“Same as last time.”

“I’ll go get settled in. Is Pa up in his bedroom?” His parents hadn’t shared a bed for years—a fact they were both mighty proud of—a fact he couldn’t fathom since he shared his bed with both Chassie and Edgard in recent days.

“He can’t climb stairs yet so he’s set up in the den,” Lianna said. “And he’s sleepin’ right now. I ain’t about to let you just bull your way in there and wake him up. The man had a heart attack. He needs his rest.”

Just then a cowbell clanked from the vicinity of the den.

Everyone froze.

“Can’t anyone hear this goddamn bell?” the old man yelled and proceeded to ring the cowbell as if the den had morphed into his own personal bell tower.

“Jesus. I hate that cowbell and it’s your fault for givin’ it to him, Lianna,” his mother snapped and stalked toward the mad ringing.

Trevor didn’t jab Lianna for her lie. Instead, he started up the stairs.

In the bedroom at the end of the hall, he tossed his bag on the floor next to the old wooden rocking horse his grandfather had hand carved. Stuck in the trophy room again.

A shrine to his father, the great Tater Glanzer, and the man’s impact on the sport of rodeo.

Saddles, spurs, belt buckles, trophies, framed newspaper articles, framed magazine covers, more trophies. Trevor knew his mother picked this room in an effort to make Trevor feel inferior in the face of all his father’s accomplishments. It didn’t work. Not anymore. All it did was remind him how much of his life he’d wasted trying to live up to expectations that weren’t his own.

If only he’d been working, not rodeoing, not chasing someone else’s dream, then he’d have the money he and Chassie needed to buy Gus’s land.

“Stop beating yourself up.” Chassie’s gentle voice drifted into Trevor’s mind like a refreshing breeze, washing away his frustration, if only temporarily. She had that calming effect.

So did Edgard.

He wondered how the two of them were faring without him.

“What do you know about goat births?”

Edgard had joined Chassie and they were draped across the top of Greta’s stall in the barn.

His gaze narrowed. “Can’t be much different than foals or calves, can it?”

“I reckon they’re the same. That’s why I think Greta is in labor.” Chassie squinted at the nanny goat chomping on a pile of hay.

“Hate to break it to you, but Greta looks too bored to be in labor. She hasn’t lost her appetite a bit, which is a damn shame ’cause she’s gonna eat us out of house and home.

No wonder he was so anxious to get rid of her.”

“Not all females of the species bleat and moan and flop on the ground when their time comes, Ed. Some give birth with quiet dignity.”

Edgard’s mouth twitched. “My mistake.”

“So that’s why I think Greta’s behavior is mighty suspect. She hasn’t shown her hiney in the last half hour.”

“Thank God,” Edgard muttered.

“It’s probably swollen.” Chassie gave Edgard an arch look. “I know how that goes.”

“No sympathy from me. Maybe next time you’ll heed our warnings and save your poor hiney.”

She snorted. “I don’t remember signing on for gettin’ my ass smacked.”

“Comes with the territory—and two territorial males.” Edgard offered her a sunny smile. “No extra charge.”

“Maybe next time I’ll spank you.”

“Mmm. I’d consider it if you’ll kiss it and make it better afterward.”

Her face burned when she remembered how erotic it’d been having two mouths and two sets of rough male hands caressing her flaming skin. She hopped down from the fence. “I’m gonna check her.”

“Maybe that’s not such a good idea.”

“You sound like Trevor.”

“If you mean I’m concerned about your well-being, querida, then I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“I think I can handle one little goat.”

Greta lifted her head and baaed a greeting when Chassie entered the stall. Then she returned to mowing hay, allowing Chassie an opportunity to run her hand down the side of Greta’s rotund belly. Didn’t feel like it was pulling and heaving with labor pains.

“Well?” Edgard asked.

“I can’t tell. Need a better look back here.” Chassie kept stroking Greta’s rear right flank as she dropped to her knees.

“Chass, that’s not such a good idea.”

“Stop bein’ such a worry wart. Look how full her udders are.” Greta stilled when Chassie’s fingers brushed the closest teat. “You’re ready to be a mama, aren’t you, pretty girl?”

Greta baaed loudly.

“Lemme see how close we are. Okay?” Chassie inched sideways. The second she placed her hand on Greta’s rump, Greta panicked.

