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Spurs 'n Surrender (Operation Cowboy Book 2) by Em Petrova (1)


Chapter One

“Hey, Wydell, you coming inside for some breakfast before you get to work?”

The beautiful woman standing barefoot on the wide front porch didn’t belong to him. Neither did the porch or the house it was attached to. For weeks since Wydell had been staying with his friend and his wife, he’d felt like a monster truck sized third wheel.

He tipped his cowboy hat lower. “Thank you, but I’ll grab something in town.”

Danica laughed. “You’re such a liar, Wydell. There’s nothing in town. Now get inside and grab a biscuit at least.” With that, she turned and disappeared inside in a whirl of dark, silky hair and feminine curves.

“Yeah, don’t be such a hard ass.” The quip came from his friend, Brodie. He nudged him with a shoulder as he came out of the barn.

In his platoon, Wydell had been known as Hard Ass. But not for the reasons Brodie was suggesting. Here he was stubborn for the good of his friend’s new marriage. On the battlefield, he’d had no choice.

Brodie swaggered up the porch steps and vanished into the house after his pretty little wife. Wydell stared at the inviting front door and then widened his view to the ranch home and the dawn breaking across the land. What a snapshot that would make. If the film crews got hold of that picture, they’d plaster it all over the newspapers, magazines and TV.

One of two homes left standing in Los Vista, Texas.

Wydell still couldn’t believe it. They’d come home from serving their country only to find they were homeless—the whole town devastated by tornadoes. Only Brodie had a place to hang his hat and dry his boots, and he’d married the woman who owned the other ranch left standing after the storms had come through.

He nudged his hat lower and crossed the yard. Dew still spangled the thick turf, darkening the leather of his boots. When he opened the door, Danica handed him a thick biscuit filled with egg, gooey cheese and crisp bacon.

“Thanks.” He hated mooching off his friends, but what choice did he have? He was happy to be staying on a cot in the back of the barn and get a couple meals a day in return for the work he put in on the ranch.

And Danica hadn’t been lying—in town there was nothing but dust and rubble that hadn’t yet been removed.

Speaking of which, he had a full day ahead of him. He bit off a chunk of biscuit and egg, groaning around the savory taste.

Danica grinned. “Good?”

“The best. You’ve got a damn fine cook here, Brodie. Don’t let this’un go.” He raised his biscuit in farewell and went back outside, leaving husband and wife to share their meal in peace. That third wheel had long ago rolled over his desire to stick around.

As he polished off his breakfast, he strolled to his truck. When he opened the door, it creaked loudly. A couple of free range chickens skittered away with a squawk. Ignoring them, he climbed behind the wheel and started the engine.

The old girl was sluggish on the best of days, and sometimes it damn well didn’t want to wake up at all. But Wydell coaxed her, giving a little gas. When it started, he patted the sun-baked dashboard and headed down the dirt and gravel lane leading into town.

Ghost town, more like. Which reminded him of that last news reporter who’d visited. She’d cornered him and asked more questions than his drill sergeant in basic training, and just as fast.

Yes, he’d lived here all his life. Yes, his family had survived the tornado; they were living in the neighboring town until they could recover from their losses. Yes, Wydell and his friends were determined to rebuild Los Vista. Yes, yes, yes…

If he didn’t know these interviews were bringing in money for families and new construction, he would have walked away from the reporter. But viewers were kind and their cash was helping with the cleanup.

He swung his head from side to side as he made his way into town. In his mind he saw houses, restaurants, a bowling alley. Nothing but parking lots and driveways were left of these places. That and a few tents dotting the landscape.

And a brand new trailer. Lizzie Fletcher was one of the townspeople who’d refused to flee after the devastation. She was ninety if she was a day, saying she was born in Los Vista and would take her last breath here.

She stood outside her trailer and waved at him as he neared. He down-shifted and rolled up to her.

He rested his arm out the window. “Howdy, Mrs. Fletcher.”

“Hello, young man. I was hoping to see you pass through today.”

He stroked his jaw that was still stubbled with last night’s growth and gave her a wink. “Is that so?”

At his flirty tone, she waved a frail hand. “Oh you. If I were seventy years younger, I’d take you for a test drive. I always did have a thing for soldiers.”

He laughed. “You’re still a charming lady, Mrs. Fletcher. Did you need help with something?”

“Yes, I do.” Her blue eyes were magnified behind glasses, making them appear even brighter in the rising light of day. “I have this beautiful new trailer and no photographs of my grandchildren. I hoped you’d put up a shelf for me.”

