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Wild for you, p.12
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       Wild For You, p.12

           J. C. Reed
 
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  I frown.

  Josh is around my age.

  “You must have taken on plenty of responsibility at a very young age.”

  His face is focused on the path ahead, his expression unreadable. “Yes. But it wasn’t that hard. I’ve been living here my whole life. I had people who helped me just as I help the people around here as much as I can. It’s something we do.”

  He turns to me briefly, and I notice the strange glint in his eyes. “Cash was one of those people. As soon as he heard that my dad abandoned us, he asked me to remodel his house even though I had no real work or management experience. The house didn’t even need a lick of paint. He said he wanted a change and claimed to have been planning to remodel it for a while, but I know better. He wanted to make sure people wouldn’t doubt my abilities, and the business wouldn’t tank. He helped with my finances and my business’s reputation, so I owe him a lot.”

  I try to imagine the Cash I’ve known so far taking care of his family. It’s a strange image, but it’s not completely unfathomable. Maybe he’s not the jerk I’ve made him out to be.

  “Anyway,” Josh continues. “Business is doing great, and I’m pretty sure Cash’s initial trust in me had a lot to do with it.”

  I smirk. “Your cousin’s still one tough nut to crack.”

  Josh catches my expression and laughs. “Cash is a lot of things, but agreeable isn’t one of them. He can be quite a pain.”

  “Maybe.” I smile and look away. I might not be my new patient’s biggest fan, but I’m not one to badmouth him either. Josh seems to sense my unwillingness to gossip because he clears his throat, signaling a change in subject is imminent.

  He looks at his watch and smirks. “Sorry. Work’s calling. Call me if you need anything else. Or drop by at work.”

  I nod, and we say our goodbyes. Deciding to stay a little longer, I watch him as he returns the same way we came. Once Josh has disappeared from view, I resume walking, his thoughts staying with me.

  It’s only after I’ve returned to the ranch that I pull out the blueprints to familiarize myself with the layout of Cash’s house.

  When I called Shannon, I only wanted to know if she happened to know if Cash had a friend who sneaked him out of the house.

  She claimed that he never left the house. And then she offered to send the blueprints.

  I peer at the layout and laugh as I realize Cash is one sneaky SOB.

  Well, two can play that game.

  Chapter Fifteen

  Cash

  After my no-show for our morning session, Erin’s been gone half the day. Not that I’ve been harboring any intention of doing any physical therapy…not until she lets me do what I want to do when I want to do it.

  That she’s been gone somehow bothers me, though.

  Where the hell is she?

  My pickup truck is still parked in the garage, meaning she couldn’t have taken it to drive to town. Not that she knows where the keys are. Her bedroom’s empty, and there hasn’t been the usual sound of her setting up her equipment.

  She’s given up on me.

  The thought makes me feel both angry and disappointed.

  Somehow, for some unexplainable reason, I didn’t think she’d leave so soon.

  You wanted her to go, remember?

  Only, I don’t feel the same way anymore because, deep down, this is turning into something else.

  I want her…not for therapy purposes, but her, as a woman, in my bed.

  Just as I’m about to sit up from my seat in the living room, I hear a door slam, the soft sound of her footsteps carrying down the hall.

  Ignoring the pain in my leg, I push up to my feet and hurry out of the living room as fast as my crutches allow me.

  “Where have you been?” The question leaves my mouth before I can stop it. There’s also reproach in my tone, which she instantly picks up on.

  Her brows shoot up. “I’m sorry?”

  “You weren’t here.” Shit. I don’t mean to sound accusing and needy.

  “I’m glad you noticed that, Mr. Boyd.” Her jaw sets.

  I want to ask where she’s been but the victorious glint in her eyes keeps me back. “I didn’t miss you or something,” I mumble, digging myself an even bigger hole. “I just thought you had left and that you hadn’t even said goodbye.”

  Her brows shoot up. “You’d want me to say goodbye?”

