The Cowboy's Virgin Baby Momma - Page 23

Love was a hard limit for him.

As bitter memories started to claw from the grave, Austin grabbed a pitchfork and focused on preparing a clean stall for Rumor and her colt. After moving them to the new enclosure, Austin began mucking out the birthing mess. He’d barely started when Houston raced into the barn, grinning like a fool, and skidded to a stop at Rumor’s stall.

“Pa wasn’t kidding. He is a fine-looking colt.”

“Right?” Austin chuckled.

“Too bad Beau left for Montana last week. He’d have loved to see this little guy.”

“I think he loved getting away from Dad more.”

“No doubt.” Houston sighed. “I hoped that once Beau got older he and Dad would get along better. Seems they only managed to get more confrontational and hardheaded.”

“That’s for sure,” Austin scoffed, tossing hay into the wheelbarrow.

Houston grabbed another pitchfork and joined him.

“Thanks, bro.”

“No problem.”

“Has Dallas found a wife yet?” Austin chuckled, scooping up another pile of hay.

“No, and he never will at the rate he’s going. Gossip around town is he’s approaching all the single ladies with the finesse of Ferdinand.”

Ferdinand, the horniest bull on their ranch and responsible for seventy percent of their calves, didn’t bother with the usual foreplay of sniffing and licking the heifers. He just jumped on and got the job done.

“Hopefully, he’s not snorting in their ears.” Austin smirked.

“None of the ladies let him get that close, from what I hear.”

Lost in conversation, they finished the cleanup in no time, then headed to the house for dinner.

Austin let his dad break the news about the lawyer and his conversation with Colton and kept the information he’d gained at the Nelson place to himself. His dad always said, Never poke a sleeping lion, so he didn’t. But that didn’t curb his curiosity. He was dying to know if Paige had convinced Raymond to work with him and Colton. Nothing good would come of the old man going head-to-head with the lawyer alone.

“I’ll go talk to Al after supper. She’ll be more than happy to help us,” Houston said, offering up his best friend and town librarian.

“Help us how?” Dallas asked.

“There’s a mess of law books in the library—”

“I appreciate you trying to help, but there’s no need to involve Al in this, son. I got a lawyer in Denton I can call if need be,” Duke informed. “I had to hire him after my daddy passed away.”

“What for?” Dallas asked.

“To keep that lying, ignorant son of a bitch neighbor of ours—and I don’t mean Colton—from trying to take back the fifty acres his drunken great-great-granddaddy lost. That crusty old son of a bitch was madder than a hornet when the judge dismissed his case.”

“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” Houston muttered.

“Hopefully, not. I’m letting Austin take the lead on this and find a way to shut that lawyer down.” His dad sent him a solemn stare. “If you start getting in over your head, let me know. I’ll step in and we’ll end it together.”

“Understood.” Austin nodded.

“Nobody can make us sell our land,” Dallas assured, shoving a biscuit in his mouth.

“Nope, but the government can take it from us.” Houston frowned.

“How?” Worry lined Dallas’s face.

“The lawyer who called is from DC. If he’s in bed with a few crooked politicians, they might decide to claim our land as eminent domain.”

“They can really do that?” Dallas blanched.

“You didn’t pay attention in history class, did you?’ Houston drawled.

“Nope, I was too busy flirting with Rachel Boyle.” He smirked. “I sure wish her daddy hadn’t taken that job in Houston. If she still lived here, we’d already be married and making babies.”

“Dream on, Ferdinand,” Houston drawled. “She only liked you ’cause you had a truck.”

“That’s not all she liked me for,” Dallas said with a wolfish grin.

“Does your ass ever get jealous of the amount of shit that comes out of your mouth?” Houston baited.

“At least my ass is clean,” Dallas said, wrinkling his nose and fanning his hand in the air. “You reek, dude. You smell like the Predator’s dreadlocks.”

“Kiss my dirty ass,” Houston barked. “I’ve been working in the hot sun while you’ve been in the kitchen playing Guy Fieri.”

“You wanna start cooking the meals?”

“No!” everyone at the table barked in unison.

Houston’s heart had been in the right place when he’d offered to give Dallas a break and fix the Thanksgiving dinner last year. He’d spent hours watching videos on his phone and studying their mom’s recipes in preparation. But when the big day came, he’d inadvertently undercooked the turkey. They’d all gotten sick as dogs…shitting and puking. So much so that his dad had to call Colton and ask him to come check on their cattle.

Dallas and Houston were still busting each other’s balls when Austin stood and carried his plate to the sink. After slicing up an apple, he said goodnight and strolled outside to the barn.

Rumor leaned her head over the gate, eager for her nightly apple when he reached the gate. He peeked inside to find the little colt vigorously nursed. Ravenous might be the right name for this little guy.

“You doing all right, Momma?” Austin murmured as she nibbled a slice of apple from his palm. Rumor nickered and impatiently nosed his empty hand for more.

“I should have brought you two. You damn well earned them, girl.” After Rumor lipped the last slice off his fingers, he gently rubbed between her ears. “You two have a good night. I’ll be back to check on you in the morning.”

After leaving the barn, he strode toward his house. Tendrils of emptiness—the same ones plaguing him for fourteen endless nights—wended through his system. In hindsight, Austin wished he’d never gone to the Nelson ranch two weeks ago. But when he’d heard so many gunshots, Rumor’s agitation and his anger got the best of him.

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