The Trouble with An Heir

Book 4 - Texas Cattleman's Club: Diamonds & Dating Apps

Long-buried secrets and scandal ignite when a CEO and an aspiring chef are caught between two feuding dynasties… Only in the next exciting installment of the Texas Cattleman’s Club: Diamonds & Dating Apps miniseries from USA TODAY bestselling author Stacey Kennedy.

The TCC’s upcoming extravaganza hosted by the Del Rio family could be aspiring chef Jessica Drummond’s make-or-break gig. But her dream job is threatened when she shares a night of mind-blowing passion with devastatingly attractive and highly off-limits CEO Marcus Winters.

Marcus has tried to distance himself from his powerful family. But he can’t stay away from Jessica, and their sizzling affair soon thrusts them into the middle of a centuries-long feud. The unearthing of a dark secret could leave the fate of two prominent Texas dynasties hanging in the balance—along with Jessica and Marcus’s future…

From Harlequin Desire: Passionate and provocative stories featuring rich, powerful heroes and scandalous family sagas.

You’ll be swept away by this bold, sizzling romance, part of the Texas Cattleman’s Club: Diamonds & Dating Apps series:

Book 1: Matched by Mistake by Katherine Garbera
Book 2: The Rancher Meets His Match by J. Margot Critch
Book 3: Breaking the Rancher’s Rules by Cat Schield
Book 4: The Trouble with an Heir by Stacey Kennedy
Book 5: Under the Same Roof by Niobia Bryant
Book 6: Keeping a Little Secret by Cynthia St. Aubin

Start Reading Today!

"Marcus and Jessica were pure fire..."
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Marcus Winters entered the Texas Cattleman’s Club, a timely single-story building constructed of dark stone and wood, originally an old-world men’s club built around 1910. His dress shoes clicked against the wood flooring as he rebuttoned his suit jacket, passing the day care on the left of the entryway. He continued down the hallway, striding by hunting trophies and historical artifacts on the paneled walls. The rich scent of cedar fighting against the warm aroma of leather.

Marcus recalled when the club held more of an old boys’ club feel. After a renovation several years back, the Texas Cattleman’s Club moved into modern times with brighter colors, more lighting seeping in from the larger windows and higher ceilings.

As he entered the great room, he discovered his soon-to-be sister-in-law, and owner of MaggieInk, Maggie Del Rio, discussing details about her upcoming engagement party to the catering staff.

Maggie held elegance and grace that couldn’t be bought with her long black shiny hair and stunning dark brown eyes. His brother Jericho had found himself a beautiful partner.

Marcus froze a moment, letting reality sink in. Maggie Del Rio would soon be his sister-in-law. A month ago, he wouldn’t have put a dime on an engagement between the Winters and the Del Rio families.

The century-old feud running between the families was as deep as the roots in the Davy Crockett National Forest. A feud that began in 1920 when Marcus’s great-grandmother Eliza Boudreaux left Fernando Del Rio at the altar for Marcus’s great-grandfather Teddy Winters. A hot scandal at the time, and the bitterness of that shame had remained unfaltering until Marcus’s brother Jericho was matched with Maggie Del Rio on the dating app k!smet, the hottest new trend in Royal, Texas.

More than once, Marcus had questioned his brother’s sanity, but love was a fickle thing. Jericho had proposed to Maggie after only two weeks, remaining steadfast in his decision to marry a woman belonging to a family that had been deemed the enemy, and their love single-handedly extinguished the red-hot fire that had burned between the families for years.

For that reason, and regardless of the layer of tension simmering in the room, Marcus would support his brother in his decision, letting bygones be bygones in the name of happiness.

His sole focus now, after his brother had asked him to oversee the design of the engagement party, was to ensure the party happening in three days exceeded the couple’s dreams.

Spotting Jericho, his older brother by three years—and shorter by three inches, something Marcus never forgot to mention—standing in the center of the room, he headed for that way. His brother was overlooking the single table that showed the direction of Marcus’s idea with scrutiny, and Marcus grinned. He wouldn’t expect his older brother to make this too easy on him.

A rising star in the architect world with his eco-friendly firm, RoyalGreen Architects LLS, Jericho knew a thing or two about quality of work. Seeing as Marcus was CEO of a luxury goods line, Fresh by Winters, he, along with his team, was honored to lead the design elements for the engagement party.

Settling in next to Jericho, Marcus shoved his hands into his pants pockets. “You’re not scowling. That must be a good sign.”

Jericho laughed. He glanced sidelong, his brown eyes—a Winters trait—softening, as he ran a hand over his omnipresent facial scruff. “I like what I’m seeing.”

