Counting on the Cowboy

By: Shannon Taylor Vannatter

CHAPTER ONE

Help! There’s a goat on the roof!

Devree Malone typed the frantic text to her brother-in-law while edging the engaged couple she was showing around the ranch closer to the chapel.

If the goat would just keep quiet up there, maybe the soon-to-be newlyweds wouldn’t notice and she wouldn’t lose this gig. At least it was still April, as the cooler not-quite-seventy degree temperature meant the farm animal odors were at a minimum.

A dark truck turned into the drive and a cowboy climbed out: Stetson, Wranglers, boots. Maybe a ranch hand? His gaze went to the goat, then met hers as a smirk settled on his lips. One so charming she almost forgot about the goat.

Almost. Do something, cute cowboy. Hopefully, her mental plea would span the thirty or so feet between them. She guided the couple inside the chapel and tried to concentrate on the bride’s excited chatter.

“Imagine burgundy roses on the lattice arbor with tulle trailing down the sides.” If only she could have gone ahead and decorated. But the wedding was still two weeks away. “We’ll put big poufy bows on the end of each pew.”

For now, she needed to wow them with what she could. She flipped the switch, setting off a sea of twinkle lights woven among the exposed rafters above.

“Oh.” The enchanted bride leaned her head against her groom’s shoulder.

Why put so much into the wedding when the marriage would probably be history in less than a year? In her eight years of wedding planning, just under half her couples had divorced. And then there was the ceremony that got canceled when Devree discovered her boyfriend of six months was the groom-to-be.

Just stomach this last wedding.

A month in Bandera serving as the event planner at the Chasing Eden Dude Ranch would provide Devree the chance to help her brother-in-law. It would help make sure his very pregnant wife stayed on bed rest and brought Devree a healthy niece or nephew into the world.

If she nailed this nuptial, maybe the bride’s wealthy father, Phillip Brighton would hire her to plan his Brighton Electronics company retreat. And she just might be able to leave her I do planning behind.

Something caught her eye out the window. The cowboy, feed bucket in hand, walking backward toward the barn. The goat clambered from the top of the pavilion, across the storage shed, onto the old storm shelter and then down to the ground.

Her gaze bounced back to the couple. Still enthralled with the twinkle lights.

“Instead of walking off to the side for the unity sand ceremony, what do you think about having a couple of groomsmen move it here in the middle of the aisle?” Devree positioned herself where she thought it should go. “That way all you’d have to do is turn around.”

It would be difficult enough to maneuver the bride’s mile long train up and down the aisle once without adding the possibility of it getting tangled up in vases of sand.

“I love it.” Miranda Brighton’s eyes lit up. “That way I won’t have to fight with my dress and our families and friends will be able to see better if we’re up front and center.” She pressed her face into her groom’s shoulder. “I can’t wait to be Mrs. Joel Anderson.”

“I can’t wait to be Mr. Joel Anderson.”

The couple’s giggles mingled, ending in a sweet kiss.

Devree looked away. She used to love weddings. Almost as much as the brides and grooms she’d worked with. Until Randall.

Just one more ceremony. If the goat didn’t ruin it for her. Then, if she never got another glimpse of tulle and twinkle lights, she’d be a happy woman. And maybe, just maybe, this charming couple would make it.

“There are a few side rooms along the foyer connecting the fellowship hall in the back. Plenty of room for the wedding party to prepare for the ceremony.”

“Thank you so much for meeting with us, Devree.” Miranda never took her eyes off her groom-to-be. “I wanted Joel to see the chapel since he’s only seen pictures online.”

“I don’t care where the ceremony takes place. The married part is all that matters to me.” The requisite sappy response from Joel.

It would be nice if he kept feeling that way. But odds were—he wouldn’t.

“Okay, I’ll see you both for a consultation in a week.” Please let the goat be all lassoed and out of sight. She led the way to the exit, praying as she went. Guilt stabbed. She shouldn’t ask God for anything after ignoring Him for so long. Closing her eyes, she hesitated at the double doors, then swung them open and scanned the area. No goat. Her breath rushed out.

“Thank you.” The giddy bride hugged her and the couple held hands as they strolled to their car.

“Excuse me.” The cowboy behind her. “You work here?”

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