City girl in Montana looking for her Romeo…
Sounds like the start to a Hallmark movie right? Well, it would if they had movies about idiot women flying across the country to marry a man they’d never met.
Yup, that’s what I did. I responded to an ad in a random newspaper that I found on the train. And now I’m trying to find Horseshoe Ranch so that I can marry some cowboy I’ve never even seen. And no, this isn’t the 1800’s. I’m just desperate.
To make matters worse, the cowboy doesn’t even know I’m coming. His mom and dad arranged it all. The only reason I’m going is because I have $100 to my name and an old mafia boyfriend after me. I figured life couldn’t get any worse in Montana. I was wrong.
In my excitement, I left the address and phone number to the ranch at home, so now I’m here in Montana and I have no idea where I’m supposed to go. So I took a taxi and stopped at a local bar to ask for directions. And that’s when all my problems began.
I’m getting married in three weeks. To a man I’ve never met. In a State I’ve never been to. Yeah, my life is absolutely crazy. It’s not that I’ve never wanted to get married. I’ve been dreaming about my wedding and honeymoon since I was thirteen. Though my preferred wedding destination was Hawaii. Not Montana. But that’s where I’m headed. I’m flying into Billings and then I’m renting a car and driving west to a place called HorseShoe Ranch. Which is where I’m going to meet my new husband. I’m hoping he’s hot, hunky and hung. And that he thinks I’m hot and funny as well. Hopefully he’ll ignore the fact that I wear heels and not boots, Gucci and not Wranglers and love to put on a full face of makeup every single morning. Yup, so maybe I’m not the best bride for a cowboy, but I’m going to have to do. I hope. This isn’t my best idea ever, but it’s the only solution I have to my problems right now. Yes, I’m the sort of girl that loves heels, short dresses, and designer handbags to plaid, overalls and cowboy hats, but I gotta do what I gotta do. Where did my life go so wrong? How about a year ago? I met an Italian guy called Mikey in Queens. And let me tell you, if you meet an Italian guy named Mikey in Queens with sparkling blue eyes, run as fast as you can. Not only is he bad news, but he’s related to the mafia, so once he’s got his hooks into you, he’s never letting go.
“Olivia, I just got to Billings, Montana and you are not going to believe what happened.” I turned my phone on and called my best friend as soon as the plane landed.I was already wondering if I should stay on the plane and fly right back to New York City.
“Actually, I don’t believe anything that I’m hearing right now.” My best friend Olivia sounded gobsmacked on the phone. “When you told me that you were going to move to Montana, I thought you were joking.”
“Girl, you know I was not joking about that. I had to get out of New York City. Mikey and his goons were after me and I’ve got no money and-“
“I mean, I could have taken care of Mikey for you.”
“No, you couldn’t,” I laughed. “You don’t want to get involved with Mikey and his family.”
“Girl, what’s he going to do?”
“Olivia, I told you they’re in the Mafia, right?”
“Does the Mafia even really exist?”
“Yes, they do. But enough about them. What am I going to do? This is not what I was expecting. I feel like I’m on another planet.”
“So what’s the problem, exactly?”
“Girl, I’m looking out the window and I’m in the middle of nowhere. I’m not seeing any buildings. I’m not seeing anything.” I lowered my voice as I stared at the two men walking next to me. “I feel like these people are all country bumpkins.”
Olivia burst out laughing then. “You do know you just flew to Montana right and not Tokyo…of course they’re all country bumpkins, but just a quick warning, don’t say that to any of them.”
“Of course, I’m not going to say that.” I laughed. “I’m dumb, but I’m not that dumb. I just didn’t expect it to be this country. I feel so out of place.” I looked down at my heels and short skirt. I was dressed completely wrong for my surroundings and I always prided myself on my fashion sense. “Girl, I don’t even think anyone here would recognize my Hermes scarf and how much it cost even if they saw it up close.”
“Which is good because you didn’t even have the money to buy it.”
“Don’t remind me of my poor life choices, Oliva.”
“I kinda don’t have to…your surroundings are doing that for you.” She giggled. “But I bet it’s going to be a lot better than you thought. I thought you told me you loved nature.”
“Yeah that one time I went to the Hamptons and was hanging out on the beach and saw a dolphin.”
