Cowboy Bred, Cowboy Born(2)

By: D Ann Lindun


Suddenly, the bull stopped dead in his tracks, stared at something in the distance and snorted.

“What the hell?” Gentry couldn’t believe his eyes. Was that a woman standing in the middle of the road? Holding a camera? Before he could process her stupidity, the flighty bull whirled and galloped away with his tail in the air.

Undecided whether to give chase or go yell at the dimwit woman who had just cost him a day’s work, he didn’t do either. Instead, he slapped his chaps with his Stetson. “Son-of-a-bitch.”

Still snapping photos, the woman approached him. When she came within speaking distance, she waved. “Hello.”

“Who the hell are you? And what are you doing in the middle of the road? Don’t you know better than to stand in the way when somebody’s herding stock?”

Her mouth opened and closed a couple times. “I didn’t think—”

“Hell no, you didn’t think,” Gentry shouted. “Damn it anyway!”

“I’m sorry,” she said in a small voice. “The shot was just so good…”

The shot? She’d ruined hours upon hours of exhausting work because she’d wanted a picture? Who the hell would do something so dumb?

Only a damn greenhorn.

For the first time, he noticed her get-up. A straw hat only a city girl would wear, floaty pink top with tiny straps that left her bare shoulders exposed to the unforgiving Texas sun, cut-off jean shorts and red cowboy boots. Daisy Duke personified. He shook his head in disgust.

Reality crashed over him.

The New York photographer his mother had enticed out here, hoping an article in The Cowboy magazine would bring attention to the Santa Gertrudis cattle they raised.

Damn.

Way to get off on the right boot. He swallowed more angry words and looked around. “Why are you standing in the middle of the road?”

She wet her chapped lips. “I was looking for the ranch…”

“Where’s your car?”

Hooking a thumb over her shoulder, she pointed. “About an hour that way. Mavis gave up the ghost.”

“Who’s Mavis?” Had she left someone behind? Sick, or injured?

“My vintage Mustang.” She sighed dramatically.

“Not paying attention out here can get you killed,” he said bluntly.

She blanched. “I know.”

Not sure what was making him say these things other than frustration and weariness, he continued. “If you know, then why are you on foot burning up like an overdone steak left on a grill?”

“I didn’t realize how far away the ranch would be from the car,” she said.

He stepped off the gelding and draped the reins over his arm. Up close, the greenhorn had bright green eyes, a pert nose and full lips. And a killer body under those ridiculous clothes. But, badly burned. Without comment, he pulled his cell phone from his shirt pocket and dialed the ranch. “Raul, bring me a truck and trailer. Send Sergio in a separate truck with a tow chain. We have a stranded visitor. Thanks.”

“Thank you,” the woman said.

“My men are on their way.” He shifted in his saddle. “But it’s going to be a while. They’re working.”

She motioned toward his red-and-white paint. “Couldn’t we both ride him?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“For one thing, he’s young and likely to buck us both off if I tried that stunt. Second, riding a horse double hurts their kidneys. You see that crap in books and movies, but in the real world, any horseman worth his salt doesn’t put a good horse through that kind of abuse.”

“I see.” She sounded doubtful.

“The guys will be along soon.”

For the first time, she smiled. “Thank God.”

“You need to sit.” Gentry took her arm and guided her to the side of the road where he gently pushed her down. He moved to his saddlebags and withdrew a bottle of water. Handing it to her, he said, “Drink this.”

She gulped the tepid liquid. “Oh, that’s good. I could guzzle a dozen of those.”

“Sorry, I’m out.” At her downturned mouth, he hastened to add, “But there’s a lot more at the ranch. Even a pool.”

“That sounds wonderful.”

He rarely used the pool. It was his mother’s thing, built for the rare times she visited, but Gentry suddenly had an urge to take a dip. He shook himself. Entertaining this woman wasn’t his job. Running the ranch was. Making sure his children had a legacy. If he ever had kids. So far, none had been in the cards for him. Most women hated the remote ranch. The lack of a social life and shopping made them stir-crazy. Not to mention the wind and unrelenting heat.