Cowboy Blind Date
Mix-Up for Christmas
How Bonnie met her hottie professor...
A VERY COUNTRY CHRISTMAS WISH #3
Dan Evermore’s phone had been blowing up all morning with text messages.
Mom: Rescheduled your appt to get fitted for your tux. PLEASE SHOW UP THIS TIME!
Dad: Need you on a stakeout this weekend. READ MY EMAIL!
Benjie: If you’re not coming to my wedding, just say so. Mom is PULLING HER HAIR OUT!
He shook his head at the endless flood of drama from his family. As if yelling at him in all caps was going to make him respond any quicker. He had a lecture to deliver. Their long line of never-ending issues would have to wait another couple of hours.
He turned off his electronic tablet and slid it into his briefcase. As usual, he’d been unable to resist tweaking his presentation down to the last minute. It was the burden of having a genius level IQ. His brain never stopped. However, he was due to take his place behind the podium in less than five minutes, so it was time to start walking.
As he made his way to the door of his office, the toe of his leather loafer slid on something. He paused and glanced down, surprised to see a small white envelope lying on the floor. Because of its location, he could only presume someone had slid it beneath the door.
If the envelope had been any other color, he might’ve left it there for the cleaning crew to pick up. He was sick and tired of receiving fan mail from female admirers — some secret and some not so secret. He had no doubt it was because of his connection to the disgustingly profitable Evermore & Sons, Attorneys at Law firm. What they didn’t know was how hard he was working to get his name crossed off the “and Sons” part of the corporate paperwork.
He had no intention of spending the rest of his life under his father’s iron fist. He’d worked too hard to become a full-time professor at Stanford Law School.
He bent to pick up the envelope. As he turned it over, his heart sank at the sight of his name scrawled on the face of it. There was something decidedly feminine to the loopy cursive letters. However, the note in the corner made him pause. It was marked URGENT in all capital letters, which had been doubly underscored.
Okay, you got my attention. It was probably junk mail, but in the outside event that one of his students was experiencing a true emergency, he tore open the flap. The message on the notecard inside was equally arresting.
Sir, I’m sorry to bother you about this, but I’m not sure who else to turn to since I can’t afford an attorney. If you (or someone on your staff) could please point me in the right direction for filing a restraining order without an attorney, I’d be most grateful.
She’d printed her student ID number beneath her name, as well as her cell number and address. He recognized the dorm as one of the oldest buildings on campus — not a sorority. It further underscored the fact that he was dealing with a student who had limited financial means.
Normally, Dan would’ve passed off the note to one of the many programs on campus designed to assist students in need. However, the young woman’s request for assistance in filing a restraining order struck a particularly raw chord with him.
It's your lucky day, kid.
What she didn’t know was that Evermore & Sons was currently representing a known mobster whose secretary’s body had been discovered at the bottom of a reservoir. During a recent stakeout, Dan’s father had let slip that she’d tried to file a restraining order against him only days before. The mobster was probably as guilty as sin, but he’d never see a day behind bars. Before it was over, the Evermores would make him look like Mother Theresa, while compiling a mountain of circumstantial evidence designed to make the “troubled young woman” appear as if she’d taken her own life.
In a rare show of passive aggressiveness, Dan decided on the spot that Bonnie Wakefield was one woman who was not going to end up at the bottom of a reservoir.
He fired off a quick text to her as he strode toward the lecture hall.
My office hours begin at 2:00 p.m. today. Respectfully, Dan Evermore, Law Professor, SLS
The hall was jam-packed with students when he walked in. However, a hush settled over the room as he strode a few minutes late behind the podium.
The front row was filled end-to-end with the usual assortment of rich girls with access to their daddys’ credit cards.
He ignored the sea of bare legs, crop tops, and skin-tight dresses. He hadn’t become one of the most respected professors at Stanford by flirting with or dating students. Not for the first time, he wished he was wearing a wedding ring, if for no other reason than to put more emotional distance between him and their inappropriate designs on his single status.
And, quite frankly, he was tired of being alone. His brothers would call him old-fashioned, predicable, and downright boring if they knew how badly he longed to become a family man. Unlike them, he had no interest in marrying to score corporate alliances or to increase their family’s fortune.
However, thanks to being an Evermore, he was probably destined to remain single until the end of his days. It was too difficult for most women to see past his last name and the dollar signs it represented to ever give the real him a chance.
His gaze zeroed in on a slender woman sitting in the aisle seat in the second row. Her head was bent over her textbook, presumably scanning the reading homework. Her brunette hair was tumbling around the shoulders of a red velvet blazer. It was unbuttoned, revealing a white lacy camisole tucked into jeans. He wasn’t sure why he took a second look at her, other than the fact that she was making no effort to attract his attention. For some reason, he found that to be fascinating.
