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Chapter 21






Lex stared at the computer screen and then rubbed her reddened eyes. I've got to be missing something somewhere. She had been searching her accounting program for over an hour, trying to find missing funds - almost ten thousand dollars worth of missing funds. She flipped over to her Internet account and sent an email to her bank, requesting that they send her the bank statements for the last several months, since Hubert usually handled the paperwork end of the ranch. She also vowed to do a personal head count of the stock, since it appeared they were losing more than normal. And she was not about to confront her older sibling until she had something to go on. Maybe I'm just tired - She looked at the clock and blinked. "Amanda's probably upstairs bored to death by now" she mumbled, as she shut down the computer and left the office.

After navigating the stairs, Lex stopped at Amanda's room. Empty. She shrugged her shoulders and went into her own room. Strangeshe's not in here either.Confused, Lex knocked gently on the bathroom door. "Amanda?" No answer. Now getting concerned, Lex slowly opened the door. Total silence. She walked towards the tub area, where she spied a damp blonde head poking out of the bubbles. She could see that the young woman was sound asleep, the only sound in the room was the gurgling of the jacuzzi. "Amanda?" quietly spoken, she tried not to scare the poor woman to death.

No response. "Amanda."

The young blonde's eyes popped open, as she sank under the water, startled. She whooshed up out of the water immediately, gasping and sputtering. "Wha???"

Lex hurried over to the tub and knelt down. "Hey, careful there." She grasped Amanda's shoulders without a second thought. "Didn't mean to startle you like that." The dark woman eased Amanda into a sitting position.

Amanda coughed a couple of more times, then stilled. "Sorry about that. Didn't realize I had dozed off." She enjoyed the closeness of the other woman. "How long have I been in here?"

Suddenly realizing where her hands were, Lex pulled back and stood up. "Ummalmost two hours." She put her hands in her back pockets, trying to calm her pounding heart. "I'll just let you get dried off thenyou're probably feeling pretty waterlogged." She began backing up towards the door.

Amanda smiled and brushed bubbles off of her own forehead. "ThanksI'll be out in a minute." She watched with some amusement as the usually sure-footed and composed rancher backed directly into the doorframe, a slight flush to her dark features.



"Yeah" she beat a hasty retreat into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

Amanda giggled slightly as she let the water run out of the tub. SoI guess I'm not the only one who can feel thiselectricitybetween us. She quickly dried off and then looked at her sleepwear options. Hmmmdo I go modest, or do I tease her a little more? She picked an oversized nightshirt that would hang a little past her knees. Modest. She's looking a little too shook upmaybe tomorrow night. With a smile, she pulled the shirt over her head.

Stepping out into the bedroom, the small blonde saw Lex sitting in the light of the fireplace, slouched down in one of the overstuffed chairs.

"All yours." She moved to the other chair and sat down, toweling her hair dry. "Thanks for the loan of the tubI'm most definitely relaxed now."

"I'm glad. You're welcome to use it anytime you want." Lex shifted slightly in her chair. "I'm sorry I barged in like that, but when you didn't answer me, I got a little concerned." A little concerned? Try scared to death!

Amanda looked over at the older woman. Her face was bathed in shadow, and the firelight turned her usually bright eyes almost black. "You look pretty worn out yourself."

Lex sighed, and ran a hand through her hair. "Yeah. Been a long day." She twisted her head to one side, and her neck popped. "Think I'll take a quick shower and then jump into bed." She stood up slowly.

Amanda stood up with her. "Do you need any help?" At Lex's raised eyebrow, she blushed. "Ummm I mean, with taking off your bandage?" Lex's other eyebrow shot up into her bangs. "Oh, damn! You know what I mean!" the young woman didn't think she could get any more embarrassed.

Lex took pity on her. "NahI can get if off okay, and I'll probably just leave it off for the night."

"I don't think that's a very good idea. What if you roll around in your sleep?" Martha's horror stories about punctured lungs and internal bleeding had scared her. Being concerned for her hostess while she had been out riding, Amanda had quizzed the housekeeper about Lex's health. "I really don't think you should go to bed unprotected."



Lex chuckled. "I don't think I am in any danger that I would need 'protection' in bed, am I?"

Amanda covered her face with her hands. "Ah, probably not" she looked at her bare wrist. "Would you look at the time?" Fake yawn and stretch. "Mmmm.guess I'll let you get your shower I'll be across the hall if you need me to help you wrap your ribs." She started for the door. "Goodnight." And she hurried out of the room, still red as a beet.

Lex watched her go with an amused look on her face. I really should be ashamed of myself, teasing the poor woman like that. But somehow, the camaraderie they shared seemed right, like they had done it for years. Strange. She shook her head and walked into the bathroom, shedding clothes as she went.

Amanda had just finished brushing her teeth, and was brushing her hair when she heard a knock on the door. "Come in," she yelled, sticking her head out of the bathroom.

A sheepish Lex walked in, wearing a robe and carrying a large elastic bandage. "Hey. Your offer still open?" she smiled slightly, looking like a lost child. "I can't seem to get this damn thing on straight."

Amanda sat the hairbrush down and moved into the bedroom. "What's the matter? A torn sheet not good enough for you?" she teased, trying to get the older woman to relax.

"No, it's not that. I just remembered that I had this from the last time I broke a rib. But don't tell Martha. I've kinda kept that little accident a secret from her."

"Really?" Amanda quizzed. "I'll help you, but you've got to tell me what happened." She hitched an eyebrow at the dark woman.

Lex shrugged. "Nothing, much. It happened last year. She told me not to try and ride a certain horse, but I didn't listen. He threw me into the fence, and I broke a rib. No big deal." She looked a little worried. "Promise not to tell?"

Amanda laughed at the look on the rancher's face. "Oh, Lex. You look like a little kid who got caught stealing from the cookie jar." She moved towards the tall woman and took the bandage from her hands. "Okay, I promise. Now get over here and I'll get you fixed up."

Lex turned her back slowly to the younger woman, then silently removed her robe and laid it on the bed, leaving her in just a pair of flannel pajama bottoms. She took a deep breath and then released it slowly.

She's beautifulAmanda heard her mind whisper. She willed her shaking hands to steady, as she began to wrap the bandage around Lex's body. Such broad shoulders, and her skin is so soft. She had to lean into the strong back to wind the bandage around Lex's ribs. The younger woman bit her lower lip, trying to control her feelings. Once she finished the wrapping, she gently draped the robe back over Lex's shoulders. "All done." She said, hoping her voice didn't betray her.

Lex was having control problems of her own. She could almost feel the heat coming off of the smaller woman, she was standing so close. "Thanks." She turned around, barely missing the longing in Amanda's eyes. "Guess I'll let you get to bed now." As she made her way to the door, Lex turned to look at her guest. "See you in the morning." She walked out and closed the door behind her.

Amanda stood at the bed and stared at the closed door. Oh, boyLex, my friend, I think we're gonna have to have a little talk, real soon.



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