Skyheart Ranch

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An Ugly Surprise


Katie stayed in her room until she heard the front door finally close, the voices of the hands getting quieter as the walked away from the house.

‘Okay, Ruby, should have left to go into town, so I’ll just sneak into the kitchen, grab something to eat, and head to the office. If I’m lucky, I can avoid Ruby for today. I have no idea what to say to him.’ Katie opened her door, hearing only silence. Heaving a great sigh of relief, she headed towards the kitchen, then jumped as she noticed Ruby sitting on the counter, a huge grin on his face.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Ruby, you almost gave me a heart attack!”

“Well, we can’t have that,” Ruby said, still grinning, swinging his legs back and forth. “Especially now that you and the boss have finally stopped dancing around each other and performed the horizontal mambo.” Katie blushed, but also burst out laughing at Ruby’s phrasing.

“The horizontal mambo? Seriously?”

“What?” Ruby asked indignantly. “It’s poetic!”

“It’s ridiculous!” Ruby stuck his tongue out at Katie, making her laugh more, and hopped down off the counter. He brought out her plate of eggs and sausage, sliding it to her across the kitchen island. Katie sat on one of the tall island stools while Ruby grabbed her a glass of water.

“Thanks, Rubes,” Katie said, smiling at him. He kissed her temple, then moved around to the opposite side of the kitchen island so he could see her face. He hopped up onto one of the stools and stared at Katie expectantly. She did a rather impressive job of ignoring him as she finished eating, then looked up, rolling her eyes at the huge grin covering Ruby’s face.

“No,” Katie said, standing up and bringing all her dishes to one of the sinks. She started getting ready to wash them when Ruby reached around her, turning off the water, still grinning.

“I’m not talking about it!” Katie cried out.

“Sugar, Cash Buchanan walked into the kitchen this morning looking like he was in the middle of a fantastic dream and the morning rudely interrupted it. That boy is always raring to go and this morning, he could barely leave the house. So talk.”

“Nope,” Katie replied, smiling slightly at what Ruby said about Cash. “Don’t you need to go to town?”

“I sure do, but the boss thought you might need something extra picked up. He didn’t really specify what, just mumbled rather incoherently that he didn’t want anything, but you might. Now, as the only person who buys supplies for this house, I can take an educated guess about what he meant. But I’d rather just hear it from you.” Katie blushed again, knowing exactly what Cash was referring to and unsure if she should ask Ruby for them.

‘Yes, condoms make sense. But...’ Katie bit her lip, thinking. ‘I don’t want them. I want to feel Cash, all of him. I think I even want a baby. Jesus, what is this place doing to me?’ Katie sighed and sat back down on the stool at the kitchen island. Ruby hoisted himself up onto the counter and looked at Katie expectantly.

“We didn’t use a condom and I’m not on birth control anymore.” Ruby just raised a perfectly styled eyebrow at Katie. “Yes, I know it was irresponsible, and I should be telling you to pick up condoms in town. But, honestly, I don’t really want to use them. Neither does Cash.”

“So you guys are...” Ruby trailed off. “You guys are ready for the consequences of unprotected horizontal mamboing?” Katie laughed, unable to help herself.

“It’s just sex, Ruby, you can go ahead and call it that.”

“Well, I happen to like my version better,” Ruby said haughtily before smiling.

Katie sighed, staring out a window at the ranch. There was a little bit of snow whirling across the brown fields. Most of the hands were going back to their families for December and January. The ranch basically stopped and only a few people stayed on to keep taking care of the animals until it began to warm up again. Cash had told her they usually had a ten person crew for winter, with the hands returning in February to start getting the cattle ready to sell.

“You know I love him,” Katie said abruptly. “And he loves me. If I get pregnant, I know Cash would be there the whole time.” Ruby frowned, staring down at his sparkly sneakers.

“Katie, there’s so much he doesn’t know. Hell, there’s so much none of us know. Don’t you think you should tell him everything before trying to have a baby?”

“We’re not trying to get pregnant. We’re just not actively stopping it, either.” Ruby just gave Katie a look.

“That wasn’t my point,” he said gently.

“I know and I’m hoping you’ll drop it. I know I need to tell Cash about my past. He deserves to know. It’s just...” Katie sighed. “I’m scared, Ruby. I’m afraid that once I tell Cash everything, he won’t want me anymore.” Ruby jumped off the counter and sat down on the stool next to Katie, putting a comforting arm around her as she laid her head on his shoulder.

“Sugar, there is nothing you can tell that man that’ll change how he feels about you.” Katie let out a bitter laugh.

“Oh yeah? And what if I tell him I’m married?” Ruby froze, his entire body tensing up. He removed his arm and gently turned Katie to face him.

“The man that hurt you. He’s your husband?” Katie just nodded. A look of absolute misery crossed her face.

“I barely got away in the first place, Rubes. How could I have asked him for a divorce? He would have killed me. Hell, I keep waiting for him to find me and kill me. He’s a fucking sadist who loved hurting me and knew he could get away with it.”

“Oh, sugar,” Ruby said, pulling her into a hug. He held her tight as she fought back tears. “You know we’d all help you, right? Everyone here loves you and we’d do whatever it takes to protect you and get you away from that asshat.” Katie just shook her head, her face buried in Ruby’s shoulder.

“It’s so much more complicated than that. He’s not just someone you can walk away from. His family...” Katie sighed, burying her face deeper into Ruby’s shoulder as his arms tightened around her.

“Sugar, we can help. We can get you a divorce, we can-” Ruby was cut off by a loud thunk, causing both Ruby and Katie to look over at the kitchen door. Cash stood there, a look of utter shock on his face.

“I-I needed a scarf, I was gonna grab it, what the hell do you mean, ‘divorce’? Are you married?” Cash stared at Katie, a look of betrayal on his face. The tears Katie had been holding in started falling down her face.

“Cash, I-”

“No, answer the damn question! Are you already married?” Katie didn’t answer, just nodded, the tears still falling down her cheeks. Cash stared at her and then just shook his head, walking out the door. Katie jumped off the stool and tried to follow him, grabbing his arm before he got a few feet from the house.

“Cash, please, let me explain-”

“Explain what?” Cash snapped at her. “You’re fucking married, Katie! What the hell is there to explain?” He jerked his arm out of her grip. “I need to get back to work.” He started walking away, not even looking at her. Katie ran, getting in front of Cash to stop him.

“Cash, please, if you’d just listen-”

“I don’t wanna hear a goddamn thing you have to say.” Cash roughly pushed past Katie. “Don’t you have a fucking job to do? Go do it. I just, I need to think.” He walked away from her. Katie felt her knees giving out as a sob escaped her mouth. Ruby caught her before she fell to the ground, holding her close as he brought her back to the house.

“I ruined it, I ruined it!” Katie sobbed, her entire body shaking. Ruby held on to her, rocking her back and forth.

“Hush now, sugar. Everything is gonna be okay. You go lay down, all right? Don’t worry.” Katie just sobbed, seemingly unaware that Ruby was taking her to her room. He helped her lay down and tucked a quilt in around her tightly. “Rest, sugar. I’ll take care of this.”

Ruby gently moved Katie’s hair back and kissed her forehead. He moved to the doorway, looking back at the heartbroken girl still sobbing in the bed. Ruby clenched his jaw as he softly closed Katie’s door. He walked over to the kitchen door, grabbed his coat and marched outside. His eyes were furious and a certain cowboy should have been extremely worried, because Ruby never got mad about anything. But right now, he was angrier than he could ever remember being in his life.

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