoring for more information was impressive. There were emails from TMZ, Perez Hilton and PageSix.com, all sent in the past twenty minutes.
They all wanted the same thing. Who on earth was Jo Spears, the lucky woman who was marrying into the Beaumont family and fortune? And why had playboy Phillip Beaumont, Matthew's brother, chosen hera woman no one had ever heard of beforewhen he could have had his pick of supermodels and Hollywood starlets?
Matthew rubbed his temples. The truth was actually quite boringJo Spears was a horse trainer who'd spent the past ten years training some of the most expensive horses in the world. There wasn't much there that would satisfy the gossip sites.
But if the press dug deeper and made the connection between Jo Spears, horse trainer, and Joanna Spears, they might dig up the news reports about a drunk-driving accident a decade ago in which Joanna was the passengerand the driver died. They might turn up a lot of people who'd partied with Joanna.
They might turn this wedding into a circus.
His email pinged. Vanity Fair had gotten back to him. He scanned the email. Excellent. They would send a photographer if he invited their reporter as a guest.
Matthew knew the only way to keep this Beaumont weddingplanned for Christmas Evefrom becoming a circus was to control the message. He had to fight fire with fire and if that meant embedding the press into the wedding itself, then so be it.
Yes, it was great that Phillip was getting married. For the first time in his life, Matthew was hopeful his brother was going to be all right. But for Matthew, this wedding meant so much more than just the bonds of holy matrimony for his closest brother.
This wedding was the PR opportunity of a lifetime. Matthew had to show the world that the Beaumont family wasn't falling apart or flaming out.
God knew there'd been enough rumors to that effect after Chadwick Beaumont had sold the Beaumont Brewery and married his secretary, which had been about the same time that Phillip had very publically fallen off the wagon and wound up in rehab. And that didn't even include what his stepmothers and half siblings were doing.
It had been common knowledge that the Beaumonts, once the preeminent family of Denver, had fallen so far down that they'd never get back up.
To hell with common knowledge.
This was Matthew's chance to prove himselfnot just in the eyes of the press but in his family's eyes, too. He'd show them once and for all that he wasn't the illegitimate child who was too little, too late a Beaumont. He was one of them, and this was his chance to erase the unfortunate circumstances of his birth from everyone's mind.
A perfectly orchestrated wedding and reception would show the world that instead of crumbling, the Beaumonts were stronger than ever. And it was up to Matthew, the former vice president of Public Relations for the Beaumont Brewery and the current chief marketing officer of Percheron Drafts Beer, to make that happen.
Building buzz was what Matthew did best. He was the only one in the family who had the media contacts and the PR savvy to pull this off.
Control the press, control the worldthat's how a Beaumont handles it.
Hardwick Beaumont's words came back to him. When Matthew had managed yet another scandal, his father had said that to him. It'd been one of the few times Hardwick had ever complimented his forgotten third son. One of the few times Hardwick had ever made Matthew feel as if he was a Beaumont, not the bastard he'd once been.
Controlling the press was something that Matthew had gotten exceptionally good at. And he wasn't about to drop the ball now. This wedding would prove not only that the Beaumonts still had a place in this world but that Matthew had a place in the family.
He could save the Beaumont reputation. He could save the Beaumonts. And in doing so, he could redeem himself.
He'd hired the best wedding planner in Denver. They'd booked the chapel on the Colorado Heights University campus and had invited two hundred guests to the wedding. The reception would be at the Mile High Station, with dinner for six hundred, and a team of Percherons would pull the happy couple in either a carriage or a sleigh, weather depending. They had the menu set, the cake ordered, the favors ready and the photographer on standby. Matthew had his familyall four of his father's ex-wives and all nine of his half brothers and sisterspromising to be on their best behavior.
The only thing he didn't have under his control was the bride and her maid of honor, a woman named Whitney Maddox.
Jo had said that Whitney was a horse breeder who lived a quiet life in California, so Matthew didn't anticipate too much trouble from her. She was coming two weeks before the wedding and staying at the farm with Jo and Phillip. That way she could do all the maid-of-honor thingsdress fittings and bachelorette parties, the lot of it. All of which had been preplanned by Matthew and the wedding planner, of course. There was no room for error.
The wedding had to be perfect. What mattered was showing the world that the Beaumonts were still a family. A successful family.
What mattered was Matthew proving that he was a legitimate Beaumont.
He opened a clean document and began to write his press release as if his livelihood depended on it.
Because it did.
Whitney pulled up in front of the building that looked as if it was three different houses stuck together. She would not be nervous about thisnot about the two weeks away from her horses, about staying in a stranger's house for said two weeks or about the press that went with being in a Beaumont Christmas wedding. Especially that.
