It would be all worth it in the end...if she made it that long. Mercy, this was hard work. Piper was starting to believe that she actually worked harder on her days off than she did when she was helping to save people’s lives.
Tires crunched over dirt and gravel and she glanced over her shoulder to see who was visiting her. She should’ve known. Ryan was nearly her only visitor. She had a few friends, but Ryan was like the proverbial houseguest that never left. He always showed up unannounced and she loved it. Loved that they were so comfortable with each other that her house seemed like his and vice versa. Granted he’d only been back six months from the rodeo circuit, but she was at home at the ranch he’d purchased on the outskirts of town. The sprawling eight-thousand-square-foot mansion was exquisite, and the expansive lands made it the perfect place for him to open his rodeo school.
Ryan opened his truck door. “What the hell are you doing?” he asked the second one dusty boot hit the ground.
Piper kept her back to him as she pried loose another shingle. “I’m icing a cake,” she called down.
“Don’t be sarcastic,” he yelled back.
“Then don’t ask stupid questions.” She tossed the shingle into the Dumpster and went to work on another. “I have another crowbar if you’re here to offer your services.”
“I don’t have time to offer services, but I’ll do the whole damn thing this weekend if you’ll come down.”
She laid her crowbar on the roof and eased toward her ladder. After she safely stepped onto the ground, Piper whirled around, jerked off her work gloves and crossed her arms over her chest.
“You know I’m renovating this myself and you know I need a new roof. Why are you acting all angry? Is it because you actually saw me doing the manual labor or you’re afraid I’ll screw it up?”
Ryan sighed. “I’m not worried you’ll screw it up. You’re too much of a perfectionist. I’m worried you’ll get hurt. There was no one here and if you’d fallen, who would’ve helped?”
A bit touched by his fear for her, Piper smiled. “I’m fine, Ryan. I’ve lived alone for a long time and I’m used to taking care of myself when I get hurt.”
Ryan shook his head, then reached out to shove aside a stray curl that had escaped her messy ponytail. “You shouldn’t have to worry about taking care of yourself.”
“Because I’m a woman?” she mocked.
“No, damn it, because I care about you.”
He glanced up at the roof, rested his hands on his narrow hips and sighed. His black cowboy hat shielded his eyes from the afternoon sun, but she knew those bright baby blues were taking in her work and in his mind he was calculating how he could fit this into his schedule so she wouldn’t have to do it.
“I can be here on Saturday to help you with this,” he told her. “I’m busy the rest of the day, and tomorrow I have a couple things in the morning to take care of.”
“I work all day on the squad tomorrow,” she said, refusing to allow him to take over. “I’m off Saturday. I’ll probably have it done by then.”
Ryan’s eyes came back to hers. “Why can’t you just take my damn help? You’ve been like this the whole time I’ve known you.”
Piper laid a hand over her heart as if to ward off any hurt from seeping in, but he’d take her gesture as sarcasm, which was safer for her. Doing things on her own had been all she’d ever known. Depending on anyone else was never a good idea. Being let down hurt way worse than being alone.
“Then if you know how I am, why do you continue to argue?” she asked, raising her voice. “I bought this house with every intention of working on it myself. I want to do the labor so I can be proud and prove that I can do something. I’m talented when it comes to this, Ryan. Why do you keep trying to intervene and take control?”
Ryan’s shaded eyes leveled hers. “I just want to make your life easier, Red. That’s all. I’m not trying to take over or to run your life. I only want to see you happy.”
“I’m happy when we don’t argue about ridiculous things.” Piper stepped back, shoved her gloves into her back pocket, jerked her ponytail holder out and smoothed all her hair back once again and secured the band.
“Listen, I’m sorry I yelled,” she told him on a sigh. “I’m tired, sweaty and stressed. I shouldn’t take it out on you.”
“Then let me finish the roof for you or call someone who will.”