He Found Me(10)

By: Whitney Barbetti

Despite the teasing, I knew I couldn’t ignore the innate pull I felt whenever I caught his intense gaze. One thing I didn’t like was playing games. If I was attracted to someone, I didn’t make them guess what my feelings were. I respected and appreciated that Julian understood where we were inevitably headed.

“Perhaps,” I replied with a small smile before turning around and sauntering back to the big house.

I’d been staring at the computer screen for seven hours and was in serious need of a break. I leaned back in my office chair and stretched my arms, staring at the ceiling above me. I put my feet up on my desk and leaned forward, stretching my legs and arms as I grasped my toes. And then, when I felt the stretch deep in my muscles, I let out a deep breath and leaned back again.

Leaning in the chair as far backwards as it would go, I bent my head towards each shoulder, trying to stretch the taut muscles of my neck when my eyes wandered to the cabins out my picture window. Cabin ten was lit up like a Christmas tree, and Julian’s shadow passed in front of the windows every once in a while, indicating he hadn’t left the cabin since I’d shown it to him. Not that I was paying any attention to him.

I didn’t realize how long I’d been staring out that picture window until Rosa spoke from behind me.

“What do you think?”

I dropped my feet from the desk and straightened my chair in supersonic speed, embarrassed at having been caught staring.

I turned my face back to my computer screen and rubbed my neck. “Insurance is coming due on the ATVs and cabins soon, so that’s going to eat a solid chunk next month. But that family reunion       will more than make up for that, as will the wedding the weekend after they leave. I did the bank reconciliation for our main checking account and we are ahead anyway, thanks to the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had. Utilities have been lower than they were last year.”

Rosa leaned over my shoulder to see the figures I was showing her. “Hmm,” she said, peering through her glasses. “That’s good to know, but you and I both know that’s not what I was talking about.”

Crap. I couldn’t play innocent on this one. I looked at her, trying to hold back a smile. Rosa threw her head back and laughed. “Annie, honey, you’re about as discreet as an elephant in a chicken coop.” She put her hand on my shoulder as we both looked out the window at Julian’s cabin. “Besides,” she said before sighing, “he’s got one hell of an ass.”

Laughing, I shut the computer down and turned off the screens. “It’s not bad.”

“Don’t pretend you haven’t been staring at his cabin since he got here. I heard him pull in and saw your interaction with him. He’s a charmer, that’s for damn sure.”

I rolled my shoulders as I stood up, trying to alleviate the tension from being hunched over my desk for so many hours. “You need to remind Clint I need his receipts for this week,” I said, yawning.

“Go to bed, Andra. Receipts and reports can wait,” she said, nudging me out the side door. “I’ll lock up.”

Impulsively, I turned around and wrapped my arms around Rosa. I was reminded of how my life had been without her in it, and couldn’t imagine not waking up and coming to work with her every day. Best friend, confidant, mother. I felt her arms wrap around me and I closed my eyes, relishing the feeling of home Rosa gave me, and silently thanking whoever upstairs was keeping an eye on me, and bringing me this goodness.

“If this is you buttering me up for French toast on tomorrow’s breakfast menu…” she started. She pulled back from me and set her hands on my shoulders, “You can count on it. And not because I’m moved by hugs or any of that nonsense, but because hugging you is like hugging a sack of bones,” she said with a raised eyebrow.

I laughed out loud, knowing she didn’t mean that. While I was fit from working on the ranch, I was far from being a sack of bones. But I knew emotions made Rosa uncomfortable, and we both knew she had a soft spot for me. “My plan worked then, I see.” I winked at her and walked out the side door, down the steps.

I ran down the stairs and walked along the cabins, smiling to myself. There was nothing better than a warm summer night. And living as far out in the wilderness as we did granted us the most amazing view of the sky at night. I slowed my steps after passing Dylan’s cabin and lay down on my back in the grass. The yard was silent except for a few noises from the stables and crickets that took shelter in the tall grass around me. The grass felt cool beneath me and I blew out a breath, enjoying the peace that settled over me. This was a ritual for me, on warmer nights. Lie in the grass, close my eyes, and soak up the comfort of the noises that made my home. This was my meditation, my church, my choice of relaxation. The fact that I had a choice at all was something I never took for granted. This life, this place, these people – all choices I’d made.

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