Of course, she knew who Phillip Beaumont wasdidn't everyone? He was the handsome face of Beaumont Breweryor had been, right up until his family had sold out. And Jo Spears was a dear friendpractically the best friend Whitney had. The only friend, really. Jo knew all about Whitney's past and just didn't care. And in exchange for that unconditional friendship, the least Whitney could do was suck it up and be Jo's maid of honor.
In the high-society wedding of the year. With hundreds of guests. And photographers. And the press. And
Jo came out to greet her.
"You haven't changed a bit!" Whitney called as she shut her door. She shivered. December in Denver was an entirely different beast from December in California. "Except you're not wearing your hat!"
"I didn't wear the hat when we watched movies in your house, did I?" Jo wore a wide smile as she gave Whitney a brief hug. "How was the drive?"
"Long," Whitney admitted. "That's why I didn't bring anyone with me. I thought about bringing the horses, but it's just too cold up here for them to be in a trailer that long, and none of my dogs do well in the car."
She'd desperately wanted to bring Fifi, her retired greyhound, or Gater, the little mutt that was pug and something. Those two were her indoor dogs, the ones that curled up next to her on the couch or on her lap and kept her company. But Fifi did not travel well and Gater didn't like to leave Fifi.
Animals didn't care who you were. They never read the headlines. It didn't matter to them if you'd accidentally flashed the paparazzi when you were nineteen or how many times you'd been arrested for driving while intoxicated. All that mattered to animals was that you fed them and rubbed their ears.
Besides, Whitney was on vacation. A vacation with a wedding in it, but still. She was going to see the sights in Denver and get her nails done and all sorts of fun things. It didn't seem fair to bring the dogs only to leave them in a bedroom most of the time.
Jo nodded as Whitney got her bags out of the truck. "Who's watching them?"
"Donaldyou remember him, right? From the next ranch over?"
"The crusty old fart who doesn't watch TV?"
Jo and Whitney shared a look. In that moment, Whitney was glad she'd come. Jo understood her as no one else did.
Everyone else in the world thought Donald was borderline insanea holdover hippie from the 1960s who'd done too much acid back in the day. He lived off the grid, talked about animals as if they were his brothers and discussed Mother Earth as if she were coming to dinner next week.
But that meant Donald wasn't tuned in to pop culture. Which also meant he didn't know who Whitney waswho she'd been. Donald just thought Whitney was the neighbor who really should install more solar panels on her barn roof. And if she had to occasionally listen to a lecture on composting toilets, well, that was a trade-off she was willing to make.
She was going to miss her animals, but knowing Donald, he was probably sitting on the ground in the paddock, telling her horses bedtime stories.
Besides, being part of her best friend's wedding was an opportunity even she couldn't pass up. "What's this I hear about you and Phillip Beaumont?"
Jo smiled. "Come on," she said, grabbing one of Whitney's bags. "Dinner will be in about an hour. I'll get you caught up."
She led Whitney inside. The whole house was festoonedthere was no other word for itwith red bows and pine boughs. A massive tree, blinking with red-and-white lights, the biggest star Whitney had ever seen perched on top, stood in a bay window. The whole place had such a rustic Christmas charm that Whitney felt herself grinning. This would be a perfect way to spend Christmas, instead of watching It's a Wonderful Life on the couch at home.
A small brown animal with extremely long ears clomped up to her and sniffed. "Well, hello again, Betty," Whitney said as she crouched down onto her heels. "You remember me? You spent a few months sitting on my couch last winter."
The miniature donkey sniffed Whitney's hair and brayed before rubbing her head into Whitney's hands.
"If I recall correctly," Jo said, setting down Whitney's bag, "your pups didn't particularly care for a donkey in the house."
"Not particularly," Whitney agreed. Fifi hadn't minded as long as Betty stayed off her bed, but Gater had taken it as a personal insult that Whitney had allowed a hoofed animal into the house. As far as Gater was concerned, hoofed animals belonged in the barn.
She stood. Betty leaned against her legs so that Whitney could stroke her long ears.
"You're not going to believe this," Jo said as she moved Whitney's other bag, "but Matthew wants her to walk down the aisle. He's rigged up a basket so she can carry the flower petals and it's got a pillow attached on top so she can carry the rings. The flower girl will walk beside her and throw the petals. He says it'll be an amazing visual."
Whitney blinked. "WaitMatthew? I thought you were marrying Phillip?"
"She is." A blindingly handsome man strode into the roomtall and blond and instantly recognizable. "Hello," he said with a grin as he walked up to Whitney. He leaned forward, his eyes fastened on hers, and stuck out a hand. "I'm Phillip Beaumont."
