Dixie Belle Benson has changed one gilded cage for another, when she moves from her daddy’s cattle ranch in Texas to the small town of Bryson Corners, Oklahoma. Her brothers are twice as bad as her father, but Dixie isn’t about to let them stand in the way of what she wants. And what she wants more than anything is sexy cowboy Knox McCoy.
“Ever work with the horses?”
Dixie played with the silverware on the table. “I used to ride all the time. It’s how I escaped the house when my friends were too busy to go out.”
He nodded. “Might know of something then.”
Dixie’s eyebrows rose. “A job?”
“My cousin, Brady, was supposed to help me out these next few months while I found someone more permanent. Just feeding the horses, mucking out stalls, and maybe doing a little ridin’. Think it might be something you’d be interested in?”
He grabbed a napkin out of the holder and pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket. He scribbled something and handed it to her.
“Bear Paw Cutting Horses?” she asked, studying the napkin.
“There’s a bit sign out front. Just take the highway west and you’ll see it a few miles down on the left. Can’t miss it. My number’s there in case you get lost.”
“When do you want me to start?” she asked.
“Well, seein’ as how it’s after midnight and you just arrived in town, why don’t you take a day to get acclimated?”
She smiled. “Regardless of what time I go to bed, I’ll be awake and ready to face the day by five. Maybe six if I sleep in.”
“All right. Want to stop on by around eight? Probably won’t take you more than five, maybe six hours to complete everything. Three hundred a week sound fair?”
It was less than minimum wage, but she knew ranch work was different from an eight to five job. She nodded and held out her hand. Knox shook it firmly and tingles shot up her arm. The man was potent, she had to admit it.
Their food and drinks arrived and they dug in, discussing their day-to-day lives as they ate. Just as they were starting on the peach pie, the chime over the door sounded. Dixie looked up and spied both her brothers standing in the doorway.
“Crap,” she muttered.
Knox looked over his shoulder before turning her way again. “They don’t look too happy.”
“Let me just apologize in advance for whatever is about to happen. I have absolutely no control over them.”
Knox grinned. “Don’t worry about me, darlin’. I can handle a few protective brothers.”
Her brothers stopped at the edge of their table and glared down at her.
“When the hell were you going to tell us you were in town?” Drew demanded.
“I’ve been scouring the city for you after finding your SUV abandoned at the bar,” Carson accused. “I’ve been out of my mind worrying that someone had taken off with you.”
She shoveled another bite of pie into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed before replying, “As you can see, I’m safe and sound. Just having a meal with a friend.”
“Friend?” Drew snarled. “You haven’t been here long enough to make friends.”
Carson’s sharp gaze rested on Knox. “Aren’t you a little old for our baby sister?”
Knox shrugged. “She looks grown up to me.”
“She’s twenty-two. Barely wet behind the ears,” Carson said. “And you’re what? Forty?”
“Thirty-eight,” Knox said.
Dixie was a little surprised. She’d known he was older than her, but he didn’t look a day over thirty. Not that his age mattered to her. He was fun to be around, and sexy as hell. Something told her he wasn’t the type to mix business with pleasure, but if he ever tried to steal a kiss, she’d be more than happy to let him.
“Come on, Dixie Belle,” Drew said, tugging on her arm until she stood. “Time to go.”
She cast her brothers a disgruntled look before smiling at Knox. “It was nice meeting you. I’ll be by in the morning.”
“Morning?” Carson barked. “What the hell for?”
Dixie crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s between Knox and me.”
Shoving past her brothers, she headed out to Drew’s truck. After she climbed inside, she watched her brothers have a rather intense-looking conversation with Knox, probably warning him off. She hoped he was more resilient than that. If he allowed her brothers to chase him away, then he just wasn’t man enough for her. No matter how hot he might be.
Drew finally came out and slid into the driver’s seat. “You’re to stay away from that man.”
“You’re not my father,” she said, growling softly.
“No, I’m not. Dad couldn’t ride herd on you anymore, so he sent you to us. Well, up here, baby girl, the rules are a little different. If we tell you to stay away from someone, you’d damn sure better do it.”
She mumbled under her breath.
“What was that?”
“I said bite me! I’m a grown ass woman, and just as soon as I start earning some money, I’m getting my own place. Daddy may have banished me to this small hick town, but he didn’t say I have to live with you forever. For your information, I already have a job. I report tomorrow morning at eight. And yes! I will be going!”
“We’ll just see about that.”
She gave him a mutinous glare before turning to look out the window. One of these days, her brothers would realize she wasn’t a child anymore, but a grown woman with a woman’s needs and desires. Until then, she’d just have to work around them.