His smile was half-cocky/half-sweet. “You sure you’re ready for this?”
“You sure you’re ready for a grumpy old widow set in her ways, whippersnapper?”
“That ain’t funny.”
“It wasn’t meant to be.”
Cash’s grin vanished and his eyes hardened. “Is this gonna be an issue? Age is a number, Gem. I’m thirty-eight. You’re not. So what?”
“Would it matter if I was older than you?”
“Then it don’t matter that you got a few years on me.” He kissed her hotly, a drawn out seductive promise. “Besides, you’re sexy. Kinda remind me of Madonna.”
“Madonna the pop singer? But she’s—”
“The same age as you.” He squinted at her. “Yep, definitely. You’re like Madonna in a cowgirl hat. And if I had my pick of any of the ladies—including the material girl, I’d still choose you.”
“I forgot what a sweet-talker you are.” She steered the conversation back to business.
“I’m heading back to my ranch today. When can you be there to start?”
“Damn.” He frowned and shuffled back a step. “One kiss and my mind is on a single track.”
“Macie. We’d planned to spend the summer traveling together. Since her momma died a coupla years back, she ain’t got no one else. I can’t just shove her aside, especially when I been doin’ that to the poor kid her whole life.”
Without conscious thought, she smoothed the guilt from his puckered brow. “I don’t expect you to ignore her, Cash. She’s welcome at my place too, if she wants to stay for awhile.”
“It won’t bother you that she’ll know we’re involved in more than a workin’ relationship?”
“Maybe I should wonder if it’d bother you. Think you might suffer from performance anxiety if you’re trying to fulfill all my wicked sexual fantasies when your daughter is sleeping under the same roof?”
Cash shuddered. “I’m thinkin’ I’ll offer her my camper for the time being. And we’ll park it away from the main house.”
“Good plan. Although, I’m still gonna assign chores for her to earn her keep if she decides to stick around.”
“That won’t be a problem. She’s an independent cuss; she ain’t one to take charity.”
“Like father like daughter, huh?”
“Yep. You won’t regret trackin’ me down.” Cash rubbed his jaw along hers. He placed a soft kiss below her ear and growled, “I’ve half a mind to make you crawl inside the trailer and take off every stitch of clothing right now.”
Warmth pooled between her thighs.
“But as I’ve been itchin’ to touch you forever, I ain’t about to settle for a quick tumble. I wanna take my time. Make it last until the sun comes up. Make you come until the sun comes up.” He leveled her with a hungry kiss. “Let’s get loaded, track down Macie and get the hell out of here.”
Gemma was only too happy to oblige.
Macie Honeycutt muttered, “Watch it, Tex,” as another saddle almost clipped her in the head. It sucked being short. She ducked under the fence and detoured to the beer garden.
As she stood in line, she tried not to obsess about the situation with her dad. After hearing about her epically bad month, he insisted they meet up at a rodeo. Why? Far as she knew, he’d given up chasing the gold-buckle dream last year.
So what was the first thing he’d done after she’d shown up in the middle of nowhere? He’d ditched her!
Like that should surprise you, Macie Blue. You can’t count on him. Cut your losses and run.
She closed her mind to her mother’s phantom voice. The woman had been dead four years and she still had an opinion. Unfortunately, it was the same bad opinion of Cash Big Crow Macie had heard her entire life.
Macie’s relationship with her father was tenuous at best. He hadn’t been around when she’d been growing up, though as she’d gotten older, he’d made a point to track her down.
So why did she have the perverse need to do exactly the opposite of what Daddy said? It’d serve him right if she hooked up with a hot-tempered, good-looking cowboy, as it appeared he’d done some hooking up of his own.
Yet, by the almost worshipful way he’d talked about Gemma in the last few months, it didn’t surprise Macie that Gemma looked like a former rodeo beauty queen who’d horsewhip the shit out of you if you looked at her crossways. It’d take a woman like that to tame her father.
The white-haired man behind the plywood partition interrupted her thoughts. “What can I getcha, sweetheart?”
“Bud Light. In a bottle.”
“Can I see some ID?”
“Sure.” Macie whipped out her driver’s license, waiting for the man to make a smarmy remark about her age or her ethnicity.
But the guy smiled, popped the top and slid the bottle across the counter. “Four-fifty.”
She passed him a five. “Keep the change.” She snagged a seat at the back table, propping up her feet on the spare chair to discourage the group of cowboys eyeing her like a chunk of prime sirloin.
How long did her dad expect her to cool her heels?
Didn’t matter. Wasn’t like she had anywhere else to go. Macie tugged her hat lower on her forehead and nursed the beer.
What a jumbled mess her life was. Two months ago she’d caught her boyfriend two-timing her. She should’ve known with a sissy name like Dante that he played for both teams. She should’ve known since they’d dated for, oh, two months and they hadn’t had sex that he was, oh, g*y.
Still, it’d shocked her to walk in on him scoring with his racquetball partner, Dooce.
They’d been so busy playing with each other’s balls and making a “racquet” they hadn’t noticed her.
Things went downhill from there. Her best friend Kat moved out of their apartment and in with her boyfriend. Two weeks after that, Macie’d gotten canned from her waitressing job. The jerk-off customer deserved the pitcher of iced tea she’d dumped in his lap after he’d grabbed her ass—even if management saw fit to punish her for the moron’s happy hands. No wonder she preferred to work in the kitchen. Vegetables didn’t talk back.
At her father’s urging, and the looming expiration of her apartment lease, she’d packed her few belongings into her Ford Escape and left Denver. Her options were unlimited. She was free, half-white and twenty-two. She could do as she damn well pleased.