Authors: Ashley Christine
Copyright © 2013 Ashley Christine
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Published by Ashley Christine, June 2013
Cover Image ©
Aarrttuurr - Fotolia.com
The characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons, living or dead,
is coincidental and not intended by the author.
All written material is the intellectual property of the author, except for any song/movie titles, lyrics or mentions of music/movies are property of their particular writers and copyright holders.
know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
I’d planned on sleeping in on this beautiful May morning, but instead here I am, at six o'clock, in the barn helping Ivy deliver her first calf. She’s been struggling for a while on her own. Now I’m finally able to get him out. I take a towel and dry him off. He is a cute little guy, with a creamy coat and a white face.
About an hour later, I call Jeremiah. Jer is my right-hand man on the ranch; we grew up together in Sheridan, and we've been best friends since kindergarten class back in 1987.
I tell him all about finding Ivy early this morning in a stall in the barn, struggling to birth her calf on her own. Jeremiah knows Ivy well; she gave him a few broken toes a few years ago during a thunderstorm. She, being the stubborn cow she is, would not come in from pasture. Jer and I had wrangled all of the animals except Ivy. She charged by, whipped back around, and stomped right on his foot. That night, s
he stayed outside, and Jeremiah—well, he was on crutches for a few weeks.
We agree to meet later today at the feed store in town to pick up some supplies. At one o'clock, I climb into my black Ford Super Duty, my new baby; my ear-to-ear smile is a side effect of owning something this beautiful. The diesel engine roars and I shift into gear. Driving down my lane, I pause at the boundary between what I own and the town road, and check for any other vehicles.
I creep onto the gravel and shift quickly into second, then third. Dust trails behind me as my big tires kick up stones, and I feel exhilaration when I push the pedal right down to the floor. When the dirt road turns to asphalt, and the stop signs become street lights, I know I have to slow down and stop driving like a teenager trying to impress his friends.
Zeke's is a small wooden building on the corner of Oakburn Street. Jeremiah's truck is already in the parking lot, and I find him inside.
Zeke is stocking some chicken feed on a shelf. “Hey, Blaine! What's up?” He smiles widely when I walk in, and he lets a feed bag drop on the floor.
“Oh, not much. Just in for the usual.” I smile and walk over to a wooden pallet in the corner. It’s filled with stacks of
colored buckets. I set aside four blue and four red.
Jeremiah asks Zeke something about feed, and they go off to another aisle. I make my way to the dog food, stopping quickly at the gum ball machine to pop a quarter in. I turn the knob. The child in me smiles as the green ball travels down the steel chute and lands with a clink in the chamber. I lift the small metal door and pop the gum ball into my mouth, chew down, and crush the sugar coated candy between my teeth.
When I get to the aisle stocked with dog food, I stand for a moment and stare absentmindedly out the large window. I bask in the warmth of the sun and peer out the glass toward Lander's grocery store, where some children are outside selling baked goods. Their sign says the proceeds are for a class trip to Big Horn. I may just have to buy something from them later.
I choose the usual brand of dog food Rex eats; you know the one, with the happy running dog and the bright bold words on the bag explaining in detail how this brand is simply the best natural food for your best friend.
Blah, blah, blah...
I've seen Rex eating cow patties. I'm sure this is a delicacy in comparison. Then I think about all the times he's licked my face.
The ding of the tiny bell from above the door grabs my attention. I look up, expecting to see Jer with an arm full of feed bags, leaving to load the truck. Instead, I see quite the opposite. I see beauty. Breathtaking beauty, actually. Then, right behind the breathtaking beauty...a guy.
He is fumbling in his pocket and pulls out a cellphone. He starts quickly thumbing keys on the touchscreen.
She is browsing the front counter, looking at homemade dog treats. With one hand at my side, the other holding the dog food bag slung over my shoulder, I stand there and watch her. With my feet firmly planted on the old wooden floor, I feel as if I'm encased in an invisible box.
I hear Jer and Zeke's voices again and I peep over the shelving unit that divides the two aisles. They're at the front counter, with Breathtaking Beauty and her still-texting friend.
I hear Jeremiah make a suggestion about a dog treat and the girl smiles and giggles.
Damn, that was a beautiful sound.
She places a few treats on the counter and Zeke rings them into the register.
“That'll be $2.87, ma'am.” He beams at her and she blushes.
Looking down, and still smiling, she riffles through her large purse and pulls out a wallet. The friend, still standing a few feet behind her, still texting, is clueless to the men with eyes glued to the gorgeous creature at the front counter.
I can't help but smile as I stand there, looking like a stalker.
Jeremiah catches my gaze, and gives me a
Dude, why are you just standing there? Check out this chick!
look, nodding his head in her direction.
I roll my eyes at him and slowly make my way to the counter.
The girl has long auburn hair, a deep red and brown mixture of beauty. She has half of it pinned back, and the rest cascades down her back in long flowing curls. She is wearing a light blue summer dress, with thin straps, revealing her beautiful skin and back. She is tall, too, probably five foot eight or so. All legs, and curves, and hips...
I feel like I'm walking in slow motion. I have to; I have to take in all of her beauty. Her long legs end with beautiful feet in white flip flops; clearly, she can't be from around here. I trail my stalker gaze back up her body and feel a familiar tightening in my jeans.
A pair of cold blue eyes meet mine, and I look away as fast as I can.
The friend caught me.
I feel like an adolescent caught peeping at his hot teacher as she bends over to pick up a pencil.
The guy snorts and grabs the bag of treats from Zeke's hand. “Let's go, Addy,” he says and taps her elbow with his finger.
