Taken, Not Spurred (Page 45)

Taken, Not Spurred (Lone Star Burn #1)(45)
Author: Ruth Cardello

And me?

Sarah put on her brightest smile. “David, I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know the names of everyone at this table. Will you introduce me?”

Like Tony should have, but he’d have to want them to like me to do that, and he doesn’t believe I’m staying. Maybe I’m not, but does he have to treat me like I don’t matter in front of his men?

David said, “Yes, ma’am. You’ve met Jace, Melanie’s son.” David pointed to each of the men around the table, and each stood in greeting as he did. “Lucas is the one with red hair. He helps out with most of the exercising and has been here the longest. Sawyer’s sitting on his left. He can stay on a horse better than any man I’ve ever met. Really should be in the rodeo, but he says there’s too much left to learn here. Then Austin and Gunnar. They are brothers, and if you want to have some fun, ask them which one was born first. They’re fraternal twins and their mama won’t tell them who is the older. Then there’s Travis. He’s new this year, which means Tony hasn’t fired him yet.”

Tony frowned at his manager. “Are you saying you keep rehiring the same people?”

David shrugged. “Some. You never noticed, and they’re hard workers.”

Sarah took a sip of lemonade to hide her smile. She didn’t dare look at Tony, because she knew she wouldn’t be able to contain the laughter bubbling within her.

Tony didn’t appear as amused. He said, “So, you all think this is a fu—”

Sarah laid a hand on his arm and shook it, stopping him midword. She looked at Jace and back at him, raising both of her eyebrows with meaning.

“Damn joke,” Tony finished, growling out his amendment.

Dean roared with laughter and David said, “It’s almost sad to watch, isn’t it?”

Dean said, “Sad or entertaining? It’s a tough call.”

Tony stood. “I’ll entertain you with my fist in a minute if you don’t shut up.”

Dean also stood and took off his badge and gun, laying them on the table beside the steak he’d barely touched. “It might be time for you to try it, Tony. Instead of pretending you want me here, why don’t you give throwing me out your best shot?”

Oh no you don’t, Sarah thought. She couldn’t take it anymore. It was all going wrong. They weren’t supposed to be laughing at Tony. The dinner was supposed to bring them all together. If she couldn’t make the dinner work, how could she ever make things between Tony and herself work? Sarah jumped to her feet and threw her napkin down beside her plate. The whole evening was a huge disappointment. “Stop it right now!” Everyone froze at her harsh tone. “No wonder Tony doesn’t eat with you people. They say Northerners are rude, but you have us beat. I don’t know how you think you should behave toward your host, but you should all be ashamed of yourselves.” She spun and focused her irritation on Tony. “And you. Did you really just threaten to punch someone over a stupid remark? You know how much I wanted tonight to be nice. Melanie won’t have to poison me to get rid of me. I can’t imagine staying here another day. So, go ahead, kill each other or spend another five years not talking. I don’t care. I’m done.”

She walked back to the house, head held high, and slammed the front door behind her.

Melanie was the first to speak after Sarah left. “Well, I feel like an ass.”

Her son said, “Isn’t that a bad word, Mama?”

She ruffled his hair and smiled. “Yes, it is. Don’t say it when you go to school or your teachers will give you the same lecture Sarah just gave us.”

Tony watched the light in his room go on, followed by the light in the spare bedroom, and he knew his plans for that night had just changed. He wasn’t going to chase her, but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel badly about how it’d turned out.

In the quiet late-evening air, no one spoke. Then Melanie interrupted the silence, saying, “Just for the record, I never actually threatened to poison her. I only implied I might.”

Dean said, “You sure picked a high-strung one, Tony.”

David leaned back in his chair, noting the upstairs activity as Sarah continued to move back and forth between the two bedrooms. “We may have driven her to it a bit.”

In the face of the truth, Dean’s stance softened. He looked at Tony and said, “I didn’t mean to ruin the evening.”

Tony let out a slow sigh. “I don’t actually want to punch you.”

Dean crossed the short distance between them and stood shoulder to shoulder with his brother. “Don’t let her leave.”

Across the table, David chimed in. “She did bring us together. We may need a woman around here.”

Melanie punched him in the arm. “And what am I?”

David rubbed his arm and said, “You know what I mean.”

Temper rising, Melanie snarled, “No, I don’t know what you mean.”

Tony practically jumped when he felt a small hand touch his. He looked down and found Jace, Melanie’s son, at his side. “Just tell her you’re sorry. That’s what Mama tells me to do when I do something wrong.”

Shaking his head, Tony looped a thumb in his jeans pocket. “It’s not always that easy, son.”

Jace mimicked Tony’s stance, right down to watching Sarah’s shadow go from room to room as she moved her things down the hall. “Yes, it is. You say you’re sorry and she says okay. That’s how it works.”

Dean added his opinion from Tony’s other side. “I’m with Jace on this one.”

Jace puffed up with pride at the endorsement from his other idol.

Squaring his shoulders, Tony said, “I’m not real good with words, but I owe her that much, I suppose.” More gruffly he added, “She’s right about our behavior. We’re out of practice when it comes to being civil. We might need to eat together once a week so y’all don’t embarrass yourselves like this again.” After a moment, he added, “You, too, Dean. You’re the worst of the bunch.”

He didn’t wait for their response to his announcement as he had much more pressing matters on his mind. Like how to get his little blonde angel’s pink-and-green checkered luggage out of the guest room and back where it belonged.

Sarah was still fuming ten minutes later when she heard the sound of Tony’s heavy boots on the main stairs. She peered out the small window in the guest room and saw Melanie and the men gathering up the plates and clearing the table.