Home > Nowhere to Hide (Nowhere to Ride #2)

Nowhere to Hide (Nowhere to Ride #2)
Author: Andrew Grey

 


Chapter One

 

 

There were many things Dawson West could do, and some he loved to do. But going inside to talk to the boss was not on his list of favorite things. Not that he didn’t like her—she was smart and let him run a tight ship, which was just how he liked it.

“What can I do for you?” He had been taught to always be polite to everyone, especially ladies, and Rita Cantino was most definitely a lady.

“Sit down a minute,” Rita said. It was still a stretch for him not to think of her as Mrs. Cantino, like he had since he’d been a kid.

“I don’t have much time. It looks like there’s some weather moving in, thank the good Lord, because the pond is barely keeping up with what we need.” He took the seat anyway.

“I’m aware of the weather, and I won’t keep you long. We have to make hay and get the most out of the rain when it comes.” She leaned forward across the desk. “As you’re aware, I’m not getting any younger, and I have to think of the future. I’m sure you’ve worked out that I intend to leave the ranch in its entirety to my nephew.”

“Are you saying you don’t need me anymore?” Dawson asked. He has been aware of Rita’s plans, and he had been hoping that he would be asked to stay on.

“No, I’m not. But there are going to be some changes, and I know how well you take to that. Ky and myself have come to some conclusions. The first is that the cattle will all be consolidated, and Ky is going to manage the herds out of here. We both want you to stay on and manage that entire operation… working under Ky.”

That was more than doable. He had known Ky almost as long as he’d known Rita.

“The horse operation will be managed out of what is now Ky’s place. I will continue to live in the house here, and he will live where he does. Eventually, it’s likely he’ll move here because the house is bigger. Ben is going to take over the horse operations. He has a gift for those animals, and we both want to put that to the best use possible.” She threaded her hands together.

“That all sounds like good news, Rita. What has you so worried?” Dawson sat back, waiting for the cowboy boot to drop.

She smiled. “It was just announced yesterday that Ben and Lilly are getting married.”

He suppressed a growl. In his estimation, marriage was just an excuse for a party, followed by years of yelling, screaming, slamming doors, and then silence, until the lawyers got involved, took everything, and you had to start all over again… with one parent crawling into a bottle and the other turning bitter and shrill until the day she dies of cancer.

“What does that have to do with me?” Dawson asked.

“Lilly wants to have a country wedding, and she asked if she could have it here on the ranch. Her first choice was at Ky and Brodie’s, but she isn’t sure if they have the space for it. So she asked if it would be okay if she and her cousin came over to have a look.”

“When is the wedding?” Dawson asked, as though it mattered to him. They could have their wedding anywhere they wanted as long as it didn’t get in his way or interfere with his work.

“Three months. They want to have it outdoors, and April is a beautiful time for that. May and the summer months are hot as the dickens, so earlier is what they’re shooting for.” Rita seemed excited and thrilled. Dawson wondered why the hurry, unless Lilly and Ben had already gotten a start on their family.

“What do you want me to do?” He tried his best not to sound suspicious.

“Just show them around. You know this ranch as well as anyone.” Rita sighed. “And for goodness’ sake, try to be your usual graceful and happy self.” She rolled her eyes a little. “It shouldn’t take too long.” She sat back. “I appreciate your help.”

“Can I ask why you aren’t showing them around?” Dawson asked. It really did seem more like something Rita would love to do.

“Because I’m finishing up here and then I’m going to be out of town for the next couple of days. I’ve decided to do some visiting, and there’s the conference of women ranchers, so I’m spending a few days in Houston. I’ll be driving down tonight.” She grinned, and Dawson understood where her excitement came from.

“I’ll take care of everything here while you’re gone. You don’t have to worry about a thing.” He stood to leave. The weather was getting closer, and he needed to make sure all the hatches were battened down. Storms could end up as just rain, a deluge, or could shake the rafters with wind that threatened to blow everything to Oz.

“Thank you, Dawson. I knew I could count on you.” She flashed him a smile as Dawson left the office.

The sun that had been shining not twenty minutes ago was now covered with a thick layer of clouds, and water scented the air. “Guys, let’s get everything inside,” he barked as soon as he stepped out the back door. “Brad, get the four-wheelers into the equipment shed and close it up tight. Ryder, I need the hayloft closed, and make sure it’s latched this time. I don’t want any more spoiled hay. That stuff is the same as money around here. And get the last of the horses inside.” He checked his phone and saw that what had been green on the radar was now yellow and red. They needed to be ready for it. “Greg, are the herds all bedded down?” he asked, stopping the experienced ranch hand.

Greg nodded and hurried toward the barn as the wind picked up.

Dawson stayed where he was, directing the guys around him as the last of the equipment was put away and doors bolted shut. One of the men would stay in the barn to help keep the horses calm, while the others headed to bunkhouse building.

The first huge drops of rain hit the ground near Dawson, raising small clouds of dry dust. He lifted his gaze skyward, looking for rotating clouds, but all he saw was a line of dark as the wind picked up around him. More rain followed, and Dawson strode across the yard and out the back to the foreman’s residence. He stood on the covered porch as the rain intensified, hitting the parched earth.

The rain was both a blessing and a curse, just like so many things in Dawson’s life. They needed rain. The land was very dry, and water would help bring it back to life. But with the ground dry, it would take time for the water to soak in, and that would mean a lot of runoff if the rain came too quickly.

Lightning flashed against the dark sky, and thunder split the air as more rain followed, the ground now wet with rain pounding down. Well, there was nothing he could do about it except wait out what was going to happen and pick up the pieces afterward. It was what he did.

After his mother’s death, he’d had no idea what to do, and took a job on the ranch working for Rita’s husband. That had been over ten years ago now. He hadn’t known a thing about ranches or cattle, but he had promised to work hard, and the foreman had taken pity on him, though he outright said he didn’t think Dawson could cut it. Dawson not only cut it, but eventually was the man the same foreman had recommended when he retired. Making the best of a shitty situation was just part of life.

Dawson went inside once the wind died down, rain still pelting the roof. Georgia, his dog, was glad to see him. She was a cute little thing that he knew the guys loved to joke about, but only when they thought he couldn’t hear. He had found her as a puppy two years ago on a trip into town. The little thing had scampered under his car in a parking lot. She’d been tiny and scared, and Dawson had gently lifted her off the ground and into his arms. No one seemed to know where she belonged, so Dawson had brought the toy poodle mix home with him. She was about ten pounds full of love, always happy to see him. She jumped up on the chair next to the door, her tail wagging and eyes bright with excitement, as soon as he closed the door. Dawson picked her up and petted her as he sat on the sofa and turned on the television for the weather report. It seemed like the rain would continue for a while, and though he had plenty to do, fighting with the weather was like boxing at shadows—pointless and unproductive.

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