Make Me Crazy (Loco, Texas) (3 page)

BOOK: Make Me Crazy (Loco, Texas)
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Rand shook her head. “Nope. Iron clad and legal as can be. So now I just have to find someone that fits the bill.”

Earl was just starting to go a little grey in his hair and wrinkly around the mouth and eyes, and the dark expression exasperated these features.

Suddenly, his face shifted into an ornery grin. “Well I’d marry ya, but I’m too damn old to change my ways.”

The oven dinged and she pinched his whiskered cheek as she passed. “Confirmed old bachelor that you are, you’d bring all kinds of problems to the marriage and I’d kick you out after a week.”

He slapped his knee and hooted while she put the pie in to warm. “Too true, missy. It’s hard to change fifty odd years of habits in one year. So who do ya have in mind to hitch up with?”

She sat back down and plopped her head on the table with a groan. “Ugh, I don’t know.”

A hard hand patted her shoulder. “It will be alright. Any man worth his spit would be lucky to have ya.”

She sat up and blinked at him. “Why Earl, that was positively sweet.”

His cheeks flamed and he glared at her. “Just shut up and tell me about the rest of your week. No need in making something out of nothing.”

With a secret smile, Rand did as he asked. When she got to her possible husbands and her list of requirements, Earl asked, “What’s the matter with torch? He ain’t a bad sort, smart as a potato, but he does good work on cars.”

Rand chuckled at Earl’s nickname. “I couldn’t imagine living with Red. And he’s worth more as a friend than as a husband.”

“What about the other one? Jakey boy. I’ve heard the girls in town carrying on about how attractive he is.” Earl batted his lashes and pretended to swoon for emphasis.

Rand’s mouth kicked up into a smirk. “Jake’s a tom cat. He’d never be able to go without sex.”

Earl looked her over seriously, and asked, “You telling me you expect some man to marry you, and he’s not even getting any benefits?”

Rand’s face flamed and she grouched, “What is it with men about perks and marriage? This is just a temporary fix to an impossible situation.”

“All I know is, if I was gonna be married to a pretty girl, I’d want the whole enchilada.”

The oven beeped, and she went to check the pie.  Satisfied it was warm enough, she put the pie on the cooling rack and said, “Well it’s a good thing I’m not pretty then”

“Who the hell told you that? I’ll kick their ass clear up between their ears.”

 “You don’t have to say things like that, Earl. I know what I look like,” she said, turning to give the loyal old grouch a smile.

Earl stood up, walking toward her with an angry gate,
 but when he patted her cheek, the touch was gentle. “What’s not to like about you? You got all your eyes and ears, and your nose ain’t crooked. You’re fine. Next person to tell you any different, you send ‘em my way and I’ll learn’em something.”

You dear old cuss, you’re going to make me cry
.
She swallowed the lump in her throat and croaked, “I’ll do that. Now move out of my way so I can slice this pie.”

Rand pulled up to the house a little before four and headed straight out to feed. She’d done most of the work in the morning, so it was mainly just second feeding and checking the fences. Saddling up Sun, her Red Roan Quarter Horse she went about her chores, her thoughts heavy. By the time she was done, she couldn’t wait to make a couple of bean and cheese burritos and relax. She took off her work gloves and stuffed them into the pocket of her jacket as she walked towards the house.

As she got closer, she saw there were things on her porch. Lots of things that had no business being there. She sped up her pace and took the steps two at a time, gasping as she took it all in.

There were teddy bears, cards, and lots and lots of flowers. Even a stuffed horse hung out by the door and she picked up one of the cards, opened it up and the words, “Thinking of you,” were typed across the front with a shy looking bear. Inside, she read;

Dear Miss Coleman,

I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner Wednesday night. I could come by and pick you up, and we could go anywhere you want. I hope you enjoy the flowers and look forward to hearing from you.

Yours,

Fred Meyer

She stared at the card
.
Freddy Meyer
?
He’d been in Jake and Red’s grade and ran his dad’s electronic store. He was a nice guy, just five foot three with a stutter.

