The Sons of Dusty Walker Series, Book 2
“Four Brothers, One Tainted Legacy, and a Wild, Wild Ride. Will They Survive It?”
When Dusty Walker’s untimely death brings his four sons to Red Creek, Kansas, they are in for more of a shock than just losing their father. None of them knew about the others. Nor did they expect to hear the strange terms of their father’s will. They might share last names, and even a special belt buckle, but they also share a lot of resentment. Dylan is struggling to follow his dream of being a country musician and dealing with yet another shock from the woman who suddenly came back into his life. Jackson’s life is on the rodeo circuit and doesn’t include any permanent arrangements, including a woman. Killian dreams of owning a ranch where he can raise Appaloosa horses, and he doesn’t plan to do it in Nowhere, USA. Rogue doesn’t know what to do with the naked woman in his bed nor the direction his life seems to be taking. He’s a loner, pure and simple. But if the brothers want their share of the half-billion dollar estate, they have to follow the terms of the will…one week in Red Creek running the business and getting to know each other. None of them can begin to predict how drastically their lives are about to change.
When rodeo bronc rider Jackson Walker’s father passes away, he’s shocked to find he’s not the only son of Dusty Walker. His dad had three other families at compass points around the country. When a stipulation in Dusty’s will requires him to live in his dad’s house and work at his company for one week, Jackson heads to Red Creek, Kansas to get it over with, so he can get the hell back to his regularly scheduled life.
Computer engineer Rori Hughes needs to solidify her position in Dusty’s company, but the only one of his four sons available is Jackson, and Rori has a mighty low opinion of rodeo cowboys. Finding inconsistencies in the computer files, Rori and Jackson work together to solve the mystery, but their constant contact fires a red-hot desire that burns wild between them.
Spending their days at Dusty’s opulent lakeside home, and their nights together making love, they both ignore the warning signs that point to their attraction becoming more than merely sexual. Jackson’s time in Red Creek is coming to an end, but can he follow his original plan and leave town, breaking away from smart, beautiful, sexy Rori?
Check out the other books in The Sons of Dusty Walker Series
The attorney for the late Dusty Walker leaned over his desk and set a folder of papers in front of each of the four young men who sat like a row of penguins in their dark suits and white shirts.
Jackson Walker, one of the four, adjusted the gray tie his mother had strongly suggested he wear. Shock had him speechless—for the first time in his life.
The lawyer’s gaze rested on each face. Was he taking in their similarities? Even though the four brothers had never laid eyes on each other until five minutes ago, they sat silently, letting the man have his fill of staring.
His three half-brothers had to be as gobsmacked as Jackson was. He kept his gaze forward, not ready to look at the three faces that proved his dad had been a rat bastard.
The gray-haired lawyer unbuttoned his suit coat and sat, pushing his wire-rimmed glasses up on his nose. “Incredible likeness. Your father never mentioned it.”
Their father, Dusty Walker, hadn’t mentioned a whole hell of a lot of things, like the fact that he had four sons, each of whom had no idea there were three more just like him in other parts of the country.
Killian sat forward in his chair. “Are we quadruplets? Were we separated at birth?”
The attorney shook his head again. “Absolutely not. “Each of you is your mother’s biological son. You are each about a year apart in age. Mr. Walker…uh…Killian.”
Jackson almost laughed. Since they were all four Mr. Walker, the man must have realized he needed to take a different approach.
“Killian, you’re the oldest at twenty-seven, and Dylan, you’re the youngest. It must be a very strong DNA strand in your father to have produced men who look so similar.”
Besides different eye and hair color, their faces and bodies could have been stamped from the same mold.
“When I arrived at your homes last week with the news that your father had died, I was under strict instructions not to mention that you had brothers. It was among your father’s last wishes that you learn of your siblings’ existence by bringing you together.” The attorney picked up a sheaf of papers. “I apologize for bringing you to Kansas under these circumstances.”
