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sparks. He won’t give me a chance.”
“What?” Miranda made a clucking noise. “That
man looks at you like Elvis looked at Priscilla. My
77
Crystal-Rain Love
Presley is just scared, honey. He’s been scared of car-
ing about someone for so long I’m afraid if he doesn’t
get over it now he might just spend the rest of his
life alone.”
“He did care for Nina Garcia, didn’t he?”
There was a long pause.
“Miranda?” Amber prodded softly.
“Honey, I don’t know. He says no, but part of me
thinks he might have. He took her death hard. He
blames himself.”
“I know.” Amber leaned back in the desk chair
and chewed on her bottom lip. “I wish he didn’t feel
so responsible for me. Maybe I should save up to get
my own place, or just leave Wayback.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” Miranda commanded.
“I thought you were strong, Amber. You can’t just
quit.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“You want him, go get him. Trust me, my boy
may be big and brawny, but deep down he’s a scared
little baby when it comes to matters of the heart.
You’re going to have to be aggressive with him.”
“Aggressive?” Amber frowned.
“Show him you’re not a weak little victim he has
to fear for. Show him your strength. I know you have
it in you.”
Amber’s eyes watered, touched by Miranda’s
high opinion of her. “I don’t know, Miranda. I don’t
think I’m his type.”
“And why is that?”
“Because…” Amber swallowed to ease the
roughness in her voice. “I was pregnant, and unmar-
ried.”
“So?”
“So he’s acted funny around me since that night
at the hospital. Maybe he…” Amber took a deep
breath, hating herself for the choices she’d made.
“The people in this town are so respectable. I can
78
Guardian Cowboy
imagine what you all must think of me.”
Miranda let out a hearty laugh. “Honey, nobody
cares that you were pregnant out of wedlock.
Presley’s hurting for you because you lost a child and
in his stubborn mind, he believes he should have
been able to prevent it. And as far as what I think of
you…” She snickered. “If you could have seen how
far my wedding dress had to be let out to accommo-
date my growing belly you’d realize how absurd your
statement was. We aren’t saints in this town, just
decent people.”
Amber smiled, relief bringing fresh tears to her
eyes. “Thank you, Miranda, for everything. You’ve
been so kind to me.”
“Well, I’m going to quit being kind and kick you
in the rump if you don’t get through to my son. He
needs a good woman in his life.”
Amber closed her eyes. If only they really knew
her. “I’m not—”
“Shut your mouth, missy. I know people, and
you are good people. I don’t care what that man you
were with said to make you think otherwise. You’ve
survived hell, and you deserve a good life with a
good man. My Presley deserves a good life with a
good woman. I hope you’ll help him understand
that.”
A tear slipped down Amber’s cheek. “Thank you,
Miranda.”
“No problem, sweetie. Tell Presley that Lila is
stabilizing, and I should be home soon. Make sure he
doesn’t fuss at poor Elvis too much.”
Amber thought of the way Presley referred to
the pudgy dog as a fat, lazy mutt, but still fed him
leftovers after dinner, and smiled. “I will.”
“Good. Now get out of that office and go work
your wiles on that stubborn man.”
****
“Come on, Presley. You can’t say no to charity.”
79
Crystal-Rain Love
“What’s going on?” Amber asked, inching her
way into the empty stables where Presley, dressed in
a brown T-shirt and snug worn blue jeans, and Ray
were talking.
“What are you doing out of the office?” Presley
turned angry eyes on her.
Amber raised her chin, Miranda’s words still in
her head. He was just stubborn and scared, and he’d
stay that way if she didn’t show him she was tough
enough to not break on him. “It’s late, and my work
is done. What were you two discussing?” She di-
rected her question at Ray, in case Presley refused
an answer.
The older cowboy grinned, realizing her trick.
“There’s going to be a rodeo event to raise funds for a
little girl with cancer. She’s the daughter of a bull
rider from here, and her medical bills are real high
so we’ve pulled together as a community to put to-
gether a fundraiser. A large portion of the proceeds
from ticket sales and concessions will go toward her
care. Plus, we’re taking bets on best in each category
with half that money going to the winners, half go-
ing to the little girl. If Presley rides, we’ll be sure to
rake in some good money for her.”
“That’s such a wonderful thing to do!” Amber
looked at Presley, expecting him to nod in agree-
ment, but he was staring at Ray, his jaw tight. She
frowned at the sight, knowing Presley was hurting
over his own cousin’s ordeal with the horrible dis-
ease. Surely he’d want to participate. “Presley?
Aren’t you going to help?”
“I can cut a check,” he said.
“Can you cut a check for as much money as
you’d bring in bronc-busting?” Ray asked sarcasti-
cally. “Come on now, son. You’re one of the best and
sure to draw a good crowd.”
Presley’s stare darkened. “I already told you I’ll
be too busy.”
80
Guardian Cowboy
“I can guard Amber while you do it.”
“Guard me?” Amber questioned the same mo-
ment Presley let loose an expletive. “What’s going
on?”
“Dammit, Ray!”
“Sorry,” the older man said, “but she should
know.”
“I should know what?” Fear seized Amber’s
heart, increasing its beat until it felt it would fly out
of her chest, but she forced herself to maintain a
calm appearance. She had to show Presley she was
strong, despite whatever news he had for her. “It’s
Richard, isn’t it? He’s found me.”
Presley removed his Stetson and raked a hand
through his hair. “He hasn’t been spotted here.” He
hung the hat on the handle of the shovel next to him
and sighed, a rough, frustrated sound. “I did get in
touch with some contacts I have from my bodyguard-
ing days, some investigators, and it looks like he’s
tracking you. He’s been steadily traveling south.”
Amber swallowed past the lump of bile in her
throat and willed her legs to remain firm. “So he
could be headed here.”
“Possibly,” Presley said with a nod, his eyes
dark and feral. “I want you in the house or office at
all times, and no way am I participating in a rodeo
and leaving you behind.”
“I didn’t escape one prison to enter another.”
Amber’s voice was strong and forceful, much
stronger than she felt on the inside where she was
quivering like a leaf, but a surge of fresh anger over-
ruled her fear. She wasn’t going to spend the rest of
her life hiding from Richard, especially if it meant
Presley would keep looking at her as if she could be
taken away at any moment. “You should do what-
ever you can to help that little girl, and if you do
compete, I want to watch.”
“Watch? Out in full view of everyone while the
81
Crystal-Rain Love
man looking for you is headed this way?” Presley’s [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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