Rachael had slept restlessly the night and it was visible on her face when she came down for breakfast. One look and Barbara couldn’t control and said “Looks like someone kept you up all night dear.”
Looking up from her cup of second black coffee Rachael said “Now what do you mean by that?”
“Nothing. So are you going to check on the farm hands today or work-in?” Barbaba changed the subject filing the papers on the kitchen table overseeing the breakfast Donna was cooking for all.
“Nah, I need to get out and check the perimeter. After yesterday’s drama by O’Cauly we need to make sure the herd is safe. Donna can you pack me sandwiches for the ride please.” Saying she walked up the stairs to get ready for the long day ahead.
An hour later, Rachael walked out the house to find Chris talking to Joshua. Not having the courage or patience to face him, she walked in the opposite direction taking a long way to the stable to saddle her horse. She informed Ike who had been watering the horses in the stable, where she would be in case they look for her and that she will not be back till noon. She rode off towards the north pastures to ensure the fence was up and the stream directed towards the water source she had informed to be built so that water would be available the year round. The ride was refreshing and by the time she reached north perimeter, and all her worries seemed far away from her mind. She jumped down her horse and tied the reins to fence. She walked along the fence inspecting the work completed by Hank and Jeb. They had done good job. The water from the stream was also neatly channeled to the small lake she instructed to be built. The herd of cows was lazing under the trees; she counted to ensure the count was same as yesterday.
Washing her face in the cool water of the stream she sat down under a tree and ate her sandwich, just content to be home. She was thinking deep and didn’t hear the sound of hoofs coming towards her until it was too late. Chris jumped of his horse and sat next to her “Howdy, so do you have another sandwich in there for me.” He said smiling at her.
She felt sixteen all over again, not knowing what to say or act. She pulled a sandwich and gave it to Chris. He took it tipping his stetson and munching the slice away. They sat in silence for long time. Not able to bear the silence Rachael said “What are you doing here Mr. McGrover?”
He sat up straight opposite her and gave his hand for shake saying “Let’s call truce and get reacquainted again. It was very presumptuous of me to like you reminded me yesterday.”
She looked at his hand and in his eyes, which was a big mistake, before she made a fool of herself again; she stood up and walked to her horse. Chris was right behind her, “Ms. Burns, hear me out.”
“Chris please!” he said smiling down at her.
“Alright Chris, there is nothing to say. I bought this ranch from your father fair and square. If you don’t believe me then you can talk to your brother Sean. He was present when John handed me the papers.”
“I know, Joshua told me the same. I came here because I want to offer my help in building up this ranch from the brink it has gone to. If I had been here, maybe he wouldn’t had to sell it. I believe I am partly responsible for its neglect.”
“Thank you for your offer, but I am more than capable of ensuring my ranch thrives.” Saying she held the reins of her horse to climb up and before she knew Chris picked her up to settle on the saddle. For a moment both just looked at each other with Chris still holding her waist. He looked and cursed. Coming to his sense first he said, “I am offering an olive branch here Rach, help me out please. I know you have managed to fix many things around ranch in a matter of week. Not questioning your ability but I am sure we can make business arrangement beneficial to both of us.”
Clearing her throat, she promised to think about his offer and took of riding her horse as fast as she could before her traitor heart poured out the hidden feelings to Chris.
Chris stopped at Karen’s place on his way back from Rachael’s. The door was opened before his truck came to halt and Karen walked out to meet him. “Chris, I am so glad to see you. Come in, I am about to put steak out for lunch and bring it over for you.”
“Karen, you know it’s not needed. Wade is back and he must have prepared the lunch already.”
“How can you stand his cooking? He doesn’t know horses from radish.” She said sounding disappointed.
Not wanting to stay longer he said “Karen I came to tell you that although I enjoy your company, but I am not looking for any relationship.”
“Hmm, So all this time you were playing with my feelings.” She said getting angry
“I never led you to believe it was more than friendship, but I am sorry if you thought so. That is all I came to say.” Saying he drove back to his ranch hoping Karen would be ok. He didn’t want to hurt her, but Karen didn’t want to seem to understand that he was never gonna ask her to marry him. He knew from beginning Karen was not the one he was in love. The only girl he had every fallen in love was Rach McBurns, but she was not alive now. She was lost to him forever in the fire at her hostel.
