He didn’t look at her. “I’ve been talking to a couple of other stock contractors and they’re willing to buy BB outright. Cash.”

“No way. That is not in the plan. BB could be the center of a great breeding program, because you could earn more by selling his se**n than selling him outright.”

“Now you’re officially scaring me. How the hell do you know the value of bull se**n?” Renner sighed. “Tobin.”

“He’s smart and he’s got some great ideas. But explaining that part of Plan B will have to wait until we’re through this Plan A.”

Renner grabbed her hand to force her attention. “What? You have two plans?” He sighed again. “Of course you have two plans.”

“Plan A or Plan B. You have two choices.” Tierney linked their fingers. “I need you to listen to me very carefully. I may have not offered full disclosure on why I was in Wyoming, but that didn’t make anything that happened here, or between us, any less real. I love you. I want to be with you, in this community I’ve grown attached to. But if that’s not what you want, I’ll walk away. From you. From everything.”

His heart almost stopped. “Walk away? Why?”

“My father presented me with another option. I haven’t given him an answer because you left and I wasn’t sure what you wanted. But I’m offering full disclosure now. PFG will mark your loan paid in full and you will retain sole ownership of the Split Rock if I return to Chicago and my position with Pratt Financial Group.”

His anger resurfaced and a displeased growl escaped. “No. Fucking. Way. I will never ever let you be used as a bargaining chip again. Never. You understand me? I wouldn’t take the deal when that bastard tried to bribe me a few weeks ago and I sure as hell won’t let you take it either.”

Tierney’s eyes clouded. “What deal?”

“Part of the reason I was so pissed off that day I got wind of the contract clause? Wasn’t because of the contract, Tierney. It was because your father had the balls to use you against me. He promised to forgive every penny of the loan, transfer full ownership of Split Rock back to me if I broke it off with you permanently.”

“Happy to see I’m worth so much to him,” she said bitterly.

“You’re worth everything to me. I didn’t wait to give him my answer. I told him no. Period. My feelings for you weren’t for sale.” He frowned. “Which is why I was so surprised that he left a copy of the contract in my truck.”

She fidgeted. “Ah. He didn’t do that. I did. I swear I had no idea about that stupid clause until he got all cocky and told me. Then he warned I couldn’t legally disclose it to you. So I had Tobin make a copy of the contract—your original from your desk—he circled the pertinent section and put it in your truck. So technically I didn’t do it.”

He kissed the back of her hand. “Have I mentioned how much I love this steel-trap mind of yours?” He let his lips move up the inside of her wrist. “And your other parts. Want me to refresh your memory on which parts?”

“Later. But first you need to hear the other option.”

“Fine. Hit me.”

“Shareholders. I’ve rounded up enough shareholders to buy into the Split Rock to pay off the loan. Plus, we’d have enough operating funds for two years. And before you ask, it was not fully funded by me.”

“Then who?”

“Ever since we hosted that community party, people in Muddy Gap have been asking how they can show support for the Split Rock. After talking it over with Janie and Harper, we decided to pitch the idea to locals—a chance to buy in and invest in the community. We wanted a mix of business owners and individual investors.” Her eyes sparkled. “The best part? We had enough financial backing to pay off the loan . . . within three days.”

Renner found himself picking his jaw off the floor. “Seriously? Who kicked in?”

“Well, the Mud Lilies pooled their resources. Bernice. Susan Williams. Dodie and her family members. Janie and Abe. Harper.” She grinned. “Besides you and me, Harper would own the largest chunk. Bran will do anything to support Harper’s career and make her happy. He probably would’ve fronted all the money if no one had come forward.”

Beyond stunned, he just gawked at her. “Seriously? This is perfect. This is better than perfect, better than me being solely responsible for taking on the challenge of running it or PFG taking over. I—I . . .” A lump clogged his throat. “How did you ever come up with this idea?”

She pressed her lips to his. “Because this is our home. Here we have what we’ve both wanted. A place to belong. A sense of community. A chance to give back and be part of something permanent. We both want to set down roots.”

“God. Tierney.” He rested his forehead to hers and tried not to feel dizzy with hope.

“It’s a little overwhelming. But it’s a good thing, right?”

“It’s an amazing thing. I can scarcely wrap my head around it.” He stared at her for a beat. “What was Plan B?”

“If you would’ve sent me packing back to Chicago, the shareholders would’ve used the money to invest in a se**n collection facility for stock breeding programs. Seems Abe Lawson recently earned some kind of ag degree. He, Tobin, Hank, Bran, Fletch and Eli were going to approach you about tying their idea in with the Jackson Stock Contracting Company. Even if it wasn’t associated with the Split Rock.”


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