“You saw a dolphin when you were in the Hamptons?”
“I mean it might not have been real.” I laughed. “Maybe it was inflatable, but it looked real.”
“Girl, you’re a hot mess.” Olivia giggled. “And I say that with a lot of love and respect.”
“Ugh, I am a hot mess. Guess what?”
“I forgot the address to the ranch and I don’t have the phone number, either.”
“Oh my gosh, Lucy, how could you do that?”
“I don’t know. I guess I was just really excited and-“
“Girlfriend, I don’t think this is a good idea. You should fly back to New York City. You can stay with me and we can figure something else out.”
“It’s going to be fine. I think it’s going to be good. You know I’ve always wanted to get married and have kids. And I loved watching Little House on the Prairie when I was young.”
“Girl, Little House on the Prairie is so old school. You are not made to live on a prairie.”
“Well, I’m not going to be living on a prairie. I’m going to be living on a ranch.”
“Girl, you’re not made to be living on a ranch, either. You can’t be going to a ranch in your high heels.”
“What, they’re Louboutins.”
“Even worse. You’re going to step in horse manure and cow shit with your Louboutins on?”
“Well, I also bought some Timberlands.”
“I thought you said you were broke, Lucy.”
“Well, I have a credit card,” I laughed. “I mean, I had to get something to wear.”
“Girl, Timberlands for a ranch, I don’t think so.”
“Well, anyways, I don’t know if it’s like a farm farm. I mean, maybe they’re like city people.”
“Didn’t you say that he was a cowboy?”
“I mean, I just assume he’s a cowboy. I don’t know for sure that he’s a cowboy. I’ve never met him.”
“Which is what I think is even crazier,” she said. “You’ve never even seen what he looks like!”
“I know, but I’m sure he’s good-looking. His parents said he’s good-looking.”
“Yeah that means a lot,” She groaned. “Because parents never say their kids are good-looking.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Have you ever heard a parent say their kid is ugly?”
“Well, no,” I laughed. I looked out at the expansive cerulean blue sky and took a deep breath. “Oh my gosh, girl. I’m really in the country now.”
“What did you expect?”
“I mean, it looks beautiful, but this is so unlike anything I’m used to. I’ve lived in New York City my entire life. I’ve never even been on a farm.”
“Oh my gosh, Lucy, what are you doing?”
“I don’t know, Olivia. Maybe you’re right, maybe I should come back.” I paused. “No. I promised them that I’ll come and I’ll meet their son. I at least owe them that for buying my ticket.”
“Girl, you promised them you’d marry their son.”
“I know. What was I thinking?”
“Girl, I have no idea. You have lost your ever-loving mind.” Olivia sighed. “And I wish I could talk to you a little bit longer but my boss is glaring at me. I’m not meant to have my cell phone on the floor.”
“I know.” My best friend worked in an exclusive boutique in Greenwich Village. And I knew that she couldn’t afford to get fired because she was as broke as I was.
“I don’t know what to do though, Olivia. What do I do?”
“Look, I’m sure Montana can’t be that big, right? How many ranches can there be? Rent a car, drive into town, find a bar, and ask them if they know where the ranch is.”
“What? Are you sure?”
“How many ranches can there be called Horseshoe Ranch?”
“I guess that’s true. Okay, I’ll rent a car. This sucks. I only have $100 in my bank account.”
“Well, you have a credit card, right?”
“Yeah,” I sighed, “but I almost maxed it out.”
“Maxed it out on what?”
“Clothes for the trip.” I looked down at my two big Tommy Hilfiger suitcases that were filled with new clothes to wear in the country. “I kind of bought some sexy negligee and-“
“Why?” Olivia sounded shocked.
“Because I’m about to get married.”
“Oh my gosh, Lucy, are you joking? You are the only woman I know that would buy sexy negligees for a man she’s going to marry that she’s never even met. What if he’s like some old crusty guy? Are you going to want to sleep with him then?”
“I’m praying to God he’s not some old crusty guy. I mean, it’s his parents that contacted me. He can’t be that old.”
“Girl, you don’t even know if it’s his parents that contacted you. These are some random people. You’ve never met them either.”
