Authors: Arthur Mitchell
Then there was the stormy night they'd found her crushed up Mazda off to the side.
When Brax first saw it, he expected the passenger inside to be just as broken. It's nothing short of a small miracle she went unharmed.
Except for her blasted memory. I just don't understand how someone could lose everything up in
He shakes his head and takes off his hat. The hot sun feels good against his forehead, but he doubts it will help him think more clearly.
“Maybe I should've taken you to a doctor. Should've reported the accident. But I don't know what kind of danger that would put you in. And I reckon I'm not interested in finding out.”
Brax leans against a taller crate, feeling his muscles stiffen with a deeper need. The past fifty hours have been a remarkable exercise in restraint.
It's risky enough to have her without a condom, knowing that the chances of her being on any kind of birth control are very slim. And yet, she doesn't stop him.
If anything, he feels her body screaming for it, offering a primal invitation that summons an erection just thinking about it.
“Maybe she's the one after all,” he whispers to himself. “This place isn't meant for a bachelor.
Weldon Ranch has always been a family business. Can't stand the thought of going much longer without a son or daughter in tow, learning the ropes here just like me.”
One thing's for sure – he won't let anything happen to her. And getting her pregnant will turn him from a guardian angel into a ferocious lion.
If any part of her old life ever shows up – and I mean any – I'm not gonna put up with it. Don't care
what kind of sharp package it comes in neither.
“Perfection isn't easy to see,” he says to himself softly. “When you find the right woman with some fertile flesh and a softer heart, it's hard to believe it. Thank God I haven't been blind the whole time...”
Flexing his legs, he climbs down from the crates. Subconsciously, the same thoughts linger, tickling up his spine as he issues daily orders to the men and checks up on the ranch's inner workings.
The hours pass lazily. It feels like evening will never fully come, especially when he wants to do nothing else but sit down with her for dinner and then clasp her in his arms and ferry her upstairs.
At last, time relents. They dine soon after he comes inside, making small talk about the broader farming going on beyond the ranch.
When he feels her foot nudge his boots, he can't hold back anymore. Unfortunately, the rough sun has drained too much from both of them, everything except the craving for flesh.
They collapse in bed together, kissing for awhile until she falls asleep. When he sees her eyes closed and feels her shallow breathing, he breaths her sweet scented hair, quieting his inner turmoil.
It's as just as well. The predatory impulses in Brax's head are rising, but they haven't yet taken full flight.
Not yet, but soon. I have to have her. No one has ever smelled, felt, or tasted this good.
The next evening is special. He brings out a pair of long black boots he hasn't worn in ages. His trousers, sleek shirt, and notched leather belt all match.
When Sadie sees her dark knight, she grins with surprise. She's sitting at the table, playing solitaire while she waits for him to clean up for dinner.
“Save whatever's left over for tomorrow. I'm sure it's good, but we deserve something different tonight. And you need an evening off.”
She looks up from her game, wondering what he's talking about. Brax lifts his hand, pointing through the ceiling at the bathroom upstairs.
“Go get ready. I want to take you out tonight.”
Excited at the unexpected development, she runs upstairs. For the first time, she takes a shower that's lukewarm rather than arctic cold.
When she's finished, she walks into their bedroom, rifling through the old clothes she's unpacked with his permission. Several hand-me-downs from Brax's sister fit her well.
I wonder if it's true what they say about men preferring certain body types as they grow up? Funny
how his sister's stuff is such a great fit.
Oh, well. At least she won't be coming back anytime soon.
Far away in Seattle, Judy Brax has left her younger brother to tend the ranch she has no interest in.
Sadie turns around in the mirror, satisfied with the bright yellow dress she's chosen. It fits her curves nicely. The vibrant hue has a strong country feel to it too.
Brax whistles when she comes into the kitchen. “Woo! That's the kinda style I like. You look drop dead gorgeous, beautiful. Too bad that dress won't stay on all night.”
He slaps her buttocks playfully as she passes in front of him. Sadie giggles, all the way out to the truck.
