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Authors: Capri Montgomery

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BOOK: A Rancher's Love
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28

A Rancher’s Love ~ Capri Montgomery They all agreed and she just shook her head. She really didn’t mind helping, but since they seemed to mind it so much she agreed to stay out of the way and just sit and watch them work.

Dean seemed to be taking a long time just to get showered and changed. He had driven the truck back to the house instead of walking because he said he didn’t want to take too long, yet he was taking too long. She was trying to be good and not let her need to do something make her go start pitching some hay too, but the longer she sat there the more antsy she became.

Fortunately, before she lost control of her restraint she saw his truck pulling up. “Got the horse saddled, Dave?”

“Yeah, it was taking you so long that I saddled it for you,” he laughed. “You’re going to miss lunch.”

Dean didn’t say anything, he just nodded. Maybe he wasn’t planning on being out there that long.

Lunch was at noon and it was almost eleven thirty now. “Come on, Zoe.” He helped her up onto the horse before mounting behind her. “See you guys later.”

“Don’t rush on our account,” Guy chuckled.

“So where are we going?”

“My property is twenty-five thousand acres, so we’re just going to explore some of it.”

“Twenty-five thousand acres?” She gasped. “My goodness…that’s a lot of acres.”

He laughed behind her as the horse galloped at a leisurely pace. “I bought fifteen thousand of it. At the time it joined with my father’s property. When this went up for sale it was dirt cheap. I was getting married and I decided I wanted it, so I took my savings and bought it. I was young and stupid, thinking Daisy would want to live out here.”

“She didn’t like it?”

“Oh she loved it—after I built a house for her to live in.” He laughed hard. “I brought her out here and told her this was going to be our home and all I had up was a tent.”

Zoe started laughing. “Yeah, I could see where that would be a problem.”

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A Rancher’s Love ~ Capri Montgomery

“She told me I was out of my mind crazy and she went to stay with my parents until we had our little shack built near the property line. That’s where Jasper lives now. It’s not a shack, it’s just small. Big enough for a family of four because we always thought we would have kids.”

“That’s not small. A family of four requires space. Did you ever have the kids?”

“No,” the pain in his heart was evident in his voice. “I wanted them, God knows I did, but Daisy had some problems with tumors growing on her ovaries. The doctors gave her a hysterectomy to try to prevent any cancers from forming. They found out when they biopsied the tumors that most were benign…she had over sixty tumors growing inside of her, and only one of them turned out to be cancerous. The doctors said it had already spread. They started treatments, but she…she died from the complications of the treatment. I always say the cancer and the method for the cure killed her. If she hadn’t had the cancer, she wouldn’t have had the treatments and she wouldn’t have died.”

“I’m so sorry, Dean. I can’t even imagine the pain you must have felt.”

“It was difficult. I moved out of that house because I couldn’t deal with living there without her.

Then I built the place I have now and as the years passed I brought some of our things over, but I put most of it in a storage unit on the property. When my parents passed they left their land to me and that’s why I have so much of it.”

“It’s beautiful—what I saw of it anyway.”

“I hope you’ll see a lot more of it.”

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“What’s that?” She pointed to their left. “Over there…what’s that?”

“A bale of hay.” There was definite laughter in his tone. He probably had a smirk on his face too. He was teasing her.

“Not that,” she said as dryly as she could given her own sense of humor threatening to ruin it.

“Beyond that, just off to the other side.”

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A Rancher’s Love ~ Capri Montgomery

“Let’s go see, shall we?” He turned the horse and started trekking a little faster toward it. By the time he got closer she noticed a blanket, then a basket.

“Is somebody picnicking on your land?”

“Yes,” he stopped the horse and dismounted before helping her down. “We are,” he winked at her.

“This is what took me so long. I wanted to set this up for you.” He wrapped the reins around the stake sticking out of the ground, keeping the horse in place so he wouldn’t run away.

“Wow, this is great. I’ve never had a picnic before.”

“Never?”