“I know. Oh, my God, I’m absolutely crazy, aren’t I?”
“Just take a couple of deep breaths. Okay, girl?”
“Okay. Okay. I’ll speak to you later. I’m going to go and rent the car now.”
“Bye. Text me if you need anything.”
“Okay. Bye.” I hung up and grabbed my suitcases and looked around the airport. I needed to rent a car and I needed to get into town. Hopefully someone in the bar would know where Horseshoe Ranch was, and maybe I could get a quick drink as well. I needed it. I was starting to think I’d made a really bad decision coming to Montana.
What was I thinking? I knew I hadn’t really been thinking with my brain, but that was because the last couple of months of my life had been absolutely crazy. I dated this guy who I thought was amazing, who turned out to have a lot of money and no real job. And he turned out to be not so amazing. And it turned out that when I broke up with him, he didn’t really like it. I’d been his possession and when I no longer wanted to be with him; he’d been pissed. He’d made up some lies about me and then I also lost my job, and because I was a little bit of a spendaholic, I didn’t have much money in the bank to cover me until I got a new job. And now the credit card companies were calling me. And my landlord. I’d been starting to feel like I was sinking into a cesspit of manure.
I felt like I had no real options and things were falling around me fast. And then I’d found the newspaper on the train and it seemed like all my prayers were being answered. Just the night before I’d been saying, “I wish I could find a rich husband.” And while I didn’t know if this guy was rich, I didn’t even know if he really existed, I did know it was an opportunity to get out of New York City and start afresh.
And as much as I loved New York City and I loved my best friend, Olivia, I needed a change. I needed to do something with my life. I was 28 years old and I was going absolutely nowhere. And that wasn’t what I wanted for myself.
I wanted to be married. I wanted to have kids and I wanted the white picket fence and big house and yard. And, well, it looked like there was plenty of space in Montana, unlike New York City. Maybe this would end up being my place. The home I’d always dreamed of.
I just hoped that I wasn’t being taken for a ride. I just hoped that it wasn’t some psychopath I’ve been in contact with. The last thing I needed was to find myself locked in the back of some cabin on some huge lot of land, because I was dumb enough to agree to marry the one serial killer in Montana.
I pulled up to a bar that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere and I could feel my heart racing. I’d grown up watching those horror movies set in Texas where you were in some Podunk town with a bunch of locals who wanted to do something to you. I didn’t want to be the next victim to Montana’s chainsaw King. I knew I looked cute. I knew if there were some psycho sitting at the bar who wanted to do something to a hottie like me, I would definitely be targeted. I was from out of town and very obviously out of place. But I also knew that I was street smart. My mom had prepared me well. Living in New York City, she’d always told me to carry a knife in my purse, and I hadn’t taken it out of my handbag when I’d flown here. I’d been a little bit shocked that I’d gotten through TSA with it, but I wasn’t about to question the fact that the X-ray had seemingly not picked it up. Maybe they knew that I was going to need a knife with me once I hit Billings. Though as I looked around, it didn’t really look like there was much going on here. I knew if push came to shove and someone tried to bother me, I’d knife them. I mean, I’d never had to knife anyone before, but I was pretty confident that I could do it.
I pulled into the parking lot next to a bunch of Ford pickup trucks, stopped the ignition and got out of the car. I looked around and stared at the mountain range in the distance. I had to admit it was beautiful. I heaved in a couple of gulps of fresh air. My lungs had never felt happier. I looked down at my heels and wished that I had put on something a little bit more sensible, but I always had to be me, no matter if that was just too ostentatious for a place like Montana. I walked towards the bar door and looked up at the sign; 12 Point Buck Bar, it read. I had no idea what that meant. I walked in, and immediately I could feel eyes upon me. There weren’t many people in the bar, and I felt extremely self-conscious.
I looked around to see if there were any females and was happy when I saw a couple. Two girls in a booth chatting to themselves and one girl with a biker dude at the back of the bar. At least I knew I wouldn’t be the open woman in the bar. I headed towards the bartender so that I could order a drink. I moved as if I were a model on the catwalk and I could see two guys in a corner booth gaping at me in shock. I couldn’t tell if they were impressed or shocked.
