Home > Cowboy SEAL Homecoming (Navy SEAL Cowboys #1)(3)

Cowboy SEAL Homecoming (Navy SEAL Cowboys #1)(3)
Author: Nicole Helm


   “Where’s Clark?” Alex asked.

   It was amazing the way waves of grief could hit out of the blue. Burt’s dog dying so close to Burt had intertwined the two deaths in her heart. “I’m so sorry,” she croaked. “I guess…no one told you. A few days after the funeral, Clark passed too.”

   If Alex had a reaction to the information, he didn’t show it. Not in his face, not in his dark eyes. He was completely and utterly blank.

   But maybe that was a reaction in and of itself.

   “We have Star and Ranger here,” she offered, pointing to each dog in turn. “We have a lot of random animals around these days. I should show you around the house. I mean, I know you know the house. But I have a room, and you have… Well, I didn’t know what room you would want and—”

   “Becca?”

   She blinked up at him, trying to get a handle on her fraying nerves. This was all so weird, and she was alone. She’d convinced her mom she could handle this, so she had to. Didn’t make it particularly easy. “Yeah?”

   “You don’t have to fuss.”

   “Right. Right. I just… You… I can just get out of your way, and you can explore and do whatever you want, and I’ll just go to the stable. I have chores and horses and…” They were looking at her like she was insane, and she probably sounded like it, babbling nonsense. But she didn’t know what to do when they were all staring at her. Alex knew stuff about the ranch, but she didn’t know what her role was, what he expected.

   She backed away and eventually turned and tried not to run for the stable, but her pace was quite fast.

   Ranger followed her, but Star stayed behind with the guys. Which was fine. Good. Great. This was all half Alex’s. Why wouldn’t he get half the dogs too?

   Becca paced the middle pathway of the stables trying to get a handle on her breathing. There were no pressing chores, but on a ranch with cattle and horses, there was always something to do.

   She’d wanted to send Hick to pick up Alex and the other men instead of going herself, but this was all part of being an adult. Proving to her mother she could handle real life. Proving it to herself. She could handle her business, handle having partners she shared a property with. She could handle being a woman.

   She wasn’t the sickly little girl anymore who needed all the protection in the world.

   “Becca?”

   Becca jumped and whirled to find Alex and only Alex in the stable doorway. “Is everything okay?” he asked.

   “It’s great,” she said with far too much false enthusiasm. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

   “You’re acting…a little off.”

   She felt defeated. Not like the strong, capable woman she was supposed to be. “Well, that’s something you’d better settle in and get used to.”

   His mouth curved—not a smile exactly, but something soft. “This is going to be awkward at first.”

   She wanted to say no shit, Sherlock, but she was trying very hard not to be any more off-putting.

   “We’ll work through it. We have a common goal.”

   Becca nodded, but she didn’t say anything. They did have a common goal, but that didn’t mean things were going to get any less awkward or any less hard.

   That was a lesson she’d learned a long time ago.

 

 

Chapter 2


   The stables were exactly like he remembered. It was as if sixteen years hadn’t passed since he’d lived here. Instead of stepping into a new location, he was stepping back in time.

   The high rafters, the smell of hay and horseshit, the tools lined up haphazardly on a pegboard along the south entrance. The sounds of horses moving about and the filtered daylight.

   He’d never allowed himself to wallow in homesickness while he’d been away, but it hit him now—how many years he’d missed this. Home. Belonging. The smells, the air, the freedom.

   Except Becca was standing in the middle of the stables like a skittish bird. Fluttering and radiating nerves. That was nothing like the home he remembered.

   He couldn’t get a read on her, which was odd. He’d always been good at figuring people out, and this was just life, no added stress of, say, war to mess with his judgment.

   “I don’t have a key to the house,” he said as gently as he could manage.

   “Oh. Right.”

   “You know, growing up I don’t know that we ever locked the doors.”

   She laughed, something genuine mixed with all the discomfort. “Yes, and you should have heard the arguments Burt and my mom had about that.”

   Alex tried to smile in an effort to put her at ease, but he didn’t like being reminded his father had had this…whole other life. A life Alex hadn’t been a part of. All of that had been Alex’s own doing, but…

   Well, that old melancholy was for another day. A day when he didn’t have things to do and goals to reach.

   So, hopefully never.

   Becca handed a key ring out to him. “The one with a three on it. There are extras in the house, and I’ll make sure to get you each one. I mean, I have them for you. I just have to hand them to…” She blinked profusely.

   He couldn’t even begin to figure out what was going on in that head of hers. He understood her being a little uncomfortable, a little awkward. But this was so much more than that, and Alex was at a loss for the first time since…

   Well, for the first time since he’d accepted his injuries were the end of his SEAL career. It was not a feeling he enjoyed or welcomed, and he ungraciously was irritated at her for prompting it.

   “I’m not used to having anyone here,” she said. “I’m not used to being around a lot of people.”

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