Authors: Teresa Federici
Copyright © 2013 Teresa Federici
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To Tommy and Zane – the most important men in my life.
Don’t look back, that’s how Lot’s wife turned to salt
, Abby Stanford thought to herself as she glanced in her rearview mirror at the receding Boston skyline. She turned her attention to the long road ahead of her. The Massachusetts turnpike stretched in a long unbroken line, eventually entering New York State and becoming the Thruway. This would turn into I-90 somewhere in the west, leading her to Bozeman, Montana. A long drive to make on her own, over 2200 miles, but she needed the time to think. She wasn’t running away, exactly, just taking a small vacation. Her divorce had been a long, drawn out process that had left her shattered, mourning the end of one chapter in her life.
found the small cabin for rent on the internet that morning, and had promptly called to see if was available. It had been, and she had booked it for two weeks. Then she had packed most of what she owned and thrown it all into her Range Rover and got behind the wheel.
The bastard had cheated on her! It was like a bad, predictable play. High society doctor cheats on his high society wife. Who couldn’t have seen that coming? Obviously not Abby. They hadn’t started out high society; well, Abby hadn’t. She and Steve had met at Harvard, he in med school, and Abby just beginning pre-Law. She was a small town girl from White Fish, Montana and he was from old-money Boston blue bloods. She had dreamed of fighting environmental injustices and he only wanted a beautiful trophy wife.
Abby fit the bill exactly. Petite, only a little over 5 feet, she looked almost fragile. She had dark auburn hair with brilliant green eyes, and her face was perfectly heart-shaped. She moved gracefully, and had a natural warmth about her that drew people to her. She was also stubborn as a mule. Steve found that out after he proposed. He wanted her to drop out of school immediately after they were wed, but Abby adamantly insisted that she get her law degree. Steve argued that she had already gotten her a degree in wildlife biology, so why did she need a law degree too? He accused her of thinking only of her career. She called him a chauvinist pig. They screamed and yelled, then made frenzied love on her apartment floor. Abby got her law degree, but never took her bar exams.
They had gotten married right after her graduation. Steve, already in residency, started on the fast track at Boston Medical Center. They struggled some, but not much. Steve came from money, and Abby had the inherent frugality that came from being a rancher’s daughter. They had great times in the beginning, but Abby had always felt that she wasn’t doing anything, had no purpose, so she started joining committees and volunteering her time at various charities. From there, it seemed they never had time for each other. Steve devoted all his time to the hospital, and she filled up her empty hours with social get-togethers thinly disguised as charitable works. That’s when it all went to shit, Abby thought morosely, we
didn’t have a marriage anymore; we had a façade.
Abby turned her attention back to the present. She was running west, trying to make sense out of her life. She should go to her parents in White Fish, but she just couldn’t bring herself to run to them. They had raised her to be independent and to think for herself. She couldn’t hide in Montana forever, but she could take some time, finally, for herself. How the last years of her marriage played out was definitely something out of a Neil Simon movie about society marriages.
Well, this girl wasn’t from society. She was a country girl, raised on barn dances and potluck church dinners, although she hadn’t been to church since she was 17. She knew marriage to be two people helping each other, and growing together, two people who loved the other one more than a stupid career.
She passed a sign telling her she was entering Ohio, and felt the same little pang in her heart that she had felt when she had entered New York state and Pennsylvania. She had hoped that every state she had gone through would have eased the pain of missing Steve, but this pang was a strong as the other two had been. Was she being too romantic? She didn’t think so. Did she still love Steve? She wasn’t too sure. Right now, she would like to crack him across the head with a frying pan, but it was probably just her pride that was making her think that. She had to clear away the hurt and humility she was feeling and get down to her real feelings, and then make a decision.
Shaking herself out of her mental reverie, she drove on, following the setting sun. It was almost another cliché in a short life of cliché’s; Go west young woman and build a new life. Did she want to start over out west, or go back to life in Boston, where she knew what to expect? Boston was predictable, she could take her bar exams, get in with a decent firm,
and buy a new place where there were no memories of her and Steve. She didn’t belong out west anymore, had become too much of a city girl. She liked the conveniences of city life, walking to the coffee shop in the morning, museums, art galleries, and all the other trappings that came with living close in to downtown. Ranch life was great to visit, but cities out west hadn’t caught up with the sophistication of east coast cities.
