"Have you totally lost your mind, Pam?
No matter what you say, we can't let you do it. You've given
up so much for us already. We just can't."
Pamela Novak smiled as she glanced over her shoulder and saw
the three militant faces frowning at her and quickly decided
it would be best to give them her full attention. Drying her
hands on a towel she turned away from the sink to face them.
She wondered what it would take to make her sisters see
reason and understand that she had to do what she had to do.
Not just for her own benefit but mainly for theirs. Fletcher
was pushing for a Christmas wedding and here it was the
first week in November already. So far they hadn't set a
date, but he would bring it up every time she saw him. He'd
let it be known that he didn't want a long engagement and,
considering everything, a long engagement wouldn't be in her
best interest, either.
She nibbled on her bottom lip, trying to come up with a
quick yet effective strategy. If she could convince her
sister Jillian of the importance of what she had to do, then
Paige and Nadia would quickly come on board. But convincing
Jillian was the big challenge. Jill didn't like Fletcher.
"And what makes you think it's something I'm being
forced to do, rather than something I want to do?"
Pamela finally decided to ask the three of them.
Of course, it was Jillian who stepped out to speak. Jill, as
she was called by most people in Gamble, Wyoming, at
seventeen was a senior in high school and was a spitfire.
She was also smart as a whip. It was Pam's most fervent
desire for Jill to leave Gamble next fall to attend the
University of Wyoming in Laramie and pursue her dream of one
day becoming a neurosurgeon.
And Paige, fifteen, and Nadia, thirteen, would soon be ready
to pursue their aspirations. Pam wanted to make sure that
funds were available for college when that time came. She
also wanted to make sure that if her sisters wanted to
return to Gamble, they would still have a home here. Pam
felt certain that accepting Fletcher's marriage proposal
made those things possible.
"You're sacrificing your happiness, Pam. We aren't
stupid. What woman in her right mind would want to marry a
jerk like Fletcher Mallard?" Jill boldly said.
Pam had to fight to keep a straight face when she said,
"He is not a jerk. In fact, Fletcher is a nice man."
"When he's not being obnoxious and arrogant, which is
most of the time. Already he thinks he can run things around
here. We've been doing just fine without him," was
Jill's bitter response.
Jill took a quick breather and then went on to say, "We
don't care if we lose this house and it wouldn't bother us
in the least if we don't get a college education. We refuse
to let you marry the likes of that man to protect
what you see as our bright futures. Speaking of futures, you
should be back in California working on a real movie instead
of spending your time teaching students at the acting
school. You got a degree in drama, Pam. Being an actress has
always been your dream. Your passion. You shouldn't have
given it up for us."
Pam inhaled deeply. She had been through all of this before
with her sisters. The problem was that they knew too much
about the situation, something she wished hadn't happened.
Unfortunately for her, they had been home that day when
Lester Gadling, her father's attorney, had dropped by to
deliver the bad news and they had overheard Lester's words.
"But I'm not in California. I'm perfectly satisfied
being here in Gamble and running the acting school, giving
others the same opportunity that was given to me," she
She paused for a second and then said, "Listen, ladies,
I've made these decisions because I love you."
"And we love you, too, Pammie," Nadia replied.
"But we can't let you give up the chance to one day meet
a really nice guy and—"
"Fletcher is a nice guy," she interjected. However,
all she received for her effort were three pairs of rolling
"No, he's not," Paige spoke up to say. "I was in
the bank one day when he went off on one of the tellers for
making him wait in line for so long. He thinks he's all
that, just because he owns a chain of grocery stores."
"Okay, you saw his bad side just that one time," Pam
said. "Deep down he's a kind person. He's willing to
help us out, isn't he?"
"Yes, but look what he'll be getting. Our home and the
most beautiful single woman in Gamble," Jill pointed out.
"A single woman who isn't getting any younger and who
will be turning thirty in a few months. Don't you think it's
time I get married?"