“Good afternoon!” he boomed, wondering at what point she’d glance up at him. According to his Rolex watch, it was exactly five minutes past noon — class starting time.
At the sound of his voice, she jolted in her seat and straightened, as if embarrassed she hadn’t noticed his presence sooner. She lifted a pen over a notepad, preparing to take notes, her lips parted in anticipation.
He couldn’t help feeling flattered. Students took notes on his lectures all the time, but he suddenly found himself wanting to say or do something truly noteworthy. “Someone who did the homework, state a defense of open government in thirty seconds or less,” he ordered.
She made no move to be the first to respond. Too bad.
To his dismay, one of the beach blondes on the front row mashed the button on the table in front of her to commandeer the microphone. Her name flashed on the twin big screens in front of the room. He recognized her surname as coming from old family money.
“Transparency brings accountability and inclusivity,” she intoned sweetly. “When citizens have full access to government proceedings and records, it reduces the risk of corruption. Things like bribery and kickbacks to influence policy.”
He didn’t so much as blink before barking, “Rebuttal.”
A second student’s name appeared on the big screens. It was another name he recognized. Bonnie Wakefield. “Troop movements during wartime should be safeguarded.” She possessed a musical alto that he could’ve listened to all day long. “The same argument can be made for law enforcement officials.”
Liking her answer, he sought her out in the audience and discovered it was the woman in the red velvet blazer.
Why am I not surprised? He still wasn't sure what it was about her that fascinated him so much, but she had one hundred percent of his attention now. Even when he glanced away from her, he remained very aware of her presence in the room.
The first student mashed her button again. “I disagree. Greater accountability would reduce the likelihood of war. Over time, increased transparency would bring more and more people to the same side of the table.”
“Would it?” Bonnie Wakefield’s voice turned derisive. She was neither shy about her opinions nor ashamed of stating them out loud. “Your argument contains a glaring assumption — that human nature is inherently good. It also assumes we all want the same things. Like it or not, history proves otherwise.”
Never before had Dan felt more like a professor. Neither student was waiting for him to prompt their rebuttals. Their heels were dug in. Both were primed to passionately defend their positions. Being right or wrong wasn’t the point of the exercise. Getting them to think for themselves and indulge in their right to free speech was.
Bonnie’s opponent delivered a scathing response. “Your arguments appear to assume the opposite — that human nature is inherently bad. What are you basing that on?”
Bonnie leaned closer to the microphone, pushing a lock of dark hair over one shoulder. “It’s Biblical,” she said simply.
Before a religious debate could ensue, Dan re-assumed control of the floor. Plus, he liked ending the review of last night’s homework on Bonnie Wakefield’s eloquent conclusion.
Feeling like a referee holding their arms high in the air, he announced, “Let’s give these two students a round of applause for their thought-provoking statements.”
As the room erupted into clapping, he secretly hoped Bonnie planned on taking advantage of his office hours after class ended. He was fascinated by her statement of faith. Tying a legal argument into the Bible was a bold move — as unexpected as it was refreshing. He couldn’t wait to personally make her acquaintance.
He launched into his lecture about the benefits and perils of open government. Then he instituted a break-out session where smaller groups noodled their way through a set of twelve case studies across the auditorium. He lost track of Bonnie after that, but he wasn’t too worried about it. He had high hopes of seeing her again.
He glanced around the room, still not catching sight of her. “During the next class, each group will appoint one person to give a three-minute summary of your group’s scenario and at least three pros or cons about open government based on your scenario.” He nodded at them. “Class is dismissed.”
There was a smattering of applause across the room. He wasn’t sure if it was because the students had enjoyed his presentation or if they were simply celebrating the fact that he’d ended class ten minutes early.
He disconnected his tablet from the overhead projector, tucked it inside his briefcase, and disappeared through the door on the side of the stage. It provided a shortcut to his office.
His assistant, LaRae, glanced up at him with a curious smile as he entered. “You’re back early, sir.” Her dark hair was cut pageboy short, and her reading glasses were perched on top of her head. She was a grad student, working her way through law school.
“Only by a few minutes.” He was disappointed to note that the tiny waiting area was empty. Not that it was humanly possible for a student from class to have beaten him back to his office by walking through the main hallways.
“You have a visitor, sir. I hope you don’t mind that I seated her in your office. She made it sound like you were expecting her.”
“That’s fine.” His interest piqued exponentially. “Is it Ms. Wakefield?”
“Great.” He hid a smile, knowing it meant she’d left class early to ensure she’d have first dibs on his office hours. “I’ll see what we can do to help her.” He was careful to leave his door wide open as he stepped into his office.
Bonnie Wakefield shot to her feet from the upholstered chair where she’d been lounging in front of his desk. “Good afternoon, Mr. Evermore.”
