Dakota Hearts, Book 8: DAKOTA COWBOY

The last thing Luke McKinnon wanted in life was to work at the family oil business. He'd done a good job steering clear of that by setting up a successful law practice in Sioux Falls. But when the patriarch of the family falls sick, Luke steps in. He's only trading his crisp white dress shirt for a t-shirt and hardhat until his father is back on his feet. He doesn't plan on sticking around. That is...until he meets Tessa.

Single mother, Tessa Rock isn't afraid of hard work. She can hold her own with the ranch hands on her daddy's ranch and on an oil rig. She doesn't have time for a man to mess up her fragile life...until Luke McKinnon shows up on her rig. The handsome lawyer is probably used to having beautiful women draped on his arm. But at the end of the day, it's a miracle if she can get all the dirt and grime out from under her fingernails. The two of them couldn't be more different. But none of that matters. She quickly learns what a fool she'd been to think of Luke as just a lawyer who can help her get what she wants. One night in his warm embrace, and seeing the heart and soul of a man who loves so deeply, Tessa realizes she wants the man...for the rest of her life.


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Chapter One Excerpt:

Rumor had it Luke McKinnon was a lawyer.  He was the kind of lawyer who untangled all the knots that married people spent a lifetime tying up.  The kind who won tough cases for the clients he represented.

At least, that is what Tessa Rock had overheard during lunch earlier that day.  She’d pretended not to listen.  She even pretended not to notice Luke McKinnon when he’d come into the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee, although in truth, it was hard not to notice a man like him.  There was something commanding about him.  Not unapproachable or intimidating.  Luke McKinnon was a man who made it hard not to notice him in a room full of men.

Tessa Rock knew she needed Luke McKinnon.  The question was how to approach him with her troubles without everyone else on this oil rig jumping into her business.

Tessa picked up one end of a section of pipe that had been dropped on the platform by Dibs Dobinski, the crane operator, and then she turned to Matt Henley, another roughneck worker on the MW oil rig she’d been working on for the past year.  She’d worked tours with both of these roughnecks and had gotten to the point where they’d fallen into a rhythm that functioned like a well-oiled machine.  She waited until Matt gave a nod and she lifted the pipe, holding steady so he could ease the pipe into the fitting.

Once the pipe was secured, Tessa turned to see if Luke was still talking to his brother, going over production numbers.  Ever since John McKinnon had been laid up in the hospital after suffering a heart attack on that very platform, Luke had been visiting the rig, trying to keep it producing oil. And that was just fine with Tessa.  Working on the rig wasn’t any harder than working on her ranch, but she needed this paycheck if she had any chance of keeping the Rolling Rock Ranch and making it solvent again.  If she lost the ranch, she’d lose everything.

That wasn’t going to happen if she had a breath left in her.

She needed to keep herself focused on her work like she did every day she spent at MW Oil.  It had taken her a long time to win over the acceptance of a crew that initially wasn’t too sure about a woman being on the platform with them.  Now that she had, she didn’t want a handsome face to undo everything she’d worked hard for this past year.

And she couldn’t deny that Luke McKinnon was a man who commanded attention just by standing there.  But if she didn’t get her mind off the man and on her work, she wouldn’t be standing here much longer.

“Ready!” she called out to Dibs.  Rinse, Repeat.

A few moments later, she heard yelling from below.

“Damn,” Matt yelled.  Tessa still held a section of the pipe in her hand, but with Matt’s outburst, she turned and spotted the pipe Dibs had secured on the crane swinging toward them as if it had a will of its own.

“Watch out!” she heard someone call out.

In the split second it took her to realize the pipe she was holding was going to connect with the pipe that was swinging from the crane, Tessa dropped the pipe and rolled across the platform out of the way just as the two pipes collided.  As she rolled, her hardhat slipped off her head and disappeared over the side of the platform.

