Redneck Romeo Page 2

“Has the doctor given you a time frame on how long he’ll be in the hospital?”

“No,” Brandt said. “But when Dad is discharged, it’ll be to the rehab wing in a nursing home.”

That oughta make Casper even more the patient from hell. “Sounds like it won’t matter then if I’m not there for a couple of days. I’ll let you know when I’m on my way.”

“Sure. Will you be staying with one of us?” Tell asked.

“Nah. I’ve got it covered. Thanks though.”

Neither of his brothers asked where he’d be bunking down, although he sensed they wanted to.

“Okay, then. I guess we’ll see you when we see you.”

“Yep. Later.” Dalton hung up.

He stared out the window for the longest time, even though he couldn’t see shit through the swirling snow.

But this storm wasn’t anything compared to the one he faced in Sundance.

The blizzard lasted two days. On the morning of the third day Dalton packed up his stuff, closed up his cabin and headed down the mountain.

Once he had a clear cell signal, he gave Brandt a heads up he was on his way. Brandt said they’d moved Casper to the rehab wing and to meet them there.

Then he placed a call to Sierra.

She answered with, “I swear every time I call you and I don’t hear back I live in mortal fear that you’ve disconnected from the world completely and you’re out in the forest running naked with woodchucks and shit.”

“Not hardly. I returned the calls in order of importance.”

“So you’ve talked to your brothers?”

“Yeah. I’m on my way to Wyoming right now.”

“They giving you grief about…well, everything?”

“They both knew it wouldn’t take much for me to refuse to come back.” He flipped on the defroster. “How’d you find out about Casper’s stroke?”

“Keely. I knew your brothers would get a hold of you first, so my call isn’t about your father.”

“Then why did you call?” Dalton heard her take a deep breath and he went on full alert.

In a rush, Sierra said, “You’ve got to promise me that you won’t get mad at me for what I’m about to tell you.”

“No conversation ever ends well that starts that way.”

“True, but I want you to remember I was only following your parameters. And I kinda hoped someone else would tell you about this, so I didn’t have to. But then, you’d have to actually talk to someone who lives there, and we both know that’s a rarity, so I guess it falls to me.”

“You been drinkin’? ’Cause you ain’t making a lick of sense. Quit dancing around the subject, college girl, and spill it.”

“Rory is back in Sundance and working for Wyoming Natural Resource Council.”

Everything switched into slow motion. Dalton couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. He had to pull onto the shoulder so he didn’t wreck his truck.


“You said Rory is livin’ in Sundance.”


“With her fiancé?”

“No. She, ah, broke off the engagement.”


“Six months ago.”

This was not happening. Sierra had not kept this information from him about Rory for half a goddamned year.

“Dalton. I know your head is about to explode—”

“Jesus, Sierra, do you fucking think? Why are you just telling me this now?” he roared. “Do you have any fucking idea—”

“That you’ve been holed up in the middle of freakin’ nowhere moping because Rory got engaged to someone else? Why yes, I was completely aware of that little factoid, cuz.”


“Besides, you were doing your lumberjack gig and completely off the grid when Rory ended the engagement. I’ll remind you of your zero tolerance policy—me not talking about Rory or sharing information about Rory’s life was your edict, Dalton. I was just following your parameters. And now the parameters have changed.”

“Seriously not fucking amused. Will you just get to the point?”

“I really have to point out that you and Rory will actually be in the same place for the first time in over three years?”

“Three years? Try ten years since she’s lived there. I’da been in Sundance six months ago if I’d known she was there without some other asshole’s ring on her finger,” he snarled.

“Whoa. Take a step back, wolverine. I’m telling you now because maybe you’re smart enough to handle it the right way this time.”

“This time?” Dalton repeated sharply. “Don’t make this out to be my fault. I offered her—”

“Don’t snap at me or interrupt me again or I will hang up, understand?”

“Yeah, yeah, keep talkin’.”