Rachael along with Barbara and Joshua went to Owl Creek to buy materials needed to construct the outdoor dining area. She stopped on to check on the delivery of her truck. Once the shopping was done, all three entered Outback Steakhouse for lunch. They settled down and Joshua waved his hand to the waitress. Ordering the lunch all three discussed on the situation of the ranch.
“Chris said he is interested in doing with business with us. But I am not sure what can he be interested in?” said Rachael
“Well he is interested in breeding.” Said Joshue sipping his lemonade
“What?” exclaimed Rach and Barbara
“Hahaha, now you ladies do not go making something out of nothing. On his trip he had purchased a thoroughbred with hope of breeding it with sweets when he is back.”
“Hmmm I am not sure if I am ready for this business prospect” said Rachael looking towards the street.
“Do not take rash decision dear. I think it will do us good. John had many good breed horses until he started selling them to keep up the ranch with only handful of them. It might be one of chances for us to start bringing back the ranch to its old glory” said Barbara
“I am not sure if I am ready?”
“For the business proposal or Christopher?” said Barbara smiling
Before Rachael could answer, their food arrived and they ate in silence until the loud jingle on the door followed by loud crashing something into someone. All three turned to find O’Cauly abusing the waitress. Rachael jumped from her seat and ran towards them and pushed O’Cauly away from the poor girl who had taken the brunt of his anger. Pushing the girl towards Barbara, Rachael pushed O’Cauly who stinked of alcohol towards the street. He lifted his hand to hit her, but someone held his hand and turned him. Chris was standing with one handing gripping O’Cauly’s hand and another crashing into his face with loud crack. “You better learn to keep your hands to yourself, else next time it will not be your nose that will break.”
“Thank you.” Said Rachael looking up at him
“Are you trying get yourself hurt, by poking your hand at bore like O’Cauly?” said Chris in anger
“What I do is my business. You didn’t have to get yourself involved. I could have handled it myself.”
“Ya I could see that.”
“What does that mean Mr. McGrover?” said Rachael standing toe to toe with him.
The flush on her face and neck when she was angry brought a smile on Chris’s face. He simply tipped his hat and walked towards to truck calling back, “I will stop by your office to discuss my business proposition McBurns.”
Next Day at McGrover Ranch
In anticipation of Chris’s arrival Rachael dressed carefully, even though she claimed to Barbara and Donna she didn’t care about what he thought of her or her dress, only to be met with sly smiles and snickers.
She read through the new invoices and possible deals, Barbara had put on her desk for review. They were expecting four new mares but the supplier had not responded to their calls about the delay in delivering the mares. She called the supplier only to reach a number that has been switched off. The irresponsibility of the guy didn’t sit well with her. The payment had been made in full as John had been buying horses from him for a long time and trusted the guy. She decided to visit him personally to know the reason for delay. It had been half past eleven when she checked the clock and didn’t expect Chris for the day, but just then he strode into her office filling the room with his masculinity and increasing her heart rate. She scolded herself to control her feelings as they do not mean anything now.
“How do you Rachael? Hope you slept well?”
“Yes of course, why do you ask?” said Rachael worrying how he could know she had been tossing and turning the whole night with excitement and fear of seeing him again.
Not knowing what to say that Chris jumped right to the point of his visit. “McBurns the proposition I have for you is, you let me breed my horse with your mare and the fouls that are born would be trained by me. After that you can either use them in races or rodeos, your wish. From the profits we earn either winning the contests or selling them, I would like 45%.
Rachael didn’t utter a word until Chris finished talking and then analyzed his proposition. “I will offer only 20% of the profits”
“Come on darling, I didn’t take you for a shrew. Do not prove me wrong now,” Said Chris relaxing into the chair.
“25% is my final offer, take it or leave it.” Said Rachael picking all the files on the table to be put away as Chris was trying to leaf through papers on her desk.
She was not sure who was more surprised, him or her for agreeing on such low deal. Rachael had Barbara immediately prepare the deed so that it can be signed. Then Chris said, “My only condition is, I want you to work with me on the horses.”
“I have million other things to take care. I don’t have time to stick around with you.”
“Well take it or leave it”
Rachael knew what he was trying to do, but she really needed this deal to improve the ranch for Uncle John. Once her plan comes to climax she anyway had to return this ranch back to Uncle John and his sons. So this deal didn’t really add any burden on Chris. “Ok, its deal then.”
Chris was overjoyed but he kept it to himself. Now that she would be working with him, he had plenty of time to convince her that they belong together.