Page 13 of Faithful Cowboy (Whiskey Valley Bryant Brothers)

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We go back to the barn, and I get down from Raymond. The pain in my thigh shoots down my leg, and I swear my knee almost buckles. I hold the groan in, and thankfully Hailey can’t see me over her horse. I take three deep breaths and try to ignore the pain, but I can hear the huskiness of my voice. “On second thought, I have a few things I need to take care of. Let’s get Allen to take care of the horses. That way you can get started on your writing.”

She looks pleased but obviously doesn’t want to shuck any responsibilities she thinks she may have. “Honestly, it’s fine. I can show you tomorrow. You probably will want to go riding again while you’re here.”

She nods happily. “Oh, I definitely will.”

I point up to the house. “Go ahead. Paulina probably has lunch ready. I’ll see you at dinner tonight.”

She starts to go but stops. I keep my face guarded, not wanting her to know exactly how much pain I’m in. When she turns back, she walks slowly toward me. “Thank you, Griffin. You don’t know what this means to me. I don’t know if it’s this land, you, or what, but I feel like I’m finally coming back to the living again. Thank you.”

She leans up on her toes and kisses me on the cheek. I almost turn my head at the last minute, but I don’t want to take advantage of her. I know exactly how she’s feeling. At one time, before I was hurt, I felt the same way. I’d give anything to have it back, and I thought it was happening until I got off the horse. Then it all came back to me. I’m not the man I used to be.

I brush a piece of hair off her face. “You don’t have to thank me, honey. I love seeing you like this. Have a good time writing, and let me know if you need anything.”

It would be so easy to pull her in and kiss her, but I don’t. I release her and watch her walk all the way up to the house. I couldn’t look away even if I wanted to. It’s not until she’s safely inside and the door shuts behind her that I let out the grunt of pain. It’s a good thing she wanted to work this afternoon because I’m pretty sure I’m about to find myself in an ice bath. I need to soothe the muscles of my thigh, and I need to take care of this hard-on I’ve had since I first laid eyes on the sexy romance author.

Chapter 10

Hailey

I worked all afternoon on my writing. I was late for dinner and apologized profusely as I sat down at the table. I kept waiting on Griffin to show up, but he never did. I wanted to ask about him, but when the topic of conversation turned to a cow having trouble giving birth, I assumed he was there. It wasn’t until the next morning at breakfast, when Chance said he was going to take me around the ranch today, that I knew something was up.

Yesterday with Griffin was perfect. Did I mess up somehow? Did I upset him when I said I’d like to work in the afternoon? Thinking back on it, I wonder if he thought I was trying to put distance between us or something.

The truth is, I thought about him all afternoon and evening yesterday, and I was up super early this morning, way before breakfast, in hopes of seeing him again.

I get as far as the porch and know I can’t keep quiet any longer. “So did I upset Griffin yesterday?”

Chance stops and turns toward me. He looks so much like his brother, and I can read his face easily. I was warned at breakfast by Mia, King, and Natalie that Chance sort of doesn’t have a filter and says things like it is. I still myself, half expecting him to tell me to quit chasing Griffin or something.

He blows out a breath. “He overdid it yesterday. He’s resting.”

I look at him curiously. “Overdid it?”

He looks unsure for a minute. “His leg. Yesterday was the first time he’d been on a horse since he was discharged from the Army.”

At the look of horror on my face, Chance holds his hands up. “He’s fine. He should have been back on the horse months ago. He just needed a nudge.”

“He didn’t tell me.” I put my hand up to my face. “I didn’t know. I bet he’s hating me right now.”

Chance shrugs his shoulders. “If anything, he’s hating himself right now.”

My mouth falls open. “Why?”

Chance looks me square in the eye. “Because he thinks he’s a pus—sorry—wuss. He’s feeling sorry for himself. The big bad cowboy soldier is hurting after riding a horse. He’s worried about his livelihood, contributing to this ranch... looking like half a man in front of a woman he likes.”

His words hit me like a ton of bricks. “Me... he likes me?”

Chance crosses his arms over his chest. “Yeah, he likes you even though he’s going to do everything possible to push you away. He thinks you deserve better, but I’ll be honest with you, ma’am. Nothing against you, but I don’t think there is a better man than my brother.”

I nod. “I agree. Oh shoot, what do I do?” I don’t expect an answer, and Chance doesn’t give me one. My mind goes a mile a minute and finally I figure it out. I grab Chance’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, we can skip it today. I’m going to go and check on Griffin. Thank you, Chance.”

I give him a quick hug, and before I get to the door, I’m turning back to Chance. “What’s wrong with his leg? I know he was shot, but what’s going on with it now?”

“Almost every muscle was cut in his thigh. They were put back together, but he doesn’t have strength like he used to. Holding on to a horse just hurt more than it should because he’s not warmed up to it enough. That’s all.”

I nod and bolt back inside. I gather some supplies from Paulina and am panting as I stand outside Griffin’s bedroom door. I take a minute to calm myself and juggle everything in my arms as I knock on the door.

There’s a brief moment where I hold my breath. I didn’t ask Chance if Griffin was in his room; I just assumed so.


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