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The Cowboy's Accidental Romance

The Cowboy's Accidental Romance

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She's in town to remodel the house she inherited. He's the real estate agent who'd like something more between them. Can they put their differences aside?

The last thing Abby wants to do is clean out her great-aunt’s house that she just inherited, but she needs to get it ready to sell. It doesn’t help that the arrogant man she met in town happens to be her new neighbor. Luke can’t believe the little girl who’d followed him around when she’d stayed with his mother’s old neighbor has grown up to be such a beautiful and feisty woman. As Luke helps Abby remodel the old home to get it ready to sell, he comes to realize she might just be what he was missing from his life. Can the two of them give up their dreams to build something better together?

Intro into Chapter One

Paige cheered with the crowd around her as Stacey and Aaron walked down the aisle after their first kiss as a married couple. The wedding had been performed under a beautiful gazebo in the lush greenery at the Inn at Emerald Lake. The adorable bed and breakfast was in the process of expanding into a retreat, vacation destination, and reception center. The land was owned by Stacey’s grandparents, but Stacey had had a big hand in the way it was developing and expanding into a popular vacation destination for families. And soon, if things went as planned, this would be where Paige would live.
It had been less than a year ago that Stacey had given Paige the courage to stop nursuing her lackluster acting career and go back into the child development classes she’d considered before. Once the wedding was all over, Paige would be interviewing with Stacey’s grandparents about the plans they had for a summer youth camp or even just activities for the children of guests that came to the inn. Of course, Paige would have to wait until Monday to actually do the interview. For now, she was here to celebrate with Stacey and her husband Aaron along with all the other guests.
Paige checked out the area as she walked with the wedding party to the large white canopy that had been set up on a wide expanse of lawn. The wedding dinner would be held under it, soon followed by dancing and music. It wouldn’t hurt to get a feel for the area and get some ideas on what she might suggest for children’s activities to the Perrys when she met with them about the position. Of course, it probably wouldn’t look good for her to just go wander off and explore the property alone either.
She slowly trailed after the other guests, letting everyone else enter the dining area first. As she waited, Paige felt eyes on her. She looked directly at the man who had been standing at the front with Aaron as one of his groomsmen. She was used to being watched when she worked in L.A., but this felt different. Good even. He didn’t look at her like she was an object, but it was obvious he found her attractive and she was incredibly curious to know more about him.
Paige maintained eye contact and smiled in return. His black tux looked just like what the other groomsman wore, but somehow this guy filled it out better. Paige thought he looked even better than the groom. Though Stacey’s new husband, Aaron, was a cowboy, returned from Wyoming to North Carolina, this guy had the swagger and natural grace of someone who’d always been a cowboy. Then to top it all off, his rugged good looks were better than even a man off of a Hollywood set. Maybe, if she was lucky, she’d have a chance to dance with him tonight.
She glanced around the rest of the crowd, but there was no sign of a partner or girlfriend or plus one. When he approached and met her at the entryway of the tent, Paige straightened up and smiled, not needing to fake it at all.
“Howdy,” the man said. “I’m Eric. A friend of the groom.”
Paige felt the tug in her belly at his deep voice and Midwest accent. “Paige,” she said. “Friend of the bride.”
“Do you have a plus one?” Eric asked.
“Not currently,” Paige said. “You?”
Eric shook his head. “Not unless you’d be willing to join me.”
“Don’t you have to sit at the head table?” Paige asked.
Eric shrugged. “No. They’ll have that table for family. Besides, I don’t think it would matter much. Those two don’t have eyes for anything but each other. And lucky me, I’m not making any toasts or anything. Aaron’s brother gets to do that.”
Paige looked into the tent at the tables set up. They had gone for the more casual dining option and the seats were not labeled with guest’s names and the food was set up in buffet style.
“I’d be happy to join you,” Paige said, looking up into Eric’s deep blue eyes. While she’d never really been a fan of blue eyes, she realized she’d never seen any that matched his. Eric motioned for her to lead the way into the tent and he gently placed his hand near her back. It was the briefest of touches, but she still felt it to her core. It wasn’t a creepy touch either. Just the touch of a gentleman escorting a woman into a room. Man, maybe this wedding reception would be more enjoyable than she had thought. She’d never attended one on her own before, but she hadn’t wanted to bring a date since she would be staying the weekend with the intent to pursue a job here. Besides, she hadn’t been serious with anyone in months. Not since her last boyfriend had ended up leaving her for her roommate and the one before that was now engaged to her friend from high-school. She never should have introduced them when Kelly had come to visit. Oh well, live and learn. Paige had sworn off guys once again, since every time she got involved it always ended badly. If only she could meet a genuine nice guy that wasn’t a fake.
Paige found a table not far from the front where the bride and groom and their close family and friends would be sitting. She looked up at Eric. “What do you think?”
“This is fine with me.” He pulled out her chair and with an easy and smooth motion, assisted her in sitting down. She’d never had a guy do that for her, and this guy did it without even hitting the back of her knees. He was smooth. Did he do this a lot? Hopefully he wasn’t some kind of player.
“Thank you, Eric.”
“My pleasure.” He sat down next to her and focused his attention on her as they waited for all the guests to arrive and stop milling around until the official announcement that dinner was served. “Tell me how you know Stacey.”
“We were in a few acting classes together in LA. She helped me with some auditions too.”
“You’re an actress?” Eric asked.
“I wouldn’t say actress,” Paige chuckled. “Had only a few tiny roles in a few episodes of some less than famous shows.”
“Still,” Eric said. “That’s pretty impressive. Do you enjoy acting?”
“It’s a lot of fun,” Paige said. “Not easy, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge.”
“How did you get into acting?” Eric asked.
“There was an opening for some random bystanders. A large group of people just milling around in the background of this scene in a police procedural show. So a few friends and I signed up for that. Easiest money I’ve ever made. So I thought, must be easy. Did a few more of those off the side rolls and thought it would be fun to audition for some speaking parts.”
Paige left it at that, hoping to sound more mysterious than she really was. Wouldn’t do her any good to blab it all about how she’d had to give up some of her college classes and take a job as a waitress so she could make it to more auditions.
“Sounds cool.” Eric took a sip from the water glass at the table.
“How about you?” Paige asked. “How do you know Aaron?”
“My uncle and his uncle worked together at the ranch Aaron moved to in high school. We’re not cousins really, opposite sides of the family, just good friends. I taught him how to ride a horse.”
Paige smiled. “Bet he appreciates that. Stacey said they love horseback riding.”
“You ever been?” Eric asked.
“Only once. I was little and it was at a county fair.”
“If you’re talking about those little ponies that go around in a circle, then you haven’t ridden a horse, Paige.”
She laughed at his mock outrage. “Well, then I guess I haven’t ridden a horse. I sure love the looks of them, though.”
“I highly suggest you do it right someday.”
“I’ll definitely look into that. I’ve always loved watching horses and wish I had a chance to ride for real.” Before she could say anything more, the click of a microphone brought their attention to the front as Aaron’s brother stood up to welcome everyone to the wedding dinner. Though she knew she was at the wedding to support Stacey, she almost wished the whole wedding events were out of the way so she could focus her attention on Eric.