If it were any other man, her sharp hand would be on his face before he could blink. But for her cowboy, being admired makes her blood burn.
It's a quick ride to the Silver Dollar Diner. It's the only restaurant in town, a clean eatery with a chrome interior decked out in the mellow blues of the 1950s. The huge neon sign with a winking face on a coin is the only landmark visible on the highway for quite a few miles.
I really wonder how I wound up here. This town seems so random. Where the hell was I going?
She pushes the uncomfortable questions out of her mind as they slide into a spacious booth. A friendly waitress takes their order.
“It's good to get out and celebrate, isn't it?” Brax flashes her his inimitable smile, settling his tall black hat into the empty space next to him. “I know you're as happy as I am. But I also thought we'd get out so I can ask you a question...”
Her full attention focuses on him. Suddenly, the air between them grows thicker, despite the immense air conditioner pumping cool air throughout the diner.
Brax shifts his arms. If she didn't know any better, she'd think he was nervous.
“I wanna make sure you're totally dedicated to the ranch. Are you in it for the long haul, Sadie? Are you ready to make a life with me on my land?”
She opens her mouth, but her voice stops. There's a blank stare of doubt on his face.
Haven't I made it obvious by now?
She delves deep into her mind, envisioning a future with him. There's a time not so far off when the old wooden walls of the house will be as comforting and familiar as the backs of her hands.
The unnatural feeling of
makes her smile.
Sadie feels another season cradling her in its softness. The air is much cooler, and she's wearing a simple country dress that clings softly to her skin. She comes out of the house and approaches a waiting rocking chair, her hands clasped tightly beneath her swollen abdomen.
Pregnant with his seed. That's what's going to happen if I agree.
Will I carry his child? That's what he's asking in different words.
That's one hell of a step to take. But it's one I'm ready for. I want to give him my full devotion,
something so right I can feel it in every fiber of my being.
Yes, cowboy. I'm ready.
“Of course I am!” She reaches for his hand and grasps it tight. “What makes you think otherwise?”
“Aw, nothing. I just had to be sure. Anything less would've been impolite.” His face brightens, before hardening into the rigid intensity she loves.
“I really appreciate everything you do for me, beautiful. And I don't just mean in the bedroom.” His voice halves its volume and then breaks into laughter, louder when she rolls her eyes.
“Come on. You're the one who helped me out. I can't think of a better place than Weldon Ranch to have a future. The past doesn't matter...not with you. I'm ready for anything.”
Heaping plates of steaks, coleslaw, and fries arrive shortly after. For such simple food, it's very tasty.
They eat in happy silence, passing soft glances across the table. Sadie raises her eyebrows several times. Brax chews his food intently, trying hard not to let his hormones ruin a good dinner.
Just as her leftovers are being packed up and they're waiting for their pie, the door swings open and sets off the dinging chime. A gaggle of cops come in, silver badges gleaming.
A server escorts them over to the large table across from their booth. Brax watches the crowd get settled.
Four of the men are in their uniforms. Sheriff Jones spots the rancher and gives him a friendly nod.
Brax doesn't recognize a fifth man, a balding outsider dressed in a plain white shirt and long brown trousers.
Sadie digs into her dessert when it arrives. The apple pie tastes immaculate, but it's hard to eat freely in their presence. Their uniforms make her nerves stand on end, prickly as an alley cat's fur.
He's lucky he doesn't care about them being here. Wish I knew why I'm having such a gut reaction to
these cops. It's almost like I'm afraid of being caught...
“Yeah, it was a real bastard,” she hears the balding man say. “He was covered in blood, and all he could do was shout about his asshole sister taking off with six figures worth of coke. The idiot didn't even think she knew it was in the car.”
“Ah, the things you city boys have gotta put up with. Glad we don't need a regular detective around these parts. You've got your work cut out for you, Hank.” The Sheriff shrugs his shoulders, hungrily eying the remnants of their dinner across the room.
