Authors: Annie Reed
Tags: #romance, #cowboy, #nevada, #contemporary romance, #llamas, #rancher
He was standing pretty close to me now, but
I wasn't picking up any serial killer vibes. The vibes I was
getting were all first-date nerves type of vibes. Not that I'd been
on a first date in a long time, but I dimly remembered the feeling,
and I was pretty sure this was it.
"You check the fence line in your truck? I
thought ranchers rode a horse to do that."
He chuckled. He had a nice chuckle, I
"You've seen too many movies," he said.
"Truck's faster and I don't have to clean up after it."
He tilted his head a little to look at me
like he was giving me a serious once-over. I couldn't quite read
his expression yet, but I liked whatever expression it was I saw in
his hazel eyes. "You're not like any other woman I've ever met," he
"Because I like
"Nope." He drew just a little closer.
"Because you stopped to see my llamas, and you haven't complained
once about only seeing the one."
True. Of course, right about now llamas were
the last thing on my mind. The first thing on my mind was how nice
he smelled, even though he'd been out in the heat in a battered old
truck, and the next thing was how I'd been wrong all along when I
thought he might be gay. Definitely not gay, not if the way he was
studying my mouth was any indication.
As we stood there, I realized he wasn't
going to make a move without a little effort on my part, so I
leaned forward just the tiniest bit. I don't know where I got the
courage or the knowledge. My love life has never been what you'd
call exciting or even vaguely adventurous, but here I was, in a
strange man's house out in the middle of the desert, and I wasn't
the least bit concerned he'd go all serial killer on me.
Yes, I most definitely had gone crazy.
That thought was wiped out of my mind when
he kissed me. It wasn't a grand, passionate kiss that swept us both
off our feet, nor was it an electric zing kind of a kiss that left
me breathless. No, it was a perfect gentlemanly kiss, just enough
pressure of his lips to let me know I'd been kissed, and enough of
a brush of his mustache to tickle. He didn't touch me except with
his lips, and before I knew it, the kiss was over.
I opened my eyes and looked into his. "That
was nice," I said.
He gave me an
I felt like punching him in the shoulder – a
friendly punch, mind you – but I held off as something occurred to
me. "What's your name?" I asked. I'd never kissed someone before
whose name I didn't know.
"Chet," he said.
"Kate," I said, feeling like I should hold
out my hand for a shake. I managed to control the urge. A stronger
one was taking its place. An urge to carry on with the kissing, and
carry on soon.
Chet backed away from me, and I felt a sharp
twinge of disappointment. It disappeared when he reached up to tuck
a strand of my hair behind my ear. "So," he said. "How would you
like to go meet the rest of my llamas?"
As a follow-up to a kiss, "meeting Mr.
Right's llamas" was definitely not part of the dating handbook. I
didn't care. This day was all about doing things outside the
"I'd love to," I said.
* * *
Chet's llamas were the coolest things I'd
ever seen. I even got to pet them, although Chet warned me that
llamas, just like camels, tended to spit. I supposed I was lucky.
None of them did.
After we finished communing with the llamas,
we drove back to the house and Chet fixed me lunch. He made ham and
cheese on rye, which tasted like heaven considering it had been a
while since my meager before-work granola bar and latte. We took
our time eating, and I got to hear about how Chet had inherited the
ranch from a great uncle.
"He was Basque," Chet said. "He'd had this
sheep ranch going out here for something like forty years. Never
made a lot of money, just enough to keep himself from going under.
His wife died twenty years before he did. I used to come visit when
I was little. I was the only one of the kids in my generation who
did, so I guess that's why he left it to me."
"Did he have llamas, too?"
Chet shook his head. "That's something I
brought in. I'd heard that llamas were good at keeping the coyotes
away from sheep, so I bought a couple. Then I found out gelded
males made the best watch llamas. Well, by then I had another
little llama on the way, and I just couldn't bring myself to do
that to the little bugger, so I decided to raise them instead.
That's when I got the idea for naming the place 'Lightning Llamas,'
but so far you're my first guest."
I ate the last bite of sandwich. "You're a
wonderful host for a man who doesn't get much company."
He was looking at me like he had after we'd
kissed. I reached across the corner of the dining room table and
took his hand.
"So tell me, Kate. Where are you
I felt a little embarrassed by my early
morning decision to chuck my life out the window and just drive,
but he'd told me about his life, so I told him about my morning.
When I was done, his eyebrows were climbing his forehead, and he
let out a low whistle.
"I'm impressed," he said.
"My friends thought I was nuts to give up
what I had to move out here and raise sheep for a living."
"What were you doing before?"
