A lavish summer wedding is being planned at Bitter Creek ranch. In one month, Clay Blackthorne will wed socialite Jocelyn Montrose. But when she hears stirrings of a corporate takeover by the family's archrival, North Grayhawk, Jocelyn covertly heads to North's ranch to offer a valuable commodity -- herself -- if North will call off his plans. Striking a deal to spend the summer with the steely, seductive North, Jocelyn fails to see that her sacrifice to protect the man she loves may have dire consequences.
Stunned by his fiancee's rejection, Clay, a newly appointed federal judge, begins presiding over an incendiary terrorism trial, which brings him face to face with his first love, Libby Grayhawk. As tensions mount, forces beyond Clay's control threaten the women most precious to him in the past and the present. And only in a daring act of sacrifice will he know which woman will become the next Mrs. Blackthorne.
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September 04, 2005
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Excerpt from The Next Mrs. Blackthorne by Joan Johnston
Jocelyn Montrose didn't mean to eavesdrop. But the arguments and shouting coming from the library at the Castle, the legendary ranch house at Bitter Creek, were hard to ignore. Her future husband, Clay Blackthorne, was being verbally attacked in that room.
Those assaulting him were his family -- his twin brother Owen and sister-in-law Bay, his younger sister Summer and brother-in-law Billy Coburn, and his father Blackjack and stepmother Ren. Clay's brother Trace and his wife, Callie, were on the speakerphone from Australia, where Trace owned a cattle station.
Jocelyn pressed her cheek against the wall next to the slightly open door, peeked inside and listened.
"You see what a reliable advisor Morgan DeWitt turned out to be," Owen snarled, his hand on the SIG P226 he wore as a Texas Ranger. "That bastard was an out-and-out thief and murderer."
"Morgan's suggestion to incorporate the Bitter Creek Cattle Company and sell stock seemed sound to me," Clay replied. "The DeWitt ranch is incorporated, and they've never had a problem. I didn't know until a year ago that Morgan was anything less than the astute advisor he seemed to be."
"We incorporated Bitter Creek on your advice," Summer said angrily.
"A suggestion I made based on -- "
"That sonofabitch's advice," Blackjack interrupted. "This is getting us nowhere. The question is, how do we stop that bastard -- whoever he is -- from buying up a controlling interest in the Bitter Creek Cattle Company?"
The silence was deafening.
"This is a disaster," Trace said from the speakerphone on Blackjack's desk.
"It's not my fault!" Summer shot back.
"I wasn't blaming you," Trace said.
Jocelyn saw Clay's jaw tighten. It was clear they blamed him. She wanted to walk into that room and put her arms around him and comfort him. But he'd forbidden her to attend the family meeting. She wasn't Clay's wife yet, as he'd made very clear to her earlier this morning.