When she stopped rolling and the pipes settled, Tessa glanced over at Dibs and took in the panicked expression on his face as he stood up inside the crane, and then shut it down.  She gave him a thumb up to let him know she was okay.

“Sorry, Tessa.  When I felt the wind, I should have checked to see if that pipe was stable.  I didn’t see it coming until it was almost right at you,” Matt said, heading toward the pipe that had rolled across the platform.

“It’s okay.  No one was hurt.  Just give me a minute to get my hardhat.”

“Earth to Tessa!” Matt called out, pointing above her.  “Watch your head!  You have a pipe coming your way!”

Tessa turned her attention back to the platform, and to the task at hand.  Her cheeks flamed after having been caught gawking at Luke McKinnon.  At least, that’s what the smirk on Matt’s face told her he was thinking.

She grabbed the pipe that Dibs was easing over to them to keep it steady, and repeated the same process she had for the last ten pipes they’d fitted today.

Tessa quickly ran to the stairs leading down to the ground from the platform she’d been working on.  She spotted her hardhat on the ground at the same time she saw Luke McKinnon walking toward it.  He got to it before her and picked it up with the hand that wasn’t holding the clipboard and turning it as if he were inspecting it for damage.

“I guess this is yours?” Luke said, handing her the hardhat.

“Thanks.”  She took the hardhat, but didn’t put it on her head.

“Were you hurt?”

“Up there?  No.  It gets gusty on the platform.  Every so often the wind takes one of those pipes like it’s the rope of a kite.”

He frowned.  “You mean a near accident like that is normal?”

She glanced up at the platform.  Matt was waiting for her.  He could wait a minute.

“No,” she said. “But it does happen.”

He pointed to his head.  “Better get that back on then.”

“Where’s yours?”

He seemed taken aback by her response.

“I don’t work on the platform.”

“You are today.  That means a hardhat for everyone here.  I’m surprised Gray didn’t mention it.  He’s very careful about such things.”

“I’ll remember it next time.”

She started to turn away, but then stopped.

“They say you’re a lawyer,” she said, watching his face.  She knew that a first impression was important, and she didn’t want to leave Luke with the impression that she was a shoddy worker.

“Not today,” he said.

“If I’d have asked you last week, what would you have said?”

“Last week?  I would have said I was the son of an oil company president.”

Her lips lifted just a fraction.  “You still are.  I heard your father is doing much better.”

The worry he’d been feeling over the last few weeks was deep and showed on his face.

“You hear a lot of things.”

“I asked.  I like your father.”  And Tessa did.  She’d always liked John McKinnon.  He didn’t treat her like someone who didn’t belong on his oil rig.  True, he was a gentleman, much like Gray had always been.  But he showed how much he valued her and respected her work.  With so little other positive in her life, that one small thing seemed huge.

Luke was clearly pleased at her compliment.  “He’s a good guy.  It’s hard not to like him.”

“Then why the guilty face?”

He eyed her and then glanced up at the platform.  “Aren’t you supposed to be doing something?”

“Yes.  But I’ve clearly touched on a topic that is sensitive.  Sorry about that.  I have no filter.  I just say what’s on my mind.”

“I’ll remember that, too.”

She put the hardhat on her head.  “You’re not going to fire me for it, are you?”

He frowned.  “Why would I do that?”

She couldn’t help but smile.  “Thanks.” 

When she remained standing there, he asked, “Was there anything else?”

There was so much more.  However, this wasn’t the place. 

Tessa shook her head.  “I’m sure I’ll see you around.”

“At least for today.”

Her stomach dropped.  “Are you leaving us already?”  He couldn’t leave.  She hadn’t even had a chance to talk to him.

“I meant I’ll be here until my father is well enough to come back to work.”

“Oh, let’s hope that’s soon.”

