Romance

Have I Got a Deal for You

Jodi Orinda

Mo Harper is a Montana girl pursuing a doctorate in exercise physiology, dreaming of a big life away from her small town. Barry Connors is a big beautiful man working to get his life back after his ex-wife cheated on him. Tired of feeling sorry for himself, Barry’s aiming for a peaceful life on the ranch he grew up on. The best way to achieve that is getting Mo to fall in love with him and stay in his little town. The two have crazy sparks—but are they hot enough to join them together for good?

Age Rating: 18+

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Have I Got a Deal for You - Book cover
Romance

Have I Got a Deal for You

Jodi Orinda

Mo Harper is a Montana girl pursuing a doctorate in exercise physiology, dreaming of a big life away from her small town. Barry Connors is a big beautiful man working to get his life back after his ex-wife cheated on him. Tired of feeling sorry for himself, Barry’s aiming for a peaceful life on the ranch he grew up on. The best way to achieve that is getting Mo to fall in love with him and stay in his little town. The two have crazy sparks—but are they hot enough to join them together for good?

Age Rating: 18+

1: Chapter One

Mo Harper stumbled through the back door of the small clothing store, shutting out the raging snow storm behind her.

She shook her head in the dark, box-filled back room, and shrugged out of her soaking coat.

She waited a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the blackness after the white-out she had just emerged from.

The narrow shelves to her right were piled high with boot and hat boxes, plus any other box that would work well to wrap presents.

Everyone at the store saved boxes all year long, and used most of them during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

To her left, a narrow stone stair case led down to an ancient wooden door that was once used as a direct door into the basement of the store.

The room was originally the back of the building, where delivery trucks backed up to unload merchandise, but at some point during the building’s history, walls had been built to enclose the back door of the store, giving it a little more security from theft and a little more storage for those much-needed boxes.

Mo shivered as she trudged the ten steps to the inner door of the store. As she entered the store proper, one of her bosses greeted her.

“Little wet out there?” George held open the door.

She glared at him and ducked under his outstretched arm. She tried to run her fingers through the tangled mess of her shoulder length red hair.

Typical December weather, when a person lived in Montana. But the record snow fall this winter added a hitch to her routine and made her think about cutting her hair super short.

She hung up her dripping coat on the back hook then took a look in the mirror after her eyes adjusted to the bright lights of the store. Yikes.

Wet, stringy hair that would dry into a frizzy, curly mess. Her clothes were soaked, even through her brown duck coat.

The snowdrifts on parts of the sidewalk were knee high on her, so her jeans were wet between her knees and where she had tucked her pants into her packs.

Her cheeks shone bright pink from the cold and the wind. Mo sighed. Such a struggle to try and dress decent and feel good about her appearance when she had to schlep herself to and from work on foot.

Okay, to be fair, she didn’t HAVE to walk. But a car was a luxury she was foregoing at the moment. She could barely afford her apartment and groceries.

There was no way she could add in gas and upkeep on any kind of vehicle. So her small car was tucked away in her car port behind her apartment.

The only time she drove anymore was when she visited her parents. She usually just picked up a few things each day from the grocery store kitty corner from the university.

She glanced lower in the mirror, hating the way her hips flared out and her stomach had a slight roundness to it. You’d think walking everywhere in foot deep snow would slice the pounds right off her.

But the scale never moved. And she was damned tired of trying to force it. She either needed to get her life in order: a decent diet and exercise.

Or she needed to accept her body shape and type and move ahead. Too much of her precious time was wasted worrying over a single bite of brownie and one swig of beer.

She reminded herself why she was scrimping and doing without so many things. She was so close to earning her doctorate. Just a few more months and she could reclaim a normal way of life.

A few more months of feeling like she was out of touch with the entire world.

She changed from her snow boots to her cowboy boots and straightened out her clothing.

Gump’s specialized in western clothing for the working cowboy, selling everything from cowboy hats to jeans, cowboy boots to work shirts.

She moved further into the store, into the boot section, where four racks of display boots were strategically placed around chairs.

The hard wood floors creaked as she walked to the middle of the store, where the cowboy hats sat on their displays, waiting for the right heads to fill them.

Floor to ceiling shelves lined both sides of the store from the boot section to the front door and window display.

Jeans and dress slacks filled up the right side of the store, neatly divided into sizes and colors. Two small dressing rooms bided their time near the back door.

