“Let Tanner bring it up if he hasn’t already.”
“Of course, yeah, I won’t say anything.”
“Good, then can we move on from this nonsense of Tanner liking me? I’m simply a distraction that he needs right now.”
Kaylee huffed, but it was so low I barely heard it. I knew I was being a bitch, and I knew I needed to talk to Tanner about last night. It was wrong what I did to him. The things I said to him. The hurt that crossed his face gutted me. Especially after the moment we shared together.
I turned and looked out at the countryside and decided I’d deal with it all later. There wasn’t anything I could do about it now, so I focused on the snow-covered pastures and mountains that instantly made me smile. “It’s so beautiful here.”
“Just you wait, I’ve got something that’s going to blow your mind.”
I figured she was taking me somewhere special, in hopes I would fall in love and decide to make Hamilton my home. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the area. The open land, the beautiful, sweeping blue skies that seemed to go on forever. All of it screamed this was the place I needed to be.
“We’re going toward the mountains,” I said.
“Yep, and this is the road I needed.”
She turned off a side road that had been cleared by a plow, so it must be a heavily used road.
“It’s four miles down this side road.”
“Can you finally tell me what exactly is down the road?”
She giggled. “You’ll see! And the best part is that it isn’t very far from the Shaw Ranch.”
I couldn’t help but giggle as well, a sudden sense of excitement building up inside of me and threatening to burst free. I had no idea what or why I was excited, but something told me everything in my life was about to change.
“Tanner, you might want to slow down there before you wear yourself out.”
I dug the hooks into the bale of hay and tossed it onto the back of the trailer as I ignored Brock.
“Or don’t,” he mumbled.
“I’m fine,” I snapped.
Brock walked over and stood between me and the trailer. “I didn’t ask if you were fine. You’re acting like those bales of hay are someone you want to throttle.”
I sighed, wiped the sweat from my brow, and then shot my brother a dirty look.
“You want to talk about it?” he asked as he took a seat on the back of the trailer.
“No,” I bit back.
With a raised brow, he pulled his work gloves off and set them down. “The cattle can wait a few extra minutes for lunch. Talk to me, Tanner. Something has been on your mind since you got home from the road, and earlier you looked like you wanted to knock Dirk into the next county when he was talking to Timberlynn.”
I let out a frustrated sigh. “I don’t really know what’s going on…with anything.”
“Okay, let’s start small. Why did you and Chance really come home early after y’all nearly broke the world record in Colorado? I know you guys, and you both would have run off to the next rodeo itching to try for that record again. Instead, you’re here.”
I dropped the hay hooks and sat on a bale. “I’m pretty sure Chance wants to give up roping.”
He nodded and gave me a thoughtful look. “Okay, well, I’m sure that sucks since you’ve been together for so long, but you can pick up a new partner…you’ve done it before.”
My eyes met his, and I didn’t say anything.
“Oh, I see. You’re not sure you want to go back on the road yourself.”
I pointed to him. “Bingo. I love ropin’, I do, but something seems missing from my life, Brock. I feel… empty.” I shook my head and laughed. “I fucking blame you and Ty for this bullshit. Getting married, popping out kids.”
“You’re still young, Tanner. You’ve got plenty of time to settle down and have kids.”
“I know that. And if you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you I’d be roping cattle until I couldn’t ride anymore. Something has made that change, and I have no fucking clue what it is.”
“What or who?”
I looked away. “I love being on the ranch, and now with you here, it’s the three of us. I like being home. I like seeing Mom and Dad happy. I liked those months I was here when my ankle was broken. I felt content.”
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be home, Tanner. Why do you think I retired from bull riding?”
“You met Lincoln.”
He smiled and nodded. “I did meet Lincoln, and she changed the way I looked at everything. Then when we found out she was pregnant I didn’t need to search for the answers anymore. I knew what I had to do, and I was okay with it.”
“Lincoln wanted you, though.”
Recognition hit his face. “Now we’re getting to the someone part. Timberlynn?”
I blew out a breath. “I don’t know what it is about her, Brock. From the moment I met her at Ty and Kaylee’s wedding, she’s been on my mind constantly. I’ve been thinking about her for months. Hell, she’s in my dreams. I’ve never been attracted to a woman like this, and I’m not the least bit scared. Well, that’s not true, I’m scared she doesn’t feel the same way.”
He laughed and shook his head. “Tanner, you don’t see the way she lights up when you walk into a room. You light up just as much, by the way. We’ve all noticed it. What makes you think she doesn’t feel the same way?”
I looked directly into his eyes. “She told me so.”
That caused him to sit up straighter and raise his brows. “What did she say?”
I rubbed my hands over my thighs; the idea of repeating what Timberlynn said to me made me queasy. Especially after the moment we had shared on her bed. Her whispered moans, the way she arched and held me so tight when she came. The way she said yes to me making love to her…her eyes even said it too.
What in the hell had changed? I’d thought about it nearly all damn night. “Oh, let’s see, she said I was the last man she’d ever want to have a relationship with.”
Brock looked stunned. He opened his mouth only to close it, then open it again. When words failed him, I decided to tell him what had happened between us last night.
“We had a…moment in her room last night. A pretty
Brock narrowed his eyes at me.
“We didn’t sleep together, but if Mom hadn’t knocked on the door, I don’t know where it would have gone.”
“Talk about a cock block,” Brock said with a chuckle.
I laughed. “Yeah. I think the idea of almost being caught by Mom did something to Timberlynn. She instantly changed. Acted like she was repulsed by my touch and told me she only allowed me to do it because she’d had a few drinks. She said it was a moment of insanity and irrational thought.”
Brock grimaced. “Ouch.”
“Yeah. She accused me of only wanting to screw her and that was it. She made it pretty clear she wasn’t interested in any sort of relationship with me.”
“Okay, then why did she let you…do whatever it is you did?”
“Maybe it was a moment of weakness, I don’t know. Maybe it was the wine we drank. She’s flirted back with me since I met her, even let me hold her hand yesterday. I thought she wanted me as much as I wanted her. I’m honestly trying to figure it all out myself. What caused the sudden change?”
“She keeps herself pretty guarded. Her mother died when she was little, and she mentioned something about never falling in love again. Maybe that has something to do with it.” I sighed and took off my hat, running my fingers through my hair. “She’s fucking confusing me, Brock. What am I doing wrong? I’m being as open as I know how to be.”
“Have you thought about talking to Kaylee?”
I rubbed the back of my neck and shook my head. “I don’t want to do that. I’d feel like I was betraying Timberlynn.”
The corner of his mouth twitched with a smile he held back.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing. It’s a little strange seeing you…have feelings for someone. Regardless of what you think the feelings are, you care about her, Tanner. If I can offer you one bit of advice, bro…”