The Cowgirl Ropes a Billionaire(6)

By: Cora Seton

He remembered the day he’d stumbled on the concept of a factory cleaning the water it used; returning it to the surrounding watershed in better condition than when it entered the plant. He’d been in college, his growing awareness of the damage his family’s holdings were doing to the environment piling up on him like so much trash in a dump, and the idea that it could be different—that industry could help the environment instead of hurt it—fueled him to study engineering and put his family’s money to good use.

Nate thought he was crazy, but while there might be money in oil and natural gas, Evan was sure there was money in green technology, too, and it was the kind of innovation that could put Americans back to work. He saw himself as part of a new breed—both environmentalist and capitalist. He intended to make his money work—for himself, his family, his company, and the rest of the good ol’ U.S. of A.

This Bella person was an idiot if she’d let her brother push her out of the most lucrative segment of her business. But most people were idiots when it came to money. He’d realized as a teenager that his grandfather and father didn’t have any special characteristics that set them above the crowd; they were just willing to think about money morning, noon and night. “What you focus on is what you get,” Grandpa always said. By the time he was fifteen he’d decided to focus on his dual loves of cash and nature. A shy child, and an awkward teenager, he was never happier than when he was either alone in the wilderness, or supervising experiments.

“I don’t know about that. What I do know is Bella isn’t a businesswoman. I managed to get a hold of her tax returns for the last five years—she’s losing money fast.”

“Losing money?” He wrinkled his nose. “A vet should turn a profit, even if her specialty is pets—what’s the problem?”

“A tender heart,” Amanda said sarcastically. “People bring her strays, but she won’t euthanize them.”

“Can you blame her? Putting down kittens doesn’t sound like a fun time.”

“Maybe not, but it’s part of the job,” Amanda countered.

Evan shrugged. She was right. “So she keeps every stray she sees, feeds them all, provides medical care….”

“And the money going out tops the money coming in. Her bank account’s nearly empty. She’s got a couple more months and it’s good-bye clinic, good-bye trailer, see you later, cowgirl,” Amanda finished for him.

“Trailer?” Evan rolled his eyes. He owned a five-bedroom, five bathroom luxury home in the San Jose hills, complete with a pool. Who the hell lived in a trailer?

“Trailer—at the back of the same lot her clinic is on. We’re talking white trash here, Evan.”

“Doesn’t matter. In fact it’s for the best.”

“Seriously? You’re going to marry this Betty Bumpkin?”

“I’ll do what I’ve got to do to keep control of the company, you know that.”

Evan’s great-grandfather, Abe Mortimer, was a Bible-thumping, stiff-necked, pain in the ass by all accounts, but he started Mortimer Innovations and set up the corporation so that the family’s shares could only be held by one family member at a time—the oldest male, who was required to be married or forfeit control to the next in line. If the oldest male family member was under twenty-five, the stock would be held in trust for him until he reached his twenty-fifth birthday, at which time he had a year to find a wife. If he was older than twenty-five, but unmarried, he had six months from the moment he inherited to get hitched. Evan’s grandfather had already been married when he took the helm, as had his father. Now that his dad had passed away five months ago, Evan was running out of time to find a wife.

Trouble was, he didn’t want one.

After a whole lot of looking, he’d found a loophole within all the legal gobbledygook that was going to save him from that fate—the marriage requirement only lasted a year. Evidently women in Abe’s time often expired early due to complications of childbirth, and Abe had taken that into account. He wasn’t required to stay married, therefore. No—all Evan had to do was find a woman whose time he could purchase for one year, or better yet, win for free. Betty Bumpkin might not know it at the moment, but she was doomed to be Mrs. Evan Mortimer for at least twelve months, right after he beat the pants off her on this stupid reality TV show.

“Yes, Amanda—I’m going to marry her.”

“Thank God for prenups.”

He’d made sure Hammer Communications, the parent company of the network that ran Can You Beat a Billionaire, knew there was no way he would expose half of Mortimer Innovations assets to some TV contestant. They’d fallen over themselves to agree—thrilled they’d managed to catch one of the West Coast’s richest bachelors.