Wild Cowboy Ways(10)

By: Carolyn Brown

The dog answered with a couple of tail thumps but he didn’t open his eyes.

Blake picked up a notepad from the end table where he’d started a grocery list and carried it with him through the house. Roof first and then if there was money left in the repair budget for the house he’d see how far he could stretch it. He started in the living room, checking everything and writing down what needed to be fixed, putting a star beside the things that were most important in each room. Two hallways split off from the living room. The one to the north led to three bedrooms with a bathroom at the end. A huge country kitchen and a dining room opened up from the southern hall. The small table with four chairs around it looked even tinier in the huge kitchen, surrounded on three sides with cabinet space. An archway on the other end led into the dining room, which was every bit as big as the kitchen but empty except for boxes.

Whoever built the house either had or intended to have a huge family. Lots of room in the huge living room for children to play, in the dining room for an enormous table to seat lots of people, and the kitchen for family to gather around at mealtimes. He shut his eyes and imagined a day in the future when there would be laughter as well as arguments in the old ramshackle house. It would look different then because it would be a home filled with love, not a house where one lonesome old wild cowboy lived with his dog.

As he went from one room to the next, writing what it would take to restore the house to some kind of livable conditions, his mood sunk. The place hadn’t seemed nearly so dilapidated back when they came to Dry Creek and looked at the ranch. But then back in the summer, they’d been a whole lot more interested in the ranching part of the deal and not the house.

“I will make this work,” he mumbled.

Shooter’s tail thumped against the worn leather sofa.

Blake gulped down the last of the coffee and set the cup on the coffee table. “Are you agreeing with me or telling me I’m an idiot?”

Shooter’s eyes snapped shut and he snored.

Since it was raining and he couldn’t do any outside work, Blake decided to tackle everything his mama had marked “kitchen” when she helped pack boxes. He ripped the tape from a box and started the job. Dishes in the upper cabinets. Food in the pantry right off the utility room. Pots and pans in the lower cabinets. During the whole process, he thought about Allie.

She was a pretty girl and he could sink into her dark brown eyes and drown—not exactly his usual type, but there was something about her he couldn’t get out of his head. He and Toby tended to go for the tall willowy blondes with blue eyes. It was Jud who liked petite brunettes. Blake didn’t like the thought of befriending Allie just to have Jud swoop in and steal her heart.

When the rain finally stopped, he carried an armload of flattened boxes out to his truck and threw them into the back. Later, when he figured out where his burn pile would be, he’d take care of them. He heard a vehicle coming down the lane and parking in the front yard and hoped that Allie had returned to tell him that the Logan Construction Company would fix the roof. He jogged through the kitchen and dining room, and threw open the door the minute she knocked.

A tall blonde holding a casserole dish smiled at him from the other side of the screen door. “Welcome to Dry Creek. I’m Sharlene Tucker.” She batted long lashes and tilted her head to one side.

He picked up on all the take-me-home-tonight signs and instinctively moved in to close the deal. “Come right in, darlin’. It’s shapin’ up to be a fine day when a pretty woman brings food to my door.”

A brighter smile and a definite extra wiggle under those skintight pants said that she was there for more than food and talk.

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