Deaf Love: The Cowboy's Gift by Dianne Reed Burns by Dianne Reed Burns - Read Online

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Deaf Love - Dianne Reed Burns

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two?

Chapter 1

I can’t believe you’re really here. How? When? Luke McKenzie asked, holding Amanda close.

Amanda O’Conner laughed, so happy that he was glad to see her. "I left the Finals four days ago, drove to Panhandle, and asked around on how to find this place."

And no one asked who you were?

Oh, they asked, she chuckled.

What did you tell them? He looked at her warily.

I’ve created quite a reputation for you, as a matter of fact.

Amanda, he threatened, with humor in his voice. What did you tell them?

"I told them I was one of your Buckle Bunnies and that I’ve been stalking you." She watched his face closely for a reaction.

You didn’t, he accused, laughing.

I did. And I told them I would catch you, too.

Honey, I have to live in this town.

No, you don’t, you just have to live with me. She yanked his mouth down to hers, kissing him hard.

Mmm…I just might be able to handle that, he said, kissing her back. After a few moments he broke the kiss off and looked at her.

Actually, she stated, my friends accused me of stalking you, but I told them I was like a huntress who had found the perfect specimen and I had to have you.

I’m glad you came after me, because I think I like very much being caught by you.

Well, I’m sure glad of that, because I’d look pretty foolish otherwise.

He laughed at her response. How did you get in the house?

I met Charlie, she said slyly, playing in his hair below his cowboy hat. He was very easy to convince that I knew you. Very easy to persuade.

I’ll have to talk to him about letting strange women into my house.

"Don’t you dare get on to him. He was very nice to me."

I guess I can let his insubordination go this time, since he let an angel into my home.

Oh, Luke, how sweet. She touched her palm to his cheek. But I’m not an angel.

Heaven sent you to me. That’s the only way I’d have ever found you. He turned his mouth into her palm and kissed it tenderly. Let’s sit down on the couch and talk. You know, I thought you were my parents come to surprise me when I saw the light on, Luke said.

Do they do that often? she asked, looking into his eyes.

No, that’s what had me so confused. They’ve only done it once when they were on their way to Arizona to see my sister’s new baby, who is now two-years-old.

I see. She smiled up at him. I made some fresh coffee just before you arrived. Would you like some?

That’d be great. I’ll help you.

Take a seat on the couch, and I’ll be right there. She gave him a quick kiss before heading to the small kitchen.

So, were you surprised to see me? she asked coyly, handing him a cup of coffee before taking a seat next to him.

You’re damn right I was. I couldn’t get you off my mind, Amanda. All the way back here I was calling myself all kinds of a fool for pushing you away.

Good, because I couldn’t get you off my mind after that first kiss we shared in your camper in Dodge City. You had me from that first lopsided, sexy grin you gave me when I accused you of being dumb, rude, or deaf, she admitted with a chuckle.

Is that a fact? He kissed her cute, upturned nose.

That’s a fact. I’ve missed you, Luke. It was so hard not to stay where you were so I could see you every day.

I missed seeing you, too. I’ve already told you I was a fool for pushing you away.

Never a fool, cowboy. Maybe stubborn, but never a fool.

He sat his cup on the coffee table in front of the couch, removed hers from her grasp, and placed it next to his. He leaned over and covered her mouth with his in a hot, searing union of lips. Their tongues battled eliciting moans from deep inside. He held her tight in his embrace and she wrapped her arms around his neck. She fought to get closer to him and in the process knocked his black Stetson off his head to the floor. After several long moments, he pulled away from her and rested his forehead against hers, both of them breathing heavy, trying to gain control of their bodies.

I want you so bad, he admitted.

I want you, too. I love you, Luke. Just the way you are. I meant it when I told you that before. Dad has no idea what I want or need.

I love you, baby. In my wildest dreams I never thought I’d find you here waiting for me.

There’s nowhere else I want to be but by your side.

He hugged her close and kissed her neck. He buried his face in her long black hair and inhaled her scent, committing it to memory. After a few moments he asked, When did you get here?

She pushed back from him to look him in the face. About four hours ago. I wanted to be here when you arrived.

If you left Las Vegas four days ago, where have you been staying? he frowned.

Actually, I only arrived in Panhandle the day before yesterday. I found a little bed and breakfast in town and I’ve been staying there.

How did you know when I’d get home?

I called Jake Patterson. I’ve known him for a while. He told me when you left Vegas. I guessed at the stops you’d make along the way, she admitted.

You’re pretty good.

I think so, she bragged.

He gave a deep, throaty laugh. Amanda, he said on a serious note, you said your dad thinks he knows what you need and want. What did he say?