  “No. I’d want to make sure you don’t leave anything of yours here so I can lock the door behind you.” Her eyes narrow at my remark and I cringe inwardly at my harsh choice of words.

  “Good one.” She seems hurt, but then again it might just be my imagination.

  I don’t know why I’m lying, but for some reason, I don’t want her to know that, yes, I did miss her.

  “I’ll be happy to lock the door behind me, seeing that you won’t be able to do it yourself. Have a good day.” With that, Erin walks away. A few seconds later, a door slams.

  Damn!

  That didn’t go particularly well.

  What is it with this woman and her ability to infuriate me with every word?

  We haven’t even exchanged more than a couple sentences today, and already we’re at each other’s throats—again.

  I bet Dad only hired her to piss me off, and she’s doing a great job at that.

  It’s your damn fault. You shouldn’t have paid the last physical therapist to leave.

  That one sure as hell wasn’t as infuriating as Erin.

  “Erin,” I yell.

  I strain to listen for any sounds, but Josh did a great job at remodeling the house and gave it enough acoustic privacy. I’d have to stand directly in front of her bedroom door for any sounds to carry outside…which I’m obviously not going to be doing.

  “Erin,” I yell again, even though I’ve no idea why the fuck I’m calling her. I don’t want her to help me. I don’t want her around.

  Or do I?

  Am I deluding myself?

  I want her gone because she shouldn’t witness my moments of weakness. Yet it seems as though I’ve grown used to hearing her in the kitchen or watching her outside on the veranda.

  That’s all there is to it.

  When she doesn’t answer, I clamber back to my office and shut the door, switching on my computer.

  Work is the cure to anything. Managing my clubs is what I’m good at. That and riding bulls.

  “Was,” I correct myself.

  I pull up a spreadsheet and stare at the numbers, trying to make sense of the figures Jack highlighted for me.

  For the first time in years, we’re in the red.

  I need to get back to Chicago. I need to get us back to the top and then sell. It sounds like such an easy thing to do. If only—

  A loud thumping noise jerks me out of my thoughts.

  Closing the spreadsheet, I get up and head back into the hall. The sound’s coming from one of the guestrooms, where Dad’s set up the equivalent of a hospital room. That was right before our big fight and my consequent imposed ban on him entering my house.

  Erin’s there, surrounded by countless boxes. Busy as she is packing up the equipment, she doesn’t notice me standing in the doorway.

  “What the hell are you doing?” I peer from her to the boxes and then back to the boxes.

  “What the hell does it look like I’m doing?” She stops in her motion, but she keeps her back turned to me. I can see from her tense stance that she’s angry.

  Nothing new there.

  The woman just doesn’t like me, which makes her resolution to stay unfathomable.

  “I’m packing up and sending the gear back to the hospital because, let’s face it, you don’t need it. It’s not like you plan on bull riding again, or are you?” She’s not even trying to hide her sarcasm.

  “You can’t do that.” I take a few steps toward her, moving at the speed of a snail.

  She turns sharply, and her big, blue eyes slice into me. “Why not? Did I just hit a nerve? Seeing th
at you like to feel sorry for yourself and I’m ready to give up, I don’t think there’s a need to pretend that this isn’t a waste of time. Let’s face it. You don’t need therapy. You don’t need me. What you need is just yourself and a secret room where you can hide like the coward you are.” She points a finger to the equipment. “You don’t need this anymore.”

  For a moment, I just stare into her eyes, struck by the determination I see in them.

  “You can’t take that with you.”

  “Try me,” Erin says.

  “My father paid for those.”

  She nods. “I know, which is why I’ve arranged with the hospital to grant him a full refund. Obviously, you’re doing fine without all this stuff, so—” Shrugging, she resumes the packing. “—you’re not going to need it.”

  I know what she’s doing. She’s bluffing to force a reaction out of me. I should laugh off her effort, walk away, anything but—

  “Erin, stop.”