“Hey there,” the bartender said, a wide smile on his face. I was glad to see that he was friendly. The last thing I needed was to engage with a grumpy bartender.
“Hi. Can I order a drink please?”
“Sure. What you be having, Miss?”
I looked at him and gave him a small smile, “What’s your specialty?”
“Well, we got lots of beer. You like beer?”
“I’m more of a cocktail girl.”
“We don’t really make many cocktails around here, but I could whip you up something.” He looked behind him. “We might have some coconut shavings and pineapple juice and stuff.”
“Um, maybe a rum and Coke, please?” I chewed down to my lower lip. I didn’t know if it was smart to have a rum and a Coke now that I was driving, but one drink wasn’t going to hurt me.
“Sure, coming right up. So, you new in these parts?” he questioned me as he grabbed a frosted glass from the bar top. I wondered if he was only used to serving beers, but I didn’t want to be rude.
“Yeah. You could kind of say that…very new.”
“Where do you live?” He questioned me. “I didn’t hear about anyone new moving in around here.”
“Actually, funny you asked that question. I kind of need your help.”
“You need my help finding somewhere to live?”
“Well, no, not somewhere to live, but I’m trying to find the place I’m going to be living.”
“You’re trying to find the place you’re going to be living?” He raised an eyebrow. “Interesting. You got people around here?”
“No, I don’t have any people around here. Well, I mean, kind of. Maybe… my in-laws.” I almost groaned as I said that word. It felt like a joke.
“Maybe your in-laws?” He stopped then and just stared at me, looking confused. “What does that mean? Hey, Austin, you hear this girl? She thinks that maybe her in-laws live here.” He started laughing. “Who are your in-laws honey?
I froze wishing I hadn’t said that. I looked to my right and saw a man sitting there. I hadn’t noticed him before. He was tall with dark hair and laughing green eyes. He had a serious expression and he just stared at me as I sat there. From the look of it, he’d been listening to my entire conversation. Just great.
“Well, I don’t mean in-laws.” I looked at the bartender and then at the handsome man next to me. I gave him a small smile but he didn’t smile back. “I mean possible in-laws.”
“You know what that means, Austin? Because I sure don’t,” the bartender said. Austin just looked me up and down.
“I’ve got no idea, Chip,” he responded, chugging his beer. Then he looked at me. “Care to let us in on what you mean by that?”
“Well, I am kind of here to get married.” I made a face. I didn’t really want to tell them everything because it was extremely embarrassing and I didn’t know them. But on the other hand, maybe if they kind of knew they could help me out in some way. Like if they knew the family and the family sucked then they could warn me.
“Here’s your drink, ma’am.”
“Thank you. How much would that be?”
“Really?” I looked surprised as I opened my wallet. “Just five?”
“Where are you from? Five is quite a lot, isn’t it?”
“I’m from New York city. I live in Manhattan, or I guess I lived in Manhattan. You can’t get a rum and coke for $5, maybe $15, if you’re lucky. And that’s at the,” I paused as I realized the two guys were looking at me with wide eyes and disinterest. “Well anyway, good deal.”
“Put your money away.” Austin said as he pulled out his wallet. “I got it.”
“Oh no, you can’t buy my drink.” I shook my head. “You don’t even know me.”
“Well I’m getting to know you.” He put a twenty dollar note on the bartop and gave me a wry smile. “So are you going to tell us more about your in-laws?” The guy who went by Austin said. He was staring at me with a quizzical look on his face. I tried not to stare at him too hard, but he was by far one of the best looking men I’d ever seen in my life. He had that rugged hot look that made you think of a real man. I was so used to metrosexual men in New York that I’d almost forgotten how alpha some men could be.
“Well, it’s kind of embarrassing. I’ve never met them yet.” I grabbed my glass and ran my finger along the rim nervously before taking a sip.
“Oh, so you’ve come to meet your boyfriend’s parents? Is that it?” The bartender said as he handed me a small bowl of nuts.
“You could say that.”
“So your boyfriend, he lives in New York but he’s from Montana. Is that it?”
“Well, no, he’s not from New York. He’s from Montana and he’s always lived in Montana.”
“Then how’d you meet him?” Austin interjected and leaned towards me.