"That I didn’t need you. That I’d grow tired of you, just like you tried to tell me I’d do. But he’s wrong, and so are you, she said defiantly, grabbing his cheeks so that he couldn’t look away from her. I don’t care that you’re deaf. I love you and that’s all that matters."

Whoa! Time out. He pulled away and formed a T with his hands. I’ve already admitted I was a fool for pushing you away. I really didn’t mean any of those things I said. I just wanted you to know what you could be getting yourself into. He looked at her seriously. I wanted you the first time I saw you. He kissed her sweetly.

Luke, I won’t tire of you. I promise I won’t. I want you to believe that, believe in me. My dad is wrong.

How…how’d he take you leaving? he asked, watching her closely with emotion filled eyes.

I don’t know. She looked into the deep brown pools of his eyes. Her fingers still toyed with his thick hair.

What do you mean?

I left without talking to him again. I put my letter of resignation on his desk and walked out. That’s all he’ll care about anyway. His firm is his life. After Mom left I was just an afterthought he had to deal with.

I’m sorry, honey. I’m sorry he treated you like that.

She got up from the couch and walked around the room releasing some of her pent up energy, before turning to face him. It is what it is, she shrugged as she spoke. Luke, I just want to start a new life with you. That is all I care about now—being your wife. She crossed her arms protectively in front of her as if they were a shield, protecting her from possible rejection.

Amanda, you said you quit your job to become a rancher’s wife, my wife.

Yes, I did say that, she answered, watching him closely.

The life of a rancher is hard. I’m not an easy man to live with. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be the woman in my life. What are you hoping to gain by doing that?

Amanda pushed down the disappointment that he did not use the word wife before she spoke, Ultimately, I hope to gain a rich and happy life. I love you, Luke. I want to be with you always, through the good times and the bad. But I don’t want to push you into anything you don’t want. After all, you didn’t invite me here. So if you don’t want me, I’ll leave. I’ll hate every second we’re apart, but I won’t force myself into someone’s life again who really doesn’t want me. She tilted her chin defiantly.

"I told you I love you, too, and I’m very glad you’re here. I looked for you after the Finals. I was sure you’d gone out of my life and I’d never see you again."

I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I’ve never met anyone like you, she confessed.

Deaf? he asked sarcastically.

Don’t even start that, Luke McKenzie. You are so much more to me than a lost sense.

Oh, Amanda, I never thought I’d meet anyone like you. He paused to stare up into her face. He was overwhelmed by the look of love she was bestowing upon him. What now?

"I fell for you the night I watched you ride Tornado in Dodge City. Before I knew you were deaf. I want, no I need you to understand that I love you just as you are."

Those words mean everything to me. He watched her blue eyes brighten at his confession.

So, I guess the question you have to answer is, do you want to start a life with me? she clarified pensively.

He stood, uncrossed her arms from in front of her, and took her hands in his callused ones. "That’s exactly what I want."

I was hoping you’d feel that way, she said, relief filling her voice.

So, what did you have in mind? he asked her.

I’ll take you any way I can.

He placed her palms flat on his chest and held them there. What do you want to do to remedy the situation?

Whatever you want, she answered, "but I refuse to share you with anyone else. There will only be one Buckle Bunny in your life."

It sounds like we should get married, then.

Do you mean it? she asked, holding her breath. Because I would be willing to live with you.

He nodded his head and smiled. I meant every word. He took her face between his hands and kissed her sweetly and gently like she was a rare piece of porcelain.

When? she asked, recovering from his kiss.

Whenever you say, Luke said lovingly.

The sooner the better, she answered eagerly.

Not soon enough for me, he admitted, laughing joyously.

Me neither. She smiled brightly at him.

He wrapped her in his strong arms and kissed her like he’d never kissed her before.

I want to marry you here, she said, looking into his love-filled eyes.

In Texas? he asked, laughing.

Yes, but here, at the ranch. Can we do that?

Sure. Whatever you want, baby.

Good. I’m glad you’re okay with that.

"Why wouldn’t I be? I love it here. This is my land, and soon it will be our land."

I love the sound of that, she sighed dreamily, but I thought you might want to go to Montana. You seem close to your family.

I am, but I’m glad you want to have the ceremony here. That means a lot to me. Montana is where I grew up, but this ranch is my home.

So when can we do this? I don’t know anything about Texas marriage laws.

We’ll go into town and apply for a license tomorrow. I think there’s a waiting period, but I’m not sure how long it is. We’ll check on all that when we go to the courthouse.

Then what? she asked eagerly.

I know the preacher at the local cowboy church. Would that do for him to come out here?