  Her hands hover in mid-air, lingering over what looks like a sad version of a pair of dumbbells. They look so light that I could lift them with my index finger. It’s beyond me why my father thought the weightlifting equipment set up in my basement wouldn’t do the trick.

  “Why would I? You’ve made up your mind, and so have I,” Erin says, lifting her gaze back to me. I don’t like the disappointment I see in her eyes as she resumes packing.

  “Please, stop.”

  “Why?” She eyes me warily.

  “Because—” Balancing on my good leg, I lift a hand and rake my fingers through my hair, hesitating.

  What the fuck am I going to say?

  I don’t want to do as she says, but for some reason, I also don’t want to disappoint her.

  “I don’t know what I want.” My own words shock me. Hearing them makes me realize just how powerless I’ve been feeling the past few months. For the first time, I don’t know what to do.

  “You don’t know what you want?” she asks.

  For a second or two, we stare at each other in silence.

  “Do you want to walk again? And I mean without those crutches,” Erin says, resuming the conversation. “Without any help at all.” Her eyes are so piercing blue it feels as though she’s looking right through me, into the deepest layers of me. “I know you do. I can feel it in the waves of anger that are coming from you. I can feel it in your frustration and your unwillingness to cooperate because you’re afraid of failure.”

  “Don’t do that,” I bark.

  “Don’t do what?” She stands and places her hands on her hips, her entire stance challenging me now. “Tell you the truth? I’m sorry, Mr. Boyd, but just because everyone’s too intimidated to speak up doesn’t mean I am. I’m not afraid of you. I’m not tied by some family bonds to be mindful of your feelings. I don’t have to walk on eggshells just because you might decide to kick me out. And I sure as hell don’t have to prove myself to you. I’ve had enough of your antics and have decided that my dedication and hard work are wasted here. I’m not going to stay with someone who doesn’t want me here.”

  “You have nothing to lose—”

  “That’s right,” she cuts me off.

  “—except your professional reputation.”

  Her jaw sets and anger shimmers in her eyes.

  I try to take a step forward when a surge of pain shoots through me. My leg feels like it’s on fire, the titanium screws buried in my bone a painful reminder of that one mistake four months ago.

  “Fine, leave. We can pretend you were never here,” I say slowly. “I’m a rich man. I can make it happen. No one will know that you failed just like the others.”

  “But that’s the thing, Mr. Boyd. I didn’t fail. You did.” She inches toward me and pokes a finger into my chest. “And may I remind you, you’ve been telling me to go. You’ve decided to give up. I’m just sick of trying to change your mind.” She’s almost a head shorter than me, and a whole lot lighter. But her determination makes up for her lack of height.

  Well, almost.

  She reminds me a bit of those little chihuahuas. They have the personality of a bulldog and you know they can bite off your finger if you come too close, but you just can’t help yourself because they’re too damn cute.

  My lips twitch.

  Erin’s eyes narrow on me. “What’s so funny?”

  “You are.” I laugh at her fuming expression.

  Clearly, the woman doesn’t just have a short fuse; she also has no idea how to control it. Too bad I own the lighting match to it and know damn well how to use it.

  I clear my throat and wink, barely able to peel my eyes off her full lips. “You’re cute when you’re angry. Anyone ever tell you that?”

  “Don’t ever call me cute,” Erin says indignantly.

  “Why not?” I shrug, mirroring her earlier gesture. “I’m a man who always speaks the truth, and you remind me of a cute little chihuahua. It’s probably the reason why you’re so good at your job. People like you. They open up to you. You should take it as a compliment. Not everyone has such a talent.”

  Her face turns a dark shade of red, and her palms squeeze into fists. “Did you just compare me with a lapdog?”

  “Your choice of words, not mine, sweetheart,” I say.

  “My patients respect me.” Her tone is menacing, lest I dare contradict her.

  “I never claimed otherwise.”

  “It’s only you who’s so—” She breaks off, struggling to find her words.

  “Stubborn? Confident?” I offer.

