Home > The Billionaire Cowboy's Speech (Necessity, Texas #2)

The Billionaire Cowboy's Speech (Necessity, Texas #2)
Author: Margo Bond Collins

Chapter 1

It was good to be home, where everyone treated him like a whole man.

Brain damage be damned.

Tor Edwards nudged his horse Alpine to keep moving along the fence of the Stuart ranch, watching as he rode for any breaks in the fencing or … well, other damage.

The thought made him snort as he considered the similarities between his brain and his fence. Not that he would have been able to share the joke with anyone. Even if he had been able to get the words out in any coherent way, reference to the disability he'd gained two years earlier only made those around him nervous—if they stuck around long enough to hear the end of his laborious sentence.

He shook his head. Anyone who could think words like laborious sentence ought to be downright eloquent. He used to be, too. Right up to the moment Diablo's Darling kicked him in the head.

If Tor tried to bring it up, though, he got one of two responses: shifty looks as people found reasons to drift away, or some kind of weird attempt at hero-worship as they lauded him for jumping in the rodeo ring to save the toddler who'd fallen in from the charging bull that had just thrown its rider.

Hell, he wanted to say, it was my facility. I might've been liable.

But by the time he got the words out, they'd moved on to something else.

Here in Necessity, Texas, however, no one indulged in either pity or hero-worship. Here he could just be Tor Edwards, the guy who'd grown up on and inherited the Stuart ranch from his grandfather.

Spotting a broken line of barbed wire, Tor pulled Alpine to a stop. He dismounted and looped the chestnut gelding's reins over the nearest fencepost, tugged his gloves on more securely, and pulled his pliers out of his back pocket. A glance at the western horizon reassured him that he had time to finish before sunset.

From his front pocket, he retrieved a small, metal sleeve. He'd considered getting the newer kind—the one that didn't need to be crimped shut—but had decided to go through the supplies he had on hand before trying anything new.

Tor grinned as he worked on splicing the break. Granddad would cuss me something fierce if he knew I was considering using a more expensive part when this one will work fine with a little effort.

The work was soothing, especially after his most recent business trip. He knew he'd had to go—he needed to check in with the board face-to-face at least a couple of times a year, needed to attend some of the Dallas charity events to make nice with the people whose investments helped make Stuart-Edwards Enterprises successful.

Three years ago, he'd loved it.

Two years ago, he'd been in the hospital—he didn't remember much of that time.

Last year, he'd made his return and had been treated as a semi-invalid, handled kindly and gently.

This year…

His stomach churned at the memory of his date at a fundraiser rolling her eyes every time he tried to speak to her. He re-focused on the fence, only to find that his hands had completed the job automatically as his mind wandered.

With a click of his tongue, he gained Alpine's attention, and the horse dropped his head to lightly nuzzle the rancher's neck.

The sound of a car drew Tor's attention to the barely graded dirt road running along the other side of his fence. He moved around to swing into Alpine's saddle, the extra height giving him a better view over the rolling hill to the east.

A compact sedan bumped over the ruts in the road. The driver clearly wasn't used to driving on unpaved roads. Anyway, Tor knew all the locals and what they drove. This wasn't anyone from Necessity.

Whoever it was had to be lost. That road didn't go anywhere but to the back of Chet Tyler's ranch, and there wasn't much back there.

Except an old cabin.

Tor frowned.

Surely Chet isn't trying to make extra money renting out that old shack again.

The car slowed as it approached him, and he sighed. He was going to have to try to talk to a stranger, after all, even way out here on his own land.

To someone who would try to drive a Kia sedan out here, no less. Idiot.

He put on his fiercest scowl as the driver put the car in park and opened the door. Then, as probably the most beautiful woman he had ever seen stepped out gracefully, Tor froze completely.

Oh, damnation. This is going to be even worse than usual.

* * *

Leta Delaney took a moment to gain her balance after she swung out of her car. "Hello," she called out. The man on the horse nodded, but didn't speak.

I'm going to have to get closer if I don't want to stand here shouting up at him.

That might not be as simple as she would have preferred.

These heels aren't made for this kind of dirt road.

Or for dealing with scowling cowboys mounted on giant horses, for that matter.

Well, she had faced down much worse than one angry rancher recently.

The thought caused tears to prickle in her eyes, and she clenched her jaw to hold them back.

No more crying.

Shaking her long, dark hair back, she squared her shoulders and walked as steadily as possible to the closest fence post—then used it to continue to stand straight as she stared into a pair of deep gray eyes. He was remarkably good-looking, she realized. If not for a jagged scar along one side of his face, he would be almost pretty, with a cleft chin and an indentation that looked like it might turn into a dimple if he ever smiled.

The scar gives him a kind of rugged look, she thought absently, then blushed as the man's scowl deepened when he noticed her staring.

Get on with it, Leta.

She drew in a deep breath. "I'm sorry to bother you," she began, "but could you tell me if that is the Stuart ranch?"

He nodded warily, but still didn't speak.

At least he's not ignoring me entirely. Or riding away into the sunset.

A borderline-hysterical giggle tried to force its way up her throat, and she shoved it down, too.

"Are you by any chance Mr. Stuart?"

A slight frown crossed the cowboy's face, as if he were trying to puzzle out how to answer that one. Finally, he shook his head.

Was there something wrong with him? Did she need to speak more slowly? Enunciate more clearly?

No, he seems to understand me. Maybe he's mute?

Well, he could at least nod. Maybe point, too.

"Could you direct me toward the Tyler cabin? I thought I had followed the directions, but now I'm afraid I'm on the wrong road."

He cast his gaze toward the ground, frowning hard and blinking, and finally looked up and spoke. "End of … the road."

He almost spit the words out, the pause between them indicative of the effort it took him to say them. He pointed the direction she had been headed.

Some kind of speech impediment, then? It would be kinder not to force him to speak again.

"Thanks," she said, letting go of the post she'd been using to balance herself. "I appreciate it."

As he nodded, she smiled, and began to turn back toward the car. One corner of the cowboy's lip quirked up in a return grin, and the dimple she'd suspected him of having flashed in his cheek.

Momentarily distracted by the smile that transformed his face from merely attractive to absolutely breathtaking, Leta forgot to watch her step. One of her high heels snagged against a rock, slipped into a tiny crevice in the dirt road, stuck, and broke.

Her foot stopped, but the rest of her kept going. She cried out at the sharp crack and bolt of electricity shooting through her ankle, the pain whiting out her vision for an instant—long enough for her to hit the ground, taking the brunt of the impact with her hands and knees.

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