“Why did we stop?”
“To take a break, the animals need some water.”
“Okay.” I dismounted, grabbed a protein drink, granola bar, and the trail mix. My stomach growled loudly at the mere sight of food. A light blush crept up my checks at the sound.
“There’s more, help yourself.” I told Max as I stretched, bit the granola bar in half and chugged the protein drink to quiet my hunger.
He laughed. “Here’s my proof you weren’t going to meet me for lunch.”
I gave him my most innocent look. “It’s a snack.”
He chuckled. “It appears we’re having lunch together after all.”
Oh brother. We ate in silence. When we finished off the last of the trail mix we mounted up and rode to the edge of my property.
“Spill it Max, what do you want?”
“To enjoy your company.”
I stopped. “I don’t believe you, what do you really want?”
“I really am enjoying your company. Let’s go.”
“I’m not moving, but you can leave.”
“I don’t want to do this here.” He said as he surveyed our surroundings. “We’ll go back to your place and talk.”
I stared deep into his eyes for a moment. He knew what was going on. The problem was, I didn’t think he wanted to tell me.
I followed him back to the barn, we unsaddled the horses, brush them down, and tossed them some hay without saying a word to each other. I wanted to hear him out, but I needed to be mentally prepared for what he had to tell me also. I mean, what was so important that he couldn’t tell me on the horse ride? I caught myself, maybe I was overreacting and he did just want to spend time with me. We headed up to my place. I started coffee brewing while Max stoked the fire.
“Coffee’s done. I‘m sure you can find everything you need.” I left him to pour his own coffee and took my smokes out of my coat pocket. I found an ashtray and sat down in the chair by the fire keeping some distance between us.
“I take my coffee black,” Max glowered as he sat on the couch across from me and gazed into my eyes “I know everything about you Montana. I’ve decided you need to be protected.”
Talking about getting straight to the point.
“Excuse me, I don’t need a protector. What do you know about me?”
Max held my gaze. “You and your sister won the lottery, that’s why you’re living up here.”
“I’m living up here because I love the mountains,” which was also true, plus I didn’t want people constantly on my doorstep.
“And because no one up here has any inkling you’re worth a ton of money,” he put his hand up to keep me from speaking. “You’re also a sensitive, you pick up on things not many other people do. It’s what makes you so good at investing in small businesses. You have the intuition, who will succeed and who will fail.”
“Everybody has that ability.” He’d done his homework. I wasn’t thrilled he’d dug this deep into my past.
“That ability comes naturally to you.” He almost snarled, my attitude frayed his nerves.
“So, why do I need a protector?”
“You know why,” he said grimly.
“No I don’t, please explain your reasons to me.” I needed to know what I was up against.
Rose rapped on the door. Figures, I thought as I stashed my smokes under the chair and yelled “Come in.” Rose didn’t know I smoked and I wasn’t in the mood for a lecture.
“Wow.” She said bustling through the door straight to the fireplace. “It got real cold outside real quick. Max what a pleasant surprise.”
Bear stomped in right behind her. “I brought steaks for the grill.”
“I’ll give you a hand.” Max said to Bear as his eyes traced over my face. He stood up, “I could use a refill on my coffee.”
Great! I was still in the dark about what was going on. I had a split second vision of kicking Rose and Bear out on their butts and cornering Max for some answers. Instead, I watched Max follow Bear out of the room and gave myself a inward mental shake. I should stick with figuring this out on my own. I didn’t need or want Max in my life anyway.
While the men tended to dinner in the kitchen Rose turned to me, “I need to talk to you after they leave tonight.”
“Okay, when are you leaving for Cali?”
“Two days, and Bear would like to spend the day with me tomorrow, so we’ll talk tonight.”
“Do you mind if I drive you to the airport? I have some errands to run.”
Rose laughed, “I hoped you would, Bear has a big party he’s throwing for a costumer that day, and I would prefer not to leave my car at the airport for the next couple of months.” Her frown turned into a sighed, “I would rather stay here this winter, but my family would pack up and move in with me if I did, neither of us wants that.” She grinned again. “The boys are heading out to grill. I’m gonna see if they need help.”
My eyes followed Rose, Bear and Max as they stepped outside onto the deck. As soon as the door closed behind them I raced upstairs and stashed my gun under my pillow.