She walked away and felt his eyes on her back as she walked toward the ladder. When she reached the ladder to climb to the second platform, she turned around. Luke was still standing in the same place they’d spoken together, holding his clipboard in his hand.  He was staring at her.  Unlike most men who would turn away when caught, he continued to look at her.  She smiled and was rewarded with the same.  A stab of regret hit her as she turned away.  She’d been so focused on talking to him that she couldn’t see his smile up close or see if his eyes lit up, making his smile genuine or something he just pasted on for show.  Something told Tessa Luke wasn’t the kind of man to put on airs that way.  And she liked that.

Later.  Definitely later.

* * *
A woman on an oil rig.  Luke didn’t know why that surprised him, but it did.  Of course, he had known all along that MW Oil had a woman working here.  His brother Gray had spoken of Tessa Rock.  But now that Luke had met her…  He watched Tessa climb the ladder to the next platform. There were definitely some puzzle pieces missing from the picture that made up Tessa Rock.  She was a mystery and he couldn’t put his finger on it.

He glanced down at the roster of roughnecks working this tour.  They only had one female roughneck among a sea of men working on the rig for this two-week stretch.  Checking the records, he found that despite employing many women in various positions in the company, Tessa Rock was indeed the only woman working as a roughneck. 

Gray came up next to him and tapped him on the arm with a hardhat.  “You can’t be on the rig without protection.”

“So I’ve heard.  Who is Tessa Rock?” Luke asked as he placed the hardhat on his head.

As if needing to point her out, which he didn’t, Gray extended his hand in the direction of the woman standing on the platform.

“You just met her.”

From a distance, Luke wouldn’t have been able to tell Tessa was a woman unless he’d already known.  In fact, at first glance, she blended in with all the other roughnecks with her grease-covered overalls and hardhat.  But as she’d climbed down the ladder to retrieve her hardhat and gotten closer to him, he’d seen how slight Tessa looked compared to the other men working on the rig, even underneath the baggy overalls.  The dark brown hair pulled up in a clip at the back of her head was another dead giveaway.  But as she stood next him, he wondered about the curves of her body beneath those baggy overalls.

“She’s been with us for about a year.  Maybe a little more,” Gray said.  “She’s one of our best roughnecks.”

“Have you reviewed her file?”

“I wrote it up.  I gave her a yearly review about a month ago.  Don’t worry, she pulls her weight just like the rest of the crew.”  His brother eyed him suspiciously.  “What’s this all about?”

“Nothing. I’m just checking on a crew member.”

Gray gave him a teasing grin.  “Yeah, the only female crew member we have up on that platform.  I’m surprised you didn’t ask about Matt or Dibs or—”

“Dibs?  What kind of a name is that?”  Luke pretended to move his attention onto the other crew member and looked over at the roster in his hand again.

Gray laughed and pulled off his glove, pointing to the name on the clipboard that Luke had missed.  “It’s a nickname.  Malcolm Dobinski.  He’s the one running the crane.”

“Where’d he get Dibs from?”

“He used to get first dibs on drawing the name of a bull at the local rodeo when he was a kid.  I don’t know why but I’m sure there is a story behind it.”

Luke raised his eyebrows.  “Another bull rider?  Grace’s favorite.”

Gray shrugged.  “Hey, I’m a bull rider and Grace still loves me.”

Luke glanced up over the clipboard.  “She has to love us no matter what.  We’re her brothers.”

Gray looked in the direction where one of the men was cursing up a storm after a pipe had jammed and bent.  It was all in a day’s work on the rig, but Luke’s thoughts immediately went to the woman who was now standing next to the foul-mouthed roughneck.

“Do they always talk like that in front of Tessa?”

Gray chuckled.  “They’d better.  Tessa wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Luke frowned at Gray.

“They mind their manners well enough, in case that’s what you’re worried about.  But Tessa won’t have them treating her like a fragile flower.  She’s said it at least a thousand times since the day I met her.  She doesn’t want the crew fussing over her or she’ll be the object of ridicule.  She’s surprised all of them with how good she is.  She has the crew’s respect.”  Gray paused a few seconds and then added, “You think she’s pretty, don’t you?”

