I waited for her to give up, considering I was barely participating, but she pushed on. “Is it weird to have your dad as a boss?”
She clearly didn’t understand that my dad was fully retired, and the only boss around this place was me. That fact had never bothered me before he’d taken a trip to California to pick up some wine and come back with a fiancée. Maybe if he’d been more involved with operations, he wouldn’t have left in the first place, and the ranch wouldn’t have been invaded by Cynthia and now Emma.
I stared at her for a beat before filling her in that I was the boss around here, and then added, “Probably a good thing, because someone has to look out for him.”
Her head jerked back at my words, and I could almost see her realize that I wasn't sold on this whole business between our parents. I didn’t need to stand here any longer, wasting my time, to get that point across.
“Excuse me. I've got work to do before dinner,” I said, before turning on my heel and walking back out the front door.
* * *
My reprieve didn’t last long, however, because my phone buzzed with a text. I tossed down the river rocks I was still hauling to check it.
Dad: Your ass needs to be in the house for dinner.
Me: Yes, sir.
Dad: And be nice to Emma.
I didn’t reply to that last text. What was I supposed to say? That I’d be so nice to Emma she’d be introduced to the wonder of multiple orgasms? I’d have her spinning on the business end of my cock? Not happening.
So I went back into the house and sat through dinner. I chewed my steak—damned good beef—and listened to Emma and Cynthia chatter on about the wedding. Although, to be fair, most of the chatter came from Cynthia. But still, every time Emma opened her mouth to reply to one of her mother’s questions, I fantasized about stuffing my ball gag between her pouty pink lips. Which then had me thinking about her other pouty pink lips.
Fuck. I had to get the hell out of there before I sprouted a hard-on the size of a ponderosa pine.
So I shoved back my chair, made my excuses, and escaped to the peace and quiet of the horse barn. I breathed in the sweet scent of hay and the earthy aroma coming from the stalls. A nicker from my favorite mare was a welcome sound. The shit-talking coming from Mac to whomever was listening to him was decidedly not.
“Dude, you should have seen the ass on this girl. Fuck. Me. My dick might never be the same after she’s through with it. I’ll be ruined for all other pussy. It’s a fact. I’m telling ya.”
I rounded the corner and saw Mac leaning against a stall, with TJ, my most reliable and talented ranch hand, and Griff, both sitting on the bales of straw. TJ wasn’t usually one for talking too much shit about women. He tended to be the respect them and they will come sort. I wasn’t sure how much luck he’d had with that approach, but regardless, he was a good man. Griff rarely said anything. Just chewed his dip or a toothpick. Or both.
The first time Cynthia saw him let loose a stream of tobacco juice onto the front lawn, she’d almost fainted. And then offered to buy him an antique spittoon. My thoughts of Cynthia immediately brought back thoughts of her daughter, who one of my hands was talking about fucking.
Sometimes being the boss sucked. Now was not one of those times.
“One more word comes out of your mouth about that woman, and you’ll be riding fences for six months straight. The only action you’ll be getting will be your own fucking hand … you get me?”
My voice was cold and hard, a tone I didn’t pull out often with the guys. But this time, I wanted there to be no question that I meant what I said.
“But you saw her—”
“I’m not fucking kidding, Mac. She’s off limits. You don’t look at her. You don’t talk to her. You don’t talk about her. She’s not your business and never will be.”
Mac bristled, and I suspected it was because I was dressing him down in front of Griff and TJ. I probably could’ve been more diplomatic about it, but I wasn’t fucking around. She wasn’t for him. She wasn’t for me, either.
I waited, expecting Mac to say something else, but he didn’t. He pushed off the stall, grabbed his Gatorade from the floor, and stalked toward the exit.
That left Griff studying me and TJ gaping.
“You got a problem with that, TJ?”
He shook his head and lost the look of shock painted across his face. “No, sir.” He shoved off the straw bale. “I think I’ll be getting to the section of fence I was planning to ride today.”
And then it was just me and Griff—a man I trusted and respected, whose own respect I earned with my blood, sweat, and determination. He still didn’t think the rich man’s kid had what it took to run this ranch, and I was dead set on proving him wrong.