Riley Hayes, the playboy of the Hayes family, is a young man who seems to have it all: money, a career he loves, and his pick of beautiful women. His father, CEO of HayesOil, passes control of the corporation to his two sons; but a stipulation is attached to Riley's portion. Concerned about Riley's lack of maturity, his father requires that Riley 'marry and stay married for one year to someone he loves'.
Angered by the requirement, Riley seeks a means of fulfilling his father's stipulation. Blackmailing Jack Campbell into marrying him "for love" suits Riley's purpose. There is no mention in his father's documents that the marriage had to be with a woman and Jack Campbell is the son of Riley Senior's arch rival. Win win.
Riley marries Jack and abruptly his entire world is turned inside out. Riley hadn't counted on the fact that Jack Campbell, quiet and unassuming rancher, is a force of nature in his own right.
This is a story of murder, deceit, the struggle for power, lust and love, the sprawling life of a rancher and the whirlwind existence of a playboy. But under and through it all, as Riley learns over the months, this is a tale about family and everything that that word means.
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"Sit down, boys," Gerald Hayes said firmly, his back to the Dallas skyline and his arms folded across his chest. They complied with his request since it was more of a command, both sliding into the leather chairs opposite the desk. They wore different expressions, though both were his sons.
Jeff was the mirror of his father, six-five, strong, not averse to getting his own way through means others might consider somewhat underhanded or devious. He'd achieved good things for Hayes Oil, very good things. Under his control, the company had grown in strength due to some well placed deals and some serious, if somewhat questionable, pay-offs to just the right people.READ MORE
It was how Hayes Oil had gotten where it was today; the second largest oil company in Dallas, billions passing through their coffers on an annual basis, with a staff of over seven hundred in the head office alone. Jeff was a chip off the old block; he knew when to deal, and when to back off, when to buy off. It was a joy for an old man to watch. Jeff was sitting in his chair, his back straight. He was calm, with a virtually inexpressive demeanor, and his eyes were like chips of ice. He was dressed in dark gray Armani, perfectly groomed, his shirt crisp and white, and his tie a deep maroon. His hands were placed on the material of his pants, his nails perfectly manicured. He had an air of expectancy layered about him in palpable waves. Gerald couldn't have been prouder of his eldest son. Jeff was the right choice to form part of the new era of Hayes Oil, his student, and his success.
Riley, his middle child, only an inch shorter than Jeff and nearly as cold, was sitting just as calmly. Nearly. He too was wearing Armani, this time a charcoal black with a black silk shirt and no tie. He exuded the same confidence as his older brother, but with a subtle difference. He was an untamed version of his brother. His middle child had his mother's way about him and eenjoyed the money the Hayes family had, way more than was really necessary. But to give him his due, under his guidance, Research and Development had flourished, and Gerald was as watchful of Riley as he was of his oldest— but for very different reasons.
Riley made decisions driven by his heart, by immeasurable instinct, too many times to make Gerald entirely happy with leaving Hayes Oil under his control for any length of time. Still, Riley deserved a place at Hayes Oil; after all, he supposed, whatever his thoughts, and whatever decisions were made, it was his legacy too.
Riley looked tired today, and Gerald glanced down at the Dallas Morning News on his desk, knowing what was on page seven, the gossip page, knowing what was in evidence before him, and knowing it made his decision easier.
"How is Lisa?" he asked Jeff conversationally, glancing over at the pictures grouped on one side of his desk— his family, Jeff with his arms around his perfect blonde wife, with his two grandchildren posed just so. It filled him with pride to see the Hayes Oil generations all set to carry on the Hayes name. He glanced at photos of his youngest, Eden, and at Riley, both in their photos alone, both for very different reasons.
Sighing, he unfolded his arms, wondering if what he was about to say would change the face of Hayes Oil forever.
* * * *
Jim Bailey was furious. He could only imagine what Riley was going through at this very minute, and he knew someone had to go and find him before the middle Hayes boy took a gun to his father's head. He had watched as Gerald and the favored son had left. The older man's arm was loose across Jeff's shoulders, their heads close in conversation, and it cut him to the core. It was Jim who had prepared the legal papers, Jim who had argued against the idiocy Hayes Senior was proposing. Someone had to be on Riley's side in this whole freaking mess, even if it meant this was the end of his tenure at Hayes Oil, and he knew where to find Riley. Taking the elevator, he left at the sixty-fifth floor, following the darkening corridor to the map room. It was the one place where Riley could always be found if the stress of his family got too much, sitting cross-legged on the floor poring over his beloved maps. He would spend hours with the geological surveys, the statistical results, his instinct for oil leading R&D to make decisions that had quadrupled Hayes Oil's output over the last two years. It astounded Jim that such a young man, only twenty-seven, had such an instinct. IIt reminded him of the old days, when Gerald and Alan would fly by the seat of their pants to locate new oil reserves based on nothing other than instinct.