That would be great. But I don’t know anyone here except you. Don’t you have to have witnesses?

Which bed and breakfast did you stay at?

"The Weeping Willow. Why?"

So you met the owner, Abigail Keller?

Yes, she’s a sweet lady, she said.

Abigail sees my foreman, Charlie. I’m sure they’d both be glad to stand up for us.

That would be wonderful! she exclaimed, throwing her arms around his waist, looking up at him. She met him for another kiss. Luke, do you think this is happening too quick? We’ve only known each other for two weeks, and I don’t know what people will think.

I don’t care what they think. I feel like I’ve known you my entire life. I know a couple that got married after knowing each other only three days. When it’s right, it’s right.

Who’s the couple you know?

My parents, he informed her.

Really? You said they’d been married forty-five years, she reminded him.

Yep. Forty-five short, great years to hear them tell it. Dad told me one time that it only takes four minutes to know if you love someone or not.

I think I’ll like your dad.

I think you will, too, he chuckled.

That’s what I want, Luke. I want a lifetime with you that only feels like an eight second ride. I don’t want to be like my mother. She left when the ride got too rough.

We’ll make the ride together. We’ll be just fine. You’ll see. He kissed her gently.

What now? All my stuff is in town except for an overnight bag in my SUV.

Do you want to go back to Abigail’s place?

No, she said, content never to leave the circle of his arms.

Where’s your car? he asked, frowning.

Behind the house. She smiled at him. I didn’t want you to know I was here when you finally arrived. She continued to stand within his arms.

We can get your things when we go into town tomorrow. Will that work? he asked.

"Will that work for you?" she asked earnestly.

I want you to stay here with me. Are you okay doing that?

"I’m more than okay with that, Luke. When I said I would take you any way I can, I wasn’t lying. I was ready to live in sin, as the old-timers say."

Oh, I’m going to make an honest woman of you, he said. Luke placed a kiss on her forehead and set her away from him. I’ve got to go take care of my horse and gear, and put the trailer up. I’ll be back in a bit.

Oh, no, you don’t, I’m going with you. I’ll help.

Are you sure? he questioned.

Yes, she said, adamantly. Now that I have you, I’m never letting go. She threaded her fingers through his.

Let’s go. He tilted her chin up, swiftly kissed her lips, and led her out the front door. They stepped outside into the night air, walked over to his truck, and climbed inside. He started it up and headed to the barn a couple of hundred yards away from the house.

She touched his arm to get his attention. When he turned to look at her, she asked, Whose pickup? She pointed to the side of the barn. I didn’t see it earlier.

That’s Charlie’s personal truck. He lives here on the ranch. There’s a little cabin a couple miles down that trail, he explained, pointing towards a worn vehicle path. That’s where he makes his home.

Got it. She gave him a thumbs up.

He pulled in a circle in front of the double barn doors, and then backed the trailer close to the barn to unload his horse. They both got out and walked to the back of the trailer. Luke pushed the lever up and then pulled it back on the trailer gate, before letting it swing open.

So, what’s this guy’s name? Amanda inquired, getting his attention. I never asked you in Dodge City.

G-Man, he answered. He’s the best roping horse I’ve ever had.

What does the G stand for?

Go-Get-Em. He looked at her smiling, waiting for her reaction.

She laughed. I like it.

He’s a good horse. Very reliable.

He walked into the trailer, untied the lead rope in front of the gelding, and carefully backed him out of the trailer. Amanda stroked and patted the horse as he moved past her.

What do you think? Luke asked her.

He’s a good looking horse. Why do you rope, too?

"I have to, honey. I have to do it all to get to the Finals. I have to rack up as many points as I can."

Do you team rope?

When I can find a good partner. Jake Patterson and I roped together several times. We’ve won a few rounds.

I didn’t know that about him. Guess I don’t know him as well as I thought I did.

They walked the gelding into the barn and tied him up in the walkway. She found a brush in a bucket, hanging on a post, and went to work brushing him down after his long trip.

You’ve done this before, he observed.

I’ve been around rodeos my entire life. Dad used to team rope.

Oh, yeah? Why’d he quit?

He lost his original partner, she said, a hint of bitterness in her voice. He tried roping with some other ropers for about five more years, but they just didn’t pan out, she admitted.

What happened to his first partner?

Her hand stilled at his question. She…she left him, Amanda stumbled over her answer.

Your mom? He couldn’t mask the surprise in his voice.

Yes. That’s why he’s so bitter. He lost a lot when she left. We both did.

He stepped around to her side and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, hugging her close. He kissed her temple. I’m sorry, honey, he whispered into her hair.