She smiles at Zeke and Jeremiah, and walks out the door, just as beautifully as she came in.
Putting the dog food on the counter, I look at Zeke who is still gaping at the sex on legs that just walked out of his store.
“Bro, why the hell did you stand back there? You totally missed that girl!” Jeremiah asks, shoving my right shoulder with his palm.
“I have no idea,” I say, shaking my head. Honestly, I did not have a clue.
At home, Jeremiah backs his old Chevy up to the barn doors and we unload the bags of feed. I grab the red and blue buckets and place them in the tack room. We feed and tend to all the animals and by suppertime I'm starving.
“You want to get some beer and ribs?” I ask, while shutting the door behind me.
“Yeah, man,” Jeremiah says, rubbing his stomach. “I'm starving!”
I laugh and pat his stomach. “You're wasting away, Jer.”
“Hey! Not everyone has time to paint abs on in the morning, asshole!” he says, and gives me the middle finger to tell me to shut up.
There are really only two places to get good beer and ribs around here—well, at the same time anyway. Mulcaster's Mill serves to a more family orientated atmosphere, like a Chili's or Applebee's. Then there is The Wolfbarrow, a smaller place without salad forks and “mocktails”. We hop in Jeremiah's old Chevy and decide on the usual, The Wolfbarrow.
Inside, a deep and sorrowful rock song is playing rhythmically from the old jukebox in the corner; the guitar whining and ripping through the chords. Jesse, the owner and the bartender, is standing behind the counter, pouring draft beer for a group of men sitting on the
red bar stools in front of him.
I hear a familiar voice from behind and feel two arms around my neck. “Blaine! How are you?”
It's Gwen Wolf, Jesse's younger sister and a classmate of ours since elementary school. “You guys haven't been here in a while!” She lets me go and hugs Jeremiah.
He grins ear to ear and wraps his arms around the small of her back, trailing one down to her behind.
She pushes him back and slaps his chest. “Ass!”
He laughs and tells her she looks beautiful.
Gwen is tall and blonde, with pouty lips and deep green eyes. You know the type of girl that knows she's beautiful and loves the attention? That's Gwen. Sexy yes, yet unappealing to me. Most other men drool over her like cavemen to fresh meat. She seats us at a tall table facing two of the four flat screens in the small bar and hands us menus. Like we need them; we always get the same thing.
“I'll be right back, boys. Are you both having draft?”
We smile and nod, and she bounces off to greet three other people who have just walked in.
“Damn, that girl does all kinds of things to me,” Jer says slyly, looking in her direction.
“Yeah, you and three quarters of the guys in this town.” I roll my eyes.
“Do you ever think she would date me? I mean, in high school, she always had a boyfriend, but now...you never know.” He shrugs.
“True,” I say while flipping over the cardboard coaster on the table. “You never know”.
Gwen is back in less than two minutes with our glasses filled to the brim with cold beer. I take a long sip and wipe the remainder off my lips.
Gwen bites her bottom lip and looks down at the menu. “Have you boys decided?”
I raise an eyebrow and smirk.
We order our usual, two full racks, one honey garlic, and one spicy buffalo. Extra carrots and celery on the side, with ranch dressing.
There is a replay of a rodeo segment on the TV. From last summer, showing clips of the annual Sheridan WYO Rodeo. It is held in July each year, and only being a few weeks away I smile with anticipation.
“I can't wait for the WYO this year…” Jeremiah is looking at the TV and grinning too.
It isn't Gwen who brings us our food, but Josh, the kitchen kid who usually buses the tables. “Here ya go, fellas. Can I get you anything else?” he asks, placing our plates down ever so quickly.
“Nope, we're good Josh. Thanks buddy.” I smile, grab a celery stalk and dip it in the ranch dressing.
He leaves and we eat the delicious, fall-off-the-bone ribs, have about four more drafts each and call it a night.
I'm not drunk, but I really shouldn't drive, so Jesse calls us a cab. Gwen hangs around the entrance while we climb into the cab. Jer tries to sneak a goodbye kiss, and she jokingly shoves him into the cab.
“Goodbye, my lady!” he calls to her, and she laughs and turns back into The Wolfbarrow.
Jer lives in his parents' house, about five minutes from my ranch. His mom and dad died six years ago in a car crash, leaving him, the only child, everything they had. The house was a typical farm house in the area at the time it was built, over fifty years ago. Big and white, boasting six bedrooms, yet they only ever needed two. A small chicken coop was off to the left side of the house, and a massive red barn lay behind it. After his parents had died, Jer sold off all of the animals, either to me or to the local auction house. He spends as little time as possible on his now empty farm. He's talked here and there about selling, but I know he just doesn't have the heart to do it.
“Buddy, thanks for the good eats,” Jer says. He shakes my hand, thanking me for paying for the meal.
e bump fists like we're kids again.
Laughing, he gets out of the cab and makes his way to the front door. He salutes when he steps inside, and I wave as the cab pulls away.
Once I’m at home I hand the driver money for the fare and thank him for the ride. Walking up to the house I whistle for Rex, my German Shepherd. He comes from around the back of the house and picks up pace when he sees me, wagging his tail happily.
“Hey, boy.” I rub his back, and we go inside.
I kick off my jeans and pull my t-shirt over my head. Putting on some blue striped cotton pajama bottoms, I pull back the covers on my bed and fall in—face first. When my body is immersed in my luscious mattress, my head hits the pillow, and I'm out like a light. I dream of Ivy, and her little creamy calf. I dream of him getting bigger and bigger and one day becoming a champion bull. He lets no man last eight seconds on his back, bucking and kicking his way around, owning the ring and sending the dirt flying.