Marcus nodded in thanks, studying the romantic table with white linens, pink and white roses and dark greenery, matched with crystal and gold accents. For the last week, he’d gone back and forth over ideas presented to him by his team. Through elimination, they’d combed through the Fresh by Winters Fall Guide, until they were confident in the design for the party. The premise was Jane Austen meets the modern world, or so a member on his team told him. Admittedly, romance was not his strong point. “I’m glad you’re pleased,” he told his brother.

“Thanks again for taking the reins on this,” Jericho said, honest sincerity in his voice.

Marcus snorted. “No thanks needed. I would’ve been offended if you hadn’t asked me.” Though he also understood why Jericho brought family into the planning. He had no doubt his brother and Maggie were trying to make both families feel involved in hopes to mend the feud.

Jericho smiled, cupping Marcus’s shoulder. “Let me talk to Maggie and get her opinion on this in case she wants to make any changes.”

“Of course,” Marcus replied, restraining the tension in his voice. He still hoped the party went off without anyone resulting to violence. His brother was a staunch supporter of his closest friends and family, and Marcus would do his best to ensure nothing ruined his celebration with Maggie, including dragging out anyone who started trouble.

With a final nod, Jericho headed for his soon-to-be wife smiling at him with damn stars in her eyes. A pain of envy hit Marcus’s chest. Jericho hadn’t been the only one to sign up to the dating app. Entering his thirties now, Marcus was making a shift in his life. The first, to partner with the one business he never thought he’d partner with—his family’s manufacturing business, Winters Industries.

He’d preferred to do things on his terms and stand on his own two feet. He was the first to break away from the family business and chose his own path years ago. But partnering with the family business now gave him the means to launch a more accessible version of his luxury goods line. His focus was to get top-of-the-line furniture, bedding, lighting and window treatments into more houses across the country. Winters Industries could make that happen.

A ding from his pocket had Marcus reaching for his cell phone. When he lifted his phone, finding a marketing report, a sultry voice across the room said, “Yes, I have some major concerns. I don’t get the overall design. The entire feel clashes with the menu I’ve planned.”

Interest piqued over who thought his work was subpar, he looked toward the voice, but the woman was standing behind a large plant, talking to Maggie and his brother.

That husky voice continued, “I’d like to know who thought this mix of materials and elements was a good idea, because it’s not. It’s a terrible idea.”

Determined to defend his choices, he stepped around the plant to face off with her, but the words on his tongue vanished, his body awakening swiftly at the beauty staring back at him. It became instantly clear that sultry voice belonged to an even sultrier woman with curves for days.

Tall, she looked around six feet, with legs that went on and on, ending at sexy black heels. Her chestnut shoulder-length hair fell in waves around her face and her sculpted lips made his thoughts turn dirty fast. Though her eyes were what stopped his lungs from getting in any air. Pure fire simmered in her brown eyes. Fire that intrigued, captivated…aroused.

Obviously aware he’d been listening to her conversation, she blinked at him. “Can I help you or is eavesdropping a normal habit for you?”

Maggie covered her mouth, her shoulders shaking with her silent laughter.

Jericho didn’t even attempt to hide his laugh and chuckled freely.

Marcus narrowed his eyes on the stunning beauty. “Marcus Winters,” he said, offering his hand, curious who the hell this woman was. “The man behind the design.”

Anyone else he’d met before would have blushed in embarrassment. Even casting their gaze down under his fierce examination.

Apparently, not this woman.

She lifted her chin and returned his handshake with a firm grip. “Jessica Drummond, the chef, and the woman who hates your design.”

Maggie burst out laughing. “Well, that’s one way for an introduction to happen.” She looked between them and then held her hands up in surrender. “I’m so not getting in the middle of this. You both have great ideas. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.”

Jericho nodded agreement. “I’m with Maggie. I’m not getting anywhere near this.” He strode away with his fiancée, his laughter following him.

The traitor.

Marcus didn’t dare look away from the woman challenging him with her stare. He would’ve bet she was part of the Del Rio family for how she treated him, but her last name declared she wasn’t.

An intensity Marcus hadn’t quite felt before crackled in the air as he lifted an eyebrow at her. “What exactly don’t you like about my design, Ms. Drummond?”

“Well, Mr. Winters, the fact that you completely ignored my menu,” she said, eyes narrowed on him.

“I didn’t think it important to take your menu into consideration,” he stated firmly.

She snorted, folding her arms. “Of course you didn’t, and that was your first wrong move.”

Hot or not, he frowned at her. “The design elements are on point. This idea wasn’t dreamed up in a day, Ms. Drummond. My team and I have worked on this for a week. Maggie is pleased. Jericho is pleased. Get on board with the design.”