Jackson had spent the week since learning of his father’s death with his mother, then had made use of the first-class flight from the Pacific Northwest and the limo transportation provided for him by the law firm. When he’d arrived at the lawyer’s office, he’d been shown into a separate office until the attorney, Stanley Benner, Esquire, had asked the four of them to come into his office.
The shock when they’d seen each other kept them all silent, warily watching each other.
The attorney rattled the papers in his hand. “As I told you, Dusty and his wife Theresa were killed in an auto accident. We were told they died instantly.” He looked from one to the other. “So, if there are no more questions, I’ll begin reading the key points in the will.” He waited a few seconds, meeting each of their gazes.
“Yeah, I’ve got one.” Rogue looked at his brothers. “How did he…?” He held up a hand. “Let me rephrase that. Why? Why four families in four different states?”
The lawyer tossed the papers on the desk and laced his fingers together. “Your father wanted to have children, and he confided to me that his wife didn’t want them. This broke his heart.”
“So he went around looking for incubators?” Killian spat out.
“That’s a little disrespectful.” Benner frowned.
“You’re calling me disrespectful?” Killian made a rude noise. “I’d say your client is the one who was disrespectful.”
“She knew about all of us?” Dylan held his hands out, palm up. “His wife, I mean?”
“No, she did not.” Benner’s cheeks turned ruddy. “And I was sworn to silence under attorney/client privilege. I’m assuming that your mothers made you aware of your father’s marital situation?”
One of the men cleared his throat, but no one spoke.
Jackson’s father had spent very few weeks with him every year, and now he—they all—knew why. The man not only had a wife, but four families. The time his dad did spend with Jackson was dedicated to grooming his son to one day run the family business; poring over contracts for regional mineral rights, surveying land, and interpreting tests to determine if the acreage had value.
Jackson stared at the law degree on the wall, but his mind spun back ten years to when he’d just turned fifteen and his mother had let Dusty’s secret escape: Dad had a wife in Kansas. Worse, despite knowing Dusty was married, Sapphire, Jackson’s mother, was Dusty’s lover, which made Jackson a… Shaking away the memory, he focused his attention away from Oregon and back to Kansas.
“So, in the interest of time, I will read the highlights of the will. The entire document is in the folders I set in front of you.” The attorney cleared his throat and read for a quarter of an hour. The details included a grocery list of assets: a mineral and water rights company that boasted assets near five-hundred million dollars, including a private ten-person jet, a storefront in the small town of Red Creek, Kansas, as well as a big house on the outskirts of town.
The brothers sat silent.
“Of course, there are the four houses in four compass points of the US. In the north, Montana, where Killian resides. Texas, from where Rogue hails. Dylan, of course, from Nashville, and Jackson, from Oregon.” Jackson’s gaze flicked to each of his brothers as they glanced at each other, then back at the lawyer. “These houses are currently company property, but your father notes that you four, as the new owners of D. Walker Mineral, can opt to transfer the homes into your mothers’—”
“Hang on.” Dylan stiffened. “You’re saying he left the company to us?”
“Yes, of course.” Benner looked surprised. “I didn’t read that portion of the will because I assumed…” He hefted out a sigh. “The company is now legally in your names, exactly one quarter going to each.”
Dylan let go with a long, low whistle.
Jackson closed his gaping mouth and swallowed. He owned a fourth of a half-billion dollar company? Hell, he’d always figured Dusty had plenty of money. Their house, which sat a block from the ocean in Bandon, had an unobstructed view of the Pacific from the rooftop deck, and stood within walking distance of his mother’s pottery shop downtown. But half a billion? Man, what he could do with a fourth of that. “So, if we sell our quarter?” Jackson said the words slowly, figuring the other three had to be pondering the same question.
“There are repercussions.” The attorney flipped pages. “Ah, here. ‘Heretofore, the parties to which—”
“In plain English, please.” Killian put one booted foot on the opposite knee.
“Of course.” The man set down the papers and leaned back in his chair, placing one hand on his round belly. “The company is essentially frozen as-is for a full year. After that time, if one of you wants to sell, the others have the option of buying you out at half-worth.”
