Authors: Jill Sanders
The clearing was a little bigger now, but since the location played a big part in their cattle business, it was needed. Cattle roamed those hills during winter and spring; in the fall, they were herded back and separated for auction.
During the summer, the cabin stayed empty for the most part. Haley and her sisters had gone camping with their father up there until his death when Haley was fourteen. Even with the new mobile home, the place still reminded her of their father.
Dash was getting older, and therefore it took twice as long as before to make it up the hills. She had to stop several times along the way and let him rest, but she didn’t mind. This was her time. Lauren had begged her to take Lauren’s horse, Tanner, since he was faster and not so old, but she just couldn’t make the trip without Dash. She knew this was probably the last trip she’d make up here with him and she wanted it to be special. She’d even packed a few extra apples in her pack for him.
Since he knew the trails so well, she had only to hold on and let him lead. Several times along the way, she had actually drifted so far off into her daydreams that she’d almost dropped the reins.
Her mind was consumed with Wes. Since seeing him last week, she’d been doing a lot of thinking and dreaming about him. Actually, it was because of him that she was heading to the cabin for the weekend. If there was one good thing about being alone with yourself for a few days, it was that there was plenty of time to sort out your thoughts on a subject.
At the house there were too many distractions. Work, the animals, her sisters, and even little Ricky made it almost impossible to think. Normally, she would welcome all the hectic attention, but she had some serious soul searching to do and decisions to make.
Reaching the cabin just before dark, she pulled out her cell phone and called Lauren as she walked Dash into the new barn Chase had built.
I’m here, safe and sound,” she said as she pulled off her packs and started brushing Dash to get him ready for the night.
Okay, umm . . .” Lauren said. Haley could hear Alex in the background, saying, “Tell her.”
Tell me what?” Haley asked only to hear silence on the other end.
You got her into this, you tell her,” Lauren said and Haley could hear the phone being passed to someone else.
Haley.” Chase’s voice came on the other end. “I didn’t know you were heading to the cabin this weekend, and well . . .” He paused. “I ran into Wes at the Grocery Stop yesterday and he mentioned how he was looking for a place to stay and, well, I sorta told him he could stay there for a week until one of the ranch hand places opens up.”
Haley dropped the phone and walked to the door of the small barn. Sure enough, she noticed there was a small light in the window. Looking over to where the new dirt road was, she saw his truck parked under the tree there. Closing her eyes, she wondered if the night could get any worse.
Turning back into the barn, she thought about loading up Dash again and heading down the mountain, but she was too responsible of a horse owner to take an old horse down the windy paths in the dark. She picked up her phone to Lauren’s concerned voice.
Yes, I’m here,” she said, using her other hand to rub her temple. She didn’t normally get headaches, but a massive one had started along her temple. “Any chance you can come pick me up?” she asked, knowing the answer. It was almost a half hour drive up the dirt road, not to mention that she would have to leave Dash up here until tomorrow. “Never mind. There are two bedrooms. I’ll just make do.”
I’m really sorry about this, Haley. Chase had mentioned it to me, but I was so tired from staying up with Ricky, I didn’t think about it when we talked.”
It’s okay. It’s not like I’m going to murder him in my sleep.” She chuckled and said goodbye to her sister.
Taking her time, she finished up in the barn and started walking towards the house. Wes stood on the small front deck, his arms crossed over his chest.
“Chase just called me.” He smiled a little.
Yeah, I figured he would.” She hoisted her bag over her shoulder and stopped at the bottom of the steps. “We aren’t going to have any problems are we?” she asked after a moment of silence.
His eyebrows shot up. “Problems?”
She sighed. “Listen, Wes, what we had was great, but we were kids. It ended over five years ago. I think we both know that we can’t just pick up where we left off.”
He nodded, and for a moment, she thought that would be the end of the conversation.
“Of course,” he said slowly. “But nothing is stopping us from starting something new.”
Two hours later, as she lay in the small bed in one of the bedrooms, she couldn’t stop playing his words over and over in her mind.
“Nothing is stopping us from starting something new.”
Of course, there was something stopping her from starting something new. History. She wasn’t an idiot. He’d hurt her once. What was to stop him from doing it again? Did he honestly think that she would just willingly jump in bed with someone who had torn out her heart?
She’d been so frustrated after he’d made that statement outside that she had walked into the house without a word. After dropping her bag off in the empty room, she had marched into the small kitchen and cooked a can of soup she’d brought along. The entire time she sat at the small table and ate, he’d sat across from her and watched her.
She’d felt so agitated that every time he tried to start up a conversation, she’d shut him down. Finally, after eating, she’d excused herself to shower and had locked herself in the room all to herself. So much for being alone to sort her thoughts.
It took a while for her to finally shut down, but the long day of horseback riding finally caught up with her and she drifted into a deep sleep. She was woken sometime later by moans and screams from the next room.
Rushing into to Wes’s room, she saw him lying on the bed in just boxers. He was thrashing around with a nightmare. Her eyes roamed over his arms and chest, which were a lot wider than before. The new muscles looked great on him. Her eyes traveled down his chest to his stomach, past his boxers to a large puckered scar on his left thigh. Since it was dark, she couldn’t see very clearly. When he started moaning, she rushed to his side and shook his bare shoulders until finally his eyes flew open. His arms reached around her, pulling her down next to his half-naked body.
