Cameron, Paige - The Billionaire Cattleman Wins a Wife [Wives for the Western Billionaires 4] (Siren Publishing Everlasting Classic) (4 page)

BOOK: Cameron, Paige - The Billionaire Cattleman Wins a Wife [Wives for the Western Billionaires 4] (Siren Publishing Everlasting Classic)
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“Come back to the table. I’ll get the coffee.” He guided her to her seat and hurried into the kitchen.

She sat stunned. She’d never expected such an explosive reaction. Maybe she should have. Her presence made him unhappy.

She lifted her head when Dirk set the coffee in front of her.

“Thank you. I never meant to hurt him. I just thought he’d feel better if we didn’t avoid the topic of his marriage. I was wrong. He’s right. I’m no psychologist, so I shouldn’t be meddling.”

“Honey,” Dirk said, “you could say tomorrow it might not snow and he’d get riled.”

“I know. He hates me being here.”

“No. That’s what he tells himself, and presents that impression.”

“What do you mean? He’s been angry since the first time I arrived.”

“Haven’t you wondered why?” Dirk sat back and looked at her.

“Yes. It hasn’t made much sense. And his mother said she didn’t even know he had a temper until after his wife died.”

“He didn’t. He’s always been the gentlest, kindest man I’ve known. Maybe it would help to know a little about him and Candice. They were childhood sweethearts, and inseparable from their early teens on.”

“Oh, my.”

“Yeah. They married early, both went to college here in
Montana
, and then came home and started their family. She got pregnant pretty quickly. Everyone was excited about the first grandchild. Candice celebrated her twenty-third birthday two weeks before she and her unborn baby died during childbirth.”

Tears flowed out of Lily’s eyes and down her cheeks. “How do you recover from such a loss?”

“We worried he wouldn’t. Some family member stayed near all the time and watched him. He tried drinking, as he mentioned, and then went wild for a while. He’d date, take them to expensive restaurants and to places to dance. He burned the candle at both ends. He even tried bull riding one season. Somehow he survived and began to calm down, but in place of the grief came a quick temper. Even that was slacking until your arrival.”

“Do I look like her?”

“No. She had black hair and green eyes, and was tall. She grew up on a neighboring ranch. After her death, her parents sold out and moved away. They were devastated. They moved closer to their only other child, her sister.”

“I must leave. I’m doing more harm than good being here.”

“Please don’t.”

Puzzled, Lily frowned at him. “You must see he’d be better without me around.”

“Have you ever heard about something getting worse before it gets better?”

“I think I know what you mean.”

“I believe you’re the catalyst to help him get back to himself.”

“I’m not sure I agree.”

“You’ll see if you stick it out. I guess I’d better go. I’ve talked way too much.”

“Wait. I baked another cake. Please take some with you. The freezer’s full.”

Dirk laughed. “All right. You twisted my arm. I saw the chocolate cake on the counter, my favorite.”

“Good.”

He followed her to the kitchen. She cut him half and insisted he take it. Then she followed him to the door. He put on his hat and coat.

“I’ll stop by once in a while to check on you.”

“Thanks, I’d like that.”

Lily shut and locked the door. She took her time cleaning the dishes and putting them away, doing busy work trying to keep her thoughts at bay.

Deep inside, where she hadn’t even acknowledged it to herself, she’d hoped Ty might take a liking to her, might come to desire her. How foolish. She was just, as he said, a baby in life compared to him. And they both had too many personal problems. She had to leave while her heart was still intact. Tomorrow, while they both were working, she’d borrow the truck and drive to the nearest town. It couldn’t be that far away. She’d call her friend, Moira, in the morning and ask to stay with her while she found a job.

After putting on her flannel nightgown, she went to the window. The moonlight lit the darkness. The snow had stopped.

Between the trees, she saw the faint light from Ty’s windows.

Turning off her lights, she huddled under the covers and imagined she was cuddling into his strong arms against his hot body. Heat raced through her veins, and deep inside she ached.

* * * *

Ty saw her lights go out. He’d been staring out his window at the house. When he first got home, he’d gone to his liquor cabinet and taken out a bottle of bourbon. It was unopened, had been for several years. He’d gotten a glass and started to break the seal, shook his head, and put the bottle back.

Then he’d gone to his bedroom closet and pulled out a box of pictures. He kept telling himself he’d get rid of all but a few. He hadn’t. There they were at a barn dance on their first date. Had he ever been that young? They were grinning at each other, love evident in their eyes. He’d been so horny in those days, he kept a perpetual hard-on for her, only her. Right from the first they’d talked of a future together, marriage, college, and then family. No waiting, rush it all along, as though unconsciously they realized their time had been limited.

She’d been beautiful in her wedding gown and in her maternity clothes. She’d looked great in anything, or nothing at all. The dark cloud on the horizon had never darkened their days together.

If only he’d stayed with her that last day, when she was in labor. She and the doctor had both said to go and work. Come back later. A first baby took hours to get born. Her mom and his had stayed with her.

He’d left and never forgiven himself. When they called he’d hurried, but he arrived minutes too late. The years had dimmed the pain, but it was still there, waiting inside him, to spring out and attack. As he’d attacked Lily tonight. How dare she try to tell him how to handle grief. How dare she be so beautiful, so full of life, how dare she try to bring him into her sun-filled world. Everything around her glowed, her hair, her sparkling eyes, the air around her.

