He cocked his head and studied her. His dark brown brows knit together over a pair of emerald eyes. “You’re the horse freak.”
“Horses. The room with the painted horses.” He motioned toward the ceiling.
“Guess that’s why I have a horse farm.”
“Right.” He took a step closer. “I like the room.”
Bren pulled her hands apart and stepped back, eyeing the entrance to the hallway. “Good. You ever have a daughter, she’d love it.”
“Family’s not something I’m looking for.”
Bren bit down on her lower lip. He towered above her. The shape of his Stetson, since removed, still molded against his head and made the black locks curl up at the ends around his ears. His face chiseled and rough with a light black beard gave him a dangerous appearance. He took off his black suede jacket and laid it on the counter.
Bren’s every nerve ending tingled, and that voice inside screamed for her to hotfoot it out of there. But there was something about him, a familiarity she couldn’t quite place. “I should go.” Bren motioned toward the entryway of the kitchen. “Enjoy the house, Mr. Langston.”
He leaned in over the counter. “Mr. Langston’s my father. My name is Rafe.”
He came around the counter. Leaning against the edge, he crossed his arms. “Can I call you Bren?”
Bren nodded. “Sure. We’re neighbors now. We share a common driveway. You might want to think about purchasing a tractor with a bucket. It’s still winter, and February in Washington County is heavy snowfall season.”
“Don’t see much snow in Texas.”
“Nope. Too warm.”
Definitely too warm. Bren inched back toward the cabinet behind her.
“I’m sorry about your husband.”
“Thanks.” Not at all what she expected him to say. Nor did she expect the way it made her feel. He seemed to genuinely care that it was upsetting to her. “I heard Bernie’s crack. I’m not unpredictable. Bernie forgot to mention my husband was murdered.”
“What’s the sheriff doing about it?”
“Kevin? Not a damn thing. He believes Tom’s death was an accident, just like everyone else in this narrow-minded town.”
“How do you know it wasn’t?”
The one-year anniversary of Tom’s death had come and gone. She’d given up sharing her theory with anyone. She knew the truth. But for the first time in a long while someone actually wanted to talk to her about it.
“This is probably upsetting for you. It was insensitive for me to ask. I’m sorry.”
“Are you kidding? I could talk about it until lack of breath. That’s the problem. No one takes me seriously. Tom knew his way around a barn. He didn’t wrap himself up in the pulley system and say a Hail Mary and jump out the hayloft.”
“It’s complicated.” Bren reached in her pocket and grabbed her hair tie and pulled her hair up into a loose bun. She pointed in the direction of the front door. “I could show you. It’s the red barn as you come in. Right before you get to my house.”
He remained quiet, the expression for a split second in his eyes hard, almost angry, and then it disappeared.
Jeez, Bren. You sound so needy. Rafe Langston would have no interest in helping her sort out Tom’s death.
This guy probably thought she was a total fruitcake. Self-consciously she brought her hand down, nervously scratched the back of her head, and let her hand waft down to her side. “You’re not interested. It was silly, anyway. I just thought . . . you seemed . . .”
He pushed off from the counter. “How about I take you home? I didn’t see your truck when I pulled up. It’s getting dark.”
He was just like everyone else. She fisted her hands. And here she’d thought he might be different.
“I’m perfectly capable . . .”
He stepped forward. His green eyes smiled at her while he reached back to grab his jacket. “Are there lights in this barn?”