The Coeboy's Pride And Joy(7)

By: Maureen Child

 “Is there some reason my baby sister is trying to shove me at a man she’s never even met?” Cassidy scooted off the edge of the bed and walked across the room to the window.

 “Because my big sister has been living like a nun for way too long,” Claudia countered. “You haven’t been on a date in like forever. Do you even remember what fun is?”

 Stung, Cassidy dropped onto the window seat, leaned against the cold glass and said, “I have fun all the time.”

 “Doing what?”

 “I like my job—”

 “Work is not fun.”

 “Fine. Well, I went to the movies just...” She had to think about that, and when she realized how long ago it had actually been, her scowl deepened. “Fun is overrated.”

 “Uh-huh.” An all-too-familiar sigh of exaggerated patience sifted through the phone. “I’m all grown up now, Cass. You can stop throwing yourself on the altar of substitute motherhood.”

 Her gaze locked on that amazing view, Cassidy let her sister’s words rocket around her mind for a second or two before she said, “Claud, I never thought of it like that.”

 “Oh sweetie, I know.” Claudia sighed again. “Cass, you’ve been great. You’ve always been there for me but I’m grown now—”

 “Yes,” Cassidy interrupted wryly, “nineteen is practically aged.”

 “—and I’m in college,” Claudia went on as if her sister hadn’t said a word, “and you should really start concentrating on your own life.”

 “I have a life, thanks.”

 “You have work,” Claudia corrected. “And you have me. And Dave. But our brother’s married with kids of his own now.”

 True. It had been the three of them for so long, it was hard to realize that her younger brother and sister were grown and didn’t need her hovering all the time as they used to. Especially Claudia. She had been only ten years old when their mother decided to follow her current “soul mate” into the sunset. So at nineteen, Cassidy had taken over. She’d been both mother and father—since their illustrious sperm donor parent had disappeared shortly after Claudia’s birth—and if she had to say so herself, Cassidy had done a great job of parenting. Maybe that was why it was so hard to stop.

 “Fine,” she said. “I promise I’ll find a life. Once I get home.”

 “Why wait? No time like the present to get started,” Claudia argued. “You’re on a ranch with a cowboy, for heaven’s sake. That’s a classic fantasy. Is he cute?”

 Cute? No. Jake Hunter was way too manly to be classified as merely “cute.” He was gorgeous. Or rugged. Or strong, masculine, gruff and all sorts of other really good words, but cute wasn’t one of them.

 “I didn’t notice,” she lied.

 “Sure.” Her sister laughed. “Anyway, my point is, relax a little. Enjoy yourself. Flirt. Consider it practice for when you get back home and I badger you into doing this for real.”

 Flirt? With Jake Hunter? Oh, Cassidy didn’t think so. First of all, he was her boss’s son. No way would she risk a great-paying job for a short-term fling—even if he were interested, which he probably wasn’t, considering the way he’d talked to her so far. But more than that, Cass wasn’t a one-night-stand kind of girl. She’d be uncomfortable and feeling all slutty so she wouldn’t even enjoy herself anyway, so what would be the point?

 God. Had Jake actually called her forthright? Her mind was spinning like an out-of-control carnival ride. And suddenly, she was done thinking about this.

 “Don’t you have another test this afternoon?”

 “See?” Claudia laughed. “You’re way too focused on my life. Time to find your own, Cass! Love you!”

 When her little sister hung up, Cassidy just stared down at her phone and thought about that brief yet involved conversation. Yes, maybe Claudia had a point, but in her own defense, Cass hadn’t exactly been shown the most shining examples of relationships in her life.

 Cass’s father had abandoned the family when Claudia was born, saying only that three kids were just too many. Her mother had moved from man to man always looking for her “prince.” But there were no princes, only frogs she continued to kiss in the hopes there would be a miraculous change.

 So instead of following in her mother’s footsteps, Cassidy worked, put herself through city college and made sure her siblings stayed in school. Eventually it had all paid off, of course. Dave was now a successful contractor with a wife and six-month-old twin boys. And Claudia was going to be the doctor she should be.

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