Flint Fortune's family was trying to play matchmakerbut the footloose cowboy was determined to remain a free agent. Sure, Jessie Hunt-Myers was beautifulbut she was also a widow, with four kids definitely not the right setup for a bachelor. Yet he couldn't help but notice that Jessie's drop-dead-gorgeous exterior was matched by the warmth of her heart.
Fortunately, Jessie agreed that they could never be a perfect pair and willingly conspired in Flint's idea of trickery: fake dates that would quiet their meddling families. But the chemistry between them was anything but forced, and Jessie's children soon had Flint wishing he could be their daddy! Perhaps this feigned romance would become the real deala love that would last forever!
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"Iss him! Iss him! Iss Fwint, Mama!"
The announcement came from Jessica Hunt-Myers's excited three-year-old son, Adam, when he dashed to the open bathroom door, poked his head in, then dashed out again.
"Let me guess," Jessie said to her sister, her tone holding no shortage of suspicion. "That phone call a little while ago was from Flint Fortune, saying he was on his way. That's why you stopped me from sanding the baseboards, rushed me into your bathroom and gave me this sudden makeover."
Jessie stood with her hips resting on the counter-top that surrounded the sink, facing her sister, Kelsey. Kelsey was wielding a fluffy blush brush and applying the powder to Jessie's face much the way they'd played dress up with their mother's makeup when they were little girls.
Kelsey gave her a wide-eyed smile. "This really is new stuff that I just wanted you to try because I thought you'd like it. And that clip does look better in your hair than it did in mine," she said innocently.
Jessie rolled her eyes, not buying the innocent act for a second. "Kelsey " she groaned. "First you try to match me with a guy you like yourselfthe guy you ended up withand now you're trying to push his brother?"
Kelsey shrugged. "I kept the first one for myself. It seems only fair that I find you someone else to make it up to you," she joked.
The first one had been Cooper Fortune and after unsuccessfully attempting to put Jessie together with Coop, Kelsey had succumbed to her own attraction to the man. They were now engaged, raising Cooper's six-month-old son, Anthony, and had moved into the house next door to Jessie's.
The house was in need of extensive remodeling, which was the reason Jessie and Adamthe youngest of Jessie's four childrenwere at Kelsey's house late that Sunday afternoon. Jessie was helping with some of the work.
The renovation was also why Cooper's brother, Flint, was scheduled for an extended stay in Kelsey and Coop's guest room.
An extended stay that was apparently about to begin.
"I don't needor wantto be fixed up with anyone," Jessie said emphatically.
"It's been two years since Peter died, Jess," Kelsey cajoled gently.
"Two years, eleven days, three hours."
Kelsey shook her head sadly. "And you need more in your life to distract you from still counting the days. The hours."
"More in my life?" Jessie said with a laugh. "I have four kids, Kelsey. Mom and Dad retired to move in with me and lend me a hand because I have so much in my life"
"Your kids will grow up, Mom and Dad will decide to travel or get a place in a retirement community the way they talked about before. And then where will you be, Jess? Alonethat's where."
"With a bathroom all to myself and a house that actually stays clean for five minutes and the possibility that I might never again run out of cookies " Jessie said in a dreamy tone of voice, making light of the bleak picture her sister was painting.
"Alone," Kelsey repeated direly.
"Ella is seven. Braden and Bethany are four. Adam is only three. It'll be a long, long time before I have to worry about that."
"But don't you want someone for yourself again now?" Kelsey persisted. "Pete would have wanted"
"Oh, don't pull that one! I hate it when people say what Pete would have wanted."
"Okay, then he wouldn't have wanted you to end up old and alone," Kelsey insisted, reversing it.
"I'm not ready," Jessie said definitively. "And when I am, it will happen. Without your beating the bushes for a man for me."
"I haven't been beating the bushes. I just think that sometimes fate presents opportunities and I know that without a push, you won't see what's right in front of you. Even though Flint is pretty hard to overlookor didn't you notice how hot he is?"
"Are you having second thoughts?" Jessie goaded her sister, turning the tables to distract her.
It didn't work.
"No! It's because I'm so in love with Coop that I want the same thing for you. And because I've learned firsthand that these Fortune men are men worth having and I want you to have a man who's worth having. The way Pete was."
"You can't be sure that Flint Fortune is a man worth having just based on his brother. You barely know Flint himself."