“Please be seated.” He turned his back on her as he set his briefcase on his desk and tossed his blazer on the back of his leather swivel chair. Without thinking, he rolled up his sleeves like he always did when he was about to get to work.
Pivoting in her direction, he took a seat and leaned his forearms on his desk. “I was intrigued by your contribution to our class discussion earlier.”
The furtive glance she gave his arms was his only clue that the heightened color in her cheekbones wasn’t simply due to the compliment he’d given her. She’d noticed him as a guy. He was sure of it. Usually, that sort of thing annoyed him. With her, it didn’t.
She shrugged offhandedly. “My father was a soldier.”
“I was referring to your declaration of faith at the end.” He was very interested in knowing the source of it.
She shrugged again. “I have my stepbrother to thank for that. He was a stickler for rules and attending church. Now, I’m a law student, and he’s a cop. Go figure.”
“Oh?” He wondered why she hadn’t asked her brother for help with the restraining order. “Does your stepbrother know about the issue you mentioned in your note to me?”
“If he did, he’d be in town helping me.” As she watched his expression, she gave a rueful chuckle. “He’s a detective,” she explained. “Pretty sure he’s on another one of his undercover assignments, because I haven’t been able to reach him.”
“If he were in town, how would you describe the problem to him?”
“That’s easy.” Her voice went flat. “I broke up with someone about a month ago. Irreconcilable differences.” She waved a hand vaguely. “Ever since then, he’s been showing up unannounced — in the dorm, in the dining hall, in the hallways right outside the doors of my classrooms…”
Dan sat up straighter in his chair. “Is he a student here on campus?” Her description was textbook stalker behavior. Completely unacceptable.
“Not to my knowledge.” She glanced away, looking supremely uncomfortable. “He’s an investment broker.” She cited a high-end commodities firm. “Who just so happens to be married with two kids and a dog — something he failed to disclose before we started dating.” The color in her cheeks deepened to a mottled red, telling him those were the irreconcilable differences she was referring to.
The commodities firm was one he was familiar with. They were clients of Evermore & Sons, which gave him an idea.
“There are two ways we can go about this,” he drawled, knowing exactly how he was going to put a stop to the unwanted attention she was receiving. “We can pursue the restraining order you asked about…” He paused to watch her reaction.
“Or?” Her voice was soft and full of pleading.
“Or I can place one quick phone call, and that creep will never bother you again. Guaranteed.” The venom in his voice made her blink.
She uncrossed her knees and sat forward. “For a moment there, you sounded just like my brother.”
Her words irked him. Though he had no right to feel that way, he wasn’t gunning to come across to her as brotherly.
After a pause, she inquired anxiously. “Was that the wrong answer?”
“No. You made the right choice.” He realized he was scowling and paused to school his expression.
Her shoulders relaxed a little. “Dare I ask how you’re going to discourage my ex with a single phone call?”
Her answer told him that she must not know about his connection to Evermore & Sons, which probably meant she wasn’t a California native.
He kept his expression deadpan. “You can ask, but you can’t expect me to spill all my secrets during our first meeting.”
“I see.” She chuckled nervously, a sound he found endearing. “Exactly how many appointments are we talking about to get you to the point of placing that one phone call?”
“As many as it takes.” He knew he was walking a fine line between acting on his personal feelings and maintaining the level of professionalism his job demanded. However, he suddenly wasn’t the least bit interested in setting a limit on the number of times he’d get to confer with the delightful Bonnie Wakefield over her current dilemma. He’d waited too long to meet someone like her. She was like a drink of cool, spring mountain water — so refreshing after the first sip that he was already dying for another.
She wrinkled her nose at him. “Since I can’t afford to pay you, how about I bring homemade cookies to our next appointment?”
“Deal. I’ll supply the coffee.” His mouth watered in anticipation. As a loner and confirmed bachelor, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d sampled homemade anything.
“So…” Her look of cautious hope brought out every protective instinct in him. “What do you need from me to get started?”
“A few more details.”
“About?” Her voice was shy.
“You.” He indulged in a quick perusal of the lovely young woman sitting across from him, trying to keep his thoughts professional. It would be all too easy to picture her in the passenger seat of his Lamborghini… Or in a cocktail dress serving as his plus one at his hateful oldest brother’s wedding…
“Does the fact that I wanted to grow up to be a princess count?”
She was teasing him, but he didn’t mind. He was too busy picturing what it would feel like to touch his mouth to hers and sample some of her sassiness.
A strong sense of awareness passed between them that made her dark lashes flutter against her cheeks.
Yeah, my heart is toast. She was the perfect combination of beauty, intelligence, humor, and faith.
Since her status as a student made her strictly off limits to him in terms of dating, he’d have to look at some open teaching positions at other universities to change that.
The sooner, the better. Because he was pretty sure there was nothing on his resume that would make him immune to the laws of natural attraction that were in play.