Montana SEAL's Mail-Order Bride(6)

By: Elle James


By the time he’d found Aurelia’s photo and response, all of the women had turned into a hazy blur of faces. “This is ludicrous,” he’d said. “You can’t advertise for a wife. It has to be done the old-fashioned way through dating and getting to know each other.”

Lori rolled her eyes. “In that case, you’ll die alone. Move.” She’d taken his seat at the desk in the foreman’s office. “When is Percy getting back from vacation?”

“Tomorrow. And I imagine he won’t appreciate that you and I have commandeered his office and computer for other than ranch business.”

“He’ll get over it. It’s all for a good cause.” Lori bent to the task of wading through all the applicants for the position of Mrs. Gavin Blackstock.

Gavin had been on the verge of laughing, but the joke was too much on him to be funny.

“What do you think about this one?” Lori pointed at the screen.

Gavin shook his head. “I could never marry a woman with a nose ring. It reminds me too much of the rings they used to put in bulls’ noses. I would never be able to look at her without that image popping into my mind. Not that I have anything against her piercings or tattoos.” He held up his hands. “But no. I couldn’t marry her.”

“She might be a really nice woman.”

“Sorry.”

“How about her?” Lori brought up the next contestant. “She’s your age, likes the outdoors and wants children.”

“No blue hair.”

“Hair color can change,” Lori muttered. “Okay, okay, moving on.” After Lori had clicked through half a dozen other responses, she paused, her brow dipping. “Hold the press,” she said, her tone laced with excitement. “I think we have a winner.”

“We don’t have a winner. I’m not going through with this. I can’t marry a complete stranger.”

“Listen to this,” Lori continued.

Woman with biological clock ticking seeks groom with a family in mind. Willing to work hard and bear children. When can we meet?

“So? Sounds like all the rest.”

“But she’s not like all the rest.” Lori looked up, a grin filling her face. “She looks positively normal. Well, a little better than normal. She’s beautiful.”

Intrigued, Gavin leaned over Lori’s shoulder, his curiosity getting the better of him.

Lori was right. The woman had long, wavy blond hair, and the most incredibly blue eyes that stared back at him from the computer screen.

He’d felt as if she were looking straight into his soul and knew everything there was to know about him.

Deep inside, though he’d never admit it, the woman’s image had touched Gavin.

Still, he couldn’t believe they had taken it this far. Within a week of submitting the advertisement, he was about to meet his mail-order bride.

“You tell any of the guys back at Brighter Days that she’s a mail-order bride, and I’ll personally make your life a living hell.”

“I told you, your secret is safe with me,” Lori chuckled. “Look at you. The unflappable Gavin Blackstock is shaking more than a baby rattlesnake with a new button.”

“I’m not shaking,” he grumbled and ran his hand through his hair for the fifth time since they’d arrived at the bus station. “This is a mistake. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

“What’s the worst that could happen?” Lori asked.

“She could have posted someone else’s picture,” Gavin stated, his tone flat, his brows descending.

“If she did, no worries. You gave each other the option to back out if you meet and you change your minds.”

“What if I can’t stand her, but she still wants to go through with this farce?”

“Then you have the option to back out.” Lori gripped his arms and stared into his eyes. “Hey, big guy, it’s going to be all right. Just give her a chance.” Lori’s eyes lit. “Oh, look. There’s the bus now.” She hooked Gavin’s arm, turning him toward the approaching vehicle of doom.

Gavin backed away a step.

Lori held tightly to his arm, her smile stiffening. “You’re not running away. She’s come a long way, the least you can do is meet the woman.”

“She probably has a rap sheet longer than my arm.”

“The mail-order bride site vets their applicants. They did a thorough background check on the woman.”

“She could have fed them lies. False name, false address. She could have stolen a dead person’s ID.”

“Again, you don’t have to go through with anything, but it won’t hurt to meet the woman.” Lori locked her arm around his. “And the bonus is that our new ranch hand is arriving on the same bus. Bet you didn’t remember that.”