Authors: Cheyenne McCray
Tags: #western romance, #western, #Cheyenne McCray, #suspense, #romantic suspense, #Arizona, #Dude Ranch
Sabrina nodded. “She sounds like a pretty incredible woman.”
“She sure is.” Wyatt looked down at Sabrina. “What about you?”
“I have a good-sized family—three sisters,” she said. “My parents are divorced but they get along. I also have a big extended family. Lots of cousins, uncles, aunts, and all four grandparents.”
“Where’s your family?” he asked. “Here in southern Arizona?”
“Tucson.” She nodded. “I’ll be going to visit my mom at least once a week while I’m in Patagonia because she’s not doing so well.”
“What made you decide to spend the summer in Patagonia?”
“It makes for a nice getaway.” She cleared her throat, not wanting to give an explanation. “I’d better get back inside. Carly is going to wonder what happened to me.”
“You’re probably right.” He jumped off the tailgate, grasped her around the waist, and she laughed as he swung her down so that her feet landed on the gravel. She liked the feel of his hands on her, the warmth of his touch.
She met his gaze and she swallowed hard as she looked into his vivid blue eyes. He was all power and virility, a strength in his presence that she could feel through his touch. She wondered what his hair looked like beneath his Stetson, what he might look like with no shirt on. She imagined the way his muscles would flex as he held her and the warmth of his arms around her.
Tingles ran through her body as she tried to clear her mind of those thoughts, but it was almost impossible.
For a long moment he held onto her waist and looked down at her like he wanted to kiss her and she wanted it so much. Too much.
“I want to see you again,” he said as he reached up and touched her hair.
“I…” She looked down at her feet then met his gaze again. Unable to think of some way to tell him no, she took a step back, separating them.
“Don’t let this make you think I’m taking ‘no’ for an answer.” He gave her a soft smile. “I think there’s some kind of connection between us and we need to explore it a little more. A lot more.”
“Carly’s probably worried about me,” Sabrina said, trying to think of some way to put Wyatt off.
“Sweetheart, there are only so many times you can change the subject on me.” He gave her a little wink. “I’ll let you pass, this time.”
Grateful he wasn’t going to press her, she let him take her hand and they walked back inside the bar.
Early the next morning, still wearing the T-shirt and shorts she wore as pj’s, Sabrina wandered out of Carly’s guest bedroom. She walked past Carly’s office where she did a lot of her writing. She was a published author with an extensive collection of books that she’d written.
She yawned as she pushed hair out of her eyes and padded in her bare feet on the cool tile, then entered the kitchen. Something smelled wonderful, like cinnamon and peaches.
“Talk about bedhead.” Carly grinned as she looked up from the clear glass bowl of white batter she was stirring. “You look like you just walked out of a wind tunnel.”
“Good morning to you too, sunshine.” Sabrina covered up another yawn. “I think I got to bed too late last night.”
“I can’t believe you didn’t give Wyatt Cameron your cell phone number.” Carly shook her head as she mixed the batter. “Wyatt is one the hottest men I’ve ever met.”
“There’s no denying that.” Sabrina sat on a stool at the breakfast bar. “But you know why I can’t.”
Carly stopped mixing the batter and set the glass bowl beside a griddle on the stove. She propped her hand on her hip and frowned at Sabrina. “Like I’ve said before, I don’t know that at all. You’re beautiful, fun, caring, loving, intelligent, and any other number of adjectives. Any guy would be crazy not to see that. And I don’t think Wyatt is crazy.”
“Thank you.” Sabrina smiled as she fingered the Celtic knot at her throat. “At least you think so.”
Carly rolled her eyes. “I’m making fresh peach crepes. How many do you want?”
“A plateful.” Sabrina climbed off the stool and walked to the stove where Carly was pouring batter on the small, round griddle. “What can I do to help?”
“You can put the peach filling in the crepes, roll them up, and put them on a couple of plates.” Carly gestured toward the cabinet where Sabrina remembered the plates were kept.
The peaches, in cinnamon and sugar, were simmering on a back burner and the smell made her mouth water. As Carly stacked the crepes on a plate, Sabrina filled them and rolled them up, then set them side-by-side on two plates. When they were all made, they put sour cream on top followed by whipped cream.
“Yummmmmmy.” Sabrina carried the two plates to the kitchen nook table and Carly followed with a carton of orange juice and two glasses. The table was already set for two.
It was fun chatting while they ate. Sabrina was busy enjoying her crepes and let Carly do most of the talking.
“So what about that guy, Mike Sharpe?” Sabrina asked after swallowing a mouthful. “Are you going to see him again?”
“Mike’s a nice guy.” Carly shrugged. “Maybe we can double date.”
“Date?” Sabrina shook her head. “I’m not here to start dating. That’s why I didn’t give Wyatt my number, remember?”
“You’ll change your mind.” Carly looked sure of herself. “I don’t think you’ll be able to resist that man.”
