Cowboy Bred, Cowboy Born(4)

By: D Ann Lindun

“Sergio, ride back to the ranch with Raul. I’m going to take Miss Murphy to get her car,” Gentry said more abruptly than necessary. And without introducing his ranch hand to the pretty photographer. He chalked up his lack of manners to too many hours in the hot sun, a valuable bull once again on the loose, but mostly because a woman with green eyes was getting under his sunbaked skin.

Chapter Two

Alannah snapped several shots of Gentry as he tinkered under Mavis’s hood. He glanced her way and frowned. She ignored his grumpy face and took a few more pictures. Dang, he was a good-looking man with tanned skin and light-colored eyes. Half Mexican, maybe? Lips made for kissing and a slightly crooked nose that added interest to his nearly perfect face. Lower, wide shoulders and narrow hips gave her plenty to admire. Leather chaps created an interesting bulge at the crotch that had her fingers aching to unbuckle the leather leggings and explore him.

He spoke. “I found the problem. A loose battery cable. Easy enough to fix. Try and start her now.”

After sliding behind the wheel, she tried the key. Mavis’s old engine purred to life. Thank God.

Gentry closed the hood with a bang. “Are you ready?”

“Yes.” More than ready. The sun had really fried her shoulders and legs. A cool shower to rinse off road dust sounded wonderful.

“Follow me. There are several sharp turns as we descend into the ranch, so be aware of them.” He strode toward his pickup in that long-legged stroll all working cowboys seemed to share.

She gave a mock salute. “Yes, sir.”

As she followed the cranky rancher down the dusty road, Alannah supposed she couldn’t really blame him for being short with her. She’d been raised around cattle, albeit dairy cows, and she knew better than to stand between a bull and where he was headed. The shot had been outstanding, and she’d gotten carried away with her enthusiasm to capture it.

She probably did come across as a bubble-headed blonde with no sense between having a dead car battery and scaring the bull. Maybe she could redeem herself tomorrow. If Gentry would allow her to ride along with him, she could show him she was more than a silly city girl with more than shopping for shoes on the brain.

Just as Gentry warned, the road began a series of switchbacks that led into a narrow canyon with sheer, red walls rising on either side. The Guadalupe River meandered along the left side of the road, shadowed by mature bald cypress trees. The road widened to the ranch buildings.

A Spanish-style house sat shaded by a cove of pecan trees with the low-running river winding through a nearby pasture. A few dozing horses stood in a corral attached to a barn with a red tile roof.

An oasis.

She coasted to a stop next to Gentry’s big pickup, and he opened her car door.

“Nice place,” she told him.

“Come inside.” He held out his hand, and she took it. “One of the men will bring in your luggage.”

Alannah allowed him to guide her toward the hacienda. Something smelled wonderfully sweet, and as they grew close, she noticed bougainvilleas and oleander bushes guarding the front walkway.

Heavenly coolness covered Alannah as she entered the ranch house. A pleased sigh slid out of her. “Lovely.”

“This way.” He led her across a tiled hallway into a large living room. Leather furniture, Navajo rugs and a big-screen TV were her first impressions. Upon a closer look, she saw expensive western art hanging next to some pieces a talented amateur had painted.

A short, stout Mexican woman appeared in the doorway, wiping her hands on her apron. “Senor Gentry?”

“Lupita, would you bring Miss Murphy and me something cool to drink, por favor?”

“Si, patrone.” She hurried away.

Gentry indicated Alannah should sit, and she sank gratefully into one of the overstuffed leather sofas. Her hike in the Texas heat had taken more out of her than she’d realized. The AC blowing across her fried skin felt like a breath from heaven.

The housekeeper reappeared carrying a tray with iced tea and two glasses. She placed it on the coffee table. “Senorita Murphy’s room is ready. Raul brought in her bags.”

“Thank you, Lupita. What time is dinner?”

“Seis, patrone.”

Gentry glanced at the antique grandfather clock tick-tocking in one corner of the room. “Does an hour give you time to rest up?”

“Of course.” She smiled at Lupita. “Thank you.”

“De nada.” The housekeeper dipped her head. “We will be having carne asada.”

“I can’t wait,” Alannah told her sincerely. The tuna sandwich she’d eaten at a roadside café had melted away hours ago.