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Authors: Reese Madison

Wrangled Mess

Wrangled Mess

 

Book 4 of Colson Brothers Series

 

 

 

Edited by: Lynne Foster

Cover photos: Kelly Smith

 

 

Reese Madison

 

 

 

 

AuthorHouse™ LLC

1663 Liberty Drive

Bloomington, IN 47403

www.authorhouse.com

Phone: 1-800-839-8640

 

 

 

© 2013 by Reese Madison. All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

 

Published by AuthorHouse 11/19/2013

 

ISBN: 978-1-4918-3702-3 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4918-3701-6 (e)

 

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013921578

 

 

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and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

 

 

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

 

Prologue

I knocked on the door of the two story Tuscan style house unsurprised the homeowner is calling me about a snake in her garage. The builders disturbed a lot of wildlife when they put these big houses up. Two years later the rattlesnakes and scorpions still come back looking for their old stomping grounds.

The door opened sending out a wave of my favorite smell. “Cookies.”

The curvaceous woman with big brown eyes smiled, “Actually, my name is Celeste, but we are baking cookies. Are you Wrangler?”

Focus
Trace,
focus
. I told myself. “You called about a snake in your garage?”

“It’s in the shed out back.” She corrected. “My nephew went to get the mower and heard the tail rattle. Come in.” She opened the door wider for me.

“If you’ll point me in the right direction, I’ll go around.”

“No no. Just come through.” She waved me in.

“My boots ma’am.”

She looked down, “You’re fine. I have a house full of kids today. Trust me, your boots are fine.”

“Yes ma’am.” I took my hat off and ducked inside. Her house is like a model home. Everything is perfectly matched, and I’d be willing to bet there’s not a speck of dust anywhere.

I followed her into the living room full of people. Probably her family from the casual way they’re hanging around. “Just ignore everyone, especially the eight year old who thinks he knows everything about snakes.”

Just then someone short tugged on my pants leg. “Hey mister. Are you going to eat the snake??”

I looked down into big brown eyes of a young girl about five years old or so. “Depends on what kind it is.”

She squealed and ran for an adult who smiled and winked at me when I shrugged apologetically. I like kids, I’m just not very good with them.

Celeste opened the sliding glass door leading to the backyard, “Come on, I’ll show you where the shed is.”

“Is there more than one?”

“No.”

“Is it locked?”

“No.”

“Then stay in here until I come back and knock on this door. Got it?”

She blinked up at me as I ducked through the door. I don’t mind being tall, but would it hurt to make taller door frames? “Okay. Be careful.”

“Close the door ma’am. Keep everyone inside.”

“Yes sir.”

I know she’s being cute, which isn’t a stretch for her. She is cute. Her skin looks like a warm latte ready for drinking. I bet she tastes like vanilla.

The smell inside that house clung to my nostrils all the way to the shed. Homemade cookies. Hot from the oven.
Focus
. I have a vicious sweet tooth. My brother’s wife, Red, is constantly chasing me away from the kitchen in the bar at the club.

It didn’t take long to bag the six foot female. She’s heavy with eggs and looking to make a home. Probably in the area she grew up in before these houses went up. Progress pays the bills, but it bothers me on some levels too.

I put the snake in the back of my truck and grabbed a fresh bag in case any of her friends decided to shop for a home in this backyard.

I walked up to the sliding door to knock, but it opened before I got a chance.

She is a cute little round thing. “Did you get it?”

“Her, and yes. Your backyard is clear.”

“We can go swimming???” One of the kids asked loudly.

Celeste looked to me for confirmation. She’s kissable. I need to get out of here. “The yard is clear. Have a nice day ma’am.” I tipped my hat and turned for the back gate to go around instead of through the house, only end up to stopping short of running over the little girl from before.

She has Celeste’s eyes, “Are you gonna eat it mister?? Huh??”

“No. She’s a mother carrying babies. I’ll take her home until they hatch then release them back into the wild.”

“Babies??? She’s gonna have babies??” She might be terrified, she might be incredibly curious. I don’t read Kid.

Celeste came to my rescue and scooted the kid aside to escort me back through the house to the front door. “Thank you so much. What do I owe you?”

“What am I smelling?” I know what I smell, but I need to hear it from her.

“Christmas cookies. We get together every year for a huge bake off. Why? Do you want some?”

Do I want some? What kind of question is that? I reminded myself she doesn’t know me. I have a reputation when it comes to all things sweet.
Play
it
cool
. “I’m sure the office would appreciate that.” They’ll never make it to the office, but she doesn’t need to know that.

“Okay. Wait here. I’ll fix you a plate, and get my checkbook.”

“You won’t be needing your checkbook ma’am, the cookies will be payment enough.”

She walked backwards and bit her finger, “Oh. Really? Are you sure?”