That particular member of the famed Fortune family of Texas didn't live in their small town of Red Rock where so many other Fortunes did, so he was a stranger to both Kelsey and Jessie. A stranger who had come into town when suspicions arose that an abandoned baby might have been his son, the baby who had proved instead to be Coop's child. The fact that Flint Fortune was inclined now to help out his brother and spend a little time with the rest of the family he didn't seem close to, didn't mean he was any less of a stranger to Kelsey or to Jessie.
"Okay, maybe I don't really know much about him," Kelsey admitted. "But I know he's Coop's brother and a really, really, hot guy "
"Hot is not enough to sell him," Jessie persisted.
But it was the one thing Jessie couldn't argue because it was the plain and simple truth. She'd met Flint at the party Lily Fortune had had at the Double Crown ranch to introduce baby Anthony to the whole clan. And while Jessie might not have become wide-eyed with instant hero-worship of Flint the way her youngest son had, she had certainly not been able to overlook how impossibly attractive the man was.
"And no matter how hot he is," she said to her sister, "I'm not in the market for any man."
Not that she had so much as the most remote hope that any man was likely to want a widow with four small children. And if she allowed for the possibility of having a man in her life and then got rejected by him because of her kids? That just wasn't a door she wanted opened. For her kids or for herself.
Plus rejection also equaled loss, and putting herself or her kids in line for suffering the loss of another man was also notabsolutely notsomething she was going to do.
"Adam already thinks Flint hangs the moon " Kelsey reminded in a singsong intended to tempt Jessie.
"Well, Flint doesn't hang the moon," Jessie responded in the same singsong. "He's just a guy in a world full of guys who I don't have the time or the inclination to mess around with."
"Look at yourself," Kelsey implored, stepping back, taking Jessie by the shoulders and turning her to face the mirror. "You look fantastic. Don't wait around until the lines come in and everything starts to sag and droop and shrivel up"
"Thank you so much for that image of my future."
Jessie scowled, then craned her head to get a better glimpse of her sable-colored brown hair in the back. "One way or another, this hair clip hurts and I don't want it," she said, taking it out and shaking her hair so it fell free around her shoulders.
"The blush is nice, though, isn't it?" Kelsey said. "It's a little sparkly."
Jessie studied her face more closely in the mirror, wondering if her slightly pale skin or her brown eyes or her maybe-a-little-too-straight-and-thin nose really were good enough to get her another man.
But she shied away from even the thought of that and judged the blush alone. "Yeah, it's nice." Because it did accentuate her high cheekbones and give her a healthy glow.
"Now tuck your T-shirt into your jeans so your butt shows," Kelsey said, as if that simple admission that the blush was nice had encouraged her.
"Come on. Those aren't your best jeans, but you still have a good rear end that can almost be seen in them." Kelsey began to tuck in the back of Jessie's T-shirt.
"Will you stop?" Jessie protested.
"No, I won't!" Kelsey decreed. "It's bad enough that you're wearing a big old T-shirt with a slogan on it, at least tuck it in."
"I beg your pardon! The kids gave me this T-shirt for Mother's Day and I like it," she said, looking fondly down at the front of it where a picture of all four kids mugging for a camera stared back at her from beneath lettering that proclaimed her the World's Greatest Mom.
"I knowI helped them pick it out. But you were supposed to sleep in it, not wear it outside of the house," Kelsey chastised.
"I can't just sleep in it. One of them might think I'm not proud of it."
It was Kelsey who rolled her eyes this time. "Just tuck it in at least, and come out and say hello to Flint."
"I don't suppose I have a choice because he's out there."
Well, she did have a choice about tucking in or not tucking in the T-shirt. And even though she assured herself that she was only doing it so she didn't look like a slob, she unzipped her jeans, tugged the tails of the shirt down inside them and then zipped them up again.
"Happy?" she asked her sister as if she'd only done it to appease Kelsey.
But while Jessie had tucked in her T-shirt, Kelsey had produced a hairbrush from somewhere and was holding that out to her. "Now put this through your hair and I try this lipstick"
"No lipstick!" Jessie refused. But she took the brush and swiped it through her hair just so she was presentable. Certainly not to impress Flint Fortune or any other man.
And for that same reason, just before she followed Kelsey out of the bathroom, she took one final glance at herself in the mirror.
And regretted that she hadn't worn jeans that were slightly less baggy.
