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Lorana Hoopes

The Billionaire's Cowboy Groom

The Billionaire's Cowboy Groom

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Ring? Check. Dress? Check. Divorce... wait what?

 

Designer Carrie Bliss has it all. Her business is insanely successful and she's dating a man she could see herself marrying. But when he actually proposes, she's forced to confront a secret from six years ago that could change everything.

Cowboy Cal Roper is picky. Even though he's ready to settle down, he avoids dating any of the women in town. He's already got a girl, whether she knows it or not. When Carrie returns to town, he'll do anything to convince her they belong together.

Carrie has to make a decision. Cal has always loved her. But can she step back into the past? Or will she move on into the future, without him?

An inspirational Christian romance by Award winning and USA Today best selling author Lorana Hoopes, this story focuses on second chances and trusting God to bring the right people into your life at the right time. Follow the journey by clicking the button above.

First Chapter

Carrie zipped up the back of her best friend’s dress and stepped back to admire it.

“Oh my goodness, Carrie, this is more beautiful than I even imagined.” Gwen fingered the white satin, her hand trailing across the lace and bead detail. She turned and studied the image in the full-length mirror. With her red hair pulled up, her slender shoulders were even more defined in the strapless dress.

“Well, you deserve it. Besides, if you are going to marry Drew Devonshire and become a Devonshire, then you must dress like one.” Carrie smiled at the vision that was Gwen. The white pearls and lace accentuated her creamy skin, and her green eyes sparkled. Happiness filled Carrie that she was able to make Gwen feel so good about herself.

“You are the best friend a girl could ask for.” Gwen turned from the mirror and enveloped Carrie in a hug. “Now, let’s get you dressed. Alyssa should be back soon.”

Gwen had met Alyssa a few months after Drew proposed. Evidently, Drew had gone to college with Maxwell Banks, and they had reconnected when Drew searched for friends to make his groomsmen. It hadn’t been too hard to find him considering they were both billionaires.

Max and Alyssa had visited, and Gwen and Alyssa had hit it off. They became close enough friends that Gwen had asked her to be a bridesmaid. Carrie didn’t mind. Gwen needed more friends, and she liked Alyssa too. And of course, Peyton was a doll.

The door opened then and Alyssa and Peyton rushed in. Well, Peyton rushed in, Alyssa’s entry was more of a waddle seeing as how she was eight and a half months pregnant. “Sorry, Gwen, when you gotta go, you gotta go.”

“Wow, Miss Gwen, you look so pretty,” Peyton stared up at Gwen with wide eyes. “Almost as pretty as Mommy looked when she married Daddy.” Peyton looked back to Alyssa, her eyes full of admiration.

The girls all laughed. “Well, I wouldn’t expect to look prettier than your mommy.” Gwen smiled at Alyssa over Peyton’s head. “And don’t worry about the time. Your dress is here. Carrie was just about to get dressed as well.”

“I realize it’s not my wedding, but I feel like a chicken with its head cut off.” Alyssa patted her pregnant belly. “How do you two keep up here?”

“I hire help.” Carrie laughed as she slipped out of her clothes and into her bridesmaid dress. The emerald green satin hugged her figure like a second skin. She was glad she had been so strict with her diet lately, or the dress might not have fit her. “I’ve had to hire another designer to help me.”

“It’s because you are so amazing,” Gwen said. “I mean this dress is stunning.” She twirled in front of the mirror again.

“I’d say she’s a fan.” Alyssa chuckled as she stepped into her own emerald green dress. Gwen had chosen emerald green because she thought both Carrie and Alyssa would look good in it. Alyssa’s hair was a dark brown unlike Carrie’s red locks, but the emerald green was a color that brought out the best in both of them. “I wish I had known you when I got married. I would have loved to have worn a dress you designed.”

Carrie stepped over to the mirror to check her reflection. “I saw your wedding picture. Your dress was beautiful.”

“Did you see my dress at Mommy’s wedding too?” Peyton asked. She was already in her flower girl dress and practicing throwing fake petals from her basket.

Carrie turned, smiled, and squatted down to the little girl’s level. “As a matter of fact, I did. You looked just as pretty then as you do now.” She tapped the end of the girl’s nose earning a giggle in reply.

“Yes, it was beautiful,” Alyssa said picking up the original thread of conversation again, “but there’s something about having a friend make your dress that makes it extra special. I mean if you hadn’t made this one, I doubt I would have found one that fit. I am as big as a house.”

