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HAPPY IS THE BRIDE

“Johnson gives us humor and heat”- RT Book Reviews

Scroll down to read a full chapter excerpt!

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHORS LORI WILDE * JANET DAILEY * CAT JOHNSON * KATE PEARCE

1 Wedding, 4 New York Times Bestselling Authors, 5 Happily Ever Afters!

Opposites attract when a wealthy cattleman and a penniless artist decide to get hitched at a Texas dude ranch in tornado country—and the whirlwind festivities are as filled with surprises as their love…especially when the guest list includes: one pretty party crasher on a mission, a sheriff known as the One Night Stand King, and a workaholic event planner who definitely did not plan to fall for a laid back cowboy.

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Enjoy this EXCERPT from “Getting Saddled” by Cat Johnson in HAPPY IS THE BRIDE

It was hot as hell. But then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise. This was Texas after all, but today was hotter than usual for a day in late May.

Tanner should be able to handle the heat. He’d been working a ranch most of his adult life. He didn’t let that stop him from bitching about it now.

“Damn, it’s hot as blazes out here today.” Letting out a huff, Tanner ran his handkerchief across his forehead.

The thin cotton was so damp with sweat and smeared with the dust he’d been working in, the red paisley pattern was barely visible any longer.

Knowing it would only get worse before he was done for the day, Tanner shoved it dirty into the rear pocket of his jeans.

“Eh, the heat won’t last. Supposed to cool off a bit next week.” Randy, the young ranch hand working with him, didn’t look particularly disturbed by the heat kicking Tanner’s ass.

That made Tanner feel old, which only annoyed him more.

Was he just getting old? He considered the possibility.

Nah.

He quickly dismissed the thought. At forty-one he was still in his prime. But that didn’t mean he had to like sweating under the noonday sun. Oh he’d do it, but he sure as hell didn’t have to enjoy it.

Taking the tool in hand again, Tanner went back to work.

The steady sound of the post-hole digger—the chomp of the metal blade hitting the dirt and the swoosh as Tanner pulled it out again—became hypnotic. Combined with the warmth of the sun and the touch of the wind, it lulled him into a relaxed rhythm.

After today’s work he’d sleep good tonight.

City folk wouldn’t need yoga for their meditation or pills to sleep at night—and more pills to get through the day—if they’d just pick up a tool and work up a good sweat every day.

Planting his tool in the ground, Randy leaned on the long wooden handles and let out a long, low whistle. “Holy cow . . . Who is that?”

Frowning at Randy, Tanner wondered what had the kid ignoring his work this time.

Today’s youth had a crap work ethic.

With that thought, Tanner realized he really was starting to act old. That was something his papaw would have said. In fact, Papaw might have actually said it, word for word.

He supposed he shouldn’t be quite so cranky, but damn, was it hot. And it would be nice if the ranch hand helping him would actually, you know, help.

Tanner planted his own posthole digger into the dirt and leaned on it as he tried to see what had Randy so distracted. He spotted the car parked in front of the Cutwrights’ house.

Actually, it was less car and more mommy minivan, but either way it was nothing for Randy to be so excited about. People came and went all day around here, especially since Brady had gotten engaged. And as far as vehicles went, this one was pretty plain. Straightforward. White. Square. Probably useless in the mud.

Then a woman stepped from around the nose of the van and into Tanner’s view and he had to give Randy a pass for staring.

She opened the passenger door and bent at the waist as she fiddled with something inside.

Holy cow was right. A few other exclamations, not quite as tame, flew into Tanner’s mind.

“Don’t know who that is.” But Tanner would sure like to get to know her.

Mommy van or not, she certainly didn’t look like any mother he’d ever seen. Though he wouldn’t mind if she called him daddy.

Even at this distance he could see the glint of red as the sun hit her glossy chestnut hair while it bounced around her shoulders.

And that body . . . phew!

In spite of the length of the skirt that came all the way down to her knees, he could tell she had legs that went on for days and hips he’d really enjoy getting his hands on.

Nope, he didn’t know who she was or why she was here, but he’d have to make it his business to find out.

It was a rare occurrence that a female—and one that shapely to boot—showed up unexpectedly at the ranch. Brady Cutwright’s wife-to-be, Ellie, was here a lot. And Brady’s friend Meg Stoddard, who owned the adjacent ranch, visited all the time. But this woman . . . he was sure she’d never crossed his path before.