Sure as I’d like to be the one biting that finger. “Yes ma’am. Very sure.”

My phone rang as soon as she went back inside. “What’s up Renee?”

“We got a hoarder on Shea. Are you still charming snakes out of Gold Canyon?”

“Text me the address.” I like Renee, but not her constant efforts to get me to make small talk with her.

“All business, as usual. You really need to lighten up. Get laid.”

“Goodbye Renee.” Renee is my secretary. Our secretary. My business partner Stan works the west side of the valley, I work the east. Stan is ten years older than me, and almost faster. Almost. We’re very competitive in most things, unless we’re on the same job, then we work very well together.

Celeste reappeared with a clear plastic tub that has a red lid. Very festive. Everything about her is cheerful, yet calm. She’s a woman with confidence and control, judging by the way she carries herself.

“You can keep the container. Bring it back for a refill closer to Christmas if you want. You saved the day here. Thank you, very much.”

I took the container and popped the lid up for a look. I grabbed the first one I saw and filled my mouth with most of the cookie at once. My eyes closed as the delicious flavors made sweet seductive love to my mouth.

“Wow. Hungry?” Her smile is in her voice.

I swallowed and looked at the sweet cookie in front of me. A man’s cookie. She’s a full-figured woman. Full hips, full breasts, full lips, and long ribbons of caramel colored hair. “Did you make these?”

“Yes. Well, the whole family makes them, but they’re my recipes. I should get back inside. Thank you again Wrangler, it was nice meeting you.”

“The pleasure is all mine.” I shoved the rest of the cookie into my mouth before I say something really stupid, like marry me. She smiled and waved giving me the polite okay to leave as she backed that curvy little body towards her front door.

1

I fanned myself just inside the door. It’s not hot outside, but that man increases the air temperature around him by at least ten degrees. I checked to make sure I wasn’t sweating then headed to the kitchen.

My sister Aurora is fanning herself with a handful of recipe cards. “Oh my. I need to find me some snakes. Lots and lots of snakes.”

We all started laughing like teenage girls at their first spin the bottle party.

Lori, my sister-in-law, and good friend growing up, made sure my brother, Diamond, was outside before she picked up a laminated recipe of mine and fanned her face. “I didn’t know we had any Native Americans left in this desert. Makes me want to grab a tomahawk and run around a fire yelling for rain.”

I laughed so hard I doubled over.

My mother, the hippy who named us all, smacked my arm with a wooden spoon, “See?? That’s a man. Not that little pussy who keeps avoiding you more than not.”

“Leave it to my mother to ruin a perfectly good laugh.” I complained teasing her. I know she loves me. I know she’s concerned I’m marrying the wrong guy. If I was brave like her, or smart like I think I am, I’d dump Jackson and move on. He hasn’t given me a reason to yet, and I’m a procrastinator by nature.

The guys came back inside for more beers and snacks. My brother, Diamond Blue Skye, yes, we’re all infected with goofy names, looked around, “Where’d the snake guy go? I wanted to see it.”

Lori smacked my arm then pointed to me, “You’re not the only one who wants to see his snake.”

“LORI!!!” Everyone cried out at once.

My brother, who is the tall lanky stretched out version of me, flicked her off playfully earning one in reply. Lori and Diamond are a great couple. They’ve given me two nephews and a niece I absolutely love to spoil. Lori is my mother’s third daughter, always has been, now she’s got our last name to prove it.

Aurora is two years older than I am. She and Lori look more alike with their long blonde hair and skinny little asses. I’m the big girl of the bunch.

They tease me about my weight, but no more than they tease each other about all sorts of things. Lori’s hideous toe structure, Aurora’s left tit being visibly smaller than the right. She actually has to sew two different bras together so the fabric doesn’t bunch on the left one.

The whole Wrangler thing wore off after a couple beers and some time floating around the pool fighting over bags of chips. Thanks to my nephew Mark, I’ll be washing soggy fried potatoes from my pool filter tomorrow. Oh well. Last week it was spent water balloons. I love it.

Once everyone had helped clean up in the half-ass manner they always do, they left for their own homes and schedules. Sundays are my favorite day of the week. I get my family all to myself.

While I loaded the dishwasher for the second time I thought about Jackson. He’s nice enough. Not ruggedly sexy like the snake guy. Wrangler. That’s what his truck says. Just Wrangler. Same in the phone book.

I forced my thoughts back to Jackson. Maybe I should break it off with him. Not for this Wrangler guy, he’s way out of my league, but it’s obvious Jackson doesn’t care for my family, and I’ve yet to meet his.

The problem is, Jackson is also my accountant. That’s how we met. Tax season had us spending too much time together. One dinner turned into another, and next thing I know I’m in a two year long relationship with a guy I’m not in love with, but if I want kids this century, had better start trying to love.