“Yes’m. I’d be pleased to.” He cut the engine and got out of the truck. Keeping up with her was surprisingly difficult—she was a fast old bird. He mounted the small flight of stairs in one big step and entered the trailer.

It smelled of old lady despite its newness—fresh laundry and cookies and some powdery scent he associated with his own grandmother.

He looked around the space. If he spread his arms, he was pretty sure he could touch each wall, and the ceiling seemed to sit right on top of his hat. But he was a big guy—it was just the right size for Mrs. Fletcher.

She smiled up at him. Even her wrinkles had smiles, and he couldn’t help but return the sentiment. She bustled to the counter, where she had a hammer, a handful of nails and a wooden shelf.

“I found this shelf lying in what’s left of my house. Fifty years I lived there. Such a shame…” She shook her head, and wisps of white hair swirled around her face. “But now I have this beautiful new trailer my family bought me. What do you think, Mr. Jackson?”

He bobbed his head in approval as he looked around, pretending he wasn’t feeling claustrophobic as hell. “I think your family did right by you.”

“I raised good kids. Now I’d like to show off my grandbabies.”

“Where do you want the shelf?” He took it from her, along with the hammer and nails.

She led him into the living area and pointed at a wall above a sofa sporting a hectic floral pattern. “Right there, so I can see them while I watch my soaps. And Wheel of Fortune, of course.”

The corner of his mouth tipped up, and he stuck the nails in his teeth. He held up the shelf and she gave him instructions up and down. When she was satisfied, he measured the hooks on the back of the shelf using his hand span. He stretched thumb and pinky along the wood then wall.

“Just how long is that, Mr. Jackson?”

“Eleven inches, ma’am,” he said around the nails and began to hammer the first one.

The trailer walls were flimsy but he managed to find enough wood for the nails to bite into. Once the shelf was in place, he stood back with Mrs. Fletcher and eyed it. She clapped her hands and hurried to a side table, where picture frames were stacked. Wydell helped her position them, then she gave him a smile that would fuel him for the rest of the day.

While shoveling broken glass and hefting twisted metal, he would think of people like Mrs. Fletcher, so happy to have something resembling a normal home again. Though when the reporters had come to town, they’d interviewed her in front of a tent to make it look worse.

“Thank you so much. Let me give you a little something.” She headed for her purse, but he stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.

“I won’t take your money, but I’ll have a few of those cookies for later if you don’t mind.”

Her eyes lit more. “Of course you will. Have as many as you want.”

When he left the trailer, he dragged in a deep breath of country air. With half a dozen cookies in a plastic bag, he felt almost human too. But being inside close quarters like that hadn’t done him any favors. He moved his shoulders as if stretching them and sucked in more grass-scented air.

He wasn’t breathing in noxious smoke or looking at death and destruction in Iraq. No, he was home. And soon he’d build this town back to its original state. Then maybe a pretty Los Vista girl would come back, start giving him doe eyes and they’d end up hitched.

As he got back into his truck and trundled down the deserted main road with side streets leading to nothing, he pushed out a sigh. First things first—clear out the rest of this section of town so he could build a new dream.

 

* * * * *

 

Anya’s cell phone played The Band Perry’s “You Lie,” and she groaned. The ringtone was reserved for calls that weren’t in her contacts list. She pulled the phone from her back pocket and glared at the screen.

If only it were a telemarketer telling her she’d won a cruise to the Bahamas. But no, it was probably one of the dozens of people who asked her for money daily.

Inheriting her grandparents’ estate was making her life difficult. Besides owning a huge house she rattled around alone in, she had more money than Donald Trump, depending on who you asked. She was rich, rolling in it, could wallpaper her bathroom with hundred-dollar bills if she wanted to.

Too bad she couldn’t buy some privacy. Sometimes she thought her cell number must be posted right under the town’s welcome sign.

She slammed her phone on the marble countertop and looked around her empty kitchen. When the locals learned she’d inherited, they considered her stupid or a soft touch. They showed up on her doorstep one after the other to tell her about some cause or cure she could contribute to. They fed her family hardship stories as if it was an all-you-can-eat buffet.

But she couldn’t get past the money-grubbing looks in their eyes.

She wasn’t easy prey, and her checkbook was staying locked up.

As she reached into a cupboard for a box of healthy cereal, her cell rang again. This tone was reserved for the most important man in her life—her financial advisor.

