Brent and Lianna said simultaneously, “He’s stayin’ here?”
“Of course he is.” His mother flashed a smile at him, ignoring his siblings. “Trevor is family. Where else would he stay?”
“In the bunkhouse.”
“I’m sorry. Did I hear you say you wanted him to stay at your house, Lianna, darlin’?” Starla cooed in a saccharine tone. “Because I could arrange that.”
“I didn’t think so. Besides, we’re havin’ a family dinner tonight. You three, Molly, and Tanner.”
“Tanner is here?”
“He quit the competition the minute he heard about your father being in the hospital.
He drove straight through the night to be at his father’s side.”
Her meaning—Tanner did his duty and you didn’t—was crystal clear. It’d be futile to point out that no one had told him until a week after the incident happened.
“Where is Tanner now?”
“Sleepin’ off a drunk in the new horse trailer with some skanky bar maid,” Lianna said.
Starla glared at Lianna. “Anyway, everyone will be here.”
“Everyone except your wife, Trevor. Why didn’t she come with you?”
Because I’m keeping that sweet woman away from this nest of vipers as long as possible. He forced a curt, “She’s busy. She sends her regrets.” Trevor’s hand tensed on the duffel bag strap and he glanced at his mother, perched like a Marlboro rodeo queen among her admiring peasants. “Which room?”
“Same as last time.”
“I’ll go get settled in. Is Pa up in his bedroom?” His parents hadn’t shared a bed for years—a fact they were both mighty proud of—a fact he couldn’t fathom since he shared his bed with both Chassie and Edgard in recent days.
“He can’t climb stairs yet so he’s set up in the den,” Lianna said. “And he’s sleepin’ right now. I ain’t about to let you just bull your way in there and wake him up. The man had a heart attack. He needs his rest.”
Just then a cowbell clanked from the vicinity of the den.
“Can’t anyone hear this goddamn bell?” the old man yelled and proceeded to ring the cowbell as if the den had morphed into his own personal bell tower.
“Jesus. I hate that cowbell and it’s your fault for givin’ it to him, Lianna,” his mother snapped and stalked toward the mad ringing.
Trevor didn’t jab Lianna for her lie. Instead, he started up the stairs.
In the bedroom at the end of the hall, he tossed his bag on the floor next to the old wooden rocking horse his grandfather had hand carved. Stuck in the trophy room again.
A shrine to his father, the great Tater Glanzer, and the man’s impact on the sport of rodeo.
Saddles, spurs, belt buckles, trophies, framed newspaper articles, framed magazine covers, more trophies. Trevor knew his mother picked this room in an effort to make Trevor feel inferior in the face of all his father’s accomplishments. It didn’t work. Not anymore. All it did was remind him how much of his life he’d wasted trying to live up to expectations that weren’t his own.
If only he’d been working, not rodeoing, not chasing someone else’s dream, then he’d have the money he and Chassie needed to buy Gus’s land.
“Stop beating yourself up.” Chassie’s gentle voice drifted into Trevor’s mind like a refreshing breeze, washing away his frustration, if only temporarily. She had that calming effect.
So did Edgard.
He wondered how the two of them were faring without him.
“What do you know about goat births?”
Edgard had joined Chassie and they were draped across the top of Greta’s stall in the barn.
His gaze narrowed. “Can’t be much different than foals or calves, can it?”
“I reckon they’re the same. That’s why I think Greta is in labor.” Chassie squinted at the nanny goat chomping on a pile of hay.
“Hate to break it to you, but Greta looks too bored to be in labor. She hasn’t lost her appetite a bit, which is a damn shame ’cause she’s gonna eat us out of house and home.
No wonder he was so anxious to get rid of her.”
“Not all females of the species bleat and moan and flop on the ground when their time comes, Ed. Some give birth with quiet dignity.”
Edgard’s mouth twitched. “My mistake.”
“So that’s why I think Greta’s behavior is mighty suspect. She hasn’t shown her hiney in the last half hour.”
“Thank God,” Edgard muttered.
“It’s probably swollen.” Chassie gave Edgard an arch look. “I know how that goes.”
“No sympathy from me. Maybe next time you’ll heed our warnings and save your poor hiney.”
She snorted. “I don’t remember signing on for gettin’ my ass smacked.”
“Comes with the territory—and two territorial males.” Edgard offered her a sunny smile. “No extra charge.”
“Maybe next time I’ll spank you.”
“Mmm. I’d consider it if you’ll kiss it and make it better afterward.”
Her face burned when she remembered how erotic it’d been having two mouths and two sets of rough male hands caressing her flaming skin. She hopped down from the fence. “I’m gonna check her.”
“Maybe that’s not such a good idea.”
“You sound like Trevor.”
“If you mean I’m concerned about your well-being, querida, then I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“I think I can handle one little goat.”
Greta lifted her head and baaed a greeting when Chassie entered the stall. Then she returned to mowing hay, allowing Chassie an opportunity to run her hand down the side of Greta’s rotund belly. Didn’t feel like it was pulling and heaving with labor pains.
“Well?” Edgard asked.
“I can’t tell. Need a better look back here.” Chassie kept stroking Greta’s rear right flank as she dropped to her knees.
“Chass, that’s not such a good idea.”
“Stop bein’ such a worry wart. Look how full her udders are.” Greta stilled when Chassie’s fingers brushed the closest teat. “You’re ready to be a mama, aren’t you, pretty girl?”
Greta baaed loudly.
“Lemme see how close we are. Okay?” Chassie inched sideways. The second she placed her hand on Greta’s rump, Greta panicked.