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If it was an April Fools' joke, it damn sure wasn't funny.
If it wasn't a joke, it was a disaster.
Those five big horses complete with cowboys didn't look like a joke. Cattle bawling and milling around looked pretty damned real, too. And that little covered wagon, with a bald-headed man the size of a refrigerator sitting on the buckboard holding the reins for two horses in his hands, didn't have a single funny thing about it, either.
Haley's mouth went dry when she realized that the big dapple-gray horse was for her and that absolutely nothing in front of her was a practical joke. It was all as real as the smell of the horses and what they'd dropped on the ground.
She slung open the door of her little red sports car. The cowboys were all slack jawed, as if they'd never seen a woman before. Well, they'd best tie a rope around their chins and draw them back up because she was going to be their sidekick for the next thirty days. They could like it or hate it. It didn't really matter to her. All she wanted to do was get the month over with and go home to civilization.
"You lose your way?" The cowboy on a big black horse looked down at her. His tone was icy and his deep green eyes even colder.
"Not if this is the O'Donnell horse ranch and you're about to take off on the Chisholm Trail reenactment." She looked up into the dark-haired cowboy's green sexy eyes. "Who are you?" She planted her high heels on the ground and got out of the car.
"Dewar O'Donnell, and you are?"
Dammit! With a name like Dewar, she'd pictured a sixty-year-old man with a rim of graying hair circling an otherwise bald head, and a face wrinkled up like the earth after a hard summer, complete with a day's growth of gray whiskers. He sure wasn't supposed to look like Timothy Olyphant with Ben Bass's eyes. It was going to be one hell of a month because she wasn't about to get involved with a cowboy. Not even if she had the sudden urge to crawl right up on that horse and see if those eyes were as dreamy up close as they were from ten feet away.
"I'm H. B. Mckay," she answered.
"Well, shit!" Dewar drawled.
"I know. Life's a bitch, isn't it? But I'll be riding along this whole trip taking notes for the reality show to be filmed this summer," she said. "Unless you want to tell me that this is a big silly joke and I can go home to Dallas now."
"Can't do that, ma'am. I was expecting you to be a man, but we're ready to move this herd north so I guess you'd better saddle up. I was just about to call Carl Levy and ask where you were," Dewar drawled.
"That's the idea most people have. I guess that empty horse is for me and I don't get to drive from point to point and stay in a hotel?"
"That's the plan Carl made," he answered.
She crossed her arms over her chest. "So we are ready to go right now?"
"Unless you want to change clothes," he said.
"Hell, no! I'm wearing what I've got on, and if I get a single snag in this suit Daddy will be paying for a brand new one," she said.
Dewar frowned. "Daddy?"
"Carl Levy is my father as well as my boss."
Dewar had always had a liking for redheads, but not the kind that wore high-heeled shoes and business suits. And it seemed like here lately he'd dated every redhead in the whole northern part of Texas. Because both of his brothers and his two sisters had beat him to the altar, now everyone in the family thought they had a PhD in matchmaking and had made it their life mission to get him married off.
He'd rebelled at first, but then he admitted that he really wanted to have a wife and family so he'd started looking around on his own. He hadn't joined one of those online dating services, but he had been dating a lot. Either he was too damn picky or else all the good ones were taken because very few women interested him enough for a second date.
H. B.'s eyes were a soft aqua, somewhere between blue and green like the still, deep waters of the ocean. And her lips full, the kind that begged for kisses. He felt a stirring down deep in his heart that he hadn't felt before, but he didn't know if it was anger or desire.
It really didn't matter because the whole damn thing had to be a joke. It was too ridiculous to be real. Raylen had cooked it up and paid some woman to help him pull it off. He pulled his cell phone from his shirt pocket and quickly punched in the numbers to the office of the Dallas magazine tycoon.
"Carl Levy, please."
Ten long seconds later, "Tell him this is Dewar O'Donnell and this is definitely an emergency."
