I nodded. “Please do.”
“Don’t give up on her. Be patient, don’t push, let her know you’re there for her and that you think she’s worth the wait.”
“She told me…”
Brock cut me off. “She lied.”
I looked down at the ground and kicked at some loose hay.
“Tanner, she likes you. Trust me. Now, as far as the roping goes, meet me in the main barn at two today.”
He grinned mischievously. “We’re gonna have us a bit of fun.”
I couldn’t help but smile back. “I like the sound of that.”
Brock stood, and I followed his lead. He hit me on the side of the arm and said, “It really is good having you back home, little brother.”
“It’s good to be home.”
“Let’s get this finished up, shall we?”
I nodded and got back to work. The silence between me and Brock gave me time to think about what had, or hadn’t, happened between me and Timberlynn last night—and I wasn’t sure that was a good thing.
Ty and I walked into the barn a few minutes after two. My father and Brock were leading four saddled-up horses out of the barn.
“Do you have any idea how damn stubborn your horse is, Tanner? She only wants to be turned out; it’s like she knows she’s on vacation,” my father said as he handed me the reins to Trigger.
“Hey there, sweetheart. Are you enjoying the countryside?” I asked as I ran my hand down her neck.
Trigger bobbed her head and nickered.
“I swear she knows what you’re saying to her, too,” Dad stated. “And I forgot she doesn’t like anyone else on her.”
Unable to help myself, I laughed. “Of course, she knows what I’m saying. She isn’t stupid.”
“You callin’ my horse stupid?” Brock asked as he led his horse out and jumped up on him.
“You said it, not me.”
Brock rolled his eyes.
“Who’s your heeler?” Dad asked me.
I looked between both Ty and Brock.
“I pick Dad.”
Both of them looked surprised as they turned to look at our father, who sat atop his horse with a wide grin. He nudged his horse toward the corral and said, “At least I raised one of ya right.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent with Ty and Brock taking turns with our father as we roped some steer. It felt good, but it didn’t make me miss competing. Not one bit. One look at Brock before I nodded for Ty to let the steer go, and I knew exactly what this afternoon had been about. I could still have the best of both worlds if I wanted. Sure, there wasn’t a crowd yelling out, or money to be won, but I didn’t need any of that. Seeing how happy my father was helped me realize that money and crowds would never fulfill me like this afternoon had. Family. That’s what this was all about. I smiled at Brock and he returned it with an even bigger shit-eating grin of his own.
“You can have it all if that’s what you want, little brother,” Brock said as he rode up to me after we had roped a steer in four seconds.
“I think I know what I need to do.”
Brock smiled. “I think you’ve known it for a while now. In your heart.”
“Can I give it a try?”
Timberlynn’s voice took me by surprise, and apparently it did Brock as well. We both turned to see our mom, Kaylee, and Lincoln, all standing at the fence with Timberlynn seated up on Rosie.
“Which one do you want to do? Header or heeler?” I called out.
The way she smiled made me want to groan. Why was she sending me such mixed signals? It was driving me mad. I wanted to be pissed—but I couldn’t be, not when she smiled at me like that. There had to be a reason she was pushing me away, and why she had acted like that last night. Simply seeing her, though, and I didn’t give a shit about what had happened. She was so goddamn beautiful, she stole my breath. I’d take Brock’s advice and be patient.
“Heeler, of course.”
Brock laughed. “By all means, Timberlynn, have at it.”
Brock and Timberlynn traded places, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face even if I had wanted to. “You think Rosie is up for this?” I asked.
Timberlynn reached down and gave the mare a light rub along her neck, then leaned down and said something to her. I shook my head and started to tell her how it worked.
“I’ll nod, Ty will let the steer go. Once I rope his head, you try for the feet. Have you ever…roped anything?”
All she did was wink at me. “Let’s stop talking and do some roping.”
I fell in love with her in that moment.
“This is gonna be interesting,” Ty said with a hearty laugh. My father also smiled, but when I met his gaze, he simply gave me a knowing nod.
“Ready?” I asked Timberlynn.
“Ready!” she called back. The excitement in her voice made me chuckle. Ty was right…it was going to be interesting, indeed.
I nodded, the steer took off, and I had his head roped in seconds. I watched as Timberlynn roped his back legs, turned Rosie, and faced me and Trigger. She had a huge damn smile on her face at her own success.
“Four-point-five seconds. Shit, son, she did better than Ty!” my father called out.
“You better marry that girl, Tanner!” one of the ranch hands yelled as Timberlynn looked at me, beaming.
“Give it slack, Timberlynn!” Ty called, and when she did, I did the same, letting the steer get free.
I rode over to her and shook my head. “Someone has been keeping secrets.”
With a casual shrug, she replied, “Don’t we all have hidden secrets and talents, Mr. Shaw?”
That made my body react. “You didn’t tell me you knew how to rope, Timber. I think I just fell in love with you, and apparently we now need to wed.”
She laughed, then stared at me for a moment. I watched her bite into her lip as she looked up at me through those beautiful eyelashes of hers. “I do believe you’ve said that once already, about falling in love, at least.”
I nodded. “I believe I did.”
With a quick glance around, she focused back on me. “I’ve never done that before in my life. But I did practice at the stables I learned to ride in. They had a mechanical bull that they would let loose, and we would all take turns trying to rope its horns. I got pretty good at it.”
“I’m possibly looking for a new roping partner. Are you interested in the gig?”
“How much does it pay?” she teased.
My heart felt as if it slammed against my chest. “I’m sure we could negotiate something that would be mutually beneficial to us both.”
She blushed and looked around the corral as if only now remembering we were not alone. She chewed nervously on her lip and moved Rosie up next to Trigger. Both mares stared at each other in contempt, but neither moved. In a lower voice, Timberlynn said, “Tanner, I want you to know that I didn’t mean what I said last night. About what happened between us being a mistake.”
“Good, because I didn’t think it was a mistake. It was amazing, if you ask me.”
She pulled in her bottom lip but didn’t say anything.
“What about that other thing you said?”
She looked confused.
“About never wanting any sort of relationship with me.”
Before she could answer, my father rode up.
“Timberlynn, I’m always in need of some good ranch hands. When can you start?”
She laughed once again and shook her head. “As lovely as that sounds, Mr. Shaw, I’m going to have to pass.”
“No formal names, young lady, it’s Ty Senior.”
Timberlynn nodded. “Well, as lovely as that sounds, Ty Senior, I’m afraid I have some plans of my own I need to tend to.”