His Best Friend’s Sister

He’s always played by his family’s rules.

Until he plays house with his best friend’s sister.

Rodeo mogul Oliver Lawrence can’t say no to his best friend’s sister, pregnant widow Renee Preston. When the innocent beauty needs refuge from the tabloids, he offers his penthouse—and his bed. The passion between them is anything but innocent. And soon Oliver must choose: protect his family from her scandal or stand by the woman he can’t let go…

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The First Family of Rodeo: Book 1
April 2018 from Harlequin Desire
ISBN-13:978-1335971463

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Praise

HIS BEST FRIEND'S SISTER is tinged with some humor as Renee's cookie baking adventures don't run smoothly. There are also some sexy hot scenes as they make love, which only adds to the red-hot passion that flows between them. Renee is a sympathetic heroine that readers will be rooting for. Oliver certainly feels the same way, and he wants to protect and cherish her. But she pushes him away, not wanting to be a burden. Their story will make readers smile and cheer them on. A tale full of emotion and passion, don't miss HIS BEST FRIEND'S SISTER. --Romance Reviews Today

Wow, what a way to start a series. Ms. Anderson surely knows what she is doing and how to draw a reader in. This is a stand-alone but it will leave you craving more of the Lawrence family. To use a rodeo term this story is sure to hog-tie you to your seat until you’ve completed this rodeo. Ms. Anderson has given her readers characters that you feel for right down to the bone marrow, they live breathe and the story compels. It may actually get you think about the “press” as well. In all honesty this is one you just need to go get and fall in love with.--Harlequin Junkies

A sweet and sassy reuniting of old friends leads to a future neither was expecting! Kicking off a new rodeo series, we’re drawn quickly into Renee’s plight and follow her on a journey of redemption... I’m looking forward to more in the series!--Thoughts of a Blonde


Chapter One

“I thought you hated the rodeo.”

That voice—Oliver Lawrence knew that sweet voice. Except it was richer, deeper. It sparked memories—memories of smiling, laughing. Of having fun. When was the last time he’d had fun?

He couldn’t remember.

“But here you are, surrounded by pictures of the rodeo,” she went on. He could hear the smile as she spoke. She’d always smiled at him. Even when he hadn’t deserved it.

Oliver jerked his head up from where it had been buried in his hands. It wasn’t possible. She wasn’t possible.

But there Renee Preston stood, just inside the door to his office as she studied the framed pictures of the All-Stars that Bailey had artfully arranged along one wall of the office.

Although her back was to him, he was stunned to realize that he recognized her anyway. The pale gold of her hair fell halfway down her back in artful waves, the curve of her backside outlined by a dark blue dress.

How long had it been? Years? He shouldn’t even recognize her, much less have this visceral reaction to her. Seeing her now was a punch to the gut, one that left him dazed and breathless. And all he could think was, I hope she’s real. Which made no sense. None at all. But given the headaches he’d had running Lawrence Energies—why were Mondays so awful?—he wouldn’t be surprised if his sanity had taken a breather.

He stared but she didn’t move. Bad sign. “Renee?” He blinked and then blinked again when she didn’t turn around.

Okay, he was having a bad morning. Because the truth was he did hate the rodeo—the Lawrence Oil All-Around All-Stars Pro Rodeo. He’d hated it ever since his father had won the circuit in a poker game thirteen years ago. But there weren’t many people who knew it. It was bad for business if the CEO of Lawrence Energies, parent company of Lawrence Oil—and, by default, the All-Stars—publicly announced how much he hated his products.

So how did Renee know?

His assistant Bailey came charging into the room, looking flustered. Finally Renee moved, tilting her head to look at him. “Mr. Lawrence—I’m sorry,” Bailey said, breathing hard. He gave Renee an accusing look. “She’s quick.”

Thank God Oliver wasn’t hallucinating the arrival of the last person he’d expected to see today. Renee Preston was actually in his office in Dallas in the middle of a Monday morning.

“It’s all—”

But just then, Renee turned the rest of the way around and Oliver got a look at her in profile. Her little button nose, her sweetheart chin, her gently rounded stomach that curved out from the rest of her body…

Wait.

Was she pregnant?

Slowly, Oliver stood. “Renee, what’s going on?”

Bailey hung his head. “Should I call security?”