She got a real ugly feeling that all the men in Loco knew about her little problem and when she opened up another card and read a list three pages long about why Woody Merrill would make a good husband, she wanted to scream. She leaned over to gather up the rest of the cards to take them inside and stopped when she heard a truck coming up the drive. Jake’s beat up Ford pulled to a stop at the end of the porch.

Perfect timing.

 
“What the hell are you doing here,” she asked as he hopped out of the truck and came around the side. Red hopped out of the passenger side and her confusion increased. “And you too? Do your mamas’ know you aren’t going to be there for dinner?”

Red had a wide smirk on his face and even Jake’s mouth was twitching with mirth. “We heard you’d had some visitors. Decided to come out and make sure you were properly chaperoned.”

Her eyes narrowed and she snapped, “Y’all are a bunch of jack asses.”

Red stepped onto the porch and picked up a couple of vases. “Well, lead the way in, princess. You never know when the next prince charming is gonna show up on your step.”

Jake picked up a bunch of stuffed animals and they followed her inside. She set the first stack of cards down and when they finished bringing the rest of the offerings in, she went to the cupboard to pull out the burrito fixings.

 
“Aren’t you going to open the cards,” Jake asked from behind her.

 
“Not with y’all hovering around,” she snapped, slamming a pan down on the stove.

Suddenly, she heard a ripping noise and Red’s deep voice read, “Miss Coleman, I have enclosed a poem for your enjoyment and was hoping maybe we could meet up for food…”

Without warning, she spun around and launched herself at Red, grabbing his ear. “You drop that right now, Red Calhoun!”

Red howled. “Jake, get a hold of this wild cat. I want to read this poem! I’m betting it’s a dandy, coming from Buddy Martin.”

Lifted up from behind by a hard arm around her waist, she yelled, “You put me down right now!”

It was futile though; Jake was at least six inches taller and her feet were several inches off the floor.

 “I’ll put you down as soon as you ask real nicely,” he said, his voice softly teasing.

Rand was aware of his arms settled under her breasts and that his breath was warm against the side of her neck. “Fine, horse’s ass, please put me down.”

“Now was that so hard? Just relax and I’ll let you go. No sudden movements. I would like to keep all my parts.”

As he lowered her back to the floor, their bodies pressed so close her shirt rode up into the small of her back. A lightheaded giddiness moved from her toes to her cheeks and it was like someone was poking her with tiny needles everywhere. She turned in his arms and her mouth was just under his full lips. She could see that his green eyes had tiny flecks of yellow at the center and whispered, “Please, let me go.”

He stared back at her, and she felt his hesitation. In fact, she could have sworn his head dropped a fraction of an inch before Red recited, “Brown eyes color of turned soil, hair so cute in a ponytail, Miranda, oh how I want to kiss, each freckle on your cheeks and lips…” Red’s head came up and he squinted at her. “Do you have freckles on your lips?”

She lifted her arms to cover her mouth and Jake released her as he answered the question. “No, she doesn’t have any freckle on her lips.”

Cheeks burning with embarrassment, she stepped away from him and went back to the stove, clearing her throat. “Do you guys want a couple of burritos?”

“Yeah sure,” Red said, and she turned to look at Jake who was watching her intently like he’d never seen her before.

“Do you want some, Jake,” she asked, silently pleading that he’d stop staring at her. She didn’t know what was going on, but she was pretty sure she had just wanted Jake to lay a kiss on her. And something about the way he was looking at her made her think he was thinking about the same thing.

“Yeah sure. Sounds good.” He walked over to the pile of cards and picked another one up.

She went to the fridge to get the cheese, listening to the two men muttering and mumbling as she finished making the burritos. She pulled several plates out of the cupboard and said, “If y’all could stop going through my personal correspondences, food’s done.”

The two men dropped the cards, and walked over to sit at the table. When Rand and Jake reached for the plate at the same time, their hands bumped.

She pulled her hand back like it had been scalded. “Sorry, you go.”

He shook his head, and protested, “No, you cooked.”

