Cowboy Bred, Cowboy Born(5)

By: D Ann Lindun


The housekeeper beamed. “Wonderful.”

“Thank you, Lupita,” Gentry said.

She hustled away, leaving them alone. Alannah eyed the tea. “That looks good.”

Gentry took her none-too-subtle hint and poured them both a glass. He handed one over. “It’s mint tea. Guaranteed to rehydrate you.”

Alannah sipped. As promised, it tasted mildly of mint. “Delicious.”

Now that she’d cooled off a bit and had her wits about her, Alannah took stock of her cowboy rescuer. On the way in, he’d placed his Stetson on the entryway table. His walnut-colored hair lay flat except for the ends, which curled up a bit. She found the look endearing. He looked exactly like what he was—a tired cowboy who’d put in a hard day’s work.

Guilt gripped her. She’d ruined his whole day by not thinking. “I’d like to help you recapture your bull tomorrow. May I ride along?”

For a minute, she thought tea was going to come out of his nose as he laughed heartily. “You want to tag along with me for a long, hot day under the sun?”

She lifted her chin. “Yes.”

“Can you ride?”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “I can.”

“I’m not going to bring you back if you get tired by ten a.m.,” he warned.

“I wouldn’t expect you to.” She held his steely gaze until he nodded.

“All right.”

“Great.” Why did she feel as if she’d just won a major skirmish? “What time do we start?”

“Breakfast at five, on the road by six.”

“I’ll be ready,” she promised.

He set aside his glass. “I could use a shower before dinner. You?”

For a second she thought he was asking her to shower with him, an idea she found strangely appealing. “I could stand to wash off some of this dirt.”

“I’ll show you to your room.” He stood and she did, too.

He led her down a long hallway to a closed door. “Here you go. If you need anything, let Lupita know. I’ll see you in the living room at quarter til six.”

“Where’s your room?” she asked.

He nodded over his right shoulder. “Right there. I don’t invite women inside.”

“Good to know.” She stepped inside her own room and closed the door in his face. Arrogant jerk. Like she’d ever step into his bedroom. The Texas Hill Country would freeze over first.

The bedroom she’d been assigned rivaled any she’d been in—large bed covered with a plump comforter, more heavy Spanish-style furniture, including a small vanity. Her luggage sat on the queen-sized bed, and she unzipped the biggest suitcase. She’d just show him a thing or two. In the smaller bag, she found her toiletries and chose her most expensive mango-scented shampoo and body wash.

The bathroom was as nice as the bedroom, if not more so. Ultra-modern with a garden tub and shower big enough for a small crowd. With a sigh of contentment, she undressed and stepped under the shower. Cool water cascaded over her fried skin as she shampooed her hair and lightly scrubbed with the body wash.

Lingering for hours would be wonderful, but she didn’t have time.

Reluctantly, she stepped out and dried off with a big, fluffy towel. After slathering on a gallon of mango-scented lotion over her fried skin, she felt human again. Sitting in front of the vanity mirror, she applied makeup—a brush of eye shadow, mascara and light-pink lipstick. A quick twist of her pale blonde hair into a sleek knot with a strand hanging over her eye had turned more than one man’s head.

From a garment bag, she pulled out a pale pink slip dress. She held it against her. Bra or not? Not, she decided with a wicked grin. By the end of the evening, she was going to have Sterling Gentry begging at her feet to come inside his bedroom.

Her hand, halfway to her perfume bottle, froze.

Why was she going out of her way to impress a man she didn’t want? In a few days, she was moving on to her next assignment—shooting a world champion roper in Houston. Maybe it was Gentry’s arrogance that made her want to take him down a peg. Or maybe she just wanted to let off a little steam. Either way, she wasn’t getting attached.

She sprayed on a dab of perfume, then slipped on a pair of strappy sandals.

With a deep breath, she opened the door.



~*~



Gentry poured a scotch over rocks and sipped, the smooth liquor sliding down his parched throat. He stared out the west window at the dying sun. Some of his fatigue had washed away in his shower. The whiskey revived him more.

“Drinking alone? Or are you sharing?”

He turned toward Alannah, who stood in the entryway, a vision of womanly softness in a pink dress and glittery sandals. The image of her standing there hit him like one of the cows had kicked him in the gut. As she glided toward him, he caught the scent of mangos. Suddenly, he was glad for the expensive aftershave his mother sent him for Christmas and the new green-and-blue striped shirt he’d chosen over an older red one.