To Tame a Cowboy - Page 59

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It wasn’t long ago that he would’ve been right down there with all of them. And even though the media played him out to be a total player, he truly wasn’t. Other than one time he’d had a one-night stand, he’d never taken any wanna-be-cowboy-lovers back to his room.

And there wasn’t a woman down there who could even compare to the one woman he was needing tonight. No woman would ever compare to Piper.

“I’m good,” he told Joe. “I may turn in early, but I’ll see you first thing in the morning.”

Joe shook his head and laughed. “Dude, you’ve got it bad. Why the hell did you agree to come back? You’re miserable.”

“I wouldn’t say miserable,” Ryan countered defensively, resting his hand above his head on the door. “I screwed up today, but I’ll be back in it tomorrow.”

“Ryan, we were partners a long time. I know you.” Joe settled his hands on his hips, staring directly into Ryan’s eyes. “You don’t have off days. You never have. Today was mediocre for some, but for you? I didn’t know you could get sidetracked and you did. That right there tells me you don’t belong here. Your heart has found somewhere else to be.”

Ryan stared at Joe for a second, then busted into a fit of laughter. “Partner, are you watching too many talk shows and getting in touch with your feelings?”

Joe shrugged. “Maybe I don’t want to see you throw something away just to win a championship.”

“I don’t care about winning,” Ryan told his partner. “I care about getting that for you.”

“When I called you, you never mentioned how fast or how deep your roots were already. I honestly assumed you’d be chomping at the bit to have another round on the circuit, even if there’s only seven weeks left in the season.”

Ryan nodded. “Probably had you called when I first left, I would’ve felt that way, but something changed when I went home. I know I went with every intention of starting a school for kids, but there was so much more than that.”

He’d fallen in love.

Yeah, he could freely admit it now. He was spurs over chaps in love with Piper Kindred.

“Do I need to search for another partner?” Joe asked, a knowing grin spreading across his face.

Ryan nodded. “It might be best. I won’t leave you until you have someone.”

Joe nodded. “I’m going to miss you, man. But I’ve never seen you so unhappy doing something you love. Whoever this woman is, you must love her a whole lot to replace the rodeo.”

Ryan laughed. “You remember the rodeo star from when we were younger, Walker Kindred? I’m in love with his daughter.”

Joe’s eyes widened. “Wow. Wasn’t she your best friend in school or something?”

“Yeah. Now she’s the woman I’m going to marry.”

Joe smiled. “Good for you. We’ll start looking for a new partner as soon as possible. If you have to fake an illness or injury to get out, I got your back, partner. Why don’t you go on home? We have the next two days off and I’m sure I can ask Dillon to step up.”

“Thanks, man.” Ryan reached one arm out, pulling his friend into the male version of a hug, one arm around the neck with a hard pat on the back. “Now go tell the ladies I’m taken, as well. Introduce them to Dillon.”

Joe lifted his brows. “I’m pretty sure he already went off with a lady earlier. But I’ll break the news gently that you’re off the market.”

After Ryan closed the door, he was more anxious than ever to call Piper. But what if she shot him down? A phone call was so...impersonal. He didn’t want to be a coward about this, but he also didn’t want to take the easy route, either.

He was only in Dallas. Thankfully they weren’t that far from Royal. He’d rent a car and drive. It was only six hours. Or he could check on flights. Surely there was something that would get him home soon. Even if he had to pay a private pilot—that would be the best money he’d ever spent.

But before he could approach her, he had to lay some groundwork. He wanted to be able to go to her with absolute certainty that what they had was real, was the beginning of a lifelong commitment.

* * *

Piper had never made Thanksgiving dinner. Having a dinner for one was so...depressing and a waste of time. But now that her father was back, she figured she’d better at least give it a try. If she botched it up, at least they could laugh and have a good story to tell later.

Tags: Jules Bennett Romance