Skyheart Ranch

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Porch Swing Confessions

Katie

Katie’s days started taking on a routine. She never ate breakfast with the hands, preferring to wait until they went outside to work. Then she’d eat while Ruby chattered about a million and one different things, always making her smile and laugh. Two times a week, Ruby went into town, picking up supplies and everything Katie had ordered that was slowly trickling to the ranch.

She hadn’t wanted to go too crazy, but she had no winter clothes with her, so she basically had to buy an entire fall/winter wardrobe. Ruby wasn’t content with just that, though, so he made sure Katie had clothes for every season and occasion. The sundresses and cardigans or jean jackets were cute and Katie never minded wearing them on the weekends when some of the hands would go to Billings.

Katie learned their rotating weekend schedule and found out some of the hands would trade weekends for a future one so they could go two or three times in a row. Rocky kept track of who came and went, making sure everyone was always accounted for.

Katie was slowly making friends among the hands. Josiah was the youngest hand, only a year or so older than Katie, and seemed to need the most help adjusting to ranch life. Paul was in his forties. When his family’s ranch failed, he immediately went to his old friend Eli Buchanan for a job. Hank was in his early thirties. He was a bit of a wanderer, jumping from ranch to ranch. This was his third time at Skyheart, but no one seemed sure if he’d stick around.

Katie’s favorite times became Friday and Saturday nights. That’s when the hands that weren’t in Billings would gather on the porch after dinner. Hank would play the guitar, usually accompanied by Paul on the harmonica. They’d sing all sorts of songs, all different genres and all different decades.

The first three weekends, Katie stayed inside the house, just listening. Her fourth weekend at Skyheart, she came out to the porch for two songs before scurrying back inside. Now, though, after being at Skyheart for almost four months, she would join the hands for dinner every night and on the weekends, she’d stay outside for all the singing. She was getting more and more comfortable around the hands. She realized not all men were like Damien; the men on this ranch would never hurt her.

This was especially true of Cash Buchanan. At first, Katie had tried to avoid him, giving him the tiniest of greetings, the running off to the office or kitchen. Cash was persistent, though, always going out of his way to talk to her, making sure she was settling into ranch life. They started spending time together, just talking, after Ruby and the hands left for the night. They’d sit on one of the porch swings, staring at the stars, and talking about whatever popped into their heads.

One night, almost twelve weeks after she arrived on the ranch, she and Cash were telling stories about their parents.

“I think they’d be proud I’ve expanded the ranch,” Cash said, gently rocking the porch swing with the balls of his feet. “We’re making record profits. The ranch is more successful now than it’s ever been.”

“Is that all they wanted for you, though?” Katie asked. “A great big ranch and lots of money?” Katie was curled up on one of the rocking chairs, a blanket wrapped snuggly around her shoulders. It had been spring when she arrived on the ranch but nights now were starting to get cold. Cash shifted awkwardly on the porch swing. He stared out at the ranch, a small frown on his handsome face. Katie realized she had hit on a sore subject.

“I’m sorry,” she said, involuntarily hunching in her shoulders. “You don’t have to answer that. I was being too nosy.” She started to get up out of the chair when Cash finally answered.

“This ranch... It’s a part of me. Part of my parents and my grandparents. Each generation poured everything they had to keep this ranch going, to keep it successful.” Cash turned to Katie, seemingly needing her to understand what he was about to say. “But there was always one thing more important than the ranch. One thing that mattered more then everything else.”

Katie felt like Cash’s hazel eyes were holding her in place, making it impossible for her to move or even look away.

“What was more important then Skyheart?” Katie whispered, almost afraid to hear the answer.

“Family, angel,” replied Cash, staring deeply into her eyes. “Family was always more important than the ranch. My grandparents only had my Pops and my parents only had me. My momma would tell me all the time that I needed to find a woman, make a family. Fill this huge house with laughter and love.” Cash slowly ran his hand down the outside wall of the big house.

“Most women aren’t cut out for ranch life,” Cash continued. “They wanna be closer to cities, closer to other people than a bunch of ranch hands. It takes a real special lady to live on a ranch. A special lady that can turn a ranch into a home.”

Cash was staring intently at Katie. Try as she might, she just couldn’t look away.

“You...”. Katie had to pause as her mouth had gone completely dry. “You’re looking for a wife, then?”

“I wasn’t,” Cash replied. “I figured I’d never find someone I felt such a strong connection to. Someone who made the ranch feel like home. Someone who...someone I could love.” Cash and Katie stared at each other, the silence growing between them.

‘God, my heart is pounding,’ Katie thought. ‘I’m surprised Cash can’t hear it. Everything he just said, I want. I want to stay on the ranch. I want a big, happy family. I want... I want Cash Buchanan!’ Katie abruptly jumped to her feet, her fear winning out over her feelings. Cash stood as well, frowning at her in concern.

“It’s, uh, it’s pretty late,” Katie stammered. “I’m going to go ahead and get some sleep. I need to finish the sales receipts from last year tomorrow. Night, Cash.” Katie practically ran inside, leaving a bewildered Cash on the porch.

‘I thought we were getting closer. I thought she might be ready,’ Cash thought, brushing back his hair in frustration. ‘Ah, fuck, I hope I didn’t mess this up. I’m willing to wait as long as it takes for her to come to me.’

Cash slowly walked inside, locking the door behind him. His whole life, the doors to the big house were never locked. But now, with Katie here, he wanted her to feel safe, so he locked the doors for her sake.

Cash and Katie rather awkwardly interacted the next few days, with Katie not joining him on the porch at night for four days after Cash’s proclamation that he wanted a wife. On the fifth night, Katie finally worked up the nerve to join him on the porch.

‘It’s not as if he’s talking about me. A man like Cash, he could have any woman he wanted. Why on Earth would he go for someone so broken?’ Katie thought sadly. Katie and Cash started talking about everything again, except the fact that he wanted a family. Cash realized he needed to wait for Katie to come to him. He couldn’t push the issue.

Four months in, without a doubt, Katie knew she was in love with Cash Buchanan and never wanted to leave Skyheart Ranch. Now all she had to do was slay all her demons so she could tell Cash how she felt. The endeavor might prove utterly impossible.

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