“The placemats? No, those are mine. Couldn’t stand the frilly ones so I bought some that weren’t so damn girly.” He plopped the pot in the middle of the table next to a box of crackers. His cell vibrated on the counter and he snatched it, growling, “You’d better have good news for me, Gilchrist.”

“I found her.”

Abe sagged into the chair. “Thank you. How is she?”

“Besides drunk as a damn skunk? Now she’s mad as hell too. She took a swing at me.”

“I hope you ducked.”

“Her aim is a little off, but she wasn’t exactly aiming for my face.”

Considering the snarl in Kyle’s tone, Abe held back his chuckle. Then he heard Celia in the background. “Is that Abe?”

Kyle said, “Yeah. Didja wanna talk to him?”

“Abe, you f**king bastard,” Celia yelled loud enough that Abe had to hold the phone away from his ear. “You called Kyle? I trusted you and you turned me over to this smarmy douche bag who can’t keep his dick in his pants! Do you know what he said to me?” The line crackled and Celia’s voice sounded farther away. “Omigod, Kyle Gilchrist you f**kin’ pervert, put me down right f**kin’ now or I swear to God I will kick your balls into your throat as soon as I’ve sobered up!”

“Try it, baby cakes, and I’ll give you another spanking.”

Another spanking? What the f**k did that mean?

The phone clunked again and Kyle snarled, “You owe me, Abe. Big time. Celia is so shitfaced I can’t leave her alone so I’m takin’ her to my hotel. But since she ditched Mickey at the community barn after the event, now I gotta deal with that temperamental goddamn horse of hers too. Fuck.”

“Call me tomorrow and let me know how the night went.”

“I’ll tell you right now how it’s gonna go. She’s a pain in my ass and I’ll probably end up in jail for killin’ her. I don’t give a shit if she is your sister. You ass**les better bail me outta jail if that happens.” Kyle hung up.

Janie stared at the phone. “Wow.”

“Yeah. Like I said, no love lost between Kyle and Celia. But at least I know she ain’t passed out somewhere alone.”

He filled the bowls and they tucked in.

“This is really good, Abe.”

“Thanks.”

“So Celia’s been barrel racing professionally for . . . ?”

“Three years. Not that me’n Hank had a freakin’ clue about that part of her life. She hid it from us.” His gaze zoomed to hers. “Did you know she’d kept up with her training?”

Janie shook her head. “But Celia didn’t confide in me much anyway. Is she any good?”

He shrugged. “Some natural talent. She works hard and ended up with a great horse. She’s gone a lot, which took some getting used to. Now me’n Hank are her biggest supporters, but when we found out about her deception . . .” Something jogged his memory. When it solidified, a niggling feeling of guilt surfaced. “Wait a second. The last time you contacted me before you came back to Muddy Gap was three years ago.”

“So?”

“So . . . was that the same time the incidents with this Dave guy escalated? Was that why you called me and asked if we could meet?”

“I don’t remember.”

Liar. “Janie.”

“What?”

“Look at me and tell me the truth.”

Her purple-hued irises flashed frustration. “Yes, that’s partially why I called you, okay? I was scared to death and I thought seeing you, hearing you say ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps, Janie, and handle it like an adult’ would give me courage.”

“So you didn’t tell me what was really goin’ on that day we had lunch in Cheyenne. You acted like your life was perfect. In fact, you sort of rubbed it in my face. How happy and successful you were.” Without me went unsaid. It’d sliced him to the quick, hearing from her after years of no contact. Believing he’d heard longing in her voice over the phone had been the only reason he’d agreed to see her. He’d felt like a fool afterward, but seeing her had allowed him to make much needed changes in his own life.

“I lied about my life because I didn’t want you to think I needed saving again,” she said softly.

Instead of saying, I’ve always wanted to be there to save you, he snapped, “But it was perfectly okay for Renner to come to your rescue, like in the version you told me earlier?”

“Please. Can we just drop it?”

Back to the same old, same old within a couple of hours.

Only the clanking of spoons filled the silence.

She delicately broke a cracker and scattered the chunks in her bowl. “What are your after-dinner plans? Wanna veg out and watch a movie with me?”

“You’re more than welcome to watch whatever you’d like. There’s a ton of ranch bookwork to catch up on, so I’ll be workin’ in my office all night.”

“Oh. Okay.” She hid her disappointment and focused on stirring her soggy crackers. “I’m staying in Hank’s old room?”

“Unless you’d rather be downstairs in Celia’s room so you have your own bathroom.”

“I don’t mind sharing a bathroom with you.”

He checked the time. “Do you need anything else before I get to work?”

“I’m sure if my stalker tosses a Molotov cocktail through the living room window, you’ll hear it.”

***

***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com

***