by Fran Lee
Now available at Ellora's Cave
copyright 2012/2013/2014/2015 by Fran Lee
copyright 2012/2013/2014/2015 by Fran Lee
Michael Running Elk slammed on his brakes as the familiar gleaming black 4X4 blew the stop sign in the center of town and swung wide, nearly hitting the front of his beloved old green pickup. Pretty boy Blackhorse was on the rampage again. Made him wonder what had happened this time. Usually it was his father-in-law telling him his funds were cut off because he’d blown a month’s allowance in one night of gambling. But the direction he was coming from made it seem more likely that his ex had told him to fuck off. And it wasn’t often that Lee Blackhorse, as sweet tempered and good-natured as she was, told anyone to fuck off.
Mike drew a deep breath and frowned after the speeding 4X4. It was barely past ten in the morning, and it looked like the man was drunk already, driving wild and crazy. If he wasn’t careful, he’d pile that bright shiny truck into the ravine someday. Might serve him right, at that. The bastard had worked his way through half the women on the res in the past couple of years.
The thought of Lee Blackhorse made him swing the wheel left and head down the highway toward her place a couple of miles down the road. It was too early to do the chores yet, but she probably needed a shoulder to cry on about now. Maybe she would cry on his shoulder.
Nope. More likely she would just have him clean the stalls. As for the crying on his broad shoulder, he wished she would. At times he wanted to just grab and shake her and haul her upstairs to her bedroom. But he respected her too much for that. God knew he had thought about that woman more than was decent, her being the highlight of a great many of his very graphic, favorite wet dreams. God, but he wanted to make a move. Problem was, he was scared shitless of having her laugh at him. He was not some hot stud like her ex, and he worked hard. He worked with his back and his hands. No. She was all class and grace…not for the likes of him. No education to speak of. You didn’t need a four year college degree to know good horseflesh. And his dad had taught him all about running his own place. The two years he’d spent learning to do books and how to stitch up and treat animals had given him the rest of what he’d needed. But it hadn’t given him the polish and pretty manners that Lee deserved in a man.
But somehow his truck ended up stopped and idling on the shoulder of the road a couple hundred feet from her driveway, as he watched her sitting on her porch, hunched over and…crying? He swore under his breath, and they weren’t pretty words. The self-important prick must have been out here asking for more money. From the looks of it, things hadn’t gone well. He clenched his fists around the steering wheel, debating on what he should do. What he wanted to do was walk up to her and kiss her silly. But what she would accept was probably something quite different, so he simply pulled on into her driveway and climbed out of the old truck, slamming the door to let her know she had company.
Lee heard the truck and hurriedly swiped at her tears, not wanting Mike to see her crying. Mike Running Elk was a good kid, one of the most polite and helpful in town. He came by every Saturday like clockwork to clean out her barn, mow her wild and woolly lawn, and fix whatever needed fixing around the house. She paid him the pittance of $50 a week to help out around the place for a few hours, but she knew he would have done it all for free. He didn’t need the money. He earned a decent living running his own horse ranch. He probably made as much in one hour training horses for others as she could afford to pay him for his help, but he good-naturedly accepted her small payment and her thanks, as well as a sandwich and soda. And Lee enjoyed his company.
Bless him, she didn’t want to let him see her tears.
He’d been helping her around the place since way before Howard and she had split. Back then, he had needed the cash to help pay off his dad’s funeral bill and help support his mother and brothers. He had been helping out for over twelve years. It seemed he understood how much she welcomed the help. And she certainly did. Working a full time job with the school district left little time for the chores that Howard once did, before he’d started drinking so much he slept all day.
She sniffed and made certain there were no tears still on her face when she turned and smiled up at him. “Hi, Mike! Look…I’m a little short today…so I’m sorry that you made the trip out here for nothing. I would have called but…” she shrugged. But the reason she was short on cash was driving back to the bar to spend the ‘truck payment’ he’d just borrowed. Of course, Mike didn’t need to know that. She fished a ten out of her pocket and said, “Here’s money for the gas you spent coming over today. Take this Saturday off.”
Mike stared down at her slim hand and the wrinkled ten dollar bill. He calmed the sudden need to follow the man who’d made her cry like this and ram a few fists down his throat. Instead of cursing viciously, he lifted his hat and ran a lean hand through his dark hair before settling the battered back onto his head. “No problem, Ma’am.”
He winced. He had planned to call her “Lee”, but he’d blown it again. How the hell was she ever going to realize he wasn’t the kid she always thought him to be if he kept calling her “Ma’am”? He swallowed hard, hesitated for a few moments, hoping she would change her mind. But she avoided his gaze, and pretended to find something on the step beside her completely riveting. Come on, idiot…say something!
“No need for gas money. I was driving this way anyway.” Still she didn’t lift her face to look at him. “Look…I have nothing to do today but kick my heels. The hands have the ranch taken care of. I’m goin’ around to the barn and you can pay me later. Or better yet, you can cook me up some of that great stew you make. We’ll figure something out…” He left the innuendo hanging, but she didn’t seem to pick up on it.
When she simply shrugged, he sighed and headed around the side of the old house to start the usual simple chores he had been doing for her since he was 18. He swore under his breath. The chore he wanted so desperately to do for her was out of the question. She would have a damned cow if he did what he so eagerly wanted to do, and dragged the woman into her house to fuck her until they both fell in a heap, unable to move or think.
He glanced down at his hands and clenched them into fists. She would be horrified if he put those calloused hands on her…in her…the way he wanted to. He pulled his work gloves out of his rear jeans pocket and tugged them on. But even if she didn’t mind his callouses and his rough skin, what the hell would she want with a guy who was about as polished and gentlemanly as a horned toad? That slime ball she had married was the kind of guy she wanted. Slick, smooth, and able to talk a woman into about anything. Shit! She still wanted the bastard, or she wouldn’t let him keep coming back.
With a snarl of frustration, he grabbed a pitchfork and stabbed the nearest open bale, and started slinging hay over into the feed bins to the waiting yearling heifers.