“Never,” she admitted as she slipped off her shoes and socks and walked over onto the blanket. She laughed like a school girl with excitement at doing something new.

“Then I’m glad I was here for your first. That seems to be a record for you today. Your first horseback ride, and your first picnic.”

“Thanks to you on both,” she plopped down onto the blanket and looked up at him with a smile on her face. “So what did you bring in that basket?”

She watched as he pulled off his boots and joined her. “Let’s see shall we?” He opened the top. “I brought cheese, crackers, turkey and bread for a sandwich. Mustard,” he looked up at her. “You didn’t seem to like mayo.”

“I don’t,” she admitted. The last time he brought her a sandwich with mayo she had wiped as much of it off the bread as she could before eating the sandwich.

“I brought juice, and glasses—wine glasses. I’m sorry, but they came with the basket.”

“I love it. You even have plates in here. When did you get this?”

“Before Daisy died. We never had a chance to use it though.”

“Would you like to talk about her?”

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A Rancher’s Love ~ Capri Montgomery

“She was an amazing woman. But I’ve learned to let her go over the years. I’d prefer not to spend our time together dwelling on the past.”

“Okay, then let’s eat and talk about something else then.” She positioned her legs beneath her to sit on her legs as she looked through the basket. “You have grapes in there too.”

“I thought you might like that.”

“I do,” she dug a little deeper. “Ooh la la,” she hummed. “I see sweets.”

He laughed. “I thought you might like that. You made some cookies for the guys last night and I put some away before they could scarf them all down. You have to stop baking for my guys.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re going to get us all fat.”

She started laughing hysterically. “All that work you all do; not a chance. Besides, I eat my sweets and I’m not fat. It’s called moderation and exercise.”

“True,” he admitted. “But I don’t know if you noticed or not, but these guys aren’t real good with moderation. Did you see Dave’s plate at lunch yesterday?”

“Which one,” she laughed. “He is so skinny and he eats like he’s eating for five people.”

“Always has. Jasper says she wants Doc to look him over and see if he has a family of tapeworms inside of him or something.”

She listened to Dean talk about his land, his work, and his passions. He talked about the ranch hands as though they were family and she figured that was because to him they were family. He was such a nice man, so full of life and so considerate. He could have called an ambulance and tossed her out, but he hadn’t.

He had fed her, let her use his spare bedroom—even though he was content on letting her sleep in his bed she was not content on making him use the spare room. He had let her use his water for bathing, which probably ran up his bill with all those long showers she liked to take. He hadn’t asked anything in return.

“Nobody has ever done anything like this for me before.”

“You need to surround yourself with better friends, Zoe.”

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A Rancher’s Love ~ Capri Montgomery

“Yeah…maybe I’ll find some after I get moved to Washington. I’ll see what awaits me.”

“I thought that went out the window when you missed the interview.”

“The job went out the window,” she admitted. “But I still need to find a place to stay. I have to pack up my condo, which is why I asked Jimmy to hurry with my car. I have to get back and get everything out before my lease is completely up. I’ll put it in storage and then I’ll either move on out to Washington or I’ll find a way to make things work in the Keys. Of course I could move to New York.” She laughed. “I have options.”

“I can see that,” his voice sounded less chipper to her than before and she wondered why. She thought he would be happy that she was still going to try to make a life for herself somewhere.

“I can open my own bakery…well, probably not in Key Largo.”

He nodded. “You’re good at what you do. I hope it works out for you.”

“Thanks,” she popped another grape into her mouth.

“You can open a bakery anywhere you know?”

“I know. That’s the great thing about it…but I do have to think about finances and living arrangements plus renting a shop. You know, I need to find out about taxes and papers that I’ll need to file in whatever city I move to. Every place seems to have different laws so I need to find the one where I can make the most money with my bakery while keeping my sanity even with the city and state laws.” She chuckled. “The business plus the baking is going to be all on me for a long time. I want to make sure I do it right. Jimmy says my car should be ready by the end of the week so I’m going to hit the road.”

“I guess you’ll never come back.”