“I was having the worst dream,” he said in a groggy voice as he buried his face in her hair, which had come loose from its braid. “There was this explosion . . .” His voice dropped off and she felt his body tense. Then his grip loosened around her. “Haley?” he asked. She could hear from his voice that he’d finally awoken.
Yes,” she whispered, not wanting to let him know how it affected her to be so close to him again.
I’m sorry,” he said after a moment, then he released her shoulders so she could sit up and look down at him.
It was too dark to see clearly, but the soft moonlight that drifted in the windows was enough that she could see his bare chest against her palms. She had tried to push herself completely away from him, but had stopped just short of moving off the bed.
“Are you okay?” she asked, looking down at him.
Yeah,” he said, rubbing his hands over his face. She could feel his newly gained muscle; it was so different from the last time she’d seen him and felt him like this. Her mouth went dry and her mind found a million things to focus on. How wide his chest looked, how big his pecs were now, how he’d kicked the blankets off; her eyes refused to focus on anything but his navel. Her eyes found the dark trail of hair down his stomach enticing, which only made her wish she could pull his boxers away, slowly.
When she heard Wes chuckle, her eyes flew to his face, and she realized that his brown eyes were laughing at her.
“What?” She pulled back further.
I thought you were a dream.” He sat up a little, and her eyes flew to his chest and arms again.
When his hand came to rest on her shoulder, she jolted out of the fantasy her mind had been playing.
“Come here,” he whispered.
Her mind cleared for just a moment and she shook her head.
“Please.” She heard his voice crack a little.
His hand was running over her naked shoulder. The tank top she’d worn to bed was large and had loose straps. Her left shoulder strap was down around her elbow. His rough hands felt so good next to her skin.
“I . . . I can’t do this again.” She pulled back then stood next to the bed, looking down at him. His eyes raked over her and for the first time, she realized she was wearing his old gym shorts, the one’s he’d left in her room one night. She’d been wearing them for as long as she could remember, and had thought nothing about it, until now.
I’m sorry I woke you,” he said, his eyes moving up her body until he reached her own eyes.
She nodded, not able to say anything. When he pushed the sheet aside, she released the breath she’d been holding. She realized that he was wearing a pair of army shorts, which hung loose on his hips. He walked over to her. She backed up towards the wall until her back hit the door.
“Haley,” he said, his hands going to either side of her shoulders, pinning her in place. “I meant what I said earlier. There’s nothing holding us back from starting over.”
She looked into his dark eyes and, for a moment, she was transported to another time and place.
“Do you trust me?” he asked her, walking closer to her. Wes had just turned sixteen, and she was still a month shy of her sweet sixteenth birthday. It was the middle of the night and he’d snuck out of his house again. This time, when they walked up to the hay loft in the barn, she knew they wouldn’t stop at just touching each other. This time, they were going to make love.
She nodded her head and pulled him close. As they kissed, he backed her up until her knees had hit the soft hay. He laid out a blanket, so the hay wouldn’t scratch her soft skin. He pulled them down until he rested next to her, then he took his time peeling her clothes from her, layer by layer, until she was fully exposed next to him.
She didn’t feel shy, not when he looked at her like she was a goddess. His dark eyes roamed over every inch. He stood and pulled off his own clothes, which she watched with great interest.
When he stood over her, completely naked, she felt her confidence waver for the first time. He was so big and she was still unsure what to do. Then he’d rushed to her side and kissed her again and nothing mattered except him.
When he touched her, she felt something almost too hard to explain. He was more than her soul mate. When he kissed her, every bone in her body had turned to mush. Her skin tingled and her heart beat out of her chest.
Then he was above her, sliding into her, stretching her until he made her his, completely.
“Well?” he asked, bringing her back to now. He was a breath away from her and the memory of him inside her, filling her completely was still fresh in her mind. But the hurt of the last five years outweighed the beauty of the past.
Shaking her head, she said, “I can’t.” She looked down at his chest, then closed her eyes to the beauty of him. “I can’t expose myself to that kind of pain again.” She straightened her shoulders and looked up into his eyes. “I won’t.”
His hands dropped to his sides, his eyes searching hers. Then he stepped back. “I understand.” He turned and walked back to the bed, and she noticed how much he limped. Her eyes went to his legs, but his shorts and the dark made it impossible to see the damage again. She turned to go, her hand on the doorknob. “Haley?” She looked over her shoulder at him. “I mean for you to trust me again. Soon,” he said to her back. She rushed from the room, her heart racing. She lay in bed and dreamed of their first time, in the hayloft, so many years ago.
When Wes woke up, Haley and Dash were both gone. It had taken him almost three hours to get back to sleep after she’d woken him. The image of her ran through his mind over and over. How she looked, smelled, and even felt, had caused him great pain as he lay there looking up at the ceiling. Knowing she was just in the bedroom next to him hadn’t made it any easier.