Her back end flew up, her legs flying high, and her hoof connected with Chassie’s forehead.

Chassie literally saw stars as she hit the dirt.

A thud sounded as Edgard jumped the fence, sending hay dust swirling around Chassie’s head. “Chassie?”

She forced her eyes open and Edgard’s face swam into view.

“Oh damn, baby, your forehead is really bleeding.”

“Shit.” Her vision was blurry and she had a vicious headache.

“Jesus. Hold still.” He stripped off his glove with his teeth and pressed it to where her pulse pounded up by her hairline.

“Jesus fucking Christ would you stop, that hurts!” So much for acting tough.

“Sorry, but you hafta keep pressure on it.”

“I’m okay.”

“No, you’re not. Hang on.” Edgard slipped one arm under her knees and the other under her neck as he lifted her.

“I can walk.”

“Like hell.” Edgard kicked the stall door shut and carried her into the house. When Chassie tried to sit up on the couch, he pushed her back down. “Don’t move and let me look at it.”

“It’s probably just a scratch.”

“Let me be the judge of that, okay?” He sucked in a harsh breath when he gently pulled the glove away. “I think it needs stitches. She sliced you open good.”

That’s when Chassie started to cry. “I don’t want stitches. I’ll have horrible scars and I’m already not rodeo queen material and I’ll end up lookin’ worse than I do right now, probably like Frankenstein.”


“And we can’t afford a trip to the doctor’s office,” she practically wailed. “Maybe you should just take me to the veterinarian’s—”

“Ssh.” Edgard wiped her tears and dabbed at the blood. “Calm down. I’m taking you to a real doctor. We’ll get you fixed up. And there’s no way you could ever look like Frankenstein.”

Pain throbbed in her head. “I hate doctors. Hospitals. All that medical shit.”

After a minute or so of silence, he asked, “Because of your mother?”

Images of claustrophobic rooms and the stench of antiseptics caused her stomach to pitch. “How’d you know?”

“You never talk about her. You said she was sick. You sort of seemed embarrassed about it.”

Chassie nodded. “She was sick for a long time before she died. Most my life, actually. Because she was Native we ended up at the Indian Health Services hospital. No one cared whether she got better, except me. It was like we were both invisible and unwanted. I hated roaming the hospital corridors wondering if I’d return to her room and find her…gone. The worst part was I figured no one would notice when she passed on, and that’s exactly what happened the day she finally died. She was dead for an hour before I could get anyone to come into her room.”

“I’m sorry.”

More tears leaked out even when Edgard’s touch soothed her. “You’re really gonna make me do this, aren’t you? Go to the doctor?”

“Yes, sweetheart, I am. But I’ll hold your hand the entire time. I won’t leave your side. I promise.”

“Thank you. You’re so sweet, you probably think I’m such a crybaby—”

“Ssh. I don’t think any such thing. It’s okay to lean on me.” He smoothed the hair from her cheek. “I want you to be able to count on me, Chassie, for whatever you need.”

“I’d like that.” In a rush, Chassie said, “But you can’t tell Trevor what happened when he calls.”

Frown lines appeared on Edgard’s forehead. “That’s not—”

“Please. He’ll freak out and there’s nothin’ he can do. He needs to stay and sort things out with his family. We both know he’ll come racing home if we give him a reason to.”

Edgard studied her. He bent down to kiss her cheek. “I disagree, but we’ve got more important things to do than argue. Stay put. I’ll pull the truck up and then we’ll go.”

Chapter Twenty-six

Trevor killed an hour in his room, alternating between staring out the window and scowling at the rodeo trophies. When he deemed his temper able to handle not only his father, but the rest of his family, he ventured downstairs.

They’d moved out of the doublewide trailer in Crook County and into this testament to Tater Glanzer’s ego the year Trevor turned thirteen. Hadn’t mattered to his father, uprooting his oldest son at the start of Trevor’s high school rodeo career, with one of the most respected high school rodeo teams in the state. Hadn’t mattered to his father that Trevor left behind his best friend and the family he’d wished he’d been born into.

Between Tater’s rodeo earnings, the untimely death of Starla’s father—who’d left every penny of his Wyoming oil money to his only daughter—they set to building the most flamboyant, gaudy house this side of the Big Horn mountains.