“Half-worth?” Rogue fisted his hand. “Meaning they’d buy me out at a fifty-percent discount?” The guy looked pissed.
“Yes, that’s correct. Your father wanted to keep the company in the family. Wanted you four boys to run it together.”
Jackson could wait a year. He had a sizeable savings account. All he needed was money to get him to rodeos and pay his entry fees. But hell, no matter what his father wanted, there was no room in his life for small-town Kansas and an eight-to-five job. He’d be the first to sell his quarter of the company.
Benner attempted a smile. “However, you are each officially on the payroll, and your first paychecks will be cut the day you successfully complete the one…” He swallowed then cleared his throat. “Stipulation in the will.”
All four of them leaned an inch closer.
“Stipulation?” Dylan prodded.
“To inherit, you must spend a week in Red Creek, working in your father’s office, learning more about the business, sharing with each other what you’ve learned from your father over the years. You must also reside for that week at your father’s house—your house—on Osprey Lake.”
“A week?” Jackson shook his head. He’d be damned if he’d be forced to work and live with three strangers, even if they were blood relatives. “What’s the timeframe here? Anytime in the next year?”
Rogue slapped open his folder and pulled out his copy of the will. “What section is that in?” His words came out clipped.
“Second from the last page. You’ll see that there’s a thirty day time limit.” The attorney checked his calendar. “Today is August second. You’ll need to decide which week in August works for all four of you, and plan to be back here then. Or if this week works…” He shrugged.
Killian tapped his fingertips on his knee. “Dad wants the four of us to live in the same house and work in the same office? For an entire week?”
“Like summer camp for the bastard sons of Dusty Walker.” Dylan mumbled a curse.
Jackson rubbed the spot between his eyebrows. Good. At least he wasn’t the only one who found this situation bizarre. “What the fuck was he thinking?”
Rogue kept reading silently.
Benner’s face turned a dark shade of red. “He loved each one of you, I know that because he took great pains to create provisions to make sure you were taken care of after his death, as you were while he was alive.”
“Listen here.” Rogue stared at the will. “It says we each have to spend a week, but it doesn’t say it has to be the same week.”
“No, it…uh…what…?” The attorney sat forward and frantically flipped through his paperwork.
“I say we each take a week, get this goddamn stipulation out of the way, and figure out the rest later.” Rogue looked at his brothers. “Agreed?”
“Yeah. Okay.” Dylan accessed his phone. “I can stay this week. I got nothin’ goin’ on.”
Jackson grabbed his folder. “I can do the week after.” The sooner he got this bullshit out of the way, the sooner he could get back to his real life. A burst of unease gripped him. Rodeo was his real life? Traveling solo around the country, one-nighters with buckle bunnies, broken bones and torn ligaments. One hell of a life he’d chosen.
Killian rose. “Sure, I’ll do the third week.”
“That leaves week four for me.” Rogue stood and tucked the folder under his arm.
“Now wait, boys.” The lawyer stood, still staring at his copy of the will as Jackson and Dylan got to their feet. “Your father wanted you all to be here together. At the same time. To get to know one another.”
The brothers stood in a half-circle. Jackson’s gaze dropped to the belt buckle Killian wore, then to the other two brothers’ belts. The exact same belt buckle on all four of them. The one given to Jackson by his father.
“Am I seeing things?” Jackson caught Killian’s surprised gaze.
Killian looked down at his own waist. “Son of a bitch. I can’t believe this. They’re all alike.”
“Kinda fucked up, huh?” One side of Dylan’s mouth curved up. “The old man gave us the same belt buckle, like we’d use them to somehow magically find each other.”
Jackson wanted to fling the buckle into the nearest lake and watch it sink. So much for imagining his father thought he was special. Special, like one of a matched set of four.
The room went silent, then, as if on cue, they all turned toward the door.
“Wait.” The attorney raced around his desk and stood in front of the men, his brow wrinkled, his breath coming fast. “Your father’s wish was to have you spend this time together.” His hands fluttered like he didn’t know what to do next.
