“No. It’s Marisol.”

“Marisol . . . Rhymes with parasol. Now I remember.”

“I see you two have met.”

“Uh-huh. Miz Tierney has been coloring pictures with me in the dining room after lunch.”

Renner quirked an eyebrow at Tierney. She took time out of her day to color with a lonely little girl? That was unexpected. And more than a little sweet.

Then Marisol spied the horse and her eyes went as big as pie plates. “Is that my pony?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Is her name Starfire?”

Jesus. “No. Her name is Pumpkin.”

“ ’Cause she’s really orange, huh?”

“That’d be my guess.”

Marisol’s gaze zoomed back to Tierney. “How come you didn’t tell me you’re a real cowgirl?”

“Because I’m not a cowgirl.”

“What are you?”

Tierney sighed. “You know, that’s what I’m in Wyoming to figure out.”

Renner frowned. What did that mean?

Joelle put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders. “You sure she’ll be safe?”

“Pumpkin is an even-tempered horse. Since it’s Marisol’s first time in the saddle we’ll only be gone an hour.”

“See ya, Mom!”

“Hang on. I want to get some pictures.”

Renner boosted Marisol on her horse and held the reins while pictures were snapped. Millions of pictures. Finally he said, “We gotta go. We’re losin’ daylight.”

After they mounted up, Renner went through the basic instructions of reining. He told Tierney to head for the main road. As soon as they were walking the horses three abreast on the gravel road, Marisol started asking questions.

Were he and Tierney married?

Why not?

Did they have a dog?

Why not?

Did they ride horses every day?

Why not?

Why didn’t Tierney wear a cowgirl hat?

Why was Renner’s cowboy hat black?

Why couldn’t she make her horse—which she’d insisted on calling Starfire—go faster?

On and on.

Renner sidled up to Tierney and said in a low voice, “I think I know the source of Marisol’s mother’s migraine.”

Tierney gave him a stern look, but he saw her amusement beneath it. He also knew she was having more fun on the trail ride than she’d admit.

He also realized they hadn’t argued once.

Tierney volunteered to take Marisol back to her mother, leaving him to finish chores before dark.

The Mackenzie family opted to take supper in their room since they were the only guests. Renner could’ve gone to bed early, but he’d built a fire and was relaxing when he heard the office door open. He glanced at the mantel. Nine o’clock. Seemed Tierney had been working late again.

She descended the stairs and wandered to the fireplace to warm her hands. “Quiet night.” She half turned, taking in his sprawled posture on the couch. “You look comfy.”

He shrugged. “Thought I’d stick around until the embers died down.”

“Watching out for the safety of the guests, are you?”

“Hell no. The lodge is a lot nicer than my trailer. There’s just something about sittin’ in front of a fire at the end of the day that speaks to me. Clears my head. If you ain’t in a hurry, pull up a chair.” He expected she’d decline. But to his surprise, she eased down on the sofa next to him. Eased being the word. He looked at her sharply. “You sore from ridin’ today?”

Her cheeks flooded with color. “Yes. My inner thighs are screaming. And I won’t go into detail about how my butt feels.”

I wish you would. I could feel it for you, if you want a second opinion.

The flames crackled. Tierney’s head fell back on the cushions and she sighed. “This is nice. Really nice. Know what would make it perfect?”

If we were rolling around nekkid in front of the fire?

He cleared his libido from his throat. “What?”

“If I had a glass of wine. But the thought of getting up and walking to the bar? I believe my legs might revolt and let me fall on my face just to remind me who’s in charge.”

Renner laughed. “You really do have a strange sense of humor sometimes, Tierney. I like it.”

“You’d be the only one.”

“I’ll admit my tastes have always been . . . eclectic.”

“What eclectic trait attracted you to your first wife?” Right after she said it, she said, “Sorry. That is none of my business.”

So she was curious about his marital past. He’d wondered. “I don’t mind. My first wife had no sense of humor at all.”

“Why did you marry her?”

Money. “She had other attributes I believed would make up for it. Turns out I was wrong.”

“How old were you when you married her?”


“That’s awful young.”

“Yeah, well, we thought we were in love and all that bullshit and her daddy didn’t want us living together, so we snuck off and got hitched.”

“How long were you married?”

“About eighteen months. But man, did it seem like eighteen years.”

“And the second time?” she asked.

“About eighteen minutes.”


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