Hot Westmoreland Nights(3)

By: Brenda Jackson

Ramsey understood and supported her decision, although Nellie’s absence left him in a bind. Today was the start of shearing and with over twenty or so men involved, he was in desperate need of a cook to take Nellie’s place. He had placed a call to one of these temporary employment agencies yesterday afternoon and was told they had just the person who would be perfect as a fill-in and the woman was to show up this morning.

“It would be good exposure for you and the ranch. It could put you in the public eye and let everyone know how successful you are as a sheep rancher.”

Ramsey shook his head. Being in the public eye was something he could definitely pass on. He was close to his family, but when it came to outsiders he was basically a loner and preferred things that way. Everyone knew how much he enjoyed his privacy. Bailey knew it too, so he wondered, why was she harassing him?

“The ranch doesn’t need that kind of exposure. I was asked to pose for some girly magazine, Bail.” He had never read a copy of Simply Irresistible, but the name alone made his jaw twitch. He could just imagine the articles that were between the covers.

“You should be flattered they want you on the cover, Ram.”

He rolled his eyes. “Whatever.” He then checked his watch for two reasons. This was Monday and he knew Bailey had a class at the university this morning and his temporary cook was ten minutes late.

“I wish you would reconsider.”

He glanced back at her. “No,” he said firmly. “And shouldn’t you be in class about now?” He moved out of the barn and walked back toward the sprawling home he had finished building the previous year.

Bailey followed, right on his heels. He couldn’t help but recall that she used to do that same thing when he took over the responsibility of raising her when she was seven and he was twenty-one. They’d lost both parents and a beloved aunt and uncle in an airplane accident. During that time she would rarely let him out of her sight. He fought back a smile at the fond memory.

“Yes, I have a class this morning, but I thought I’d drop by to talk some sense into you,” he heard her say.

He turned around, placed his hands in his pockets. At that moment he couldn’t stop the smile that touched his lips. “Fine. You’ve tried and failed. Goodbye, Bailey.”

He watched her place her hands on her hips and lift her chin. No one had to warn him about Westmoreland stubbornness. Hers could be more lethal than most, but over the past twenty-one years he’d learned to deal with it.

“I think you’re making a mistake. I subscribe to that magazine and I think you’d be surprised,” she was saying. “It’s not just a ‘girly’ magazine. It has a number of good articles for women, including some on health issues. However, once a year they feature a man on the cover. They try to find a man who’s every woman’s fantasy lover.”

A woman’s fantasy lover? Now that was a laugh, Ramsey thought. He was nothing more than a hardworking Colorado sheep rancher and since he’d doubled the size of his herd this past year, he couldn’t recall the last time he’d been intimately involved with a woman. Working sunup to sundown, seven days a week had become a way of life for him.

“It will be my mistake to make, brat. I’ll survive and so will you. Now scat.”

A half-hour later he was alone and standing in his kitchen and clicking off his cell phone after talking to Colin Lawrence, a member of his shearing crew. Because of a snowstorm that had hit the area a few weeks ago, they were already behind in shearing and needed to get that done within the next two weeks in time for lambing to begin. Starting today everything would be moving rather fast to stay on schedule.

Colin had called to say a few of the pregnant ewes had somehow gotten out of the shearing pen and begun to wander. The dogs were having a hard time getting them back in the pen without stressing out the pregnant sheep. The last thing he needed was for any more shearing time to be lost, which meant that he had to get to the shearing plant on the north range as soon as possible.

He headed toward the door when he heard a car pull up outside. He glanced at his watch, agitated. It was about time the cook showed up. The woman was almost an hour late and that was not acceptable. And he intended to let her know about his displeasure.