Christmas Kisses with My Cowboy - Diana Palmer Page 0,1

he could do the job in a minimum of time and without injuring the animal in any way. He got job offers all the time, but he admired J.L. and had no plans to leave him.

He had a first cousin, Robert, in the home he’d been given after his mother’s death. He kept a careful eye on the boy and made sure he had enough money for school and athletics on the rez. Robert graduated from high school and also went into the military. He was now a petty officer aboard a navy ship somewhere in the Atlantic. He wrote home, but not often. Parker often got the feeling that his cousin was ashamed of his poverty-stricken beginnings and didn’t advertise them to people. It broke his parents’ hearts that the boy didn’t come to visit when he was on shore leave. But they adapted. People did, when they had to.

Money was never a worry for Parker. He had more than enough these days, now that his cousin had become self-supporting. He did send money to his cousin’s parents. His aunt and uncle had been kind to him, and they’d had his cousin late in life. They weren’t old, but they were middle-aged and Robert’s father was disabled. Parker helped out.

Parker didn’t drink, smoke, or gamble and he didn’t have much to do with women these days. So money wasn’t a problem. Not anymore.

He did like the occasional cigar. It wouldn’t appear obvious to an outsider, but Parker had a mind like a supercomputer. He could break any code, hack his way into any high-level computer that he liked, and get out without detection. It was a very valuable skill. His degree in astrophysics didn’t hurt, either, but it was his math skills that set him apart in intelligence work. So from time to time, men in suits riding in black sedans pulled up at the cabin and tried to coax him out of Colorado.

Finally, he’d accepted an assignment, for a whole summer. The amount they paid him had raised his eyebrows almost to his hairline. Even after paying taxes, the cash left over was more than enough to invest in stocks and bonds and make him a tidy nest egg for the future.

That one summer led to other summers, and top secret clearance, so that now he could have afforded to retire to some nice island and laze in the sun and drink piña coladas for the rest of his life. But he didn’t like liquor and he wasn’t partial to beaches. So he gentled horses and waited for the next black sedan to show up. There was never a lack of them.

He was thirty-two and he longed for a home and a family. But he didn’t have many friends left on the rez. Most of the girls he’d gone to school with were long married, with lots of children. His best friend had died of a drug overdose, leaving behind two children and a wife who lived in the same condition that had caused his friend’s death. He’d tried to get help for her, but she’d gone out of the rehab center the day after he got her in and she never looked back.

Life on the rez was hard. Really hard. They gave all this aid to foreign countries, spent all this money, making horrible weapons that could never be used in a civilized world, while little kids grew up in hopeless poverty and died too young. The big problem with the rez was the lack of job opportunities. What a pity that those entrepreneurs didn’t set up low-impact manufacturing plants on the rez, to make jobs for people who faced driving hours to even find one. They could have offered jobs making exclusive clothing or unique dolls; they could have made jobs creating prefab houses and easily-set-up outbuildings; they could have opened a business that would make sails for boats, or wind chimes, or furniture. There must be a thousand things that people could manufacture on the reservation if someone would just create the means. Craftsmanship was so rare that it was worth diamonds in the modern world. It was almost impossible to find anything made by hand, except for quilts and handcrafted items. Well, there were those beautiful things that the Amish made, he amended. He had Amish-built furniture in his cabin, provided by a small community of them nearby, from whom he also bought fresh butter and cheese and milk. Now there, he thought, was