The Texan’s Little Secret
A double dose of attitude made Carly stand straight in front of Luke. He stared back without saying a word. Let him look all he wanted. One touch, though, and she’d deck him.
The silence stretched on, till her nerves began to feel stretched thin, too. Never let ’em see you sweat, an old rodeo clown had once told her. She’d go that one better. Never let Luke see you care.
She waved her hand in front of him. “Hel-loo. I’m still here. No sense trying to act like I’ve disappeared in a puff of smoke.”
“Not yet, anyhow. I was just thinking. It’s been a long time.”
“And you’ve come a long way.” If he picked up on the added meaning behind her words, he didn’t show it. Anger at his reminder of their past couldn’t quite overcome the hurt. Still, she managed to keep her voice smooth. Mellow. “I hear you’re ranch manager now. Daddy’s right-hand man. You finally made the connection and landed the job you’d always wanted.”
He got that message, all right. His jaw hardened, and his chest rose with a deep breath, as if he’d had to summon his patience the way she’d called on her wild-child role.
What did he expect—that she would have forgotten the way he’d tried to use her to get a job on her dad’s ranch?
“Maybe I had other reasons for showing up that day, besides the job.”
“What reasons? Trying to win me over?” She laughed without humor. “Why bother, when you already had me where you wanted me?”
“You think that’s what it was all about? I wanted to get to your daddy through you?”
“I said that to you then, and you didn’t argue. But it looks like you found a way without me, after all.”
He stared at her for a long moment before shaking his head. “Funny. By now, I would have thought you’d grown up some.”
The pity in his tone rubbed her nerves raw. “I expected you’d have grown beyond working for my daddy.”
“A man’s gotta have a job,” he said mildly. “And I guess none of us knows what the future has in store.”
“I’m not concerned about the future, only in what’s happening today. And in making sure not to repeat the past.”
“Yeah. Well, what’s happening in my world today includes managing this ranch. I’d better get back to it.”
“That’s what Daddy pays you for,” she said, forcing a lightness that vied with the heaviness in her heart.