Marriage at the Cowboy's Command(5)

By: Ann Major

“Don’t you dare insinuate that your…‘father’ and I had an affair, because we didn’t. He was nice to me. That’s all.”

The intensity of Luke’s gaze unnerved her. “Half a million dollars nice?”

“During dinner, I told him about my ranch. We got into finances, and I was frank about my problems. I was afraid I was about to lose the ranch. He said he appreciated what I had done for Sahara and that he wanted to help me. He stunned me by saying he’d buy the mortgage and help me get back onto my feet.”

“That was all there was to it? Hassan doesn’t make a habit of befriending people and rescuing them.”

“He calls you his son!”

“I saved his kid’s life. Took a bullet, too. You work with Sahara an hour or two—and he buys your mortgage? I don’t get it.”

She hadn’t, either—although she now had a few suspicions.

“I needed the money, so I took what he offered. Wouldn’t anybody in my position have done the same thing? Didn’t you?”

“He taught me a lot when I went to work for him,” Luke agreed. “He opened a lot of doors.”

“I’ll say. Those doors must have been made of solid gold. Five years later you’re a billionaire.”

Ramblin’ Man walked over to the trailer and stuck his nose inside. She noted his behavior, but couldn’t take any satisfaction in his progress, so long as Luke was here.

“It’s true. I owe him everything. And I think the only reason Hassan helped you was because of me,” Luke said.

“You? I don’t get it.”

“Somehow he must have figured out we’d been involved. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for family, and if you claimed some tie to me…”

“But I didn’t.”

She again remembered Hassan’s comments about Daniel’s eyes and she felt afraid. Still, with an air of bravado, she said, “Why don’t you ask him why he helped me?”

“I did ask him. He was evasive. So, I came here to satisfy my curiosity, and because Hassan forced the issue. The fact is, this ranch is the last place I’d willingly return to. Just as you are the last person I’d help, if I had a choice. But Hassan wants to help you, and he asked me to figure out how to do it, so here we are—stuck with each other.”

“Why don’t you just leave?”

“And tell Hassan to keep bailing you out? No, I’m going to get to the bottom of this. I’m here to protect Hassan.”

His narrowed green eyes pierced her. His sharp words stung. She was the last person he’d help, if he had a choice.

He was angry. Why? He’d betrayed her family, jilted her and left her pregnant, with unattractive options, while he’d reinvented himself as this arrogant, world-class businessman. What did he have to be mad about? Unless he knew about Daniel…which he didn’t. At least, not yet.

Again her gaze strayed to the house, searching for Daniel.

Don’t panic. Be polite. Just send him on his way—fast. How hard could it be to get rid of a man who didn’t want to be here?

So much for her miracle. She was in worse trouble than before.

Caitlyn turned to Lisa. “Look, I need to talk to Luke. In private. You can work with Ramblin’ Man on your own until I get back. Do a little groundwork…like I showed you before he put his foot into the trailer.”

“Okay,” Lisa said reluctantly, glancing at Luke.

“Follow me,” Caitlyn said curtly as she unlatched a gate and headed out of the round pen. She was tired of Lisa hanging on to their every word, and there was the added danger that Lisa might blurt out something about Daniel.

Luke nodded casually to Lisa before loping after Caitlyn. “Look, if you need to get her stallion in the trailer before we talk, go ahead. I have a report from one of my CEOs that I need to read. Our meeting can wait a half hour. Lisa told me about the bees.”

He’d had time for a private chitchat with Lisa before Caitlyn had seen him. Her sudden burst of jealousy infuriated her.

Caitlyn stopped in the shadow of the barn and whirled to face him. “I’m canceling our meeting.”

“The hell you are. I flew all the way from London.”

“I don’t care if you flew in from another galaxy. You had no right to come here under false pretenses.”

“I promised Hassan I’d figure out a solution to your problems.”

“I don’t want your help. You’re too late, Luke Kilgore. Six years too late. I’ve made it this long without you. I can keep on making it without you.”

His green eyes flamed with surprise, and fresh suspicion. “What the hell do you mean by that?”