Under the Cowboy's Control

By: Lynda Chance

Selena felt a shaft of regret at the lie she had spoken to him. She owed him an apology. " Lo siento, Juan."

Juan shook his head at her and smiled. " Es no problema, Senorita."

Selena gave a slight curtsy. " Gracias, Juan."

Clinton stepped forward and said, "I'll make the introductions. Selena, these are the guys. Guys, meet Selena, the prettiest brownie maker this side of Laredo. You know Juan, and Jim, our foreman, but this guy here is Gus." He pointed out a tall man, easily four or five inches over six feet.

Selena replied, "Gus."

Clinton continued, "This is Curley." Curley was a short, bald man.

Selena replied, "Curley."

"And finally, last but not least, this is Slim. Slim is our cook. He feeds all of us and definitely needs that brownie recipe." Slim was a large, rotund man.

Selena smiled at the crack about the brownies. "Slim."

The door slammed again and Travis walked in from the mudroom. Goddamnit!

Every one of his men were ogling Selena. He didn't need this tonight. He was bruised and tired from wrangling with that damn demented bull he had bought last spring. Son of a bitch got caught in the barbed wire and he had hell getting him loose. He was sweaty, his shirt was ripped to shreds, and he was starving. Lunch was a long time ago, and he could smell something awesome coming from the table. His stomach growled loudly.

"All right. Show's over. Ya'll have all met her. Shove off." He motioned his head to the front door.

Gus spoke up. "You get to have homemade enchiladas and we get to eat Slim's foul excuse for beef stew?" His words were sullen.

Travis took his hat off and ran his fingers threw his sweaty hair. "Yeah, that's right.

She can't cook for everybody. She's not strong enough. She's been hurt. Ya'll will live with Slim's cooking. You always have."

One by one, all of them grumbling, the hired hands took a last look at her and started to tip their hats and file out.

Selena felt sorry for them, and bad because she had lied to them all. "W-wait." She turned and went to the counter by the window and picked up a pan full of chocolate chip cookies that she had made for tomorrow. She could always make more.

She walked over to them, and since Jim was the closest one to her, she held out the offering. She tried the words out on her tongue. "Cookies for ya'll." The southern colloquialism slid from her mouth just like she was a native. She heard her own voice and laughter danced from her eyes.

Travis stood and watched six grown, hardworking cowboys fall under Selena's spell. They silently watched her, each and every one enchanted with the young girl.

Jim reached out and took the pan and all the guys started thanking her at once.

She blushed, nodded her head, and turned back to the stove as they all filed out the door, happy now with her gift.

When the door slammed shut behind them, Travis spoke. "You gave away my damn cookies." But there was no anger in his voice.

She turned back from wiping the cook top and nodded her head in confirmation.

Travis put the episode behind him and pulled the ripped t-shirt over his head and threw it in the small wicker trashcan next to the table. "Damned bull ruined my shirt."

Selena stood staring at the large expanse of naked male flesh while he turned back to the mudroom and grabbed another shirt. When he turned back he spoke.

"I'm starving. I'm going to go take a quick shower and I'll be ready to eat in ten minutes."

He walked down the hall toward his bedroom and Selena started breathing again.

When he came back to the table after showering, Selena had her emotions more in control.

He sat at the table and she served his food. The supplies in the house weren't limitless, but she had managed a decent, filling meal. Her mother would roll over in her grave if she knew about the shortcuts Selena had taken, but although the meal wasn't authentic, it was the best she could do with what was on hand.

Travis looked at the feast in front of him and thought he had died and gone to heaven. The smells coming from the enchiladas, rice and beans were wafting up to his nose and hitting his stomach.

A steady diet of Slim's cooking had left him fed up and wanting more. Slim knew how to cook three things. Stew, chili, and pot roast. And that's all they ate. Stew, chili and pot roast. Every three days, the same damn thing was repeated.

He took the first bite and ambrosia hit his taste buds. He looked up at Selena standing there waiting for his reaction. He couldn't help it. His face broke out into a huge smile, and he shoveled in another bite. Damn, he was almost glad she had given away his cookies. He felt so damn guilty for getting this feast, that he was glad those poor bastards had something of the heaven he was eating.

Selena was satisfied with his reaction and turned away to straighten up the kitchen.

A deep voice intruded her thoughts. "Aren't you going to eat with me?"

Selena flushed and turned to him. He wanted her to eat with him? " Senor?"

Travis scowled at her. "My name is Travis. I've told you that before."

Selena hesitated and touched her stomach. "I'm f-full."

"You already ate?" At her nod, he grunted and took another bite, and then added,