H. B. shook her head and took her saddlebags from her car. "You are wasting your time, cowboy."
Dewar hooked a leg over the saddle horn and ignored her. "Carl, I've got a red-haired woman who says she's H. B. McKay. You want to verify that?"
"You led me to believe that H. B. was a man, sir. A woman hasn't got any business on a cattle drive."
H. B. yelled over the noise of bawling cattle, snorting horses, and laughing men. "Tell him Momma is going to throw a Cajun fit, and if he's smart he'll walk in the house with roses in one hand and an apology on his lips."
"Yes, sir, that was her," Dewar said.
She held out her hand. "Give me that phone."
Dewar leaned down and put it in her hand.
"You are going to pay for this, Daddy. I'm pissed off worse than I've ever been before in my life. I'm so pissed off that I'm not even going to talk to you about it and you can tell Joel that I know he's behind this shit and I'll get even with him when I get home."
Everything went silent. Even the cows stopped bawling.
"Stop laughing. I'll show you what I can do, but you are going to be sorry. Believe me, you are going to regret it."
She handed the phone back to Dewar. "He says to tell you good luck. You ready?"
He put the phone back in his pocket and nodded toward the dapple-gray horse. "Soon as you tie down those bags and mount up. Apache is spirited, but he's tough. You ever ridden?"
"Once or twice," she answered.
She still couldn't believe that she was going on a Chisholm Trail cattle run. There was no doubt that she'd aggravated her father big-time when she'd broken her engagement six months before, but she thought he'd gotten over it.
"Evidently I was dead wrong," she mumbled.
Joel was a hardworking businessman in her father's corporation, but when it came down to brass tacks, she hadn't loved the man nearly as much as her father had liked him for a potential new son-in-law. When she called off the engagement, Carl Levy sure hadn't been happy with her. Well, she damn sure wasn't happy with him today, so maybe that made them even.
Even though she wasn't marrying Joel, Carl had kept him as his right-hand man and she was sure that Joel was behind the whole idea of sending her off into the wilds on horseback, for God's sake. Well, she'd prove to both her dad and her former fiancé that she could handle the job better than either of them.
Cowboys were wonderful subjects to film. Women loved their tight-fitting jeans, boots, belt buckles, and slow drawls. But they sure weren't her cup of tea. No sir! Give her a man in a custom-fit three-piece suit any day of the week over a man who liked horses and cows better than five-star restaurants and Broadway plays. So that tall, dark cowboy with a black hat pulled down over his eyes had better lay low for at least a week. She might begin to cool off by then.
It was going to be a long month with no cell phone or even a laptop. She had to take notes by hand and give them to the cook who would send them by snail mail whenever he went for supplies.
Thank goodness she knew how to tie down a saddlebag, even if she did have to tiptoe to get the job done. Not a single one of those cowboys hopped down off their horses and offered to do it for her, proving that she was right in her choice of men. Cowboys were only gentlemen in movies and romance books. The real thing didn't even exist. When they dropped their britches and kicked off their boots, they were just like all other men. And she didn't have time for any of them.
She stuck her high-heeled shoe in the stirrup, grabbed the saddle horn, and gave a little bounce. The slick red bottom of her spike-heeled shoe slipped in the stirrup. The foot on the ground was standing in a fresh pile of horse manure. The momentum jerked her hand off the saddle horn and she was staring with wide open eyes at big fluffy white clouds somewhere past the horses, cowboys, and even the big pecan trees. Her chest felt like it was going to explode when she finally remembered to force air into her lungs, and the smell of fresh warm horse shit hit her nose.
She quickly pulled herself up into a sitting position. Her shoes were ruined. Her best power suit was a mess. And she hadn't even gotten on that horse yet. Her father had better get busy fulfilling all the things on his bucket list.
She looked up to see a hand extended toward her and she took it. A different cowboy heaved her up to her feet. He looked somewhat like Dewar, but he wasn't as tall, but then Dewar was sitting on the biggest horse she'd ever seen, so maybe he just looked like he was ten feet tall and bulletproof.
"Thank you," she said.