“Well then…” Killian patted Benner’s shoulder as he strode past him. “I guess he should have had his lawyer write that in the will.”
Jackson bit back a grin. That Killian was a smart-ass, but thank heavens Rogue had the brains to read the contract and get the four of them out of the bunking-together clusterfuck. Dylan—he couldn’t read the kid, but he appreciated how the youngest blurted out whatever came into his head. He almost wished…naw. Fuck, they were complete strangers. Best to keep it that way.
The four brothers left the office, walked to their separate limousines, and left the parking lot.
Then, the fun began.
Jackson Walker stood on the white line running down the middle of Main Street, Red Creek, Kansas as the sun rose behind him. His shadow grew shorter by the second, merging with his body. As if his deceased father, Dusty Walker, was casting a reminder that his third-oldest son would be walking in his boots that week.
He glanced along the right side of the street where the town stretched out for a few blocks before hitting the open space of the farm implement dealer. Gazing at the left side of the street, he watched the activity inside Cubby’s, where the metal Open sign hung on the restaurant door in this time-warp of a town. He’d eaten breakfast at his father’s…no…his and his three brothers’ massive house out on the lake, but with his cowboy metabolism, he’d be hungry again before the sun hit a forty-five degree angle.
Next to Cubby’s, and directly to Jackson’s left, lights gleamed from the big main level windows of the three-story building bearing the name D. Walker Mineral Company. Although barely past seven in the morning, the employees were already busy at work, like they’d been struck with gold fever. He wandered that way, ready to start another long day. Today was only Tuesday, and he’d signed on to stay the week, but yesterday, learning the business from the three people who had worked for Jackson’s father, had exhausted him. The massive amount of information he needed to assimilate made him dizzier than riding a world-class bucking bronc.
He pushed open the glass door and greeted Abby, the receptionist/bookkeeper. She winked at him from behind her tall counter, and pointed toward the little kitchenette hidden around a corner. “Coffee’s fresh.” Her short, blonde curls bounced as she adjusted her chair. Jackson guessed her to be in her mid-forties, working to supplement her and her husband’s income from their small farm outside of town. Although the company used an accounting firm in Kansas City, Abby managed to keep everything at the office running smoothly.
“Thanks.” He trudged back toward the big office at the end of the hall. Along the way, he passed the four open doors of the other offices, but only one desk was occupied. The specialists worked odd hours, depending on what time zone their current project landed in, and today, Vic typed as he spoke Spanish into his earpiece.
Would Jackson ever get used to this incredible venture he’d ended up owning a quarter share in?
His father’s banged-up wooden desk didn’t look like it belonged to a multi-millionaire. Nor did the worn leather chair. But then, his old man had traveled more than he officed, especially seeing as how he’d been juggling five families around the country.
Kicking the rolling chair back with a little too much aggression, he grabbed at it before it hit the bookshelf. Who the hell did Dusty Walker think he was, starting families wherever he pleased? And when the hell had his dad planned to introduce the brothers? At his retirement party? “Shit.” Jackson would probably never find the answers he was looking for. The attorney, Stanley Benner, didn’t have any clue, or at least he wasn’t talking.
With a long exhale, Jackson unbuttoned the cuffs of his white and blue plaid cotton shirt and rolled up the sleeves, staring out the window at Red Creek, which wound its way along the backs of the buildings on this side of the street. How often had his dad looked out at this view? Had he ever thought of Jackson, wishing he could be out west with his son?
He frowned. With one of his many sons.
A twinge of loneliness hit him. Dad was gone.
Jackson looked in the direction of the cemetery where Dusty and his wife, Theresa, were buried. Or at least, what was left of them after the car crash that killed them both instantly. A good plan would be for Jackson to go visit the graves, forgive his dad, make his peace. But the anger residing inside him at the man’s screwed-up idea of “the perfect family” grated like an old rusty gate swinging in the wind.