The Phillip Beaumont. Having formerly been someone famous, Whitney was not prone to getting starstruck. But Phillip was looking at her so intently that for a moment, she forgot her own name.
"And you must be Whitney Maddox," he went on, effortlessly filling the silence. "Jo's told me about the months she spent with you last winter. She said you raise some of the most beautiful Trakehners she's ever worked with."
"Oh. Yes!" Whitney shook her head. Phillip was a famous horseman and her Trakehner horses were a remarkably safe subject. "Joy was minePride and Joy."
"The stallion who took gold in the World Equestrian Games?" Phillip smiled down at her and she realized he still had her hand. "I don't have any Trakehners. Clearly that's something I need to rectify."
She looked at Jo, feeling helpless and more than a little guilty that Jo's intended was making her blush. But Jo just laughed.
"Too much," Jo said to Phillip as she looped her arm through his. "Whitney's not used to that much charm." She looked at Whitney. "Sorry about that. Phillip, this is Whitney. Whitney, this is Phillip."
Whitney nodded, trying to remember the correct social interaction. "It's a pleasure. Congratulations on getting married."
Phillip grinned at her, but then he thankfully focused that full-wattage smile on Jo. "Thanks."
They stared at each other for a moment, the adoration obvious. Whitney looked away.
It'd been a long time since a man had looked at her like that. And, honestly, she couldn't be sure that Drako Evans had ever looked at her quite like that. Their short-lived engagement hadn't been about love. It had been about pissing off their parents. And it had worked. The headlines had been spectacular. Maybe that was why those headlines still haunted her.
As she rubbed Betty's ears, Whitney noticed the dinner table was set for four. For the first time since she'd arrived, she smelled food cooking. Lasagna and baking bread. Her stomach rumbled.
"So," Phillip said into the silence. His piercing blue eyes turned back to her. "Matthew will be here in about forty minutes for dinner."
Which did nothing to answer the question she'd asked Jo earlier. "Matthew is who?"
This time, Phillip's grin was a little less charming, a little sharper. "Matthew Beaumont. My best man and younger brother."
Whitney blinked. "Oh?"
"He's organizing the wedding," Phillip went on as if that were no big deal.
"He's convinced that this is the PR event of the year," Jo said. "I told him I'd be happy getting married by a judge"
"Or running off to Vegas," Phillip added, wrapping his arm around Jo's waist and pulling her into a tight embrace.
"But he insists this big wedding is the Beaumont way. And since I'm going to be a Beaumont now " Jo sighed. "He's taken control of this and turned it into a spectacle."
Whitney stared at Jo and Phillip, unsure what to say. The Jo she knew wouldn't let anyone steamroll her into a grandiose wedding.
"But," Jo went on, softening into a smile that could almost be described as shy, "it's going to be amazing. The chapel is beautiful and we'll have a team of Percherons pulling a carriage from there to the reception. The photographer is experienced and the dress " She got a dreamy look in her eyes. "Well, you'll see tomorrow. We have a dress fitting at ten."
"It sounds like it's going to be perfect," Whitney said. And she meant ita Christmas Eve ceremony? Horse-drawn carriages? Gowns? It had all the trappings of a true storybook wedding.
"It better be." Phillip chuckled.
"Let me show you to your room," Jo said, grabbing a bag.
That sounded good to Whitney. She needed a moment to sort through everything. She lived a quiet life now, one where she didn't have to navigate family relations or PR events masquerading as weddings. As long as she didn't leave her ranch, all she worried about was catching Donald when he was on a soapbox.
Jo led her through the house, pointing out which parts were original, which wasn't much, and which parts had been added later, which was most of it. She showed Whitney the part that Phillip had added, the master suite with a hot tub on the deck.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was my first read from Anderson. I enjoy romance in any form. This holiday read was one to make me happy I was just expecting more. Thanks to NetGalley and the delightful Holiday Read.
I really enjoyed this series, looking forward to the upcoming books
The society wedding of the season... check. A Beaumont brother who always controls the image of his famous family... check. A former wild child tv star now turned into a beautiful, respected horse trainer... check. One PR disaster waiting to happen... check. What more could you want? How about a cute mini donkey, a romantic carriage ride in the Colorado snow, hot romance involving ties and chairs, and more Beaumonts than you can shake a stick at! I thoroughly enjoyed this third installment in the Beaumont Heirs series. Matthew and Whitney are a fun couple when they forget about the past and learn to take a chance on love. It's a great story to curl up with and get in the Christmas mood.