The Montana Rancher (The Endeavour Ranch of Grand, Montana 3)

Page 22

Black pupils expanded, swallowing cocoa irises flecked with gold. He let out a low chuckle and dipped his head close to her ear, speaking under cover of the opening credits. His warm breath brushed the side of her throat. “For all of your education and training, you can be kind of stupid.”
“Hey.Will that assessment be on my six-month performance appraisal?” she whispered back, hoping to provoke another laugh out of him. When he laughed, Heathcliff vanished, making it more understandable as to why Dallas and Dan, both so much friendlier and far more outgoing, were such loyal friends.
Instead, he turned his head toward the ten-foot theater screen mounted on the wall and the moment was broken. “Watch the movie, Elizabeth. You picked it out.”
The movie was one hundred and two minutes of torture for the fifteen males present. After it finished streaming and satellite TV came on, one of the counselors seized the remote and flipped to a documentary channel.The Day of the Jackal: The Mystery Surrounding One of Chicago’s Greatest Crime Familieswas featured.
So many stories about Chicago’s crime families floated around that it was hard to sort fact from fiction. Elizabeth had heard several versions of this particular one, but the probable truth to it was that Giaco “the Jackal” Cienetti’s only daughter and her family had faded from the public eye years ago, not liking the notoriety surrounding her infamous father.
“This is more like it,” Jonas said.
Ryan seized the remote and switched to BBC Earth. “Let’s try something more educational. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
“If it’s such a waste, why did we spend almost two hours watching a little kid movie?” Owen, the fourth boy in residence, asked.
Ace, who claimed he’d been named after Ace Ventura because his mom was a Jim Carrey fan, tapped his young charge on the top of the head. “The movie was to open your mind. Education is to expand it. Be quiet and pay attention, young grasshopper.”
An aerial tour of the Nile proved to be exactly what everyone needed to bore them to sleep.
“Movie night sucks,” Owen said when the program was over.
“Imagine how much more fun it would be from the local jail,” Dan replied. “Next Saturday night you can sit there for five hours, if you’d like to find out for yourself.”
Owen might be quiet, but he had plenty of nerve. “I’ll think about it,” he said.
The counselors helped the boys pick up their trash and sort it into bags, then shepherded them back to the bunkhouses while the remaining adults put the furniture back where it belonged.
With order restored, Dan and Jazz, then Dallas and Hannah, disappeared into their respective apartments.
Elizabeth carried empty popcorn bowls to Ryan’s kitchen and came nose to chest with him on her return trip to the lounge. It wasn’t that he was exceptionally tall, although he was above average height—she’d worn ballet flats because her normal high heels would have come across as ridiculous when paired with her jeans.
She couldn’t stand and stare at him all night. It was past midnight. They both had early starts in the morning. The orphans didn’t feed themselves and it was too late to change shifts with one of the hands.
“See you tomorrow,” she said, attempting to dodge around him, but he blocked the door from his suite to the lounge.
“I’ll walk you to your bunkhouse. It’s dark outside,” he said.
“It’s less than one hundred yards away and the path is lit. I can’t possibly get lost.”
“I’m not worried about you getting lost.”
While she didn’t like to admit it out loud because she knew it was silly, his company would be welcome. She was a city girl, more afraid of raccoons, bears, and the multitude of foreign night noises than a misguided teenager most likely already asleep, so she might as well give in and be gracious.
“Thank you. It’s kind of you to offer,” she said.
“I’m not being kind, either.”
And… Heathcliff was back. She sighed. She had no idea what she was supposed to make out of that comment, so she didn’t try.
“I’ll get my sweater,” she said.
He wasn’t kind.Especially not where Elizabeth was concerned.
He was often too blunt with her. She left him restless and on edge. Unable to focus. She was like a burr under a saddle. A tooth in need of extraction. Movie night, with her next to him, and him hyperaware of her presence for five hours, had been a fresh form of hell.