The house was silent. Trevor had never felt more confused or alone.
The sun’s pinkish rays lit the horizon, ending Trevor’s night of tossing and turning.
No need to dress since he’d slept in his clothes. Half a pot of coffee later, he headed out to do chores.
When he returned to the house, Edgard sat at the kitchen table. The man always looked damn fine in the morning, freshly showered, wearing clean, crisply ironed clothes, his cheeks and jaw shaved smooth as a baby’s butt, a spring in his step and a sparkle in his eye. Annoying, really.
But today Edgard looked a little worse for the wear. Dark circles emphasized his tired eyes, stubble coated his angular face, and he wore the same clothes as yesterday. He mumbled into his coffee cup. Edgard’s usual chipper self must’ve slept in.
“What do you need done this morning?” Edgard blasted Trevor with a warning look.
“And don’t say nothin’. It’d be an insult to Chassie because I know she works her ass off before noon.”
What the hell? Ed was being protective of his wife? “I already fed the cattle.”
Edgard lifted a brow. “This early?”
“Yeah. I couldn’t sleep.”
“Chassie didn’t call?”
Trevor shook his head. “Thought I’d get all my shit done early so we’d have time to talk when she comes home.”
“Sounds like a plan. Where were you off to?”
To pine over another thing I can’t have in my life.
Jesus. That sounded pathetic. Trevor twisted a version of the truth. “Our neighbor to the south is thinkin’ about sellin’ his place. He’s given us first shot at it. Still hush-hush.”
“I take it there are other folks who’d want that piece of land?”
“A few. Kind of an Old West code, if you like your neighbors, you offer it to them first. But it ain’t like we’d get it cut rate. Gus’s usin’ the money to live off for the rest of his life, so I got no interest in screwin’ him out of a fair deal.”
“But I don’t know if Chass and I can afford the down payment, say nothin’ of the buyout price.” Embarrassed, Trevor scowled. “Thought I’d head over and see how he’s doin’.”
“You want company?”
“Yeah, I’d like that.”
Edgard smiled. “See? That wasn’t so hard.”
Rather than step in another nest of snakes, Trevor snagged his coat and headed outside.
Once they were in the truck, Edgard asked, “Who’re the other neighbors who could meet the asking price?”
Trevor threw it in reverse and gunned the engine. “That’s what sucks. Gus’s neighbors on his south end are the McKays.”
“McKay is McKay around here. Their massive ranch crosses the borders of several counties and employs the sons and cousins and a half dozen or so ranch hands. Buyin’ that acreage is a fart in a windstorm for them. But for Chass and me, it’d be a way to guarantee we can make a go of it.”
He could feel Edgard’s gaze burning into him. “What?”
“How soon does Gus need a guarantee you have the funds?”
“That’s what I’m aimin’ to find out today.”
Edgard nodded and went silent again.
Gus Dutton’s place had gone to seed in the years since his wife passed on and his offspring decided they were too good to ranch in Wyoming. Still, Trevor couldn’t imagine why Gus’d move to the desert to be with those ingrates.
Gus ambled onto the sagging porch and hobbled down the steps. “Mornin’, Trevor.
Where’s the missus?”
“Weddin’ shower in Wheatland.”
“Pity. She’s a mite easier on the eyes than you are.” He jerked a thumb to Edgard.
“This is my old ropin’ partner, Ed Mancuso. Ed, this is the orneriest coot in the county. Which was why he and Harland West were such good buds.”
Edgard thrust out his hand. “Nice to meetcha, Gus.”
“A roper, eh? You any good?”
“Used to be. I ain’t competing any more. But them rope skills do come in handy on the range.”
“I hear ya,” Gus said. “So what brings ya by, Trevor?” He rubbed his gnarled hands together in exaggerated glee. “Got earnest money for me?”
Trevor grinned even when his face felt encased in plastic. “Come on, Gus. You were married for a helluva lot longer than me. Chassie’s the one with the checkbook.”
Gus grinned at him. “Always knew that pretty little gal was the smartest of the West lot.” Gus focused his rheumy eyes on Edgard. “You a rancher around these parts too, now that you ain’t travelin’ the circuit no more?”
Gus squinted suspiciously at Edgard. “Where’d you say you was from again?”
“He didn’t say, but Ed’s been livin’ on his ranch in Brazil.”
“Brazil, as in South America?”
Edgard scowled. “Well, more specifically—”
“—specifically he was born right here in Wyoming,” Trevor interjected and relayed the sad tale of Edgard’s mother and father and his family connection.
Gus was appropriately wide-eyed. “Hell, boy, why didn’t you say you was related to the Bordens out by Cloud Peak? I knew your grandpa and your grandma. Good people.
Your last name ain’t Borden?”
“No, sir. My stepfather adopted me when he and my mother had their first child, so I’d have the same name as my siblings. My middle name is Borden.”
“Good enough. Now you fellas wanna take a look around?”
“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”
“No trouble a’tall. We’ll take your rig, Trevor, that way I can point out the interestin’ stuff to Ed.”
The tension mounted in Trevor’s truck when Edgard slid into the middle of the cab, right next to him, with Gus on the outside. To make matters worse, the stick shift was centered on the floor so Edgard had to straddle it, putting one foot on Trevor’s side and one on the passenger’s side.
Edgard scooted in, leaving about a foot between them.
“Move in,” Gus instructed. “I need a little extra room to stretch my bum leg out.”
The truck bounced as Gus hoisted himself in and Edgard’s left thigh pressed Trevor’s right leg.