Meet the Kellys of Whiskey River, Texas, men who have always gone through life, and women, with their father’s legendary charm.
Trey Kelly has it all. Eldest son of Boots Kelly, Trey runs the Kelly ranch, and Trey’s heart is with his “babies”, Kelly’s Champs, the World Champion cutting horses he breeds and sells. Women love Trey and he loves women, but he's never met the one he wanted for keeps. Until...
Reclusive Ariana Wright's lavender farm sits next door to the Kelly spread. Ariana is a smart, ambitious chemist and after the car accident that left her scarred, the success of her new line of lavender based beauty products is all Ariana is interested in.
Convincing Ariana to take a chance on love is a task that takes all of Trey’s cowboy determination. But can Ariana let go of the wounds of the past and give herself more than one night with the cowboy?
Everything about Boots Kelly's will was designed so that Boots would remain in control even beyond the grave. The bombshell Ryder Ford, the Kelly family lawyer, had dropped at the reading of the will was almost impossible to believe. Unless you knew Boots Kelly.
Trey Kelly, Boots's eldest son, had always known his father was a player. Hell, you could hardly help but know it since the old man had been through four divorces, every one of them citing infidelity on Boots's part as the reason for the split. Boots had finally gotten tired of pre-nups, lawyers, and fighting and had stopped marrying, at least. But he sure as hell hadn't given up women. Still, never, ever had there been even a whisper about Boots having other children than Trey and his brother, Wyatt, born of his first ill-fated marriage to Paloma Richards.
Ryder's words echoed in his mind. "Trey and Wyatt Kelly, meet Nicholas and Xander Blue. Your brothers. Boots made provisions for all of you in his will."
Nicholas and Xander Blue had been at the reading and hadn't known a thing about Boots or the contents of the will or anything else. At least, so they said. To give them credit, the two men had appeared as stunned as Trey and his brother, Wyatt, were when told the news. Now he and Wyatt had two brothers they'd never known existed. And to make matters worse, Boots had split all of the vast Kelly holdings between all four. . . brothers.
All each of them had to do to claim their share was live in the same house and operate the Kelly holdings between the four of them. For a goddamn year.
What was he supposed to do now? Roll over and say, sure whatever Boots wanted? His cousin, Ryder, had drawn up that will, which meant it was iron clad. Ryder was too good of an attorney to screw that up. But Ryder could have at least hinted about the news. Trey didn't give a damn about attorney-client privilege. Couldn't his cousin at least have convinced the old man that what he was doing was wrong?
No. When had anyone ever convinced Boots of anything he didn't want to be convinced of? Never, that's when.
Yeah, he was pissed about dividing the Kelly holdings with two people he didn't know from a hole in the ground. For all they knew, the two men could be criminals or at least con men. But that didn't matter, unless he could prove they weren't really his brothers. There was no chance in Hell that Boots hadn't done due diligence. No, Nicholas and Xander Blue really were his brothers. As totally screwed up as that was, he knew it was the truth.
He might as well resign himself to living with Wyatt and the others at the ranch house. Wyatt wouldn't like it either, since he'd been living at his own place in town, the penthouse suite at Wildcat Towers, closer to the Kelly Boots compound.
Sharing in the boot company was one thing. Even sharing in the ranch could be tolerated. But if anyone thought they were touching one hair on his horses' backs, they were in for a fight.
The horses--Kelly's Champs--were completely Trey's. Those horses and Trey's operation had nothing to do with the old man. Trey had built his business with his own money, blood, sweat and tears. Wyatt had a stake in the business, but Wyatt was his brother--the one he'd known all his life. Wyatt wouldn't do anything to interfere with Trey's handling of the business.
Tomorrow, Trey was going back to Ryder and have him draw up papers that spelled out exactly who owned Kelly's Champs. As for the fact that he ran the business on Kelly land, he'd have to sort that out later.
In the meantime, he saddled up Smoke Dust, his champion smoky grullo Quarter Horse stud, and decided to ride over to the Parker place. The land sat smack in between the southern portion of the Kelly ranch and Ariana Wright and Juliette Rossi's lavender farm, Les Champs de Lavande. North of the Parker place the two ranches bordered each other.
Both Trey and Ariana wanted the Parker ranch. Both of them had plans to expand their operations and to do that, they needed land. They needed that land. Now with Boots's will wreaking havoc, Trey had even more reason to want the land. For himself, not for the Kellys.
Old man Parker's widow, Ester, was holding steady on not deciding to whom she'd sell her place. Her latest move had been to demand a meeting between Trey, Ariana and herself. Didn't matter that it was irregular, Ester Parker wanted to talk to them. Both, at the same time.
