Wild Cowboy Ways(7)

By: Carolyn Brown

“You live nearby?” Blake asked.

“Yeah, the big house called Audrey’s Place. It’s just past your east field and over the fence.”

“Audrey’s Place? Is this Audrey? She told me her name was Irene.” Blake shoved his thumbs into his hip pockets.

Irene’s face went into that mode that reminded Allie of a dried apple doll; all wrinkles with deep-set eyes and a puckered-up mouth, hollowed cheeks and a sharp little chin. She poked Blake in the chest with a bony finger and raised her voice as high as it would go. “Hell, no! Audrey was a whore. I’m a fine, upstanding churchgoin’ woman. I’m not a hooker like my great-great grandma. I am Irene Miller, young man, and don’t you forget it.”

She held her hand up to catch a drop of water when it fell from the ceiling. “Don’t know why we’re wasting our time with makin’ casseroles to welcome him. He won’t be here more’n a year. The good-lookin’ ones never stay. Couple of ugly ones made it two years, but the cold winter will put this one on the run.”

“Granny!” Allie said as soon as she could get a word in edgewise.

Irene shrugged. “Better get a pan and put it under that leak, young man, or you’re going to be mopping all day. Now take me home, Allie.”

“Granny, you’re being rude.”

Blake chuckled. “She does manage to keep things lively.”

“You have no idea.” Allie glanced at the drip coming from the ceiling. “It’s been leaking a while from the size of that brown ring. You’re lucky someone put down linoleum flooring because it could ruin carpet or hardwood.”

Blake nodded. “Damn. I hoped that the water marks on the ceiling were from a long time ago and the leak had been fixed. I’ll just have to add it to the list of the million other repairs.”

“Allie’s great at repairs,” Irene piped in. “We have a construction business, and we’re damn good at what we do.”

“Really?” Blake’s eyes lit up. “Could I hire you to put on a new roof?”

Allie threw an arm around her grandmother, wishing she had a muzzle. “We’ll have to check our workload and get back to you.”

“You was complainin’ last week that you needed a job and things were slower,” Irene fussed. “But I’m not doing one damn thing to help anyone on this ranch after the way Walter acted. You didn’t know him like I did, Allie. What in the hell are we doing here, anyway? Take me home right now.”

“Let me get your things, Miz Miller,” Blake said.

Allie’s eyes followed him as he walked away. He filled out those jeans really well and she could imagine what that tight butt would look like with nothing on it at all. Good lord, she had to get a grip.

“Who’s Walter?” Allie asked.

Irene’s lips tightened and she shook her head. “You just stay away from this ranch. It don’t bring nothing but heartache and pain to anyone who comes around it because no one ever stays. It should be called Hard Luck not Lucky Penny.”

Allie folded Irene’s hand in hers. “Tell me more about Walter and his family. When did they live on this ranch?”

Before Allie could get any more information, Blake came back with Irene’s flamingo boots and her cane, plus an empty trash can to put under the leak. “So, can you ask the carpenter in your family if he’d be interested in a job?”

Irene waggled a finger at him. “No and that is final. We ain’t interested in your leaky roof and I’m not talking about Walter even if you put me in my room and give me nothing but bread and water for a month.” She pulled free from Allie’s hand and stormed out of the house into the rain.

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