"Guess you didn't get a good hold on that stirrup with those shoes," he said. "I'm Raylen. Who are you?"
"Had nothing to do with my ability to mount the horse. I stepped in horse shit! I'm H. B. McKay," she said through clenched teeth.
Raylen chuckled and then roared. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "I can't wait to tell Liz. Dewar, you are never living this one down."
"Who is Liz?" Haley asked.
If Liz was Dewar's wife or girlfriend, that just complicated matters even more. No woman would want her husband or boyfriend out in the wilds for a whole month with a strange woman.
Raylen didn't answer but pointed at her. "You are the sissified fellow my brother has been bitchin' about for two months? Now that is rich."
"Sissified!" Haley cut her eyes up at Dewar and set her mouth in a hard line.
Dewar shrugged. "How can Carl Levy be your father and your name be McKay?"
"My name is Haley McKay Levy. I dropped the last name for professional reasons. No one needs to know that Carl is my father," she said.
"What's the B stand for?" he asked.
"Bitch! And don't you forget it," she told him.
"You sure you don't want five minutes to change into some boots? You did bring something other than those shoes, I hope, or maybe you're planning to ride all day in your bare feet?" Dewar drawled. "I'll give you ten minutes to change. If you aren't ready to ride by then, we're leaving you behind and you can scoot right back to Daddy and tell him to send us a man who can do the job."
"I've got boots and jeans," she said from behind clenched teeth.
Did all men share DNA with jackasses, or was it just because it was April Fools' Day?
Dewar pointed toward a barn.
She untied her saddlebags and stomped off in that direction. She hadn't been on a horse since she was in college. She'd taken a riding class as an elective, but that had been eight years before. She hadn't liked anything about horses then, not the way they smelled, brushing them, or the crap they left behind. According to her professor, it was therapeutic. According to Haley, it was a big waste of her time.
But in the next thirty days she'd prove to the whole damn bunch of them that she wasn't a sissified anything. And when she got back home to Dallas, Joel had best pack his bags and catch the next flight back to Holly-damn-wood.
She'd carefully packed the saddlebags with the pair of Roper boots that she'd bought for the riding class, three pairs of jeans, four T-shirts, and clean underwear and socks plus a thick spiral notebook and several ballpoint pens. She'd gotten ready, but she still could hardly believe it was happening. She'd even prepared a speech giving her father credit for the biggest and best prank ever. Her mother had assured her every day the past week that it wasn't real, and Haley had believed her right up until she saw all those cowboys, horses, and the wagon. Wait until her mother found out that her father sent her and not Joel.
"I really, really wouldn't want to be Daddy tonight," she mumbled.
She found an empty horse stall in the barn and kicked off her smelly shoes, removed her slacks, jacket, and blouse. She jerked on jeans and a T-shirt and pulled socks from inside her boots. She cussed under her breath the whole time she put them on and shoved her feet down into the Ropers. That blasted riding class turned out to be her biggest mistake in her college years. She'd gotten a B in it-the only one on her transcript. But she was glad she'd saved the boots.
"Hey, where are you?" a woman's voice yelled.
"I'm back here in a stall," Haley said.
The voice came closer. "You are the reality television person?"
Haley hung her clothes on the stall door. They were ruined for sure and those shoes had only been worn once. The smell of horse crap would never come out of the leather.
"Yes, I am."
Haley opened the stall door. "I hope I am."
She faced a short dark-haired woman wearing faded jeans and a pearl-snap chambray work shirt and a denim jacket.
"And you are?" Haley asked.
"I'm Liz O'Donnell, Dewar's sister-in-law, and you'd be the fellow who is going along to take notes for that reality show?" Liz laughed.
"Guess I surprised them all." Haley smiled.
"Dewar still thinks it's a joke that Raylen has pulled on him. I'd love to be a fly on the tree bark when he figures out this whole thing is real and my husband did not play an April Fools' joke on him," Liz said.
"I'd love to be a fly on the dining room table tonight when my momma figures out that Daddy sent me on this trip. There might not even be a Dallas after tonight," Haley said.