Oliver waved away. “No, it’s fine. Ms. Preston and I are old friends.” That was not exactly the truth. Her brother, Clinton, was an old friend. Renee had always been an obnoxious little sister who, when she teamed up with Oliver’s sister, Chloe, had been a real pain in the butt.

Renee turned the rest of the way around and the full impact of her appearance hit him. She gave him a soft little smile that barely moved a muscle on her face. He didn’t like that smile. It felt unnatural, somehow.

He looked at her dress again. Maybe it wasn’t dark blue. Maybe it was black. She looked like she’d decided to stop by his office—some fifteen hundred miles away from New York City—on her way to a funeral.

“No calls,” Oliver said to Bailey. If Renee Preston was here, wearing a funereal dress while pregnant, something had gone wrong.

Suddenly, he remembered the email from Clint Preston. Had it been two months ago? Or three? Ever since Oliver’s father, Milt, had uprooted the family from their Park Avenue address in New York City and relocated them to Dallas, Oliver and Clint hadn’t exactly kept up a friendship. But he remembered now—that odd email that had been sent at four in the morning. Look after Renee, will you?

Oliver had never replied. He’d meant to, but… Honestly, he’d been confused. Why did he have to look after Renee? She had a family. She was a grown woman. It hadn’t seemed urgent, not at this time.

Clearly, it was urgent now.

Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did. Served him right for thinking that in the first place.

“Actually,” she said after Bailey had closed the door after him, “it’s Renee Preston-Willoughby now.”

Instead of pulling his hair out, he attempted to smile at Renee. “Congratulations. I hadn’t heard.” Although…hadn’t Chloe said something about Renee getting hitched? It’d been a few years ago and Oliver had been in the middle of what was basically a corporate takeover of the business from his father.

That particular piece of information did nothing to shine a light on why she was in his office. He hadn’t seen her since…

Five years ago at her brother’s wedding? And Renee had still been in college. He remembered being curious because she hadn’t been the same little girl in pigtails.

In fact, she’d been gorgeous, her smile lighting up the room even in the hot-pink bridesmaid’s gown. But she’d had a boyfriend and Oliver wasn’t to poach another man’s girl, so he’d appreciated the way she had grown into a lovely young woman from the safety of the bar, where he’d been getting sloshed with a bunch of Wall Street financiers who wanted to know if everything really was bigger in Texas.

Oliver dimly recalled his growing frustration that no one had believed him when he’d said he’d give anything to be back in New York City. To those idiots, Texas had sounded like a vacation. Barbecue, babes and bulls—as if that was all anyone did in Texas. All the cowgirls in the world hadn’t made up for being stuck running the family businesses—and the family—then and it didn’t make up for it now.

Besides, cowgirls tended to go for Flash, his younger brother. Not serious Oliver.

He almost hadn’t come back to Dallas after that wedding. He’d woken up with a killer hangover and a new resolve to tell his father where he could shove the All-Stars Rodeo and his ten-gallon Stetsons and his stupid fake Texan accent. Oliver was going back to New York, where he belonged.

But he hadn’t. He couldn’t go back on his word to his mother. So he’d done the next-best thing—wrestled control of Lawrence Industries away from his father. The old man was still chairman of the board, but Oliver was CEO of the whole thing. Including the damned rodeo.

His attempts to relocate corporate headquarters to New York after the takeover had failed, though. Some days, he thought he’d never get out of this godforsaken state.

Had he and Renee spoken at the reception? Had she asked about his rodeo? Had he been drunk enough to tell the truth? Damn.

Even in that sad sack of a black dress, she was still the most stunning woman he’d ever seen. He wanted to sink his hands into her silky hair and pull her against his body and feel for himself that she was really here. Even her skin seemed to glow.

But as he looked closer, he saw other things, too. Beneath her tastefully understated makeup, he could see dark shadow under her eyes. Was she not sleeping? And even as she stood there, submitting to his inspection, her left hand beat out a steady rhythm on her leg, a tap-tap-tap of anxiety.

He was staring, he realized. He had no idea how long he had been staring at her. Seconds? Minutes? When had Bailey left?

He cleared his throat. “Well. This is unexpected. What brings you to Dallas?”

Her stiff little smile got stiffer. “Actually,” she said, taking a deep breath. “I’m looking for Chloe.” Her voice cracked on Chloe’s name and she turned around quickly, but not quick enough. Oliver just caught the way her face crumbled.

