Roping The Virgin (Cowboys & Virgins #2)(4)

By: Alexa Riley

“Hey pequeña,” my dad says, coming over and kissing me on the cheek.

“Eat while it’s still hot,” Fernanda says, still blushing from Mateo’s welcome.

The men sit down, and I go back to drying dishes and trying to think of a way to tell my father what I want to do.

“Luciana has some big news,” Fernanda says, and I roll my eyes. Mateo grabs her, pulling her into his lap. Guess she took care of that for me.

I pull the letter out of my back pocket and hand it to my father. Dr. Long gave it to me before I left today and told me to have an answer by tomorrow. I’d wanted this so badly, but dreaming is a lot different than doing. And now that I’ve been given the chance to leave home and work on a farm full time, I’m scared.

I wait silently, watching my dad read the note and then pass it to Mateo. As much as my sister runs the house, we all respect our father’s wishes. If he doesn't want me to go, then there is no discussion.

We all live in the house my father built when he and my mother came to America. He started saving as soon as he could work in Mexico, until he had enough money to come here and buy a piece of land. He and my mother made our home and had my sister and me a few years later. We grew up here, and when Mateo asked my father for permission to marry Fernanda, my father said yes, but on the condition that they live here. Our culture is very much about helping each other and living together as a family unit, so the fact that I’m asking to leave home and live somewhere else is a big deal. My mother knew my dreams of working with animals and living on a farm. She always supported me in this, but when she died three years ago from breast cancer, I felt like a piece of that dream died with her.

“You will live on this ranch full time?” my dad asks, and I nod. “What will you do when you finish your hours? Once you’ve lived on a farm and been given your dream? Will you come back here to this house with none of that and be happy, Luciana?”

“I don’t know,” I say. It’s my greatest fear. Living the life I want to but being afraid of where it will lead. I take a deep breath and look him in the eyes. “I know that I have to do it. And afterwards, I will do what I need to. This is one step. We’ll have to see where it goes.”

He and Mateo share a look, and then Mateo smiles at me. “Your mama would be so proud.”

I feel little tears sting my eyes, because he’s right. She would be jumping for joy right now. Probably packing my bag and running around getting everything together. I nod and look to my father for his answer.

“I think this is a good opportunity for you. And with as much as you commute to work now, you’re gone a lot of the time as it is. This is the next step.”

I feel a weight lift off my shoulders. I was so worried about what my dad would say that I didn’t allow myself to be excited about the possibility. Reaching out, I hug him and then my sister. They all talk excitedly about the job and how much experience I’ll be getting.

I think about the money I’ll be able to save and send back to them while I’m working. The letter said I’d be staying on the Braided Rope Ranch south of town. I’m not familiar with all the farms yet, but Dr. Long said that this one was exactly what I was looking for. That I’d get experience with large animals and that there was plenty to look after.

For some reason the man with steel-blue eyes who always watches me comes to mind. I shake it off, not wanting to put that in my mind right now. Those eyes follow me every time I’m in town. And the way he tries to get my attention… I’ve had to focus on my family and on my work, and I don’t have time for men, despite the feeling that always comes to life when I think about him or see him.

I’m twenty-three and have never been kissed, but there’s time for that later. I can’t keep daydreaming about the tall dark-haired beast of a man who won’t stop smiling at me. The kind of smile that looks like he’s been doing it his whole life. The kind of smile that makes my knees weak so all I can do is fall into his arms. His T-shirts stretched tight by those thick arms of his. His dirty jeans and boots that make him look like he’s been in a field all day. His big hands that I’m sure would feel rough against my untouched skin.

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