Liz pulled off her denim jacket and handed it to Haley. "Put this on. I bet you didn't even bring a jacket and it's still cold in the mornings. You'll need it."
She slipped it on over the T-shirt. "You sure? I didn't even think of a jacket."
Liz stepped back and pulled off her well-worn straw hat. "Fair as you are, you'd best have this too."
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because Dewar deserves it. I wanted to make this trip, but oh, no! A woman could not go. It was boys only, and girls were banned," Liz said.
Liz giggled. "That's exactly what I told him. I'm hoping you give him grief all month. Think you can do that?"
"You bet your sweet ass I can." Haley nodded.
Liz led the way out of the stall with Haley keeping step right beside her. "They've all been crowing all week about spending a whole month out in the wide open spaces without a woman to nag, whine, and bitch. This is just too sweet."
"They haven't seen bitching yet, but it's coming," Haley said.
Liz handed her a fist full of rubber bands from her pocket. "That hair is going to be so tangled by the end of the day that you won't be able to do a thing with it, so take these so you can braid it startin' tomorrow morning."
"I packed a brush, a bar of soap, and a couple of headbands, but I didn't think I'd really be doing this," Haley said.
"What else have you got?"
"Two pair of jeans, shirts, and underwear. I barely got it all in the saddlebags."
"You'll be all right."
"For thirty days?" Haley asked.
"Did you pack toilet paper?"
Haley groaned. "Daddy said I couldn't have a laptop or a phone because the batteries wouldn't last and there was certainly no electricity. I thought that was a death sentence. I didn't even think about toilet paper and using the bathroom in the woods."
"Just hope that you can find woods or bushes or even mesquite trees. Some of the land where you are going is flatter than a pancake. You'll be lucky to find a tumbleweed to squat behind," Liz said.
The door was in sight, but Liz detoured to a tack room with a small bathroom and handed her a roll. "Shove it down in your duffel bag and don't share."
"I can't believe you are helping me," Haley said.
"The paper won't last thirty days, but by the time it's gone you'll have your bluff in on them, and Dexter, or Coosie, as he insists everyone calls him on the trail, will be more than glad to pick up some for you when he buys supplies. I'm just evening up the playing field. I can't wait to see the reality show that comes out of this. Did you know they filmed part of that noodlin' show not far from here?"
Haley frowned. "Noodlin'? Oh, you mean hand fishing?"
"Yeah, that's it, but the folks in this area call it noodlin'. Looks like it's time to mount up. Don't worry about your shoes and suit. I'll take care of them and they'll be ready when you come back."
"Who are all those cowboys? Tell me their names. I've done my research, so I know that Coosie is the nickname for the cowboy who drives the chuck wagon and who does the cooking," Haley whispered as they walked toward the horses.
"The one on the ground is Raylen, my husband. He's not going with them. Dexter, I mean Coosie, is driving the wagon. Buddy is the middle-aged man who stutters. And then Sawyer, Finn, and Rhett are O'Donnell cousins. They would have made a man prove himself on this trip, but they sure didn't plan on you, so go strike a blow for women."
Haley settled the hat down better on her head. "You are scarin' me a little bit, but don't tell them I said that."
She marched right up to the horse named Apache with new determination, stuffed her roll of toilet paper into her saddlebag, jammed her scuffed-up work boot down into the stirrup, grabbed the saddle horn, and threw a leg over the horse. It was like riding a bicycle and it all came back to her, right along with the reasons that she didn't like that class all those years ago. Her butt hit with a thump and the jar traveled up her backbone with enough force to make her wince before the horse took a single step.
"You ready?" Dewar asked.
She had a hat and a jacket.
She had toilet paper.
It didn't transform her into a cowgirl, but by damn, those cowboys didn't know that.
"I can take notes and send back to Carl. You don't have to go," Dewar said.
"Oh yes I do," Haley said. She'd show her father that she was as tough as any field reporter on his payroll.
Dewar inhaled deeply and yelled, "Head 'em out!"
