wasn’t that far away. “Hand me the plate, would you?”
He jumped up to pass her the plate with a smile that made her breath catch, and then returned to his chair. “Now, back to my question.”
“What question was that?” Aggie asked, taking her usual seat across the table.
“I answered it,” Kate said, “or tried to.” She shot a look at her aunt. Had Aunt Aggie been listening outside in the hall?
“I asked Kate if she’d like to go to a rodeo in Altus with me. You might know the friend who’s riding. Shawn O’Brien.”
“Of course we know him,” Aggie said. “And all the O’Briens. I’ve known Tanner since he was born, and Kate and Trish both know his wife Jules. What event is Shawn competing in?”
“Bronc riding, like his uncle. I didn’t know Tanner well until we met up, years ago, on the circuit. Shawn and I have team roped together some.” Dusty turned to look at Kate. “So how about it?”
“I usually spend time with the family on Saturday,” Kate began, “so I’m sure you understand—”
“No need to do that,” Aggie said. Standing, she walked to the door and grabbed a set of keys hanging from a hook. “I thought I told you we planned to pay Hettie a visit. You know how much she loves your pies,and I haven’t had a chance to see her for a while. Trish has been looking forward to it.”
As if on cue, Trish stepped into the kitchen, her purse in her hand, and took one of the pies, before she hurried to the door with nothing more than a quick smile.
Kate glanced at Dusty, who held a forkful of pie on its way to his mouth, his smile reaching from ear to ear. She wasn’t sure what to think. This was the first she knew about a visit to Hettie Lambert. “But—”
“Why don’t you go on along to the rodeo with Dusty, Kate?” Aggie held the door open and Trish stepped outside. “We’ll be gone most of the day. Trish wants to stop at the library before it closes. No need for you to stay here alone, when you can get out and enjoy yourself.”
“No, I can’t—” But her aunt was out the door, down the porch steps and almost trotting to the pickup, in spite of her bad knee, and Trish was already waiting at the truck.
Kate stood at the door and stared after them as they drove away. She couldn’t imagine what Dusty might be thinking.
When she turned around, she saw that he had finished the first piece of pie and had started on the second. Setting his fork on the plate, he looked up at her, his grin challenging. “Afraid to spend time alone with me?”
She wasn’t about to let him think that and offered a confident smile of her own. “Not on your life.”
“Then let’s go,” he said, pushing away from the table and getting to his feet.
“I’m ready. Lead the way.”
His gaze swept her from her head to her toes and back up again. “You’re sure about that.”
“Of course I am.”
He glanced down. His grin sent her heart racing. And she realized what he was looking at.
She liked being comfortable when she baked and had slipped on her fuzzy purple slippers early that morning—the fuzzy purple slippers with the googly eyes.
Hot flames of embarrassment swept through her, and she knew her face must match her hair. “I’ll get my boots,” she squeaked and ran from the room.
D USTY HAD TO KEEP from laughing out loud at the way Aggie had bamboozled Kate into going with him. He wondered if Kate had noticed and hoped she didn’t. He had been sincere when he’d told her that she needed to get out more. And he was glad he’d had Aggie on his side to make sure she did. Now that he was getting to know her better, he was finding he was right about Kate. She was a knowledgeable companion, and he was enjoying spending time with her as much as he had suspected he would.
“How is it again that you know so much about rodeos?” he asked, midway through the bronc riding competition.
Beside him on the wooden bleacher seats, she shrugged. “My dad took me to a