The Cowboy's Secret Bride

By: Cora Seton

But now she needed to repair the damage she’d left behind. For the past three years, it had been easy to put on hold. Her restaurant had taken up all her time, and she’d told herself she’d get to everything else when she had a spare moment. Now she wished she hadn’t put it off. She had an almost superstitious pang when she thought about moving ahead with Carl before she fixed things between her and her parents.

This wasn’t going to be easy. Paula expected her to move back sooner or later. She wouldn’t be happy to hear Camila meant to stay in Chance Creek, and Camila had no idea how her parents would react to the idea of her becoming serious with Carl. She wanted her parents’ approval of the life she’d chosen. Wanted them to love Carl as much as she did, even though he wasn’t Mexican.

How would they react when they found out her plans?

Would they cut off communication with her for good?

They nearly had when she moved out. Only recently had they begun to talk more frequently by phone again. She spoke more with her brothers and sisters—except Mateo. The way she’d left had made things awkward between them.

It was time to make amends. To heal the wounds before they deepened.

She only wished she knew how.

“Something wrong?” Fila asked when Camila rejoined her and Maya at the booth.

Camila tied her apron back on and shook her head. But this was Fila—her best friend in the world. “Yes,” she admitted.

“Your family?” Fila guessed.

Fila knew her too well, Camila thought ruefully.

“Maybe you should go visit them,” Fila suggested. “Patch things up face-to-face.”

“Maybe.” She’d been thinking the same thing herself lately.

“Don’t let them convince you to stay, though.” Fila prepared another plate of nachos and handed it to Maya, who passed it to a customer. “We need you here.”

Camila nodded. It didn’t need to be a long trip. She’d apologize to her parents for upsetting them, then paint a picture of how well her life was going. And then bring up Carl…

“Three days. Four at most,” Fila went on. “More than that and the whole place will come down around my ears.”

Camila had to grin. “I doubt it.” Fila was the most organized woman she knew. She had too strong a will to let anything overwhelm her.

“Oh, man. Here comes Uncle Jed,” Maya interrupted in a low voice. “Brace yourselves.”

“Maya, I’ve been looking for you,” Jedediah Turner boomed from the other side of the counter, making Camila jump. Jed was one of the orneriest men she’d ever met, but he was her landlord, which meant she had to watch her manners around him.

“Hi, Uncle Jed,” Maya said cheerfully.

“Hi, Jedidiah,” Camila echoed. “How are you today?”

“I’ll be fine as soon as we’ve won the Founders Prize.” He must have once stood tall and square shouldered, but time had taken its toll. At 85, he moved stiffly, but he was as proud as ever.

“Founders Prize?” Camila exchanged a look with her friends, but they were as mystified as she was.

“Didn’t you hear the big announcement? The winner will be announced on Halloween. A lot of land riding on that contest. Land that should belong to us Turners.”

Camila just nodded. She wasn’t a Turner, but living at the Flying W seemed to make her an honorary member of the family, which she usually appreciated. The Turners were known for being honorable, upright members of society, and for the most part, they lived up to their reputation.

Until the Coopers got involved.

Then they seemed to lose their minds.

“What land?” Maya asked.

“Settler’s Ridge.”

“Settler’s Ridge?” Maya’s eyes grew wide, and she turned to Camila to explain. “That property forms the northern boundary of the Flying W and Thorn Hill. It’s on both sides of Pittance Creek. If we own it, we control the creek, right?” she asked Jed.

He nodded.

“Of course, the Coopers will want it too. What do we have to do to get it?”

“Be the biggest contributors to civic society in Chance Creek. Which we already are and always have been. It’s a slam dunk,” he said smugly.

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