“You’re welcome and you still look radiant,” Carrie said. “When is the baby due?”

“A month. Can you believe that? It’s a good thing you didn’t plan this wedding any later, Gwen or they might not have let me fly.”

“I’m sure Max would have found a way to get you here,” Carrie said with a laugh. “I don’t know him well, but he seems like a take charge kind of guy.”

“Oh, he is that all right.” Alyssa smoothed her dress and turned in front of the mirror. “What about you, Carrie? When are you going to marry that handsome French man I met? What was his name?”

“Philippe.” Carrie shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not sure. He hasn’t asked yet, but we’ve only been dating a few months.” Of course, that was forever in Carrie’s dating history. For as long as memory served her, she had flitted from one man to the next. Obviously, she was looking for something, but she wasn’t sure what yet. She hoped she it would smack her in the face when she found it so she didn‘t miss it.

“Well, I’m sure it will be beautiful whenever it happens.” Alyssa rubbed her belly again.

“And I’m sure this baby will be beautiful,” Gwen said. “You better send pictures.”

“Of course I will. Chances are he’ll resemble this one though.” She hugged Peyton to her. “Max’s genes seem to run strong. Thank you, Gwen, for letting her be your flower girl.”

“Yes, thank you, Miss Gwen. I promise to do a good job.” Peyton’s innocent face held the sincerest expression Carrie had ever seen on a person so young.

“I know you will, sweetie. Your mom said you are a natural at throwing flowers. And I have no younger sisters or nieces, so you are doing me the big favor.” Gwen picked up the bag of flower petals and filled Peyton’s basket.

Suddenly music carried into the room. “I think that might be our cue,” Carrie said. “Everybody ready?”

“I can’t believe it’s finally time.” Gwen’s voice dripped with happiness and awe. Her face shone, and her smile stretched from one ear to the other.

As Carrie opened the door and led the way to the sanctuary, she wondered if she would ever have the same expression on her face. When would it be her turn?

* * *

Cal Roper looked down into the basket of baked goods as he tried to come up with the right words. Though everything looked and probably was delicious, he needed to find some way to make Ginny understand he wasn’t interested in her romantically. She was as sweet as cherry pie, but he preferred apple.

“Thanks, Ginny, this was real nice of you,” Cal said as he looked back up at the perky blond.

“Oh, you know me, Cal, always baking more than I need.” She dropped her eyes to the ground and her toe dug a circle in the soft dirt. “So, I thought to myself - who could use some homemade goodies? And you popped right into my head.” She glanced up and flashed him a megawatt smile revealing nearly every one of her teeth as she batted her eyes at him.

Cal supposed she was waiting for more than a thank-you. An invitation to dinner maybe or a ride on the mares, but he couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t lead the poor girl on.

“Well, I do appreciate it, and I’m sure Stacy will as well, right, sis?” He flashed his sister a help-me-out-will-you glance as he spoke.

Stacy opened her mouth to reply, but Ginny beat her to it. “Not that I’m sure you’re not a good cook, Stacy,” she added as if just realizing how insulting her words might have sounded to his sister.

Stacy held up her hands. “I take no offense. Cal does his own cooking. I just work here, but I’m sure we both will enjoy these muffins. It was real sweet of you to think of Cal.”

Ginny smiled again and turned her eyes back to Cal. Her smile faltered when she realized he wasn’t going to extend any sort of invitation. “All right, well I better be getting my own dinner going, so I guess I’ll see you both at church on Sunday.”

“We’ll be there,” Cal said, “and thanks again.” He lifted the basket and forced a small smile.

“She likes you,” Stacy said as Ginny walked away.

Cal sighed and dropped the basket onto the porch. “I suspected.” Ginny was a nice girl. Cute with a bubbly personality and a believer, but his heart belonged to someone else.

“But?” Stacy pressed.

Cal shrugged. “But I’m not interested.”

“You haven’t been interested in the last three women who have shown an interest in you. You didn’t have enough in common with Gabriella, you had too much in common with Heather, and Sophie lived too far away.”

“Well, she did,” Cal said. “I don’t want a long-distance relationship.”

Stacy fixed her steely gray eyes on him. She might be a year younger than him, but she could turn a heart to ice with her fierce expression. He would want her watching his back in a fight any day. “Cal, it’s been six years. When are you going to let that woman go?”