She put him on speakerphone while she moved around the kitchen to find a bowl, spoon and milk. “Hi Marty.”

“Hello, Princess.” It was a joke of the older man’s to call her the nickname her granddaddy had used. He knew it irritated her too, which was why he sounded joyful as hell. “How many calls today?”

“Two, and it’s not even eight o’clock.” She opened the box and poured her cereal.

“Only two? It’s dying down.”

“If that’s what you want to call it.”

“Wishful thinking maybe. Listen, I’d like to speak with you. Can I drop by this morning?”

She paused before pouring the milk, staring at her cell as if it was the man she was speaking to. “What’s wrong?” she asked suspiciously.

He laughed. “Why should anything be wrong, Princess?”

“Because you never drop by before happy hour.”

“That’s because you make the best cocktails.”

Anya snorted. “Granddad taught me well. Shaken, not stirred. So what’s wrong?” She went back after her money man like a terrier nipping at an ankle.

He laughed, and even that had a Southern drawl. Marty had been with her family forever, advising them where to spend their old—and new—money. She actually treated him as she would a well-liked uncle, but right now her alarm bells were blaring.

“I guess I can’t slip anything past you. I have something I’d like you to look at.”

She dumped milk over her cereal until she could barely see the flakes. “What kind of something?”

“I’d like to keep a secret or two up my sleeve, Anya. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Shoveling a spoonful of cereal into her mouth, she rumbled around it, “Okay,” and ended the call. While she ate, she considered everything her life had been—and had become.

Halfway through reminiscing about her teen years, filled with beauty pageants and prize-winning horses, she stopped. This was becoming a bad habit. Rehashing all she’d done wasn’t getting her where she needed to be.

Wherever that was.

The doorbell gave a brief peal, and she went to the wall panel to check the security camera. Marty stood there in his usual suit and button-down shirt. She buzzed him in, and seconds later he entered the kitchen with a smile and outstretched arms.

“I had dinner with your parents last night, and they asked me to give you a hug.”

She accepted, patting Marty on the back before they settled on stools at the marble countertop. “How are Mom and Dad?”

“Well. Your mother’s golf handicap is better than your father’s now.”

“Good news.” She wanted to laugh because she really couldn’t care less about golf, country clubs or the expensive dinners her parents threw with their money. She was too busy worrying about what she was going to do with her own.

Who knew being filthy rich would be such a burden? She didn’t want to be one of those idle rich people lazing around the pool or investing in condominiums. She needed a goal.

Marty leveled his most serious expression at her. “I have something to present to you.”

A tingle of excitement zapped her fingertips. Maybe this was the answer she’d been hoping for.

He opened his briefcase and pulled out a stack of newspapers and magazines. She flipped through them, reading the same headline over and over. Death, destruction. Catastrophe. Ground zero.

Catching her breath, she skimmed the article on top. After a few words, she raised her gaze. “Los Vista? I’ve never heard of it.”

“Few had until last month. A small city in the heart of south Texas. The storm cell was massive. Over a mile wide. Wiped out the whole town.”

“This says two ranches were left standing.”

“That’s right,” he said, watching her face for a reaction she wasn’t feeling yet. The town and people didn’t mean much to her. She had no personal stakes in them, though her heart did go out to the families.

She opened one of the magazines and began looking at pictures of twisted silos and collapsed barns. One photo in the bottom corner was of the land after it was cleared. As she stared at the sunset and the beautiful lines of the countryside, she inhaled deeply, as if trying to drink in the air of such a peaceful place.

When she chose another magazine, Marty stopped her. “There’s a lot of news footage too. I’d like you to see it.” He pulled out a flash drive and went to the control on the kitchen wall. He pressed a button, and a flat screen appeared from behind a hidden panel. Soon Anya was looking at Los Vista in HD.

The segment had been aired recently, but as footage flashed back to Los Vista a year ago, her eyes prickled. “What a charming town,” she said quietly.

“Yes,” Marty echoed, riveted on the screen.

The reporter spoke of the population fleeing to nearby towns and how many were having difficulty finding work or places to live. Then an elderly woman came on. She was standing in front of a tent, declaring her old bones weren’t leaving Los Vista.

A laugh bubbled up Anya’s throat as she watched the feisty lady. The reporter gave two more interviews with some of the twenty-eight townspeople left. The longer Anya watched, the closer she felt to their plight. She started to wonder about where their children were going to school and how they worshipped on Sundays.

