The Texas Cowboy's Triplets(2)

By: Cathy Gillen Thacker

A brief silence fell, in which she feared that he was going to see her awkward explanation as an open invitation to try to sweet-talk her into the one thing he’d been wanting from her, ever since she had moved to Laramie, Texas, the summer before.

A real date.

“I see.” He flashed her an enticing smile. “Is this going to happen before or after you go out with me?”

Kelly tore her eyes from the sensual shape of his lower lip and gave him an exasperated look. “Now, Dan, we’ve been over that.”

She’d fallen hard and fast for a sexy cowboy from a wealthy family once before. Only to be dumped just before giving birth to triplets. No way was she opening herself up to further heartbreak. Never mind with one of the most eligible—and sought after—bachelors in the county.

“We have.” He turned and went back to pounding tall metal stakes into the ground on the outside of the existing pen fence, then slanted her a glance over his brawny shoulder. “But never to my satisfaction.”

Darn it all, the man was persistent. Not that there was any surprise there. Dan McCabe was a man who was used to getting what he wanted, when he wanted it. The fact he hadn’t been able to add her to his growing stable of former “dates” had no doubt frustrated him to no end.

Reluctantly, she moved with him as he worked his way around the perimeter of the entire pen. Then, with a long-suffering sigh, she reiterated what she told him every time the subject came up. “I’m open to being friends.”

Finished, he picked up a roll of metal mesh. “So am I, as long as that means we get to go out, too.”

When he briefly had trouble attaching the mesh to a tall post with a zip tie, she impulsively stepped in to help him. And just as swiftly regretted it because working together left them in such close proximity.

She swallowed, hard, shook her head, ready to step back. “That can’t happen.”

He slanted her a glance that was so genuinely appreciative she felt compelled to keep right on assisting him. “Because you work full time,” he echoed.

“Yes,” she said, drinking in the earthy male scent of him. Why was that so hard to understand? Why did everyone think she needed a man in her life to be happy?

He moved down the line, quickly securing the fencing while she held it against the post. “And are the mother to rambunctious three-year-old triplets.”

None of whom he’d met yet.

Aware of the heat emanating from his big, tall body, she said, “Precisely.”

He moved a little farther down the line. “And you’re not looking for passion. You want love.”

“Whoa now.” She lifted a hand. Their gazes clashed, then held in a way that had the hot June air between them sizzling. “I never said that.”

“Don’t have to.” Sheer male confidence radiated from him. “The thing is, I’m not looking for a one-night stand or a casual affair, either.”

“So you’ve said.” Unable to decide whether he looked sexier in cowboy clothing or a tan law-enforcement uniform, Kelly continued, reminding him, “Every time you asked me out.”

“That is true.” He shrugged affably and continued working quickly and efficiently around the last of the perimeter. “It’s why I bought this ten-acre property with a family-size home.”

And Kelly couldn’t help but note that the Bowie Creek Ranch property was gorgeous, with its sprawling ranch house and terrain that was a mixture of rolling grass and woods. “Now all you need is a wife and kids to fill it up. Although—” she turned, looking off into the distance “—I see you’ve already got a collie.” Who was absolutely beautiful. The original Lassie, come to life.

“His name is Shep,” Dan informed her.

She squinted to see what the canine appeared to be running around. “And a herd of…goats?”

“Six miniature ones.”

She turned so suddenly her shoulder bumped his. Tingling at the contact, she stepped back. “May I ask why?” Having grown up on a cattle and horse ranch nearby, with two parents and five siblings, he likely had enough cowboy in him to last a lifetime. But she had never imagined the tall native Texan to want to be a shepherd.

“Shep is mine. I rescued him as a puppy two years ago when I first moved back here from Chicago. The goats came with the property,” he explained. “The family that lived here had to move back to Great Britain for the dad’s work, and the goats weren’t allowed to go with, so I had to promise to not only find them good loving homes, but care for them until I do.”

No surprise there. The McCabes were gallant to the core. “Which is why you’re building a fence?”