Discover romance across America with Janet Dailey’s classic series featuring a love story set in each of the fifty states. One of America’s premier romance authors, with more than 300 million copies of her books sold, Dailey continues her beloved Americana series with a love story as breathtaking as the mountains of Big Sky Country.
There isn’t a male heart in Helena, Montana, that Jill Randall couldn’t break with her charm, brains, and dazzling looks. So when a tanned mountain of a man named Riordan shows up at her door to stop his brother from marrying Jill’s gentle, shy roommate, the ever-persuasive seductress takes charge.
But Riordan is as stubborn as he is handsome. An enigmatic loner—as comfortable in designer suits as he is in jeans, cowboy boots, and a Stetson—he’s seen it all, and he’s not about to let a beautiful schemer sweet talk him into changing his mind.
And at Riordan’s ranch on the rolling prairie—beneath a Montana sky that goes on forever—Jill Randall is about to discover she’s finally met her match.
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Big Sky Country
The Americana Series: Montana
By Janet Dailey
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1977 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
"KERRY?" Jill Randall tipped her head around the bathroom door, golden curls falling over one shoulder.
A faint smile touched the corners of her glossed lips at the sight of her roommate. Kerry Adams was sitting in the middle of one single bed, a pillow clutched tightly in her arms as she stared dreamily into space. The blonde's smile became impish. Slipping a towel from the bathroom rack, Jill wadded it up and hurled it at her roommate. It landed harmlessly on top of her head.
"Kerry, you're supposed to be getting ready!" Jill stood poised in the doorway, a hand resting on a slim but fully curved hip, her blue eyes laughing at the girl's dazed expression.
The towel was dragged away from its haphazard position on her head, drawing with it strands of straight brown hair, silky and shimmering like satin.
"Must I?" Kerry sighed. Then she pushed her petite frame from the bed and walked restlessly to the window, pushing aside the curtain to gaze outside. "I wish Todd was coming over tonight."
Jill shook her head and stepped back in front of the bathroom mirror. "Unless you want to fail English lit, you'd better hope Todd doesn't come over."
"I know, but—" a fervent note crept into her roommate's voice, "—but I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and find it's all been a dream. That it never really happened."
The teasing glint remained in Jill's eyes as she carefully used the sandy brown pencil to define her light brows more clearly. "Kerry, it's only your first proposal."
"And my last! Oh, Jill—" Kerry was in the doorway, a frightened happiness lighting a radiant glow in her otherwise undistinguished face "—Todd asked me to marry him. To be his wife."
"I know, love. You told me that before." Jill's sensual mouth curved into a wide smile that laughed gently at Kerry. They had been roommates for too long for Kerry to take offense.
"I have to keep repeating it or I'll stop believing that it actually happened. I'm not beautiful like you. I couldn't believe it when he asked me out that first time—or the second or the third or the fourth. But I never dreamt ... Oh, I did dream about it, but l never believed he could actually be serious about me! He never said so much as one word about the way he felt the other night."
"Didn't I tell you it would work?" Jill winked broadly.
Kerry draped the towel over the rack, a regretful look stealing over her features. A heavy dose of guilty conscience dimmed the light in her brown eyes.
"I still don't know if I should have told him such an outright lie. I haven't got any intentions of leaving Montana to get a job, not even for the summer."
"But Todd didn't know that," Jill reminded her, switching the pencil to the other eyebrow. "Besides, you didn't actually tell him you'd accepted a job out of state, did you?"
"No, I just said that your uncle in California said we could come and work at his resort this summer."
"Then it wasn't' a lie, was it? Uncle Peter did write to say we had jobs there if we wanted them." There was an expressive shrug of her shoulders as she maintained her concentration on the image in the mirror. "All you did was fib a little about whether you were accepting the offer or not."
"I suppose so," Kerry sighed and leaned heavily against the door frame. Absently her hand reached up, separating a strand of dark hair from the others to twist it around her finger. "It's just that when you love someone it doesn't seem fair to do all this maneuvering to trick him into doing what you want."
"Todd loves you. He probably would have eventually got around to popping the question. You simply adjusted the timetable in your favor. You'd made it so obvious that you were in love with him. It was only just that you find a way to make him declare his feelings."
The first sentence was the only one Kerry heard. "I'll never be able to understand why Todd Riordan would love me. He should marry someone like you who's beautiful and witty, not someone shy and average like me."
Jill tipped her head to the side, her honey gold hair curling about her shoulders. Her long hair was expensively clipped to achieve that studied style of tousled disarray that only the very beautiful can carry off.
"On the outside, Kerry, you may be the average all-American girl, with your brown eyes and brown hair. Your face and figure might not be spectacular, but inside you're a very beautiful person. Opposites always attract, anyway. Todd Riordan has a very strong protective instinct and your innate shyness brings it to the fore. Plus I think he likes the way you worship him with those brown eyes of yours."
There was more on the tip of her tongue that Jill didn't say, but she thought it to herself. Todd liked the idea that he was intellectually superior to Kerry, He needed someone he could dominate—never domineer, since he wasn't the type. Jill had always guessed that the woman he married would be a brown moth, not a butterfly.