Carefully, he replaced the box in the closet. He went to his storage shed outside, switched on the light, and looked at the piles of things that had been his life. He’d marked each box with what was inside. Maybe he’d call her parents tomorrow. He’d ask how they were, and see if they’d like to have some of the items he had packed away.

It was a big step. He wasn’t sure he could take it.

Chapter Three

Moira had been happy to hear from Lily and was glad to have her come to
California
for a visit. Lily packed one small bag. Later, she’d have the rest sent to her. It was ten o’clock. Ty and Dirk would be off working somewhere on the ranch.

She stepped out into the cold. No snow fell, but the ground was covered and there were patches of ice on the porch. Lily took her time trying to miss the icy patches. The roads on the ranch had been cleared early. She’d heard the snow plow.

Ty had left his keys in the ignition. When the truck started, she noted it had a full tank of gas. Good, she wouldn’t have to worry about getting struck on the side of the road. She backed up and started down the two-lane road leading to the entrance and onto a two-lane blacktop.

Lily had taken a map she found in Ty’s office. The nearest town looked to be about thirty-five miles away. Hopefully she could get a bus out of there to a city where she’d catch a plane. She had a long trip ahead of her. In the rearview mirror the ranch house gradually faded in the distance. A tear trickled down her cheek. Ahead of her the future looked bleak and lonely, but she had her pride. She’d stand on her own, find a job, make her way. She’d show Ty.

As she turned onto the blacktop her confidence rose. She could do this. She’d left a message for Ty about where to find his truck. He’d be pissed. That was all right. He stayed angry most of the time.

Ten miles, fifteen, nothing around but open prairie and mountains in the distance. Hopefully she was going in the right direction. There hadn’t been any signs.

She never saw the patch of ice. The steering wheel was useless. She tried to correct the slide, but the truck went hard to the left and hit a snow-covered bank. The air bag released and hit her face and chest. She hurt from the force of the bag. Steam rose from the radiator, and her purse had fallen under her feet. Struggling around the steering wheel, she managed to get the purse. It was open. The better to reach her phone if needed, but now the phone was gone and she didn’t know where. The truck was tilted, making it difficult for her to search for the cell phone.

Cold seeped into the truck. She zipped her jacket up. Thank goodness she’d worn heavy slacks and socks. Ty would find her. But she wasn’t sure how long it would be before she was missed. He wasn’t going to be happy.

* * * *

“I think we’d better head back to the barn,” Dirk said. He glanced at the sky. “We’ll be getting more snow before long.”

“Guess you’re right. The guys have it all under control. They’ll be going back to the bunkhouse right after we leave.” Ty turned Night Star toward home. The stallion took off. “You don’t need any encouragement, old boy,” he said and smiled.

He felt better this morning. In some strange way last night had been a catharsis for him. He’d called his in-laws early. They’d been happy to hear from him and did want whatever items of Candice’s that he could part with. In fact, they told him they’d be coming to the area to visit friends in a few weeks. They’d pick up the boxes then. He just hoped he didn’t change his mind by that time.

Next he had to see Lily and apologize for his temper last night. He wasn’t sure what to do about her and the feelings she stirred inside him. He rode into the barn from the back entrance and took his time rubbing Night Star down. He forked hay into the stall. Anything to put off seeing Lily.
Coward
. Yeah, he was.

The first thing he noticed when he walked out toward the house was his truck wasn’t where he’d left it. He glanced around and realized it was gone. Taking long strides he hurried into the house calling Lily’s name. Fear had a tight grip on his chest. The place felt empty, and she wasn’t responding to his voice. Taking the stairs two at a time he charged into her room and saw the note.

Damn, she’d taken the truck and left. His heart sank. The roads would hopefully be cleared all the way, but there was still ice, and glancing out the windows, he saw the snow beginning to fall.

He raced down the stairs and ran to the barn. Dirk had just finished with his horse and was starting out. “What’s wrong?”

“Lily is gone. She took my truck.”

“We’ll go in mine,” Dirk said.

Snow came down harder as they headed down the blacktop road. “With my snow tires and the four-wheel drive we should be able to get through to her and get back before it starts snowing harder. That is, if she hasn’t been gone too long.”

“I’m afraid she left right after we did this morning. This is probably a fool’s run. She’d be in town by now, and maybe on a bus headed farther south.”

“I doubt the buses are running. We’ll catch her.”

Ty’s heart beat double time. He had a bad feeling. The windshield wipers swished the snowflakes back and forth, and it was looking more like dusk than the middle of the afternoon.

“There’s the truck ahead, in that snowbank.” Dirk slowed and carefully pulled to the side of the road.

Ty jumped out and rushed to the passenger side. Lily shivered, and her lips were blue. He saw the steering wheel had curved toward her, blocking her movements. She hadn’t been able to reach the emergency supplies on the backseat.

“Lily, we’ll have you out of there in a moment.”

BOOK: Cameron, Paige - The Billionaire Cattleman Wins a Wife [Wives for the Western Billionaires 4] (Siren Publishing Everlasting Classic)
3.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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