“The ranch needed someone calm and level-headed who could motivate everyone.”
“And they got me.”
I gave him a mock scowl. “You became the person they needed.”
“I actually was fairly amazing. I want to keep doing that—being amazing—being the person I was meant to be, but I’d like to do it with you here guiding me. I could do it on my own, but having a Daddy to push me would make it a lot easier and a lot more fun.”
“Riley, I’ve assed around for weeks, hardly even looking at job listings, because the thought of being somewhere without you was too painful.”
His eyes went wide. “Really?”
“Yes. There is nowhere else I would rather be than right here with my boy on his ranch.”
“On our ranch, because no matter what the deed says, this place is as much yours as it is mine. Our ranch. Our home.”
I couldn’t wait any longer to kiss him. I pulled him to me, and as our lips met, I knew he was right. We were home, and nothing was going to separate us again.
Six months later
I stared at the ceiling, not feeling the least bit sleepy. As far as I could tell, Blake had fallen asleep the second his head hit the pillow. He lay beside me, body splayed out as if he’d finally relaxed after weeks of going nearly nonstop. I was glad there was room for him to stretch out now that we shared a new king-size bed in the master suite that had once belonged to my father. I’d insisted we redecorate before we moved into the room so it would feel like our own. It had been well worth the expense. We could lie in our big bed and enjoy a gorgeous view, and when we’d finally taken over this space, it had felt like Blake and I were truly staking our claim as ranch owners.
I should be as exhausted as Blake. We’d just finished the annual cattle roundup. I thought calving was the most exhausting thing I could do, but I’d been wrong. Roundup was worse. But it was over now, and just like the night after the last calf had been born, I was too charged up to sleep. For days, I’d been running on caffeine and desperation, but the one thing that had made it way better than calving season was having Blake by my side. The work was hard as hell, but I’d enjoyed it more with him there.
I didn’t want to disturb him with my nervous energy, so like I had that night six months before when I’d made the decision that this place needed to be ours, I slipped from the bed and pulled on some clothes. Before heading out, I left Blake a note. He barely twitched when I laid it on the pillow.
I didn’t walk up to my favorite spot; instead, I went to the barn. One of our horses had recently given birth, and I wanted to see Cassie, the foal. Selling all those adorable calves had been hard on me. I knew it was a part of running a ranch, and Blake assured me the first year was the hardest, but having another baby animal, one I could love on and pet was helping to ease the sting.
I hadn’t been in the barn long when I heard the door creak and turned to see Blake enter, wearing nothing but a pair of jeans—which he hadn’t bothered to button—and his ever-present boots. He looked so damn good I wanted to get on my knees right there.
“Boy, you should be sleeping. Just because we’re done with roundup doesn’t mean there’s no work to be done tomorrow.”
“I know, Daddy, but I couldn’t sleep. I’m all wound up from the excitement of finally sorting the last of the cattle.”
He glanced into the stall at Cassie. “She sure is cute, isn’t she?”
“She is.” I turned to him, and our eyes met. The heat in his gaze made me wonder if I could get him to help me work off some of this excess energy. I ran a hand down his chest, teasing one of his nipples, before continuing to his waistband and toying with his buttonhole. “Am I a bad boy for not sleeping?”
“Riley, are you trying to piss me off?”
“Maybe I’m trying to see if we should christen this barn, really make it ours.”
He raised his brows. “That would be bad.”
“Would it? Would Daddy have to punish me for suggesting it?”
“Be careful or Daddy’s going to punish you by making you do all the office work tomorrow.”
“I spent so much time in the saddle this week, I might actually welcome it.”
He laughed and rolled his eyes. “No, you wouldn’t.”
I considered it for a moment. “No, you’re right. You could go ahead and give me whatever punishment I deserve right here. We don’t have to worry about anyone catching us now that the place is ours.”