He took a step forward before he knew what he was doing. He had the oddest urge to put his arms around her shoulders, to take some of the weight from her. But he didn’t. It wasn’t like she’d come for him. And he couldn’t imagine that she’d welcome what was essentially a stranger giving her a hug. So instead he pulled up short and said, “It’s rodeo season.”

She was silent for a moment, but she nodded. “And Chloe is the Princess of the Rodeo,” she said in a wistful way.

Renee had been the tagalong little sister and then the bridesmaid. He knew nothing of her life. But she was clearly in distress and that bothered him.

His job was to solve problems. He’d promised his mother, Trixie, on her deathbed that he would keep the family from falling apart. That’s why he was the CEO of Lawrence Energies instead of taking another job—one that didn’t involve managing his father and his siblings. That was why he was still in Texas instead of going back to New York City. That’s why he sucked it up and managed the damned rodeo.

Renee Preston-Willoughby was a problem and he had no idea how to solve her.

“She’s in Lincoln, Nebraska, right now—and after that, it’s Omaha. And after that…” He shrugged, although Renee couldn’t see it. “It’s rodeo season,” he finished lamely. “I think she’ll be back in Fort Worth in a month.”

Chloe opened and closed every show in the All-Around All-Stars circuit. She had for years. She lived out of a suitcase for months on end, all because she liked to dress up in a sequined cowgirl top and ride her horse into the arena carrying the American flag.

Oliver didn’t know how his sister could stand it. He hated the rodeo. The swagger of the cowboys, the smell of the horses and cattle, the idiocy of people who voluntarily climbed on the back of wild horses and angry bulls—yeah, that included Flash—there was nothing he liked or even tolerated about the All-Stars.

Now more than ever—what with Chloe demanding that she should be given a chance to prove she could run the thing and his father digging in his heels and insisting that only Oliver could do it. Never mind that Oliver absolutely didn’t want to do it or that Chloe would do a better job because she actually liked the damned rodeo.

“I should’ve guessed,” Renee said, her voice a little shaky. He saw her shoulders rise and fall with a deep breath and then she turned around, her face curiously blank. “I’m sorry I barged in on you,” she said, her voice placating. He liked that even less than the fake smile. “Thank you for not calling security on me. It’s been good seeing you, Oliver.”

This day just got weirder and weirder. She had her hand on the doorknob before he realized that she was waltzing out of his office just as quickly as she had waltzed in.

He moved, reaching the door just as it swung open. He slammed it shut with his hand, causing Renee to squeak. “Wait,” he said and then winced as his voice came out in a growl.

He was too close to her. He could feel the warmth of her body radiating through her clothes, through his. He should step back, put some distance between them. She was pregnant, for God’s sake. Who knew what else was going on?

Slowly, she turned. Close enough to kiss, he dimly realized as he stared down into her soft blue eyes. She gasped, her eyes darkening as she looked up at him through thick lashes. He was powerless to move away. “Renee,” he said, and his voice came out deeper than normal. “Why are you here?”

He wasn’t sure what he expected her to do. He wasn’t all that surprised when her eyes got a wet look to them—it went with the dress. But then her mouth opened and instead of a sob, a giggle came out. “You don’t know,” she said, her eyes watering even as she laughed harder. “Oh, God—you really don’t know?”

So he was out of the loop on the New York scene. “Know what?” A tear trickled down her cheek and he lifted his other hand to wipe it away. When it was gone, he didn’t pull his hand away. He cupped her cheek and kept stroking her skin. It was almost like a hug, right? “What’s happened?”

“Oh, nothing,” she said, an edge of bitterness creeping into her voice. “It’s just…” The giggle ended in a hiccup that sounded suspiciously like a sob. “It was all a lie, wasn’t it? My entire life has been a lie.”

He caught another tear before it could get far. “I don’t understand.”

“Don’t you? I can’t believe you haven’t heard.” She closed her eyes and he could feel the tension in her body. “They’re calling it Preston’s Pyramid. My family’s investment company was nothing but a pyramid scheme and it’s all come crashing down.”

 

Amazon | B & N | iBooks | Kobo | Powell’s | Indiebound | Google | Harlequin

The First Family of Rodeo: Book 1
April 2018 from Harlequin Desire
ISBN-13:978-1335971463