God, she was pathetic.
She served her pasta and walked through to her sitting room to the only chair in the room. Once her dinner was finished, she took a cold shower—there wasn’t enough heating to heat the water—and settled into her single bed. Her place wasn’t much, but at least she was away from her parents, and that was the plus.
* * * *
A week later, Claire grabbed a newspaper and flicked straight to the job sections to see if anything new had come up. Work at the decorating and supply store was starting to grate on her nerves. There was only so much cleaning and ordering she could cope with. Why hadn’t she gone to college when she had the chance?
She knew the reason. There were two very male reasons, actually. Being away at college for any length of time would mean she wouldn’t see her best friends, which was a silly reason not to go. She was happy, though.
A glance over at the jobs showed her one new ad had been placed in the last week.
Needed: housekeeper to cook and clean for two men and ten ranch hands. No skills required other than the ability to make a decent stew. Turner and Cook.
She read through the advertisement a few more times. Claire had cooked regularly for the boys at the ranch. Her meals had always been welcomed by the men who worked for them. With nothing else to occupy her thoughts and the only other solution being to leave Long Mead, she decided to answer.
Claire walked over to a shaded part so the sun wouldn’t be in her face and dialed the number.
“Hello, Turner and Cook Ranch, how can I help you?” Liam said, answering on the first ring.
“Hi, Liam. It’s me. Claire.”
“Hi, babe. Why are you phoning the work line? Isn’t our regular line working?”
She had all their contact numbers in case of an emergency.
“Yes. I’ve just looked in the local paper, and the funny thing is, you didn’t tell me you were advertising for a housekeeper.”
He chuckled on the other line. “The decision was kind of last minute. Why? Are you applying?”
Her body came to life with the deep way he spoke. Just from hearing him talk, a bolt of heat went straight through her body, warming her from the inside out. Her nipples got hard, and her pussy creamed just from the sound of his voice. Shane had the same effect on her. If only her two best friends could see past the tomboy in her.
“You know I can cook. I get along with your ranch hands. I’d be brilliant for the position.” She wasn’t blowing her own horn. She was simply stating the facts as she saw them.
Good cook, check.
Gets along with ranch workers, check.
Completely bored with her own life and in need of a little more excitement, check.
Okay, being on a ranch cooking and cleaning wasn’t the best excitement in the world. However, a bunch of sexy muscled men to watch and serve food to had to be better than putting tins of paint on shelves. Surely.
“Could you handle Shane and me being your bosses? You’d have to do everything we said. Everything.”
Claire ignored his suggestive tone. She knew Liam liked to tease, and he never meant anything by it.
“Since the time we could go off and do our own stuff, I’ve been taking orders from the pair of you. Working for you won’t be much different.” She smiled as she heard him laughing on the phone.
“This won’t be the same, sweetheart. I can promise you that.”
She glanced around at the busy street and wondered how many other people would apply. “Has the job been filled?”
His laughter stopped instantly.
“Tell you what. Why don’t you come around and we’ll have a test run. You can cook for the workers and us and then we’ll let you know.” The laughter and humor had gone from the conversation. Claire missed it. Had it been something she said?
“I’d like that.”
“I’ll get Shane to drive into town and pick you up.” They arranged the details, and she phoned the shop to let them know she would be taking a personal day. Her fingers were crossed that it would be longer than a day.
She stood by the parking spot that she and Liam had agreed upon. About an hour later, Shane rolled up in his red truck with lots of mud down the sides. The window was rolled down, and she guessed it was from the massive heat. It looked like summer in Long Mead was going to be a harsh one.
“Get in,” he ordered.
Without questioning his attitude, Claire opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat. Her bag on the floor, she buckled her seat belt.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
She glanced over and saw the stern look on his face. Out of all of them, Shane had grown to become the most serious. She swallowed past the lump in her throat as she remembered he was so stern.