“Jeremy and Kimmy are engaged and celebrating. I know Jeremy would love to see you. If he knew you were in town, he’d have invited you for sure.”
I nodded. “I guess it’s no surprise they’re finally getting married.”
Lindsey laughed, a little too loudly. It was obvious she wanted Timberlynn to see us talking. “Dating since freshman year of high school. It’s about time he popped the question. So, what do you say? You want to go?”
That was Lindsey’s way of asking me if I wanted to go with her, meaning we would probably end the night back at her place for a quick fuck. At least that was her plan, not mine.
“Maybe I’ll show up. I’m not sure if my folks have anything planned.” I purposely looked over to Timberlynn, then back to Lindsey. Her eyes followed mine. Timberlynn stood there, a beautiful smile on her face as she spoke with a sales associate. It felt like my heart may have jumped slightly when she laughed at something that the associate said.
Lindsey frowned. “Is there something going on there, Tanner? You seemed to be into her at Ty’s wedding, and now she’s back in town for what?”
“Christmas with her cousin Kaylee. Plus, she’s thinking of moving here.”
“Moving here!” Lindsey nearly shouted. I glanced at Timberlynn to see her still talking to the sales associate, so she hadn’t heard Lindsey…hopefully. Or maybe she was pretending not to hear.
“Yes. It’s a free country, and people are allowed to move to Montana.”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t like it. There’s something off about her.”
I looked once more at the only stunningly beautiful woman in the whole damn store. She turned her head and caught me staring at her. I watched as she recognized Lindsey, a slight frown forming between her brows. When she looked back at me, she smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. I returned it, adding a wink that made her cheeks go slightly pink as she shook her head and turned to look at something on a shelf.
“Holy shit. You can’t be serious,” Lindsey hissed.
I kept my gaze on Timberlynn a moment longer before I focused back on Lindsey and sighed.
She let out a forced, uninterested laugh. “You like her, Tanner? Tell me this is just a fling.”
I glared at Lindsey, though she was too busy giving Timberlynn the evil eye to notice. “We’re friends, Lindsey, so I would appreciate it if you kept your thoughts to yourself.”
“Friends? What kind of friends? The same kind of friends that we are?”
“There is no longer a ‘we’, and there never will be.” I tipped my head to her. “It was good seeing you, but I’ve got to get back over to Timberlynn. We’re shopping for my mama.”
That made Lindsey’s nose flare. “She’s helping you shop for your mama?”
I decided to ignore her question and cut the conversation off. “Good seeing you, Lindsey.”
When I turned and walked away, I swore the heat from Lindsey’s angry gaze pierced right through me, but it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was the smile on Timberlynn’s face as I walked up to her.
Four hours and one-and-a-half bottles of wine later, Timberlynn and I were sitting in the middle of her bedroom laughing and attempting to wrap the many presents we had bought. I honestly couldn’t remember when I had enjoyed myself so much. I glanced around the room and saw wrapped presents scattered across the floor around us in a rainbow of green, red, gold, and silver. We could have used the living room, but my folks had some friends over, and they were all watching a documentary on TV. It gave me the perfect excuse to spend more alone time with Timberlynn.
“Oh, man,” I said, popping a French fry into my mouth, then leaning back on the floor. My mother had brought up some hamburgers and fries for us since we were elbow deep in presents. Timberlynn had not only bought gifts for my parents, but she bought stuff for the kids, Kaylee, Lincoln, and even Brock and Ty. The Christmas shopping bug had hit her for sure.
“What’s wrong, did wrapping presents wear you out?” she asked.
“Hell yes. I think you bought enough gifts for the next two years’ worth of Christmases.”
She chuckled. “I did not. And the third gift to your parents is for letting me stay here. It’s kind of them to host me.”
“My folks love having people here. The more the merrier. Especially my mother. She loves to have company, even better if they’re female. All those years she was outnumbered by males and all.”
Timberlynn grinned, then took a sip of her wine and stared at me before she spoke again. “You never did answer me earlier.”
“Your dreams. If you want to work on the ranch.”
