“Her duffel bag. Some clothes.”
Fuck. Stay cool. “What’d she say before she left?”
“She said to tell you she’d see you later.” Edgard poked his head over the edge of the bed again and studied him.
Colby snapped, “What?”
“What happened last night besides the threesome, amigo?”
“You knew about it?”
He nodded. “Trevor came looking for me after. He knew something was up with you two. He said it felt like jealousy. You wanna talk about it?”
If Colby had a problem he needed to hash out, he usually talked to Trevor, not Edgard. But as Colby had an insanely crazy jealous streak thinking about Trevor and Channing together—when Trevor was, oh, f**king g*y—maybe it was obvious he was going off the deep end where that little spitfire was concerned.
“What happened was I was a total dickhead.”
“So apologize to her.”
“I don’t know if that will be enough. Fuck. I’m not good at this kind of shit. I never know what the hell I’m supposed to do. Or say. No wonder I’m still single.” Gritting his teeth against the pain, he sat up. Talking it out never solved a goddamned thing. He changed the subject. “Where were you last night anyway?”
“On the phone. My mother called.”
“From Brazil? Something serious?”
“Yeah. Evidently, there are some problems at my ranch in the last month. The foreman wouldn’t let her in when she drove up there to check on things. When he finally granted her access, she said at least fifty people are living around the main ranch house. They’ve butchered my cattle for food. Chopped down trees for firewood. Built some shanties…it’s a big mess.”
“Shit, man. I’m sorry. What are you going to do?”
“Go home. I should leave today.” Edgard hopped down from the bench seat and began to pace. “Trevor has his heart set on competing in Cheyenne at Frontier Days. I can’t just leave him high and dry. He needs me.” He expelled a bitter laugh. “That might be a first for him.”
Colby swung his legs to the ladder. “The preliminaries are in two days. There are at least four other heelers who could work with him, Ed.”
“Yeah, but he’s superstitious. He wants me as his heeler because we did so well in Cheyenne last year. Problem is we suck right now. So, as soon as we’re out of the race for the buckle and the money, I’ll be on a plane for Brazil.”
Colby opened his mouth. Closed it.
“Does Trevor know you’re leaving?”
“Yep. What he doesn’t know is once I’m back home, I ain’t comin’
back here. He’s welcome to come with me. Or he can stay here. His choice.” Edgard looked at Colby. “All I know is I can’t do this anymore.
Trevor can’t have it both ways.”
A heavy silence weighted the air.
Colby scratched his chin. “I wish I knew what to say.”
“There’s nothin’ to say. Love sucks all around, amigo.” On his way out, Edgard stopped at the door and turned back. “Piece of advice. Don’t blow this thing with Channing. Don’t hide how you feel about her.
Because some of us don’t get that choice.”
Colby had nothing to say to that either. And he only had half an hour before he had to show up, pretend he wasn’t beat to shit, confused as hell, and act ready to rodeo.
“Dammit, Gemma, I’m never gonna get this!”
“Oh hush, Channing. You’re doing fine.”
“How long did it take you to learn to tie quick release knots?”
Gemma grinned. “I learned when I was five, so I’ve been doing it a long time. Come on. Let’s get this tack hung up. I need to check on my stock before the rodeo starts.”
Channing looped the nylon rope over her shoulder, picked up the saddle and blanket and followed Gemma into the back of the horse trailer. “Thanks for letting me shower here this morning.”
“Little cramped in Trevor’s rig with you and them three big cowboys, huh?”
No, it was a little uncomfortable after what’d happened last night—whatever the hell it’d been. She wasn’t exactly sure. And she’d had no desire to face Colby this morning, at least until she had her wits about her. Or if she figured out what’d gone on. She sighed.
“You gonna tell me what’s eating at you, girl?”
Channing didn’t answer.
“Well, something’s literally been eating at you. Does Colby know he left them big hickeys all over your neck? And streaks of razor burn? Did he try to bite your lips off, too? Cause your mouth is swollen.” Gemma placed a hand on Channing’s arm. “Oh, honey. How rough did he get on you last night?”
“Thanks for your concern, Gem, but it was entirely mutual.” She sighed again. “I’ll tell you later. Not right now. I need to think on it for a while longer, okay?”
“Sure thing. You know where to find me.”
Channing threaded the rope over the metal holders, keeping her eyes focused on her task. “Thank you for the riding lessons and…” Just say it.
“For hanging out with me. I guess it’s obvious I don’t have many friends.”
“Here or at home?”
She traced the frayed end of the cotton flank strap with her fingertip.
“Because I’d rather be alone and be happy with my own company than be somebody I’m not so I can fit in with people whose company I despise.”
“This a realization you’ve come to recently?”
“Pretty much. Well, that’s not true. I’ve felt that way from the time I was old enough to realize I never fit in any place my parents took me. Or sent me. My sister always stood out so I just stayed in the background. I tried to blend so no one noticed how out of place I was.”
“Then like me, you’re better off alone. If them kinda folks you were living around can’t see you’re the genuine article, then screw ‘em. The way I see it, at least horses and cows appreciate all you do for them everyday. And they sure as shit don’t talk about you behind your back.”
“I’m a quart low on girlfriends myself, Channing. Steve’s friends’
wives were way older than me. He and I weren’t blessed with kids. I basically disowned my family. Frankly, since Steve was my best friend practically all my life I didn’t need anyone else.”