Austin’s heart drummed against his ribs as he turned and headed to his truck. Taking slow, steady strides, he inwardly prayed the crazy old fuck wouldn’t pull the trigger.
Behind him, Paige scolded her grandpa. Pausing as he climbed in behind the wheel, Austin drank in a long, last look at the beauty haunting his thoughts and fantasies.
He’d love to tame the fiery hellcat and make her purr. But unless Old Man Nelson suddenly forgot all about the hundred-years land feud between their families, that was never going to happen. In fact, if the stubborn prick didn’t cooperate with him and Colton, he’d lose his land. And while Austin didn’t give two shits about the nasty old codger, he worried how it would affect Paige. Without the ranch, what reason would she have to visit Haven again?
None. That wasn’t acceptable.
“Talk to him, Paige. Convince him to work with us…please,” Austin called out the window.
She gave him a barely perceptible nod, but the skepticism in her eyes told him not to get his hopes up.
“You got a death wish, dumb shit?” Nelson barked before pointing the barrel to the sky and pulling the trigger.
Paige yelped and lunged for cover. Austin inwardly flinched, then pinned the prick with a hardened glare.
“Next one’s gonna blow your head off.” Nelson leveled the rifle at Austin once more.
“Stop it, Grandpa,” Paige scolded, wrenching the weapon from his hands. “Have you lost your damn mind? Get in the house. You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Don’t you talk to me like—”
“I’ll talk to you anyway I want if you insist on acting like a lunatic! Look,” she said, pointing at Austin as he began backing out of the driveway. “He’s leaving, like you wanted. You achieved your goal. Are you happy now?”
Austin couldn’t hear the old man’s reply, but he inwardly chuckled as Nelson stormed into the house. An apologetic smile tugged Paige’s lips as she shyly waved before disappearing inside as well.
The shy way she flirted sent heat rolling up his body like a shot of morphine. He snarled in frustration as his cock scraped his zipper. It had only been two weeks since he’d first clapped eyes on Paige, and already he was tired of jacking off. Masturbation was an empty pleasure. Seeing the woman who owned the top spot in his spank bank again, Austin knew his fist was in for several more brutal workouts.
There was an alternative. For the past ten years, Austin had been a member of Cravings—a private BDSM club outside of Denton. As a confirmed bachelor with a strong Dominant streak, it was his oasis. There was just one problem. Ever since laying eyes on Paige, he didn’t want to be with any woman but her.
I’m so fucked. Why her? Why do I have to be obsessed with a girl so young and innocent?
“Because she is so innocent. And because she put some wicked spell on me when she kissed me the other night.” Austin scraped his fingers over his cheek, wishing she’d kissed his mouth.
His cell phone started to ring. He blocked Paige from his brain as best he could, then tugged the device from his pocket and answered.
“Where the hell are you at?”
Startled by his dad’s angry tone, Austin scowled. The man had been grumpier than usual lately. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. Austin and his brothers, Houston and Beau, had let their dad down. Trying to make good on the deathbed promise his dad made to their mom, Duke had tried to bribe his sons. He’d offered to give five million dollars to the first one who found a bride and gave him a grandchild. So far, only Dallas had taken the bait.
“Pulling in the driveway. Why?” he asked defensively.
“Rumor’s getting ready to foal.”
Austin’s gut clutched. His heart rate tripled.
“You sure?” He punched the gas pedal, sending gravel pinging off the truck’s undercarriage before skidding to a halt in front of the barn.
“Yep. She’s agitated and showing all the right signs. She’ll be giving birth soon.”
Austin didn’t even respond, simply ended the call and pocketed his phone before sprinting into the barn. Skidding to a halt beside his dad, he peered into Rumor’s stall. She was lying on her side, facing the wall, panting steadily. He reached for the latch, but his dad cupped his hand.
“Leave her be. She just lay down again and you don’t want to stress her out more.”
“I know most mares don’t like an audience, but Rumor’s different. She’ll want me with her.”
The instant Austin spoke, Rumor jerked her head up and peered back at him. Her big brown eyes were filled with uncertainty. She was scared.
“It’s all right, girl. I’m right here with you,” he murmured softly.
“Maybe so, but with this being her first foal and all, there’s no telling how she’ll react. She might charge you to protect the little one that’s coming.”
“Rumor wouldn’t do that to me.”
Duke grunted. “Better safe than sorry. Hey, by the way, where were you? I came in from the field to talk to you, but you weren’t in the office. I came out here to look for you and found her…restless.”
“I just ran an errand,” Austin lied. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“Saw Colton this morning. He told me there might be some trouble brewing. Seems he got a call from some fancy lawyer—”
“Kent Hale,” Austin spat. “He wants to buy Colton’s ranch.”
“How’d you hear?”
“Because he called here and made an offer to buy ours.”
“Son of a bitch. What did you tell him?”
“Same thing Colton did. We’re not selling.”
“Good. I’m glad you set him straight. Hopefully that’s the last we’ll hear from him.”
“I doubt it.”
“What makes you say that?”