Brothers of Cooper Ranch

By: Leslie North

Willa began to cover outlets and closed doors to rooms where she could see furniture that was all-too-likely not screwed to the wall. She frowned when she saw that the stairway leading down to the basement, situated next to the kitchen and behind the living room, had no door, just stairs descending into the dark. They’d have to add a baby gate there pronto, as Robert had been fond of saying. “You’ll need a baby gate or two,” she said. “Can you buy them in town?”

“How should I know?” Daniel sounded irritable, but as Bobby walked up to him and patted his knee, his frown turned to a smile. Looking down to meet Bobby’s wide-eyed gaze, he ruffled the toddler’s hair. “He looks just like Robert.”

The sadness in his voice caught at Willa’s heart, but she ignored it. As she continued to baby-proof the house—which looked like it had been decorated in the seventies and had never been updated, considering the olive green and muted browns everywhere—Daniel followed her, Bobby toddling beside him, his little fingers hanging onto Daniel’s pant leg.

“Miss Markson, I can see that you care about this little cowpoke just as much as we do. How would we know about this baby-proofing stuff the way you do? Two bachelors know as much about babies as a horse knows how to paint.”

Willa snorted under her breath, but then sighed as she moved cords from the floor to a nearby table. “New York is my home. I need to go back.”

Willa covered up a loose nail with a piece of sticky foam she’d discovered in one of the drawers in the kitchen in her wanderings and now found herself on the threshold of the biggest room of the house. It was clearly the master bedroom, and it smelled like leather. The bed was neatly made, the quilt faded but clearly stitched with skill. She saw jeans hanging in the closet—jeans upon jeans upon jeans—and she could bet that she’d find a few Stetsons and a number of cowboy boots in that closet, too.

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