He was a very ambitious young man. It wasn't that he would have objected to sharing the spotlight with a beautiful wife. He wasn't that self-centered. But Todd Riordan wanted to be certain in his own mind that his wife was sitting at home waiting for him without a gaggle of admirers ready and willing to amuse her in the event he was late coming home.
Kerry's ego was very fragile and Jill had spoken the truth when she had said that Kerry was a beautiful person inside. Not for anything would she intentionally hurt her friend by pointing out some of the more callous reasons why Todd Riordan wanted her for his wife.
"I wish you wouldn't talk like that, Jill," Kerry frowned, twisting the lock of hair tighter around her fingers. "You sound so cynical when you do."
"I prefer to think of it as being logical and realistic." Her lashes were already long and curling, but they needed a coating of brown to better define them. Jill artfully stroked the mascara brush. "Men are tall little boys. Oh, they each have their own personality, but inside they're still little boys. Once a female recognizes that fact and treats men accordingly, she's already the winner. All you have to do, Kerry, is praise them when they're good; withhold their treats when they're bad; and play their games when there's something you want them to do for you."
"That's easy for you to say. There isn't any man you can't have if you want him." A faintly envious note crept into Kerry's voice as she studied the exquisitely feminine features of her roommate—features that could change from sensually alluring to innocently young with hardly a blink of an eye in between.
"That's true," Jill agreed matter-of-factly. The mascara brush halted in midstroke, the rich azure color of her eyes deepening when she glanced self-consciously at Kerry's reflection in the mirror. "Lawdy, that sounded conceited, didn't it? I didn't mean it that way."
"You're not conceited, just confident. If I looked like you, I probably would be, too. As it is, I'm just glad you don't want Todd."
The strand of dark hair was released, Kerry's voice trailing away as she moved into the bedroom they shared. Automatically Jill resumed the application of mascara to her lashes.
"You are going to change into everyday clothes before going to the library, aren't you?" she inquired absently.
"Just a sweatshirt and jeans," was the shrugging response.
With the mascara brush returned to the orderly row of cosmetics, Jill stared at her reflection for long moments. She was never startled by the beautiful girl that stared back at her. It was the same face she had always seen. She had been born a butterfly. From almost the beginning she had been the object of many little boys' attentions.
It was true—she could have any man she wanted. Some were more a challenge than others, but they all could be got. It was merely a matter of playing a game. Sometimes Jill thought of herself as more of a chameleon than a butterfly, changing into whatever personality the man she was snaring wanted her to be. Sexy, sporty, fragile, intellectual, it made no difference.
Jill never once doubted that she could take Todd away from Kerry if she wanted him. She could appear as helpless and naive as Kerry actually was. With Todd, her beauty would be a handicap, but she could turn that around and show him what an advantage her looks would be to his career. She would never do it. Kerry was the best friend Jill had ever had, and Kerry loved Todd desperately.
Had she ever looked at a man with Kerry's love-starred eyes? The mist of pink hearts had never lasted beyond the initial infatuation that attracted her to a particular man. Once she had him in her grasp, her power so to speak, the infatuation disintegrated. The thrill of the chase always excited her, but the actual kill Jill found boring.
A long-sleeved white blouse was on the hanger on the back of the bathroom door. Jill slipped it on, buttoning it from the bottom up, watching the cotton material discreetly accent the thrust of her breasts.
A butterfly was an apt description of herself. A golden Monarch flitting from man to man, never dallying anywhere too long. Was this destined to be her life cycle, or would some man come along to clip her wings?
That was a fanciful thought. From birth she had known instinctively how to get around any man. There wasn't one she couldn't eventually get to do what she wanted. Once she had him dancing attendance on her, she simply spread her wings and flew away.
With a shrug that such thoughts were a waste of time, Jill tucked her blouse into the waistband of her powder blue denims. Fingers absently fluffed the burnished ends of her hair as she stepped from the bathroom to the bedroom.
"Ready?" Kerry tugged a yellow windbreaker over her faded gray sweatshirt. The overall effect was a tomboyish appearance that suited the bobbed hair style and average face, but wasn't at all complimentary to her true personality.
Jill noted all this with an absent, appraising eye, but she had long ago given up trying to persuade her roommate to dress differently. Kerry had achieved a marriage proposal from the man she loved, so Jill guessed that it didn't really make much difference.
"Who is ever ready to do research on a term paper?" Her fawn-colored leather jacket was taken from the small closet, a twin to the one that held Kerry's clothes.
"Look at it this way," Kerry laughed. "A term-paper deadline means the end of another term and summer vacation around the corner."
Jill swept up her notebooks and bag, walking to the door her roommate held open for her. "That's a cheerful thought," she agreed with a wide smile.
"How soon are you going to be using the typewriter?"
The question by Kerry started a comparison of schedules between the two as they descended the stairs leading to the entrance hall. The used portable typewriter had been a joint investment, but their need to use it invariably occurred at the same time.