I paused. I really didn’t want to tell them that I hadn’t met him yet. “Well, you know, online…” I smiled and fluffed my hair. “But it’s a long story. I’m kind of looking for his parents ranch though. Maybe you guys could help me out?
“Your boyfriend couldn’t come and pick you up?” Austin said, raising an eyebrow. “What sort of man is that?”
“He was busy working on the ranch today.” I licked my lips and tried to ignore how juicy his lips looked. I stared at his chest for a few seconds, ignoring the stirring in my stomach as I made out his muscles.
“Okay,” Austin shrugged. “Weird.”
“I mean, it’s not weird. He really loves me and everything, but…” I paused. I didn’t know why I was lying. “He was busy and I told him it was okay, but I kind of lost the address, so maybe you guys could help me out?”
“You lost the address to your boyfriend’s ranch?” Austin looked incredulous. “Why don’t you call him and ask him for the address again?”
“Well, I kind of lost his number because,” I paused thinking quickly. I knew I sounded like a hot mess. “He recently changed his phone and I didn’t update the number in my phone and I actually broke my phone and I had to get a new one, and I lost all the numbers.” I knew I was saying far too much in that it was probably very clear that I was lying. “Well, yeah. You get it.”
“Sounds like you’ve got a bit of a problem there, miss,” the bartender said. “What was your name?”
“Lucy.” I smiled at him. “So if you could tell me where Horseshoe Ranch is, I’d be much obliged.”
“Horseshoe Ranch?” The bartender started laughing. “Really?” He looked over Austin. “You hear that, Austin? She’s going to meet her in-laws at Horseshoe Ranch. What did you say the name of your boyfriend was again, ma’am?”
“Yes,” Austin said quietly. “What’s the name of your boyfriend that lives at Horseshoe Ranch?”
“Oh, do you guys know where it is? Thank God. I was scared that I wasn’t going to be able to get there, and well, my boyfriend would be very nervous and worried. He would most likely call the police, and maybe the FBI would get involved. I’d be all over the news and I’d look like such a fool, you know?”
“Uh-huh,” Austin said with a smirk. “And your boyfriend’s name is?”
“Well, funny story,” I said, not wanting to admit that I had no idea of the name of the man I was going to marry. It was kind of embarrassing. I mean, his parents hadn’t wanted to tell me and I wasn’t sure why. They said everything would be explained once I arrived, and I mean, yes, it had been weird, but nothing could be weirder than a situation where you moved to another state to marry a man you’d never met and never seen. I mean, yes, it was even worse that I didn’t know his name, but I had accepted it. I’d needed a way out of my life in New York and… Shit, I’d watched so many movies and read so many books where women had made bigger moves and found love that I figured, what could go wrong. I mean, if I didn’t like him and if he didn’t like me, I would just go back to Manhattan. The parents seemed nice in the emails. I chewed on my lower lip. If it had been the parents I’d been speaking to… I prayed to God I wasn’t walking into some sort of situation that would have me on a show like Criminal Minds or Law and Order SVU. What if I hadn’t even been speaking to his parents?
“So, his name?” Austin said, jarring me out of my thoughts.
“Well, Austin, don’t you know them people there down at Horseshoe Ranch well?” The bartender interrupted and I looked at Austin in surprise. Shit I hoped he didn’t know them very well.
“I know them very well.” He nodded, staring at me. “So I’m curious. I haven’t heard about you. What was your name again?”
“Lucy.” I squeaked. Shit. I didn’t want him to know the family that lived there. I just wanted him to know of the ranch, casually. If he knew the people that lived there, maybe even possibly was friends with them, this just made me look even worse.
“So Lucy, you have a boyfriend that lives there?”
“Well, I mean, more like my fiance.” I lick my lips nervously.
“Wow! You have a fiance? Interesting. Interesting, indeed.”
“Well, you know,” I laughed self-consciously, “if you could just give me the address and then I’ll be on my way. I don’t want my fiance to be nervous or worried about me.”
“Okay, then. Sure, I can give you the address,” he nodded. “You tell Amelia and Ranger that Austin said hello.”
“Who?” I said blinking. Then I remembered that the people I’ve been talking to were Amelia and Ranger Hamilton. “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. The in-laws.” I looked down at my drink. Shit. I sucked. “I am old-fashioned, so call them Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton.”