She just nodded her head. She heard someone enter the barn, shuffling their feet. Looking up caused Luke to release her.

Hey, boss, welcome home.

Thanks, Charlie. It’s good to be back.

The two men shook hands, and then the foreman started looking G-Man over.

Charlie, Amanda said you let her into my house. Is that right? Luke questioned his foreman.

Yes, sir, I did, the man in his early-to mid-forties said, looking his boss straight in the eye.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. I figured you’d see the sense in it sooner or later.

Amanda giggled and Luke attempted to look stern, but ended up giving them both a sheepish smile.

Charlie, you should know, Luke said, clearing his voice, before continuing. Amanda and I met in Dodge City. Jake Patterson is a mutual friend of ours. You remember Jake?

Oh, yeah, sure. From down over by Plains Point.

We kind of fell for each other. She wanted to surprise me when I got home. We’re getting married, Luke said grinning.

Well I’ll be damned. Congrats, boss, Charlie said, grabbing Luke’s hand again. I’m real happy for you.

Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

And to you, too, Miss O’Conner. Charlie walked around to her and wrapped her up in a bear hug. Boss deserves the love of a pretty woman.

Thanks, Charlie, she said, blushing. But please call me Amanda.

Amanda’s been staying at Abigail’s place. I’m surprised you haven’t seen each other before now.

I haven’t been to see Abby since you’ve been gone.

I’m sorry. Did me being away keep you from going to town? You know you don’t have to stay here around the clock.

No, Luke, Abby and I just aren’t together right now. We had a little difference of opinion, you might say, Charlie informed him. So you being gone didn’t much matter. It would have happened no matter what.

Sorry to hear that, Charlie. Maybe you’ll patch things up.

I’m not going to hold my breath. I really didn’t realize we had such different views on things, but better to know now, right?

I guess so, Luke said, putting his arm around Amanda.

So, when does this getting hitched thing take place? the foreman asked.

As soon as we can apply for a license tomorrow and wait out the required waiting period. We wanted you and Abigail to be our witnesses, but since—

Oh, hell, boss, don’t worry about it. We still can. Abby would be glad to do it and so would I. Don’t worry about us. We’re old enough to put our differences aside.

Thanks, Charlie.

Glad to do it. It’s no big deal. The foreman returned to looking the roping horse over.

Amanda’s going to ask Abigail tomorrow when we go after her things, if you think that’ll be all right.

Sure, boss. Like I said, it’s no problem, Charlie stated, looking over the top of G-Man at Luke.

Luke, in turn, looked at Amanda with his lopsided smile. She grinned back at him and shrugged her shoulders, nestling into his side.

Hey, Charlie, will you finish taking care of G-Man for me?

Sure, boss, I’d be glad to. I’ll see you in the morning, he said looking at the couple.

Later, man, Luke told him.

Goodnight, Charlie, Amanda said, waving shyly at him.

G’night, Miss.

The couple walked back to the pickup and got inside.

Luke pulled away from the barn doors, circled around, and parked the pickup on the side of the barn. He got out and unhooked the trailer from the hitch on the back of the truck. He crawled back into the cab where Amanda waited on him.

All done for tonight, he said. I’ll get Charlie to help me pull the cab-over off the bed before we go to town tomorrow.

Okay, was all she said, as she drank him in.

Anything wrong? he asked, frowning.

Nope, not at all. Just enjoying the view.

He reached over, cupped the back of her neck with his big hand, and pulled her to meet him over the console, for a deep, hot kiss.

Do you know how good that feels? he asked her, looking into her sparkling blue eyes.

As a matter of fact, I do, she admitted.

One more for the road? he inquired.

It’s a pretty short road to the house, she told him.

That doesn’t mean it has to be a short kiss, does it?

I sure hope not, she said, grinning slyly.

He stopped the truck, reached over, wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her across the console into his lap, causing her to giggle once more. Her giggles turned to soft moans as he furtively kissed her. The moon was high in the sky, and the stars had popped out over the ranch, illuminating the couple in the truck with a soft glow.

Chapter 2

Much later, Amanda waited in front of the pickup for him while he retrieved his bags out of the backseat.

Is that all you have? she asked, looking at him and pointing to the pieces of luggage.

Yeah. I keep supplies ready in the camper since I live in it when I’m at a rodeo and on the road. I’ll have to clean it up and restock.

I can help you with that. When does it have to be ready?

"Not for a while yet with the Finals just ending. I bet we have time to work in a honeymoon," he told her.

I don’t need to go anywhere. I could stay locked up with you in the house for a month and that might still not be long enough, she admitted.

Amanda, don’t say things like that. I might take you up on it.