“Are you kidding me?! I love it here. I’ll come back to visit you. That’s what friends do. And I hope you’ll come visit me wherever I land, Dean.”

“Yeah,” he said softly. “That’s what friends do.”

33

A Rancher’s Love ~ Capri Montgomery The end of the week brought Jimmy with her car and Zoe packed up her bags, put them in the car and made sure she printed out written directions before she left Dean’s ranch. The guys threw her a going away party, and gave her cute little gifts to remember them by. They even gave her a picture of all of them together, Dean included. She was going to miss this place, and these guys and even Dean, but he had said he would come visit her once she got settled.

She gave them all one last hug before getting in the car, wiping the tears from her cheek and driving off; back to the Keys she had to go, leaving this little slice of heaven behind.

34

A Rancher’s Love ~ Capri Montgomery Chapter Five

“W
hy didn’t you ask her to stay?” Guy tried to hold his tongue with Dean, but it was getting increasingly difficult. Zoe had been gone three weeks and in those three weeks, Dean had become as moody as a mare in heat. He was sad, they all knew it, but instead of him brushing off that sadness he let it hit him hard. He worked harder, and had fewer words to say to anybody. He didn’t break for lunch. Even Jasper was getting worried about him. She said it seemed a lot like when Daisy died, and she was right. Dean had gone through this when Daisy died and unfortunately it had almost killed him. Guy knew he had to do something soon.

“Go eat lunch, Guy.”

“Going,” he grumbled. Clearly he wasn’t going to convince Dean to come eat with them. The guys missed him at the table. He was pulling away, and only a few people had seen him do that before—his parents, Jasper, Doc, and Guy were the only ones who were around him when Daisy died, so they were the only ones who could know this mood that he had now spelled trouble.

“He won’t come again?” Jasper placed her hands on her hips.

“No; he won’t come.”

“He’s going to make himself sick. He won’t eat. He barely sleeps. He’s going to work himself into the grave trying to get her out of his mind.”

“She hasn’t called?”

“She called after I left and she left a message. But he told me when he called her back she was out.

They keep playing phone tag…and this morning,” she sighed and shook her head. “This morning he tried to call her at home and her phone was disconnected. He tried the cell and he couldn’t get her either. The lines were having trouble or something. He thinks he’s lost her for good.”

“Oh hell,” Guy mumbled.

“Just get him another woman, Justin said.

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A Rancher’s Love ~ Capri Montgomery

“He’s not like you young men, Justin. When he falls he falls hard.”

“He didn’t know her that long.” Justin commented in between shoving food in his mouth.

“He knew he was going to marry Daisy the first day he met her.”

“High school,” Justin tried to speak with food in his mouth and Jasper chastised him for it.

Everybody knew Jasper was big on table manners and speaking with food in one’s mouth was not welcome at her table.

“He met her the first day and he knew right away that he was going to marry her someday. He told his parents when he came home from school. I know because his mother told me when I first went to work for them. She said she thought her son was crazy, but he married that girl anyway. When they died he hired me on instead of just making me leave the ranch. He knew I thought this place and his parents were my home. I, in all my time of knowing him, have never seen him look at another woman the way he looked at Zoe—not since Daisy died.”

“It’s like he’s lost love all over again.” Guy shook his head for his friend. Jasper was right. When Dean fell he fell hard, and he was falling now.

“Take him some food back with you when you go.”

“He won’t eat it,” Guy said because Dean hadn’t eaten it any other time he had taken it back.

“Take it anyway,” she snapped.

“Yes Mrs. Daisy.”

His heart was aching for his friend because he didn’t see any sort of recovery for him. Losing one woman he loved had been bad enough, but losing two—he wouldn’t wish that on his worst enemy, let alone his friend.

“I have to go into town and pick up the supplies this weekend. Somebody please make sure Dean doesn’t kill himself with work like he’s been doing the past few weekends.”

They all nodded and agreed to try. But they knew, just as he knew, nobody told Dean what to do.

BOOK: A Rancher's Love
7.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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