Dallas, Texas ~December, 1867
It was snowing. Abigail smiled with delight as she peered out her bedroom window. Watching the large white flakes falling from the dark gray sky, her breath fogging up the window as got closer. They may have snow for Christmas after all, it didn’t quite feel like Christmas without snow. Her father and the ranch hands had been preparing for the weather all week, preparing to move the cattle from the north pasture closer to the house to keep a better eye on them.
She watched out the window as the 5 ranch hands corralled the feisty animals into the fence from a top their horses, listening to them shout to each other over the cattle.
From most people’s point of view it looked like chaos down there, but she knew that every move had a motive. They had the best hands of any ranch in the state, proven each spring at the state competition that was held in town.
Her eyes darted around looking for one hand in particular, one that had caught her eye when he stumbled upon her quiet spot on the hill. Handsome in every sense of the word. Lucas had been their for a few years now, proving to her father he had talent for the business, taking more and more responsibility on. Pretty much running the entire ranch when father had gotten ill last winter. Her eyes stopped when she caught sight of his tall frame perched a top the dark Appaloosa. Skillfully guiding the horse blocking the cattle's escape.
Abigail sighed as she watched him, he made her heart flutter when ever he looked her way. She liked how he made her feel, even though her parents forbid her to even speak to him. “It wouldn’t do for the daughter of the second largest cattle ranch in Texas to marry the ranch hand now would it?” her mother said one afternoon when she caught her watching the hands bail hay for the winter. Though she wasn’t sure how talking to the ranch hands was improper, being nice should never be a bad thing.
Abigail had been sitting on the porch with her book, watching as they carefully carried the twine wrapped bails stacking them inside the barn. Her book all but forgotten as she carefully tracked Lucas with her eyes, as he sauntered back and forth carrying hay in the hot Texas sun, his tan skin glistening from the sweat. It was embarrassing to get caught lusting after him, mainly because her mother’s voice drew his attention to them as he left the barn.
She also remembered one evening when Lucas had came to the house to talk to her father about the progress on the repairs to the South pasture. She felt her heart race when she realized it was him at the door. She felt the butterflies in her stomach when he smiled at her, brushing past her, as she let him in the entry way to wait for her father.
Her mother had grabbed her by the arm jerking her into the sitting room. “Abigail Elizabeth King don’t you dare let your father catch you smiling at one of the hands.” she said her voice low, but stern. Even though she had kept her voice down, she knew Lucas had heard her words. He bowed his head and looked at his hat. She hoped he didn’t think she felt that way. So now she made sure she was careful not to get caught. Now she watched from her second floor window.
Abigail’s breath caught in her throat, her hand coming up to cover her mouth as she watched Lucas turned his head and looked up at her as if he knew she was watching. She felt her pulse race as he tipped his cowboy hat in her direction and rode off towards the barn. She felt her cheeks flush at the thought of being caught staring by Lucas himself. Oh how she wished she could talk to him.
He had been nothing more than polite each time they had interacted. A gentleman even though cowboys were known to be unruly and dangerous. She never felt that in his presence. None of the Triple K hands were that way, except maybe the one, everyone called him Buck. She felt uncomfortable around him.
Some days Abigail wished she had been born into a different family, one where she wasn’t expected to do or be a certain way. Then maybe she would have the opportunity to find out exactly how Lucas Werner was.
Lucas tried his best to focus on the task at hand, right now that was getting these ornery cattle into the South pasture. With the upcoming storm coming in, the animals were even more stubborn than normal. He loved his job, how working closely with the other hands to keep these animals in line and do what they wanted was like a dance at times.
He could feel someone watching him, and usually the feeling was right. Here on the ranch usually he found it to be Mr. King’s youngest daughter Abigail. He felt the slight grin cross his lips as he thought about the several times over the last few months he had caught her watching him.
It made him wonder if it was her rebelling against her parents or if she really had feelings for him. She was very pretty, her dark hair always curled and pulled back, usually tied with a ribbon. Always with a book in her hands. But Abigail King was 24, and completely off limits to anyone especially the hands here at the ranch. She was expected to marry up, not down.