Red looked between them and reached out to scoop up three burritos. “I don’t know what all this politeness is about, but I’m hungry.”

 
“Animal.” Rand snapped.

Red tried to reply but his mouth was full. Jake laughed and reached out for a couple of burritos. “Maybe you should send him to the barn, Rand.”

The tension broken, Rand grabbed one of the burritos and ate it in silence, sneaking glances at Jake out of the corner of her eye. He really was a fine specimen of a man, if you were looking for a handsome heart breaker. Which she was not.

But still, she wondered what it all was about anyway. She remembered getting stuck in the bathroom in high school, trying to avoid Kim and her howler monkey friends, and listening to Patty Baker talk about making it with Paul Grossman in the back of his daddy’s Ford and thinking that it sounded really awful. But if it was so horrible, then why did they keep doing it?

She’d spent the last twenty-five years keeping men at bay, unwilling to take that next step that would make her vulnerable and it had left her wondering. Curious.

Chapter Three

 

After they finished eating, Jake watched her pick up their dishes and take them over to the sink, admiring the way she moved with lithe, sure grace.

He had almost kissed Rand, in front of Red, and he wanted to go back. Go back to before he noticed that Rand had a pretty smile and nice legs. Before the feel of her body pressed against his was seared into his brain.

“So, are we going to go through these letters, or what,” Red asked, breaking into his thoughts as he held up a couple of envelopes, his lips stretched into an evil grin.

Rand looked over her shoulder, her elbows buried in soapy water. “Just leave them.”

Jake caught Red’s eye, and knew he had heard the sad tone in Rand’s voice too.

It was Red who walked across the kitchen and put his hands on Rand’s shoulders. “I was only teasing, Rand.”

“Yeah, this is all a big joke to you. I got that.” She said, shaking off his hands and grabbing a towel. “You don’t get what this is like for me. I never wanted this. I never wanted a husband, and now I have to find one, albeit a temporary one, in three months. Look at me!” She was yelling at the top of her lungs, her voice high pitched and Jake stood up. He had never seen Rand so panicked; she looked like a wild animal caught in a trap. “I have no idea how to deal with men or romance or kissing and I just want…you know what, I don’t need the ranch. I don’t. I can just get a job somewhere else…”

Jake walked over and grabbed her shoulders, giving her a shake. “Stop it. You are not giving up this ranch. This is just a temporary thing right? You only have to stay with the guy a year and you’re in the clear. So if you want help hooking a guy, we’re here to help.”

“What?” Red yelled.

“What?” Rand said, staring up at him.

“Red’s got four sisters and I know what guys like. Between the two of us, we can turn you into a guy magnet.” Jake said, watching her cheeks turn scarlet.

“I don’t want to be a guy magnet. Besides, half the men in town have left offerings on my porch,” she said, waving to the island.

“Yeah, but they just think they can get a piece of the Double C. Wouldn’t it be better if they wanted you?” Red chimed in.

“No, I already told you, I don’t want a real marriage,” she said.

“So don’t have one, but you could at least give them a little pleasantness as incentive,” Red said.

“What do you mean, pleasantness,” she asked suspiciously.

“Like smile at the guy? Dress up a little so he’ll be proud to have you on his arm at town events,” Jake offered bluntly.

“God, you are such an ass,” Rand snapped, trying to get away from him.

“No, I am realistic. What man wants a woman who can out man him any day of the week?” Jake countered, holding tight.

“Jake…” Red started cautiously.

“No, Rand, you need to grow up. You are a grown ass woman and it’s about time you started acting like it!” Jake said.

“Me? What about you? You jump around from bed to bed and don’t think about the future at all! Who are you to tell me I’m immature?” She shouted it.

“Okay, I think we all need to take a breath…” Red tried again.

“Shut up!” They shouted in unison.

Red’s face flushed. “Fine, you two idiots can hash it out all you want.”

Red was already out the door before Jake wondered how his friend was going to get home until he heard his truck start. “Son of a bitch is stealing my truck!”

Rand jerked out of his hands and pushed him. “Well, don’t think I’m giving you a ride home. You’ve got two good legs and a
  pair of boots, so get walking.”

