Perry kicked open the door to the tack room where they kept all the riding equipment for the ranch. He’d just finished a long day of moving the cattle and administering vaccinations to the calves. It was the least favorite of all of his tasks on the farm.
Tre came in behind him and leaned against the wall as Perry put his saddle and bridle in their designated spot.
“Are we done for the day, boss?” Tre asked.
Perry rolled his eyes and shot Tre a look. “How many times have I told you to quit calling me boss?” He and Tre had gotten along well in the few days that Perry had worked for the ranch. Tre had proved to be one hell of a worker.
“It suits you.”
With a sigh, Perry said, “Yeah, we’re done for the day.”
Tre followed behind Perry as he exited the tack room. “Did you hear the news?”
“What news?” Perry asked, operating more on autopilot than actual interest. He rubbed the back of his neck. A hot shower and a good night’s sleep sounded heavenly. He just needed to finish up the last of the chores and then he could relax.
“Cory’s coming home next week.”
Perry checked the locks on the stalls to make sure none of the horses would be getting loose overnight. “Who’s Cory?”
Tre laughed. “You’re kidding, right? Cory is Garrett and Anne’s grandson. The one who competes in the reining events. He’s got some time off between now and finals, so he’s coming back here. I assumed Garrett or Anne would’ve told you.”
Perry shrugged. “I think Anne might’ve mentioned it.” She was excited about something this morning; that was for sure. But Perry had been preoccupied with the busy day he had ahead of him and hadn’t paid much attention. Obviously that had been a mistake.
“Anyway, Cory won’t get in the way of anything. Most of the time when he’s here he’s training one of his horses. He’ll be preparing for the finals, so we probably won’t see much of him.”
“He doesn’t help out around the ranch?” What kind of grandson didn’t help with chores? Or any of the other responsibilities they had on the ranch?
“Not since he was a teenager, at least not much. He’s pretty focused on competing. He’s the reason we have the indoor arena and brand-new stalls. Apparently it was a gift from Cory, since Garrett lets him keep his horses here for free.”
Interesting. Not that Perry had time to think about Cory and how he fit on the ranch. Perry wasn’t much for gossip, and he wasn’t going to go poking around in someone else’s business. As long as Cory stayed out of his way, they would get along fine.
“Thanks for the heads-up. Tomorrow I want to get the weeds mowed down in the south pasture and get the arena tilled.”
“Sounds good, boss. I’ll be here.”
Perry ignored the title Tre had bestowed upon him and turned toward the barn exit. He waved good-bye over his shoulder.
Fortunately, his first week on the job had gone well. It was tiring work, but it would be worth it in the end. He got along great with Tre and Garrett and had even spent some time after hours drinking a beer on the porch with them.
He hoped he would have at least a cordial relationship with the grandson as well. Considering the issues he’d had with his previous boss’s son, a cordial relationship with Cory was all he could expect.
* * * *
The next day, Perry was bone tired. With each step his muscles ached and a headache throbbed behind his eyes. Since starting at the ranch he’d worked nonstop, anxious to get the place shipshape as soon as possible. Already some of the boarders had commented on the improvements. Despite the fact that they were at full capacity, they’d had a few calls about people interested in boarding there. He’d even lined up a few new clients to bring their horses for training at the end of the summer.
He’d repainted the old sign by the road, reshingled half of the barn roof, and fixed a handful of other odds and ends that needed repair. He’d worked harder this week than he had in a long while, barely making it to bed each night for more than a few hours before he was up and at it again the next day. But it would all be worth it once the place was running smoothly again.
Perry took the tractor and hay rake into the barn, ready to take a quick break for dinner before doing the evening chores, when a pickup truck and trailer drove into the driveway. The cherry-red paint on the truck, combined with the chrome rims, nearly blinded him as it pulled to a stop in the middle of the drive, blocking the way for anyone who might need to get in or out.
The impressive rig had the ranch’s logo stuck to the side. Over half of the trailer accounted for the living quarters alone, with more square footage than the cabin Perry was staying in.
Perry shook his head. Hopefully the visitor didn’t plan on staying there long.
He parked the tractor and hopped down, hearing his back pop and crack as he hit the ground. He sure felt every bit of his twenty-eight years. And then some. Just another reminder that he’d spent too many hours working today without a break. Did he eat any lunch? He couldn’t remember.
