Billion Dollar Cowboy(8)

By: Carolyn Brown


“I’d ask you the question, but then you’d want to ask one, right?”

She nodded. “Tit for tat.”

“So you worked on a ranch, did you?”

“I lived on one until I was eighteen,” she answered. “Now I get to ask one. Why are you asking?”

“Just thought that when Andy gets caught up that you might drive a tractor or whatever else needs done. There’s always room for extra help during the summer and after this month the computer business slows down a little,” he said.

He waited for her reaction, expecting her to stutter and stammer her way around the fact that she didn’t know a blessed thing about real ranch work. Sure, Andy said that she’d lived on a ranch with her great-aunt, but that didn’t mean she’d done any work there.

“Sure. I’ll do whatever needs to be done until I can get Andy paid,” she said. “It’s just like riding a bicycle. It all comes back to a person. I kind of like getting outside to work.” Her tongue was turning purple now that she was working on the grape side.

“I’ll talk to Andy. He’s been a lifesaver even when the women started hounding me. Guess a billionaire sounds better to gold diggers than a plain old millionaire.” Using the straw/spoon combination, he shoveled a bite of pure banana into his mouth. “I just want to go to the feed store without worrying about a paternity suit. He said that he was working on a plan to help me out, but he didn’t want to tell me the details just yet. I just hope he’s not sending off to Russia to buy me a wife from one of those places you hear about on the Internet.”

She smiled. “Is it really that bad?”

“Worse.”

She giggled. “What would you do if he did?”

“Fire his sorry ass. That’s where I draw the line. You don’t buy people and I sure don’t want a woman that I didn’t pick out or one that I can’t understand.” He laughed with her.

She looked so danged cute with a purple tongue and cherry red lips.

“Andy wouldn’t do that for real anyway. I was just joking,” Colton said.

“You must feel better,” she said.

She pushed out of the swing and carried her empty paper cone to the trash can. He followed her and together they walked back to his truck. He opened the door for her and she hiked a hip up onto the seat. He reached across her to fasten the seat belt like a gentleman and looked up right into her mesmerizing blue eyes.

He cleared his throat and stepped back quickly. He had doubts about her and he’d be damned if he played into her scam by kissing her.

They were back on the ranch in less than an hour. She bailed out of the truck before he had time to open the door and hurried toward the carriage house, throwing a word of thanks over her shoulder for the snow cone.

***

The sound of her boot heels on the wooden steps leading up to her tiny apartment made the same sound that they did when she climbed the steps to her apartment in Amarillo. Janet lived there now and hopefully she’d keep the rent paid and the place clean.

Laura had learned to like the rut she’d fallen into the past week. It would work really well until she was ready to leave. No commitments, except to hold up her end of the bargain with Andy. No friendships, except with Andy, and she’d been his friend since they were kids.

She went into the office at eight every morning, ate a sandwich while she worked at noon, and then took an hour break at supper before going back to finish up for the day. Andy said that once they got caught up, she’d have Saturdays and Sundays off each week, but they’d worked all day on Saturday and Sunday afternoon when he got home from church the first weekend. The one redeeming thing about working so many hours was that she could pay off her note to Andy faster with all the overtime.

She flipped a switch just inside the door and wished she had never agreed to go to supper that evening. Less than four hours had already turned her life around.

First there was supper with the family, then meeting the preacher, and going for a snow cone. And she still didn’t know what Andy was talking about when he and the rest of the family were discussing her and Colton. She really believed the snow cone trip had been a spur-of-the-moment thing. She was very good at reading people and he couldn’t have had an underlying motive or she would have seen it.