Wishing for a Cowboy (Wishing River #3) - Victoria James

Chapter One

“Hi. You don’t know me, but I need your help.”

Ugh. No, that was all wrong. That could mean anything. Her car could be on fire, or she could be on the run from the police. Janie Adams took a deep breath and rubbed her hands together, trying to warm up the best she could in her ancient Honda, and attempted her silent rehearsal again.

She blasted the heat and turned her windshield wipers on to clear the rapidly accumulating snow. Squinting, she tracked a pickup truck driving out of the parking lot, leaving only one other vehicle here besides hers. That had to be an employee’s—or, better yet, the owner’s. Everyone else was gone.

In the half hour she and her nephew, Will, had been sitting here, the snow had only gotten heavier, falling faster. That would be problematic, considering the nearest place to stay was miles back on the rural highway. She hadn’t intended to get here so late, but the snow had been intense and the roads dark, so she’d had to drive slowly. But maybe this was best; an empty bar without anyone gawking.

One problem at a time, Janie.

She needed to get this over with first, then she would worry about where they’d sleep tonight. She had no choice but to walk into River’s Saloon in Wishing River, Montana, and tell Aiden Rivers—whom she’d never met in her life but was already certain she didn’t like—that she needed financial help. She never asked for help. Especially from a man.

But time had run out; money had run out. She had student loans and debt and overdue rent and no solution. Aiden could help her, and judging by the packed parking lot they’d driven into half an hour ago, his business was doing just fine. It was time for him to step up.

When Janie had googled Aiden, there hadn’t been much she could find except one or two pictures, and she’d been shocked by the familiarity of his features. She’d gambled on that and on her sister’s side of the story about Aiden, and then had driven west for ten hours to find him. Now that she was here, though, she struggled to take that final step and walk in. Face him.

She raised her head, pushed her glasses back up her nose, and peered out her partially snow-covered windshield at River’s Saloon. The outside looked exactly like the pictures she’d seen online, precisely as she imagined an authentic, nineteenth-century saloon would look. It was rustic, wooden, with a covered porch and…

She was stalling again. She hadn’t even enjoyed the ride here, with all the breathtaking mountain views and pastures and ranches. But Will had, complete with statistics and interesting facts about every town they drove through. He was like that, bright and curious, and it was one of the many things she adored about her nephew.

A shiver stole through her that had nothing to do with the cold. Ever since she’d taken Will in when he was four years old, her entire life had been about giving him the best childhood she could. He’d never been a burden to her—he’d been a blessing—and while she hadn’t been able to give him all the extras that money could buy, she’d given him as happy a home as she could. They had a great relationship, and she loved him as though he were her son.

She’d delayed her own dreams for him, and she would do it again in a heartbeat. There had never been anyone she could rely on for money, for support, for safety. If this meeting with Aiden went well, their lives were about to change—hopefully for the better, though there was no guarantee. If it didn’t go well, nothing would change, and that was the worst path they could go down. She was at the end of her rope and losing her grip.

Janie finger-combed her messy hair and tried to psych herself up to walk into that saloon. Confrontation was not something she excelled at, and a confrontation like this was something she’d never even done before.

She drew in a deep breath, then glanced over at the fifteen-year-old in the passenger seat and tapped his shoulder. “Will, honey, we’re here. It’s time to wake up. I’m going in.”

His eyes fluttered open, a slightly wild look in them as he blinked and peered out the window. “This is the place?” he said, his voice still thick with sleep.

“Yup. And it has all that authentic Montana charm you were talking about. The