“No.” She shook her head. When would he get it through that thick skull of his? “I’ve got it.”
“Stubborn as ever.”
“Said the pot to the kettle,” she murmured.
Piper turned and started up the ladder again. “If you’re not here to help and you just came to throw insults, then go. I have work to do.”
She didn’t look down and didn’t even glance back when she heard him bring his engine to life and pull out of her drive.
Yeah, even though they were best friends, they argued like an old married couple.
Piper laughed at the image. No way in hell would she ever marry a cowboy.
Besides, didn’t he know she’d never take help unless it was an emergency? She could handle this on her own just fine, thank you very much, and if she chipped a nail doing it, well, she’d carry on and not worry about it.
Piper picked up her crowbar and got back to work. Frustration and anger was the perfect combo to put into demolishing old shingles. Because it was either concentrate on renovations or think of how sexy Ryan had looked all angry and dominant.
She didn’t want to find that Neanderthal attitude of his appealing but she couldn’t help it. Ryan truly cared for her, and she believed he wanted to see her happy, but she also knew he was developing feelings for her. If she kept letting him sink into every corner of her life, soon he’d want more and then what? Would they move in together? Marry?
Piper cursed when the crowbar went sliding because she wasn’t concentrating. She reached out, careful of her balance, and caught the tool.
Ryan and any hormones either of them had flaring up needed to go to the back of her mind. She had to concentrate on one thing at a time.
* * *
Ryan walked around the perimeter of his recently installed fence where he hoped to train eager riders with his new horses. The men he’d hired to put the fence in had done a remarkable, efficient job.
Tugging on a few posts, Ryan was more than satisfied at the work. He’d paid a hefty sum for a speedy project and he wasn’t disappointed.
Dirt and dust kicked up over his worn boots. Ryan propped a foot upon the bottom rung of the gate and looped his arms over the top as he looked out onto the fields. He couldn’t wait to get Grant’s Rodeo School kicked off in the spring.
Ryan was working with a man he’d met on the circuit who did some PR for events. Soon they’d have brochures and flyers to pass around to surrounding towns and mass mailings to send to various rodeo organizations.
The late fall sun beat down on him and Ryan adjusted his Stetson to shield his eyes. This new chapter of his life was both exciting and a little nerve-racking.
He was ready to settle down and start on another stage of his career and personal life, but he wasn’t sure where to go beyond this school. At least, he hadn’t been sure when he’d first come back, but now he was starting to see a clearer picture. He knew he’d wanted to have a more stable, calm life. Joining the Texas Cattleman’s Club and teaching kids to ride was a great start, but Ryan knew as amazing as both those things were, he wanted more. Call him greedy, but he didn’t care.
Piper had been the one constant in his life all these years. She’d been his best friend, his therapist, his inside-joke person at parties. They shared a bond on an intimate level that most couples never even tapped into.
He hadn’t been joking or messing around when he’d discussed kissing her. The pull between them was stronger than anything he’d ever imagined. Ryan wanted to explore this newfound chemistry. Piper may be scared—oh hell, he knew she was even if she wouldn’t admit it—but he wouldn’t let anything happen to their friendship.
Yes, he was a guy and he was attracted to her in a “more than friends” way, but he wouldn’t let their relationship fall apart over one roll in the sack. Yeah, he definitely wanted more.
Ryan stepped away from the gate and started back toward his house. He wondered if she’d like to help him with his school. She more than knew her way around horses and the rodeo. And she’d be a hell of a lot prettier sight than any other cowboy he’d hire.
Stepping through his back door, Ryan hung his black hat on the wooden peg. Crossing to the center island, he grabbed his phone and checked it for messages. One missed call from Piper, but no voice mail.
After their little argument yesterday, he wondered if she was calling to apologize for being so pigheaded. More than likely she wasn’t. Knowing her, she was calling to hear him apologize.
Ryan tried her cell only to get her voice mail. Without leaving a message, he hung up and slid the phone into his pocket. She was at work, so maybe she didn’t have time to answer or she had it turned off.