He chuckled. "Selling copiers. Never did
quite seem to fit. I'm guessing your life didn't fit you,
No, it didn't. "I think realizing I'd been
going through the motions – the same exact motions – every day, day
in and day out, finally did me in. I just couldn't do it one more
He looked down at where I still held his
hand. "You didn't answer my question, though."
"Nope." He took a deep breath. "Where were
you heading when you decided to stop here?"
"Originally? Vegas. But I'd just about
talked myself into going back. I guess you could said I was at kind
of a crossroads."
"Crossroads at the Lightning Llama. Sounds
like the title for a bad Western."
"Or a bad romance," I said, then wished I
hadn't when he gently took his hand away and stood up from the
"Well, I guess you better get a move on,
then," he said. "Vegas is still a pretty good drive from here."
He took our dishes into the kitchen. I
hesitated for a moment, then followed him.
"Did I do something wrong?" I asked.
He stood at the sink, rinsing the dishes off
and not looking at me. "I'm too old to do casual," he said. "You've
got your whole life in front of you. Me, I'm making a second life
for myself out here. It's not much, but I enjoy it. I want to keep
on enjoying it after you leave, you understand?"
Oddly enough, I did. In fact, the more I
thought about it, I decided that was another reason I'd pointed my
car east and just drove. I was tired of living in a place where I
waited by the phone for my first dates to call back for a second,
or where I ate take-out by myself, or watched television alone.
"You know," I said, walking over to the
sink. "We both like
. We both turned our backs on a
life that wasn't working. And your llamas didn't spit at me. That's
gotta mean something, right?"
He grinned and shook his head. "You're
something else, you know?" He let the soapy water swirl down the
drain and turned to face me. "You trying to tell me something?"
I grinned back. "I didn't have my heart set
on Vegas. All I told myself was that I'd drive until I found
something interesting or I had to pee." I didn't think I should
tell him about the tired part. "I thought the llamas were the
interesting thing, then I met you." I touched his shoulder. "Good
romances have started with less."
This time I was the one who chuckled. "Okay,
great. Great romances."
He leaned forward, and this time he kissed
me like he meant it.
* * *
We went to bed after that, of course, where
we did a great many things like we meant it. Chet didn't ask me to
stay. He didn't have to. We'd already settled that issue in the
kitchen, and besides, his bed was about the most comfortable thing
I'd ever slept in. It probably had something to do with the fact
that he was in it.
The next morning I didn't have a Starbuck's
decaf grande latte. I'm pretty sure there's not a Starbucks within
thirty miles of Chet's ranch, and besides, Chet makes pretty good
decaf himself. I didn't listen to the Doobie Brothers in my car. I
did call my boss – my former boss – on Chet's cell phone to let the
man know I wasn't dead, I just wasn't coming back ever again. He
told me not to bother, I was fired. I think we both hung up on each
other. It seemed a fitting way to leave that job behind.
Chet did tell me I should go back and get my
things, and that he'd be happy to do that with me. We're going to
make the drive to Reno tomorrow. Today I'm going with him while he
finishes checking his fence line, then the rest of the day we're
spending in bed. Chet says he's old and can't spend the entire day
in bed with me because I'd probably kill him. I think he's being
melodramatic. He's no slouch in the bedroom department, gray or no
gray in his hair.
I never thought, in all my wildest dreams,
that I'd end up on a llama ranch outside of Hazen, but it's a
future I can see for myself now. Most people would tell me to take
it slow, but I've been taking it slow all my life. Doing the things
everyone expected me to do for so long that I'd begun to expect
that's all my life would ever be. Why take it slow when you know
what you're doing is right? And why keeping doing stuff that you
know is wrong just because that's what you've always done?
Yeah, I don't have any good answers to those
questions either, and the beauty of it is I don't need any. I found
my happily ever after where I least expected it.
I do have one question, though.
What are we going to name the baby
About the Author:
Annie Reed describes herself as a desert rat
who longs to live by the ocean. Born and raised in Northern Nevada,
Annie started her writing career in science fiction. She soon
branched out to fantasy, mystery, and crime fiction, but all her
writing has one thing in common – strong women characters.
One such strong woman is featured in
Annie's series of light contemporary fantasy detective stories. Dee
is a human precog whose magical abilities aren't exactly under her
control, but that doesn't stop her from plunging in to help her
clients find loved ones gone missing. Her partner, Diz, is a sexy
but grumpy elf. Stories in the series include
The Case of the
Missing Elf, Just My Luck,
My Cousin, the Rabbit,
Secret Witness Seagull.
Annie still lives in Northern Nevada with
her husband and daughter, who share their house with a number of
high-maintenance cats. A friend to backyard bunnies and kamikaze
quail, Annie would probably befriend dogs, too, except they'd chase
To find out more about Annie, visit
www.annie-reed.com, where Annie posts a free short story every
Connect with Me Online:
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