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.“Sterling, I’ll bet Luke fell asleep stretched out on the porch chair.Go let him know food’s on the table,” Nancy said.Luke’s long legs hung off the end of the footstool in front of the chair he slept in.His hat covered his face.I lifted it gently and realized he was even breathtaking while sleeping.I could not stop myself from kissing him as he slept.His lashes fluttered lightly but he didn’t open his eyes.As I lifted my face from his, he reached up and pulled me into his lap and promptly nibbled the side of my neck.“I came to tell you that dinner is ready.” It was hard to speak between short breaths.His mouth pressed against my ear.“I’ve got all the supper I want right here.” He pulled my face toward him and kissed me until I felt dizzy from it.I finally lifted my face and looked down at his.“I might remind you that there’s a whole table of people just inside and one of those people is my dad.”He relaxed back with a sigh.“We need to send your dad on a vacation or something.”“I thought I was on one.” Dad’s voice came from behind the screen door.I flew off Luke’s lap and nearly landed on my butt.Luke stood.“Sorry, Sir, we were just—”“I know exactly what you were doing.I was young once too, remember.Come in and eat.”Luke looked totally freaked out.I grabbed his arm.“Relax.It’s not the first time he’s caught me kissing a boy.” I headed inside.“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Luke asked.I held the screen door open and motioned him inside with my head.“Come on, Cowboy, the vittles are getting cold.”* * *The following day was rather dull mostly because Luke was out with Hal and Tanner doing chores on the ranch.Chloe and Charlie took off fairly early in perky suede hiking boots.Nancy reminded them to stay on the trails and not to travel too far.Charlie raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow at Nancy and took off down the dirt road with her annoying daughter behind.Dad and Dylan joined the Hendricks family down at the pond for another try at fishing.And I decided to stay on the porch with a book.I’d been considering Nancy’s suggestion of staying at the ranch to work for the summer, and I’d come to the conclusion that the idea was extremely appealing.But first I would have to run it by Luke.If he seemed less than thrilled by the prospect, I would leave with Dad, Dylan, and a flattened heart.Now I just had to figure out how to bring it up in front of him.I’d gotten up extra early to help Nancy with breakfast.My book refused to hold my attention, and the warm afternoon air enveloped me like a cozy blanket, so I dozed off for a major nap.Several hours later I woke to the smell of fish.I rubbed my nose and squinted up to the figure standing over me.It was Dylan.He lifted up a dead fish.Its silver scales glistened in the sunlight.“Why are you holding that dead fish over me? And why didn’t you put it back in the water ?”Dad trudged past looking slightly dejected.“Your brother was the only one to catch anything.Naturally.”The odor of dead fish must have floated through the screen door.Nancy looked out on the porch.“I’ll cook it for dinner.Bring it in and we’ll gut the thing in the kitchen sink.”Dylan’s eyes widened with enthusiasm.“You don’t know the first thing about gutting a fish,” I reminded him.He gazed admiringly at his catch.“How hard can it be? You just stick a knife in and rip the yucky stuff out.”Dad rolled his eyes and followed Dylan inside.I needed to stretch.I walked down the porch steps and headed toward the horse stables.I hadn’t seen Bucky all day.Of course, he was probably thrilled not to see me.Two horses were heading in from the pastures as I reached the barn.As they neared, I saw that it was Tanner and Luke.That was when I noticed that Chloe was sitting behind Tanner and Charlie was sitting behind Luke.Her skinny arm was wrapped around his waist.The only good thing about the entire scene was that Luke did not appear happy about the situation.“They got lost,” Luke said as soon as they were close enough as if he felt the need to explain things to me before I got the wrong impression.Charlie leaned past Luke’s shoulder to see who he was talking to.She sneered at me for a second then slid off the back of the horse.Chloe followed and they both headed back to the house without a word.Tanner watched them with disgust, and as they reached the porch, he cupped his hands together and yelled, “You’re welcome!”“When they left this morning, they headed that way toward the hills,” I said, pointing to the trail they’d left on.“How did they get so lost that they ended up on this side of the ranch?”“Lost, my ass,” Tanner mumbled.“They just wanted to cop a feel.”Luke laughed.“I feel so cheap.”“Used by women again, Dude.When will we learn?”“I think I’m going to walk away before your heads blow up.” I turned and walked to the barn.Bucky was standing in his stall munching some leftover hay.His big head shot up and he blinked at me then returned to his food.Horse hooves echoed in the big building.Luke was leading his horse to the cross ties.He tied him up and walked over to me.“Well?”I looked at him.“Well, what?”“Are you staying for the summer?”“Nancy told you?”“She mentioned you might be staying on?” His tone was noncommittal which was really annoying.I still had no idea how he felt about it.I shrugged.“I haven’t decided yet.”“Oh.” He returned to his horse.That didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped.I was thrilled to have him bring it up because then I wouldn’t have to figure out a way to mention it to him.Unfortunately, I still had no clue if he liked the idea or not.I patted Bucky on the neck and turned to leave.“I guess I’ll head back to the house,” I said.“See you later.”Luke lifted the saddle off as I passed by.He lowered it and rested it against his leg.“Hey, Slick.”I stopped and looked at him.“Yeah?”His dark lashes fluttered down as he looked at the ground then he looked up at me.“Stay the summer.”“Yeah?”He nodded.“Yeah.”Two of the ranch hands that had traveled with us stayed behind to take care of the herd, and the rest of us threw on our saddles and headed back to the main ranch.The ride back reminded me a lot of the long car ride home on a family vacation where everyone is tired, crabby, and focused on getting back.On the way there, you stop at diners, take leisurely rest stops, and shoot pictures of new things.On the way home, you’re lucky if your dad will stop for a drive-thru burger, and the only bathroom break you get is when the car finally needs gas.And the siblings you had so much fun with on the way to vacation have become giant nuisances who take up more than their fair share of the back seat by deciding they have to have their smelly feet up.Even the horses seemed to hit their cruise control button once they realized they were headed back home.Once I’d discovered that Luke truly wanted me to stay on for the summer, I knew my next hurdle would be Dad.I’d approached him about it twice on the ride home, but he’d told me he was still considering it.With Dad, that meant it could go either way.After sixteen years, I knew the best thing was for me to lay off until he had time to think about it.Bugging him about stuff usually backfired.Chapter EighteenJust as Nancy had predicted, we’d arrived back at the ranch around sunset, and she warned everyone that supper would be cold cuts and leftovers.I was so ravenous by the time we unsaddled, I would have settled for chewing on the dry weeds that lined the road we’d just traveled [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]