Work and dress shirts for men filled the left side shelves. Scattered throughout the rest of the store? Round racks filled with hangered women’s jeans and blouses.

At the front of the store rested the leather gloves within eye shot of the cash register.

Mo breathed deeply, the smell of leather calming her. The whole store was a second home for her. She loved her job, even though she didn’t make much money. Mostly because she loved the customers.

And her bosses wanted her to achieve her goal almost as much as she wanted it.

“Someone’s been looking for you.” George followed her up to the front.

“Oh, God. Not today.” Mo had gone out with a guy twice: a really big, really sweet guy. Four months ago. But those two dates apparently meant, in his convoluted mind, that they were exclusively dating and she was his girlfriend.

He had been practically stalking her every day since then. He sent roses to the store. He called her to wish her a good day. He stopped in to see if she needed a ride home.

Sam and George thought it was hilarious. Mo didn’t. She threw the flowers in the garbage. She told him thank you for the good wishes and hung up.

And she never accepted a ride from him. What more could a girl do to give a guy a solid signal?

Mo turned to run down the stairs, where the work coats, overalls, and rain boots were stored, along with their small bit of tack and the storage room, but George caught her arm.

“Not him.” He chuckled. “Barry Connors was in yesterday, looking for you.”

“Barry?” Mo stared at George. Barry was a regular customer of theirs, and too handsome for his own good. He worked construction and ran about every kind of man-sized Tonka toy in the world.

But he barely spoke to Mo when he was in the store. “Why was he looking for me?” Her stomach flipped and her hands felt clammy all of a sudden.

“Gonna ask you out, apparently.”

Mo stopped all movement. “How do you know that?”

“He told me.” George chuckled again, his thin shoulders shaking. He looked like your typical cowboy: long and lean with no wasted mass. He even had the mustache and wore a black cowboy hat everywhere. A real Marlboro man. “Pretty nervous when he said it, too.”

“Quit shitting me.” Mo turned back to the mirror, trying to put her hair in some kind of order. She dug out her small jar of styling paste and rubbed some into her hands.

Then she ran it through her hair, scrunching it to tame some of the curl. But she noticed her hands shaking. “I have a boyfriend.”

George scrunched up his nose and made a nasty face toward her. In his slow-talking drawl, he said, “We don’t like Doug.”

Mo sighed. George, and his business partner Sam, had been her bosses since she started college seven years ago. They gave her flexible hours, good pay, and a safe place to work.

But they were like over protective uncles. Not one guy she had ever dated was good enough, in their eyes. And she had to admit, her track record with men wasn’t very stellar.

But still, she resented their assessment of her current boyfriend. Granted, he was a bit boring. But he was . . . solid. He didn’t make demands of her time.

She really didn’t have the time for a boyfriend, but she didn’t have the heart to tell him so.

After all, she’d been loading up on credits since she was a freshman and had attended summer school to finish up quicker.

She barely had time to take a shower in the mornings, let alone squeeze in quality time for a man.

Sam walked up and clapped her shoulder. “Should give Barry a chance.” Sam was about as opposite to George as a person could get: he was red-haired and fair-skinned; big and burly; outgoing.

But he and George had been best friends since college thirty years previously. They even bought bordering land outside town and built their houses so they were neighbors.

Their wives were best friends. Their kids were best friends. To Mo, sometimes it seemed a little surreal. As did Sam’s insistence that she go out with Barry Connors.

“Barry isn’t for me.” She smiled as she stared at her reflection. “I’m not in the same class as the women he’s been seen with.”

“What women?”

“You guys have talked about the hotties he’s slept with. I don’t come close to that description.”

George rolled his eyes. “You are a dense young lady, Mo Harper.”

Sam laughed and clapped his hands together as he perched on the side of the counter. “Do you know how many men come in here just to get a look at you?”

Mo turned around and glared at them, then grabbed the dust rag from under the front counter. “Don’t shit me about this.”

“Why would we shit you, Mo? You’re adorable. We think you’d make a great couple with Barry.”

Mo shook her head and walked toward the boot section, to straighten up some opened boxes and dust the shelves. She so didn’t need this conversation right now.

She was craving chocolate, irritable, and overwhelmed with her dissertation.

“Go pick out one of those new blouses. And grab a new pair of jeans.”

Mo shook her head. “I can’t afford any new clothes right now, guys.”

George put his arm around her shoulder. “Mo, honey, we love you like you’re our own daughter. . .”

