“Not for me.” I sigh.
“But you’re a teacher.” Seth finally sits up and frowns at me.
“That doesn’t mean I’m good at everything. Teachers aren’t superhuman or anything.”
“I can do math.”
“Okay, let’s start there.”
Seth eyes me for a minute and then shrugs. It seems shrugging is his favorite form of communication.
“Are you really going to stay and have lunch?”
“Does that make you uncomfortable?” I pass him the math worksheet.
“No, I don’t care.” He picks up a pencil and starts marking the sheet, digging right in, and I grin.
“Does the food suck?”
“No, Gram packs us a lunch every day.”
“Well then, I’ll stay.”
His lips twitch, but he doesn’t smile—yet somehow I think I just won a big battle.
* * *
“So, looks like fried chicken and potato salad, homemade rolls, and fruit.” Josh pulls the last of the food out of the ice chest and passes Seth a Coke.
“Your mom goes all out.”
“She’s been making lunch for ranch hands for almost forty years. It’s habit.”
We’re sitting on Josh’s back patio. It’s partially covered, with a hanging swing on one side and a picnic table on the other and looks out over a large meadow where cattle are grazing.
“Do you get a lot of deer back here?” I ask.
He nods and swallows. “Usually in the evening and very early mornings. A moose walked through last week.”
“That was cool,” Seth murmurs, and Josh looks up in surprise.
Does Seth never talk to him?
“Yeah, it was,” Josh agrees softly.
“Do you fish?” Seth asks me as he takes a big bite out of a chicken breast, sending golden pieces of fried batter down the front of his shirt. His dark hair is a bit too long and falls over one eye. I grin at him. He’s adorable.
“No. I hate fishing.”
“How can you hate to fish?!” Seth exclaims, as if I’d just admitted to hating ice cream.
“It’s dirty.” I wrinkle my nose and Josh bursts out laughing.
“Everything here is dirty, sweetheart.” Josh shakes his head and nudges me lightly with his elbow.
He’s such a flirt!
“But you live in Montana!” Seth exclaims, examining me as if I were a science project, his chicken momentarily forgotten.
“I live in town, Seth. Always have. My dad loves to fish. I just never really got into it.” I shrug and take a bite of delicious homemade potato salad.
“But you like horses, right?” He shovels a heaping forkful of potato salad into his mouth.
“I’ve never ridden one.” I chuckle and shake my head as I watch him eat. “Are they starving you here, Seth? The way you’re eating, you’d think you haven’t seen food in days.”
Seth just blinks at me. He slowly smiles, but I cut him off before he can voice the idea I can see forming in that sharp brain of his.
“I’m not getting on a horse.”
“Why not?” Josh asks with a broad smile.
“Well . . .” I look back and forth between the two guys and then sigh when I can’t come up with a good reason not to. “I’m not dressed for riding.”
Josh’s gaze falls to my red sundress before his brown eyes find mine again. “Wear jeans tomorrow.”
“I’m not here to learn how to ride a horse, I’m here to teach Seth.”
“No reason that you can’t do both,” Josh replies with a grin, and winks at me, his dimple creasing his cheek, waking those butterflies in my stomach.
“Am I keeping you from work?” I change the subject and pop a piece of watermelon in my mouth, doing my best not to squirm in my chair.
“I have to go paint the fence,” Seth mutters, and swigs down the last of his Coke, making me laugh.
“What?” he asks.
“When I drove up to the house and saw the white fence, I thought to myself, ‘I don’t envy the person who has to paint this every couple of years.’ ”
“It was either paint the fence or shovel the horse shit,” Seth replies matter-of-factly.
“Mouth!” Josh scowls, pinning Seth with a look, and Seth rolls his eyes.
“I think I’d take the fence too,” I agree, but Seth just shrugs his thin shoulders and frowns. “You look so much like your dad.” I shake my head and reach for another piece of watermelon before I realize that both Seth and Josh have gone still.
“I do not,” Seth whispers.
“Well, you look just like your uncle Josh, and Josh and Zack are twins, so . . .” I tilt my head to one side and watch Seth’s face tighten.
“I’m nothing like my dad,” he insists.
“Okay, I’m sorry.”
Seth pins me with a scowl, then grabs his trash and lets himself into the house to dump it, stalks through the house, and slams the front door behind him.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper again.
“It’s okay. He’s pissed at my brother. Won’t talk about it, just won’t have anything at all to do with him.” Josh purses his lips and sighs, still watching the path Seth took through the house. My eyes are glued to his lips and I’m mortified to realize that I want him to kiss me.
And not just a sweet thank-you-for-teaching-my-nephew kiss, but a long, slow kiss that lasts forever and makes me forget how to breathe. I want to sink my fingers into his thick, dark hair and feel his large, callused hands glide down my back as he pulls me against him.
I want him to touch me.
Josh begins to pack up the remains of our lunch and I take a deep breath and join him.
“When he smiled at you earlier? That’s the first time I’ve seen him smile since he’s been here.”
“Josh, I’m so sorry. He’s a great kid, and he’s really smart. I think we’ll have him back on track with his grades without a problem.”
“Thank you.” Josh replaces the lid on the fruit and throws it in the cooler. “You know, Kyle didn’t tell me who he was sending out here. I was surprised when I saw it was you.”
“I don’t know, but I’m glad you’re here. I wasn’t kidding before—you look fantastic.”
I blush and concentrate on rewrapping the chicken and placing it in the cooler.