Billion Dollar Cowboy(17)

By: Carolyn Brown

“I hear there’s a big party at the ranch in a few weeks,” the preacher said.

“Oh, yes, there is, and we’re playing games,” Cynthia answered.

“You should make a point to come this year, Roger. We’d love to have you. Miss Roxie is in charge of the game pairing and Ina Dean and Granny take care of the rules. I hear there are some changes this year,” Colton said.

“Hunger games?” Laura whispered.

Cynthia answered Laura but looked right at Colton. “Not quite that bad. But just as cutthroat. Who are you hoping to get paired with this year?”

“That’s up to Roxie. I’m sure she will surprise all of us,” Colton said.

Cynthia turned to Roger. “Maybe you’ll get paired with me. I’m very good at the games and we could probably win.”

“And what all do these games involve?” he asked.

Colton chuckled. “Lots of hard work and crazy rules.”

Laura made up her mind right then and there that she wasn’t going to be a part of any games. She might not even be present at the party. She’d take the day off and read a really thick good book in her apartment. With her luck, she’d get paired up with the preacher and Cynthia would have more reason to want her out of Ambrose.

“We’re having dominoes and checkers after we eat today. Y’all interested?” Roger asked.

“Count me in,” Cynthia said.

“Not us. We’ve got some prior engagements we have to take care of this afternoon, don’t we, Laura?” Colton turned his head slightly so that he was looking right into her eyes.

The depth of his dark green eyes said there was a lot more to him than dollar bills. She could have gone exploring in his soul for days, but he blinked and looked away.

“Oh, yes, we do. Business that cannot be put off,” she agreed.

Chapter 3

The rain had stopped when they left the church, but dark clouds still hung low in the sky and a few drops splattered against the ground every few minutes. The dinner was over and Laura’s hair didn’t have to be perfect for her to show Andy just how mad he had made her. She was there to do a job and it had nothing to do with putting on a false front with Colton.

Colton was a gentleman and opened doors for her, but his angular jaw worked like he was chewing gum and every few seconds he gritted his teeth so hard that his dimples deepened. He fired up the truck and backed out of the parking space.

“Are you mad at me?” she said.

“Why would I be mad at you? Were you in on this conspiracy?”

“Hell, no! But believe me, the rumors are already breaking the speed of sound. And they think you are crazy for even looking at a nerdy woman like me. Don’t worry about it. They’ll figure out real quick that it’s all just rumors,” she said.

“What about you, Laura? Do they think I’m too nerdy for you?” he asked.

“Why in the devil would you ask a crazy question like that? They think I’m after your money which is downright stupid.”

“There’s been a lot of women after my money so why is it stupid for them to think you are?” he asked.

“Don’t pick a fight with me. I didn’t start this but I’m damn sure going to end it when we get home. I owe Andy a lot but not this and he didn’t even ask me about it. Did he talk to you before he and the rest of the crew did it?” she asked.

“No, ma’am. Not a peep. I thought he was being nice by letting you sit on the end by me so you wouldn’t have to go all the way around or else make all of us scoot down.”

“And last night?” she asked.

“I wondered if they’d put you up to that or if you were on a scam of your own, but you didn’t answer my question,” he said.

“It’s stupid because love can’t be bought with money. Trust can’t be paid for with dollars. And besides, you aren’t my type,” she said.

He parked the car in front of the house and she bailed out before he could say another word. She didn’t knock on the front door but plowed right inside ahead of him and was on her way to the office when Maudie poked her head out the living room door into the hallway.

“I expect you’ll both be looking for us. We are in here,” she said.