Read No Direction Home (Sweet Home Colorado) Online
Authors: Jude Willhoff
Oh, my goodness
. The man is in charge of the books?
A twinge of apprehension tugged at the corners of Grace’s mind. "Be careful. He’s a stranger and there are a lot of crooks in the world—men who wouldn't balk at taking advantage of a widow owning a spread like this.” After all, she had loved Lee and look what he had done to her. When the going got rough, he left her high and dry. “He might be after something.”
. “Nonsense. Wait till you meet him. He should be home anytime now. He and a few of the ranch hands were up north helping out the Wilsons. Jim Wilson broke his leg and Sally has had her hands full.” She took a bite of bread before she continued. “By the way, he stays upstairs. It was a shame to have all those bedrooms sitting there collecting dust.” She grinned. “I hated living in this big old house rambling around by myself.” She busied herself wiping nonexistent crumbs from the table and avoided Grace's shocked gaze.
“You’ve moved him into the house?
” Grace’s voice cracked with emotion when she set her cup down with a clatter. "What were you thinking?” She frowned. “What’s wrong with him staying in the bunk house with the rest of the hired help?”
” Nana stopped fidgeting and gave her a direct gaze—one filled with strong conviction. “When I came down with pneumonia last year, he moved in to take care of me. He helped me with a lot of things when I was sick and I happen to like his company.”
"You didn't tell me you were sick." Once again, Grace had
n’t been able to be there for her grandmother. Guilt slammed into her.
"You had enough on your plate
. There was no need to worry you." Nana pursed her lips and sat back casually in the chair, looking like she had when she'd reassured Grace about her new second grade teacher. "I know you'll get along with him. You'll see."
Fatigue from the long trip washed over Grace as she gripped the edge of the table
. "Okay, I'll take your word for it."
A complete stranger was living down the hall from her naive grandmother
. During Grace’s confinement in the nursing home, the back surgery and rehabilitation, the man had worked his way into Nana's heart and home.
Why would a man move in with an old lady if he didn't have ulterior motives
? Maybe he was one of those types who married widows to get their life savings. Was he after the ranch, Nana’s money, or both?
The homestead had been in the family for three generations
. She couldn’t stand by and let some kind of con artist cheat Nana out of it. Simply put, Grace couldn’t keep her mouth shut. “Did you have the guy checked out?"
Nana rolled her eyes
. "There you go, again."
"Where’s he from
? Does he have any family?”
“I know what you’re asking and I’m telling you, I didn’t have to do anything like that
. I know a good person when I see one and Seth has a good heart. He’s worked on ranches since he was a boy. Grew up in Texas. He has family back there and gets letters but throws them in the trash. Those folks must’ve hurt him real bad for him to do something like that.”
She sighed and didn’t want to argue with Nana on her first night home
. “I hope you know what you’re doing.” She bit her tongue and shut up. After the experience with her ex, Grace couldn’t see much good in any man but this wasn’t the time to continue the conversation.
Until now, the possibility had never occurred to her that Nana might still be attracted to men or need some kind of companionship other than the cat
. Yet, Nana was sharp and energetic for her years. Confusing thoughts raced around Grace’s head while she wondered if Nana had dated anyone over the past few years. She hadn’t mentioned anything.
. She just wasn’t up to dealing with this tonight. At the moment, everything hurt. Feeling ancient, she tried to hide a yawn.
“Dear, you’re falling asleep on your feet
. Why don’t you take a hot bath and get comfortable? I’ll call one of the boys from the bunk house to bring your luggage in from the car.”
Grace allowed herself to be manipulated by Nana’s smooth shift in conversation
. “A hot shower sounds like heaven. I think I will. I’ve been cold all day.” She walked over to hug Nana. “Have you lost weight?” She could feel Nana’s small-boned body through her heavy sweater.
“Maybe a few pounds
. I was getting too heavy.” Nana laughed and walked with Grace out of the kitchen.
“That’ll be the day.
” Taking a closer look at Nana, she noticed the frailties and dark circles under her eyes. Her liveliness was still there, but Nana was in her sixties. She had always been in good health, but she didn’t look quite right. “When I’m finished I’ll come back down for another cup of tea.”
“Okay, I’ll keep the water on.
” Nana walked into the living room and Grace watched her click on the TV to the evening news and settle back into the recliner as Ollie jumped onto her lap. Worry tugged at the corner of her mind. Would Nana tell her if something was wrong?
Maybe not, though Grace fully intended to worm it out of her
. However, not tonight. Stifling another yawn, she turned down the hall. She rubbed the well worn oak railing as she climbed the stairs to her room, remembering the many times she and her best friend Cindy had slid down the banister.
Going into the bedroom was like taking a step back in time
. Sitting on the bed for a minute to relax she looked around at the things she had left behind. The same antique white lace curtains hung over the wide windows. Her favorite forest green throw lay across the foot of the double bed.
Sighing, she got up and grabbed her robe that still hung on the back of the adjoining bathroom door
. She turned on the welcoming spray and adjusted the water temperature.
A few moments later, she dropped clothing to the floor and stepped into the warmth
. Letting the hot water trickle over tight muscles, it slowly took away some of the bone-tired fatigue and began to ease her pain. She would sleep well tonight, but first she would visit with Nana. The last thing she wanted was for her grandmother to be upset about their disagreement over Seth.
Coming out of the shower, she wrapped herself in a huge fluffy towel
. She dried off and pulled her soft blue robe against her bare skin. It was thin and a little small since she’d put on a few pounds, but it would keep the chill away until she could find some pajamas.
