I’d known Riley didn’t deserve the punishment he would have gotten if I’d told his dad about catching him in the barn. I’d known Riley needed encouragement, but I had no idea it had meant that much to him. I stroked his back and hugged him tightly. “Thank you for telling me that. It’s—” My voice caught as I got choked up.
“You’re so good to me, Blake. You always have been.”
“I try to be decent to everyone, but you’ve always seemed to need some special care.”
He sighed. “I don’t mean to be such a pain.”
“You’re not. Well, sometimes you are, but so am I. So is everyone. You’re doing better, and I know when you act out that doesn’t change who you really are.”
“How come you see that but my father doesn’t?”
Because Lawson was a fool and a cruel bastard who didn’t care how he made others feel. “He doesn’t see much. He’s too busy thinking about himself and what people can do for him.”
“I can be really selfish too.”
“But you know it’s wrong. That’s the difference.”
He tilted his head up to look at me. “Isn’t it selfish to want to get as much out of my dad as possible?”
“Do you really want that?”
“I thought I did. I resent him so much, but I guess I just want what’s been promised to me so I can make my own life.”
“A life that makes you happy and has purpose, not just lying on your ass and judging other people?”
Riley laughed. “I thought I wanted to just do nothing like that, but when I tried it, I hated it, and I hated myself.”
I gave him a gentle kiss, hoping he never had a reason to hate himself again. “If you learn anything from me, learn that doing something you love that means something to you will make you a lot happier than wasting your father’s money, no matter how much of an ass he is.”
“I know, Daddy. Thank you for taking care of me.”
“I couldn’t possibly do anything else, and right now, if I’m going to take care of you, I should feed you.”
He frowned. “We already had dinner.”
I shook my head. “You hardly ate.”
Did he really not understand? “I always notice.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Yeah, I do. Caring for you feels natural to me.”
The color in his cheeks deepened, and he gave me a soft smile. “I like when you take care of me, even when I act like I don’t.”
I smiled at him. “I know, baby. Rest for a bit, and I’ll bring you something to eat.”
“Don’t you need to rest?”
“Not as much as I need to care for you.”
I watched Blake as he walked toward the kitchen. I didn’t think his broad shoulders would ever stop making me sigh. My eyes drifted down to his ass—damn, it was fine. So were his thighs, which were muscular and powerful from all the hours he spent atop a horse. He was so damn gorgeous, and he was mine. At least for now.
Casey was right. Blake needed to take a break. He worked himself way too hard. I wasn’t saying that because, prior to coming back here, I was used to doing nothing but lying around most of the time. I saw how hard everyone at the ranch worked, and I knew how exhausted I was every evening. Sometimes I nearly fell asleep in my dinner. Blake worked even harder than the rest of us.
I needed to spend as much time as possible learning how to run the place, but if I was only going to have this short time with Blake, I wanted us to spend some of it having fun together, not necessarily in bed. I wanted to enjoy having a Daddy when he wasn’t disciplining me or giving me more pleasure than I’d ever expected to feel.
I stretched, and my ass reminded me how Blake had disciplined me earlier. I reached behind myself and ran my hands over the welts on my still warm skin. Yep. That still stung. I had a feeling it would for quite some time. Riding tomorrow was going to be interesting. Blake had been careful though. He hadn’t broken the skin, and I knew that as much as my ass would be uncomfortable, I would be able to ride and do everything I needed to. Had he ever had anyone think as carefully about him as he thought about others?
I wanted to be that person for him. I wanted to show him that I was learning to be the kind of person I wanted to be instead of the person my father expected me to be.
Blake came back a few moments later carrying a platter he’d filled with fruit and sandwiches. In his other hand, he held a folding table, the kind you might set in front of the couch and eat off while watching a movie.