Gentling the Cowboy (Page 56)

Gentling the Cowboy (Texan Nights Series #1)(56)
Author: Ruth Cardello

David took a moment before answering, then said, “I bought the first horses we trained here and started an account with the money we got from selling them. We’ve been splitting the profits since then and paying everyone from that fund.”

“So you never actually worked for me.”

David shrugged.

“No wonder I can’t remember hiring you.” The realization of how detached he’d become from his own life was a bit frightening. “I don’t know why you stayed, but I’m glad you did.”

David looked away, then said, “Get your overly happy ass out of the barn and find Melanie. She deserves to meet this new you.”

Tony smiled, imagining the look on Mel’s face when he did. She’ll probably think I’m on drugs, too, but it doesn’t matter.

“Wake up before you die alone like our father will,” Dean had warned.

I’m awake, and I’m not wasting any more time.

I am going to make things right.

Now where is my favorite angry housekeeper? If she knows where Sarah is, I may have to hug her, too.

Later that night, David, Tony, Melanie, Jace, and the ranch hands stood in the kitchen of the main house. The men had devoured the country-fried chicken and had moved along to the more serious matter of dessert. Plates in hand, they packed away pieces of Texas sheet cake.

The initial feeling of euphoria that had followed his conversation with Kimberly’s father had passed, leaving Tony with the reality of what he would have to do to piece his life back together. Tony cleared his throat. “I wanted everyone here tonight so I wouldn’t have to say this twice. I intend to make some changes around here.”

The room fell silent, a general level of apprehension growing as he took a moment to choose his words. Even David looked a bit concerned. “David has done a damn good job running this place, but I’ll be more involved from today forward. I’ll be hosting an expo for Dolan’s Fund sometime in the near future. The coverage will likely be national. Things will change when we open ourselves to the public. I’ve been there. The press runs with whatever you say, so keep your mouths shut, learn the game, and you might be able to spin these events into a career for yourselves. I don’t mind saying that I want y’all working on this with me. David’s not going anywhere. Y’all, however, need to understand what has changed. I’m going to try real hard to keep my temper to myself, but from this day forward if I fire anyone—there is no way back.”

David looked on and nodded with approval.

“Now get out of here while I’m still in a good mood.”

The ranch hands hastily put their dishes in the sink and retreated.

Melanie shook her head at his behavior and Tony shrugged, a hint of a smile pulling at one side of his mouth. “I couldn’t let them think I’m getting soft.”

David chuckled. “There is very little risk of that, but it’s good for them to know that you’ll be watching them, too. They respect your skill with the horses, now they’ll respect you as their boss.”

“They won’t be happy at first,” Melanie said, “but they’ll adjust. I’m sure the idea of working on something public like you said will be a real motivator for them, too.”

“Things are going to change quickly,” Tony said, then pinned Melanie and David with a look. “Which one of you is going to tell me where Sarah is?”

Melanie looked to David for confirmation that she should. He nodded. “She’s staying with my family in Telson. It’s about a two-hour drive from here.”

Tony checked the clock on the wall and was surprised at how late it was. “I suppose I’ll go collect her in the morning.”

Throwing her hands up for emphasis, Melanie said, “She’s been sitting there for weeks stewing about how it’s over between the two of you. Do you really think you can just go there and pack her up like she’s a horse and bring her home?”

Yes?

No?

“She loves me,” Tony said.

Melanie put a hand on one hip and said, “That’s not going to stop her from throwing something at your head if you don’t do this right.”

Remembering how beautiful his little blonde angel looked with her cheeks flushed and her br**sts heaving with anger, Tony said, “I don’t mind a little temper in a woman.”

Melanie covered her eyes and groaned. “David, don’t let him ruin what could be his only chance to bring her back. I really like Sarah.”

David held up two hands before him and said, “What makes me the relationship expert?”

Forgotten during the post-dinner meeting, Jace grabbed Tony’s hand and said, “You should listen to my mama, she knows everything.”

Melanie ruffled her son’s hair. “You tell ’em, Jace.”

David said, “My mother always said that God made kids cute when they were little so parents could cling to those memories in their teens.”

“As long as he doesn’t turn out like the two of you, I’ll be happy,” Melanie joked.

Tony looked down at his young advisor and said, “Jace, could you go check on the barn with David? I need a moment alone with your mother.”

Jace hesitated, not letting go of Tony’s hand until he clarified something. “You mad at her?”

Shaking his head, Tony said, “Not at all.” He smiled down at Jace. “Besides, in a scrap, I’m pretty sure she’d win.”

David said, “Come on, Jace. Let’s go see how our pregnant mare is doing. She’s looking ready to foal. Maybe tonight. You can name the new one if you’re there.” With one last look at Tony and Melanie, Jace agreed and followed David out the door.

When they were gone, Tony took out a folded piece of paper and handed it to Melanie. She opened it, gasped, and tried to hand it back to him. “I can’t accept this.”

“The property sits on the edge of mine. You can keep it or sell it, but I want you to have it. Jace deserves a place he can call his own and so do you. I spent a lot of time thinking over the past few weeks. This ranch has been my sanctuary and my curse—so well insulated from the world that I didn’t have to face what had driven me here. I think it’s been the same for you. It’s not going to be like that once we start dealing with the public again. There’ll be no place to hide. I’m hoping you see this as an opportunity, but if you don’t, you can take the money from that house and buy a place more private.”