Gentling the Cowboy (Page 23)

Gentling the Cowboy (Texan Nights Series #1)(23)
Author: Ruth Cardello

First sex-starved, now paranoid.

Just remember, Texas, I’m writing a romance novel, not a thriller.

I’ll be fine with just a few weeks of memorable sex.

No need to scare the shit out of me.

This was a mistake.

When he’d chosen Fort Mavis, he’d done so for the acreage of the ranch he’d found and not much else. He’d considered the small population of Fort Mavis, even in the town’s center, a perk. The fewer people around, the less there are to avoid. In his years of traveling to train horses all over the world, he’d forgotten the problem with small communities: Everyone knows everything. Instantly.

Bad enough that the afternoon’s madness had been witnessed, but the amused looks from ranch hands who normally feared him was enough to set his temper boiling. David had ordered some parts for one of the tractors from the local mechanic. Tony’d hoped that coming into town would give him a chance to clear his head. He could tell by the way people watched him park his truck that the story had already spread to town.

He wasn’t two steps out of his vehicle when a group of three young men, all in their late teens, approached him.

Shit.

One of them leaned against his truck while the other two flanked him.

There’s a reason I hate people.

“What kind of trainer loses horses?” one of the boys sneered as he asked.

Without turning to look at the boy, Tony growled, “Get off my truck.”

His sidekick scowled and said, “You think we’re afraid of you. We aren’t.”

He recognized two of the boys as Russell White’s sons, a man he’d fired the season before when he’d heard that he’d sold photos from Tony’s barn to the tabloids. The man hadn’t left without a fuss. What was it about successfully silencing one man with a punch that made others want to test if you could silence them, too?

“I won’t warn you again.” When none of the boys moved, Tony half turned and grabbed the one who was leaning on his truck by the neck, pinning him to the vehicle and lifting the boy onto his toes. He looked the other two squarely in the eyes and they each took a step back.

“Let Keith go, Tony,” Dean said from a few feet away.

Tony let the kid slide down the side of the truck and released him.

Gasping for air, Keith said, “Did you see that, Sheriff? He tried to kill me.”

Another of the boys jeered, “He won’t do nothing about it. They’re brothers.”

Pointing at Tony, Keith said, “When I tell my father that you tried to strangle me, he’ll kill you.”

Tony shrugged.

Dean said, “We’ll have no talk of killing in my town, Keith. The only thing you’ll get from your dad if you tell him this story is a butt whupping. Funny thing about trouble is that if you go looking for it, you’ll always find it. Shouldn’t you and your friends be painting Mary Karen’s house? I heard that’s what you told your father you needed time off the farm to get done.”

Despite the glare the tallest boy gave Dean, he said, “Yes, sir.”

“Then y’all get along now.”

Shooting a final glare at Tony, Keith said, “Come on, guys, he’s not worth the trouble.”

Tony let out a sigh as his adrenaline ebbed. He shook his head and started walking away as if nothing had happened.

Dean fell into step beside him. “That temper of yours will get you killed one day.”

Without looking across at his brother, Tony said, “You warning or hoping?”

“If I wanted you dead, why would I keep saving your hide?”

Tony glared at Dean. “No one asked you to.”

“You are the hardest son of a bitch to like, do you know that?”

“Then stay the hell away from me.”

Dean put a hand on Tony’s shoulder to stop him. “When are you going to look around and realize that everyone is not against you? Your worst enemy is yourself. This is a nice town. You’d see that if you let yourself.”

Tony brushed his brother’s hand off him and kept walking. “Yeah, they prove how nice they are every time I visit. That right there was a f**king lovefest.”

Dean stopped and called after him. “You can’t be an ass**le every day of the week and expect people to open their arms to you. Those boys have been working odd jobs ever since you fired their dad. Russell’s wife is sick. No one agreed with him selling photos of your place, but he’s struggling financially what with trying to pay for his wife’s doctor bills.”

Tony stopped midstep and turned around to face his brother. He said quietly, “I didn’t know that.”

“You wouldn’t because you don’t talk to anyone.”

Uncomfortable with the knowledge he’d just received, Tony grated, “Are we done now?”

Dean folded his arms across his chest. “Almost. You know that girl you have out at your place?”

Tony gave a curt nod.

“The whole town knows what you’re doing with her up there. She didn’t appear to be the kind of woman who would welcome that reputation.”

A wave of anger swept through Tony. “What happens on my ranch is no one’s business.”

Dean shook his head. “In a town like this, it’s everyone’s business. It just seemed to me like she was the type of woman you might want to treat with a bit more respect.”

“She’s nothing to me.”

Dean dropped his arms, stepped back, tipped his hat, and smiled a bit sarcastically. “My mistake. Then I guess it doesn’t matter to you what people think of her.”

Tony strode off toward the garage, hating the way his brother’s words echoed in his head as he went.

Chapter Nine

Time is extremely subjective.

A day of lovemaking and excitement flies by too quickly, but waiting for a man to return is sweet torture that the slow tick of the clock on the wall does nothing to alleviate.

I’d write that down if I had my notebook.

Of course, where it is promises that I’ll have much more to write about tomorrow.

Afternoon turned to evening. Sarah moved from her place on the porch swing to an attempted nonchalant pose on the couch in the living room. She dug a book out of her luggage and tried to escape into another world but failed. As night darkened the windows, she couldn’t help but return to swing on the porch.

With their earlier excursions in mind, Sarah had changed into a mint green sundress with thin straps made from a material thick enough to conceal that for the first time in her life she’d gone commando. Her flimsy sandals were easy enough to slip off if the right situation presented itself. There was a lot she didn’t know about men, but she was fairly certain that after the day she and Tony had had, he’d quickly forget whatever had taken him to town and come for her.