Home > Kissing the Cowboy (Circle B Ranch #5)(2)

Kissing the Cowboy (Circle B Ranch #5)(2)
Author: Kennedy Fox

“Oh my goodness. You got me Chipotle and Starbucks? You really are too good to me!”

“Nah. You’d do the same for me.” I shrug it off like it’s no big deal. We’ve been best friends since we were in diapers. She’s a few months older than me and always enjoyed teasing me about it when we were kids. She grew up on my family’s ranch because her dad works there, which means I don’t know what life is without her in it.

Nor do I ever want to.

Opening the Chipotle bag, I take out our food and hand Harper hers, then we settle on the small couch. She grabs the remote and flicks on the TV as I pull the foil off my burrito. “What do you wanna watch?”

“You choose this time.”

Her brows shoot up. “You’re giving me free rein?”

I nod, and she flashes me an evil grin as she sucks down her drink. I chuckle when she makes a face as if she has a brain freeze.

She flips through all the Netflix Originals and lands on Pretend it’s a City. After we’ve finished our food, she turns off the living room light, then plops next to me while finishing her coffee. Her arm brushes against mine, and I force myself to ignore the fire Harper ignites inside me, especially now that she’s available. The last thing I’d ever want to do is admit how I feel when she’s emotionally vulnerable.

I’ve always told everyone that we’re only friends because it’s the truth, but I can’t help the way she’s always made me feel. I’d never do anything to sabotage her relationships, so I’ve sat on the sidelines, and even though the timing never feels right, I’ve been waiting. Though I’ve dated people too, it’s never turned into anything serious.

Her words about wanting to find who she is repeat in my mind, and I hold on to it tight, wanting to give her the ability to do just that. The last thing she needs is to jump into another relationship, no matter how badly I want one with her. Though I have my hesitations in the event things didn’t work out, I’m more than content being in her life any way I can be.

When one episode ends, the next one automatically begins, and we end up watching three in a row before we realize the time.

“It’s almost nine thirty.” Harper’s eyes widen. “I’m so sorry for keeping you out this late. I know you have an eight o’clock class in the morning.”

I shrug, enjoying every minute I get to spend with her. “It’s not a big deal, but I should probably go.”

We stand, and I press my lips to Harper’s forehead.

“Thank you for being such a good friend, Ethan.”

Friend.

That’s all I am, and I’ve come to terms with understanding that’s all I may ever be to her, regardless of what my heart wants.

Maybe one day, the timing will be right. Maybe it won’t ever be.

Regardless, I’m not going anywhere.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

ETHAN

 

 

SIX YEARS LATER

 

 

“Well shit!” I say under my breath when I realize Cupcake got out again. Cupcake is an alpine goat who produces around a gallon of milk per day, but she’s also a little asshole.

It’s barely past six in the morning and way too early to be chasing animals, but that’s ranch life.

“Maaaa,” she screams in a tone that sounds like an angry old woman.

“Get your ass over here!” I say, pointing at the ground as if she can understand me.

“Maaaaa. Maaaaa. Maaaaa.”

Shaking my head, I let out an annoyed sigh and climb the fence. Cupcake narrows her eyes at me and backs away. This should be considered routine by now because it’s happened at least once a week for the past two months. Should’ve named her Houdini because she’s made escaping an art, and I can’t figure out how she’s doing it.

“You’ll never catch her!” I hear my uncle Alex shout from his truck. Not wanting to spook her, I flip him off instead of screaming what I want. People always think goats are stupid, but they’re not. They’re sneaky little things and enjoy a good game of chase. She wears a collar for this reason. It makes it a tad easier to grab her.

Taking a step forward, I place my hand in my pocket and pull out some dried apples, then hold them out for her to see. “You know you want it.”

She literally screams at me because it’s her favorite snack. When her curiosity causes her to take a step toward me, I reach out my hand farther.

Moments later, she moseys toward me and licks up the apples. I grab her collar. “Gotcha, asshole.”

As she chews, I lead her around the fence and through the main gate. I don’t know how she keeps getting out, and I’m halfway tempted to put up some game cameras because I don’t want her teaching the others.

“Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.” She yells as I take her into the barn. Shaking my head, I pass a few workers who help me with the goat operation as I go back to my office.

One of the ranch hands, Grayson, helps me out when he can. He’s a year younger than me, and we’ve hung out since he started working here about five years ago. He’s friends with pretty much everyone on the Circle B Ranch—well, with the exception of a couple of the girls. Then there’s Knox and Kane, my younger twin cousins, who also help when I’m shorthanded.

To be honest, though, I underestimated how much work establishing a goat farm would be. I don’t regret it, though, considering my goal was to help expand the family’s ranch, and it’s been very lucrative. Not to mention, the goats help clean the pastures too because they eat shrubbery and poison ivy that the cows won’t touch.

It started small with around a dozen goats, but when Uncle John ran the expense and income numbers, and we realized the high profit margin, we decided to expand. Now I’m dealing with over a hundred heads. We sell their milk wholesale. They’re all free roam too, which is why Cupcake thinks she can escape from time to time, but I’m glad to do it and contribute to the success of the family business.

Once I’m back in the office, I go over our daily goals with Payton and Luke—my right-hand workers.

“After lunch, I’d like you to put the alfalfa hay out. I had a trailer brought in yesterday, and it’s parked on the side of the barn,” I tell them.

They nod as I go over a couple more items. As soon as we’re on the same page, I head to the barn to check on things when I get a text from my sister.

Elizabeth: Good morning to my favorite sibling ever.

 

 

I shake my head because I’m her only brother.

Ethan: What do you want?

 

 

Elizabeth: Gasp! That’s no way to treat your pregnant sister! But since you asked…

 

 

I come out through the other side of the barn where feed has been put out. The goats couldn't care less about me because it’s breakfast and milking time. The funny thing about these animals is they will eat until they literally die, so it’s crucial they aren’t overfed. They’re milked twice a day, once in the morning and twelve hours later. We use machines to automate the process, so it’s easier and faster than doing it by hand. When I don’t immediately respond, she sends another text.

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