Kiss My Boots(6)

By: Harper Sloan

“Jesus Christ, Hell-raiser. You got the hounds of hell hot on your heels or somethin’?”

I spin around at the sound of Maverick, my other brother, laughing behind me as he catches up.

“Shut up, Cowboy. I’m in a mood, and right now if you’ve got a twig and berries between your legs, you’re the enemy. Where is my girl?”

Both of his dark brows go up at the clear venom in my tone and he takes just the barest step back. Maverick might be a retired professional bull rider, but I would be willing to bet he’d rather take on a big-ass bull again then deal with a pissed-off female any day.

Smart man.

“I’m thinkin’ this means I’m not takin’ my girl out on a date tonight?”

“You’re thinkin’ right,” I confirm, hooking my hand on my hip, just begging him to try and stand in my way.

“Got it. Tell Leigh I’ll be at home,” he concedes with a sigh, turning and reaching for the door we had both just entered through moments before. With one muddied boot already outside, his body stills and he looks over his shoulder at me. “If you need me, little sister, all you gotta do is holler.”

I nod, not trusting the turbulent emotions roaring around inside me enough to actually allow me to speak, but he can see everything in my eyes. Maverick always can. His free hand comes up and he lovingly taps his knuckles against my chin before walking out of the PieHole.

Ignoring the handful of townsfolk still scattered around the room enjoying an evening slice of pie, I walk through the cutout in the counter, past Avonlee, the high school girl Leighton hired to help out part-time, and straight into the kitchen. She’s used to me, thankfully, so she doesn’t even bat an eye at my boldness. It’s always been our way.

“Hey Quinn!” Jana Fox, Leighton’s longtime employee and manager of the PieHole, chirps.

I shake my head. “You are way too happy, Jana. Seriously, it’s just not right.”

She waves me off, laughing softly as her gray ringlets dance around her face. I kid you not: the woman is in her fifties and rocks a hairstyle that would rival Shirley Temple’s.

“Uh-oh,” she says in response, a twinkle in her eye. “You have that look about you, sweet child. Who is he? Don’t tell me you didn’t learn a thing or two from your brother and Leighton last year. In the meantime, though, while you get your head all screwed on, I just started sellin’ those sexy toys that all you youngsters are playin’ with if you need some help with your hooha. You really shouldn’t let that kinda frustration fester.”

“Jana!” Leigh shouts from her office. “Boundaries!”

I let out a laugh that feels like the emotional release I’ve been cravin’ ever since settin’ eyes on that damn piece of paper. In addition to being the best bakery manager this side of Texas, Jana also happens to be quite . . . enlightened for a woman of her age. And not shy about lettin’ all of us younger ones know it, every chance she gets.

“She thinks I will somehow understand where these invisible lines of hers are if she keeps bellowing that word, but I’m too old to change my ways. Plus, you kids have too many ‘boundaries’ as it is.”

“I’m thinkin’ you might have a different understanding of that word, Jana.” I laugh sarcastically.

“Oh, hogwash.”

I roll my eyes, some of the dark feelings inside of me slinking away in the face of Jana’s overwhelming cheer. I ignore the rumble in my stomach when I pass my fridge—the special one that Leigh always makes sure is stocked with my favorite pies.

“Oh, shit,” Leigh screeches right before we almost collide. I was so busy lusting over a kitchen appliance that I didn’t see that she had come to stand in her office doorway, and I almost knocked right into her.

“Got a second?”

“Always,” she answers without an ounce of hesitation.

“I sent Maverick away,” I confess, pulling her into the office and shutting the door.

“And he let you?”

“He wasn’t gonna argue with me.”

She laughs softly. “You have to stop threatening his manhood.” I narrow my eyes and she holds her hands up. “What? I happen to be quite fond of it.”

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