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Danny twisted his lips as he made his way down the isle at the western store. In the past his dads took him Christmas shopping, let him pick out something for everyone and then they paid for it. But this year he wanted to get everyone something. And he’d decided he wanted to pay for his own gifts. He’d managed to save a few hundred dollars from the money he was paid hauling hay for his grandpas. At fourteen it wasn’t as if he could drive himself to town. A small ornery grin crept across his face. Actually he could have drove into town, he’d been driving around the ranch since he got big enough to reach the pedals on the old standard pickup. And recently, well a guy needed to have wheels sometimes.
But if he got caught he probably wouldn’t be driving until he was eighteen.
“Can I help you find something, sir?”
The deep voice rattled Danny. When he turned, he stood for several moments slack jawed at the young man who had talked to him. The black felt hat, crisp western shirt and starched jeans—he was what Danny wanted to look like. When he shot Danny a toothsome smile, his heart started pounding. The guy standing in front of him made Danny feel like a little kid. He had to be at least sixteen or seventeen. The guy lifted an eyebrow and smiled at Danny.
Danny finally regained his voice. “Yeah. Christmas shopping. For my sister, and…Dad.”
Danny had always been proud of his family. But right now, with this guy standing smiling at him, he didn’t want to be different. He couldn’t face the quizzical expressions, or worse, judgment.
“Cool. We’ve got a big selection of boots that are on sale. New shirts that would work for your sister too. Come on, I’ll show you.”
Mesmerized by the other boy, Danny felt compelled to follow. Sort of like the dumb kids who were getting eaten in those stupid fairy tales that Darrin was always telling them when they were little.
He jumped back suddenly, having almost run into the guy who had been helping. He was pulling out a pair of boots with stitch work so tacky that he and Samantha would normally have made fun of them.
“These are really cool. All handmade in Mexico. We can have them custom made if you’d like.”
Danny checked the price on the pair of boots, and blanched. They cost more than he’d made all summer. By quite a bit. He tried to play it down a little, as he turned back to handsome.
“Umm, maybe something a little…less?”
“Sure, sure. Let’s see what might work.” They spent the next half hour going through the store with Danny getting more frantic to find something without looking like a little kid. His fantasy man seemed to be getting a little frustrated too. Finally he led Danny to a display of pants in just about every color imaginable.
“How about jeans?”
He glanced at the price and realized he had enough money. He wasn’t impressed that he would be getting everyone the same thing. But his few dollars weren’t going to get the impressive gifts he’d hoped. He picked up one of the traditional colored pair of jeans and looked at them. Pretty ordinary, but at least he knew they were functional. He reached to get a second pair and the young Adonis leaned across the table in front of him.
“No, don’t get him the same color. Try some of the others.”
Danny looked over the selection, starting to feel a little guilty that he wasn’t telling the guy about his family. But when the ice blue eyes glanced over at him and he shot him a snow-white smile, Danny was gone.
He walked around the display, trying to decide what he should do. He’d thought about asking Samantha to come help him choose, but he wanted to get her something too. He snatched up a pair of pinker than pink jeans that caught his eye. He showed them to the salesman.
“What about these?”
The clerk looked at it for a minute or so, chewing on his lip. He looked at Danny with an expression he couldn’t decipher. He took the jeans from Danny’s hands and twisted them first one way, and then the other. Finally he held them out.
“How old is your sister?”
“Same as me. We’re twins.”
He nodded again.
“Yeah. I could see her wearing these. You bet.”
Danny nodded in satisfaction at his success of picking. He dug through another pile and found a deep green pair that would fit his dad. He added them to the register and the grinning guy checked him out.
Danny was a little surprised when he got a small pile of white strips of paper. The guy nodded and smiled a little wider. “Gift receipts, in case they don’t…fit.”
Danny nodded and dropped them into his bag. He waved goodbye at the handsome distraction. He was at the door when Mitch came through.
“Ready to go? Mitch asked.
“Yup, I got everything.” Once they were inside the pickup, he glanced around before turning to Mitch. “They were kind of expensive. I could only afford a pair of jeans for each one.”
“What’d you get?”
Danny pulled out the three pairs of pants and fanned them across his lap. He looked at Mitch with a smile of victory on his face. Mitch studied them for a few minutes before turning to Danny.
“Yeah. I liked ‘em too.” He dropped them back into the bag before pulling out the tickets and studying them.
“What are those?”
“Gift receipts. In case something doesn’t fit.”
“You’ll want to keep those somewhere safe.”
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