Cowboy After Dark - Vicki Lewis Thompson


LIAM MAGEE PULLED off the road, shoved back his hat and peered through the windshield of his truck. “That’s a helluva steep driveway, Grady.”

“Yeah.” His brother studied the incline. “You should probably come around again and make a run at it. I’m pretty sure if you hang a right at the corner, you can circle the block.”

“I know I can. I used to date a girl who lived on the next street over. Whenever we had a fight, I’d drive that loop more than a few times until I cooled down enough to apologize.” He looked at the slope and calculated how fast he’d have to be going when he started up. At least it was July. He couldn’t imagine why anyone would create a driveway like that in Sheridan, Wyoming, unless it doubled as a toboggan run. “You’d better check the hitch and make sure the tie-downs are tight.”

“Will do.” Grady hopped out and loped back to the flatbed they were towing.

Liam wasn’t going to say it and upset Grady, but they were courting disaster hauling the loaded flatbed up that hill. His big-hearted brother had made a spectacular wedding present for his foster brother Damon Harrison, and he was determined to deliver it when nobody was home. He wanted it to be a surprise.

Years ago, Damon had been a significant role model for Grady—likely still was, judging from this wedding gift. Damon had been one of the older guys at Thunder Mountain Ranch, formerly a home for foster boys and now a student academy for everything horse-related.

Located a few miles outside Sheridan, the ranch had once provided a temporary haven for Liam and Grady while their mom recovered from a bad car accident. Damon’s determination to become a master carpenter after high school had inspired Grady to learn a trade. He’d chosen welding, a skill that had landed him a job in Alaska working on a pipeline.

He’d come back to rejoin Liam in Cody a couple of years ago with a new dream. His recycled metal sculptures had taken the local art world by storm, and he was making money hand over fist. Liam couldn’t be prouder of his little brother.

Naturally Grady had wanted to create something special for Damon and his bride Philomena. He’d welded about five hundred pounds of scrap metal into a ten-foot sculpture. Although a gallery would charge thousands for the piece, discussing the market value of his work always made Grady laugh.

He created for the love of it. When the price of his sculptures had skyrocketed, he’d asked Liam to invest the money that kept pouring in because dealing with that aspect of success wasn’t his thing. Surprises were his thing, though, and he desperately wanted to surprise Damon and Phil.

Liam had asked some of his river-rafting coworkers to help load the gift onto the flatbed in Cody. The trailer had a tilting mechanism, so if Liam could get it up the hill, he and Grady should be able to install the sculpture somewhere in the yard. If the spot didn’t suit Damon and Philomena, Grady could enlist some of the guys from the wedding party to help move it.

Grady climbed back in the cab. “Everything looks good. I spotted an SUV and a truck parked up by the house, though. Are you sure nobody’s there?”

“Shouldn’t be. Damon told us to meet him at the ranch, and Phil’s supposed to be in town at her bachelorette shindig.” Liam felt a stab of guilt. He’d been afraid the happy couple wouldn’t welcome a gigantic wedding gift, so he’d secretly warned Damon that something big and metallic was coming his way. Turned out Phil was a huge Grady Magee fan, so Damon heartily approved of the gift.

Grady wouldn’t have wanted to alert Damon, but Liam was used to paving the way for his kid brother, a habit he wasn’t likely to break anytime soon. Damon wouldn’t be surprised, but Philomena would be, and that was the compromise Liam had made with his conscience. “The women probably carpooled into town for Philomena’s bachelorette party.”

“That makes sense. Okay, let’s do this thing.”

“Keep your eye on the trailer.”

“I will.” Grady focused on the side mirror as they went around the block. “So far, so good.”

“Yeah, but I’ll really punch it the minute I see that driveway. If anything looks wonky, yell out.”

“Don’t worry. I will.”

The driveway came into view. Liam stomped on the accelerator, and his F-350’s engine roared. He would make it up the hill, by