Jake was flabbergasted. “You’re kicking me out and making me walk? It’s five miles!”

“And maybe you can take that time to think about what an ass you are,” she said, walking around the corner.

Jake was furious, frustrated, and all he could think about was how smart her mouth was. She made him crazy, with her stubborn, pig-headedness and those long legs. He didn’t even realize he had moved to follow her until he was grabbing her arm to slow her down. Pressing her back against the wall, when she tried to smack him he grabbed her hands and held them above her head. Using his height to look down into her angry brown eyes, he felt the softness of her, the warm draw of her skin and the way she smelled like roses was intoxicating.

His anger dissolved as he noticed the sheen to her eyes. Tears. Rand hardly ever cried, but he had hurt her feelings. Or made her so mad she was crying in impotent rage. Whichever it was, he didn’t want to fight with her. As much as she needled and roused him up, he didn’t like being in a spat with his best friend.

Dropping his forehead to hers, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes, trying to fight the hard on the smell and feel of her caused. “I’m sorry.” Lifting his head, he looked down at her expression; her confusion was apparent, and he added, “I shouldn’t have said that. About changing who you are. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

She opened her mouth, presumably to say something to contradict his apology and his gaze dropped to her mouth, the lips full, parted, and begging for him to take them.

Before he could stop himself, his mouth was on hers and the first taste of her was his undoing. Releasing her wrists, he wrapped his arms around her as he slipped his tongue inside, coaxing hers.
  When her tongue touched his hesitantly, he deepened the kiss and she met his thrusts, becoming bolder. He was so caught up in her, he couldn’t remember the last time he had kissed a woman like this, no motive, no plan to ease his loneliness with her warmth. He was just reacting, wanting. It had been a long time since he had felt this kind of spark.

He slid his hands down further to grab her thighs and lift her high. He felt her arms and legs wrap around him as he rubbed against the crux of her, about ready to carry her down to her bedroom and rip off the rough denim. He didn’t know what he was doing anymore; all he could think about was Rand wrapped around him and he wanted more.

Moving his hand up her body, he tried to clasp her breast but met some kind of weird barrier.

Pulling away, he asked, “What is that?”

Rand’s mind was so preoccupied with sensations she’d never felt before, she didn’t even think about her wrap; she had just been praying that whatever Jake was doing, he never stopped.

Who would have ever thought kissing would be so mind blowing
?
She’d felt every quivering ripple of pleasure from the juncture of her thigh, and up to the place at the back of her neck, and everywhere in between. Even her breasts, which had peaked into hard nubs against the layers that bound them and when he had covered one with his large, warm palm, she had wanted to arch, push against him.

But then she’d remembered the wrap.

Humiliated she dropped her legs and arms from around him and whispered, “Get off me.”

“Rand, seriously, what is this?” He moved his hand and waved it across her chest as he stepped back.

“It’s nothing,” she said, crossing her arms protectively.

“Do you bind your breasts,” he asked.

Oh God. She had never been kissed, had never thought about what would happen when a man tried to…

 
But he caught her by surprise. How did she explain that she had started wrapping them when she was a kid? That she was afraid it would change the way everyone thought about her? That they wouldn’t see her as an equal, as their boss, but a pair of boobs?

It was crazy, but she had been raised around men, had heard the things they said about women. She had never wanted to be the topic of one of those conversations.

“I’ll drive you home okay?” She said it, trying to move past him.

He stopped her with a hand on her arm. “Rand, why do you wrap them?”

“To avoid situations like this,” she said sharply.

“Like what,” he asked.

“Like men mauling me,” she said.

Jake blinked at her,
  color spreading to the top of his ears. “You kissed me back.”

She had no comeback. When Jake had kissed her, it had been like a lightning storm, each strike making her quake and she’d just wanted to get closer to his warmth.

“You know what; don’t worry about it, Rand. I think I will walk,” Jake said, spinning towards the door without looking back. As he slammed out of the house, she slumped against the wall, staring at the door.

