Sarah sighed and didn’t.
Lucy continued, this time sounding a bit desperate. “You don’t know what it has been like here. I had no idea how badly we were doing until right before you arrived. We could lose everything, Sarah. My brother missed five months of mortgage payments. The bank is threatening foreclosure. We’ve been scrambling to sell whatever we can to hold them off.”
Sarah sat down in the chair behind her. She didn’t want to feel anything but anger toward her old friend. “You should have told me. I could have helped you figure it out.”
After a quiet moment, Lucy said, “I didn’t want you to see me like this. I was embarrassed.”
Rubbing a pounding temple, Sarah said, “So the better option was to leave me stranded in a part of the country I’ve never been in before?”
“Stranded?” Lucy’s voice sharpened. “You said you were staying with friends.”
I lied, Sarah wanted to scream. Pride makes people say stupid things, apparently. It can even kill what I thought was a solid friendship. Maybe it’s time to just pack up, admit this adventure is a complete disaster, and call Charlie.
“I had no idea you knew Tony Carlton.” Lucy said his name like he was famous or something. “Do you know what most people would do to visit his ranch just once? He’s a big deal around here.” After another awkward pause, Lucy said, “I know you’re still angry with me, but I need your help. My brother and I both do. Maybe the bank wouldn’t care, but could you ask Tony to call and ask them to give us just one more month? I’m working a deal with someone to buy our herd. It would be enough to bring us up to date. I just need one more month.”
Dismay filled Sarah. “I can’t do that.” Because there’s a good chance we’re not talking to each other anymore.
“Please, Sarah. Don’t say no.” Her friend’s voice broke a bit with emotion. “My brother would kill me if he knew I was asking you, but this ranch has been in our family for five generations. Steven gave up everything to keep it going after my parents died. I didn’t know how much it meant to me until I came back to it, and now we’re going to lose it. I can’t tell you how sorry I am about what happened when you first got here, but I was in shock. I had just gotten the news. Please, one phone call. I made a mistake, and it’s one I deeply regret. Haven’t you ever done something you wish you could undo?”
Low blow, Texas.
“How would a call from a horse trainer convince a bank to do anything?”
“I’m only guessing, but a man with as much money as he has must have it spread around. If he has a good portion of it at our bank, maybe they’d bend the rules to try to keep his business?”
Resigning herself, Sarah said, “I’ll ask him, but I doubt he’ll say yes.” She remembered his words earlier: I don’t have time for other people’s problems.
Lucy let out a shaky sigh that was laced with tears of relief. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
“I’m not promising anything,” Sarah warned.
Lucy’s voice was thick with tears. “I understand and I know this doesn’t mean that everything is okay with us again, but I really am sorry.”
“I’ll call you when I know something,” Sarah said, and hung up.
That might take a while, though. I’m not sure I know anything anymore.
Sarah found Tony outside, giving Scooter fresh water in his paddock. Her heart warmed at the sight until she remembered the many reasons she wanted to kick Tony in the shin.
He said, “Did you sort it out with Melanie?”
Sarah nodded. “She was very nice and seemed to sincerely want me to stay with her, but I said no.”
There was a beat of silence, then Tony asked, “You staying in the spare room, then?”
Shaking her head, Sarah said, “No, I can’t see how that’s a good idea, either. I’d head out tonight, but the places on the way back are booked for now. I’ll probably leave Scooter here for a few days if that’s okay and find a place in town. I’m sure I can find something if I can use your phone.
Tony looked as grim as she’d ever seen him but said nothing.
What do I have to lose? “I do have something I wanted to ask for, though. A favor. I know you don’t like getting involved, but this could really help someone I know.” Amazing how those green eyes can look right through a person and hide so much at the same time. Sarah looked down at her white sneakers in a protective move of her own. Okay, here goes nothing.
“Remember my friend Lucy?”
“The one who ditched you the first day you were here?”
“Yeah, that one. Well, we talked, and it sounds like she did it because she’s in a rough spot financially. I don’t know why she thinks that a phone call from you would convince her bank to give her and her brother more time to settle what they owe, but she asked me to ask you.” Sarah raised her eyes from studying the toes of her sneakers to meet his. “So, I’m asking you. Would you do that for me?”
Let’s play a game.
How many ways can a cowboy say “I don’t care about other people?”
In five, four, three . . .
Tony closed the gate behind him. “I’ll make that call for you.”
Sarah almost sank to her knees in shock, but she steadied herself by holding on to the railing of the paddock.
Tony pulled her away from the railing and into his arms. His lips hovered over hers, his eyes glittering with a passion she’d begun to believe had died when their trip had ended. “On one condition.”
“Yes?” Sarah asked, and licked her lower lip.
He buried a hand in the back of her hair and tipped her head up until her lips parted for him. “You stay. In my room, in my bed. Mine, whenever I want you.”
Sarah swayed in his arms, wanting to deny him even as her body begged for his touch. He was so close to being the man she knew he could be. Softly she said, “You could simply ask me not to go.”
His hand tightened in her hair. “I don’t want to date you. I don’t want to discuss what we have. But I do want you. You’re all I can think about.”
Sarah stiffened in his arms. Or you could continue to be a complete ass. “The only way you could make this worse is if you offered to pay me.”
“I can if that’s what you want. I could pay off whatever your friend owes, and it wouldn’t make a dent in what I still have from my old career.”