Husbands on Horseback (Long Tall Texans #15)(5)

By: Diana Palmer & Margaret Way

He caught Cappy’s bridle and had to soothe him. “You’d better get her out of here while you can,” he advised. “I didn’t think you’d be riding her today or I wouldn’t have brought Cappy. You usually ride Toast.”

She didn’t want to tell him that Toast had been sold to help settle one of her father’s outstanding debts.

He watched her swing into the saddle and he did likewise, keeping the stallion a good distance away. The urge to mate wasn’t only a human thing.

“I’ll be over to see you later,” he called to her. “We’ve got some things to talk over.”

“Like what?” she asked.

But Hank didn’t answer. Cappy was fidgeting wildly as he tried to control the stallion. “Not now. Get her home!”

She turned the mare and galloped toward the ranch, forgetting the fence in her headlong rush. She’d have to come back later. At least she could get out of the sun and get something cold to drink now.

Once she was back in the small house, she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror after a shower and couldn’t believe she was the same woman who’d gone out into the pasture only this morning. She looked so different. There was something new in her eyes, something more feminine, mysterious and secretive. She felt all over again the slow, searching touch of Hayden Grant’s hard fingers and blushed.

There had been a rare and beautiful magic between them out there in the field. She loved him so much. There had been no other man’s touch on her body, never another man in her heart. But how was he going to react when he knew the contents of her father’s will? He didn’t want to marry again. He’d said so often enough. And although he and Dana had been friends for a long time, he’d drawn back at once when he made her admit her innocence. He’d wanted an affair, obviously, but discovered that it would be impossible to justify that with his conscience. He couldn’t seduce an innocent woman.

She went into her bedroom and put on blue slacks and a knit shirt, leaving her freshly washed and dried hair loose around her shoulders. He’d said they would talk later. Did that mean he’d heard gossip about the will? Was he going to ask her to challenge it?

She had no idea what to expect. Perhaps it was just as well. She’d have less time to worry.

She walked around the living room, her eyes on the sad, shabby furniture that she and her father had bought so many years ago. There hadn’t been any money in the past year for re-upholstery or new frills. They’d put everything into those few head of beef cattle and the herd sire. But the cattle market was way down and if a bad winter came, there would be no way to afford to buy feed. She had to plant plenty of hay and corn to get through the winter. But their best hand had quit on her father’s death, and now all she had were two part-time helpers, whom she could barely afford to pay. A blind woman could see that she wouldn’t be able to keep going now.

She could have wept for her lost chanc%s. She had no education past high school, no real way to make a living. All she knew was how to pull calves and mix feed and sell off stock. She went to the auctions and knew how to bid, how to buy, how to pick cattle for conformation. She knew much less about horses, but that hardly mattered. She only had one left and the part-time man kept Bess-and Toast, until he was sold-groomed and fed and watered. She did at least know how to saddle the beast. But to Dana, a horse was a tool to use with cattle. Hayden cringed when she said that. He had purebred palominos and loved every one of them. He couldn’t understand anyone not loving horses as much as he did.

Oddly, though, it was their only real point of contention. In most other ways, they agreed, even on politics and religion. And they liked the same television programs. She smiled, remembering how many times they’d shared similar enthusiasms for weekly series, especially science fiction ones. Hank had been kind to her father, too, and so patient when a man who’d given his life to being a country gentleman was suddenly faced with learning to be a rancher at the age of fifty-five. It made Dana sad to think how much longer her father’s life might have been if he’d taken up a less exhaustive profession. He’d had a good brain, and so much still to give.

Also By Diana Palmer & Margaret Way

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