“When God tells me it’s time.” He took his Stetson off and wiped the light sheen of sweat from his forehead though he wasn’t sure if the sweat was from his recently finished chores or this conversation. “I know you think I’m crazy, but I married her and that means something to me. God hasn’t told me it’s time to move on yet, so I’m going to follow His will until He does.”

Stacy’s eyes softened. “Cal, I understand you want to do God’s will, but you married this woman on a whim in Vegas. That’s not what God had planned when He created marriage.”

Cal nodded. While Stacy didn’t have the whole story, she was right that he shouldn’t have married the woman. Cal hadn’t even believed in love at first sight, but when he’d seen the fiery red head in the casino, his heart had jumped. It spun. It danced the tango in his chest, and he just knew he couldn’t lose her. After spending hours talking with her, he’d proposed to her, and she’d said yes. An all-night wedding chapel had been delighted to take their money, and Cal had spent an amazing night with the woman. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been quite as excited about the marriage the next morning. She had begged him for an annulment and when he’d refused, she had thrown her ring at him and left.

“I know you write her every year.” Stacy continued breaking into his walk down memory lane. “Has she ever responded?”

“Not yet, but she will.” Every year on their anniversary, Cal sent her a card requesting a rekindling of their relationship. Every year, he heard nothing from her - he honestly wasn‘t even sure if his letters were even getting to her. Still, Cal felt deep down in his bones that someday he would hear from her. He might not have waited on God’s timing to marry her, but now that they were married, he was determined to wait on God’s timing to make it right. And God kept telling him to wait. So, he would. He would wait as long as he had to.

* * *

Carrie linked arms with Scott as Alyssa and Max reached the front. She had hoped to be able to walk the aisle with Philippe, but Scott was Drew’s best friend. It only made sense he would be the best man. Besides, she would have plenty of time with Philippe at the reception, and he would be sitting in the first few rows on Gwen’s side. She would have a great view of him.

“Ready?” Scott asked.

“Absolutely.” In step, they walked up the aisle parting ways at the stage. Carrie stepped to her left to stand beside Alyssa and Scott went to his right to stand between Max and Drew. Carrie turned to face the congregation as the music changed. Her eyes scanned for Philippe first who flashed her a charming smile. She returned it and then shifted her gaze to the back of the church to watch Gwen enter.

The lights hit the pearls and sequins on the dress as she entered, and Carrie smiled as gasps of delight echoed around the room. She had never been prouder of one of her designs.

Gwen handed her the bouquet as she stepped on the platform and took Drew’s hands.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Gwen Rodgers and Drew Devonshire. On the outside, they may seem like opposites - a teacher and a billionaire - but they have learned one of the most important lessons in life. They have learned to see past money and outside appearance and into the heart.  It’s what’s in the heart that matters most, and in that respect,  they are two of a kind. They love each other, and they love the Lord.”

Carrie glanced at Philippe as the minister spoke. “You look beautiful,” Philippe mouthed to her, and a blush stole across her cheeks. Could he be the one for her? She hadn’t seen any red flags that sent her running yet, but she had expected to feel something different if he was the one. Some tug on her heart, the sound of fireworks, something.

“Do you Drew, take this woman as your wife to have and to hold through sickness and in health, forsaking all others until death do you part?”

Carrie shook her head to clear the thoughts. She had a job to do, and she needed to pay attention.

Drew’s smile lit up his whole face as he said, “I do.”

“And do you Gwen take this man as your husband to have and to hold through sickness and in health forsaking all others until death do you part?”

“I do.”

“Then by the power vested to me by the great state of New York, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

Carrie cheered along with the rest of the congregation as Drew leaned forward and kissed Gwen. Then they faced the church and held their hands up before running out the aisle. Carrie took Scott’s arm and followed suit. They burst out the doors and joined Gwen and Drew in the foyer. Max, Alyssa, and Peyton joined them a moment later.

“Congratulations, Gwen,” Carrie said enveloping her in another hug. “You looked so beautiful.”

“I’ll second that,” Drew said. “Carrie, that dress is perfection.”

“Well, I had a good model.” She handed the bridal bouquet back to Gwen. “You might need these.”

“I might, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll be finding its way back to you soon enough.” Gwen took the flowers and flashed a knowing glance at Carrie.

“I’m not sure about that,” Carrie said with a shake of her head. “Philippe doesn’t seem in any hurry to propose.”