I shoved the big door to the dishwasher closed and listened for it to engage. The kitchen is still a mess, but it’ll keep until I get a glass of wine. Beer is fine for the pool, but a cozy night by the fire needs wine.

The doorbell rang as soon as I popped the cork. It was such bizarre timing I actually looked at the bottle for the gag.

Then it rang again. Okay, clearly somebody forgot something. I left the expensive hand carved bar I bought on a whim in Sedona, and went to open the front door. I flipped on the front porch light just to annoy my brother, he hates sudden bright lights, and from the build of the shadow through the textured glass I thought it was him.

When I opened the door and saw the red lid sitting cock-eyed in the now empty container I smiled up at the dark shadow under his hat. I still can’t see his eyes. “Please tell me you didn’t eat all those by yourself.” I teased knowing he hadn’t.

“I shared.” He replied a little defensively.

“I bet you did. Are you returning the container, or here begging like a pauper for a refill?”

“Pauper.” He sounds a bit distracted. Poor guy looks like a lost puppy standing there with an empty storage box that once held some of my better cookies.

“Alright, come on in. Normally I don’t invite strangers into my house, but you don’t look like a murderer, and you’re kind of famous in the area.” I waved him in.

He ducked inside and stepped back. “Renee, my secretary, says to thank you. I agree, you make some great cookies.”

“Thank you. My girlfriend Suzanne has a catering business. She does all the entrees and appetizers, I do all the desserts.” I took the container and motioned for him to follow me. “The house is a mess, if you can find a seat you’re welcome to it.”

He walked over to the kitchen bar and immediately picked up a brownie. “Looks like you have a nice family. Do you get together often?” He asked before making short work of the fudge treat.

“Every Sunday.” I added some brownies to the container.

“My mother has a barbecue every Sunday for the family, and half the neighborhood.” He sounded a little put off by the neighbors. “They always eat the goods before I can get there.”

“The goods?”

“Everything on the dessert table.” He picked up a lemon bar examining it like it’s made of evil broccoli.

“It’s a lemon bar. Try it.” I encouraged enjoying the fact that he seems to be having fun inspecting the various treats still out from a lazy clean-up.

He took a bite, chewed twice and nodded once, “Not bad. I don’t care for lemon normally, but this isn’t bad.”

“Thank you. Alright, here you go. I put some oatmeal raisin cookies in there too. Make sure you eat some, and not just all the gooey chocolate ones.” I teased like I do my nephews.

He took the container then lifted his chin so I can see his eyes under that hat. Even shadowed by the brim of a worn brown leather walker’s hat I can tell they’re unusually light. Too light for the dark completion, and jet black hair, that matches his almost too long goatee.

“Thank you Cookie.” He studied me with what I see now are silver eyes. Not quite blue, not white. Silver.

“Enjoy. The name is Celeste, not Cookie.”

He balanced the cookies in the palm of his left hand while his right brought long fingers up to touch my jaw so lightly I barely felt him. I feel him though. I feel him all the way to my girly parts that tingled to life as if hibernation season is over.

“Where is your husband little Cookie?”

His question is unnerving, but the pleading in his eyes for me to say what he wants to hear, is clearer than the desert sky after a monsoon.

“I’m not married. Yet.”

“Then it’s my lucky day after all.” He let his hand drop and stepped back. “Walk me out? I have a favor to ask.”

“A favor? What kind of favor would you ask of me? We barely know each other.”

“I’ll show you.” He held my front door for me to pass through. I like manners in a man. Does Jackson hold doors for me? Come to think of it, he only holds a door if other people are around.

I looked up for his eyes as I went through the door, “You’re not going to kidnap me, are you?”

“As appealing as that sounds, I doubt it would serve my purpose to kidnap you.” He casual reply made me smile.

“You have a purpose?”

“I have two at the moment. The first involves your sweet cookies. The second involves something small, pink, and grey.” He set the cookies on his passenger seat exchanging it for a small dog carrying case from the floor. He turned and handed me the carrier. “If you’ll hold that for a second I’ll get his things.”

“‘His things’? Are you giving me a dog??”

“No ma’am, I’m asking you to foster a baby for me. It’s only for a week, maybe two. His owners got busted for hoarding, so we’re overflowing with animals. This is one of the critters we don’t have room for, and I think he’ll fare better here than in one of the nine hundred pens at the shop.” He explained taking the carrier back and using his hip to shut the door to the truck. “Can we go back inside?”

“Yeah, sure. I guess.” This time I held the door for him.

There’s a weird little grunting noise coming from the carrier. Wrangler set the bag and carrier on the floor behind my sofa and went fishing for whatever critter is in the travel case.

When he pulled out a squirmy little pink and grey piggy I almost crashed into him anxious to get a better look. “Oh my God!!! Look at his little piggy nose!!” I took the little piglet that’s swimming through the air like he’s in a marathon.

