Her Cowboy Reunion  

By: Debbi Rawlins

CHAPTER ONE

Elizabeth Savannah James sat in her rental car outside the motel. Somewhere between Denver and Blackfoot Falls, she’d gotten cold feet. Terrified someone would recognize her. Worried her boss would discover she’d been less than truthful.

Well, too bad.

Now wasn’t the time to go into a meltdown, she thought as she drew in the clean mountain air.

The whole idea that she was starting to panic was ridiculous, considering it was her choice to come to this small cow town. In fact, she’d lobbied hard for this assignment. No one would remember her or even give her a second look. She’d left Montana at fourteen, and before that she’d been homeschooled and rarely ventured far from her family’s cabin. If not for the explosive chain of events that had led to her and her mom fleeing town, Savannah figured most people would barely have been aware of her existence.

That final week, though…

She shuddered.

The scandal had reached every tiny, dark corner of the community and rocked it to its core. But then, her mom had committed one of the most unforgivable sins known to mankind. Or at least to every woman who lived within a hundred miles of Blackfoot Falls. And she hadn’t done it just once.

So, after receiving a notice from the bank, they’d packed as much as they could into her mom’s shabby two-door compact and then sneaked off sometime before morning light. The little rattletrap had the loudest muffler. Savannah remembered squeezing her eyes shut and covering her ears with both hands until they’d gotten miles away from Blackfoot Falls and all the evil glares.

To a shy, introverted teenager, it had felt as if all eyes were on her, as if every person in the county despised her, and all she’d wanted to do was run as fast as she could.

That fateful day had occurred quite literally half a lifetime ago. Now, at twenty-eight, she looked completely different. Her mousy brown hair was honey blond now, she’d lost the extra ten pounds of baby fat ages ago and she didn’t answer to Elizabeth any longer. But best of all, she was successful and enjoying a career she loved.

Just as long as her boss never found out she’d lied. Not outright, but by omission. Porter Burke International had a sterling reputation. No other company was better at community branding and development. That’s why Sadie Thompson, the mayor of Blackfoot Falls, had hired them to find a way to attract more tourists.

But first Savannah and her small team of secret shoppers needed to get a fresh take on the place. Playing tourists, they would check into the motel and inn, eat in the restaurants, drink in the bars, shop in the stores and generally partake of everything the town had to offer. Their undercover operation would last five days, and then they’d give a presentation to go over their assessment and suggestions.

A knock on the car window made her jump.

Dammit.

Ron opened her door. “Is this some kind of joke?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you just get here? Have you driven down Main Street yet?”

Savannah sighed. “Where’s Nina? Didn’t you two come together?”

“She’s checking in at the Boarding House on the other end of town.”

“Wait a minute—”

“Move your head an inch to the left. You can probably see it from here,” he said, his sarcasm grating on her nerves. “Talk about a one-horse town…it’s maybe seven blocks long. They don’t even have a traffic light.”

“Why aren’t you with her? You should be checking in together.” They were supposed to be posing as an engaged couple.

“This is ridiculous. Three of us stuck out here for a week? Hell, we could’ve wrapped this up in a day.”

“If you’d read your prep sheet, you’d know that Hollywood has taken an interest in the area. They’ve been shooting films and TV miniseries all around here.” She glanced toward the breathtaking snowcapped Rockies in the distance. They looked as if they’d sprung up in the town’s backyard. “Plus, the crews left behind a number of movie sets, and the town council is trying to decide how best to use them.”

Ron gave her an annoying smirk.

With his dark hair and hazel eyes, Savannah had once considered him a good-looking man. He could also be charming when he wanted. Or he could be a first-class jerk.

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