Maybe she was lost. If that was the case, it was up to him to investigate and help her out; she might need some direction. In fact, his being ranch boss meant it was Tanner’s duty to be on top of what happened around here.

He pulled off his work gloves and shoved them into the belt on his jeans. “I’m gonna go check it out. See if she needs any help. You keep digging. I’ll be right back.”

“Hey, why do I have to stay and keep working and you get to go?”

Tanner glanced back and saw the kid’s deep frown. “’Cause I’m your boss, that’s why.”

Before Tanner took even a step toward the house, Randy scowled deep. The kid’s reaction made Tanner grin, but it sure as hell didn’t make him change his mind.

Someone had to get those holes dug. Lucky for Tanner, he had somebody to delegate to. Besides, from what he could see at this distance, the lady in question wasn’t Randy’s type. The kid liked them young and dumb, in painted-on jeans and showing enough cleavage to be illegal.

The twenty-two-year-old cowboy wouldn’t know what to do with a real woman, and as far as Tanner could determine, that was what the mysterious lady was. A real woman who’d need a real man, and he was just the guy for the job.

The closer he got as he headed toward the house, the more details he could make out. Their mysterious visitor’s tight skirt looked like it belonged on a naughty librarian or a sexy secretary . . . and maybe Tanner had watched too many dirty movies during his misspent youth.

Sometimes his current lack of a steady lady in his life made itself very apparent. Today’s little fantasy about the Cutwright family’s unexpected feminine company was proof of that.

Tanner sidelined his fantasies and got his head back to the business of being the ranch manager greeting a guest . . . before his hard-on greeted her for him.

Given she was still bent over, he would have to address her posterior, which was no problem for him. “Excuse me, ma’am. Can I help you?”

She bolted upright and turned, arms loaded. It had been a long while since Tanner had been in school, but what she held looked like a couple of years’ worth of schoolwork barely contained in a few large white binders. His fantasy immediately shifted from naughty librarian to hot for teacher.

“Hi.” She frowned. “Um, any chance you’re Brady?”

Tanner let out a snort. He respected his boss, the whole Cutwright family, but no way any one of them would be covered in sweat and dirt from digging holes the way he was now. “No, ma’am. I’m Tanner Black. Ranch manager. Brady’s my boss.”

“Oh good. At least I’m in the right place.” She smiled until it reached her sky-blue eyes.

Up close he could appreciate the porcelain quality of her complexion. This woman would fry up in no time out in the sun, which would be a perfect reason to keep her inside—in his bedroom.

She still hadn’t offered up who she was or why she was here, but upon further inspection the van provided his answer. The lettering on the side panel supplied him with a company name. He considered the other tidbit of information that the van’s lettering supplied—the company’s location.

Austin.

She was a city girl.

Pity. City folk made Tanner twitch.

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“You the wedding planner?” he asked.

“I am. Erin Saddler, owner of Happy Is the Bride Event Planning. I’d shake your hand, but . . .” Her gaze dropped to the binders about to slip from her overloaded arms.

“That’s a’ight.” As dirty as he was, it was probably best she couldn’t shake his hand. In fact, he thought twice before offering to take the notebooks from her for fear he’d ruin those pristine white binders. “Can I help you with some of those?”

“Thanks. There are actually a few more.” She took a step back from the open door and he saw them on the floorboard.

“No problem. I’ll get ’em.” Tanner was reaching into the van for the books when he heard the screen door of the house slam.

“Erin?” The voice of Brady’s fiancée came from the porch.

“That’s me. And you must be Ellie, my bride-to-be.” At Erin’s reply, Tanner went from wondering what the hell she had in these binders that weighed so damn much to thinking no woman’s voice had ever cut through him quite like Erin’s did.

And she wasn’t even talking sexy. They were talking about his boss’s wedding, for cripes’ sake. Nothing that should have every cell in him aware of her.

Tanner straightened up in time to see the bride-to-be trotting down the stairs, beaming with the biggest grin on her face. That was pretty much how Brady had looked lately, too.

Young love—they’d better enjoy it before they got cynical like him.

“I’m so glad you could meet with us so fast.” Ellie reached out to take one of the books in Erin’s hands.

“Not a problem. The sooner the better. It’s going to be tight.” Of course, Erin was talking about the timing of the wedding, but Tanner’s mind went to bad places as he started to ponder everything that was tight on Erin’s tempting little body.