"Yes, but not to him," Jill implored. "Anyone
Pam glanced at the kitchen clock that hung on the wall.
Fletcher was coming to dinner and would be arriving any
minute, and she needed to make sure her sisters put this
behind them. They had to accept that she was now an engaged
woman and move on.
She of all people knew that Fletcher had his flaws and could
be arrogant at times, but she could deal with that. What she
refused to deal with was letting her sisters lose the only
home they knew and a chance to fulfill their dreams by
attending the colleges they desired.
She couldn't help but wonder what her father had been
thinking to put a second mortgage on their home—a
mortgage for which the full balance was due within a year of
his death. There was no way she could come up with a million
dollars. Fletcher, in the role of a friend, had made her an
offer that she couldn't refuse. It would not be a love
match, he was fully aware of that. She would, however, as
agreed, perform her wifely duties. He wanted kids one day
and so did she. And Pam was determined to make the most of
their marriage and be a good wife to him.
"I want the three of you to make me a promise," she
finally said to her sisters.
"What kind of promise?" Jill asked, lifting a
"I want you to promise me that you will do everything I
ask regarding my engagement to Fletcher. That, you will make
me, as your oldest sister, happy by supporting my marriage
"But will you be truly happy, Pammie?" Paige asked
with an expression that said she really had to know.
No, she wouldn't truly be happy, but her sisters
didn't have to know that, Pam thought. They must never know
the extent of her sacrifice for them. With that resolve in
mind, Pam lifted her chin, looked all three of them in the
eyes and told a lie that she knew was going to be well worth
it in the end.
"Yes," she said, plastering a fake smile on her
lips. "I will truly be happy. I want to marry Fletcher.
Now, make me that promise."
Jill, Paige and Nadia hesitated only for a moment and then
said simultaneously, "We promise."
When Pam turned back to the sink, the three girls looked at
each other and smiled. Their fingers had been crossed behind
their backs when they'd made their promise.
It was probably inconsiderate of him to show up without
calling first, Dillon thought, as he turned into the long
driveway that was marked as the Novak Homestead.
He had arrived in Gamble, Wyoming, earlier that day, with
his mission on his mind. What had happened to his
great-grandfather's other four wives, the ones he had before
he married Dillon's great-grandmother, Gemma? According to
the genealogy research James Westmoreland had done, Gamble
was the first place Raphel had settled in after leaving
Atlanta, and a man by the name of Jay Novak had been his
business partner in a dairy business.
Dillon would have called, but he couldn't get a signal on
his cell phone. Roy Davis, the man who owned the only hotel
in Gamble, had explained that was because Gamble was in such
a rural area, getting a good signal was almost impossible.
Dillon had shaken his head. It was absurd that in this day
and age there was a town in which you couldn't get a decent
cell signal when you needed it.
He had finally gotten a signal earlier to contact his
secretary to check on things back at the office. Not
surprisingly, everything was under control, since he had
hired the right people to make sure his billion-dollar real
estate firm continued to be a success whether or not he was
Dillon parked his car behind another car in the yard and
glanced up at a huge Victorian house with a shingle roof. It
was very similar in design to his home in Denver and he
wondered if that was a coincidence.
According to what he'd heard, four sisters occupied the
house and the oldest was named Pamela Novak. He understood
Ms. Novak had had an up-and-coming acting career in
California but had moved back to Gamble upon her father's
death. She was now operating the drama school a former
teacher had recently willed to her.
When Dillon got out of the rental car he took time to
stretch his legs. Like most Westmorelands he was tall, and
because of his height he'd always enjoyed playing
basketball. He'd been set to begin a career in the NBA when
he'd gotten word of the plane crash that had claimed the
lives of his parents and his aunt and uncle, leaving
fourteen younger Westmorelands in his care.
It hadn't been easy and Tammi, his girlfriend from college,
had claimed she would stick by his side no matter what. Less
than six months into their marriage she had run back home
hollering and screaming that she couldn't handle living on a
ranch with a bunch of heathens.
