Billion Dollar Cowboy(5)

By: Carolyn Brown


She was about to rest a minute on the community center porch when she noticed the church off to her left. It looked far more inviting with its deep shade and freshly mowed yard. Surely God wouldn’t mind if she caught her breath before she ran back to the ranch. The roses were lovely, the sweet williams were thick and luxurious, and the hedges had been clipped, and the smell of fresh clipped grass filled the evening air. She sat down on the porch steps, leaned forward, and put her head on her knees.

She’d barely taken three good long breaths when the church doors creaked open. Her first thought was that whoever took care of the yard should spray some oil on the hinges. Then she looked up to see a short man in faded jeans, a red bandana rolled up and tied around his forehead, and a big smile on his face.

“Hello. You lost or out for exercise?” His big booming voice sounded like it should have come from a six-foot cowboy like Colton, not a yard man for the church.

“Exercise,” she gasped.

He sat down beside her. “I’m Roger Green, the preacher here at this church. Don’t think I’ve seen you around. Are you new to Ambrose?”

Running in heat must have killed the brain cells that pertained to sight and hearing. The man said he was a preacher? Preachers did not wear sweat rags made from bandanas, and they didn’t wear faded jeans and a red knit shirt with a hole in the sleeve.

“I’m Laura Baker. I work at the Circle 6,” she said.

“Well, I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. Expect you’ll be in church tomorrow morning with the family?”

Laura didn’t want to lie and say that she’d be sitting on the family pew the next morning, but she wouldn’t make a promise that she had no intention of keeping. “I’m not sure,” she hedged as she stood up and stretched. “Sorry to rush but got to get back to the ranch before it gets dark.”

“I’ll look forward to seeing all y’all tomorrow.” His voice rang out behind her as she sped away.

Church!

Damn!

Did Andy go every single week?

Andy said that since she’d be on a ranch she could wear her jeans and boots. She had brought three or four sundresses for days when jeans and boots were too hot to wear to work, but they weren’t church clothing. Aunt Dotty had always insisted that she and Janet be dressed proper on Sunday morning and that meant sleeves, panty hose, and closed-toed shoes.

She was still worrying about what to wear when she turned the corner into the lane and slowed down to a fast trot to the house. She’d barely sat down on the top porch step to cool off when Colton came out of the house and sat down in the swing.

“Looks like you’ve been running. So what did you think of Ambrose?” he asked.

“What makes you think I ran into town? And I thought you were sick.”

“Preacher called. Said he met you and invited you to come to church with us tomorrow morning. And I’m feeling better.”

“Damn!” Her most overworked swear word slipped out slicker than boiled okra.

“Does that mean no?”

“It means I didn’t bring things for church. I just packed working clothes for the most part.”

“You got a dress?”

“Couple of sundresses.”

“What’s it look like?”

“It’s blue and it doesn’t have sleeves and it only comes to my knee.”

“Sounds fine to me. Wear it and you’ll look great or wear jeans and boots,” Colton said.

She looked over at him. “You must be feeling better.”

“I am, but the thought of heavy food gags me. I’m thinking a snow cone might taste good. You want one?”

He was just being nice, but a rainbow snow cone did sound wonderful. “How far is it to get one?”

“Seven miles over to Bells. They’ve got a place that makes wonderful snow cones. You look hot and I’m ready to put something in my stomach. You might as well ride over with me.”

“Okay,” she said slowly. Was this part of what the family was talking about in the dining room? Had they already let him in on the proposition and now it was just a matter of being nice to her so that she’d get on board? There was only one way to find out.