“But it’s not beyond your capabilities?”
Dalton leaned forward. “No. We’ve got two extra set of working hands in Jessie and Georgia. Libby don’t help Quinn out as much as she used to on the ranch after their kids were born, and Ainsley ain’t the type to devote a month to clearing brush.
“What I’m asking is to keep in mind we’re interested in leasing that land. We’re willing to do improvements on it—on our dime. We’re not at that point yet where we can consider signin’ a lease with you. But we will be in the next year. So it’d be a serious blow to us if you’d already signed a long term lease with Ben and Quinn. Me, Tell and Brandt will pay the highest going rate. I know your brothers won’t offer you that, so I’m pointing out ahead of time that doin’ business with us will be the better deal for you. And since it appears you’re in Wyoming for the long haul, we wanted to state our…offer—for lack of a better term—up front.”
He allowed a moment to digest the information. But he had to admit Dalton impressed the hell out of him. Not playing on any type of family connection, laying out the facts. Appealing to Gavin’s practical side. “Out of the original 140 acres Rielle owned, she has forty. One hundred acres is a piss-ant amount in the scheme of McKay Ranches.”
“Maybe, but the right hundred acres, adjacent to our four thousand acres, with creek frontage ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at.”
“How many people underestimate you?”
Dalton grinned. “A lot. Especially when I’m playin’ cards. They see my baby-face and assume…well, not many of them assume I’m a rookie anymore.”
“Is that how you funded your land purchases? Through gambling?”
Dalton hung his head. “Yes sir.”
“Don’t even try to pull off contrite, Dalton.”
He laughed. “Sorry. So as long as we’re swapping stories about how we made our millions—ha ha—I gotta know if all of yours was inherited.”
Strange to think his brothers hadn’t asked him this question. But since Dalton had been honest with him, he owed his cousin the same courtesy. “My dad started a real estate development company in the 1960s. He did very well in the 70s, 80s and lost more than half when the credit market collapsed. He recovered, but never like during the heyday. He died when I was twenty-eight and I was already VP of the company, so I took over.” Gavin sipped his drink. “My father was a great guy, but I found out a few things he’d done that were shady and I worried his mistakes would come back and bite me in the ass.
“So a few years after his death, I started buying cheap properties. Rentals in decent areas that didn’t require more than basic updates. Two properties turned into four, four turned into eight…and so on. Around that time, I’d had enough of my cheating wife and filed for divorce. Instead of letting that bitterness eat away at me more than it already had, I become more hands on, buying government foreclosures, houses auctioned by banks, any little gem I could turn fast. I’d go in and gut the place. There’s nothing more cathartic than beating the fuck out of stuff with a sledgehammer.”
“Are you kiddin’ me?”
“No. I worked out my aggression toward my ex-wife and started flipping houses at exactly the right time in the market. I made a killing. I reinvested it in rental properties. Daniels Development Group is still in business, I’m still a figurehead CEO, but with the spectacular crash of the housing market, the bulk of my business focus is Daniels Property Management. Since I’m not hands-on, ripping places apart, I can work from anywhere. Made it easy to move here.”
“I had no idea. I gotta say. That’s impressive.” Dalton gave him a self-satisfied smile. “Everyone else in the family sees you as a suit, making real estate deals. From this point on, I’ll see you busting shit up with a chainsaw.”
“So we have a deal?”
“This stays between us,” Dalton cautioned. “If anything changes on your end or my end, we’ll agree to meet to discuss it before making a decision?”
Without missing a beat, Dalton said, “Now that that’s out of the way, you wanna play pool?”
Gavin studied the too-innocent face. Pool shark as well as card shark? Probably. But Gavin still had a few tricks he could teach this pup. “Sure. But we’re not playing for money, right?”
“How about if we play a few games and see how it goes?”
Two hours later Gavin went home three hundred dollars richer.
He doubted Dalton would underestimate him again.
Rielle stormed into Gavin’s bedroom. “Do you know who I just got off the phone with?”
“Publishers Clearing House?”