She picked up a comb and ran it through damp hair and worked the knots out of the long strands
. The woman staring back from the mirror was a stranger. She wasn’t the same person she used to be. She had gained thirty pounds after going through the divorce and surgery. The stubborn chin, brown eyes and long natural dark blond hair were the same but the person inside was someone else, someone she was discovering with each new day.
With hair dry and body refreshed from the shower, Grace began to feel human again
. A loud thump sounded outside the bedroom door. She froze.
Oh God. Had Nana fallen
? In a panic, she rushed out the door and flew around the corner straight into a solid chest. A man’s chest.
Strong arms wrapped around her nearly naked body as she noticed luggage strewn around the floor
. The smell of man, horse and leather tickled her nose. Startled, she glanced up to see familiar blue eyes staring back at her.
The sexy cowboy.
For an instant, being held in his arms, all her loneliness welded together in one upsurge of yearning. Grace’s heart thumped dangerously as a warm glow flowed through her.
She stepped back and clutched the skimpy robe together, knowing that it didn’t leave much to the imagination
. It was hard to be coherent when she was this close to him. He stood there with a slow bemused grin lifting the corner of his mouth. “You? What are you doing here?” she asked.
He touched the tip of his fingers to the brim of his hat
. “Hello, ma’am, I’m Seth Taylor. I live here.” His voice swept over her like a blanket fresh from a warm dryer. Soft and smooth. The grin spread across his face as he gave her the once over. “Well, if it isn’t the LA Lady. So you’re Nana’s granddaughter. She told me about you.” His eyes lit up like he could see right through her robe.
His nearness was disturbing and exciting
. She struggled to get her traitorous thoughts under control. “Yes...you’ll have to forgive me. I…I didn’t expect to see you outside my bedroom door.” Flustered, she pushed a strand of hair out of her face. She was babbling, and naked beneath the flimsy robe. She felt her nipples harden from the chill in the hallway.
Embarrassed on so many levels, she resolved the first thing she was going to do was change those damned vanity plates
. She’d hated them since Lee had given them to her for a birthday present. They were pretentious. Seth must think she was a California flake. What had Nana told him?
His eyes lit with a mischievous glint
. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I was dropping off your luggage before I went to my room.” He leaned down and picked up the overturned suitcases and set them inside her door. “It’s been a long day and I’m sure you’re tired.” Nervous in his steady gaze, she couldn’t speak. “We’ll talk more in the morning.” He smiled. “Evening, ma’am.” He touched the brim of his hat again, turned and walked down the hall.
Her stomach churned with anxiety and frustration as she stood in the familiar hallway, rooted to the spot
. Her fingers still clutched the top of her robe, but she couldn’t control the slight trembling within her. The man who had changed her tire was Seth—the cowboy Nana had hired. He wasn’t what she had expected. Somehow, she thought he would be older.
Holding her raw emotion in check she breathed in shallow quick gasps
. Why, he was about her age, thirty-six or so—but with a strong healthy body, full of virility. The man oozed sex appeal and damn she was attracted to him.
If he looked this good after a long day of hard work, she couldn’t begin to imagine what he would look like when he was fresh from the shower
. No, she shouldn’t go there, but there was no denying it. The man was drop-dead gorgeous. With that shaggy mustache and his brown wavy hair peeking out from under the Stetson, even tinged with a bit of silver at his temples, he looked—tempting. And those magnetic blue eyes. Geez.... He definitely made her heart race.
Please, God, have mercy. Let him be bald under that hat.
No wonder Nana was taken with him
. All that charm in one package was hard to handle.
Life just isn’t fair.
She blinked and curled her toes against the plush beige carpet
. What was wrong with her? After Lee, she didn’t think she’d ever want to be with another man, and out of nowhere, here were all these feelings she thought were long dead. This was crazy. She was losing her grip—this was the man who was up to no good.
“Christ, Grace, snap out of it
. One good-looking cowboy and you’re drooling. Get a hold of yourself.” She muttered under her breath as she pulled a flannel nightgown and another robe from her suitcase and redressed. Sighing, she headed down the stairs. “For heaven’s sake, he’s just a man.” And she’d sworn off men altogether.
Nana looked up from where she stood warming her hands by the crackling fire
. “Grace, dear. There you are. Did the hot shower help?”
“Yes, I feel better." She hesitated for a second
. "I met Seth. He’s the man who changed my flat tire today.” She struggled with mixed emotions as she sat on the comfortable sofa and pulled her feet underneath the long robe. “I was surprised to see him, here in the house.”
“It must be fate that you met earlier.
” Nana laughed. “I knew you'd hit it off."
She was too tired to disagree
. Besides, the man had been nice enough to help her out of a fix with the flat tire. Maybe she was making mountains out of molehills. She smiled, knowing Nana was amused by the coincidence. Regardless, deep inside, being home touched her heart and other than being around Seth, she felt at ease for the first time in a long time.
“Honey, I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am you’re here to stay
. I’ve missed you so much.”
Nana sat in the recliner and Ollie crawled into her lap. He purred audibly as he rubbed his head against her hand
. She scratched him under the chin, causing his purr to rise in volume. “Ollie is glad you’re home, too.”
“Oh yeah, he’s thrilled to see me.
” Grace chuckled softly and gazed around the room. A picture of her parents sat on the right side of the mantel. Nana and Papa were on the left and long-ago snapshots of her growing up dominated the rest of the mantel between the green plants and gold candlesticks. With these pictures and Nana’s penchant for chatting, it dawned on her, Seth must already know more about her than Lee ever had, since Nana seemed to be taken with him and had hardly spoken to Grace’s husband.
She guessed he hadn’t recognized her on the road because of the weight she’d gained
. That...and the fact she’d looked like a drowned mutt. But surely he had put two and two together when he'd seen the license plates. Why didn't he say something?