He scratched the side of his head, pulling on his too-long hair. He’d always taken pride in having the same dark-brown hair as Dusty. But now, Jackson wished he’d gotten it cut in Oregon before he’d left to come here Sunday night. He’d spotted a barber pole somewhere down a side street. If the August humidity got any heavier and made his hair curl, he’d go get it chopped clean off.
Jackson pulled his phone from his pocket and accessed his email. The one with the flag on it, from his younger half-brother Dylan who’d been here in town the week before, caught his eye again.
He shook his head. He had a younger brother? And two older brothers? “Strange world.”
Crazy Dylan had suggested they all meet back in Red Creek on the last day of the month, at noon at Cubby’s Restaurant. He’d written something about the town having a lot to offer, the family business keeping his interest, and the people here accepting him like a born-and-raised Red Creekian.
His younger brother had actually used the term Red Creekian in a sentence. Even so, Jackson had no plans to ever revisit this town after his week’s incarceration was up.
No new emails, so he tucked his phone away and took a look at the files sitting on the desk. With a deep breath, he prepared his brain for another day of massive info dump.
Jackson sat in his dad’s chair and opened the top file. West Virginia coal and gas plant production specification codes… The words didn’t even register as English. “Hell.” Jackson didn’t have enough fuel in him yet for this tedious shit. He stood, hiked up his jeans, and walked back down the hall to the small kitchen. Pouring a cup, he spotted a black ringed-binder on top of the refrigerator.
He pulled down the book and flipped it open. The first page had a newspaper article about Dusty Walker’s first day as owner of the newly re-incorporated company he and his wife had inherited from his father-in-law. “Huh.” So Dad had changed the company name. And his wife owned half, which probably explained why Dusty had stayed with her, the greedy asshole.
Jackson felt the heat of anger surface again, and shook his head. The guy was gone. Wasn’t it time to shove past this pissed-off phase and move on to…moving on?
He scanned through dozens of pages of news articles, the first half from actual newspapers, the later ones printed from online sites, all of them chronicling the rapid growth of the company under his father’s leadership. He had to admit, Dad had a crap-load of business sense.
“Hi there.” The receptionist’s voice reached him from her desk.
“Hi. Is he here?” A deep female voice had Jackson cocking his head.
“He is. Let me—”
“Wait, which one is this, now?” That sultry voice again.
“It’s Jackson, the third son. He’s twenty-five. From Oregon.” Abby didn’t bother to lower her voice. She must not realize he was just around the corner. Or did she know he was there, and just didn’t care if she appeared professional or not? “Did you hear about what went on with Dylan last week? You know Zoe Chapman, right?” Abby’s voice went quieter.
“I know Zoe. What happened?” The sultry one sounded curious.
Abby’s voice dropped down to a mumble and the two spoke for a minute.
Jackson strained to hear, but couldn’t catch anything.
“That’s quite a coincidence.” The sexy voice spoke.
“Yes, I thought so, too.” Abby tsked. “So, would you like me to let Jackson know you’re here to see him?”
“Wait, is this the rodeo cowboy?” Ms. Sensual Voice sounded disappointed.
“Yes. That’s him.” A giggle. “Is that a problem?”
Jackson set down his cup and moved a few inches to peek around the wall. His jaw dropped.
Tall, maybe just a few inches shorter than his six-feet, two-inches, even in her flat…red high-tops? Different. Her jet-black hair shone in the bright light as it swung thick and straight, cut just at her shoulders. Her jeans clung to her curvy hips and she had a booty that made him forget to breathe. The graphic printed T-shirt strained at the press of her full breasts against the front of the material.
He ducked back into the kitchen and swallowed, recognizing the heat rushing through his body as blood racing from his head to his groin. Holy hell, she was the best thing he’d seen in this town, by a long shot.
“I was hoping…” Her sexy voice switched to a long sigh. “For one of the business-type brothers, but I was in Kansas City for two weeks setting up new servers for a startup company, and I really need to talk to one of Dusty’s heirs.”
Jackson took another quick look at her. Yeah, she definitely put a rocket in his pocket.
