Wild Cowboy Ways(9)

By: Carolyn Brown

“How are things going down there? Are you getting unpacked?” his brother asked.

“It’s raining and there’s a leak in the living room ceiling, but I’ve got a trash can under it. Just found out there’s a carpenter next door, so if he’s not busy…” Blake went on to tell his brother what had happened that morning, conveniently leaving out any mention of the old lady’s offer to fool around.

“What a welcoming committee!” Toby laughed. “I wish I’d been there to see that. You say she even put old Shooter out?”

“I opened the door but he didn’t waste any time scootin’ his butt outside. At the time, I wished I could follow him. Even that cold wind and rain would’ve been better than having coffee with our neighbor.”

“Good you’re getting to know the neighbors—even if they are crazy. Most small towns are alike. Friendly folks who make newcomers pretty welcome. I saw a church when we moved you down there. Did you go yesterday?”

“No, I was too busy just trying to make the place habitable. It’s a mess, bro. And now we need a whole new roof on top of everything else.” Blake leaned his head back and stared at the rusty rings on the ceiling. “I’ve cleared land, plowed land, worked with cattle, even ridden a few bulls in the rodeo, but redoing a whole roof by myself is beyond me. I just hope that the neighbor has a slot on the calendar with enough time to fix it.”

“Oh, come on, now,” Toby said seriously. “Surely you can sweet talk that woman into getting her family to work for you.”

“It’s against my rules to play in a sandbox that close to home. It’ll get you in trouble every time. And I’m trying to leave that player reputation behind me and start a new life here,” Blake said.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Toby said. “I’ll drive up in a week or so for the weekend to see what I can do to help out—even if it’s sweet-talking the neighbor myself.”

Blake tensed at the thought of his brother trying to charm Allie. He practically had to restrain the growl that rose in his throat. “I’ll take care of it,” he said curtly, rolling his neck to get the kinks out.

Toby just laughed. “I’ll see you either this weekend or the next. Soon as I can get away.”

“From what? Your ranch or the bars?” Blake asked.

“Both. Got to get these new folks comfortable with the place before I leave them with it and I’ll get my time at the bars while I can, especially since the Lucky Penny is in a dry county.”

“Yeah, you keep playing while I do all the dirty work,” Blake grumbled.

“Just remember the end game,” Toby said. “I’ll be there in the spring and Jud before the end of the year. In five years we’ll have the Lucky Penny solidly established, maybe even with a decent barn built to have our own cattle sale if we work hard at it. Suck it up, brother. This is only the first week.”

Blake inhaled deeply and let it out slowly. “Think you and Jud will be able to survive with no bars in the whole county?”

“If you can, I can. I’m tougher than you and now I’ve got to go.” The call ended before Blake could reply.

He went to the kitchen, poured another cup of coffee, and stared at all those boxes stacked everywhere. Saturday seemed like years ago. The excitement of finally moving onto the ranch had been replaced with doubts as big as Longhorn bulls’ horns.

“My first challenge after getting this damn roof fixed is to work my way into the community.” He looked up again at the dripping ceiling. “Look on the bright side, Shooter. At least it’s dripping in the hallway and not right on top of my bed or on your lazy old hide. And I’ll be damned if I let Toby and Jud think I can’t manage my end of this bargain.”

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