Luke felt his face grow warm.  He didn’t need ribbing from his brother, especially about a roughneck in their employment.  Yeah, he’d seen Tessa in the cafeteria.  She wasn’t dressed for office work and for a minute or two he thought maybe she was the wife of one of the other roughnecks coming in for a visit.  With the long hours most of the workers on the rig put in during a tour, it was common for them to stay at the dormitory on site, rather than drive a good distance home only to come back in the morning.  Tessa was the exception.  He’d seen her leave the first day he’d been here.  She was going home for something.  Or someone.

“Talk like that would get me in trouble fast,” Luke warned. 

“If you were saying it to her face, or to one of the other crew members, it would.  She’d probably deck you, too.”  Gray chuckled and adjusted his hardhat to shield the glare of the sun overhead.  “But you’re talking to your brother.  Surely that is exempt from legal scrutiny and Tessa’s wrath.”

“How often did Dad come out to the rig?”

“Quick change of subject,” Gray said with a sigh.  “Once a week usually.  He didn’t even need to do that.  He just liked to keep his eye on things and let the crew know he was available.  Dad was very hands on.  I emailed him the reports every week though.  If you want, I can do the same for you.”

“I can get them from Dad’s email.”  Luke sighed and glanced around.  “I guess you’ll be seeing me around here a little more, too.  I don’t want the crew to think they’ve lost a McKinnon.”

Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, Luke realized his mistake.

Gray shot him an annoyed look.  “What the hell am I?”

His brother was right to be cross with him.  Luke was trying his best to fill shoes he had no business wearing.  Their father was one of a kind, and the sooner he recovered from his heart attack, the sooner John McKinnon would be back at MW Oil.  And Luke would be heading back to Sioux Falls and the caseload he’d offloaded to a partner.

“I meant Dad, not you.”

Gray’s expression calmed.  “Yeah, okay.  I have to get back to work.  By the way, now is as good a time as any to tell you we’re losing our field engineer.”


“Daryl Banks stayed on as long as he could.  He knew Dad was recovering from the heart attack.  But he was offered that job in California and he starts next week.”

Luke smacked the underside of clipboard with his hand.  “Damn.  I didn’t know that.”

“Daryl mentioned it to me again this morning since he knew Dad never had a chance to get a replacement before he went on leave.  But to be honest with you, getting a replacement is going to difficult.  Dad lobbied hard to get Daryl in here a few years ago.  He only stayed in South Dakota because of family.  But now this job in the Silicon Valley is calling him.  We could go back with a better offer, but it sounds like a done deal.”

“If he’s leaving next week, that sounds pretty done to me.”  Luke sighed.  “Thanks for letting me know.  Has Maddie gotten started on finding a replacement?” 

Maddie Newton was the personal assistant to both Luke’s father, John McKinnon and to his uncle, Donald McKinnon.  Maddie was also now engaged to be married to Luke’s cousin Ethan, a former Navy SEAL who was now a police officer in Rudolph.

“I’m not sure,” Gray said.  “I know Dad knew Daryl accepted the job in California the morning he had his heart attack.  Beyond that, I’m in the dark.”

“I’ll check in with Maddie when I get back to the office.”

Luke watched for a few moments as his brother walked away and then climbed the ladder to the upper platform of the rig where the rest of the workers were busy.  Tessa stopped what she was doing when she saw Gray approaching, as if he’d called out to her about something.  Then she turned and glanced to the lower platform where Luke stood. 

She was pretty.  Luke couldn’t imagine how he’d mistaken Tessa for just another roughneck when he’d first arrived here.  He wouldn’t make that mistake again.

* * *
The best part of Tessa’s month was always the Friday she was finished with her two-week tour and was able to go home.  That meant a two-week visit with Haley.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a time lately when Tessa’s ex-husband didn’t give her grief about bringing Haley out to the ranch for the court-ordered visitation.

Today was no different.