Apparently what he said was the wrong thing. Her eyes narrowed into slits. “Marcus Winters,” she said slowly. “CEO of Fresh by Winters, right?”

“That’s right,” he said firmly to prove his point. “I did not create a multimillion-dollar company from the ground up by coming up with—” he used his fingers as quotation marks “—terrible ideas.”

“Good for you,” she shot back. “I hate to break it to you, but this is what this is.” She waved out to his mock-up table. “It’s like I’m walking into IKEA and seeing a fake dining room they’ve set up. Sure, it’s nice, but the overall design falls flat because it doesn’t take into account that you’re creating a mood. If the mood of the venue doesn’t match the mood of the food, then what do you have?”

His frown deepened. “Did you just compare my line to IKEA?”

“I actually like IKEA. Great products for a good value,” she said. “And what I mean is, what you have is a mediocre engagement party that no one will talk about ever again.”

He slowly shook his head, stuck on certain things she’d said. “So what I have is a mediocre, expensive line that is less appealing than a furniture store where you put together your own furniture?”

She shrugged. “Food is an experience. It’s a journey. From the beginning to the end. I have planned out every single thing from the appetizer to the wine to the main course. All of these things are special. And you have not paid attention to any of it.”

He lifted an eyebrow at her. “I didn’t think I had to pay attention to anyone else but my idea for the party.”

She held his gaze and then snorted. “I do understand that you’re likely used to getting your own way, but the menu and your ideas simply don’t jibe. I also know you have a famous name and don’t have to worry about how the world sees you, but my name means something to me, as does my work, and I refuse to watch this party drown because you can’t see past your failures.”

Marcus was…without words. He couldn’t decide if he was impressed by her or pissed off.

He gave her another long look over, reassessing. He could count on one hand the amount of people who pushed back at him, who weren’t dazzled by his family’s money and who weren’t intimated or charmed by him. And all those people he could count were his family.

Who was Jessica Drummond?

Crossing his arms, he considered his choices. On one hand, he wanted to refuse her ideas simply due to pushback. On the other hand, he couldn’t deny the sparks charging the air between them. Delicious intense sparks that he wanted to play with a little.

Over the years, he had dated, only casually, but he had signed up to k!smet in hopes of meeting a woman that would shake up his world like Maggie shook up Jericho’s life. The app had yet to match him.

Maybe he didn’t need k!smet after all.

This woman, holding his gaze like an equal, telling him off like no one had done so since he was a child, made him take notice. This woman whose sculpted lips drew his eye. This woman that made him lose his damn breath by one look at her. Yeah, she was his type, and then some.

He didn’t want a woman to always agree with him. He craved a woman that challenged him.

Wanting to know more about this woman staring him down and calling him out with her demands, he offered, “You hate what I’ve done, then you’ve got until tomorrow morning to prove it to me and show me your ideas.”

Her eyes widened before she quickly regained her composure. “You’re willing to change the vision of the party?”

“No,” he corrected. “But if you have ways to improve the party, we can find ways to integrate your ideas.”

She paused, surprise glinting in her pretty eyes. “Good,” she finally said, exhaling deeply, lowering her shoulders. “As long as you’re open to my ideas, then we won’t have a problem.” With the same fire he’d seen moments ago, she added, “I’ve been hired by the Del Rio family, and I intend to make sure this party is talked about for years.”

Marcus couldn’t help himself. He took a step forward, getting a little closer, testing the waters. “You’ll hear no arguments from me about that.”

She visibly swallowed, her cheeks turning slightly pink as her eyes searched his. His gaze fell to her lips. A mouth that currently wasn’t saying a single word.

Good. He wasn’t the only one made speechless today.

With a grin he suspected looked salacious, he said, “Come by my design studio at Fresh by Winters at eleven fifteen and we can go over your ideas.” He cocked his head, lifting an eyebrow at her. “Do you know the building?”

She cleared her throat but didn’t step away from him. “Downtown on the corner, right?”

“That’s it.” Needing to get a further read on whatever was happening between them, he offered his hand again. As she slid her slender fingers across his, he added, “I look forward to our meeting tomorrow.”

She licked her lips, dragging her fingers against his longer than necessary. “Try and be open-minded, Marcus.”

Her last dig should annoy him, but he couldn’t fight the heat flooding him as she practically purred his name. Oh, hell, yeah, there was something special about this woman.

Marcus grinned as she strode away, his gaze falling to her heart-shaped ass hugged by her skirt.

Apparently, she wanted a game, and he was more than willing to play, all to find out if this woman would become his new enemy…or if she was something else entirely.


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