And a T-shirt that wasn't so oversize she should only be using it for pajamas.
But truly, it was just because she didn't like to meet anyone when she looked sloppy.
It had nothing to do with Flint Fortune himself.
* * *"See, Mom? I tol' youiss Fwint!"
"Yes, I seeF-l-int," Jessie answered her son, correcting Adam's pronunciation, before she focused her attention on the new arrival after Kelsey had welcomed him with a hug.
"Hi, Flint," Jessie greeted the man whose presence seemed to command the living room where he stood, a full five-feet-eleven inches of pure masculinity.
"Hi. Jessie, right? You're Kelsey's sister?"
"She's my sister all right," Kelsey confirmed with great enthusiasm.
But to Jessie the question had sounded like a shot-in-the-dark guess and she thought that that indicated that she hadn't made much of an impression on him.
He, however, was every bit as impossibly attractive as she recalled from the party.
Unlike her late-husband's boy-next-door looks, Flint Fortune had a swarthy, staggering handsomeness. His hair and eyes were brown, like Pete's. But unlike the lighter shades that her dearly departed husband had sported, Flint's hair was a deep, rich, bittersweet-chocolate brown, and his eyes were also much, much darkerthe color of espresso with flecks of gold. Unusual, penetrating eyes that somehow seemed to hint at hidden depth in the man himself.
Although she had no idea why she was noticing that.
It was Kelsey's fault, Jessie decided, for putting thoughts of how hot this man was in her head.
But there was certainly no denying that he was hot. Hotter than hot. Above those unusual eyes were straight brows and a square forehead that was the perfect canvas to sport his slightly wavy, eminently touchable-looking hair. His nose was straight and well-shaped above full, provocative lips, and he had just the faintest dip in a chin that was hammocked between sharply drawn, granite jaws.
Add to that striking face broad shoulders that were barely contained by the Western-style shirt he was wearing with the sleeves rolled up to reveal muscular forearms and somehow-sexy wrists; narrow hips and long, thick legs that did great justice to the pair of jeans he was wearing, and there was no question that this was a formidably good-looking man.
But that didn't change a thing as far as Jessie was concerned.
"Fwint has cowboy boots like me!" Adam announced, obviously taking in every inch of Flint. Much the way his mother just had, although she'd missed the boots. "Mine are home. I wanna go get 'em!"
"Not right now you won't," Jessie intervened.
"But I wanna wear 'em!"
"You can't wear cowboy boots with your shorts. You can wear them another day, when it's cooler," Jessie said, eliciting a frown from her youngest before he bent over to study Flint's feet more closely.
"Will my feets get big as Fwint's feets?"
For no reason Jessie could fathom that made her wonder what Flint's naked feet looked like. Which was not only totally bizarre, but seemed like something too personal for her to be thinking about at all and she curbed her wandering thoughts.
She also decided to curb her overzealous son who had risen from his close scrutiny to stand with one arm wrapped around the big man's left leg and the side of his tennis shoe-clad foot against Flint's to compare them.
"I'm sorry," Jessie muttered, dragging Adam away from the grip that was more familiar than he should have been having with any stranger and firmly holding him against the front of her own thighs. "This must be some kind of new phase. He's never been so " She wasn't sure how to say that her son seemed enthralled with this man. She settled on ".so taken with anyone before."
"I like 'im," Adam announced matter-of-factly. "I wanna do what he doos."
"Seems like Adam has decided you're his role model, Flint," Kelsey contributed with a pointed glance at Jessie, inspiring another eye roll from Jessie.
But undaunted, Kelsey said, "Coop is working in the basement. Jess, why don't you and Adam take Flint up and show him the room that'll be his while he's here so I can go get my other favorite Fortune man and tell him his brother is finally back?"
Jessie shot her sister an I'll-get-you-for-this glance. But she couldn't refuse the request without appearing rude, so she had to concede.
Refocusing on Flint's cover-model face, she said, "What will eventually be the actual guest room is down here. But right now it's full of paint cans and supplies, so Kelsey was thinking you could take the extra bedroom upstairs."
"I'll show you," Adam offered, breaking free of his mother's grip to run for the stairs in the entryway.
"I guess we should follow our leader," Flint said with a sexy half smile, apparently amused by her son.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love this book.from ampc
A must read, couldnt put it down, got it from tnn & loved it.