“But you’re a mess.” Sam finished.

Mo sputtered.

Sam chuckled. “You look like a drowned rat today. Just go change your clothes.”

“This is our treat.” George pushed her toward the women’s clothes.

Mo dug her heels in. “I can’t take clothes from you two.”

“Consider it an early Christmas gift.”

Mo crossed her arms. “You guys are up to something.”

Sam sighed. “Barry’s a better choice than Doug. He’s coming in again tonight to see you.”

“That’s why you want me to change?!” Her hands fisted. “You’re setting me up?”

George plucked out a red blouse and a pair of black jeans. “Go put those on.”

“I can’t believe you guys.” She threw the dust rag onto the floor, grabbed the jeans, then stomped off and changed her clothes in the dressing room.

When she came back out, she had to admit, she felt better about herself and the day. She wasn’t in the habit of taking clothes from the guys, but it did feel good to be dry and warm for once.

She pecked their cheeks. “Thank you, but this isn’t necessary.”

“Hell it isn’t. We have to find you a husband.” Sam boomed, his voice echoing along the vaulted ceiling.

“And soon.” George added, scooping a chaw of snooze in his lower lip.

Mo groaned. She ignored them as she put new shirts away. She found shelves to clean and gloves to straighten. But it was a slow day because of the snow storm.

She couldn’t see three feet out the front window. All she could see was white flakes floating down from the sky. It made her feel somewhat trapped but also insulated from the world.

She didn’t really mind slow days, because she got a chance to do some heavy cleaning in the store and let her mind wander.

For a few blessed hours, she could avoid thinking about athletes and injuries. But that day, George and Sam were relentless. They dogged her every step, singing Barry’s praises.

“Barry’s a good guy.”

“Great family.”

“Has a good job.”

“He’s dependable.”

Mo muttered under her breath about sticking to dogs until she noticed the clock was at 5:25. Only five more minutes left to the day.

She pointed to it and gloated as she grabbed her timecard to fill out her hours for the day.

“See? He’s not coming in after all.” Part of her was relieved. She didn’t want to deal with this. Part of her was disappointed. She liked the idea of Barry Connors being interested in her.

Just then the front door swung open, the little bell tinkled the arrival of Barry Connors. He commanded the attention of everyone in the room. The air seemed to coalesce around him.

Mo found every bit of oxygen sucked away from her as she stared at the man. Big, beautiful man: over six feet tall and brawny without being bulky.

He was like every fantasy man she’d ever dreamed about as a teenager. And as much as she was loath to admit it, even now she dreamed of a man who looked like him to sweep her off her feet.

She’d noticed him before; he came in every few months for new work clothes. But he usually did his business with the men, nodded hello at her, and walked out.

She knew he’d gone through a divorce, but no one talked about it. She couldn’t imagine what woman wouldn’t want him as a mate. There had to be something sinister about a man who looked that good.

Barry stared at Mo from his hazel eyes, his dark hair all but hidden under his winter cap. Just a few stray curls peeked out from under the wool.

Even with a day’s worth of work on his clothes and snowflakes on his coat, he was sexy as hell. And too dangerous for someone like her. He had long, muscular legs and long, muscular arms.

A wide, muscular chest. And a smile that just begged a woman to touch his dimples. Or his chin. Or his hand. Really, any place on his body was delectable and touchable. Bitable.

And that was just the kind of reaction she shouldn’t be having for a man like Barry Connors. Did she mention he was muscular? She was a sucker for a well-built guy.

Rumor: he was a rogue who flitted from woman to woman like a moth. She wasn’t one of those women. She hated guys that played around. She wondered if that’s what happened to bust up his marriage.

She’d grown up pretty naïve and had been a doormat for more than one man. Maybe that’s why she didn’t mind holding onto Doug.

He was content with the time she could spare and wasn’t out every night trying to get laid. Mo didn’t have to worry about another woman trying to steal him away or him straying.

And she certainly didn’t have to worry about him angling for sex every time they were together.

Mo wanted simple things from life: get her degree finished and get the hell out of town. She was so close to finishing up her doctorate degree in exercise physiology.

Just two more semesters of busting her ass and she’d be Mo Harper, Ph.D. She had a sinking feeling that this man, this sex on two legs, was going to interfere with her plans.

She straightened her spine and vowed to not let him interfere.

“Mo Harper.” Barry stopped in front of her. “Have I got a deal for you.”

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