Pappy Jack laughed. “Figured that out all on your own did you, city girl?”
The look in her eyes showed shock. “How did you get that in here?”
“I’d rather not say.” But his eyes jumped to Jackson, then back to Jessie.
She whirled on Denver’s youngest brother. “You brought him that?”
Jackson looked as guilty as a kid with his hand in the cookie jar. “You need to understand something before you pass judgment, darlin’.”
Jackson opened his mouth as if to speak but then shut it. Denver loved Jessie’s power over his brother.
“What are you grinning about, Denver?” she asked. “You think this is funny? I bet you would’ve brought Pappy Jack a weapon, too. All of you Wilde brothers are a mystery to me. What in hell does he need a gun for here?”
“I’m smiling because my grandfather looks good. And you need to be careful with your tone, sugar.”
“Oh.” She looked down, repentant. Her head popped back up, and she cocked up one eyebrow. “Well, would you have delivered a gun to Pappy Jack or not?”
“You’re way too much, Jessie. Maybe. I don’t know.”
“That’s BS. You know, but you’re just not telling me.”
“No. Not true. My mind is busy at the moment.”
“Nothing to trouble that pretty little head of yours with. Just business stuff. Keep pushing me and you might get yourself into trouble. Understand?”
Jessie glared at him with a sweet defiance that called to him to tear down. Before he could whisk her away to a nearby supply closet to begin, she turned to Jackson. “So, cowboy, fill me in on why you brought a gun to your grandfather while he’s recovering from the Old Mine’s explosion.”
As Jackson began his tale of Pappy Jack’s gun delivery, Denver rubbed his chin, contemplating his reactions to Jessie. Had he actually been grinning? Damn, he needed to stay guarded or Jessie could, and probably would, top him from the bottom. They weren’t in play here, so she could call him by his name or anything else she wanted. Still, if he and his brothers were able to clear Austin from being a conspirator for the cut brake line and Old Mine explosion, she needed to be more subdued in public. Austin was twenty-four-seven. Denver decided that he would run Jessie through a twenty-four-hour exercise and see how she took to it.
He watched her turn her gaze to Pappy Jack. “All that true that Jackson said?”
“Every word,” his grandfather answered. “Every word.”
“You can’t sleep without a gun under your pillow?”
Jackson gathered up the cards on the bed. “Neither can I, darlin’.”
She turned to Denver. He shrugged. “Guilty.”
“There’s a gun under your pillow?”
“Yes, sugar. There is. This isn’t New York or DC. This is rural Nevada.”
“Amen, son.” Pappy Jack nodded. “We protect what is ours by any means.”
She asked, “Don’t you mean deadly means?”
His grandfather answered, “If necessary, Jessie. Yes, we do.”
“And what is in this hospital room to protect, Pappy Jack? The bed? The IV? I thought you didn’t give a damn about this place. If someone wants to ransack it or steal from it, why not let them?”
The old man opened his mouth then shut it tight. Denver had never seen his grandfather be stumped with a comeback. Then Pappy Jack howled with laughter.
Jackson roared and pounded the rolling table. Jessie’s former irritation about seeing the gun clearly evaporated, and she cracked up. Denver couldn’t help but bust out himself. It felt so good to laugh. For a moment, all was right with in the world.