She glanced away from the footage, but her attention shot back as a gritty male voice filled her kitchen.

The man on the screen wore a straw cowboy hat. His eyes showed fatigue around the corners, but somehow that made him handsomer. A funny tickle sprang up in her stomach as she listened to him drawl out plans for building some vacation homes and bringing visitors and their money back into Los Vista, which would in turn bring the businesses and livelihoods for all.

She gulped and realized she’d been holding her breath as he spoke. A blink later he was gone, replaced by more beautiful scenery of the devastated town.

Anya pivoted on her stool to look at Marty. “That’s my investment?”

He eyed her. “What do you think?”

She hopped off the stool. Her bare feet hit the floor and she went to the control panel to start the footage from the beginning. Excitement rolled through her. Yes, she could help these people. Her granddaddy’s money could go to rebuilding. She was never going to spend it all in ten lifetimes. But that town—those people—needed it.

And she could fund the vacation house project to kick it off.

Spinning to her financial advisor, she flashed a grin so wide she felt her cheek dimple. “Set it up. Make it happen, Marty. But one thing—I’m going myself.”

 

* * * * *

 

Sweat rolled out from under the brim of Wydell’s hat, zigzagging into the corner of his eye. He squinted against the sting and swiped it away with a gloved hand just in time for a second rivulet to follow.

“It’s as hot as Satan’s ass.” In Texas, that was saying a lot. He bent to pick up a splintered board that had once been someone’s doorframe and threw it into a wagon to be burned. Money in town was too tight to pitch everything into dumpsters, so they burned what wood they could.

“Yes, Corporal, it’s sure hot as fuck, sir.” His friend Garrett’s tone mimicked that of a Marine.

Wydell tossed him a wry grin. “Dipshit.” He didn’t mind being reminded of his time in the service. He’d had four close friends who’d seen him through some of the best and worst moments of his life, after all. But they’d come home as four instead of five. That weighed on them all every day, even if they never spoke of Matt’s death.

“Let’s break for a drink,” Garrett suggested, leaning on the handle of his shovel.

“Nah, you go on. I want to finish this bit.” Wydell kept separating junk. Hinges, doorknobs. A muddy scrap of fabric that was probably a curtain. A bottle of pills.

He didn’t need to read the bottle to know who they belonged to. The elderly couple who’d lived in this home had both been on medications. Now they were living in a retirement community two towns over. Wydell wondered if they ever wanted to come home.

With a grunt he heaved the rest of the splintered doorframe into the wagon. Back aching, he leaned to stretch and two vertebrae popped. Garrett was leaning against the wagon, drinking from a thermos and looking into the distance.

Wydell followed his stare to the head of the road. At one time trees had lined the roadsides, but they’d been so mangled they had to be one of the first things removed. The money didn’t stretch that far, though, and a lot of broken trees were still standing sentry as macabre reminders of what they’d lost.

Silver glinted. Wydell shook his head and squinted. When he couldn’t make out what he was seeing, he shielded his eyes with a hand.

“What the hell is that?” Garrett asked.

“Looks like a big silver bullet.”

“Or a Twinkie.”

“A silver Twinkie?” Wydell grunted in amusement. “Maybe it’s a tourist hauling his Airstream to town.” That was exactly what it was. One of those old Airstream trailers, shiny-bright, rolling into Los Vista behind an equally shiny new truck.

Garrett pulled away from the wagon and capped his thermos. Wydell drifted toward his friend. They stood side-by-side as they had when tanks rolled through Iraqi villages. Suddenly, he was back there, hearing the whoops and catcalls of the men he fought with daily. Lots of hell had been raised between sorties, as Marines celebrated living through the last mission and hoped to survive the next.

“Think it’s one of the townspeople coming back?” Garrett asked.

Wydell shook himself back to Texas. “Might be more media types. Let’s hope that silver Twinkie’s filled with money.”

Turned out, it was. When the polished little blonde climbed out of the truck, Wydell gave a low whistle under his breath.

Even from two hundred feet away, he could see she wore designer duds and her hair was perfect. Pastor Kent was first on the scene, the more or less official welcoming committee even in the worst of times. The blonde walked around the truck to greet him.

Wydell let his gaze roam over the woman’s long hair tied at her nape, down her spine to a round ass a man could sink his fingers—and teeth—into. She looked fit but not thin. Score one for Blondie—he liked a woman who didn’t mind sitting down to a good meal.