Some of the other hands would talk about the eldest daughter Melissa, how she was beautiful. Lucas frowned as he thought about the one time he had met her a few months ago. Granted she was pretty but her attitude dulled that beauty tremendously. She wouldn’t even look their way nor return the greetings of the hands. He preferred Abigail, she at least smiled at them, and when no one was watching her she would wave. She was different than the rest of the King family.
Mr. King was a fair man, paid a decent wage and took care of his workers, but that was just what they were, workers. He didn’t invite them to dinner, or family gatherings, they were expected to know their place on the ranch, and that was taking care of the cattle and horses, not interacting with the family. Some day he hoped to own his own ranch, and he wouldn’t treat his workers that way, maybe if he worked hard enough then Abigail could smile at him all the time.
Lucas latched the gate on south pasture, securing the cattle in their new home for the winter. All the hands congratulated each other on a good job and started towards the barn. Lucas stopped and looked towards the house. His eyes went to the second story window all aglow, a single figure sitting in it watching the crew below.
He smiled as he tipped his hat to the youngest King daughter, feeling warmth spread through him as he kicked the Appaloosa into a gallop towards the barn. He wished he could get to know Abigail King, he would bet his weeks pay she was a bright woman, almost as much as she was kind.
Dallas, Texas ~December, 2016
Breanna walked along the sidewalk leaving the post office heading up the street to her car. She stared down at her phone texting her Grandpa for the 10th time since she left the animal clinic. She hated that he didn’t trust her with the simple errand of picking up the mail for the clinic. She sighed in frustration. She was a doctor after all, picking up the mail wasn’t even that hard. Now delivering a calf in the middle of a snow storm that could get complicated, a run to the post office not so much.
Breanna walked along the busy sidewalk checking her calendar for appointments when all of a sudden she heard a car horn blasting to her left. A strong pair of arms around her waist, and being hauled against a very strong chest. Breanna let out a scream of surprise as she dropped her phone in the commotion. When her feet touched pavement again she watched in horror as the yellow taxi cab ran over her phone crushing it to pieces. “My phone!” she yelled watching as each car behind the taxi ran over the pieces spreading the debris further into the intersection. “Well there goes all my contacts and appointments.” she said sighing. “Well at least your still alive.” she heard a deep voice say behind her. Breanna spun around and stared up at the source.
The strong arms keeping her from the same fate as her destroyed cell phone were attached to a very attractive man. The true definition of tall dark and handsome. A cowboy if she ever saw one. Worn jeans and boots, a thick jacket that did nothing to hide his muscular frame and one black stetson that cast a shadow over his face. “I’m sorry if I sounded ungrateful. It’s just my livelihood is on that phone. Thank you Mr....” Breanna said sticking out her hand to thank him. She felt the air rush out of her lungs when he took her hand and shifted his head to look at her. His eyes were a mesmerizing silvery blue, almost gray. She had never seen that color before. “James. The name’s Hunter James.” he said giving her a small smile.
“Well thank you Mr. James. My names Breanna Simms. I’m not sure how I can repay you for your quick thinking.” she said motioning to the intersection before looking up at him. “Not necessary. Just promise me you will be more careful in the future.” he said tipping his hat to her before starting towards the crosswalk. Breanna stared at him for a second before following the crowd across the street, stopping to pick up her sim card from the street. She would have to go and get a new phone before going home. The whole time she looked at the phones all she could do was think about those eyes, and how strong those arms were.
An hour later Breanna walked into the Clinic she was greeted with a frown. “What?” she asked staring at her Grandpa. “What took you so long?” he asked looking at her over the rim of his glasses. “I had to go by the cellphone store. I dropped my phone and I needed to get a new one.” she said showing him the new phone in her hands. “Well, I could have used you here.” he said closing the appointment book in front of him. “I’m sorry Grandpa. I tried to hurry.” she said putting the phone down as she put on her lab coat and stuck it in the pocket.
“It’s OK Bree. I was just worried about you.” he said giving her a loving smile. “since you are back I’m going to go in the back and take a nap. It’s hell getting old.” he said with a chuckle. Breanna smiled at the old man. “Get some rest Grandpa. I can handle it.” she said patting him on the shoulder as she guided him through the door to the back, before walking into the holding area and checked on the few animals they had there, keeping a watchful eye on them after varies treatments.