Eric tried to listen to the best man’s speech, but most of his attention was on the woman next to him. He hadn’t been able to stop looking at her when he’d stood at the front during the wedding ceremony. She’d sat with the guests on Stacey’s side and when he saw she was alone, he knew he had to introduce himself. He had definitely lucked out that she’d agreed to sit with him for the meal. With her being an actress from LA, there wouldn’t be any worry about making a fool of himself in the long run. She’d be heading back to her life and he’d bury himself in his work after the weekend was done.
But tonight, he hoped she’d dance with him. That might give him a chance to enjoy the company of a lovely young lady to help him get over the fact that his own former fiancé had just announced her new engagement to one of his old rodeo buddies. Of course, Martin and Shaylee deserved each other. They were both in it for the fame, glory, and money that came from being top rodeo names. Besides, Shaylee’s daddy had always liked Martin more anyway.
Paige’s laugh at the comments from the speaker brought a smile to his face. It was a perfect laugh. Crystal clear and full of joy. He didn’t doubt she’d be good at her job as an actress. He was enchanted and he had just met her.
She met his eyes and they flashed with enjoyment. When the brother was done with his remarks, Aaron stood and thanked everyone for coming, then invited all the guests to go to the two banquet tables filled with food for everyone to dish up.
“Shall we go?” Eric asked.
“Let’s wait for a few minutes until the lines die down.”
“Good idea,” Eric said. The wedding party wasn’t huge and it wouldn’t take too long for it to move through. Besides, sitting here at the now empty table would give him a chance to get to know her just a little better. Someone from out of town that wouldn’t be here long would be a good way to practice some of his interpersonal skills. Eric rolled his eyes to himself. He couldn’t even call it what it was. Flirting.
No, with flirting, that would mean he’d be vulnerable to rejection. This would just be making small talk and learning about someone else. Things he’d need to do when he worked with the clients who came to take riding lessons.