“Not even remotely funny, Gavin Daniels. A trucking company based out of Denver just called, asking me when I’d be home to accept shipment for a greenhouse. Not a greenhouse kit, but a fully finished greenhouse.”
He had a hard time containing his smile.
Her gaze pierced him. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
“Could you describe this greenhouse?”
Rielle threw up her hands. “It’s a greenhouse! You know very well what a greenhouse looks like.”
“Oh, right. Then that’s probably the greenhouse I bought you.”
“Did I just hear you say you bought me a greenhouse?”
“Is there an echo in here? Yes, I bought you a greenhouse. And I’m disappointed because they were supposed to deliver it last week.”
“Oh. My. God. Are you serious?”
“Who buys someone a fucking greenhouse?” she demanded.
“I didn’t buy someone a fucking greenhouse, I bought you a fucking greenhouse,” he shot back. “Big difference.”
“How did you even know I was pricing them?”
Gavin cocked his head. “Rory told me.”
“What? When the hell did you talk to my daughter?”
“Last week she called to check on Sierra, when Sierra was sleeping, so I chatted with her. She apologized for being a jerk when she found out we were together. I confessed I’d been difficult to live with in the weeks after Sierra’s accident and I wanted to make it up to you.”
“That’s your way of apologizing? You buy me a greenhouse?”
“Jesus, Gavin. Why didn’t you just buy me flowers?”
“In a way, I did. You can grow your own flowers in your new fucking greenhouse.” He grinned.
“You are impossible. I can’t accept this from you.”
Gavin scooped her up, threw her on the bed, and loomed over her. “You don’t have a choice. I custom ordered it. It’s on the way and it’s nonrefundable.” He studied her face. She had that determined set to her jaw, which meant arguing was pointless. So he kissed her.
“No fair,” she panted after he slid his mouth between her breasts.
“Say, thank you, Gavin, for such a thoughtful gift.”
“I will pay you for it.”
“Now you are starting to piss me off, Ree. I didn’t buy it out of guilt. I bought it because you needed it and because I could. I wanted to do something nice for you.”
“This goes way beyond nice.”
“I know. What I feel for you can hardly be described as nice. I love you.”
That’s when she softened. When her pride took a serious smackdown from her heart. “I love you too. It’s just weird to have you buy me things. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it.”
“Get used to it. And practice that saying thank you thing, because I had them toss in a new tractor with a trailer attachment.”
Her mouth dropped open. “Did you really?”
“Yes. But it’s just a little tractor, so a little thank you will be fine.”
She laughed. “You are so ridiculous. That’s probably why I’m ridiculously in love with you.” She lifted up and kissed him. “Thank you, Gavin, for such a thoughtful gift.”
“This greenhouse is enormous,” Ainsley said.
“Tell me about it. It’s twice the size of the one I’d been saving for.”
“And Gavin just bought it for you three weeks ago? Out of the blue? Was it a lucky guess?”
Rielle unhooked a hose coupling. “No. He talked to Rory and she told him. I suspect she exaggerated just a bit about what I wanted.”
Ainsley laughed. “How is Rory?”
“Busy. We only get to catch up about once a week.”
“So has she come around as far as you and Gavin being in a relationship?”
“Actually, yes. She apologized to me and to Gavin, although he didn’t go into detail about what she said to him.”
Ainsley’s eyebrows rose. “That’s progress.”
“I thought so. I’ll admit I suspected Rory was trying to pull one over on me. Claiming she had accepted the relationship in the hopes I would confide the intimate details to her. She’s sneaky that way.”
“Has she been hinting around she’d like to know more?”
“Uh-oh. I recognize that contemplative look. What’s up?”
Rielle twisted on the spray nozzle until it loosened and fell off. “What I don’t understand is even when everything is going so great between Gavin and me, why do I still feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop?”
“Ree. That’s natural. It’s completely normal that you’re afraid now you’ve found this incredible happiness, you’ll lose it or something will screw it up.”
“Exactly! If it’s so natural and normal did you talk to Ben about this stuff at this stage in your relationship?”