  “You wish!” She laughs. “I was going for ‘an ungrateful brat’.”

  “I’m never ungrateful,” I say coolly. “You see, I always return the favor, at least twice.”

  She blinks, taken aback by my remark. I can almost see her brain working as she tries to figure out whether the sexual innuendo was really there or whether she just imagined it.

  I grin at her, meaningfully, to help her brain along.

  Her face turns a brighter shade of red, if that’s even possible.

  In that instant, I make up my mind.

  In spite of the pain and the fear that I might never regain my full mobility in my leg, I haven’t felt like this in months.

  She makes me laugh; she makes me feel alive; she makes me forget, if only for a few moments.

  I don’t want her to go—not yet.

  I wince at the sudden realization that I’ve just changed my mind about her.

  “That’s it,” Erin says. “I can’t work with someone who’s as sexually harassing as you are. You’re getting your wish fulfilled. I quit.”

  “It’s sexual harassment now?” I take another step toward her, my right hand pressed against the wall behind her head. “Let me remind you, Erin, that you made me an offer. Go along with your wishes, and I could have you.”

  She’s fuming mad, her eyes two glowing points of anger. “You started it.”

  “And you agreed to it, and then took it a step further.”

  She crosses her arms over her chest, bringing those perky things closer to my attention. “Are we seriously fighting right now? What would your father think? He’s—”

  “—no longer your employer, Erin. I’m your boss. Remember? You agreed.” I regard her coolly. “In fact, as I mentioned before, whatever my father’s paying you, I’ll double it. And we’ve already agreed that I decide the rhythm. You’re to be available at all times, whenever I want you. Three months, Erin. Whatever we do in that time will remain our business. After those three months, you’ll get to leave with a glowing recommendation and the kind of job offers that will pay more than you ever dreamed of.”

  “What you’re doing isn’t fair. I haven’t agreed to anything yet. But you’re not really giving me a choice,” she says weakly.

  “Your words, not mine.” I turn around on my crutches, readying myself to leave. “There’s always a choice, Erin. But think about it. I expect an answer by tonight.”

  She remains quiet as I start tow
ard the hall, but I can feel her scowl on me and can’t help but smile.

  Clearly, Erin’s in shock, but even shock wears off.

  “I won’t do it,” she whispers, the words spoken so low, they barely reach me.

  I turn around. “What did you just say?”

  “I won’t do it. My answer’s ‘no.’”

  “No?” I ask incredulously that she would turn down so much money.

  Her eyes narrow again. “No.”

  So, it’s not the money she’s after. It’s something else. “Erin.” I pause to make sure I have her undivided attention. “Did I mention I’m a rich and influential man? I can turn you into one of the most sought-after physical therapists or—”

  “Is that a threat?”

  I shrug. “Again…your words, not mine. I was going to say, ‘or whatever it is you want to achieve in life’.”

  Her lips tighten. Apparently, the woman’s bright enough not to underestimate me even though I wasn’t threatening her.

  “You wouldn’t try to harm my career.”

  “You’re right I wouldn’t. But I could tell people that you’re not willing to see a client’s therapy through, starting with the hospital where you work part-time and then make sure the medical board hears of my complaints.”

  “No one would believe you,” she says, her voice barely louder than a whisper.

  “Why wouldn’t they?” I stare her down. “My name’s Cash Boyd. I’m not just one of the most famous bull riders in the world. I’m also an entrepreneur and self-made millionaire. And—”

  She holds up her hands and rolls her eyes. “Please, save me your accolades. If I wanted to know who you were, I would have read everything I could find about you on Google. But I haven’t because I’m not interested. You could be a poor street musician for all I cared.” She blows a stray strand of hair out of her eyes, her beautiful cheeks blushed with fury.

  I smile, amused.

  She frowns at my smile. “Let me guess. I’m reminding you of a lapdog again?”

  “You asked me what I wanted,” I say, ignoring her question. “I want you to stay.”

  “Of course, you do.” She resumes packing.

 
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