“Rory is my sister. You’re my business partner and one of the few people I trust. I hate that I’m pulled between you two. It’s time you manned up, Dalton. And don’t remind me that you did that once three years ago after you walked out on your own wedding. Even you can admit it was piss poor timing on your part.”

“But that bad timing didn’t stop her from giving me an edict, did it?”

“Like I’ve told you ten thousand times, that wasn’t an edict. Two years was a time line for Rory to finish grad school and a frame of reference for you to understand how important that was to her. You shouldn’t have taken it as gospel.”

“Then she shouldn’t have given me false hope.”

“Then you shouldn’t have turned tail and run again,” Sierra retorted. “Especially after you gave her false hope that things might finally change between you two.”

Like he needed that reminder. “Does she know about Casper?”

“Doubtful. She’s been out of town and she stays out of McKay gossip completely.”

Then Rory wouldn’t suspect Dalton was on his way back to Sundance. The element of surprise might work in his favor. “What’s the best way to approach her?”

“She bartends at the Twin Pines on the side. She’s working tonight. Anything else I can do for you besides making your day with this news?” Sierra asked sweetly.

Making his day? Hell, she’d made his life, because now he had a shot at getting the life he wanted. “Where are the keys for the house in town?”

A pause. Then, “Why?”

“I need a place to stay.”

Sierra heaved a put-upon sigh. “They’re under the back deck on a key hook. But there are two conditions before I’ll let you stay there. First, you don’t tell anyone I own it. No one.”

“Deal. And FYI, that’s why we have a silent partnership.” He’d supplied Sierra with some capital to start her own business last year and he also wanted it kept on the down low. “What’s the second condition?”

“I need a handyman to do some things. Okay, a lot of things. You’re handy, you’re there and voila—you’re selected. I’ll FedEx my repair list today but anything else you see that needs fixed just go ahead.”

“I’ll do it but I want to be reimbursed once a week for whatever I buy. You don’t get to pull that sixty day wait for payment bull crap like you money people usually do.”

She laughed. “That’s how we become money people. We hold on to money as long as possible. Be warned, some of what needs done will be major costs.”

“I ain’t a carpet installer,” he warned. “Nor will I put in windows.”

Sierra sighed again. “You are a handy handyman, right?”

“Guess you’ll have to trust me, huh?”

“I’ll be keeping tabs on you.” Another pause. “I’m sorry about your dad. If you need to talk about anything—except for Rory—call me.”

By the time Dalton crossed into Crook County hours later, he had a plan in place.

Patience. Perseverance. He would not blow this chance.

Rory Wetzler was his. His. She always had been, she always would be.

And he’d do whatever it took to prove it.

Chapter Two

“Rory, can I get two Bud Light drafts and a cherry Coke?”

“Coming right up.” She pulled the tap and dumped cherry juice over ice, aiming a stream of cola at the glass and swapping the full beer mug for an empty one. She lined the order on the bar top, then wandered to help a new customer.

Ten minutes later, she poured herself a Coke and leaned against the counter. Old man Duffy grinned at her.

“You’re scaring me, Duff. What’s that look for?”

“Missed you last week. Where were you?”

“At a two-day conference in Rock Springs.”

“Huh. I thought you mighta bailed on us. Can’t for the life of me understand why you’re still slinging drinks at the Twin Pines.”

“My job with the state is part-time. So while I’m waiting for a fulltime position to open up or a decent job in my field to magically become available, I’m working here to make ends meet.” Rory chomped on a piece of ice.

“It’s a waste. A gorgeous blonde amazon woman like you oughta be home every night, bein’ spoiled rotten by a man who appreciates and worships you.”

She laughed. “Now there’s a fantasy.”

“If I was fifty years younger…”

“I’d take you up on it.” And she would, no lie. Her love life—for lack of a better term—was a joke. She’d had one date in the last six months since she’d returned to Sundance. A pity date from the plumber who installed a new toilet at the Wyoming Natural Resources Council office where she worked.

She’d jumped out of the dating pool for almost a year when she’d been with Dillon. While she had no regrets about breaking off their engagement, she was lonely. She missed the companionship, even when that companionship was what had driven her away.

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