Down, boy.

Tanner wrangled his libido into check and reminded himself that city girls and country boys didn’t mix well. Been there, done that, and he had the scars on his heart to prove it.

“We realize the date we chose is coming up fast, but neither of us wanted to wait.” As the bride turned toward the house, Brady appeared in the doorway. “Oh good. Here’s Brady now.”

Erin flashed first Brady and then Ellie a brilliant smile that showed off her perfect white teeth. “And now I can see why you don’t want to wait.”

Ellie giggled. “I know. Isn’t he the cutest?”

Tanner rolled his eyes as he followed behind the two women. He felt nothing but respect for the Cutwrights, but this shindig, which seemed to grow daily until it had taken on a life of its own, was bullshit in his opinion. Waste of time and money, if you asked him.

Then again, unlike Tanner, the Cutwrights had the money to waste. That was probably one reason for the wedding planner’s warmth as she greeted Brady: dollar signs.

Thinking of Miss Erin Saddler, wedding planner extraordinaire, as just another money-hungry big-city business owner helped. Tanner needed something to balance out his other, baser feelings for the woman as she climbed the steps ahead of him and he got another eyeful of her shapely behind in that skirt.

Yeah, he needed to get out of there before he embarrassed himself.

Ellie led Erin into the house and Tanner could finally think again, now that her tinkling laugh and twinkling eyes were safely out of range.

“Here you go, boss. Have fun.” Grinning, Tanner shoved the books toward Brady while thinking that whatever those binders contained was going to be anything but fun.

Brady was no dummy. He narrowed his eyes. “Oh no. You don’t get out of here that easily.”

Tanner frowned. “What’s your wedding got to do with me?”

“Ellie and I have another appointment we have to get to this afternoon, so I need you to take the wedding planner over to Meg’s and show her where the reception’s gonna be. And drive her out to the chapel so she can see where we’re having the ceremony.”

Oh no. No, no, no. Him alone in his truck with her was not gonna happen.

He’d been too long without his hands on a woman to be alone with Miss Sex on Heels inside the confines of the cab of his truck.

Tanner was in to many things, but self-torture wasn’t one of them. He had a bad feeling Miss Saddler was already going to invade his sleep tonight, just from this one brief encounter by the minivan.

He didn’t need to fuel that fire with any more time spent with her—alone and in his own damn pickup truck to boot.

“Why don’t you just give her the directions? Meg can show her around there.”

“Meg is meeting us in the city for our appointment. It’s wedding stuff and Ellie wants her there.”

Tanner lifted one shoulder to concede Brady’s point as he crafted another suggestion to get himself out of escorting Miss Tight Skirt. “The dude ranch has staff. They can take her around.”

“Meg’s crew has their own work to do. This time of year you know she’s booked full up. It’s nice enough of her to clear her reservations for the week of our wedding on top of letting us have the ceremony and the rehearsal dinner and the reception there. I’m not gonna take her crew away from their work.”

“Fine. I’ll do it.” Tanner scowled, unhappy with the turn of events. To make sure his displeasure was fully known, he added, “It’s not like I got a fence to put up or anything.”

Brady shook his head. “I knew you were a confirmed bachelor, but I had no idea your aversion to marriage included other people’s weddings, too.”

“Maybe it’s my aversion to city folk and not weddings. You ever think of that?” Tanner cocked a brow high.

The problem was, this particular city girl made him want to break his own rule. Made him want to run his hands through her hair to see if it felt as soft as it looked. Made him want to lean in and get a better whiff of whatever damn scent she wore, which still clung in the air long after she was gone.

“Well, you can get in that fancy air-conditioned truck of yours and chauffeur that city girl in there around for an hour or so while Randy works on the fence and finishes the afternoon chores in this heat. Or I could see if Randy wants to take her over to Meg’s while you finish up work here for the day. You decide.” Brady folded his arms and waited.

Given those options, there was no choice in Tanner’s mind. “What time you figure she’ll be ready for me to take her over to Meg’s?”

Brady grinned. “Thought you’d say that. And I’d say in about an hour.”

“A’ight.” With a nod, Tanner spun on one boot heel and headed back out to the new paddock to break the news to Randy and then get himself and his truck cleaned up before either could mess up pretty Miss Erin and her skirt.

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