Sunday came and went, working the ranch, like always. The only thing different was the mounting ache to see, touch, and taste Paige. After a restless, sleepless night, Austin joined his dad and brothers for breakfast. Expectations were running high as they gathered in the office, around the computer, waiting to connect to the virtual conference call with Duke’s attorney, Allan McGraw.
An hour later, the weight of the world had partially been lifted off Austin’s shoulders as he waited for the printer to spit out a temporary durable power of attorney for Colton to sign.
Though he didn’t have a lot of information to share with Paige, what McGraw had given him was blessedly more than they’d had yesterday. Austin found comfort in the fact that he wasn’t alone leading the charge to save the ranches now.
After vowing to research Hale and Porter’s client base with a fine-toothed comb, McGraw promised to touch base with the Carsons as soon as possible.
Austin was anxious for that information but even more anxious for his dad and brothers to leave the office so he could text Paige and arrange another midnight meeting tonight…this time at his house. Unfortunately, his family was in no hurry to vacate the room.
When the form finished printing, he pulled out his cell and nonchalantly whipped off a text to her.
Payton: One sec. Grandpa’s leaving for post office. BRB
Austin’s heart rate picked up. This was his chance to approach Raymond, in public, without worrying about the old geezer blowing his brains out. Lurching to his feet, Austin grabbed the papers and fished his keys from his pocket.
“Where you goin?” his dad asked.
“I’m running these over to Colton’s so he can sign them.”
“Give him our best,” his dad called as Austin hurried from the office.
“Will do,” he yelled before bolting out the front door.
He was nearly to his truck when Old Man Nelson drove by. With a premature triumphant grin, Austin climbed in behind the wheel just as his cell phone chimed.
Payton: He’s gone. How did your meeting go?
Good. Need to talk. Meet me @ back door of barn. Midnight tonight?
Payton: I’ll be there.
Austin reminded himself to keep his hands, lips, teeth and tongue off of her, as well as his cock in his pants. With a snarl and a curse, he started his truck and headed toward town.
Grumbling about how turtles moved faster than the speed limit along Main Street, Austin nodded and waved to the people on the sidewalk before pulling in alongside Nelson’s rusted pickup outside the post office.
Before he’d even had a chance to think of what he was going to say, the old man exited the building and started toward his vehicle.
“Gonna have to wing it,” he muttered, shoving the door open and dropping boots to the pavement.
“I need a minute of your time, Mr. Nelson.”
“You got a lot of nerve wanting anything after rubbing bellies with Paige the other night, you filthy bastard.”
Ah, the gossip guild is still churning and burning up the town.
“Don’t you call Austin names, you old fart. He’s a good boy,” Emmett Hill scolded, hobbling toward them.
Fuck. Not now.
“It’s okay, Emmett. I’ll handle this.”
“You shouldn’t have to,” the Bigfoot hunter spat, pinning Raymond with an angry scowl. “You need to dig that burr outta your butt. This boy ain’t never done anything to you, and you damn well know it.”
“Stay outta this, old man. I got no bones to pick with you. This here’s between me and this…this philandering playboy.”
“You need to get your glasses checked, Raymond. That there’s Austin Carson, not one of the Grayson boys.” Emmett chuckled.
“I know damn well who he is,” Raymond barked. “Now, go on. Get outta here and mind your own business.”
People on the sidewalk started to stop and stare. That was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because there were too many witnesses for Nelson to kill him. And a curse because there wasn’t enough smoke on the planet for Austin to blow up his dad’s ass for confronting Nelson in front of a crowd on Main Street.
“It’s all good, Emmett. I just need to talk to—”
“Talk all you want, but I ain’t gonna answer a degenerate like you.”
“Listen here,” Emmett snarled, raising a bony finger. “Ain’t no reason to be rude to this young man. His daddy raised him—”
“Enough,” Austin barked. “What you think my kin did or didn’t do a hundred-plus years ago isn’t important.”
“Might not be important you, but it’s still damn important to me, you land-grabbing bastard.”
“You watch your tongue, sonny,” Emmett barked at Nelson. “Or I’ll whoop your ass.”
If the situation hadn’t been so grave, Austin would have laughed his ass off. It wasn’t every day a ninety-eight-year-old man called a seventy-six-year-old one sonny.
“Shut up, you dusty old fart,” Nelson growled at Emmett.
The crowd around them was growing exponentially bigger by the second. Austin needed to shut this shit show down now. Risking death and dismemberment, he leaned in close to Nelson’s face and lowered his voice.
“I don’t care if you talk to me or not, but you will listen. That lawyer you told to fuck off? Well, he isn’t. He’s not giving up; he’s just getting crafty. If you want to save your land, work with me. Let me help you.”
“Why? Why do you care if I keep my land or not?” Nelson hissed, then gasped. “Paige told you, didn’t she?”
“Told me what?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, you crafty little pecker-head. You got her up on that dance floor to do more than rub up against her. You’re trying to use her to get all my land, aren’t you?”