Jim hesitated outside the door, steeling himself for what he would find within. Riley was rightly going to be furious with him for withholding the legal changes at Hayes Oil from him. He considered Jim a friend and, as such, probably had the right to expect more. Breathing deeply, he pushed open the door to find the large room echoing and in darkness, the only light from the closing Texas evening and the growing glow of the city outside. It wasn't difficult to locate Riley. Jim could almost touch the anger radiating from the tall man standing at the window silhouetted in the increasing gloom. Jim said nothing, just closing the door behind him and leaning against it. He loosened his tie and focused hard on the dark form. Riley was locked into silent stillness, looking out through the glass.
"Twenty-two percent," Riley finally said, his words clipped and tense. Jim could see himself reflected in that same glass, hesitating, lost, just waiting for the explosion. Jim had known. He had known as soon as the figures hit the desk. For fuck's sake, he was the company's lawyer. He was the one to write up the contracts for handover, the one who'd known the full details for three days longer than Riley.
His anger at what Gerald had forced him to do was manifesting itself as guilt. God knows he had wanted to say something. Every time he looked at the young man who worked so damn hard for this company, he had wanted to tell Riley what Gerald was planning. Never the right moment, never the right reason, and now… now he was paying for the betrayal. "Riley?"
Temper snapped and spat from Riley. "Fucking less than a third, the same as my sister!" He started pacing, gesturing with his hands, frustration in every exaggerated movement. Jim grimaced, because he knew that the percentage Eden got wasn't the point of Riley's temper. Riley was close to his sister, loved her and her shopping ways, and didn't begrudge his Paris Hilton wannabe sibling anything. No, the point was that it hadn't been fair at all. His brother, his acknowledged bastard of a Stepford brother, had just been handed forty-eight percent of Hayes Oil, and effective control of the company.
In a flurry of sudden but controlled movement, Riley spun on his heel, throwing whatever was in his hand across the room, missing Jim by inches. It was a map-reader, fifty thousand dollars of technology smashed into fractured pieces against the glass wall, and then it began. The words that Jim had been expecting.
"He sat there, in his fucking throne room, and he took everything away from me and gave it all to Jeff!" The temper in him was high and rare, and Jim flinched as Riley stalked around the tables that separated them with no direction other than just to walk. "And do you know why?" He stopped, grabbed at the newspapers that were lying in a tangled mess on the final map table by the door, and in one motion, Riley swept everything other than one sheet to the floor. He jabbed at the picture that had been snapped the night before, Riley and Steve at a club, arms around each other, Steve with his usual wide smile, Riley looking somewhat worse for wear from his brush with Jack Daniels and José Cuervo. "This."
It was the usual blurred image from the paparazzi who followed Riley, the playboy prince with a bottomless pit of money, everywhere he went. He shook his head. Now he was really confused and couldn't understand what Riley was getting at. Gerald had explained very clearly that his eldest son was the best for the company, the one switched on to commerce, the one with the business brain. He hadn't listened when Jim had pointed out the amazing upturn in R&D, the increase in oil locations, the way Riley was so committed to Hayes Oil. He had just shaken his head as if he couldn't believe, or didn't want to believe. "The photo?" Jim wasn't stupid; the picture didn't exactly show Riley in his best light. There was the blur of his smile and an unwarranted amount of skin on display as he tumbled half in and half out of the cab, stopping obviously to pose with his best friend.
"He said," Riley paused, a sneer on his face, "that the friendship I have with Steve is unhealthy— unhealthy, shit. He was concerned by Steve's association with Campbell!" The name Campbell came out on a spit and a sneer, the perfect take-off of how Gerald Hayes would have said it, how Jim knew he would have said it. "Oh, and also, because I haven't got myself a brood mare like my oh so fucking perfect brother, then of course I must be confused about my sexuality."