“You should talk to Jackson. He’s a nice guy.”
Ms. Sensual Voice pressed two fingers between her eyebrows. “It can probably wait until next week. Talk to that one, instead.”
Abby shrugged. “Why?”
Jackson knew he had to make his presence known before the hottie said something that’d make her too embarrassed to go out with him. He grinned. And he would sorely like to take her out. Then take her back home, and spend the night with her. “Because…” Stepping out of the kitchen, he strode toward her, using his sure-hit cowboy gait.
She turned to look at him. Her sky-blue eyes widened and her cheeks pinked up to a sexy shade of embarrassment.
“Our guest thinks this dumb ol’ cowboy don’t have enough gray matter upstairs to understand what she needs.” And what she needed was to have those red lips of hers kissed. Hard.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Walker.” Her sensual voice rolled quietly from her as her gaze dropped to take him all in, then shot back to his face.
He held out his hand. “Jackson Walker.”
She took his hand and the surge of electricity that ran up his arm and through his nerves blotted out all thoughts except bedroom ideas.
“Aurora Hughes.” She pulled her hand back a little too quickly, and sucked in an uneven breath. Did she feel it, too? That zip and ping of lust?
“Is that your real name, Rori?” Abby smiled like she was enjoying every minute of this meeting.
“Yes.” Rori’s blue gaze met his. “My friends call me Rori.” She shook her head as if to pull her thoughts back from wherever they’d shot off to. “May I speak with you for a few minutes, Mr. Walker?”
“Sure thing, and it’s Jackson.” He gestured for her to precede him down the hallway. “Abby, hold my calls please.” Of course, he hadn’t received one call since he’d arrived here, but it sounded good anyway.
“Yes, Mr. Walker.” She sing-songed with a smirk as she went back to her keyboard.
In front of him, Ms. Aurora “Rori” Hughes walked stiffly, but that nicely-rounded bottom of hers moved and swayed in an amazingly seductive way. They stepped into the big office and he shut the door. When he turned, she stood right there.
Those blue eyes stared into his, and when he inhaled, her light patchouli scent wrapped itself around inside his head. She opened her mouth.
He swallowed and leaned a centimeter closer, ready to kiss her perfect lips if she gave one more sign that she wanted him as much as he craved her.
“I want to apologize for what I said out there.” Rori nodded toward the front of the building. “I meant no offense, but I have a bad history with rodeo cowboys.”
Her words cooled his jets as effectively as a shovel-full of snow dumped inside the front of his pants.
* * * * *
Rori bit her tongue when Jackson jerked back as if she’d thrown a rotten tomato at his forehead. She hadn’t meant to blurt it out, but oh boy, was he a barrel full of sexiness. Those inky blue eyes surrounded by long, thick lashes. That mouth, full and curved in a teasing smile. A jaw that looked strong enough to withstand anything a rodeo horse could throw at him. She fisted her hands, wanting to run them through his shaggy, slightly curling hair.
She’d almost imagined he wanted to kiss her. Right here in Dusty’s office. Blinking, she backed up a few steps but bumped into the edge of the desk. “Sorry. I’m a little…” Rori glanced at the desktop. What was she? Incredibly turned on by a guy she’d met less than a minute ago? A shiver raced through her, tightening her nipples and sending a sweet ache to her belly.
“A little…?” He reached around her and pulled one of the guest chairs nearer. Leaning over her a bit too close.
He gave off the purely masculine scent of soap and outdoors and she held her breath, keeping her gaze fixed on the desk to fight back that naughty temptation. Rori had to remember the pitiful existence her cousin lived because of a rodeo junkie. She refused to end up the same way.
When Jackson finally moved away from her, she sank into the chair, glad her knees held out as long as they had, and watched him stroll around the desk and take a seat in Dusty’s chair. Dang, she had more than one reason to be uninterested in this man. Besides rodeo cowboys being poison, this one was her benefactor’s son, to whom she was indebted. So why did the idea of shoving all those files off the desk and spreading herself on the flat surface for his pleasure keep intruding on her thoughts?