Paige smiled at Stacey who waved at her from the front of the room, then as the new bride turned her attention back to her husband, Paige let out a happy sigh. She was thrilled for Stacey and knew that she’d worked hard and completely deserved the happiness she had now.
“Did you grow up in California?” Eric asked.
“Yes,” Paige said. “Northern California. We spent a lot of time in the Redwoods as kids.”
“I’ve never been.”
Paige turned to face him. “It’s one of those places you just have to see to believe. There are trees that even my entire extended family couldn’t reach around with everyone holding hands. And the colors and smells there in the forest. Mmm.”
“Do you miss it?” Eric asked.
“I do. I love the forested areas so much more than the big city stuff in L.A. Cooler there too. Similar to how it feels here at Emerald Lake. Though, we don’t have fireflies.” Paige looked out past the canopy into the wide expanse of the lawn and the few bushes that lined the open area. “Stacey said they’d be out this evening. Part of why she picked this time of year to get married.”
Eric nodded. “We’ll see them for sure. Once the sun sets, the whole area will be lit up better than any of these stringed lights can manage.”
“I can’t wait to see them,” Paige said. “I hear they are almost worth the heat and humidity on the east coast.”
“North Carolina has a lot to offer for sure, but it’s nicest up in the mountains. Less of the humidity in a lot of the places around here. I do like the coasts and the ocean breezes though.”
“Same,” Paige said. “The beach is probably the only good thing about Southern California. I do not look forward to returning to the heat and crowded city. A quiet life would be a lot better.”
Grandma Dee, who would be the woman Paige would interview with on Monday, walked past and then paused a moment and looked at them. “You two better go get some food. There’s going to be lots of dancing tonight and you should eat up so you have energy to dance all night.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Eric said, and Paige smiled. He stood and offered his hand to Paige and she stood up. He then seamlessly transferred his hand to her back and gently guided her between the tables and chairs toward the buffet table. Never in her life had she ever had a man do something of the sort without sending creep vibes through her. The actors and producers in the few shows she’d been involved with always made her nervous.
Not Eric though. She wasn’t sure what it was about him. He was definitely handsome and easy to talk to, but he seemed more genuine than most guys. Somehow he managed to be protective and respectful as if it was just a natural and nonsexist way of touch for
him. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled at him then when they reached the table, he removed his hand and they each dished up the delicious food then worked their way back to their seats. Since all the guests at their table had all returned and begun eating, it was easy enough to just start visiting with the people nearby.
The woman to the other side of Eric talked the whole time, and Paige could see he was being extra polite, but it made her smile inside to think that if he had his choice, he’d probably be talking with Paige instead. Once the music started playing, dozens of people stood and moved into the center where a wooden dance floor had been laid out. Paige took a sip from her fluted glass and glanced at Eric who turned to face her. “Would you like to dance?”
She placed her glass back on the table and nodded. “I’d love to.”
Eric put his hand on her waist and took her other hand in his, meeting her eyes. With almost no effort that she could feel, he moved her across the dance floor in more of a ballroom dance style. One more surprise to add to the growing list of qualities in this guy. She’d definitely hit the jackpot for tonight. What else was he good at? And why was he here without a date? She pushed that out of her mind. She would likely never see him again after tonight, so she might as well enjoy all the attention.
When the song ended and the music changed to a different style, Eric easily shifted into a modified dance where he still kept one hand on her waist, but he brought his hand holding hers closer between them. Her hand was near his chin and if she’d extended her finger, she could have touched his dark scruff that had just begun to appear. He felt warm, but in the coolness of the evening air, it sent shivers of delight down her spine. As long as she stayed close to him, she wouldn’t need to get the shawl she’d brought.
Dance followed after dance and when he suggested they go get a drink to take a momentary break, she was both relieved and disappointed. She didn’t want to stop holding onto him as he moved her this way and that. If anyone ever asked her what her favorite date in all her life had been, this would be the one she mentioned. It wasn’t a date at all, but she was enjoying this more than anything she’d ever done. The added excitement of him being a practical stranger who had worked his way past her ever increasing armor added a thrill to this evening that she’d never felt before. She could totally understand how people could say they fell in love at first sight. If all the right elements were added with just the right music and lighting, the delicious food and drink, and the magic of romance already in the air because of the wedding, no one would be surprised to find themselves infatuated.
That was all this was. For tonight, she’d just enjoy it and make some memories. Eric handed her a drink of punch and she was happy to find it wasn’t spiked with anything. She still had to drive nearly an hour down to the city of Emerald Cove to her hotel since she hadn’t been able to get a room here with all the wedding guests and family. Not to mention that she needed to keep her wits about her because she definitely did not need to lose her head while she allowed her emotions free reign. For this evening, as long as Eric was here and willing, she’d be his dance partner all night and flirt and enjoy his company to help her feel alive again.


