attention. “My ribs are well enough and my leg barely hurts anymore. I might be able to sit a horse if I could figure out a way to mount up.” Her mouth gaped open. “With your leg still in a cast? You most certainly will not! Why, Rylan Carstens, that is the most—” “Ladies don’t yell.” He said it with such smug pleasure it was all he could do not to smile. Maizy’s mouth clamped shut so hard her teeth clicked. She narrowed her eyes at him as if plotting revenge. His smile almost escaped but he fought it. The truth was, he was feeling much better, but he was still a prisoner in this bed. Teasing Maizy, who was doing a fine job of being a lady, was the only thing that kept him from losing his mind. Finally Maizy composed herself in what Rylan thought was her attempt to be polite and genteel. She looked like she wanted to strangle him. “So, tell me about this calf sale coming up?” “Surely by now you’ve heard it all a dozen times.” “I like hearing about your dream though. It’s nice. Tell me again.” He liked to talk about his cattle—if he could keep from talking about all the work he had to do to make it happen. “The herd I drove in late last summer had two hundred Angus cows, all bred to an Angus bull. After they dropped their calves I had near two hundred of those shining black babies.I’ve advertised far and wide, and gotten a lot of letters from ranchers saying they’re coming to the sale. I have land enough to grow my herd so I’ll keep about fifty of the heifer calves, but I have a hundred bull calves and fifty heifers I don’t need. If the sale goes well, I could get a lot of money for each calf. If it goes poorly—if no crowd shows up to bid against each other—I’ll lose my shirt, because I paid a hefty price for these Angus cows and the adult bulls.” “Your black cattle are a big change from the longhorns my pa runs.” “The longhorns are a tougher breed, but Angus do all right, especially around here with the good water and grass. They are bigger all around and they gain faster. And they’re a nicer animal. Longhorns are rattlesnake mean.” “Unless they decide they need to protect one of their calves from a grizzly.” Nodding, Rylan said, “Maizy, I know you’ve always had a lot of freedom growing up with no ma and working beside your pa, but it’s not safe out alone for a woman.” Even now he remembered the day he’d been riding herd and come across Maizy, on foot, her horse tied to a shrub at the edge of the herd. Just as he’d come up, she’d walked right past a bull. The old boy had pawed the earth and lowered its head. Maizy had backed away quickly—she was savvy about cattle. She gave them all plenty of room. But Rylan knew she easily could’ve been crushed under that old bull’s hooves. Thinking of her hurt made him furious. He’d followed her home, fussing at her and complaining like an old hen.
“I’m as tough as any man in these parts, Rylan. I can shoot and ride. I know the land and have a good sense of how to avoid trouble.” Rylan arched a brow at her, and he could see from her sheepish shrug that she got his message about bulls and bears and being ready for the unexpected. The truth was he’d overreacted that day because he didn’t like running into her. Sure, there was danger from wild bulls and grizzlies in the area—though Rylan hadn’t foreseen the two tangling. But the real reason it upset him to find her was she wasn’t exactly safe from him . Oh, he’d never physically harm her, but he might end up spending time with her and talking and learning all about her. Sort of like they’d done this last month, alone, together, in this small house. “Tell that to the grizzly who almost had you for supper.” Maizy gave him a side smile. “And that’s how you ended up hurt. And here you are, laid up, unable to get ready for your sale.” “Yes. I had wanted to drive them all to the best grass. Make sure they kept