“Ms. Hughes?” He leaned back in the chair, watching her with those too-seductive eyes. “What can I help you with?”
“It’s Rori. Please.” Her gaze darted around as she recalled the points she’d come here to make. “First…” She blurted the word too loudly, and his eyebrows rose. “First, I wanted to tell you how sorry I am about your father. He was a kind man, a good businessman, and everyone in town is feeling the loss.”
Jackson nodded once, his lips thinning.
Yep, she could imagine how he felt, learning he had three brothers he hadn’t known about. She’d be angry as a hornet, too. Maybe she could help him by showing him the good his father had done. “Second, I want to talk about Cyber Wise.”
Glancing at her T-shirt then at the powered-down computer on the desk—both of which bore her company’s logo—he nodded once. “I’m guessing you’re Cyber Wise?” Those beautiful eyes of his shifted to look at her.
“I am.” Rori scooted to the edge of her chair. “Two years ago, Dusty recruited me from the University of Kansas. I’d just completed my MSCoE and was…”
His gaze dropped when she’d thrown out her credentials. Was he uninterested? He wasn’t a college man, from the rumors floating around. Did she just lose him?
She waved one hand to dismiss what she’d just said and started over. “I finished my Master’s in computers, and he asked me to come to Red Creek and work for him.”
Jackson met her gaze. “But you’re not on the payroll.”
“We worked out a deal. I started my own business in town, but made D. Walker Mineral my number one priority.” Dusty’s business sense combined with her need to work on her own terms had clashed then melded into a win-win arrangement. “He leases the old five-and-dime building to me free of charge, for as long as I remain in town and stay available to his company.”
His jaw shifted and he narrowed his eyes. “You just told Abby you were in Kansas City for two weeks.”
Shit, he’d caught that? Rori took a deep breath. “I want to…someday…open another office in KC.” Hopefully with the help of Dusty’s company. “And getting my name associated with corporations in that area is imperative.” There. She didn’t exactly lie, but she didn’t confess everything either. Now, just how sharp was this rodeo cowboy?
His lips curved in a smirk. “So, after Dusty died, you figured you’d just go do whatever you wanted, and damn the contract?”
She clamped her jaw closed. The man did not play fair. “The job in KC was a last-minute thing. The company they’d hired to do their startup went belly-up, and they urgently needed help.”
Jackson just stared at her.
Loosening her facial muscles, she gave a sad smile. “Dusty was…gone already, the company shut down for the week after, and I was only a three-hour drive away from Red Creek if an emergency arose. One hour by Dusty’s private jet, if needed.” Shifting in her seat, she let go of the guilt she felt for missing the funeral and for semi-breaking her contract with the company.
The man in Dusty’s chair did not look impressed.
She needed to hit this cowboy with more facts.
“The contract specifies that I can take jobs outside the region. And I have, many times, with Dusty’s okay.” She gestured out the window. “I mean, you’ve seen Red Creek. How much computer work do you think this town needs?” Her voice rose as her panic grew. This man could terminate her contract and leave her without a storefront, and with a truckload of electronics to move. She should probably have been nicer to him from the start.
He watched her for long moments, then placed his hand flat on the desk and stood. “Let’s go see this building of yours.” A shaft of sunlight coming through the window highlighted his face.
She stared, unmoving. He was handsome, rugged, but those eyes were too compelling, too sharp.
His hair fell in disarray, and in the sunlight, gleamed with a dozen shades of brown. “Huh?” He’d said something…
With a grin, he walked around the desk and opened the door. “Your building? The old five-and-dime? Let’s go take a look at it, then we’ll have breakfast at Cubby’s, and talk business.”
With her butt still stuck to the chair, she shifted her gaze, trying to figure out his plan of attack. “Sure.” She got to her feet and wandered past him and out the door. How had a quick confirmation of contract validity become a personal tour and breakfast? She glanced down at her old Get Cyber Wise T-shirt. And why hadn’t she worn something a little sexier?