He rode ahead of the whole crew, slapping his hat against his thigh to start a hundred head of cattle moving out of the pasture and across the two-lane highway. Four other cowboys did the same, with the chuck wagon bringing up the rear. Haley wasn't sure what she should do, but finally she and Apache fell in behind the whole affair. In an hour her butt was asleep, her legs felt like they'd never be straight again, and the bagel she'd eaten early that morning had vanished.
She urged Apache on to a trot and rode along beside the cows so she could see Dewar better. He sat loose in the saddle, his back ramrod straight, and his long legs didn't look like they hurt like hers did. An image appeared in her head of him riding strip stark naked like the hero in the Cheryl Brooks book she'd heard about from a friend who worked on the RT Book Reviews magazine.
Cheryl wrote amazing erotic paranormal fiction. In a recent interview she'd described the beginning of her new book. Just reading the interview had given Haley hot flashes and had been the primary reason she called off the engagement with Joel. If her fiancé couldn't make her as hot as a book teaser, then there was something wrong with the relationship. She couldn't very well tell her father such a thing, but it was the truth.
She'd imagined Joel sitting on a horse with no clothes on and all it did was make her giggle. She'd imagined him doing the things to her body that Cheryl's heroes did to her heroines and not one faint little shiver of anticipation tickled her backbone.
But imagining Dewar sitting all straight and tall and naked, now that was a different matter and it scared the bejesus right out of her. She'd only just met the man and he could be married or engaged or in some kind of a relationship. Surely someone that sexy wasn't single, so she had no right to be drawing mental pictures of him naked.
Hmmm, if that's against the rules, then he can keep his hat and boots. Oh, my! That even presents a sexier picture, she thought.
She leaned forward for a better view through the cows, and when she sat back a fresh stab of pain hit her tailbone. She wanted to cry, but she'd be roasted alive over a barbecue pit in the devil's backyard before she complained.
Her stomach grumbled, but she kept a death grip on the reins and fell back far enough that she couldn't see Dewar so plainly. She would definitely slide right off Apache if she kept leaning to one side to get a better virtual vision of him wearing nothing but boots and a hat.
Her stomach growled again. Were there chocolate cookies somewhere in that wagon? In her research cowboys ate a hell of a lot of beans on the trail, especially if no one killed a deer or enough rabbits for Coosie to fry up for supper. The reality show would have a helluva time getting seven cowboys and as many cowgirls to do a Western reality show if all they got was beans and wild game on the whole trip. Or would they? That big payout at the end of the trip in Dodge City would bring contestants out by the droves.
Next week, while she was gone, the committee would begin throwing around names for the show and that's where she wanted to be. It had been her idea from the time she heard about the Hand Fishin' reality show, and it wasn't fair that she couldn't be sitting behind her desk fielding ideas. Just because Joel was Carl's golden-haired boy wonder at the office, he got to stay in an air-conditioned office while Haley got bunions on her ass and a nose full of fresh cow-shit scent with every foot that the cowboys herded the cattle through the mesquite.
Who would have believed that cows could crap so much and just keep walking the whole time? Or that it took five cowboys and a chuck wagon to herd a hundred of them to Dodge City, Kansas?
She rode along behind the wagon and talked to herself, wishing that she could write down ideas and ride at the same time. "We've got to cross the Red River, and I bet there's no way that egotistical cowboy is going to use the bridge. I wouldn't on the reality show. It's too great an opportunity for things to go wrong, and that's what makes a good show. Note one when we stop tonight: first there's going to be saddle-sore tempers at the end of the day, and the Red River will have to be crossed, so get the cameras rolling from the other side. Fall off the horse and it's an automatic point deduction. Let a cow get away from you and it's more deductions. Fall into bed with the trail boss and you get fifty extra points."
She looked around to see if anyone was listening, only to find a straggling old black and white cow staring at her. Haley stuck her tongue out at the heifer and she looked the other way.
"One cow down. Six cowboys to go. Wonder if I stick my tongue out at them if they'll back down and leave me alone?" she mumbled.