That was after she had failed to convince him to put his
youngest brother, Bane, who'd been eight at the time, his
cousins—Adrian and Aiden—the twins who'd been
ten, and Bailey, who'd been seven, into foster care because
they were always getting into some kind of mischief.
He had understood that most of their antics had been for the
attention they'd needed after losing their parents. However,
Tammi had failed to see it that way and wanted out of the
marriage. One good thing that had come out of his divorce
was that he'd realized it was meant for him to be single
and, as long as he was the head of the family, he would stay
Another good thing about his divorce was that the younger
Westmorelands—all of them with the exception of
Bane—had felt guilty about Tammi leaving and had
improved their behavior. Now the twins and Bailey were in
college. Bane… was still Bane.
"You lost, mister?"
Dillon quickly turned around to look into two pairs of dark
brown eyes standing a few yards away. Twins? No, but they
could pass for such. Now he could see that one of the
teenage girls was a head taller than the other.
"Well, are you?"
He smiled. Evidently he hadn't spoken quick enough to suit
them. "No, I'm not lost if this is the Novaks' place."
The taller of the two said, "I'm a Novak. We both are."
Dillon chuckled. "Then I guess I'm at the right place."
"Who did you want to see?"
"I want to see Pamela Novak."
The shorter of the two nodded. "That's our sister. She's
in the house talking to him."
Dillon raised a brow. He had no idea who him was,
and from the distasteful way it had been said, he really
wasn't sure he wanted to find out. "If she's busy I can
come back later," he said, moving back toward the car.
"Yeah, because he might get mad if he thought you'd come
calling just to see Pammie," the taller one said.
A look of mischief shone in their eyes as the two girls
looked at each other and smiled. And then, screaming to the
top of their voices, they called, "Pammie, a man is here
to see you!"
Dillon leaned against his car with arms across his chest,
knowing he had been set up, and the two teens were having a
little fun at his expense. He wasn't so sure how he liked it
until the door to the house swung open. At that moment he
literally forgot to breathe. A strikingly beautiful woman
walked out. It didn't matter that she was frowning. The only
thing that mattered was that she was definitely the living,
breathing specimen of the most gorgeous woman he'd ever seen.
She couldn't have been any taller than five-eight, and was
slim with just the right curves in the jeans she was
wearing. She had shoulder-length black hair flowing around
her shoulders and a medium brown complexion that
complimented the rest of her features. Her eye color was the
same dark brown as the two scamps, and she had a pixie nose
that was perfect for her face. She was definitely a stunner.
A raven-haired beauty that made him nearly breathless.
"Hey, you're trespassing. May I help you?"
He looked beyond her to a big hulk of a man standing
directly behind her in the doorway who'd asked the question
in a high-pitched and agitated tone. And he was glaring at
Dillon as if his very presence annoyed the hell out of him.
Dillon quickly figured that this must be the "him"
the girls had been referring to, and was about to open his
mouth to speak when the taller of the two girls spoke up.
"No, you can't help him because he didn't come to see
you, Fletcher. He came to see Pammie."
A dark scowl covered the man's face at the same time a smile
touched the teen's lips. It wasn't hard to see she was
deliberately trying to get a rise out of the man.
"Paige and Nadia, shouldn't you be upstairs doing your
homework?" the gorgeous woman asked the two before
turning her curious gaze on Dillon. Unlike her male friend,
she smiled brightly and had a cheerful look on her face.
"Pamela Novak?" he heard himself ask, trying to
force air into his lungs. He'd seen beautiful women before,
but there was something about her that was doing something
to everything male within him.
"Yes," she said, still smiling while stepping down
the steps toward him. He pushed away from the car and began
moving toward her, as well.
"Wait a minute, Pamela," the hulk of a man called
out. "You don't know this man. You shouldn't be so quick
to be nice to people."
"Maybe you should follow her lead, Fletcher."