“He’s a mini pot bellied piglet. He’ll get to be about eight pounds, give or take a couple pounds. He needs to eat salad, but he’ll want to eat everything. Can you handle some potty training? I haven’t had a chance to work with him past his shots.”

“How old is he?”

“I’m guessing a few months, more than three, less than a year. I’ll take some pictures and ask Stan. He’s better with the farm type animals than I am.” His voice isn’t deep, but it does have a warmth to it I like. Reminds me of warm brandy.

I hugged the little piggy body to my neck and looked up at Wrangler, “He’s so freaking cute!!!”

A low chuckle escaped from somewhere deep in his throat as he struggled to suppress a smile. “He’s going to need watching closely. You’ll want to put him in his case while you’re at work, or he’ll get into everything.”

“I work from home. He’s had his shots?” I asked wanting to sound like the responsible piggy mommy.

“Yes ma’am. He’s got a bed and blankets, some vitamins, and a little dry kibble I picked up you can give him. I hate to drop him and run, but we’re swamped tonight. Here.” He set a business card on the table behind the sofa. “This is my private line. Call me if you need anything, doesn’t matter what time of day or night. I’ll bring the cookie container back tomorrow for more.”

“More? You want more cookies?” I followed him to the front door again.

He turned around on the welcome mat and tipped his hat, “As long as you keep filling it, I’ll keep emptying it. Goodnight ma’am.”

Piggy and I watched as he backed out of my driveway and pulled away with just a flash of his brake lights at the stop sign.

I turned the front porch light off and locked the door behind me before heading to the kitchen. Under the bright lighting of the kitchen I held up the cutest little pig on earth. His little snout is sniffing the air as he looks back at me like “When do we eat lady?” I love him already.

“You are just the cutest little bit of bacon I’ve ever seen!! I just want to eat you up! I hugged him again. “Bacon Bits. Don’t tell anyone I named you that. We’ll call you Bits for short. Nobody will ever know.” I lied then took him outside to see if he’d potty in my small patch of shallow grass.

 

From then on Bits stuck to me like a little drunk shadow. My floors are either tile, or hard wood, way too slick for clumsy little hooves. Towels don’t work. Within seconds he learned to turn them into cotton snow sleds and began running from the one large throw rug to the other at full tilt, smashing his little piglet butt into the wall. He bounced off countless tables and chairs.

I don’t know how many times I had to get up to rescue him from eminent danger, like the flower pot he tried to crawl into, but almost toppled instead, or the towel he got himself so tangled up in he couldn’t get out, then started squealing for help at the top of his tiny baby lungs.

He’s an adorable menace. I’m starting to think he’s part cat with the agility he’s displaying. I thought feeding him might make him sleepy, so I fed him a nice little salad from my kitchen, and some of his kibble.

That threw him into warp speed. Now I have a fat happy piglet training for NASCAR tearing through my house having himself a blast. He doesn’t seem to care that it takes him ten times the effort to try and run around a corner as it would if he’d just walk.

I finally couldn’t take it anymore and took him outside where he could run on concrete and grass. I had to show him the edge of the pool so he knew where not to run. He fell in twice anyway. He’s cute, but he’s not very bright.

On our way outside I’d picked up Wrangler’s business card in case I needed to make an emergency call to him regarding Bits. I can’t believe I named him Bacon Bits. I know, it’s wrong, but he’s just a little bit of a pig!

Speaking of Bits, he hopped up on my lap, did a full circle, plopped down, and promptly began to snore. I’d been watching him from the patio sectional.

“Runout of gas little buddy?” I pulled the blanket that’s covering my feet up to cover him little body.

When I was sure Bits was warm enough to linger outside for a while longer, I picked up Wrangler’s card again. I want to call it, let him know how Bits is doing, but I know I shouldn’t.

I don’t need anything. Bits is fine. It’s late. Almost ten. Then there’s Jackson. We’re supposed to be a couple, but I’m not feeling it right now. I should be wanting to call him, tell him about my day. About Bits.

The idea doesn’t appeal to me nearly as much as calling Wrangler to tell him about the last couple hours of my day with the piglet he left behind. Would he be mad that I called? Would he even talk to me? Or just ‘uh-huh’ me until I took the hint and said goodbye.

I decided to put his number in my phone instead. Save it for later. Why is my finger is shaking?? What is wrong with me?? I’m acting like a fifteen year old girl on her first date.

Oops. I hit the number by accident starting the call. I quickly hit End, hoping to God I’d caught it in time before it went through. Shit shit shit.

My phone rang two seconds later from his number. I answered with an apology and excuse ready, “I’m sorry. I was just putting your number in my phone and tapped the wrong icon dialing you by accident.”

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