“My shift is done today.  Same as always, Mason,” Tessa said, walking through the parking lot toward her truck. Her feet were aching inside her work boots and her shoulder still throbbed from being hit by pipe that had slipped from her gloved hands.  It wasn’t the first time she’d left a shift with aches and pains.  But getting grief from her ex-husband made the pain feel ten times worse.

She listened to Mason’s voice on the phone and tried her best to stay calm as he tried to convince her to agree to a new custody plan that favored him.  Mason always had a way of making Tessa’s blood hot.  In the beginning, it had been because she couldn’t resist him.  He was her first love.  Now…  If it weren’t for Haley, she wished she’d never met Mason.

“I’ll be home in an hour and a half, like always.  There is no need to postpone my time with Haley.  I come home the same time as I always do after a shift.”  She listened a minute to Mason’s diatribe and then felt herself lose it.  “Don’t you dare threaten me!  If Haley isn’t home when I get there or pretty damned near close to it, then I’ll be calling the tribal council myself.”

Tessa hung up her cell phone just as she reached her truck.  Gripping the cold metal hood of her truck, Tessa paused a second to breathe. 

Breathe.  Just breathe!

It wasn’t going to do any good to get into a car accident on the way home because she was so angry with Mason.  She had so little time with Haley as it was that she didn’t want to spend any of her precious time laid up in a hospital.

“Is everything alright?”

Her hand connected with the door handle when Tessa heard the deep concerned voice behind her.  Swinging around, she’d expected to see one of the other roughnecks she worked with getting ready to head home.  They usually all left around the same time.  But this wasn’t one of the guys she worked with on the rig.

Heat crept up her cheeks when Tessa saw Luke McKinnon standing about twenty feet away from her by another parked car.  The car was fancy.  Tessa didn’t know the make of many cars but she knew this one was expensive. She had never seen it parked next to the other SUVs and pick-up trucks in the parking lot before.  Of course it would be Luke’s car.  What other kind of vehicle would a high-priced lawyer drive?

Luke wasn’t one of the roughnecks.  And he was definitely not a cowboy.  Tessa didn’t know any cowboys who drove an expensive car like that.  And it had been a long time since Tessa had seen any other type of man.

“I’m fine,” she said, waving him off as she gripped the door handle.

Luke’s lips lifted to one side although she still saw concern in his expression.  “I’m no expert, but you don’t look fine.  It sounds like someone was giving you a hard time.”

“It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

He chuckled, glancing away for  a second and then back at her.  When his gaze locked on hers, she saw a sparkle in his eyes.  “You spend two weeks out of every month working alongside this crew of roughnecks.  I have no doubt there is a whole lot you can handle beyond a difficult phone call.”

Tessa hated that his admiration made her feel good.  She resisted returning a smile. She didn’t need Luke McKinnon’s approval in any way other than when it was time to give her a job review and pay raise.  If he was still working here next year when her turn rolled around again.  She’d overheard Gray telling Matt that Luke would only be staying at MW Oil until his father returned to the job.

Yet seeing the admiration in his eyes made her tingle.  “Thank you,” she said. 

She was being a coward.  When she’d heard that Luke McKinnon was going to be coming out to the rig, she’d been determined to meet him.  She hadn’t counted on him being as charismatic as he seemed.  Or as handsome.  He looked a lot like Gray.  She could tell that the strong jaw and sympathetic eyes were a true McKinnon trait.  But there was something about Luke…

She needed him.  He just didn’t know how much.  And she wasn’t about to go all school-girl in front of him and blow her plan.

Digging deep for courage, she said,  “Say, would you like to have a cup of coffee sometime?”  When he hesitated, she added, “Or a glass of iced tea or whatever it is you drink.”

“I don’t know that I’ll be getting out to the rig that often.”

“It doesn’t have to be in the lunch room.  I live over in Lakeridge.  It’s not too far of a drive from Rudolph.”