She turned into profile, but he was too far away to really make out her features. Oh well. If she were a news lady, she’d be in his face soon enough. They all wanted to ask about his idea to build vacation homes, which would bring restaurants, gas stations and other shops back to town. But it wasn’t like he’d found financial backing yet.

“Massive Rebuild” should be the headline, but those who’d gotten insurance money weren’t investing it back into Los Vista. They’d already moved on with their lives. This was Wydell’s life. He’d spent years choking on sand and putting his soul on the line so he could return to his hometown. He was damn well going to build it back up.

The pastor’s family emerged from their tent across the way and came to greet the newcomer. Blondie shook hands with the wife and spoke to their five children. As the pastor waved toward Wydell and Garrett, Blondie turned to look. The minute she faced forward, Wydell’s chest tightened.

He twisted away and went back to clearing the lot. There was no reason to get worked up over a pretty face. Not when he couldn’t get a clear view of it from this distance anyhow.

“Whattaya say we go into the city for a beer after this?” he asked Garrett.

Blondie got back in her truck and drove the Airstream toward them. “I think we might want to put that idea on hold, Hard Ass. Looks like we’ve got company.”

 

* * * * *

 

Anya’s heartstrings were almost tugged out after meeting the pastor and his family. They were all smiles despite living in tents and cooking and washing clothes the old-fashioned way. They’d made Anya feel welcome and when she’d told them why she was in Los Vista, they’d pointed her toward two men working to clear a lot.

Now that she got out of the truck and approached, her stomach knotted. They were big—and one looked mean. Both wore cowboy hats and worn jeans. The mean one sifted through the rubble of a house and didn’t even glance up as she neared.

“Howdy.” The closer man came forward with his hand outstretched. She took it and looked into his gray eyes fringed with thick black lashes.

“Hi. I’m Anya Carter.”

The man in the ruins of the house straightened and looked right at her.

Into her.

His piercing stare raised an internal quiver. He was the guy from the interview, but he didn’t look the same to her. He seemed bigger, bulkier with muscle. And he looked less approachable.

She gave him a slight nod in greeting before turning her attention back to the man in front of her.

“I’m Garrett, and that ugly lug’s Wydell.” Garrett jerked his head toward his buddy.

As if finally finding his manners, Wydell came forward, but he didn’t remove his dusty gloves before offering her his hand. She shook it regardless, gritting her teeth. What kind of Neanderthal would shake hands with a woman wearing dirty old gloves? When he locked his fingers around hers and looked into her eyes again, though, she forgot all about contamination.

His eyes were a strange mix of blue and green. She swore she could see the sky reflected in them. Or maybe that was just her imagination.

She pulled away from his grip.

“What brings you to sunny Los Vista, Mrs. Carter?”

“Miss,” she corrected, but Wydell’s eyes flashed to her left hand as if checking for a ring. Irritation rolled over her. “I saw a television interview you gave. The one where you mentioned vacation homes.”

“You’re here too early.” His drawl had a condescending tone that riled her further. He stretched a hand over the land he was clearing. “Haven’t exactly built any yet.”

“I realize that. I’m not here to buy,” she said through her tight jaw. She’d been getting the same treatment since her grandparents’ private plane had crashed six months ago. Nobody believed she had a brain in her skull, let alone the ability to make sound financial decisions.

Wydell peered at her from under the brim of the same straw hat he’d worn during the television interview, except it was a little more battered around one side.

Probably from him touching it.

The thought felt a little too intimate, so she tossed it from her mind. Besides the hat, she wasn’t certain she would have recognized him. He was definitely more bad-boy in person. With black scruff on his square jaw and sweat coating his throat, he reminded her of some pictures she’d seen in childhood of men clearing roads through a jungle. One had been crouched beside a panther he’d killed, and he’d worn a similar predatory expression as Wydell.

When he swung to look at her truck and trailer, she sucked in a breath. His left arm was covered in twisted, burned skin. What had happened to him?

He gave a low whistle. “You’ve got a fancy setup there. Is that one of those new Silverados?”

“Yes.” The pretty blue truck had been purchased new just to make the trip to Los Vista. She couldn’t have towed the Airstream with Granddaddy’s Ferrari.

“And the Airstream. Is that restored?”

She prickled at his tone and steeled herself for another money conversation. Even though nobody knew her in this town, they recognized her money. “Yes, if you must know. It was my grandparents. It’s been fully restored and equipped with modern necessities.”