Her stomach rumbled, making her aware that she hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was now five o’clock. The sun was setting, and soon it would be dark, and she needed to stop and get a hotel and some food. She swore to herself that she wouldn’t think any more about what to do with her life until she got to her destination, which was another 1500 miles and 2 more days of driving. She didn’t have much faith in her willpower to not think about it.
Abby pulled her SUV to stop in front of the farm house that served as the home and office of LM ranch. It was a beautiful home, a log and stone creation that blended into the surrounding countryside as if God himself had planted it there. It glistened in the fall of new snow, looking almost brand new. Abby hadn’t been in the west since the year after she was married, maybe because Steve didn’t want to be reminded he married a cattle rancher’s daughter. Abby had forgotten how stunning the scenery was, even in winter. The mountains changed color throughout the day, from black to purple to the pink of alpenglow. Evergreen trees with their white dressings of snow, emerald green branches peeking through.
Vaguely, she thought about Valentine’s Day in two weeks, and snorted. What a way to spend the most romantic holiday of the year, holed up in a cabin in the woods, trying to rebuild her life after the end of her marriage. It was like a big cosmic joke. Well, she was no quitter, and she would bounce back from
this. She flipped down the vanity mirror and looked at herself in it. Not too bad for driving 2200 miles, she thought. She had pushed herself too hard, driving almost 800 miles a day. She ran her fingers through her long hair, shaking it so the natural waves came out. Her green eyes glittered from unshed tears, so much for her resolve not to think about her failed marriage as she drove, and there were faint shadows under them, but nothing that a couple days of sleep wouldn’t cure.
Opening the door, she stepped out and stretched, arms up over her head, then bending down to touch her toes. She heard a rattle and straightened up quickly, looking around for the source of the sound. Two men, mounted on horses, had come around the corner of the house, and were staring at her.
“Hello, am I at the right place to check into the cabin?” she asked, raising her hand in a wave. Neither one of them spoke, and were staring quite rudely. Abby stared right back. How rude.
“Is this the LM Ranch?” she tried again. The smaller of the two blinked.
“Can you help me?” she said, speaking slowly. The bigger man, about a decade older than the smaller man, tipped his cowboy hat and winked.
“Sorry ma’am, we’re just not used to seeing the likes of you out here. You kinda startled us. My name is Ben Frazier, and I’m the manager here. Would you be Abby Stanford?” Ben asked, leaning over his saddle horn.
Abby wondered what he meant when he said “the likes of you” but decided to let it pass.
“Yes, I’m Abby Stanford. Do I just go into the house to check in?” Abby replied, gesturing toward the house. Had she been away from ranchers for so long she forgot how they acted?
Ben just nodded, and he and Small One wheeled their horses around and disappeared around the corner of the house from where they came from. Abby stood in the gently falling snow and wondered at their behavior. Maybe they just don’t see that many females, she thought as she walked around to the back of the truck to get out her bags.
“Hey, Logan, I think your guest is here.”
Logan MacKinnon looked up from his computer and glanced over to where Kassey Frazier was looking out the front window. Kassey looked back at him, her face lit up in a big smile.
“What are you smiling about?” Logan asked, a hint of a smile playing
around the edges of his mouth.
“Oh she’s going to cause trouble. I can already tell.”
Logan thought that a bit cryptic and moved to the window next to where Kassey stood. He glanced once, turned away, and then spun back around.
It was a Vision, had to be. There was nothing on God’s green earth that looked like that. She stood outside, looking around, a pile of luggage at her feet. She wore a pair of jeans that were cut in the current style, sitting low around her waist, a pair of hiking boots on her feet. Not cheap ones, either. She only had a short jacket on, like a blazer almost, and her long auburn hair tumbled down her back in a wavy waterfall. Her face was all cream and rose, shaped in a perfect heart. He wondered vaguely what color her eyes were, then shook himself mentally. He wondered what he would get done while she was here. Trouble, with a capital T.
“I didn’t think women looked like that in real life” Logan commented in what he hoped was his normal speaking voice, and heard Kassie snort behind him.
“Get your mind out of your pants! She’s just a woman, probably snooty too. She ain’t even dressed for winter. Look at her.” Kassey huffed, reaching a hand to her own blonde locks self-consciously.
Logan couldn’t stop looking at her. His usual self-control had vanished. He had seen, and been with, many a beautiful woman, but this one was different. There was something about her that turned his mind into a blank slate.