Catch Me, Cowboy(2)

By: Jeannie Watt

“Why are you here, Ty?”

“I’m back in Marietta for a while. I wanted to see you.”

Direct. To the point. As Ty always was—when he talked about stuff. Good, because she was in no mood for polite games. She wanted him gone before her grandfather realized he was there.

“I see.”

“We have unfinished business, Shelby.”

The laugh burst out of her lips before she could stop it, startling the horse, who danced a few steps before stilling. “The business between us is long finished.”

They hadn’t kept in any kind of contact over the past four years, because she hadn’t wanted contact. In her book, done was done and a clean break was the least painful. That was the theory anyway. But after experiencing a clean break, Shelby was pretty damned certain that she never wanted to go through a messy one.

Ty hadn’t come back to Marietta once after leaving—not even for the rodeo. He’d called her exactly one time, shortly after taking off, turning her inside out yet again, and she’d told him no more calls. He hadn’t attempted to contact her after that, which made her think he had understood they were through.

He shifted his weight again. His tell. “Four years is long time. I’ve never stopped thinking about you.”

She stared at him for a moment. Was he honestly going here? Trying to pick things up again?

“Are you saying that you made the wrong choice four years ago?” When he’d chosen rodeo over staying and making a life with her?

“I made the only choice I could.”

The only choice he could make was rodeo?

A spark of anger flickered to life. “But now that your career is over”—ended by a mare who’d gone down and crushed him more than half a year ago—“you’re back?” She let out a snort. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate being your contingency plan.”

“That isn’t how it is.”

“How else would you explain it, Ty?” Her tone had hardened, but she caught herself. “Never mind. You don’t need to explain.” Because needing an explanation meant she cared.

“Shelby…” He stepped closer and the gelding jerked his head up.

Ty instantly stopped, giving the skittish animal time to figure out he wasn’t an enemy and sure enough, the gelding lowered his head, stretched his nose out curiously. Ty knew horses.

He read them, which helped in his chosen line of work. “Maybe this isn’t the time.”

She forced a humorless smile and kept her voice even as she said, “You’re right. This isn’t the time. Nor is tomorrow. Nor the next day. I’ll let you extrapolate from there.”

If he’d just stopped by to say hello and warn her that he was back, she could have handled it just fine. Could have continued to believe she was through with the man. But to have the balls to insinuate that they weren’t yet done?

Oh, she was done. Because she couldn’t afford not to be.

The horse grew impatient, started dancing again, jerking Shelby’s arm. It was her fault. She should have put him away instead of expecting him to stand patiently while two humans duked it out verbally.

The gelding swung his butt around, stamping his front feet, and Ty made a move, as if to calm the animal, but he stopped when she shot him a warning look. She’d handle things on her own. Thank you very much. Just as she’d done for close to forever. Besides, she didn’t think she could stand it if he touched her. Didn’t think she could handle the memories pouring back. As it was, it was killing her just being this close to him, fighting the unexpected emotions roaring through her.

She could tell herself she didn’t care all she wanted—hell, she’d convinced herself she didn’t care and had believed it… until he showed up. Now she cared. She cared about being hurt and being betrayed. She cared about Gramps being let down again. Her grandfather had loved Ty like a grandson and she was certain Ty’s abandonment had hurt him as much as it’d hurt her.

“It was good seeing you, Ty.” Lie of the century. “I’d appreciate it if you left before Gramps sees you. You hurt him, too, you know.”

“I know.”

Also By Jeannie Watt

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