Billion Dollar Cowboy(11)

By: Carolyn Brown

“Well, you sure look beautiful. You still having trouble with your contacts?” Andy asked.

“I know the glasses look dorky, but the doctor said that I can only wear the contacts occasionally now, not every day,” she said.

“Not dorky. Well, maybe a little nerdy, but I like your blue eyes and they’re hid behind those thick glasses,” he said.

“I think the thick lenses make me look like an alien.” She smiled.

“Well, there is that, but the rest of you looks beautiful,” Andy said.

“Honey, I’ll even take a left-handed compliment today. Don’t you dare let that umbrella fly away or I’m going right back inside my apartment. I refuse to go to church looking like a drowned kitten.” She looped her arm in his and huddled under the umbrella.

“I thought it was a drowned rat,” he teased.

“Not with blond hair and fair skin like mine. I’d look more like one of those pitiful little yellow kittens that hasn’t got enough sense to find its way in out of the rain,” she told him.

He opened the truck door for her and held the umbrella just right so that not a drop of rain fell on her hair. A few did find their way to her glasses and she busied herself cleaning them as he jogged around the front of the truck, got inside, and broke the umbrella down.

“I guess Colton is glad to see the rain.” She set her glasses back on her face and pushed them up.

“Not as glad as Rusty. He was fairly well dancing at breakfast this morning. They just planted hundreds of acres of alfalfa and this rain is coming at a perfect time,” Andy answered.

“Did you hear from Janet?” She changed the subject.

“I did. She made her meetings, has not been to a casino, hasn’t missed a day of work this whole week, and is doing fine. Said to tell you that she’s found a new love and it’s called the library, where she checks out books by the dozens,” Andy answered.

“Is she telling the truth?”

“Hell if I know. If not, she’s going to fall right on her own ass this time. She’s thirty. It’s time to be accountable.”

“I miss her, Andy.”

“I know you do and I feel horrible that I set down those rules, but it’s for the best, Laura. She’s got to learn to stop gambling and she won’t as long as you keep paying her debts. If Aunt Dotty was still alive she’d skin you for all you’ve already done,” he said.

“That’s the truth.” Laura managed a weak smile.

The rain had slacked off slightly when they reached the church. He couldn’t drive her right up to the door and most of the close parking spots were taken, but he did bring the umbrella around to her side of the truck and got her inside all dry and presentable.

He shook the water from the umbrella and stood it in the corner with dozens of others. A door designating that it was the men’s room was on her right. The ladies’ room was on her left, and right ahead was the one leading from the foyer into the sanctuary.

That prickly sensation on her neck was back. It had been years since she’d been to church. Not since she graduated from high school and moved into town with her sister, Janet. Aunt Dotty, who’d taken her and Janet in when her mother died, had given them a place to live, taught them how to work hard on a ranch, took them to church every Sunday, and made sure they were fed and clothed. It was her duty to see to it that her blood kin didn’t wind up in foster care, she said, but it was not her duty to mollycoddle them just because they were girls.

Andy swung the door open and led the way. People were already seated, but there was a low buzz from folks’ whispers as they waited for services to begin. When she walked in behind him, the whole church went as silent as the eye of a tornado. It wasn’t until he stood to one side and let her into the pew before him that the buzz started again. She looked up expecting Andy to slide in beside her, but he marched on up the aisle, across the front of the church, and down the side aisle to sit at the far end of the pew next to Rusty.

“Good morning,” Colton whispered. His warm breath caressed the soft skin on her exposed neck, causing a shiver to tickle her backbone.

“Good morning.” She was amazed that she could speak. Damn that Andy! He’d better enjoy visiting with God for the next hour because he was about to get hit with a devil of a fight after church was over.