Heavenly Angel:Divine Creek Ranch 3By: Heather Rainier
Divine Creek Ranch 3
July…a few weeks before Grace’s wedding
Teresa Palacios bit her lip ruthlessly as she turned into the entrance of the Divine Creek Ranch. Her heart pounded a little at the boldness of what she was doing. She honestly didn’t know where she’d gotten the guts to come out here. Grace kept telling her to seize the day, and that’s what kept her foot on the gas as she slowly ventured down the long, curving driveway. As she drove past the house, she didn’t see Grace’s or any of the men’s vehicles parked beside the large ranch house, so she continued on back. Seeing her dear friend might have bolstered her courage a bit, but she knew what Grace would say if she was here.
“What are you waiting for?” Teresa murmured to herself out loud.
Slowly she pulled through to the first barn and prayed hard she would see Angel amidst all the other cowboys and hands working on the ranch. Jack Warner, Ethan Grant, and Adam Davis had their own businesses to deal with and left much of the ranch operations to Angel Martinez, their long-time friend and ranch foreman. The man she had come to care a great deal for in the past several weeks.
He’d been shot in the abdomen earlier that summer by the woman who had been his girlfriend. Bravely, Teresa had visited him in the hospital, and he’d explained that situation to her and asked if she could overlook his error in trusting such a person. Of all people, she knew what it meant to be judged for the actions of others. She’d reassured him he could not hold himself responsible.
Since Angel’s recovery, Teresa couldn’t help but notice he frequently showed up at the store, always searching her out to say hello wherever she might be. A couple of times he’d brought her a sweet tea. He always took the time to visit with her and then made his excuses and returned to work. He’d been by three times this week alone.
His masculine presence no longer made her as nervous as it had the first couple of times he’d encountered her. When Grace had introduced her to him, she’d been unable to speak until after he was long gone. It was almost painful to maintain eye contact with him though she longed to. Every time she thought of it afterward, she wanted to kick herself for being so shy. His handsome facial features hinted that, though he was Hispanic, he probably had Native American blood flowing in his veins. She thought he was the most handsome man she’d ever seen.
The second time she’d encountered him had been the day Jack had come in to shop for Grace. Angel had flirted then, too, but she’d felt more self-confident behind the jewelry counter, in her element so to speak. She’d been able to carry on an actual conversation with him while she’d waited for Jack to return with his wallet. It had still been painfully nerve-wracking for her, especially when he’d made a point of asking if there was a man in her life. He’d seemed to not come on quite as strong, and when she’d looked into his topaz-colored eyes, she’d felt reassured rather than starstruck.
Squinting her eyes, she looked out through her windshield hoping for a glimpse of his characteristic long-legged gait or his distinctive Native American-looking profile. If nothing else, the long, silky black braid would identify him. She groaned when a ranch hand yelled something and pointed at her car. She prayed the hand was calling for Angel to come see to the visitor.
Please, oh, please, don’t make me have to go looking for him! How many acres were in this ranch? He might not even be in the vicinity! Thrusting the thought away, she rolled to a stop near the barn. She could almost hear Grace now.
Seize the day, Teresa!
She looked up and heaved a great sigh of relief even as her heart pounded. Angel strode toward her car, dressed in very faded jeans that made love to his muscular frame, dusty cowboy boots, a thin, worn plaid shirt, and a straw cowboy hat. He loosened the ties on his leather work gloves, and she watched as he peeled them from his large hands. Watching him working those weathered gloves from his sensual fingers made her mouth water and intimate parts of her quiver and grow warm. She’d noticed lately that he had that effect on her, and it always disconcerted her and left her wishing she were a braver woman.
When he got close enough to the car, he recognized her and hesitated for a fraction of a second, breaking his stride. Then a wide, knowing grin split his tanned face. She smiled back, albeit a little timidly. He continued in his approach, and she noticed in the distance several of the ranch hands stopped what they were doing and stood watching. He put his hand on her door and squatted down beside her car, facing away from the men, and looked at her. He was tall, so even squatting like this, he was at eye level with her.