Skyheart Ranch

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Welcome to Skyheart

Cash

Cash ran into the living room so Ruby and Katie wouldn’t find him at the door, eavesdropping. He tried to look casual, sitting on the couch, but he knew he was doing a terrible job.

‘God, poor Katie, losing her family like that,’ Cash thought, waiting for them to come inside. ‘Then getting put into foster care. I wonder if something happened to her then, when she was in some foster home. All I know is she definitely lied about a few things when she took this job. Her age, obviously. Rocky’s right, I don’t think she’s more than 21, if that. She also lied about where she’s from. Told me on the phone she was from Tallahassee, but in her emails she said Nashville. I just figured she’d moved or something, but she lost her Southern accent right away when she started talking about her family.’

Ruby and Katie walked in and Cash immediately stood up, staring at her. Katie noticed and averted her eyes, staring at the floor.

‘No matter how long it takes, I’m gonna get that angel to trust me,’ Cash though, watching Katie uncomfortably scuff her foot back and forth. ‘Then, maybe, after a little while- Jesus, Cash, stop it! You can want her all you want, but right now it isn’t about you. It’s about her. It’ll always be about her from now on.’ Cash stood there silently, just staring, so Ruby loudly cleared his throat.

“Well, Boss, I’m off. Katie, you need anything, I’m in that cabin right there.” Ruby pointed out one of the picture windows to a small cottage Rocky had pointed out to Katie on the drive to the big house.

“Night, Ruby,” Cash said, slightly irritated at the idea that Katie would go to Ruby for help instead of him. “We’ll see you tomorrow.” Ruby left, giving Cash a look he couldn’t decipher. Then there was just silence, as Cash stared at Katie and Katie stared at the floor.

“Well, um,” Cash stammered, “let me, uh, let me show you to your room.” Katie nodded, following Cash as he started walking down the hallway that led away from the living room, kitchen, and dining room.

“This room here’s the office,” Cash said, opening the door. “This’ll be where you’re working most of the time.” Katie looked around the room, her eyes widening at the stacks of ledgers, papers scattered across the room, and books seemingly thrown haphazardly into random places. Cash noticed the overwhelmed look on her face and blushed slightly, running his hands through his hair.

“Yeah, it’s, uh, it’s, um, not really organized. At all. Sorry about that,” Cash said, grimacing.

“It’s not a problem,” Katie said softly. “It’s what I’m here for, right? To get everything organized and running smoothly?”

“Well, yeah, but this is...”. Cash trailed off. “I’m sorry about all the extra work it’s gonna be. My daddy did most of the ordering and my momma was our computer whiz. I just never learned any of it before they...”. Cash stopped, clearing his throat, pain evident on his face. After a deep breath, he started walking down the hallway again. He pointed to a door on the opposite side of the hall from the office.

“This one’s my room. You need anything during the night, just knock on the door,” Cash told Katie. She ducked her head, avoiding his eyes yet again.

“I don’t want to bother you, Mr. Buchanan,” she said quietly.

“Name’s still Cash, angel. And trust me, it wouldn’t be a bother at all.” They walked a little farther and came to another door that Cash opened. “This one’s you. Ruby basically set everything up, but if there’s anything missing or something you wanna change, let me, Rocky, or Ruby know. Those two and me all have access to our company credit card and they can order you anything you want.” Katie slowly brushed past Cash, her shoulder briefly grazing his chest. Their eyes immediately snapped to each other.

‘Did she feel it too?’ Cash thought, actively trying not to rub his chest where they touched. ‘That, that tingle, that little burst of electricity? We’re connected, me and her, I know it. Now I just have to make sure she knows it too.’

‘Holy shit, what was that?’ Katie thought. ‘I’ve never felt anything like that before.’ Katie shook her head, stepping farther into the room. It was lovely, with a big bed, end tables, a dresser, and a bookshelf that went all the way up to the ceiling. ‘I could have books!’ Katie thought excitedly. ‘Like, actually own them! Damien hated it when I read, he always thought I could be doing something else around the house or doing something for him. I remember when- No. No remembering. No thinking about Damien or the past. This is my fresh start.’

