He closed his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t realize you were there. Please don’t worry about anything, okay?”
“You’re going to hire Rip?”
“Me?” Rip asked, pointing to himself. His father’s name was also Rip, so I’m sure he was confused.
My father looked at me and then over to Rip. “I was planning on talking to you about working here in the ranch office, part time, of course. I know you’re working for Jonathon in the office. He mentioned you got a new accounting program they are using now.”
“Are you wanting to do the same?” Rip asked.
“Actually,” Daddy said, a smile on his face. “I’m looking at cutting back some hours. I’d like to spend some time with Chloe before she leaves for Houston. And with Gage leaving for college, well, I was hoping to free up my life.”
“You want me to do the financial stuff for the ranch?” Rip asked, clearly shocked.
“Don’t sound so surprised, son. I’ve seen what you can do. Why do you think I’ve been having so many problems lately? I’ve been testing you.” Daddy grinned at Rip, letting him know that he’d obviously passed his test.
Rip’s mouth dropped some as he stared at my dad. “You were setting me up?”
“Setting you up, testing you…it’s all semantics.”
With a lighthearted laugh, Rip replied, “Steed, I don’t see the difference in that.”
“It doesn’t matter. You passed all the tests anyway.”
I couldn’t help but giggle.
Rip looked at me and then back to my father. “You really want me to work here? For you?”
“Why is that so hard to believe?”
“I don’t have my degree yet.”
My smile faded, and I stood up. “What do you mean you don’t have your degree?”
Both of them looked at me, then looked back at each other.
“She doesn’t know?” my daddy asked.
Rip shook his head, clearly embarrassed he had let that slip.
“I don’t know what?”
“It’s not a big deal, Chloe. I’m just a couple of classes short of graduating with my business degree and one class short of my minor in accounting.”
My eyes widened in shock. “It’s true, then?”
Now it was Rip who looked shocked. “You knew?”
“Alyssa told me. I thought you were done last fall and chose not to walk. Why did you leave A&M if you weren’t finished?”
“It doesn’t matter anymore.”
“It does matter, Rip! You went to school all that time on a baseball scholarship, for crying out loud. To just walk away only needing two classes. What in the world made you—”
I stopped speaking. I knew what made him leave. Alyssa had told me.
Rip shoved his hands into his pocket and turned back to Steed. “I plan on finishing. I’m registered to take the two classes online this summer. I’ll have the degree soon.”
My father placed his hand on Rip’s shoulder. “I don’t care about that, Rip. I wouldn’t offer you the job if I didn’t think you could do it. Degree or no degree, I trust you with the company and I would like to see the position move to full time when I retire if it’s something you’re interested in doing. I know you like working with your hands and helping your brother and Trevor out, as well. That won’t be for a number of years, but at least I know you’ll be well trained.”
Rip grinned from ear-to-ear. “I’d be honored, sir.”
The room felt like it was spinning so I sat back down. It was true. Alyssa wasn’t just saying those things. Rip had left school because of me. Because I was dating Easton.
“Chloe, are you feeling okay yet?” my father asked, bending down and looking at me.
“Yes. I’m just…”
Glancing over to Rip, I said, “Confused.”
“Confused about what?” Rip and my father asked at the same time.
I stood. “Nothing. I, um, I need to go. I told Grammy I’d help her bake some cookies. She’s probably wondering where in the heck I am.”
My father cupped my face in his hands and gave me a good once over. “You’re sure you feel okay?”
I nodded. “I don’t really know what brought that on. I mean, I do. It’s okay. I’m fine.”
He gave me a gentle smile. “I’m sure it is all the changes you’ve got going on.”
I exhaled and gave him a slight chuckle. If he only knew the thoughts running rampant through my brain and my heart since I had got back home. Instead, I just said, “Yeah, probably.”
Kissing me on the forehead, he winked. “Go and have fun. I called Rip in to talk business.”
“Business. Sure, of course.” The feeling of being left out was new. What did I expect? I had agreed to marry Easton and that meant I would be leaving. Why would Daddy include me in any business decisions or conversations?
When I turned to leave, my eyes met Rip’s. “I’ll see you later?”