When You Love a Rancher - Elle Christensen Page 0,1

be on time for Sam to pick me up. After plugging in my phone, I grabbed the outfit I’d laid out earlier and dashed to the bathroom to shower. When I was ready, I stared in the mirror and wondered if Kyle would like my look. Then I shook my head and told myself to knock it off. It was Sam I wanted to impress.

It was a good thing Kyle didn’t feel the same way about me, or I would have a hard time keeping perspective. If anything ruined our friendship, I would be shattered to pieces. I really needed to get over the stupid crush I was harboring for my off-limits best friend.

Sighing, I threw my phone in my purse and made my way to the living room to wait for my date.



I yanked on my boot and let my foot fall back to the floor with a loud thump. The walls and floor were thin and shit in this building, but I was about to lock the door for good, so what did I care? My keys were hanging on a hook by the door, so I grabbed them and shoved them in the pocket of my jeans with my wallet before dropping my hat onto my head. I’d grown up in Austin, but I was a rancher at heart, and ever since spending time on my brother’s ranch, I’d become accustomed to wearing a Stetson. It wasn’t for show—like so many other men wearing cowboy hats in the city—it was simply who I was.

Taking one last look around, I was satisfied that I hadn’t left anything behind. I lifted the lone duffel bag on the floor and hefted it over my shoulder. I didn’t technically have to be out of my apartment until tomorrow night, but if things with Maddie didn’t go as I hoped, I didn’t want to hang around, so I was ready to go at any moment.

Stepping out into the hall, I shut and locked the door. I dropped the keys into the envelope they’d sent me and put it into the clear holder attached to the wall next to my door. Like always, the minute I left my apartment, my eyes went to Maddie’s door. We weren’t supposed to meet for another hour, but I was running out of patience…and courage.

We lived on the second floor, so it only took me a handful of minutes to run the bag out to my truck, which was already loaded down with my possessions. Not that I had an overabundance. Pretty much everything I owned was in that vehicle, and it was all going with me to Dallas. My mother certainly didn’t have room to store any of my things in her one-bedroom apartment. When I’d left for college, I’d talked my mom into downgrading from our two-bedroom apartment so she wouldn’t have such high rent. She fought me at first, wanting me to have a place to stay when I came home, but I insisted, so she eventually gave in.

My mom had raised me by herself, working two, sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. Even though my “father” was filthy rich, he’d taken my mom, a waitress, to a hotel one night and then promptly forgot about her, going home to his high-society wife and their son. A perfect little family that he wouldn’t allow to be tarnished with a poor bastard child. He threw money at everyone to keep it quiet, but my mother wouldn’t take a dime.

She did give me his last name, though, knowing it would open doors one day and—in my opinion—to piss him off. She worked her tail off to make sure I not only had everything I needed but also had the things that other “normal” kids had. She wanted me to fit in. Although, it was easier after I turned ten, and my half brother, Stone, found out about me. Damn, he was pissed. I wasn’t sure who was angrier with his parents—him or me.

Suddenly, some of those extra things showed up at my door periodically, allowing my mother to work just a little less. At first, I didn’t want his charity, and I didn’t understand why she would take it from Stone and not the man who’d sired me. After she explained that the gifts from Stone came from a place of love rather than a bribe, I was more open to the gifts Stone sent.

They were always anonymous, but we knew who they were from.