His brow knit.  “What makes you think I’m staying in Rudolph?”

She was bagged.  “I’m sorry.  I thought Gray had mentioned you were staying with your parents while you’re in town.”

He shook his head and chuckled.  “Word gets around, huh?”

“We’re stuck together on a rig for two weeks straight.  There’s nothing better to do than talk to each other about mundane things.”

“Mundane, huh?”

“I’m not saying you’re mundane.  Never mind.  It’s just talk.  Nothing is sacred.  We all share little things that aren’t important to the big picture.  So what do you say?”

“About what?”

“Coffee?  Iced tea?”

His eyes drew together again and examined her expression as if he were scrutinizing her.  In that brief few seconds she couldn’t help but do the same, looking at his eyes. They were blue, much like Gray’s eyes, only a little darker with golden flecks that lit up while they stood in the sun. 

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” he finally said.

“Why not?”

“People talk.  It’s probably not a good idea around here.”

“We’re not swapping trade secrets.  It’s just a coffee.”

Luke let out a slow sigh and looked uneasy, something Tessa guessed was a foreign feeling for such a confident man.

And then Luke’s hesitation hit her like a steamroller flattening her to the ground.  Heat singed her cheeks.  “My God, you think I’m hitting on you?”

His mouth opened, and then he gave a shake of his head.

“Yes, you do,” she said, pointing an accusing finger at him.  “You thought this was a come on.”

“Isn’t it?”

If she weren’t so humiliated, she’d be angry.  “As a matter of fact, no.”

He genuinely looked surprised. “Really.”

The guy was gorgeous.  There was no doubt about that.  His dark hair was cut short and stayed neat despite the wind in the open parking lot.  There wasn’t a speck of dirt on the man, unlike all the other roughnecks, including her, who didn’t notice all the grease and dirt that caked on them by the end of the day.  She could smell a lingering hint of his aftershave even after a day of being out in the sun on the rig. And he smelled incredible.  After two weeks with men who were sweating under the sun despite the cooler temperatures, she welcomed standing next to a man who smelled clean.  He probably didn’t even have dirt under his fingernails.

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” he said.  “I can see I handled this all wrong.”

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

“I wasn’t—”

Tessa shoved her hands in her pockets.  “Look, I heard you practiced family law.  As my bad luck would have it, I need one.  The phone call?  Remember that?”

His face showed immediate understanding.  “Ah.  Ex-husband?”

“Bingo!  I simply thought it might be nice to have a cup of coffee to break the ice before we discuss whether or not you’re in a position to help me.  But whatever.  I’ll find someone else.”

“I’m sorry I misunderstood your intention.  Why don’t you tell me what’s going on.”

She waved him off and then yanked her truck door open.  “Forget it.  I can see you’re obviously not the right person for me to talk to about this.  I’m sorry I even brought it up.”

“Wait, please.  It was a simple misunderstanding.”

Tessa glanced over and saw Gray walking out of the main building with a few of the other roughnecks.

“You said that right.  I need to go.  See you…whenever you make your way back to the rig.”

He stepped forward as if he could actually reach her and keep her from getting into the truck.  “I’ll be here next week if you want to talk about whatever it was you wanted to talk about.”

Irritation continued to simmer inside her.  “Good for you.  I won’t be.  I’m off for the next two weeks and won’t be leaving my ranch unless I absolutely have to.  Thank you for your time.”

She climbed into her truck and gunned the engine before putting the truck into reverse.  What the hell had she been thinking asking Luke McKinnon to have coffee with her when she needed to be home in time for Mason to drop off Haley?  She had no time for this. 

But that was the problem.  She hardly had any time for anything.  She needed to make time for this.  But it was clear it wouldn’t be with Luke McKinnon.


She barely heard Luke call out to her as she pulled out of the parking space and headed out of the parking lot.  Only after she was down the road a few hundred yards did she look in her rear view mirror to see if anyone was behind her.  Her cheeks were still on fire and her heart was beating like tympani in her chest. 