“Ha.” Sabrina set her fork down on her plate and sighed. “Those crepes were amazing. You know how to spoil me.”
“I do my best.” Carly gathered their plates and forks and took everything to the sink. “I’m heading to Tucson as soon as everything is cleaned up. Sure you’ll be fine here alone?”
“It will be wonderful to relax and read.” Sabrina grabbed their glasses and the carton of orange juice. She put the glasses on the counter and the juice in the fridge. “I’ll be going to see my mom next week, so I’ll wait until then.”
Sabrina returned to the sink help Carly with the dishes, but her friend waved her off.
“I’ve got this. You go do that crazy hair of yours.” Carly grinned. “Heaven help us if someone stops by and gets a good look at you.”
Sabrina laughed. “All right, all right.”
She headed back to the bedroom and got a good look at herself in the mirror. Carly was right. She looked like she’d put her finger in a light socket.
The mirror didn’t feel like her friend these days. She studied her reflection in the mirror and the way her T-shirt fell straight down without the curves she’d always had.
She felt like she’d gone through every stage of emotion there was. Fear, anger, depression, and grief were only a few.
The counselor had told her she needed realize that her breasts didn’t define who she was. She was still a whole, beautiful woman.
Easier said than done.
She still didn’t want to take her shirt off and look at herself but she forced herself to. Even after the past few months since surgery, she didn’t recognize herself like this with the scarred tissue where once her breasts had been. Doing something as simple as washing herself wasn’t easy to do emotionally.
Eventually she would have reconstructive surgery done, but right now knowing that didn’t change the way that she felt.
She stripped out of the rest of her clothing then headed into the bathroom.
After showering she put on a pair of black panties, her prosthetics bra, a T-shirt, and jean shorts. She grabbed her e-book reader and walked through the living room and out the front door to Carly’s wide porch. It was still early enough that she could recline in the futon on the porch and not get too hot.
With a happy sigh, she settled herself into the futon and put her feet up on a block of wood that Carly used in place of a hassock. The book she’d picked out to read was one of the paranormal romances that Carly had written.
Sabrina loved getting lost in different worlds full of exciting beings like shifters, werewolves, and vampires. There was something about falling into a world where she could find pleasure in the author’s imagination that fueled her own. And most of all to ignore reality for at least a little while.
* * * * *
The cute little Sabrina Holliday hadn’t been far from Wyatt’s mind since the moment she left the bar last night. He’d watched her driving off with her friend, Carly, and it had felt like a little part of him had gone with them.
Crazy thinking, but there was something about her that made him know he had to get to know her better. A whole lot better.
He smiled to himself as his Quarter horse stamped and moved restlessly beneath him, his saddle creaking. It was still early enough in the morning that the summer’s heat wasn’t beating down on everything. His chores were done and he had some other things to take care of.
“Come on, girl.” Wyatt patted the neck of his mare, Senorita. “I think we’re both a little restless today.” He clicked his tongue and they started toward the corrals.
It wasn’t easy getting Sabrina off his mind. The way her hair swung forward over her cheeks was cute and when he looked into the depths of her brown eyes he saw a sensuality that caused his gut to tighten. The way she smiled was enough to send a man over the edge.
He pulled his mount up short as he caught sight of his foreman, Jason Sattler, trotting toward him on his gelding. He pushed up the brim of his hat with one finger as Jason reached him.
“Boss.” Jason was frowning as he brought his mare to a stop. “Saw Derrick Harper in the canyon in the south pasture. He took off as soon as he saw me.”
Wyatt narrowed his gaze. “What the hell was he doing out there?”
Jason shook his head. “I checked the area. Hoof prints, boot prints, and a pile of fresh horseshit were all that was out there.”
“Nothing good follows that sonofabitch.” Wyatt’s jaw tightened. “He has no damned business on Cameron lands and he knows it.”
“Would have liked to have seen what he was up to.” Jason leaned forward in his saddle. “No idea what he’s doing screwing around over there.”
“I might just go have a talk with him.” Wyatt gripped the reins a little tighter. “And make it clear he’s not welcome.”
“Got another piece of news.” Jason looked in the direction of the north pasture before returning his gaze to Wyatt. “I have a couple of the boys repairing a fence line in that pasture. Looked like it was cut with wire cutters and there were two sets of tire tracks.”
“Harper.” Wyatt scowled. “I’d bet it has to do with him and a little drug running.”
“That’s what I was wondering.” Jason nodded. “We’ll keep an eye out.”
“You do that.” Wyatt’s horse shifted beneath him. The mare was asking for a full-out run. “I’m going to head to town. Need anything?”
“We’re running low on grain and sweet oats,” Jason said. “I was planning on a trip to Sharpe’s to pick some up.”
“I’ll take care of it.” Wyatt pulled his hat brim back down. “Let me know if you come across anything strange that might have to do with Harper hanging around.”
