Gentling the Cowboy (Page 55)

Gentling the Cowboy (Texan Nights Series #1)(55)
Author: Ruth Cardello

Tony took the phone from Melanie and raised an eyebrow at her. She took the hint and left the kitchen, giving him his privacy.

“Tony Carlton,” Tony said abruptly and waited.

“Mr. Carlton.” An enthusiastic male voice echoed his name. “You don’t know what an honor it is to finally get to speak with you. Normally, I don’t get past your ranch manager.”

Leaning back against his kitchen counter, Tony asked impatiently, “Who is this?”

In a rush, the man said, “Sorry, my name is Gerry Hamilton. I represent Dolan’s Children’s Fund.”

“David handles donations,” Tony said dismissively and prepared to hang up.

“We’re not looking for a donation. Well, not exactly. We’d like you to host a horse expo we’ve been putting together. A big name like you would bring the crowds. All you’d have to do is a couple demonstrations. We’d handle the rest. The proceeds go to our nonprofit foundation . . .”

“I don’t do public appearances anymore.”

“Yes, but you’re still a celebrity. People remember you.”

Unfortunately. “I’m sorry, I wish I could help you, but—”

“Mr. Carlton, we need you. The Dolan’s Fund was created by a local widow who wanted to help families with sick children. We work with hospitals throughout Texas to make sure families who need to travel with their children for treatments can afford to. We’ve been doing this for twenty-eight years, but in this economy it’s harder and harder to find donors.”

Rubbing a hand over his forehead in frustration, Tony said, “How much do you need?”

“Of course we’d take a cash donation, but this event has the potential of bringing in a significant amount, especially if you agree to host it. Please reconsider the host spot,” the man said urgently.

Sarah’s voice echoed in his head. Sometimes it’s not enough to just be sorry.

“Call back and give David all the details and we’ll make this happen.”

“Thank you so much. You won’t be sorry. This is going to be—”

Tony hung up the phone on the man.

On impulse, he dialed Evan Staten’s secretary and asked to speak to him. He was put through, which he took as a sign that what he was about to ask might be well received.

“Mr. Staten, I’d like to talk to you about an idea I’ve had.” Tony told Evan about the phone call he’d received and how he’d agreed to host the expo for charity. He paused, then added, “I’m considering some demonstrations on how to gentle a horse without violence and possibly give some riding safety tips. With your permission, I’d like to dedicate those demonstrations to Kimberly.”

At first Evan said nothing, then in an angry voice he demanded, “What makes you think I’d agree to something like this?”

After inhaling deeply, Tony said quietly, “It’s a good cause and her name will be spoken there regardless of who says it first, me or the press. I think she’d rather be mentioned boldly and have her death help others than be whispered about.”

After a long pause, Evan said, “That’s exactly what she’d want.” In a much more robust tone, he said, “I’d like to be a part of this expo. If my little girl is going to be there, I want it to be the best goddamn expo the state of Texas has ever seen.”

“Yes, sir.”

“My wife will be happy when she hears about this. I told her that you came to see me and she cried, but she said it was a good kind of cry. She’ll like this,” Evan said, his voice sounding suddenly certain, like a part of him was coming back to life. “It’ll be good for all of us.”

I hope so.

Tony told Evan he’d send him the information and then he hung up and placed the phone on the counter beside him.

You did good, Kimberly.

You did good.

It was as if a weight had lifted from Tony. I can do this. I may not be able to ever bring Kimberly back, but I can do something in her name that will bring comfort to others. I can be a better man.

A man who is not afraid to love.

A man worthy of a woman like Sarah.

With a smile on his face, Tony went into the barn to look for David, who must have heard him because he was walking down the aisle of the barn to meet him. Tony didn’t stop. He walked straight up to him and hugged him. David shoved him away.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Are you drunk?” David asked.

“Better than drunk. I’m back.” Tony noticed one of the ranch hands in the background, looking like he wanted—but was afraid—to laugh at the scene. Tony said, “Laugh, I won’t fire you. I may never fire anyone ever again.”

David turned to the ranch hand and said, “Don’t listen to him. Go clean out the side paddocks.” When the young man didn’t immediately move, David added, “Before I fire you.” That put some speed beneath the young man’s feet.

Alone again, David studied Tony’s eyes. “What are you on?”

Tony shook his head, still trying to label whatever had suddenly made the sun shine brighter and everything seem possible. “Nothing.”

Looking doubtful, David pushed back his hat and asked, “Are you smiling?”

I guess I am. “I went to see your old boss the other day, Evan Staten.”

If possible, David looked even more concerned about Tony’s sanity. “And that put you in a good mood?”

Said that way, I can see his point. The meeting itself was only part of it. “It helped me sort out some things. Sarah was right: being sorry wasn’t enough. I need to do something, and I intend to. I’m going to host a charity expo for the Dolan Fund. Don’t look so surprised—you told Melanie to give me the phone.”

“Yes,” David drawled slowly. “I guess I never thought you’d agree to it.”

“Well, I did,” Tony said proudly.

Brows together, David studied him. “I know, and I’m not sure what that means yet.”

Tony stepped closer to David, suddenly serious, and said, “I never thanked you for everything you’ve done for me.”

David took a step back. “Don’t hug me again.”

Feeling happier than he’d ever felt, Tony said, “Invite everyone to dinner tonight at my house. I have a few things I need to say.”

“I’ll do it even though it goes against my better judgment.”

Satisfied, Tony almost walked away but then stopped and asked, “Hey, how do you get paid when you don’t have access to my bank accounts? How does anyone here get paid?” He couldn’t believe he didn’t know, but then again, he’d never cared enough to ask. David had always handled the business side, filed the taxes, cut the checks for everyone.