Paul Smith prefers his calculator to people. People are annoying and demanding, but numbers will never let you down. He works tirelessly for his dad’s mortgage firm, foreclosing when it makes financial sense, and not losing any sleep over it either. Paul’s dad has always been a demanding taskmaster. But when he has a major health scare, Paul’s dad see’s the error of his ways. He decides he wants to change to a more benevolent business model. After having decades of harsh business practices drilled into him, Paul is not a fan of his dad’s new idea.
Cort Callahan lives and has worked on his granddad’s ranch most of his life. But times are hard and they’ve fallen behind on their mortgage. When Paul’s dad decides he wants to offer them a way out of debt, if they’ll just go along with his unorthodox idea of turning the spread into a dude ranch, it’s hard to tell who thinks it’s a worse idea: Paul or Cort.
But when Cort and his granddad take the deal, Paul is forced to work closely with Cort. The two men are surprised to realize they share an intense attraction that only grows stronger the more they’re around each other.
The problem is Paul has spent his life trusting numbers and calculations. No matter how much he wants Cort, when he looks at how different they are from each other, the two of them just don’t add up.
I love pairing really different types with each other. There’s nothing more fun to me than showing my main characters differences in the beginning and then watching the two of them slowly come together.
As Cort worked on the fence next to me, I held my hand over my nose and stared down a black steer a few feet away. I assumed the numerous semi-fresh cow pies surrounding me were probably what smelled so bad. The bull didn’t seem that interested in me, but it had horns so I kept a nervous eye on him.
“Could you hand me the crimper?” Cort held out his hand.
I looked at the pile of tools near my feet. “What’s it look like?”
I scoured the stack. “I’m not seeing it.”
“It’s right there.” He pointed with a frown. “The blue one.”
I grabbed a long metal gadget. “This?” He nodded. “This is teal, not blue.”
He rolled his eyes and held out his gloved hand. “Give it.”
I handed him the tool. “Here.”
“Much obliged,” he drawled.
I snorted. “But you’re color blind, just so you know.”
“Gawd.” He clipped a piece of wire and shook his head. “You probably have the entire color wheel memorized.”
I laughed. “What? You don’t?” I clutched my flannel shirt closed as a breezy gust buffeted me.
The wind had picked up in the late afternoon and the prairie grass waved and flowed like rippling water. The air was chilled, and I wished I’d brought a jacket, and not just the flannel shirt. Since he was distracted, I could study Cort as he worked. He was in a T-shirt and he had his hat off, and his silky black hair fluttered in the breeze. I wondered if it would be as soft to the touch as it looked. Sweat beaded on his forehead and he grunted occasionally when he’d lift the roll of barbwire. He was definitely all rough man. Not my usual type, but something about him got to me.
I licked my lips and tried to suppress the attraction that nagged at me at the sight of his firm biceps. Whenever he tugged at the barbwire his sinewy, muscled shoulders flexed, practically making my mouth water.
“I can help if you need me to,” I volunteered, hoping to distract myself from my lusty thoughts. “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m willing to learn.”
He straightened, pulling his gloves off, and wiped the perspiration from his forehead with the back of his arm. His shirt rode up and I caught a glimpse of defined, tanned abs. I swallowed against the push of lust that hit me, and lifted my chin to meet his gaze.
“Yeah? Would you mind holding this part up while I stretch the wire?” He sounded grateful and I was glad I’d offered to help. This task was most probably a two man job, but since he’d brought me along instead of one of his crew, he was stuck doing all the work.
“Sure.” I wiped my palms on my jeans and then started to grab hold of the fence.
“Wait,” Cort’s voice was sharp. “Hold up.” He pulled an extra pair of gloves from his back pocket. “Wear these. I wouldn’t want to ruin your baby soft hands.”
My lips twitched. “Screw you.”
He grinned. “It’s tempting, but right now we have work to do, City boy.”
An excited thrill went through me at the look in his eyes. He was teasing, but there was a heated flicker deep in his gaze. He took my wrist briefly and he handed me the gloves. The feel of his calloused fingers against my flesh had my knees weak. I pulled my gaze away and slipped on the rawhide gloves.
“That section there. If you can hold it tight I’ll stretch the wires.” Cort tugged on one side of the wire with a hiss and turned his head toward me. “Think you can hold this?” He sounded breathless.
I grabbed the barbwire and pulled with all my strength. I was in good shape for someone who went to the gym, but I didn’t kid myself that I was used to hard, dirty work like Cort. “How’s this?” I panted out my words.
“Perfect.” He slapped my back and went about placing the fence stretcher between the two sections of wire. Once he had both ends secure in the stretcher he met my glance. “You can let go.”
I did as he said and looked at my grimy gloves. I held my arms out at my sides so they wouldn’t touch my jeans. When I looked up Cort was grinning and shaking his head. Then he began to tighten the mechanism on the fence stretcher.
“What?” I asked frowning. “What’s so funny?”
He snorted as he jerked the ratchet on the stretcher. “Nothin’.”
“You’re laughing at me.”
He grinned. “No.”
“Yes.” I kept staring at him.
He chuckled and then finally answered me. “I just think it’s amusing that you’re trying not to get dirty.” He sniggered. “Good luck with that.”
“Of course I don’t want to get dirty.”
“You’re surrounded by cow shit.”
“I’m well aware. But that doesn’t mean I want to get it on me. These gloves look filthy,” I exclaimed. “God knows what’s on them.” I shuddered, examining the stained leather.
“I have a good idea.”
I scrunched my face. “Yuck.”
“If you’re out here working you’re gonna get dirty. You get used to it.” He finished what he was doing and stood back, breathing hard.
“I’m sure you’re right, but excuse me if the idea of having cow feces smeared on me doesn’t excite me.”
He narrowed his gaze. “Sometimes when you do hard work it is unavoidable.”
I pulled off the gloves and handed them to him. “That’s why I prefer to hire others to do the lowly menial labor.”
His jaw hardened and he looked away. “I would expect no less from a rich city slicker.”
I studied his irritable expression, wishing his easy going vibe would return. “I’m mostly kidding.”
“Sure you are. Only I think maybe you aren’t.”
“All I mean is I don’t like getting dirty.”
He returned his steely gaze to mine. “Shocker.”
I gave an uneasy laugh. “It takes all kinds, right? We have the macho types and then the brainy types.”
“Yep,” he snapped.
“Not that macho types can’t be smart too…” I grimaced as I dug myself deeper.
“Wow.” He shook his head.
I frowned at his irritable tone. “Are you mad at me?”
“Look… I’m sorry if I said something insulting. I didn’t mean to.”
“Paul, it doesn’t matter.” He bent down and kicked the roll of barbwire until it was wedged against the fence. “I need to be realistic, that’s all.” He headed toward his horse.
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