It couldn't be worse than his meeting this morning.
I am not climbing that fence," Ariana Wright said to the dog barking at her frantically. She wanted to be a hard-ass but she found herself weakening. The dog clearly needed help and Ariana was a sucker for animals, especially dogs. But she'd promised herself she would not trespass on the Kelly land. The last thing she wanted was to see Trey Kelly, aka her secret crush from years ago. Not that Trey knew it. He'd been older and completely oblivious to her.
He wouldn't be oblivious now. He'd probably take one look at her face and do what everyone did who didn't know her or hadn't seen her since the accident. Either avert their eyes and pretend there was nothing wrong or stare at her until they collected themselves and then pretend her face was perfectly normal. Really, kids were better even if they did want to know what had happened to her. She'd heard plenty of "Mommy, what's wrong with that lady's face?" as well as plenty of "Hush, don't stare."
But Ariana hadn't run into Trey in the two months since she'd been back in Whiskey River. Not surprising since she rarely left her own land. She and her cousin, Juliette Rossi, had inherited the Champs de Lavande from their late aunt several months before, but due to Ariana's accident and the surgeries that had followed, Ariana hadn't moved to the lavender farm until recently. Juliette had been taking care of both the farm and the shop in town. It was past time she had help from Ariana.
Ripple, Ariana's bay mare, fidgeted as the barking continued, reminding her she should do something about the dog. Sighing, she slid off of Ripple, looped the reins around the wooden fence rail and climbed over. The dog was medium-sized with matted fur that she thought was black, brown and white, though it was hard to tell as dirty as it was.
"Puppies," she muttered. "Ten to one she's leading me to puppies. What am I going to do with a litter of puppies?" Maybe the dog or dogs belonged to someone on the Kelly ranch. If so, they were doing a shitty job taking care of them. She decided to call the dog Bluebell because she--or was it a he?--reminded her of Bluebell's Rocky Road flavor ice cream. Groaning, she realized Bluebell was leading her deeper into Kelly land, and unfortunately, down to the creek that branched off of Whiskey River and ran through both the Kelly ranch and the lavender farm.
Just what she wanted to do, tromp around in the mud and muck on a cold, blustery February day. Surely the puppies were beside the creek and not in it. No way was she going into freezing cold water. Bluebell periodically looked back at her and barked, eventually coming to a stop beneath a live oak on the banks of the creek.
Not puppies. A dog. A large dog lying down on a sandbar, smack dab in the middle of the creek. Ariana stared at it, trying to ignore the Good Samaritan dog now prancing around her feet. "Not my day," she muttered, knowing she wasn't going to leave the animal, no matter what it took. Even if it belonged to someone on the ranch, it was hurt and in trouble now. She wished her horse was with her, but it would take too long to go get her and find a break in the fence large enough for the mare to fit through. Ripple could no more jump the fence than Ariana could.
The water was up to her knees and moving slowly and she made it to the sandbar easily. The dog was even larger than she'd thought, nearly the size of a small pony. It didn't offer to get up, but lay on its side and thumped its tail a few times. As she drew closer she saw why. One of its hind legs was obviously broken. "Come on, sweetie," she said. "Let's get you out of here."
Since it had no collar she gripped the scruff of its neck and encouraged it to get up. That's when she figured out there was something wrong with the other hind leg too. She had no idea how it had managed to get stuck in the middle of the creek with two bad legs, but it had, and now she had to figure out a way to rescue it. Damn it.
She lifted the dog's butt and began herding it toward the water. Too bad she couldn't carry it completely, but judging from just its hind end, it weighed nearly as much as she did. Some time later she'd managed to half-carry, half-push-and-pull the big animal to the edge of the sand bar. She hoped that once she had it in the water it could swim with her supporting its hind end.
The crossing was slow, cold and extremely wet. Once she reached the bank she shoved the dog up on it and caught her breath, satisfied that she'd at least gotten him out of the water. As she tried to climb out of the water, her boots slipped in the mud, twisting one of her ankles as she fell backwards into the creek. Instinctively, she tried to catch herself, jammed her left hand into the creek bed and went fully under.
She surfaced quickly, the shock of the ice cold water taking her breath away. Struggling to rise, she cursed when her injured ankle buckled, her feet went out from under her and she fell back in the water. Emerging once more, she pushed her wet hair out of her eyes and froze when she saw Trey Kelly standing on the bank staring at her.
She should never have gotten out of bed this morning.