Ranch Daddy - Page 61

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“Yeah.” I loved the shy look he gave me.

“You’re a good boy, Riley, and you’re good at working this ranch. What your father is expecting of you is crazy. Most people work years to learn all the things you’re trying to learn in a few months. If nothing else, this should prove to you how capable you are. If you can learn about the ranch this fast, there’s nothing you can’t succeed at. You can go to school to become a vet or whatever else you want.”

“You really believe that?”

“I do.”

He started the movie, and we laughed and quoted lines as we ate our dinner. Then he settled against me. When the movie finished, I realized he was sound asleep. I’d nearly fallen asleep myself. I needed to wake him and send him back to the main house, but he looked so peaceful. I shifted him so he was supported by some pillows and went to look out my front window. His father’s car wasn’t in the driveway, and if Maryellen was following her usual pattern, she would be in her room watching television.

I picked Riley up, slipped out the door, and made my way through the dark to the main house. My luck held, and we made it to his room without running into anyone. He stirred when I laid him in bed. I tried to soothe him back to sleep as I slipped off his shoes, socks, and jeans, leaving him in his t-shirt and briefs, but as I started to pull the covers over him, he rolled onto his back and opened his eyes. “Stay with me.”

“Riley, you’re back in your room at the main house. I can’t stay here.”

“Just for a little while, until I’m back asleep.”

He was still half-asleep as it was. Surely it wouldn’t take long for him to be settled again.

“All right.” I kicked off my shoes, climbed onto the bed, and pulled him into my arms. “Just for a few minutes,” I said again. “Then I have to go back to my cabin.”

“I know. Thank you, Daddy.”

I kissed his head and drew him tightly against me.

I didn’t mean to close my eyes. I meant to just listen to the sound of his breathing until it got steady, but the last few days had been so long, and the stress of it all had kept me from sleeping. Riley was warm, his bed was comfy, and I was so, so tired.

26

Riley

“Riley? Riley!” I rubbed my eyes. Who was calling me?

“Maryellen?” The word came out as a croak. Wait. Where was I, and who was…? Oh, fuck. I was in my room at my father’s house, and Blake was in bed with me. The sun was up, and we were fucking late.

I disentangled myself from Blake, intending to answer the door and get Maryellen to cover for us. Blake had told me she knew about us, and even if she disapproved, I knew she wouldn’t tell my father. But before I could get out of bed, I heard the man himself.

“This is no time to be nice, Maryellen. The boy is probably passed out drunk.” I tried to wake Blake to get him out of bed so he could hide, but it was too late.

The door burst open and banged against the wall.

Blake jolted awake, and I sat there frozen as I watched my father’s face turn red.

“What the fuck is going on in here?”

“I’m sure there’s an explanation,” Maryellen said, though she looked doubtful.

“An explanation? Goddamn right there’s an explanation. The man I paid to run my ranch is in here fucking my son instead of doing his job.”

“He’s fully dressed,” Maryellen pointed out. My father snarled at her to go back to the kitchen where she belonged.

“That’s way out of line. Don’t talk to her like—”

“You keep your goddamned mouth closed and your legs too,” my father snarled before turning back to Blake. “You’ve got ten minutes to pack anything that’s yours and get the hell off my ranch. I don’t ever want to see you on my property again, and do not expect to receive another cent from me.”

“Yes, sir.” Blake stood and picked up his shoes. I’d never seen him look so defeated.

“This is as much on me as it is on him,” I said. Blake looked at me and shook his head. This time I wasn’t going to listen to him. No way in hell would I let him take the blame. I’d wanted him, and I’d gone after him.

“You’re a kid, and he’s your boss.”

My father chose now to be protective of me? “I’m twenty-one years old. I’m an adult by all possible measures.”

“I might deign to consider you an adult if I’d ever seen you act like one.”

Those words made Blake turn on my father with fury in his eyes. “Your son is an incredible man. Maybe he hasn’t always been responsible, but he has learned how to be over the last few months. He knows how to do any job on this ranch.”


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