Gentling the Cowboy (Page 57)

Gentling the Cowboy (Texan Nights Series #1)(57)
Author: Ruth Cardello

Clasping her hands in front of her, Melanie said, “Are you firing me?”

“Damn, I’m not good at this, am I? I’m trying to tell you that you and Jace have a home, no matter what changes around here.”

Eyes glistening with emotion, Melanie hugged the paper to her stomach and said, “You’re a good man, Tony Carlton, and I was wrong. You don’t need my advice. You just go get Sarah. You’ll have no trouble talking her into forgiving you.”

“I was hoping to keep the actual talking to a minimum,” Tony said with a straight face, then winked.

Melanie laughed softly, then her expression turned serious and she said, “Just tell her how you feel, Tony, and you can’t go wrong.”

I will, Tony thought.

This time I will.

Sitting at a small wooden desk in the living room of her temporary apartment on Melanie’s parents’ ranch in Telson, Sarah wrote the two most satisfying words across an entire page of her notebook: The End.

She’d written not only one, but two short books. No, they weren’t perfect. They needed revisions, but she’d done it. She’d created a world of characters she felt others would enjoy.

They say write what you know, so I did.

Tempted (in Texas)

Torn (in Telson)

By Breshall Haas

Sure, Texas wasn’t as specific as Telson, but it sounded a whole lot better than Mussed in Mavis. Or Fucked at Fort . . . see, that didn’t even work.

Tempted was a powerful title that described the incredible journey she’d been on. A better version of it, anyway. No midnight nervous-fart-releasing laps around a cabin.

And Torn. Well, any writer will tell you that the worst of what you endure can inspire the best fiction.

Book three will have to wait until I find my own hero. Or at least until I think of another title that starts with a “T” besides “Tragic.”

She thought back to her first impression of Tony and the title for the last book came to her: Taken. In the cabin and for a short time following their return from it, she’d glimpsed what it would be like to belong to Tony. In the end, he just wasn’t where she was—and knowing how painful it was to be held hostage by the past made Sarah feel more sympathetic toward Tony than angry. He would have loved her if he’d been capable of it.

This is not the end of my story. I will have a happy ending because I’m determined to.

Thank you, Tony.

I may never have found my voice if I hadn’t found you first. She smiled as she remembered how they’d met. Or you found me. Whatever.

You didn’t give me your heart, but you gave me confidence and courage. In some weird, twisted way, you even gave me back my family.

“Twisted.” Hmm. Also a possible title. Sarah flipped her notebook open and jotted it down. The words on the page blurred and she saw Tony with painful clarity in her mind. I wish I knew you were better off because of our time together. What did I give you? Sarah blushed as vivid memories of their nights together returned in force. Besides that.

I chased you, cornered you, and then pushed you to be someone you’re not.

No wonder it didn’t work out.

You kept telling me you weren’t ready, but I heard only what I wanted to hear.

Sarah thought back to their time together at the cabin and what he’d shared when he’d opened up to her. He hadn’t always been incapable of love. He’d loved Missy, the mare he’d trained that his father had sold. How old had he said he’d been? Twelve? That would have been eighteen years ago. Could she still be alive? Depending on how old she was when he’d trained her, she could be. Some horses lived into their thirties.

But how would I even begin to look for her?

Dean.

Sarah contacted him through the Fort Mavis Sheriff Department. After all, this was sort of a community service request. It was for a member of his community.

Dean didn’t require much convincing. It was a long shot and he told her so, but he promised to look into it. Unbelievably, he called the next morning and, after checking with Steve and Cindy, Sarah hitched her empty trailer. Missy was with a family a couple of hours away, and now that their children had all grown and gone, she was a pasture pet. They weren’t looking to sell her, but that didn’t stop Sarah.

I’m not leaving without her.

I don’t care what she costs.

I’ll bring her home, clean her up, and call David. He’ll know the best way to deliver her to Tony.

Chapter Twenty-three

It was late morning when Tony pulled into the driveway of Melanie’s parents’ house. Melanie had told him to park near the barn because Sarah was staying in the in-law apartment on the back of the house.

Sarah’s car wasn’t parked where Melanie had said it would be, and she didn’t answer his knock on her door. So much for surprising her.

Tony walked to the main house and bypassed the doorbell for a more satisfying thundering knock on the door. A young brown-haired woman, who appeared to be in her early twenties, opened the door. Her eyes rounded at the sight of him. “Oh,” she said, “you’re not supposed to be here.”

“Where is Sarah?” Tony demanded. When he’d rehearsed his speech on the way over, it hadn’t occurred to him that she might not be there.

“She’s not here,” the woman said.

“That much is obvious,” Tony said, quickly losing his patience.

An older woman’s voiced called out from inside the house, “Who is it, Bunny?”

“It’s Tony Carlton,” the young woman called back.

“What’s he doing here?” the woman asked, not waiting for the answer before rushing to her daughter’s side to find out for herself. The elegantly dressed woman held out a hand in greeting. “Mr. Carlton, what a surprise.”

Tony reluctantly shook it. “Ma’am. I came to see Sarah. Melanie told me she’s staying with you.”

“She is, but she went out to run an errand this morning. I’ll tell her you dropped by.”

“I’ll wait,” Tony stated with determination.

“Mom, he can’t. It’ll ruin everything.”

“Bunny, stop. Does it really matter how he finds out?”

Tony’s temper began to rise. What don’t they want me to know? Did I leave Sarah alone for too long? Did she find someone else? If so, I hope she’s not overly attached to a man I’m going to kill when I meet him. Between gritted teeth, Tony asked, “Find out what?”

The sound of a car entering the driveway caught Tony’s attention. He didn’t wait for an answer to his question; he strode down the steps and headed toward Sarah’s apartment. It was Sarah driving her SUV with the horse trailer in tow. She parked next to the barn and jumped out, rushing to the side of his truck and looking around.