My father took a step toward Blake, and I thought he was going to punch him. I rose to my feet like I could intervene when they both had over thirty pounds on me.
Blake seemed to grow even taller, his shoulders broader.
My father dropped his hands to his side. “I don’t want to hear one more goddamn word about my son from you.”
My father focused on me again. “Get dressed, get your ass out to the barn, and ask Angelo what you can do to help him out. He’ll have to be in charge until I can find a new foreman.”
“I’m leaving too.”
I glanced at Blake, and he shook his head. Was he saying he wanted me to stay?
“Hmpf. I should have known you’d give up.”
“Give up, sir?”
“You claimed you’d work this ranch for two months, but now you’re going to walk away like you always do.”
At that moment, everything seemed surreal. When I’d imagined how things might go if my father caught us, my predictions had been all wrong. “I didn’t think you’d want me to stay. I assumed the deal was off.”
My father noticed me looking at Blake and turned to him again, fists clenched. “I told you to get out. If you’re not off my property by the time I’m done talking to this little shit, I’m calling the police to remove you.”
Blake looked at me again, mouthed I believe in you, and left. Maryellen was still hovering in the doorway. He took her arm and led her away as well.
“I’m out a foreman and calving is about to start. If you walk away now, you walk away with nothing. I need every hand I can find working this place for the next few weeks, even someone as questionably qualified as you.”
“You’re saying if I stay through calving and prove I know what I’m doing, you’ll follow through with our deal?”
My father snorted. “Yes, though it’s not like that will happen, especially now that you can’t fuck your way through your lessons, but I want you here where I can keep an eye on you, not off somewhere causing God knows what other trouble.”
“So you admit this wasn’t Blake’s fault?”
“I never said you weren’t to blame. I’m quite sure you thought sleeping with him would get him to vouch for you, but he was in charge. I’m already paying him more than he’s worth, then he had the nerve to fuck my son in my own house. When I agreed to hire a gay foreman, I thought he could manage to keep his hands off the men who were working here.”
“I’m gay too, in case you didn’t notice.”
“You think I didn’t know that? It’s just one more way you can embarrass me.”
I bit back all the things I wanted to say. Maybe Blake had taught me some maturity after all. “I want it in writing.”
My father scowled. “What?”
“I want it in writing that if I stay through calving season and prove I can run the ranch, you’ll release half my trust fund.”
“Fine. But I expect you to work full days every day. I don’t know how much use you’ll be, but at least you can ride a horse, and you seem to know one end of a cow from another. It’ll be interesting to see how much you can do when Blake’s not babying you through it or—”
“Don’t go there. That’s not how—”
“You want a chance at this? Then you keep your mouth closed.”
I grabbed my clothes and headed for the bathroom. I needed to hurry. I would check in with Angelo, but I was going to talk to Blake before I did anything else.
I wasn’t even sure how the fuck this had happened. I had a vague memory of Blake tucking me into bed and me asking him to stay. Shit, if I did that, then that made the whole situation all my fault.
I texted him. Don’t leave without saying goodbye.
I didn’t want him to leave at all, but at least I only had to stay here another month, then I would have money to live on, and I could go wherever he was.
It felt like forever before I could tell that he was typing a response.
Meet me on the road where we found the stray bull.
Be there as soon as I can.
When I found Angelo, I told him I needed to be as far away from my father as I could, so I would check the fence lines. Luckily, he seemed to understand.
I saddled Ginger and rode out to meet Blake. He was leaning against his truck when I reached him, looking down at his feet. His Stetson hid his expression from me.
I slid from the saddle and left Ginger to enjoy the tender clover, knowing she wouldn’t stray.
When he looked up, the pain in his eyes knocked the breath from me.