At 10 pm, Breanna went home, well if that is what you called an empty apartment. She knew she could have stayed with her Grandpa, but she wanted to find her own place, make it easier for when he did retire and him and Grandma moved to Florida. She had only been here a few weeks, so it would be more like home when she finally finished moving everything in. She plopped down on the couch and let her head fall back against the cushions. She was exhausted, and all she could think about was going to bed. “How pathetic are you? Friday night and 10 pm and all you want to do is go to bed.” she said to herself as she looked towards her bedroom. “Well you did almost die today.” she said sighing as her mind wandered back to the steel gray eyes of Hunter James, and how his arms felt around her waist.
Breanna walked to her tiny bedroom pulled on her pajamas and climbed into bed. So what if she was 25 and had no life. She was a veterinarian, what she had wanted to be since she spent her first day with Grandpa at his clinic in Dallas when she was 9 years old. She curled up on her side and closed her eyes, smiling as she felt her body relax, maybe if she was lucky she would dream about the hot cowboy who saved her life today, better than the usual dreams of being alone her entire life.
Hunter walked the several feet from the barn to his small farm house. He and the ranch hands had just finished bedding down the horses for the night. It was late and all he wanted was to get a bite to eat, and hit the sack. After his venture into to town today to pick up the package at the post office he had felt really tired. Must have been the rush of adrenaline he experienced when he pulled the very pretty, very soft woman from the middle of the street mere seconds before she was hit. He smiled as he remembered how good Breanna Simms felt in his arms. It had been quite a while since he’d held someone, it got pretty lonely out here with just him and the other guys. Hunter looked up as Rufus barked. “Come on boy, let’s go eat.” he said talking to the Australian Sheppard.
Hunter opened the back door and let the dog into the kitchen before shutting it firmly behind him. He walked to the freezer and pulled out a dinner, poked holes in the clear film covering the top and tossed it into the microwave. He pulled his stetson off his head and laid it on the table and shrugged out of his coat tossing it over the back of one of the chairs. He ran a hand across his face hoping to wipe away the feeling of exhaustion overcoming him. He walked to the corner where Rufus’s food and water dishes sat, bending down he scooped them up and walked to the sink. He filled the one with fresh water and dropped a scoop of dry food into the other before setting them down again. He turned to look at the dog who was staring up at him. “Dig in.” he said gesturing to the bowls on the floor. Rufus yipped a bit, and began eating.
Hunter smiled, he liked to believe that was his way of saying thank you. He turned back towards the microwave and leaned a hip against the counter waiting for his dinner to finish. Allowing his mind to wander back to Breanna Simms. He wondered what she was doing right now. Was she wrapped in the arms of someone else talking to them about the near miss today? Was she working still? Was she thinking of him? That last thought made the hair stand up on his arms. He knew he was lonely but he didn’t understand how one short interaction with a woman could cause him to constantly continue to think about her all day long, and by what he just felt he was pretty sure he was gonna dream about her to. “Well Rufus looks like there will be a cold shower for me in the morning.” he said looking over at the dog who stopped eating to look up and whine at him. “Thanks for the sympathy buddy.” he said laughing at the short response before the dog shoved his face back into the silver bowl of dog food.
Hunter made quick work of the dinner and climbed the squeaky wooden stairs to the second floor of the old farm house to his bedroom. He pulled off the dirty jeans and t shirt after kicking off his scuffed up boots, tossing the clothes into the white basket by the door. He sat down on the edge of the bed and looked across the room to the window that looked out over the back yard, with a nice view of the barn and the South pasture. He was lucky to get this ranch 6 years ago, at one time this was one of the well known cattle ranches in the state. Well until the Oil ran out, and the family lost interest in the rough tiresome job of cattle ranching. He laid down on the soft bed and pulled the thick blanket over himself, watching as Rufus did circles in his dog bed before plopping down and passing out. Hunter closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, dreaming of soft curves, green eyes and the scent of lilacs.