Tonight would be a good night to sit in his recliner and lose himself in one of his Louis L’Amour books. It’d been too long since he’d sat down and read. And later, after he’d checked the horses for the night, he might actually be able to get more than a few hours of sleep.
Before he could even start walking in the direction of his house, the horses inside the trailer began kicking and neighing, not wasting any time expressing their impatience. The driver stepped out of the truck, and Perry had to stop in his tracks.
The man was tall and lean. He wore a plaid button-down Western shirt tucked into a pair of snug jeans that hugged every curve of his muscular thighs. A silver belt buckle glinted in the late-afternoon sun, drawing Perry’s eyes straight to the man’s groin. The man ran his hand through his hair and stuck a black cowboy hat firmly on his head.
He was exactly what Perry’s dreams were made of.
Feeling his cheeks heat, Perry headed in the opposite direction. This had to be the grandson he’d heard so much about. He would have to meet him sometime, but right now, when he was fighting a hard-on, was not the time.
Tre had neglected to mention that the grandson was so damn attractive. Though he looked a little young for Perry.
Of all the fucking men to attract his attention, it had to be his boss’s grandson? This couldn’t end well.
Ten minutes later, Perry stood inside his cabin, washing his hands at the kitchen sink, when a loud pounding like hooves on metal caught his attention. From the window he could see the trailer in the driveway rocking as the horses inside made sure everyone knew their discomfort. Everyone except the person who should be taking care of them.
“God damn it.” The grandson—what was his name? Cory? —he may be hot but he apparently didn’t know jack shit about taking care of his animals. Or he was too much of a dick to care. Either way, Perry didn’t have time to contemplate why the horses were still locked in the hot trailer after a long road trip.
Perry grabbed his hat and pulled on his boots, then stomped out the door and to the trailer, cursing Cory with every step.
He opened up the side door and found three quarter horses. Each more annoyed than the next. And rightly so.
Within a few minutes he had them out and in the arena. He removed their shipping boots and tossed them on the grass outside the fence. The horses ran, stretched and rolled, obviously grateful to be out of the stuffy trailer.
Perry filled the tank with fresh water and pulled a few treats from his pocket to give to them.
The massive buckskin came over to him first. The horse sniffed the treat carefully before taking it from Perry’s hand. Perry gave him a pat on the neck. The horse nudged his pocket for another treat and Perry chuckled. “No more for you, fella. Don’t want to spoil your dinner.” Whenever that was going to be.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Perry turned carefully and eyed the stranger. So this was the famous Cory up close. If Perry wasn’t so damn mad about the way Cory treated his horses, he might have been more attracted to him. Cory’s light-brown hair curled around the edges of his hat and his chocolate eyes glared at Perry. It was sexy as hell. But any man who didn’t take care of his horses’ needs before his own wasn’t a good man in Perry’s opinion.
“Tending to your horses.” Perry tried to keep his voice even. This was his boss’s grandson, but he had a feeling Garrett wouldn’t appreciate Cory’s actions any more than Perry did.
Cory rolled his eyes. “They’ve been in the trailer for five hours; ten more minutes wasn’t going to kill them.”
That was just the attitude that Perry loathed. Anger boiled in his gut. “If they’ve been in the trailer for five hours, they shouldn’t have to wait ten more minutes. You didn’t waste any time taking care of yourself.”
“Fuck you. I’ve been gone for a month, and I wanted to say hello to my grandparents. Who the fuck do you think you are anyway?”
“That’s the new ranch manager I was telling you about, Cory,” Garrett said.
Perry hadn’t even heard him approach. He’d been too preoccupied with the man in front of him with the steam rolling out of his ears. A week on the job and he was already pissing people off? When would he ever learn?
Cory pointed his finger at Perry and stepped closer until he was almost poking him in the chest. “You might manage the ranch, but my horses aren’t your responsibility, and you don’t have any damn business working with them, tending to them, or even looking at them. You understand me?”
Perry couldn’t suppress his chuckle. His anger at the younger man dissipated the more he spoke. Cory was too fired up over something so minuscule and obviously had a lot to learn about life. He shook his head. The kid was just like all the others whom Perry’d met while in college, too good-looking for their own good, too spoiled to be any good to anyone else.
“I’m the manager around here. And when I see a neglected horse, I will
do something about it. Take proper care of your animals and we won’t have a problem.”
He pushed past Cory, nodded at Garrett, and returned to his house. It wasn’t too late for him to at least relax with a good book for a while before he had to start chores later.