Billion Dollar Cowboy(2)

By: Carolyn Brown

Roxie caught her eye and smiled. The girl had blond hair pulled up in a ponytail, crystal clear blue eyes, and a flawless complexion. She was so tiny that she looked fragile, but Laura would guess there was a tough interior hiding inside her soul that would surface in a hurry if someone pushed her too hard.

“What’s the matter with you, Colton? You look like you’ve got a hangover. You never pass up hot rolls. Are you sick?” Maudie looked genuinely worried.

Colton passed the green beans on to Rusty. “I think I was drugged last night.”

Laura glanced toward the end of the table. She’d seen Colton from her second-story window several times and with his swagger, boots, and hat, she’d thought he was handsome. Sitting at the table with him proved that he went beyond handsome even with the slightly green cast around his mouth and bloodshot eyes. Biceps stretched at his shirt sleeves that had been rolled up to just above his elbows. His dark brown hair was feathered back away from his face in a perfect cut. His light green eyes left no doubt that he had the mother of all hangovers. Before he’d settled into his place at the table, she’d seen the way he filled out those jeans and she could well understand the problems he’d have with the women even if he was just a poor dirt farmer. Add a bank account that would stagger Fort Knox and it was no wonder that the man was the most sought after bachelor in all of northern Texas.

“Good thing I was there,” Rusty said seriously.

Colton nodded. “No telling where I’d be today if you hadn’t hauled me home, but dammit! I hate needing a babysitter everywhere I go. Why do women act like that?”

“I’m not your babysitter. I’m your bodyguard,” Rusty said.

“Money! That’s why women act like that. You don’t remember one bit of it, do you?” Maudie asked.

“I remember drinking one beer and looking out over the crowd. Then I ordered another one and didn’t even finish it,” Colton said. “I’m going up to my room. Maybe later I’ll make some toast or feel like having a milkshake. Right now my head hurts too bad to even chew. Nice meeting you, Laura. I’m real glad that Andy hired you. Now maybe he’ll stop whining like a little girl about how much work he has to do.”

Laura looked up from her plate and pushed her glasses up again. “Thank you. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Sorry that you don’t feel so good.”

Maudie looked at Rusty. “Two beers? Really?”

He shrugged. “We hadn’t been there thirty minutes so he’s probably telling the truth. A tall blonde and a brunette sat down on the bar stools, one on either side of him. She was sneaky about it so I could never prove it, but I do think the blonde put it in his drink while the brunette distracted him.”

Maudie shook her head slowly from side to side when Colton was out of the room. “Now they are drugging him? What are we going to do? One of them is bound to kill him if we don’t think of something.”

Andy laid his fork and knife down and sipped sweet tea. “Money sure brings out the monsters.”

Laura knew a little about the money and the monsters, but from the other side of the fence. She wouldn’t be sitting at the table with Andy that evening if she didn’t, but she did feel sorry for Colton. Andy had told her that the poor man hadn’t had a normal life since he’d gotten rich and that things went from bad to worse every day.

Rusty nodded seriously. He was Andy’s opposite. Where Andy was medium height, overweight, and barely thirty with a full head of curly blond hair and pale blue eyes, Rusty was tall and lanky, had graying hair, and brown eyes set in a face with a ready smile and enough wrinkles to testify to lots of experience.

“I barely got him in the house and on the sofa in the den. I pulled his boots off and threw a cover over him. That the way you found him this morning, Maudie?” Rusty asked.

She shook her head. “He was in his room, passed out on top of his covers. I tried to wake him for breakfast, but it didn’t work. Must’ve been something powerful that the woman dosed him with. He’s strong as a bull.”

Laura had been hired to help Andy in the office, not to sit at the table and hear all about the family’s problems. So the rich cowboy had major issues with the women wanting to lasso him. She had problems with a sister who wouldn’t or couldn’t fight her addiction to gambling. Everyone had their own sad tale of woe, but she didn’t have the time or energy to get involved in Colton’s.