The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire (Page 4)

The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire(4)
Author: Cora Seton

“Uh… you’ll have to…” Hannah held the clipboard in front of her face and mumbled something unintelligible.

“I’ll have to what?” Bella demanded.

Hannah’s face grew red again. “I already agreed to that part—there’s no way to change it now,” she said, lowering the clipboard slowly. “If you lose, you have to marry the billionaire for a year.”

* * * * *

Evan Mortimer picked up his cell phone on the first ring. “Speak to me.” He sat at an oversized mahogany desk in the plush headquarters of Mortimer Innovations and he’d been waiting for this call from his longtime personal assistant, Amanda Hollister. Amanda was the one person he could count on—he knew this because he paid her ten times her worth, footed the bill for all six of her grandchildren to attend private universities and matched her contributions every year to her rather hefty pension plan. Every expense was worth it. He had to have an ally he could trust implicitly in this cutthroat industry. He’d learned the hard way that people like Amanda were few and far between.

“I still can’t believe you’re doing this crazy show,” she said.

“We’ve been over all of that. What’s the dirt on this Bella woman?”

“She’s a cowgirl,” Amanda said flatly. “Wait until you see her photograph—hat and everything.”

A cowgirl? Evan stifled a chuckle. “What else?”

“She’s thirty-one, lives in Chance Creek, Montana, and seems like a nice girl,” Amanda said, making the adjective sound like a dirty word. “Smart—graduated top of her class in Chance Creek Senior High. Did well in veterinary school, too. Attended Montana State University for undergrad, Colorado State University for the vet program. Came back home to Chance Creek to start her own clinic. Specializes in house pets.”

“House pets? You said she lives in Montana—shouldn’t she be handling livestock? I bet she’d make more money.”

“You’d bet right,” Amanda said. “Here’s where it gets interesting. Bella has an older brother, Craig. Five years older. Looks like big brother sewed up the livestock veterinary business and left Bella to take care of the cats and dogs.”

“You’d think Montana might require more than one livestock vet.” Evan ran a hand through his thick, dark hair and gazed out the window at downtown San Jose. If he lived on the east coast, he’d be high over some city in a penthouse office, but no one built skyscrapers in earthquake country. Still, this was home—always had been. San Jose suited him. Some of the best minds in the world toiled away just minutes from his office, and he was positioned to capitalize off the fruit of their mental labor. Mortimer Innovations bought up patents from aspiring scientists and inventors and held on to them until the market suited his exact needs—only then did he resell the patents; right at the point he could make the most money off of the companies dying to get their hands on them. The millions he made each year went to funding his own innovative projects. Evan had a dream that one day instead of factories that ate up resources and produced waste and products that ended up in landfills, he would build closed systems that produced useful objects whose components could be reused again and again.

He remembered the day he’d stumbled on the concept of a factory cleaning the water it used; returning it to the surrounding watershed in better condition than when it entered the plant. He’d been in college, his growing awareness of the damage his family’s holdings were doing to the environment piling up on him like so much trash in a dump, and the idea that it could be different—that industry could help the environment instead of hurt it—fueled him to study engineering and put his family’s money to good use.

Nate thought he was crazy, but while there might be money in oil and natural gas, Evan was sure there was money in green technology, too, and it was the kind of innovation that could put Americans back to work. He saw himself as part of a new breed—both environmentalist and capitalist. He intended to make his money work—for himself, his family, his company, and the rest of the good ol’ U.S. of A.

This Bella person was an idiot if she’d let her brother push her out of the most lucrative segment of her business. But most people were idiots when it came to money. He’d realized as a teenager that his grandfather and father didn’t have any special characteristics that set them above the crowd; they were just willing to think about money morning, noon and night. “What you focus on is what you get,” Grandpa always said. By the time he was fifteen he’d decided to focus on his dual loves of cash and nature. A shy child, and an awkward teenager, he was never happier than when he was either alone in the wilderness, or supervising experiments.

“I don’t know about that. What I do know is Bella isn’t a businesswoman. I managed to get a hold of her tax returns for the last five years—she’s losing money fast.”

“Losing money?” He wrinkled his nose. “A vet should turn a profit, even if her specialty is pets—what’s the problem?”

“A tender heart,” Amanda said sarcastically. “People bring her strays, but she won’t euthanize them.”

“Can you blame her? Putting down kittens doesn’t sound like a fun time.”

“Maybe not, but it’s part of the job,” Amanda countered.

Evan shrugged. She was right. “So she keeps every stray she sees, feeds them all, provides medical care….”

“And the money going out tops the money coming in. Her bank account’s nearly empty. She’s got a couple more months and it’s good-bye clinic, good-bye trailer, see you later, cowgirl,” Amanda finished for him.

“Trailer?” Evan rolled his eyes. He owned a five-bedroom, five bathroom luxury home in the San Jose hills, complete with a pool. Who the hell lived in a trailer?

“Trailer—at the back of the same lot her clinic is on. We’re talking white trash here, Evan.”

“Doesn’t matter. In fact it’s for the best.”

“Seriously? You’re going to marry this Betty Bumpkin?”

“I’ll do what I’ve got to do to keep control of the company, you know that.”

Evan’s great-grandfather, Abe Mortimer, was a Bible-thumping, stiff-necked, pain in the ass by all accounts, but he started Mortimer Innovations and set up the corporation so that the family’s shares could only be held by one family member at a time—the oldest male, who was required to be married or forfeit control to the next in line. If the oldest male family member was under twenty-five, the stock would be held in trust for him until he reached his twenty-fifth birthday, at which time he had a year to find a wife. If he was older than twenty-five, but unmarried, he had six months from the moment he inherited to get hitched. Evan’s grandfather had already been married when he took the helm, as had his father. Now that his dad had passed away five months ago, Evan was running out of time to find a wife.