Dewar led the way across the Red River at a narrow place with sloped sides down to the water's edge. The clay-colored water flowed gently that morning and barely skimmed his horse's belly. Only the bottom of his jeans and the soles of his boots were wet when the cattle reached the other side.
The horses pulled the chuck wagon across without a problem. Haley made mental notes and hoped that when her contestants crossed the river that it was rolling and much deeper.
They would begin filming in late summer. She planned on having the season ready to roll by spring of the next year. If pretty boy Joel hadn't gone back to his precious West Coast by then, he could just stand back and know that she had as much film smarts as he thought he had. The first season wouldn't be prime time, but it did have a pretty good chance at a slot on Sunday afternoons, and reality shows had better ratings if there was danger.
It was a probably a good thing that her father had sent her on the trip. Joel, bless his heart, would have died of acute nose snarling the first time he got a good solid whiff of cow shit. And his delicate skin would break out in hives for sure if he had to wear tight-fittin' jeans.
On the Oklahoma side of the river they passed through several acres of mesquite before coming out in a flat pasture between the ghost town of Fleetwood and Terral, a small town located to the west of them. Haley could hear traffic passing on Highway 81 even though she couldn't see anything except patches of mesquite, tractors stirring up dust in fields, and pastureland.
Haley read that the Chisholm Trail came out in Indian territory right across the river. In one account, it said that cattle were so thick at times in the river crossing that a cowboy could walk across the river on their backs. She looked for the places where her research said that there were still signs of a million cattle being herded, but she only saw green grass.
The wagon pulled up under a big pecan tree and stopped. As if they knew it was midday, the old longhorn bull who'd been leading the herd came to a halt. He bawled out a message to his followers and they all lined up around a farm pond for a drink before they started nibbling on the green grass.
Haley tugged on Apache's reins. "Whoa, boy!"
When the cowboys dismounted, she slung a leg over the side and stepped out of the stirrup only to get a charley horse in her calf. She sucked air, stomped it out, took a step, and looked down at her bowed legs. If her knees ever touched again it would be a sheer miracle. She would have to wear long flowing skirts for months to cover up the effects of riding every day.
"Little sore, are you? It will get better every d-d-day. I'm Buddy," the cowboy stuttered.
"Pleased to meet you, Buddy. I hope it gets better real soon," Haley said.
Buddy was taller than she was, but that couldn't be counted as bragging about much since she barely tipped the charts at five feet three inches. He had arms as big as hams and a belly that hung out over his belt. Haley didn't figure anybody would ever mess with him, not even with a stutter. His thick hair was brown, and his eyes were the same color. His face was round and kind looking, and she'd guess him to be somewhere in his forties. His boots were scuffed and his jeans worn, and his confidence said that he knew everything about riding, camping, and herding cows.
The man on the chuck wagon hopped down and extended his hand. "You shocked us so bad we weren't even polite back at the house. My real name is Dexter but on the trail I'm Coosie and I run the eatin' part of this trail ride. Every time a cowboy calls me anything different than Coosie he gets his pay docked by a dollar at the end of the line. Since we didn't have breakfast there were no leftovers to use for dinner, so I've got bologna sandwiches and chips today, but that's a treat we won't be gettin' very often."
Haley shook hands with him, her small hand dwarfed by his. "I'm glad to meet you, Coosie."
He should have been one of those huge football players that ran a couple of steps and blocked anyone trying to get past him to the ball. He was somewhere around Buddy's age but twice his size. His arms were enormous, and his big round head was shaved smooth as a billiard ball. His eyes were gentle and his smile genuine, but Haley sure didn't want to ever get on his bad side.
One of the younger cowboys spoke up, "And we're the O'Donnell cousins. Dewar's daddy had three more brothers. We each belong to one of those brothers. I'm Sawyer. This here"-he pointed to his left-"is Rhett, and that would be Finn." He pointed to his right. "We weren't expecting a woman on the ride, but if you'll keep up, we won't hold the fact that you're a girl against you."
