Page 4 of Faithful Cowboy (Whiskey Valley Bryant Brothers)

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I pull away, and for just a second, I think he’s not going to let me go. When he does finally release me, he pulls the luggage back toward him.

I’m almost a foot shorter than him, and I lean my head back to look up at him. He’s not happy. I’m not sure if it’s me or what the problem is, but he’s definitely not thrilled to be doing this.

“So, Griffin... you are from the Bryant ranch, I assume.”

He nods. “Yep, King Bryant sent me to pick you up. I’m your driver.”

He holds his hand out to wave me on, but I don’t budge an inch. I clasp my hands in front of me. “And from the look on your face, you’re not happy about it.”

He grunts. That’s it. No yes, no, maybe... nothing. A grunt is all I get. I hold my hands up in front of me. “You know what... this is obviously not a good idea. It was a mistake to come here.”

He doesn’t say anything. Not that I expect him to ask me to stay or anything, but damn, give me something. I reach for my bag, but he pulls it behind him. There’s no way to get it unless I reach around him, and already I’m unsettled just being near him. I don’t want to touch him. “Look, I don’t know what I did wrong. I don’t know if you’d been waiting a long time for me, or if you’re just unhappy with life, but you’re obviously not happy about me.”

“You?” he asks loudly. He takes his hat off and holds it against his thigh. His dark hair is a little longer than I thought it would be, but that doesn’t matter.

His dark eyes are staring back at me, and I almost lean in to see if that really is flecks of gold I see in them. “Yeah, me. Or the fact you have to pick me up, or take me to the ranch, I really don’t know.”

He continues to scowl at me and starts to say something, but I hold my hand up to stop him. He’s closer than I thought, and my hand almost touches his chest. He pulls back as if just the thought of me touching him grosses him out. I drop my hand. “Obviously, I’m not wanted here, and trust me, been there done that and don’t want to experience it again. Now, if you’ll give me my bag, I’d like to go and check on a return ticket.”

His face softens, and he searches my eyes. He stuffs his hat back on his head and tries to smile at me. I say try, because it’s not really a smile. It looks almost as if he’s in pain more than anything else. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel unwanted. We want you to come to the ranch. None of this is your fault, and I shouldn’t take it out on you. Please, come back to the ranch with me. I promise to be on my best behavior.” He blows out a breath and shakes his head. “Plus, if I come back without you, Natalie will probably have my head. She’s excited to meet you.”

I almost ask him who Natalie is. Almost. Jealousy surges inside me, and I have to bite my tongue to keep quiet. It’s none of my business. He’s looking at me with pity, and it’s then I realize that I’ve said too much. I’ve let past hurts come to light, and it’s everything I’m doing my best to forget. “I really think...”

He shakes his head and takes a step toward me. His scent of leather, the outdoors, and man fills my nostrils. He puts his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t think, Hailey. I really am sorry for being an ass. I promise to act right. Please don’t let me ruin your trip. I’m glad you’re here.”

He doesn’t have to worry about me thinking because I don’t even think I can form a complete sentence with his hand on me. I’m like a bundle of nerves, and even though my head is telling me to get the hell out of here, my heart is telling me to stay. “Okay.”

He squeezes my shoulder. “Okay? Okay, good. Let’s go.”

He rushes us outside as if he’s afraid I’m going to change my mind. But I’m almost afraid to admit, even to myself, that as long as he’s touching me, I wouldn’t even think about walking away.

Chapter 5

Griffin

She’s getting to me. There’s no denying it. There’s a softness around her, and the way she was staring at me, almost wounded, tells me that she’s been hurt before. She took my gruffness as meaning I didn’t want her around, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I want her around. Probably way more than I should, considering everything.

I had helped her into the cab of my truck and then loaded her luggage in the back before getting into the driver’s seat. Her sweet scent has already filled the entire front seat, and I breathe her in as if I’m a dying man getting his last breath. “So... tell me about you.”

I chance a look at her, and she shrugs her shoulders. “There’s not a lot to tell.”

I chuckle. “I don’t believe that.”

She looks out the window, and for a second, I think she’s not going to answer me, and then her voice is soft. “I live in New York. I was a bored stay-at-home wife and started writing one day. I’ve been a published author for five years now.”

I snap my head to look at her and almost run my truck off the road. I jerk back onto the road and in a rush ask her, “You’re married?”

She puts her hand on the dashboard in front of her but doesn’t look at me. “No. Divorced.”

Thank fuck! I all but scream in my head. I don’t want to analyze the thoughts that are going on in my head. I can’t because none of them are rational. I’ve never met someone and felt that I had to have them before. Not like this.

I sneak a peek at her, and her face is drawn. The divorce must be a touchy subject, but I don’t want to talk about her ex anyway. “Tell me about the book you’re writing.”

She shrugs her shoulders. “I’m close to the end, but it’s not right... it needs a lot of work.”

“What kind of work?”

Finally, she looks at me, and even though my eyes are on the road, the feel of her eyes on me makes my whole body warmer. She shifts her body to face mine. “You really want to know?”


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