“You do know Amelia and Ranger, right? Seeing as you’re engaged to their son.”
“Oh yes. I know them very well. They love me. They said I’m like the daughter they’ve never had.” Which was true in a way. They said they’d never had a daughter and they really wanted a daughter-in-law and grandkids. I mean, they didn’t say that I was like the daughter-in-law they’d ever had, but they did want one, that I knew. “But only through phone calls and stuff.”
“Huh, okay.” Austin’s eyes narrowed. “So how often do you communicate with them?”
“Well, I don’t know why you find it so interesting. Do you know them or something?”
“Yeah. I know them,” he nodded. He finished his beer and then stood up. “Well, I’ve got to be going. Good luck, Ms. Lucy.”
“Are you not going to give me the address to the ranch?”
“Maybe.” He looked down at me with glittering eyes.
“If you do one thing for me?”
“What’s that?” Please don’t ask me for my boyfriend’s name.
“How sure are you about marrying that Hamilton boy?” He stared into my eyes and I held my breath.
“Because you’re a very attractive woman.” He grinned and his lips came closer to me. “I’d hate to think that others of us will never have a chance with you.”
“Well you never know.” I licked my lips. I wanted him to kiss me. I knew it was crazy, but I really wanted him to kiss me.
“Oh yeah?” He said and it was as if he’d heard my thoughts because before I knew what was happening, his lips were on mine and he was kissing me. I pressed my lips against his and reached up and ran my hands through his hair. He pulled back about a minute later and my heart was racing. He pressed his fingers against my lips, his eyes blazing as he stared down at me. “Well good luck with everything, Lucy.” He nodded his head and stepped back. “Enjoy Montana.”
“The..the address?” I swallowed hard as I stared at him. Austin had my body on fire and
“Oh, I think Chip can give you the address. He knows where it is, as well.” He lifted his cowboy hat, gave me a slight nod and then walked out of the bar.
“Well, he was nice,” I said to Chip, who was staring at me with a large smile on his face. “I hope everyone in Montana is as nice as you guys.”
“Oh yeah. Austin’s a real good one.” He grinned at me. “I think you’ll find that most everyone here in the Bitterroot Valley is very, very nice. Hold on. I’ll get a pen and paper and I’ll write you down the address.”
“Thank you Chip. I really appreciate it.”
“Oh, you’re welcome, Ms. Lucy. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing more of you soon. The ranch isn’t that far away.”
“Oh, great. That sounds amazing.”
“And I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d be seeing Austin again soon, too.
“Oh, yeah? He lives close to here as well?”
“Yeah. We’re the only bar in a hundred mile radius, so everyone comes here after a long day at work.”
“Oh, wow. Okay. I guess this is really small town living.”
“Yeah, I guess it’s going to be a big change for you being a city girl and all.”
“Yeah, that is true.”
“So, now that Austin’s gone, I don’t suppose you happen to know which of the Hamilton boys you’ll be marrying?”
“Sorry, what?” I swallowed hard.
Well, I figured if you know the parents, but you don’t seem to know the boy, you’ve been speaking with just the parents?”
“Um,” I stammered, “kind of? Okay, I didn’t want to say anything with that guy here, but I’m kind of here for an arranged marriage.” How had Chip guessed?
“Oh, yeah?” He started laughing. “Really? Oh boy, Amelia and Ranger are going to get into trouble.”
“Oh, no. What do you mean?”
“Their sons are not going to be happy. You don’t happen to know which son?”
“I guess it’s the oldest son?” I shrugged. “I don’t really know much. It’s kind of a long, complicated story.”
“The oldest one, huh?” He grabbed a bottle from the wall and chugged it. “Yeehaw! This is going to be a fun week! I can just tell.”
“Oh yeah! Well, good luck Lucy. I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”
“Well, thank you, Chip,” I said, wanting to ask more but scared. What did he know about the Hamilton’s that I didn’t? At least he was laughing and not warning me away. At least it seemed they weren’t psychopathic killers.
“Oh, well,” I said as I grabbed the address. “I guess I should be going now. Meet the in-laws and everything.”
“Good luck girl. Good luck.”
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