I sat back up and looked into her eyes. “Yes, it’s always been the long-term goal of mine. It’s in my blood, in my heart. I’m not sure when that long-term goal is going to start.”
Her brows rose. “Sooner rather than later?”
“If you had asked me a few months back, I’d have said later. My ropin’ partner, Chance, is giving me the vibe that he’s ready to quit. He met a girl last year and fell in love. He was ready to walk away from his career for her. She had other plans, though.”
Timberlynn raised a brow in question.
“She ran off with some hotshot guy from New York City.”
“Ouch. I’m sure that took a hit to his pride.”
“Did it ever,” I agreed.
“Can you not find another partner?”
I nodded. “I could, yeah. The question is, do I want to?”
She tilted her head and regarded me for a few moments. “What is your heart telling you to do?”
My eyes found hers once again, and I swore she looked like she sucked in a quick breath. “Well, my heart seems to be as confused as my head is right now.”
“Oh,” she whispered while her eyes drifted down to my mouth.
I wanted to pounce on her and take her right there on the damn floor like a fucking beast. But Timberlynn wasn’t the type of girl I wanted to simply have a quick fuck with. Hell no. I wanted her like I had never wanted any other woman, and I wasn’t going to simply romp around on the floor with her and walk out. I wanted to make love to her. Learn what it felt like to be buried deep inside of her. What made her moan, dig her nails into my back, and arch to take me in deeper.
If I didn’t get my thoughts in another place soon, I’d let the animal in me take over.
“Your turn,” I managed to say without sounding like I was in physical pain from not kissing or touching her.
“Right. Well, I’d really love to have a place with a good chunk of land. Equine training has been a dream of mine since I can remember, to be honest with you.”
“Anything you want to specialize in? And what about a degree? Most trainers have one.”
She flashed me a wide grin. “I have an associates in equine science. I might have taken a few extra classes here and there.”
I laughed. “Damn, woman, you are impressive.”
Her cheeks flushed, and she looked down at her hands. “I’d love to focus on equestrian sporting, but I think therapeutic training would be amazing as well. Especially if I could find some good rescue horses for that. I also love the thrill of training a horse under saddle. Something about that connection you have with a horse when you’re trying to get them to trust you. I love it. And maybe when I’m more settled in, I’ll do a bit of b
reeding as well.”
My brows raised. “If my mother hears you talking like this, you may have a partner.”
That made her smile. “I love working with young horses too. There’s almost an adrenaline rush with it.”
I swear to God, my heart skipped a few beats. Where had this woman been all my life? “Have you started many young horses under saddle?”
She grinned. “I’ve had my fair share, yes. Enough to make a business out of it, if people gave me a chance.”
I placed my hand over my heart and slowly shook my head. “You are the girl of my dreams. I think I’m falling in love with you.”
Timberlynn laughed, and I took in the sound of it. When she truly laughed, like wholeheartedly, there was something so beautiful about it. I loved the way it made me feel. She held something deep down inside of her that she didn’t want anyone to see or know. I wasn’t sure what it was, but all I knew was that I loved seeing her with her guard down. It was a bonus knowing it was me who helped her relax like this. And to see her talk about her future was exciting, to say the least. Hopefully her future intertwined with mine in some way.
“Don’t hold out for me. I have no intentions of ever falling in love again.” Her voice sounded somber, even though she tried to make it light. My heart sank at the word again.
Who in the hell had she loved, and what had happened? And how in the hell could I be so jealous of someone who didn’t have a name or a face? I could feel it bubbling up inside of me. “And why not?” I asked, honestly curious if she would answer.
When she finished off her wine, I figured she’d brush me off. But she surprised me once more. “Because I’m obviously not the type of woman a man wants.”
I stared at her, stunned. “Why in the hell would you say that?”
I almost willed her to tell me why she was so scared to let her walls down.
Standing, I walked over to her and reached down to lift her up. Timberlynn couldn’t have been taller than five foot three, if that. The way she tilted her head to look up at my six-foot frame was adorable. Her eyes were so green tonight. They took my breath away. She swallowed hard, and I felt my blood course through my body, almost leaving me dizzy from the rush.