The Cowboy and the Angel

By: Lietha Wards


“Oh, Angel, quit sulking,” Priscilla scolded, knowing exactly what was upsetting her sister. She had dragged Angel to the Harrisons’ party, practically by her hair. She knew her sister didn’t want to go, but she didn’t want to show up alone. She did feel a little guilty, though, because she knew exactly why Angel didn’t want to be there tonight.

Angel cast her sister a disapproving look and plopped herself on the taupe suede sofa in the study. Normally, Priscilla’s antics didn’t affect her, but she was irritated because she’d dragged her along to the gala at Bea Harrison’s ranch. A strand of brunette hair had escaped her tight bun, and she tucked it back behind her ear. She looked up at her sister, who was pacing impatiently about the room, her slinky, calf-length black dress swirling about her elegant legs. Her eyes narrowed. All Priscilla ever thought of was herself, and although she loved her older sister, it got tiring after a while. “I really didn’t want to come. I have a paper due next week.”

She was telling a little lie. It had nothing to do with her paper. It wasn’t because of Priscilla or their hostess, either. It was the hostess’s son that made her leery, and she knew he had to be there that night because his brother was coming home after a long absence. This was an important party. Half the town was showing up to see him.

Her sister straightened the bust of her dress, drawing her disapproving gaze back to her. “How are you supposed to meet a man if you never go anywhere besides work and always have your nose in a book?”

Meet a man? That was easy for her to say. Priscilla was beautiful, blonde and blue-eyed. She was very popular, both in school and among the townspeople since her graduation four years ago. Angel, who was two years younger than Priscilla, had the same eyes, but the resemblance ended there. Her hair was mousy brown, she was shorter by at least six inches, and she was a little chubbier than her sister, who had a figure fit for a runway model.

It worked well for her, too. She could bat her eyelashes and have practically every man fall at her feet—not Seth Harrison, though, and that drove her crazy. It gave her sister an obsessive streak where he was concerned, and it was no secret among her friends—and probably most of the townspeople—that she was crazy about him. Priscilla was quite open about things she wanted, and Seth was definitely one of them. Angel, on the other hand, had a problem controlling her heart rate around the other one.

Alex Harrison.

Alex and Seth Harrison were their neighbors. Along with their mother, Bea, they owned one of the biggest ranches in North Carolina. It had a stunning view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and they raised Santa Gertrudis cattle. Their parents had been good friends with the Harrisons since before Angel was born.

It was an open secret that Priscilla wanted Seth, but Angel had never told anyone how she felt about Alex. She couldn’t. She wasn’t much for talking about her feelings with anyone, even her sister.

Angel always felt like she lived in her sister’s shadow, and tonight was a good example of that in the way they were dressed. Priscilla wore a designer label low-neckline dress that showed off her best attributes, whereas she wore a drab blouse and an ankle-length skirt. She would be invisible next to Priscilla. Not that she really cared—she was not as outgoing as her sister was, and preferred to remain invisible. Most of the time, she was quite clumsy as well.

“I don’t want a man,” she finally mumbled.

Priscilla ignored her sister’s comment and walked to the big bay window that overlooked the party seated around the pool on the back terrace, sweeping her long, fair hair off her shoulders. “It’s exciting that Seth is coming home,” she said, flashing her sister a stunning smile. “I can’t wait to see him. It seems like he’s been gone forever.”

Actually, he has, thought Angel, studying her sister’s anxious excitement. The man had left home when he was twenty to go to med school, and he’d been gone for eight years, except for when he came home to visit during the summers. On the other hand, Alex hadn’t come home as often when he attended Princeton. Angel had always found that odd, because she knew he loved the ranch.

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