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Lydia's Twin Temptation(Divine Creek Ranch 8)(21)

By:Heather Rainier

Chance helped her into the big, black truck, and she noticed he seemed to enjoy that. She was of average height but would’ve needed a stepstool to get up into the passenger seat on her own. She was dressed in her blue jeans and a pretty red top she saved for trips to the movies or the occasional meal out with LuAnn and Simone. She’d also worn the turquoise jewelry with it, hoping he liked the way she looked.

It occurred to her that she had an important decision to make today and wondered at the ramification. He started the truck and she gave him directions to the little hole-in-the-wall joint that made the best breakfast tacos in the area. She checked her cell phone to make sure it was turned on and smiled at him when he helped her from the truck again after they arrived.

The scent of Mexican spices filled the air inside the tiny building as they slipped into the morning crowd. They placed their order, which he paid for after giving her a “look” when she removed her wallet from her handbag. She pursed her lips but said nothing and chuckled when he grinned at her, evidently satisfied.

On the way out of town, she directed him to an asphalt road that led up the side of a low hill. Bearing a paper tray containing two coffees and two orange juices, she led Chance to a small outcropping of rock, and he helped her sit. The area around Fort Stockton was flat, dry, and desolate. The rain earlier that morning had cleared the air so the Davis Mountains were beautiful blue-and-gray brushstrokes on the horizon, and they were up high enough to take advantage of the mild morning breeze that was blowing.

She unwrapped her chorizo, egg, and potato taco and took a bite as Chance opened his and popped the top off of one of the small containers of hot sauce.

Lydia put her hand on his and stopped him. “Wait. I hope you like your hot sauce hot, because that is their family recipe, made fresh and it will light up your life.”

Chance chuckled and stuck a finger in the hot sauce to taste it. “Hot as in jalapeño-pepper hot?”

“No, hot like serrano-pepper hot. The owner’s mother makes the hot sauce from scratch. I’ve heard Guela buys the smallest, hottest peppers she can find. Just for kicks and giggles she sometimes throws in a little habañero pepper, too, just to keep people on their toes. It’s very good, but I wanted to warn you first. If you dump that whole thing on your carne guisada you may not feel your tongue for an hour.”

“Oh, I better be careful then. I was hoping for another kiss later and I want to be able to feel that.” He chuckled when she playfully shoved his shoulder but then pulled her close and kissed the top of her head in an affectionate gesture that should not have choked her up the way it did. She’d received more affection from him in the last twelve hours than she had in the whole time since she left Austin.

He carefully sprinkled a tiny bit of the hot sauce on his taco and they sat together in companionable silence, eating their breakfast. Her tacos were mouthwateringly good, and she ate quickly, realizing she was starving.

Deciding she should take the bull by the horns, Lydia asked a question. “So you’d like me to cook for you at your ranch?”

Chance turned his brilliant, blue gaze on her and nodded slowly. “That is part of it, yes.” He looked at his rough hands and seemed to be waiting for her to voice her questions so she forged on.

“How many people would I be cooking for, on a regular basis?”

“There would always be me and Clayton. If you come, we wouldn’t eat out as often.”

“That would probably be healthier, too.”

Chance nodded with a small chuckle. “But eating out was better than eating our own cooking. We have fifteen men who work for us. Ten of them live there full-time and more on a seasonal basis. They go back and forth to town for meals and subsist on their own. They have their own kitchen in their house, but none of them is much of a cook. Home-cooked meals would be a big perk for them. When they get wind of how well you cook, they will be asking to have meals there as well.”

“If you don’t mind, I’d rather not do the bookkeeping with the ranch hands on that. I can provide the bills and receipts, but you and Clayton would have to work that out with them.” She didn’t want to be in charge of running a cafeteria.

“Clayton already has it worked out, I think. All we need is to have the figures to work with.”

“That I can do.”

“You would have a great big kitchen of your own to rule. We’d let you hire any help you needed.” Totally in her comfort zone, imagining how it would work, Lydia found that she was more than just “professionally” excited about this challenge. She found it almost bizarrely comforting to think of cooking and caring for Chance and Clayton on such a basic level. She was capable of way more than just cooking for them.