Scout came down the hall, weaving between her legs with loud meows for attention, but Rand paid her little heed. Jake had kissed her. One minute they’d been fighting and the next he had her pinned to the wall with his hand on her breast.

Why now? He’d had twenty years to kiss her, so of all days to start, why had he chosen today?

Dropping her head back against the wall, she sighed. It had to be the clause in the will. It was ruining her life.

Rand had agreed to have a drink with Branson Alexander because she was going t
o
The Watering Hol
e
anyway and she wanted to hear his pitch. Sure in high school she’d had a football field sized crush on him, but that had ended the day he’d left a note in her locker telling her to meet him after school at his truck. She’d gone, trying to act cool but when she’d shown up to find him making out with Kim in the front seat, she’d cursed herself for her stupidity. She’d kept walking past his truck to hers and tried to ignore the laughter that followed her that last month of high school.

Afterwards, she’d heard whispers about him getting into some trouble in college and his dad hadn’t been happy with him. He’d been trying to get Branson out on one of his oil rigs, but Branson had avoided that fate so far.

Now here he was, looking nervously at her with those spring leaf green eyes and the black curls that fell just a little too long. He was still gorgeous, but even if Rand was willing to forgive the blow to her pride, she would never forget. And there was no way in hell she’d ever marry someone she trusted less than a coyote around a newborn calf.

She looked up past Branson’s shoulder and saw Jake walk in. Watching him move around the bar, her mouth suddenly felt like she had a dozen cotton balls stuffed inside. She hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the way he’d kissed her, hadn’t been able to figure out why any of it had happened. They had been friends for so long…

She’d handled the whole situation badly. She’d been embarrassed about the wrap and the kiss, but he was right. She had kissed him back…eagerly.

She looked back at Branson when he cleared his throat. He was obviously anxious about what he had to say, so she prompted, “So, you wanted to talk to me about something?”

Branson flashed a strained smile. “Yeah, Miranda, I just wanted to apologize about our senior year. Kim talked me into leaving you the note and I just feel bad.”

She took a sip of her beer, pretending she was mulling his apology over. “Really? Cause your apology is coming about seven years late.”

His smile disappeared. “Yeah I know. I was just thinking…”

“That you’d marry me?
  Get your hands on the Double C and what? We’d get a divorce and you’d get half? That’s not how this little arrangement is going to work.” She had the satisfaction of watching the eagerness leave his face and continued, “See, the man I marry is going to sign a pre-nuptial agreement that states he will have no say or stock in the Double C.”

Abruptly, he threw some money down on the table and stood up. “Well that’s that then. If you don’t mind, I’m gonna take off. Find something that’s not such a waste of time.”

“There’s the Branson I know. I was worried there for a minute you’d grown a conscience,” she said mockingly.

“Fucking bitch,” he snarled before stalking away.

 Grabbing a hold of her pony tail, she ran her fingers through it grimly. She had been out with four men since Tuesday and not one of them was going to work out. Nasally voice, stutter, ego, and asshole. Both of the first guys were good men, but they were looking for a real wife. Someone to settle down and make babies, and once she’d mentioned the name only part, they’d pulled out. She hadn’t been able to stand Cody Underhill going on and on about how much money he’d put into his truck and how many speakers he had in his home theater system. And then Branson had been the cherry on top. She didn’t know how women actually did this all the time. Dating was exhausting.

“Looks like that didn’t go well.”

Her gaze snapped up to meet Jake’s laughing green eyes and tried to act normal despite the kangaroo hop her heart was doing.

 
“I don’t know. I think it went better than my other dates this week. Wasn’t as boring and only took half the time.”

He handed her another beer and sat down. “Yeah, I’ve never seen Branson move that fast. Even when he played football he was slower than molasses.”

She took a drink, trying to think of something clever to say or a way to ease into her apology speech, but nothing came to mind.  “Where’s Red?”

He shrugged. “Said he had something to do.”

“So you came here alone? No hot date? I thought you were much in demand with the single ladies..”

BOOK: Make Me Crazy (Loco, Texas)
4.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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