“Will do, boss.” Jason turned his horse around and they trotted off toward the corrals.
Wyatt clicked his tongue and tugged the reins in the direction of the barn. Senorita started heading in that direction and he could almost feel her disappointment in not getting a chance to really stretch her legs.
“Not this time, girl.” He patted her neck again. “We’ll make a date of it tomorrow morning.”
Senorita whickered and bobbed her head and seemed a little happier as she headed toward the barn.
* * * * *
Sabrina roused herself as the rumbling sound of a truck engine woke her from her nap. She’d fallen asleep on the futon on Carly’s front porch. When the sun had hit its zenith, she’d gotten drowsy and drifted off in mid-paragraph.
It was later in the afternoon—she’d slept way too long. She moved her e-reader to the small table beside the futon and scooted up so that she could see the big red truck that had just pulled up in front of the house, next to her silver SUV. Her heart started thumping when she saw Wyatt Cameron climb out of the driver’s side.
He settled his straw cowboy hat on his head and headed to the porch. The bowl-shaped futon had slipped back so her feet were dangling in the air. She shifted in the seat and eased out of it. She walked to the top of the stairs and waited for him.
“Hey, Sabrina,” he said as he walked to the bottom step, and she felt a weird little twist in her belly.
“Hi,” she said, her voice almost too quiet to hear.
He looked so good in his jeans and gray work shirt that was open at the collar, showing a glimpse of his T-shirt. His sleeves were rolled up, his tanned forearms brushed with dark hair. She loved looking at his hands and arms, remembering the strength in them as he lifted her onto and off of the tailgate last night. Dust coated his boots and jeans and she could tell he’d been out working.
Her heart leaped. She wanted to say something else but words were lost.
“Mind if I come on up, Sabrina?” he asked, a sexy smile on his handsome face.
“Sure.” She stepped aside. “Come on up.”
He started up the steps and reached her in a few strides. His eyes were such a gorgeous blue as he met her gaze. “You look even more beautiful in the sunshine than you did in the dark.” He stood in front of her looking confident and at ease with himself, not at all the way she was feeling.
“What are you doing here?” She felt a nervous twinge and the question came out not at all like she’d wanted it to. She sounded direct and a little rude.
“I wanted to see you.” His answer was simple and the smile in his eyes didn’t waver.
“How do you know where Carly lives?” Sabrina asked.
“I was at Sharpe’s Feed and Tack and asked.” Wyatt shrugged. “It’s not hard to find someone around here. In a small town like this, everyone knows everyone.”
A nervous excitement skittered through her belly. She knew she shouldn’t be excited to see him, but she was.
“I’m not used to that.” She took a deep breath and pushed ahead before she could change her mind. “I think Carly has some lemonade in the fridge. Do you want a glass?”
“I’d love some.” He gave a nod then took his hat off as they entered the house.
Carly’s home felt cool after being out in the heat and Sabrina realized there was a film of perspiration on her skin. She was acutely aware of how much shorter she was than him, especially in her bare feet.
She felt almost jittery as she retrieved the lemonade from the fridge. She poured them each a glass then handed one to him. “Do you want to sit on the porch?”
With a nod he said, “It’s a nice day.”
He walked with her to the front door then held it open for her and she stepped out onto the porch. She picked one of the armchairs as opposed to the futon this time, her glass in one hand.
Instead of sitting, he leaned one hip against the porch railing and took a long drink.
“Is your ranch near here?” she asked after a sip.
“About fifteen or twenty minutes or so east of here,” he said.
A truck passed by on the street, the sound of its engine fading as it drove away. When she looked at Wyatt he was frowning.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Just thought I saw someone I know.”
“Judging by your expression, it was someone you don’t approve of,” she said.
With a shrug he said, “Let’s just say the man’s not at the top of my buddy list.”
“I get it.” She found herself wanting to know more about him. “Do you raise cattle?”
He nodded. “Hereford.”
She tilted her head to the side. “Those are the red ones with white faces and bellies, and white socks?”
A grin tugged the corner of his mouth. “That’s about right.”
She pushed her hair behind her ear. “Have you always lived out there?”
“Born and raised.” He took another drink of lemonade. “Grew up ranching. It’s in our blood.”
“Why did you want to see me?” she finally blurted out.
“How about dinner tomorrow night?” His gaze held hers. “If you haven’t been there before, we’ve got a great steakhouse up the road in Sonoita.”
Dinner? Sabrina took a deep breath. She wasn’t surprised to realize that she really wanted to go with him and spend some time with this tall, sexy cowboy. Not a good idea at all if she wanted to protect herself from the possibility of pain down the road.
But what the hell. “Okay,” she said, and he smiled. “What time tomorrow?”
“Seven.” He took one more drink of lemonade and she saw that his glass was empty.
“I’ll be ready.” She set her own glass aside and returned his smile.
“I’d best be getting back to the ranch.” He gestured with the empty glass. “Where would you like this?”