He huffed and rolled his eyes. “You’re going to treat me just like he does, aren’t you?”
That pissed me off worse than anything else Riley had said. “I’m not like your father. I’m fair, and I’m willing to listen as long as you’re fair with me. But I do expect hard work from every single man or woman out here, and that includes you.”
“I don’t get why I have to be up at dawn working my ass off when all my dad does is sit in his office and shuffle papers and only remembers he has a son when he thinks it’s convenient.”
Well, fuck. He had a point there. “If you’re going to meet your father’s demands, you’ll have to learn to keep your mouth shut about all that.”
He gave me a startled look. “You’re not going to tell me off for saying that?”
“What you think of your father isn’t my business. My business is to assign you work to do on this ranch. If you can prove to your father that you can actually hold down a job, maybe he’ll let you do something you choose. That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
He chewed his lower lip for a moment, and I held my breath. It couldn’t be that easy to get him to cooperate, could it? I figured it would take me weeks if not longer to make him see the necessity of giving in to his father just this once.
“Do you really think my dad will actually accept that I’m doing a good job, even if I am? I’m pretty sure he just dragged me back here so when I fail yet again, he’ll have the pleasure of watching.”
I didn’t know how to respond to something so damn sad.
“Why did you agree to this anyway?” Riley asked.
“No, let me guess. My dad didn’t give you a choice. You’re the one he chose to shove me off on, and it was take me or lose your job. God knows you wouldn’t be the first one. That’s how I got my first college roommate, you know? My dad got him into the school even though the guy’s grades were shit. The old bastard paid the guy to keep an eye on me. It took me two months to realize the guy didn’t actually want to be friends with me.”
I’d known Lawson had done some shady things, but paying someone to keep an eye on his son while pretending to be Riley’s friend? That was all kinds of wrong. There was no doubt Riley had reasons to be a brat. Lawson deserved a thorough ass-kicking for the way he’d treated the boy, but that didn’t mean I was going to put up with Riley’s attitude.
“I have no interest in playing those kinds of games with you. I’m going to give you a work assignment each day and the training you need to complete it. Do what I ask, and we’ll get along fine. Give me shit, and there will be consequences.”
“What kind of consequences?” The challenge in Riley’s eyes should’ve pissed me off. Instead, it made my cock twitch with interest. I wanted to walk him back until he hit the barn wall, pin him in place, and show him how easily I could make him stop protesting and beg for me, but I didn’t think that was actually what his father had in mind when he said someone needed to ride the boy’s ass.
“Ones you won’t like.” If I had my choice, that would mean a good, hard spanking, though from the flirtatious look in Riley’s eyes, he might like a spanking all too much.
How had he gotten so fucking sexy? And since when was I attracted to twenty-one-year-old brats? Maybe the best thing to do was push him away right from the get-go. “I have to report to your father every evening and tell him how things are going with you. You really don’t want me telling him you fucked up or defied me, do you?”
The color drained from Riley’s face, and he took a step back, making me immediately regret my words. He didn’t need to know one more horrible thing his father had done. I took a step toward him and rested my hand on his upper arm. I meant the gesture to be comforting, but the moment my hand made contact with Riley, a jolt of electricity ran through me.
The boy’s gaze met mine, and I knew he’d felt it too. His lips were parted, and his eyes had darkened. I couldn’t look away, and I’d forgotten whatever it was I’d intended to say. How the hell was I going to work with this boy day in and day out?
Finally, I stepped back, looked down, and brushed at my jeans as if I cared about the dust there. “Go on and saddle Ginger. We’ll take a ride around the place, and I’ll show you some of the improvements we’ve made recently. Don’t make this harder than it has to be, and I won’t either.” And please for God’s sake, stop looking at me like you want to get on your knees for me.