“That pie looks awful good! Is it on special tonight, Brax?”
He turns to the Sheriff. “Yup. Best deal in town. Well, only deal in town to be serious, but it's still a good one!”
The cops laugh. The detective called Hank does too, but his face straightens when he gets a good look at Sadie.
“Excuse me a minute, boys,” he tells the others.
The policemen are happily distracted by the arrival of their appetizers. Brax watches the man warily as he crosses the small distance to their table and stops near Sadie.
“Sorry to bother you, Miss, but you look very familiar. Haven't ever been to Mankato, have you?”
She shakes her head vigorously.
Shit! How could I look familiar to this secret agent? If he recognizes me, then I've been into
something bad. Real bad.
“How about Minneapolis?” The man speaks slowly, calmly, taking a deep breath and waiting like he's taking a drag on a cigarette.
You have to imitate his style. Make it sound authentic.
“No. I'm a South Dakota girl, born and raised. Haven't been to the Twin Cities since my parents took me there on vacations years ago.”
The stranger stares blankly. He shifts in place. Sadie glances over at Brax and sees his rough hands tightening on the table's ledge.
“How about the name Eric? Does that mean anything to you?”
“Eric.” It moves across her tongue like a piece of bitter fruit. Vaguely familiar, and not in a good way. But she can't let him know that.
“No, I don't know any Erics. Is that one of your crew?” She follows the detective's gaze over to Brax.
“Don't have anybody by that name working for me.” The rancher looks the man straight in the eye.
“Listen, friend, I think you've mixed us up with somebody else. We're not being detained or anything, are we?”
“No 'us.' Just the lady here. You're probably right. Sometimes I get caught up in my own wishful thinking.” A slow smile spreads across his thin lips. “Sorry for the trouble, you two. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
The detective retreats, but Sadie doesn't feel any relief until the check arrives a few minutes later.
Brax pays quickly and they scram out the door, catching one last icy stare from Hank as they step past.
“What was that all about? Do you know him – or does he know you?” He asks the question as soon as they're in the truck.
“No, Brax. I've never seen the man before in my life. He's got me in his head from some place, though.” Heart racing, she reaches for his hand and sighs when he closes his fingers around her. “I'm scared.”
“Don't be. I keep saying it, but I don't care what happened where you're from. I'm not gonna let
take you away from me. Not now. Not even the police.”
He glances in his mirror and sees the Silver Dollar Diner's flashing sign becoming a tiny speck. The evening hasn't turned out like he planned, but that doesn't mean it has to stay that way.
They exchange a few words about the incident on the way to the ranch. But he's mostly silent, fulfilling an old superstition that doesn't enjoy tempting fate by speaking grim possibilities aloud.
“Hold up. Let me come and get you,” he says, turning off the engine and unbuckling his seat belt.
A full moon casts a dim pallor over him as he gets out and walks around to her side. He opens the door and unclasps her seat belt, lifting her into his arms.
His embrace has never been so tight.
Brax holds her to his chest. She opens her eyes, staring up at him, basking in the reassuring silent lullaby of the distant moon.
“Come on, cowboy. Let's forget about all that crap. Take me inside.”
He takes a step forward, only stopping to lower his forehead to hers. Sadie whimpers.
A full body shiver runs through her. His body is spilling its familiar and addictive current into hers once again, a magnetic force intent on binding her to him forever.
The vibrations deep in her flesh rise in pitch when she feels his stubble, and then the inevitable firmness of his lips. It's been too long. For these lips, one day is too long.
Oh! What's going on? His kiss is so warm tonight. Hotter than before...
Brax flashes a knowing smile before he unlatches the door. They make their way inside quickly.
For a second, she has a silly vision of him carrying her over the threshold, just like a new bride.
Except this make believe honeymoon lasts for more than a minute, and she passes with him across many thresholds, higher into the old house.
Upstairs, he settles her on the ground, standing as he pulls her deep into his arms. Those rugged country hands fall beneath her shoulders, grabbing at her dress and fisting the fabric.