“He will,” Alyssa said joining the conversation. “I predict a wedding in your near future.”

Carrie appreciated the sentiments of her friends, but she wasn’t so sure. Philippe may have been her longest relationship in years, but they were only going on four months. It was way too early for him to propose, and she was still sorting out her feelings. “Come on, we better get to the reception area before the stampede hits,” Carrie said changing the subject.

“Just not too fast.” Alyssa placed her hands on her large belly. “This pregnant woman can only go so quickly.”

“We’ll see you there in a minute,” Gwen said as Drew pulled her toward the holding room where they would wait a few minutes to give the rest of the congregation time to get to the reception area.

Carrie led the way down the hallway and opened the doors to the reception area. It was decorated with white lights and tulle. White roses nestled in green foliage covered every tabletop and large windows granted expansive views of the city. The elegance, though understated, permeated the room. Gwen‘s personality shone through in every simple touch.

“Wow,” Peyton said beside Carrie. “It looks like a princess lives here.”

Carrie nodded. “Her wedding planner was pretty amazing, but I think most of this was Gwen’s idea. I’m guessing that’s our table up there on the stage. Shall we go find a seat?”

“Yes, please,” Alyssa said. “I would love to get out of these shoes.”

By the time they sat down, the rest of the guests were making their way in. Philippe joined Carrie at the head table. “That was a nice ceremony.”

“It was.” Carrie stared at him a moment wondering if he ever imagined what their wedding might look like.

“Ladies and gentlemen.” The DJ’s voice interrupted her moment, “please welcome for the first time Mr. and Mrs. Devonshire.”

The room erupted in clapping and cheers as Gwen and Drew walked over to their table. As soon as they sat down, the waiters began bringing out the dishes. Carrie only picked at the delicious food, afraid if she ate too much that she would bust the seams on her dress. It was already getting uncomfortable just from sitting.

When the bride and groom finished eating, Scott and Carrie each gave their toast, and then Gwen and Drew danced their first dance.

“Come on.” Carrie grabbed Philippe’s hand when other couples were invited to the floor. This was the moment she had waited for. Carrie loved dancing and Philippe would never indulge her, but surely, he wouldn’t say no at a wedding. It was expected guests would dance at a wedding.

“I don’t dance,” he said with a shake of his head. “I’ve told you that before.”

“I understand, but it’s my best friend’s wedding. I want to dance at her wedding.”

“Two left feet.” He pointed to the floor. “Don’t like making a fool of myself.”

“But what about our-” Carrie snapped her mouth shut. She had been about to ask him about their wedding and he hadn’t even proposed yet. She must be caught up in the wedding fever.

“Our what?” he asked.

“Nothing, I’m going to grab some punch.”  She turned away before the hurt expression on her face displayed her true feelings. If they did marry, would he not dance with her? Surely, he would make an exception for his own wedding.

“May I have this dance?”

Carrie looked to her left to see Max staring at her with his hand outstretched. “No, it’s fine, really.”

“Come on, Alyssa sent me over here. She’s too pregnant to dance. Besides, it might help your man see what he’s missing.”

Carrie glanced over at Alyssa who smiled and shot her a thumb up sign. “Okay,” she said with a laugh. “If it’s all right with Alyssa. She’s a pretty amazing woman.”

Max situated her in his arms when they reached the dance floor. “Don’t I know it. She’s way too good for me. You know, I never expected I’d marry. I was rather like you - a serial dater, though I wasn’t as nice about it. I was pretty awful to the women I dated.” He spun her around. “My point is that if I can find love, you can too.”

“Thank you.” Carrie smiled up at him. He might not have started out a kind man, but he certainly was now.

After Max, she danced with Scott, then Drew, then random guests who came and asked her. It almost seemed as if they were keeping her busy to distract her from remembering her own date’s refusal to dance, but Carrie didn’t mind. Before she knew it, it was time for the bouquet toss. She lined up with the other women, and Gwen’s aim was as true as her word. The bundle of flowers landed squarely in her hands.

“I told you,” Gwen said before she was whisked away.

Carrie smiled and then turned to Philippe. She almost laughed at the pained expression on his face as she held up the bouquet. It was a silly tradition, but she couldn’t help hoping that maybe catching the bouquet would turn things around for her. With all her friends married or getting married, she was starting to long for that solid foundation as well.

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.