"Hell, we might even convert you to a real cowgirl by the time the trip is over. You might get a tat on your neck and learn how to two-step," Rhett said.
"Don't bet on it," she said.
Tat, her ass! Two-step? They could all go to hell. She might have a hat and a pair of boots, but she couldn't wait to get back to her high heels and power suits.
It was easy to tell that they were all kin to Dewar. They had the same thick black hair. Sawyer had almost black eyes that looked right into her soul when he nodded. His skin was that lightly toasted color that said there was some Hispanic in his genes. Finn had clear blue eyes, light-colored skin, and a tight smile that said he kept his thoughts close to this heart. Rhett sported a tat of a longhorn on his upper bicep and wore his dark hair pulled back in a short ponytail. Obviously the rebel cousin, his green eyes glittered when he shook hands with her.
Dewar rode up and expertly slid off his horse. His knees weren't bowed in the least and for that Haley could have choked him and enjoyed watching him turn blue.
"You ready to go back yet? My cell phone still has enough battery power to call Liz, the woman you met back at the ranch. She'll come rescue you. I still think this is a prank Raylen and Liz is pulling on me because I wouldn't let her come on the trip with us," he said.
"Why didn't Raylen come with you?" Haley asked.
"Because he wouldn't if Liz couldn't." Rhett chuckled.
Haley cocked her head to one side. "And why couldn't she come? She rides and I bet she cooks."
Sawyer laughed out loud. "She rides, but she doesn't cook. We got Coosie to do that for us anyway. We don't need a woman to cook for us on the trail, and I'm willing to bet a hundred-dollar bill that you don't last a week before you call your people to come get you."
"I don't cook either, so if anything happens to Coosie, don't expect me to do his job. And honey, don't bet money you haven't got because I will take it away from you with a smile on my face," Haley said.
"We planned on this being a..." Dewar stopped without completing the sentence.
"A boys' clubhouse with no girls allowed?" Haley asked.
He held out his phone. "Something like that."
Haley's chin jacked up a full inch. "I'll stay."
"Well, you got until tomorrow morning. That's when I reckon my cell phone will go dead, lady. What does that B in your name really stand for anyway?"
"I told you, it stands for bitch," she said.
Sawyer chuckled. "I believe it and that bet is still on, lady. You leave, you shell it out. You stay all the way up to the time when you get back in that cute little sports car and I'll hand it over."
"I asked a simple question. What's the B for?" Dewar said.
Her skin tingled just listening to Dewar's deep twangy drawl. Sawyer's was just as deep and twangy, but it didn't send the vibes to her soul like Dewar's did.
"And I answered it, Mr. O'Donnell." Haley pointed at Sawyer. "Bet is on, darlin'. But let's make it interesting. Let's up the ante that says you can't run me off."
Sawyer shook his head. "Hundred dollars is enough of a bet for me, lady."
Dewar took a step closer to her. "Name is Dewar. Mr. O'Donnell is my granddad on my father's side."
"Well, I don't like Dew-Are so I'm going to call you Dewy. It sounds like someone is trying to ask for Scotch whiskey to me. Why would your mama name you after something that comes in a liquor bottle anyway?"
"If you call me Dewy, there will be a war and, darlin', I will win. My mama named me that because she's real fond of Dewar's White Label and it's a good old Irish name," he growled.
"I wouldn't call him that if I was you," Rhett drawled.
Haley turned her head slightly to look at him.
"I heard about this guy who came on to him in a bar and called him Dewy Darlin'." Rhett grinned.
"That never happened. It's just a rumor." Dewar blushed.
Haley turned back to Dewar. "Leave me alone about my middle name and I'll call you Dewar and I'll even say it right."
Dewar stuck out his hand. "Deal."
The effect of his bare skin touching hers sent shock waves through her body. It really was going to be a helluva long thirty days, and she was going to have to curb her imagination because that tingle was exactly what she imagined the heroine in Cheryl's book feeling like when the hero touched her.