Home > Princess and the Cowboy(6)

Princess and the Cowboy(6)
Author: Ella Goode

“Batter fried mushrooms in a sweet and sour sauce with a side of rice and sautéed green beans. No meat, all taste. Better come while it’s hot.” I pop one of the mushrooms in my mouth and crunch down. “Not bad.”

“You didn’t poison it, I see.” She takes another step closer. Her stomach growls, and I scratch my upper lip to hide a grin.

“At least not the one I ate,” I tease. I jerk my head toward the plate. “Come over here before it gets cold. Nothing worse than someone not eating a plate of hot food. Plus, I can hear your stomach. Hell, the whole house probably can. Cam’s going to think there’s a storm outside.”

Maria slides all the way over and into the desk chair. “It’s not that loud.”

“It was. I think they heard it in Dallas and took cover, thinking it was an air raid drill.”

She punches me in the gut, and it hurts. I back up out of fist range and lean against the bed post.

“Sorry about earlier. Didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

She presses her lips together and gives me an assessing look. I guess she’s trying to figure out if I’m sincere.

“Why were you mean?”

“I don’t know.” I shrug. “Feeling ornery about stuff, I guess.” I don’t want to admit that it’s because I’m feeling attracted to her in ways that just aren’t healthy. I don’t want to get tied down to someone right now, and I’m not the type to fuck and run. I don’t think she’s the type to want that kind of thing either. Even though she’s only eighteen, she seems like someone you should marry in a church surrounded by doves or some shit like that.

She considers my words and then gives an abrupt nod. “I was not at my best either. I apologize as well.”

“Great.” I rub my hands together. “Time to eat then.”

“When did you learn how to cook?” She pokes at a mushroom.

“Maybe eight or nine.”

She spins around. “Eight or nine? That’s far too young.”

“My old man was a mess after my mom died so I took care of him a lot.

“I didn’t realize,” she murmurs and then takes her first bite. Her eyes widen as the flavor hits her tongue.

“Good isn’t it?”

“You’re not very modest,” she chides but continues to eat.

“Nope.“

“I feel bad about coming to a ranch full of cows when I can’t eat meat.”

“It’s not like you intentionally became allergic.” I looked it up after she kicked me out the last time, and it’s a real sickness. “Does the smell bother you?”

“Of the cows?”

“Cattle,” I correct. “No, of cooked meat.”

“No. It’s only if I ingest it.”

“I read it was from tick bites.”

“That’s what they say, but I’ve never been bitten by a tick.”

“That you know of. One could’ve taken a nibble while you were sleeping.”

Maria rubs her hands over her arms and glances around the room.

“No ticks here that I know of.”

She bites her lip and then leans closer. “I’m actually sort of a scaredy cat.”

“What about the ghost stories?”

“What did you want me to say? That I would be afraid?” She sniffs. “Of course I lied. Is this room really haunted?”

“Can’t say for sure. Widow Justice—that was who stayed here before you—said it was, but she wasn’t all there upstairs if you know what I mean.”

I can tell Maria’s not convinced. A dumb idea flies into my head and out my mouth before I can stop it. “You can sleep with me. Not with me, with me,” I clarify as her jaw drops slightly. “I’ve got a big room right above yours, and it’s got a big bed. I’ll sleep on top of the covers and you can sleep underneath. It won’t mean anything.” That’s another lie. Marie’s so pretty that it’s hard to not stare at her. Sleeping next to her and not touching her would be torture, but maybe that’s the price I’ve got to pay for being a dick. It’s a good lesson, I tell myself miserably.

 

 

CHAPTER 8

 

 

MARIA

 

 

I open and close my mouth, not sure how to respond to Sterling’s offer. We’ve gone from him wanting me to leave to him inviting me into his bed. What is happening here? Don’t be naïve, I tell myself. He’s trying to sleep with you.

Oh my God! Was that his plan from the start? Was he trying to scare me to begin with so that I’d slip into his bed? Had he not counted on me pushing back? Maybe that’s what got him so upset to begin with. Now he’s back trying to sweeten me up.

“I’m not a whore,” I blurt out. “I don’t know what you heard about me, but let me assure you that it’s not true. I wasn’t trying to sleep with my sister’s husband. Family means everything to me, and I would never do something like that.”

“Wait…. What?” Sterling goes from looking confused to shocked.

“Oh. Cam didn’t tell you?” Heat rushes to my face. He slowly shakes his head back and forth. I’m starting to realize that I’m really good at shocking him. “My stepsister Glorianna Costatelli’s husband told Tucker that he was going to sleep with me to get back at her.”

“Wait. Your stepsister is Glorianna Costatelli?” His brows pull together. “She’s a princess? She’s an actress.” I fight a smile at him thinking one couldn't be both if they wanted to.

“No, she’s not a princess. My papa married her mother years after my mama passed away and then eventually adopted her. I might have begged him to. I’d wanted her to be my sister so badly.” I press two fingers to my quivering lips to stop myself from crying. “I can’t believe she’d ever think I’d do such a thing. I would never, just so we’re clear.”

“That’s fuc—messed up,” he quickly corrects.

“This is your home. I’m sorry. You should speak any which way you please. I can be a bit sheltered at times. My papa tries to keep me locked away as much as possible. I’m not used to a lot of things, but I need to learn to get used to them.”

“He’s that way because he lost your mom and he’s worried.”

“I suppose so.” It might not be as bad if he were around more, but that isn’t the case.

The older I got, the more often he was away. It’s crazy because he married a woman to try to make a family for me, but then he’s gone all the time. Still, I find it hard to be mad at him for it. Every time I look in the mirror I see my mother. It makes me smile, but I think it breaks his heart.

“So what about staying in my room?”

“I’m sheltered, not naïve.” I lift my chin to hide my bluff. I’d be dumb to think I’m not both. Plus, my nonna warned me of all the ways boys will try to get under a lady’s skirt. She prepared me the best she could.

“I won’t try any funny business. This is only a peace offering because of the way I’ve been acting.” I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I feel a pang of disappointment at his words. He had kind of poked at me being small.

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