Eric took a drink from his cup and watched as Paige drank from hers. He hadn’t enjoyed himself this much in months. Paige was fun and lighthearted and helped him feel like a man who was worth something. The way her eyes lit up as he led her onto the dance floor gave him courage to continue. She didn’t seemed bothered by the way he talked, or moved, or danced. In fact, he was almost certain she liked the way he took the lead. She didn’t roll her eyes or push back as if trying to take control or dominate him. Not that he was trying to force himself on Paige at all. She was just so different than Shaylee and he liked knowing that she found him desirable enough to dance more than one dance with him.
“That was delicious.” Paige lowered the cup from her full lips. “I didn’t realize how thirsty I was. You just kept me so involved in dancing, I loved it. I’ve never danced with anyone as good as you.”
“You are the perfect kind of dance partner,” Eric said. “You just let yourself feel the music and you move exactly where you should.” Paige’s musical laugh felt as if bubbles from the lightly carbonated punch were lingering in his chest. “Only because you are so good at leading.” She glanced at the dance floor, then back to him. “I hope we can dance again after a rest.”
“Absolutely.” Eric glanced around at all the guests at the wedding party. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and because most of the guests here were either couples, family members and relatives, or good friends of the bride and groom, they all seemed happy to stick together. Paige and he were apparently the only ones who didn’t come with a plus one. Knowing he wouldn’t be the only one to be the odd man out had been what initially prompted him to approach her. Now that they had been side-by-side for a few hours, and still liked each other’s company was sign enough to stick with her for the rest of the evening. As long as she was happy to be with him, he’d shower her with attention. Her response to him and their dancing, talking, and visiting made him feel like a man that could actually be worth something. Someone who had something to offer to a woman. Shaylee’s rejection and cheating had shattered his confidence more than he’d realized.
Paige set her empty drink cup on the table so the wait staff could gather it up and swayed gently to the music. He wasn’t sure if she did it on purpose or if she just felt the music through her soul. Either way, he was fascinated by her and as much as he wanted to dance again, he wanted a chance to just be alone with her for a moment. “Before we return to the dance floor, would you like to take a walk around the grounds? We should be seeing the first signs of fireflies soon.”
Paige smiled. “I’d love to. Stacey keeps raving at how beautiful the whole area is. I’d like to see it up close since I didn’t get here as early as I’d hoped to today.” Eric reached for her hand, and she easily slipped hers into his. There was just something right about things tonight. He had never felt this immediate kind of connection to someone before, and though it would only be for the remainder of the evening, he’d allow himself to just enjoy it and not think of returning to his regular world tomorrow.

A chance meeting at a wedding, and it's love at first sight, but then they learn they'll be working together.

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