The room was decorated in mostly whites and blues, with a few purple and pink touches thrown in. There were two doors on opposite sides of the room. Katie walked over to one and opened it, revealing a huge closet. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever owned enough stuff to fill a closet like this,” Katie thought. ‘Even when Mom and Dad were alive. Now, all I own is in a backpack.’

At that thought, Katie whirled around, searching the room for it.

“Whoa,” Cash said, startled by Katie’s sudden panic. “What’s wrong, angel?”

“My, uh, my backpack. Where, where is it?” Katie’s voice had risen as she looked around desperately, tugging on Cash’s heartstrings.

“Over here, angel. I wasn’t sure where you wanted it, so I just set it by the bed.” As soon as Katie saw it, she began to calm down.

‘That backpack is my lifeline,’ Katie thought, mentally sighing in relief. ‘All the money I took is in there. If I ever need to leave here in a hurry, I’ll need that money to get away.’

Cash was watching Katie closely, but couldn’t figure out why she calmed down so quickly after seeing her backpack. ‘I get it’s the only thing she brought with her, but we can replace whatever’s in there. Hell, I was planning on asking Ruby to go on an online shopping spree for Katie, since she clearly doesn’t have a lot. My angel deserves to be dressed in the best money can buy. Plus, Ruby will enjoy the hell out of it and it’ll help the two of them bond. Katie needs friends and she already seems to like Ruby.’

While Cash had been ruminating over Katie’s strange attachment to her backpack, she had moved on to the other door. Opening it, Katie found a gorgeous bathroom: a glass shower with two shower heads, a bowl sink with lots of counter space on each side, and three different cabinets with the doors removed that were already stocked full of various toiletries. The floor was made of tile that seemed to emanate heat. Blue and purple towels hung on different towel racks and the shower was already full of shampoos, body washes, soaps, and conditioners.

“I hope this is all okay,” Cash said, leaning against the bathroom’s doorframe. “Ruby did all the shopping, but whatever we don’t have that you need, either let Ruby know so he can pick it up when he goes to town or let me or Rocky know and we’ll order it for you.”

Katie didn’t say anything as she looked around the bathroom, then glanced back at the bedroom. Cash could see tears forming in her eyes and was about to ask what was wrong so he could fix it, when Katie started laughing.

“This is...”. Katie trailed off, her hands clasped under her chin as she smiled. “Oh my god, Cash, this is all so amazing! I never expected something like this. And everyone here has been so nice. I just...”. Katie turned around and smiled at Cash, a real, genuine smile that nearly knocked him on his ass, she looked so beautiful. “Thank you. Oh, god, thank you so much! I promise, I’ll be a hard worker. You won’t regret hiring me, Mr. Buchanan.” Cash smiled, clearly pleased she was so happy.

“I know that, Katie,” Cash said, smiling at her. “I think you’re gonna fit in real well here. I think you’ll be really happy.” Katie smiled at him again, wringing her hands together as if to stop herself from touching anything.

“The, uh, the windows are locked,” Cash said, walking back into the bedroom. Katie followed him, keeping some distance between them. “We have AC in the big house, so keeping them closed isn’t a problem, but if you do wanna open ‘em, go right ahead. Your bedroom door locks too, and I left the only key on the nightstand there, so you’re the only one who’ll be able to get in here. Oh, right, um, Ruby gets here around 5:30 to start making breakfast and the hands are usually out on the ranch by 7:30. You don’t have to get up that early, of course.”

Cash scratched his chin, his stubble making a rasping sound, as he tried to think of anything else he needed to add. “Ruby has a radio to call either me or Rocky. There are a number of other radios, too, sometimes some of the hands grab them if they’re going pretty far from the houses. You have any questions about the paperwork, I’ll be happy to sit down with you after dinner and we can go over everything. Umm... Oh, Ruby spends most of the day in the big house, preparing for dinner or getting things together for our lunches. So you won’t be alone, Ruby will be here with you.” Cash paused again. “Well, I, um, I think that’s everything. You have anything you wanna ask me?” Katie just shook her head. “Well, all right, then. I’ll, uh, I’ll just see you tomorrow.”

Cash started walking to the door when Katie said quietly, “Thank you, Mis-, uh, I mean, Cash. Thank you for the job and a place to stay. You’ll never know how grateful I am.” Cash smiled at her as he reached the door.

“Welcome home to Skyheart, Katie.”

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