Home > Cowboy SEAL Homecoming (Navy SEAL Cowboys #1)(8)

Cowboy SEAL Homecoming (Navy SEAL Cowboys #1)(8)
Author: Nicole Helm


   “Before you went into the military? Burt and I ran the ranch in a much more…laid-back way.”

   Alex scowled and then forced himself to relax. “This is slightly different. We’re starting an entirely new venture. It’s going to require some organization if we want it to run smoothly.”

   She cocked her head and studied him. It was the first time he felt like she was really looking at him. She wasn’t hunched into her own world—she was trying to figure him out.

   He couldn’t say he liked it. “What?” he demanded.

   She shook her head and smiled. Not something nervous or timid, but the kind of smile nurses gave a guy when he asked about getting the hell out of the hospital. Kind but with a little bit of pity laced in there to undercut that kindness.

   No, he didn’t like that at all.

   “Nothing. Let me take a look at your schedule. I’ll see if I have any thoughts.”

   She pulled the binder toward her, and Alex had to resist the urge to yank it back. He didn’t particularly want an outsider’s judgment, but that was going to be part and parcel with all this. Even when he didn’t like it, even when she gave him that pityingly kind smile, he had to deal with it.

   She was now his partner, which meant treating her like he’d treated his men. Gentler, maybe, since she was not a Navy SEAL or even a soldier, but with some trust.

   So he linked his fingers together and tried to get over the roiling frustration bubbling through him.

   * * *

   It was the first time Becca felt like she wasn’t…less. Her nerves had settled, her shyness receded. Because with shocking clarity she suddenly understood Alex. Maybe not completely, but a big component of his character. It was quite familiar.

   In the aftermath of her childhood illness, her mom had employed that same fervor. She’d begun to think she could plan everything out, schedule everything, protect Becca from every possible threat. Her mom had thought that, with enough control, she could ensure Becca never got hurt or sick again.

   Clearly Alex had different motivations, but Becca was willing to wager he thought that, if he planned out everything, he could control his life instead of having it unexpectedly changed for him.

   It was the first time since he’d arrived that she felt some empathy for him.

   She looked over his schedule for tomorrow. It was meticulous to the point of…she didn’t even know what. She’d never seen anything like it. Burt had certainly never been the kind of man to type things out, let alone print and organize within an inch of their lives.

   Alex was a guy who seemed like he was on top of it all and had everything under control. He had that calmness that radiated off of him and made her all the more nervous.

   But this… It pointed to something far different underneath that facade. It was an incredible comfort to Becca that he wasn’t as with it as he appeared.

   “This is a good start,” she said. “I think you’re going to want to bring in a professional to inspect the bunkhouse. I’m sure you can do a lot of the repairs yourselves, but you want to know the roof and foundation are going to stand up to any plans you make.”

   “Can you get me a list of people who’d be able to do that?” Alex returned.

   “Sure. I think Connor Black is probably the only one in town. Of course, you could have someone from Bozeman come out too.”

   “Connor Black.” Alex rubbed his large hand across his jaw. “I know Connor.”

   “I’m sure you know a lot of people. Not exactly a lot of outsiders in the valley. Even after being gone as long as you have.” She gestured at the rest of the binder pages. “May I?”

   Alex nodded his assent and she began to flip through his detailed plans. It would be good to work with someone like Alex because this was so beyond her scope. Becca had learned not to make plans. Not too far into the future anyway. Goals, yes. Plans with timelines? No.

   Life could be unpredictable and she’d decided to embrace it rather than fight it. One day at a time. She’d had so many setbacks as a kid recovering from meningitis. Autoimmune problems. Minor sicknesses hitting her harder than everyone else. It had taken years to get her health under control, and then more years to convince Mom it really was.

   Plans like this were great in theory, but maybe it would be good for Alex to have someone like her who knew how to change ideas on a dime. Who knew life enjoyed sweeping in and knocking your feet out from under you.

   After all, hadn’t she been feeling settled and happy and sinking into planning things when Burt had died?

   She flipped back to Alex’s plan for tomorrow. Tomorrow was all she was going to focus on. She’d leave the meticulous planning to Alex.

   “Tomorrow’s plan looks good. I’ll get Connor’s number for you, so you can call him first thing. I have a meeting with a possible therapist tomorrow afternoon.”

   “Therapist?”

   The sharp demand came from Jack. She had to look away from his intense and slightly angry glare.

   “I have the horsemanship background, not the therapeutic part. We’ll need someone who’s trained. No one in Blue Valley is licensed in what I need to get my mentorship hours, so we’ll have to hire someone who can do that. I’ve had some phone conversations with a few candidates, but this woman seems the most interested and the most qualified. I’m going to conduct a formal one-on-one interview to make sure she’s what we need.”

   “We don’t need a therapist,” Gabe said, clear and flat.

   “Especially a civilian,” Jack agreed.

   Jack’s little comment had her spine straightening. “What kind of problem do you have with a civilian? I’m a civilian.”

   Jack didn’t say anything, though he held her gaze, not once blinking his unflinching, blue eyes.

   “We’re bringing military men here to work and find purpose,” Alex said, clearly trying to play peacemaker. “I’m not sure I agree with Gabe and Jack that we don’t need a therapist on staff, but I do think it should be former military. Add to the fact that she’s a woman—”

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