“Stupid, stupid, stupid, Tessa!” she yelled, hitting her hand on the steering wheel.  She’d worked hard to win the respect of the men she worked with on the rig.  If word got out that she suddenly went weak at the knees for some suit from Sioux Falls, she’d be the laughingstock of the platform come her next tour.

The last thing she wanted was to be made a fool of in front of the men she worked with.  But then she thought of Haley.  She’d face whatever humiliation she had to if it meant she’d win full custody of her daughter.  To hell with Luke McKinnon and his pretty face and fancy car.

She hit her directional signal and turned the truck onto the on-ramp leading to the highway.  She was going to have to suck it up eventually.  If not with Luke McKinnon, some other lawyer.  Hopefully the next one would be a hundred years old, be bald and have a pot belly the size of her wood stove. 

* * *
Luke stared at the taillights of Tessa’s truck as she sped down the road.  What the hell had just happened?

“Tessa was in a hurry,” Gray said, standing next to Luke who was still looking at the exit to the parking lot where Tessa has just peeled out.  “What did you say to piss her off?”

“What makes you think I pissed her off?”

“You have that way with people sometimes.”

“Since when?”

Gray’s grin was wide.  “Since you became a lawyer.  You don’t even notice it anymore.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“Just keeping things real.  Are you going over to Grace’s for dinner tonight?”  Their sister had made it a habit of cooking dinner for the family a few times a week to make it easier for their mother since their father’s heart attack a few weeks back.

“No.  I’ve got some things I need to take care of back at the office.”

Gray grunted as he shook his head.  “Take the tie off Luke.  Let’s at least get a beer before you head over there.  A few of the guys are going.  It’s been a long two weeks.”

Luke eyed his brother.  “Aren’t you itching to get home?  You haven’t seen Nina in two weeks either.”

Gray shook his head.  “Nina went to visit her parents.  They’re having a rough time. She’s coming home from Chicago tomorrow.”

“Why didn’t she wait until your shift was over so you could go with her?”

“Because her dad still gives me the evil eye.  He still hasn’t quite accepted things between Nina and me yet.”

Luke slapped his brother on the shoulder.  “He’ll come around.  Just give it time.”

“I hope so.”  Gray walked over to his truck and made a face as he looked at Luke’s sports car.  “When are you going to get a real set of wheels?”

“Now you have a problem with my car?”

“You call that thing a car? It has two seats.  If that.”

“Get out of here!”

He watched a few of the other guys from the crew climb into their vehicles and spin out of the parking lot, presumably in the direction Gray was headed.  Luke waved to his brother as he climbed into his car.  He wouldn’t mind having a beer with his brother.  But so much of being on the rig felt foreign to him that he knew he stuck out.  The guys wouldn’t be able to kick back and just be themselves, something they probably needed after a long tour. Everything about being at MW Oil had always felt strange to him, despite his father’s desire to get him to work the family business.

Luke was a lawyer.  He liked practicing law and helping people who came to him at times of desperation or radical change in their lives.  He thought of Tessa and his stomach sank.  He could hide a lot of emotion behind a stone expression.  He’d learned that a long time ago in law school.  But he couldn’t hide completely from his brother.  Gray had pegged him.  Luke couldn’t deny he thought Tessa Rock was a pretty woman.  And then he’d assumed her invitation was…

What a colossal idiot he was! 

He shook his head as if that would somehow knock sense into his skull.  His father’s heart attack had shaken him beyond anything he’d experienced in his life.  It was only natural that filling in at the oil company while his father recovered would make Luke unsettled.  His life in Sioux Falls was nothing like his life here in rural South Dakota.

The only way he was going to get back to a life that seemed normal again was finishing his work at MW Oil while his father healed.  Once his father took his rightful place in the office, Luke would be headed back to Sioux Falls and a life where he didn’t trip over himself the way he just had with Tessa Rock.


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