Cowboy Bred, Cowboy Born(3)

By: D Ann Lindun


As much as this woman intrigued him, she had city written all over her right down to the expensive but highly impractical boots she wore on her feet. Once again, he wanted to throttle his mother for her harebrained plan of bringing The Cowboy magazine to the ranch. For the life of him, he couldn’t see how his picture in a spread could do the ranch much good.

But his mom insisted one of her fancy Dallas friends had appeared in it, and afterwards, the sales of his reining horses went through the roof.

Gentry sat beside the girl and rested his elbows on his knees. The paint horse nibbled some brown grass beside the road. Next to him, the woman’s tanned, bare legs went on forever. He swallowed. Damn. He removed his straw Stetson and swiped his forehead. “Hot today.”

“Horrible,” she agreed.

“I guess I should introduce myself.” Gentry held out his hand. “Sterling Gentry, but I go by Gentry.”

She placed her smaller hand in his. “Alannah Murphy. Call me Alannah.”

His pulse picked up speed at the feel of her soft skin. Long, black lashes framed her lime-green eyes. Dark brows arched over them, making him wonder if her pale hair was real or if it came from a salon. He’d like to touch it and find out if it was as silky at it looked. “Good to know you, Alannah.”

“I’m sorry about the bull,” she said. “But it truly was a great shot.”

He shrugged. “Tomorrow’s another day.”

She clicked the top of the camera and held it under his nose. “I don’t usually show my subjects my shots before they’re printed, but look.”

He glanced at the picture. The blood-red bull in the foreground with his head held high, nostrils flared. Couldn’t she see he’d been ready to bolt? Gentry following on the striking paint horse. It looked like any other workday. “Looks good, I guess.”

“It’s great,” she insisted. “The magazine will probably use it. Maybe even for the cover.”

Gentry held in a groan. He couldn’t think of anything worse. His friends, acquaintances and ranch hands would never let him live down his newfound celebrity status. “Great.”

She caught his unenthusiastic tone. “The prospect of being on the cover doesn’t thrill you?”

He decided to come clean. “No. This whole thing was my mother’s idea. It was put in motion by her, and before I even knew what hit me, I had a reporter at my door asking all kinds of nosey questions.”

“Charles?”

“Skinny guy? Glasses?” At her nod, he said, “Yeah, that’s him. Done and gone.”

“He already finished your interview?” She sounded surprised.

“Yeah. Left last night,” Gentry said. “Was he not supposed to?”

Her lips turned down. “I hoped to see him before he left.”

A pang pinched Gentry’s stomach. He shook it off to hunger, not jealousy. It had been hours since he’d scarfed down a bologna sandwich and chips. Besides, Charles had struck him as gay, not into girls, but who knew? “Sorry.”

She shrugged a sunburned shoulder. “Not your fault.”

A trail of dust on the horizon drew Gentry’s attention. “Here come the guys.” He stood and held out his hand.

Alannah took it, his big hand swallowing hers, as he pulled her to her feet. “Great.”

Raul arrived first, driving the pickup hooked to a horse trailer. He stopped and jumped out. “Hey, boss. Lost the bull, huh?”

His good-natured ribbing wasn’t anything new, but for some reason, it rankled Gentry. “Keep laughing. I’m sending you after him tomorrow.”

Raul’s bright smile faded like a sunset over the horizon. He indicated the red-and-white horse. “You want Scribbles in the trailer?”

Gentry handed him the reins. “Yeah. Wait for Sergio to take Scribbles back to the ranch. I’ll drive Miss Murphy to her car.”

“Yes, boss.” Raul’s curious gaze darted between Gentry and Alannah.

“This is my guest, Miss Murphy,” Gentry said. “Alannah, Raul Gallegos.”

Raul touched the brim of his straw Stetson. “Miss.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“You as well.” He ducked his head shyly.

As Raul led the paint gelding to the back of the trailer and loaded him, Sergio drove up in Gentry’s black Dodge. He parked and carried two bottles of water over. He handed them to Gentry. “I thought you might like these, boss.”

“Thanks.” Gentry took them and handed one to Alannah, who grasped it like it was the finest wine.

“Thank you.” She gave him a beaming smile.

“You’re welcome, miss.” Sergio’s return smile shined bright against his dark skin.