A girl appeared at the base of the stairs, took two quick steps, glanced up, then paused at the sight of the two girls coming down.
"There you are, Jill. I was just coming upstairs to get you. You have a phone call ... sounds like Bob Jackson."
The breathless announcement ended with a conspiratorial grin before the girl turned around to retrace her steps. Jill concealed a grimace. Bob Jackson was a recent conquest, one she was now trying to fly away from. He couldn't seem to take the hint.
"Tell him I'll be right there," Jill called after the retreating girl and hurried her steps.
"He's persistent," Kerry murmured.
"Don't I know it!" A brow was arched briefly in her direction. "This shouldn't take long, though."
The girl who had come to get her pointed to the telephone booth in the entrance hall. Jill walked quickly toward it while Kerry settled into the lumpy cushion of the sofa nearby. A hurried busy tone was easy to adopt.
"Hi, Jill. What are you doing?" The male voice belonging to Bob Jackson responded to her rushed greeting.
"Oh, Bob, it's you. I was just on my way to the library with Kerry trying to finish up the notes for my term paper. Talk about leaving things to the last minute! It's due on Monday, you know, and I've hardly begun."
"Oh." There was a hesitating pause and Jill knew her statement did not coincide with his plans for the weekend. "All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl," he offered in tentative jest. "We're having a dance this Saturday, remember?"
"If this Jill doesn't get her term paper done, she's going to flunk." It was a plausible excuse, although Jill was fully aware that it was not going to take her the entire weekend to complete the paper.
A night out would not hurt anything. She simply didn't want to spend it with Bob. Besides, Kerry had mentioned that the three of them—Kerry, Todd and Jill-might go out to dinner this weekend, a miniature engagement party.
Her roommate was sensitive about the fact that she had no family except for an aunt and uncle in. Billings who had raised her when her parents died. Kerry never said anything specific, but Jill had sensed it had not been a mutually happy arrangement.
"What's one little evening going to hurt?" Bob wheedled. "Come on, honey. We'll have a great time."
The front door was slammed shut. Jill glanced automatically toward the noise. Absently she made some objection to Bob's statement as she stared curiously at the stranger who had made such a loud entrance.
Her gaze swept over his appearance, taking in the sheepskin-lined suede parka unbuttoned to the coolness of the late spring night. Dark blue levis hugged slim hips and long legs, stopping on the arches of a pair of cowboy boots, dirty and worn with much use. Yet there was something about his erect bearing that said he wasn't an ordinary cowboy off the range.
Bob was saying something again and Jill let her gaze fall away from the stranger to concentrate on what was being said in her ear. Then the stranger's voice penetrated the glass walls of the booth.
"I was told I could find Kerry Adams here."
The announcement was made to Connie Dickson, the same girl who had come to let Jill know about her telephone call. Jill's blue eyes darted swiftly back to the man, watching as Connie pointed to Kerry sitting on the sofa. Jill would have sworn she knew everyone that. Kerry was even briefly acquainted with, but this man who had asked for her roommate was a total stranger.
The harsh planes of his face were impassive as he passed the telephone booth where Jill stood. His long strides reminded Jill of the restless pacing of a caged jungle cat, impatient and angry. This man wasn't as calm as his expression indicated. The hard line of his mouth was too grim. The way his gaze narrowed on her unsuspecting roommate gave Jill the uncomfortable feeling that he had just sighted his prey. There wasn't any way she could warn Kerry.
Jill didn't even pretend to pay attention to the male voice on the telephone. Her hearing was straining to catch what that man was saying to her friend.
"Kerry Adams?" He towered above her, his low voice clipped and abrupt as his earlier demand had been. Cold arrogance crackled through the tension that held him motionless. There was no flicker of recognition in Kerry's startled upward glance. "I'm Todd's brother."
Jill's eyes widened in surprise. Outside of both men being dark completed the comparison ended there. Vaguely she had been aware that Todd had an older brother. Kerry had mentioned it at some time, or perhaps Todd had himself.
"Of course, how ... how do you d-do," Kerry stammered uncertainly.
Her petite frame quickly straightened from the couch to stand in front of the man, momentarily forgetting the notebooks on her lap until they clattered to the floor, loose pages sliding across the linoleum.
Jill's mouth tightened as she watched Kerry's fumbling attempts to recover them, cheeks flaming in embarrassment and the man making no attempt to help in the recovery. He uttered not one diplomatic word to ease Kerry's discomfort nor did he smile to take away the humiliation of such awkwardness. He simply waited with thinning patience until Kerry had retrieved the papers and had them clutched defensively against her chest.
"T-Todd has talked about you often, Mr. Riordan." Kerry seemed unable to maintain the man's gaze, her look helplessly falling away.
Standing, the man dwarfed her petite frame oddly dwarfing it more completely than when Kerry had been sitting on the sofa.
Excerpted from Big Sky Country by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1977 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
every one of these stories set in each of the 50 states is more than worth the time to read them. they are romances, and there is humor there to be enjoyed as well. treat yourself and read them.