“I see.” His tone stomped her nerves like an ant under a boot heel. Wydell’s attention lighted on her once more. “So how can we help you, Miss Carter?” His drawl was so falsely syrupy sweet, she was on high alert all over again.

Maybe she didn’t want to go through with this, after all. She could turn around and drive out of town without even proposing her idea to this insufferable cowboy.

“Anya,” she corrected. “And I’m here to discuss your plans for the vacation houses.”

When he cocked his head at her, a dark thrill settled low in her belly. Too low to be called disgust.

“Why don’t we sit down and discuss what I have to offer?” She waved at the Airstream off the side of the road, though she could have left it parked pretty much anywhere. Nobody was coming. The world was still. No sounds of children playing or lawn mowers. Los Vista really was abandoned.

“Sure, I’d love to.” Garrett’s enthusiasm restored her own.

She grinned at him and gave a wave for him to follow. Then she bounced to the trailer and unlocked the door. Inside was much cooler than the Texas afternoon, and she breathed a sigh as she went to the mini kitchen.

Garrett followed her inside. “Whooeee. Is this place air-conditioned?”

“Yes. Have a seat. I’ve got some lemonade in the fridge.” Turning to the small fridge surrounded by new metal cabinets painted aqua blue, she was far too aware that Wydell had entered behind Garrett. When she pivoted with three bottles of lemonade in hand, she caught his scowl.

“Nice place.” He grunted, sagging to keep his head from brushing the ceiling. When he slid into the coral leather booth seating and looked around, she inwardly cringed. Of course he wasn’t seeing all the fun components of her trailer that she’d loved choosing. The retro décor and the cute touches like built-in vases for wildflowers, if she had a mind to pick some.

A man like Wydell probably lived in a barn. She glanced down at his boots, thinking of him soiling her clean checkerboard floors.

“Here you go.” She passed each man an ice-cold lemonade and opened her own. While Garrett took his in one long gulp, she and Wydell sipped.

She had to get this meeting underway and the glaring man out of her personal space. “Okay, let’s begin. I’d like to know more about your vacation home idea.”

Wydell ran his tongue over his lower lip, swiping the lemonade off. The action made her belly knot again. Dammit, he was as sexy as sin, even with that primal strength that frightened her a little.

“Well,” he drawled, delighting her senses all over again, “Los Vista had a lot of tourists during the summers. People stayed at inns and motels, ate in town and bought souvenirs. I’d like to build the town back up so it’s a worthwhile destination again. A steady supply of disposable income from vacationers will do the town a world of good.”

While he talked, she noted the way his lips formed each syllable. “I totally agree.”

His eyebrows lifted as though he was surprised they might actually have a similar view on anything.

“And I’d like to support this plan of yours.”

He and Garrett eyed her. “You alone? Or your daddy?” Wydell’s question was sandpaper against her nerves.

Her tongue tied in a square knot. When he looked at her with that heavy, candid stare, her body noticed. Too much.

“Just me,” she managed.

“Ah.” Wydell’s single noise of understanding set her off again.

“Look, I have money to lay down here. Are you capable of organizing and supervising the building of these homes or do I need to bring someone in?”

“We can do it,” Garrett said with a smile that made her remember why she was charmed by Los Vista. The boyish tilt of his wide mouth was contagious. She found herself grinning back.

“Good. Then we’ll start with plans. I have an architect in Dallas who—”

“I can handle it,” Wydell cut across her. He stood so abruptly, she swore the trailer rocked. When he eased from the booth, she had to press herself flat to the wall of cabinets to get out of his way.

“Garrett, do you have some experience with plans?” she asked.

“A little, miss.”

“Anya. Please call me Anya.”

His grin stretched. “I’d like that.” Wydell crowded her so much that her spine dug into the cabinet. “I’ve got work to do. I’ll be by with some plans tonight. Garrett?”

His buddy took his time before following Wydell out of the trailer and back to the jobsite. She hung out the door to watch them go. Garrett threw her a wave, but Wydell never looked back. The man’s swagger was far too cocky for her liking.

She closed the door and breathed a sigh. Having a cool place to sort through her spinning mind was just what she needed. She grabbed her lemonade and took a few steps to the living area. Sinking to the aqua leather chair soothed her nerves a little.

Then she remembered the way Wydell’s jaw had jutted when he’d looked around her space.

Maybe peace wouldn’t come so easy.