"At one time, I thought maybe you hoped there would be a more permanent merger with Mr. Ramirez. One involving me."
"I’d be in hell before I’d let that happen," her father said coldly, "Diego may have hoped that. I can’t say. He’s an odd bird. I was glad you never wanted to be involved with him, but you are old enough to be finding someone, to think about marriage. I'd feel better if I knew you had a man if something ever happened to me." She looked at him again, aware of the strain in his voice.
"It's been that little problem of meeting the right person." She wasn't ready to talk about Jake. There were so many variables and uncertainties attached to him. Could they put their lives together? Add to it, she wanted to be sure of his intentions before she said anything.
"Sure you aren't looking for the perfect man?" he questioned with a grin. "You know there is no such animal, right?"
Letting her voice deepen, she imitated his. "Men are no good, out for everything they can get and not to be trusted. Always assume they don't mean any of the promises they make. Be careful because they are beasts!"
He laughed. "Now I didn’t put it quite that way, but you do have to be careful. There are a lot of men out there who do not have honorable intentions toward beautiful young women."
"Sometimes women aren't honorable toward men either."
"That's the warning fathers give to sons." He smiled. "Get out more, princess. An apartment in town is a good idea. Or maybe even in Tucson, just to meet more people. Go to the right places where you can meet a nice guy, one like Mark Sandoval, a guy who wears a suit, comes home on time for dinner. You won't find a man like that out in these hills."
Rachel smiled, thinking how little Jake would fit her father's criteria for a husband. Remembering Jake's childhood, with no parental love, she felt a renewed surge of gratitude for the stability and love her father had provided especially after her mother died. "I love you," she whispered, moving over to kiss his bristly cheek.
"I love you too, honey. You know I just want you to be happy."
"Hey, you should take some of your own advice; find a woman to be with, to marry."
He laughed with disbelief. "That's different. I'm an old man."
"Hah," she snorted, remembering the power of his body as he hugged her.
He started to leave, but then turned back. "Hear anything more about the man who died out here?"
"Nothing. I just wondered. I'll leave you to your work. See you at dinner."