Love Drunk Cowboy(10)

By: Carolyn Brown

“We get paid on Friday. Miz Lanier writes us a check and we sign the back. Then she takes them to the bank and sends all but twenty dollars to our families in Mexico. She brings us back each twenty dollars for things we need in the week. Today is Friday and the bank in Ryan closes at four,” Felix said.

“Then I’ll find the checkbook first thing and get your checks written. Give me thirty minutes and come back. Is that all right?”

Felix nodded. “That will be very fine.”

They walked away speaking in rapid Spanish. Lobo, a tall thin man with skin the color of coffee with lots of cream, a hook on his pointed nose, and firm skinny lips laughed and said, “Rye está hechizado por la morena que todos quieren.”

Rye took a step out of the shadows and yelled, “I can hear you, Lobo.”

Lobo looked back over his shoulder and grinned.

“What did he say about you?” Austin asked. Not one thing about the cowboy had changed. His eyes were just as green in the bright sunlight as they’d been in the dimly lit café and his hair was even blacker. That tattoo beckoned to her to touch it and she had trouble keeping her eyes off the big silver belt buckle.

Rye wasn’t about to tell her that Lobo had said that he was bewitched by Austin. His palms were already sweaty just standing there in her presence. He was more than just bewitched by her. There was an itch so far down in the middle of his heart that there was no way he could scratch it. And the physical reaction quivering behind his Wrangler zipper said he’d best get his mind on ranchin’ instead of Austin Lanier.

“I asked you what he said,” Austin said.

“I’m sorry. I was translating it from Mexican slang into English,” Rye said quickly. He’d deal with Lobo later when he was flirting around with some local chica. The only one of the crew who wasn’t married, he was tall, thin, and would be playing in Mexican movies if a talent scout ever visited his village.

“Hey, Rye, no quiero bronca contigo,” Lobo yelled.

“And what was that?” Austin asked.

“He made a remark about me and then said that he didn’t want to get into a fight with me,” Rye said with a grin. Damn! His face was going to hurt by nightfall if he didn’t wipe that constant smile from it.

Austin had sent thoughts racing around in his brain that he had no business entertaining. Someone who worked in a high-powered office in Tulsa wouldn’t be staying in Terral, Oklahoma, with a population of four hundred if you counted half the dogs and part of the stray cats running around town. Without them the total was probably closer to 350.

Austin opened the front door and said, “Okay. Guess I should’ve taken Spanish in college rather than French. Did you need something or were you just checking up on the hired help?”

“Felix asked me to be here when you arrived. They’ve been spooked about meeting you for fear you’ll decide not to put in a crop this year. It’s their means of living for the whole year. They work hard, send their money home, and then live on it until the next spring. They’re afraid you are going to tell them to go home and their families will go hungry his winter,” Rye said.

“Well, thank you. Looks like I’ve got to hit the ground running if I’m going to get their checks written and taken to the bank.”

Send them home to starve kept running through her mind. She could never do that. If they knew a year ahead of time there wouldn’t be work for them at Verline Lanier’s then they could make arrangements elsewhere. But how could she run a watermelon farm and work in Tulsa at the same time?

“I’ve got to go to Ryan to the feed store and tag agency. I’ll drive you up there,” he said quickly.