Jim winced, both at the description of Jeff's wife as a brood mare, and at the whole confusion statement. Steve Murray, Riley's best friend since college, was openly bisexual, but Riley, despite having a history of mixing it up with men as well as women, was a lot less defined by a label. He had a different woman every night, younger, older, richer, poorer, it didn't matter, and neither did the boys he did on rarer occasions in the bathrooms of wherever they were. However it panned out, Riley always had tail.
"Said I should look at him and Mom." Again came the sneer, and Jim saw how the temper twisted his normally calm face. "Fuck. Like my mom had the perfect husband in my dad, like Jeff had the perfect fucking marriage with Lisa and her drinking." His voice trailed off, the venom in it spitting and harsh as he dismissed the marriages of his closest family as society based, financially arranged facades.
"Riley," Jim started, thinking maybe a time-out here, some down time, might be good.
"No, Jim. No," Riley interrupted, his hands clenched in fists. "Know what he said?" Riley stopped. Of course Jim knew what Hayes Senior had said. After all, it would have been Jim who had written the damn contract. Riley bowed his head, his face revealing disappointment at his friend's betrayal. Jim prayed that Riley could see that Gerald had forced him into this position. "He said it would be okay if I just got myself married in the next three months—if I found myself some stable brood mare time, and stayed married for a year. Then he would hand over more of Hayes Oil. Not based on the work I do, or the fact that, without me, Hayes Oil would have been landless for the next eighteen months, but based on a marriage. I mean, what the fuck, Jim? This is the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth."
"I know," Jim said simply, holding his hands up in his defense. "I tried, Riley, I tried to get him to see sense. I'm so sorry." He knew his voice sounded exhausted, sad. All the emotions that were trapped inside at what he'd had to do came swimming to the surface, puncturing the civility he had to show to the world whenever he was at the office. It was almost as if his words pushed through Riley's temper as suddenly and as finally as the thrust of a knife, and Riley visibly deflated in front of him. His head was bowed, his short blond hair disheveled. He looked calmer, but Jim knew this man well; his temper was clearly just below the surface.
"How do I do this, Jim? How do I fucking show the bastard that he can't win, that he can't push me to marry just to get what was rightfully mine anyway?" He looked up at him, the dim light from outside the window casting shadows across high cheekbones and green-hazel eyes. His lower lip was caught in his teeth, and the pain on his face was something Jim had never seen before. "I work fucking hard for this company. What more can I do?"
"So we find someone for you to marry, Riley, some quiet Texan debutante who will agree to a pre-nup, yeah? Someone who ticks the boxes, and then after this prescribed year is up, you can quietly divorce."
Jim could see that Riley wanted to say he couldn't do that, wanted to say that no woman in her right mind would agree to this, but they both knew it would be easy to find a bride. Both knew that the chance of marrying Riley Hayes was going to bring everyone out of the woodwork, fairly begging for the chance.
"I can't do that," Riley said simply. "I won't give Dad the satisfaction of winning like this."
Jim sighed. "So you let him win by not doing it, then. For him it's a win-win situation. Let's face it, you either let him win by doing something, or you let him win by doing nothing. Either way, Riley, you're fucked."COLLAPSE
Crystal's Many Reviewers on Crystal's Many Reviewers wrote:
The Heart of Texas is a gripping love story and RJ Scott quickly ensnares the reader with this complex family saga. Riley Hayes and Jack Campbell’s marriage of convenience has far reaching consequences as long buried family secrets are revealed and a rich and powerful dynasty topples. Ms. Scott excels at creating perfectly imperfect characters that are realistic and sympathetic.
Alpha Book Club on Alpha Book Club wrote:
"....The Heart of Texas gave me everything I love in a book – drama, suspense, secrets, lies, betrayal, murder, romance, love, really hot m/m sex, cowboys, and there was even a barroom brawl. I laughed. I cried. I smiled like a loon. I was so swept up into Riley and Jack’s story that I read into the wee hours of the morning, only stopping when my eyes refused to stay open any longer and picking it back up as soon as I could today – which was not quick enough for me. There are so many layers to the story that I am afraid to talk specific details for fear of revealing spoilers...."
"...This is a story worth reading. Sexy male main characters. So many secrets in and out of the closet. Shocking realizations that tear a family apart and a love that holds it together. I loved this first book of Texas Series. I will be binge reading the rest of this series over the next few days. The plot has a few different aspects to it which I found to be interesting...."