For Chapter One contest. Picture prompt.
Sunsets In The Beginning
Chapter 1: Bart
Bret glanced at Sara riding beside him. The glow of her auburn hair in the sunset light, filtering through the clouds of the painted sky behind them, was as mesmerizing as the flames of a campfire. Their horse’s hooves plotted along in perfect sync as they ambled the dirt trail toward the stables. The last two weeks were a Fairy Tale Bret wanted to keep writing. Sara made no promises to keep in touch when she went back to her high-tech job in Virginia City. He threw out every hint he could during their time on the ranch, but she gave him no solid hope of being able to hold her in his arms after the tour bus arrived tonight.
“Hope you’ve enjoyed yourself, My Lady.”
“The last two weeks have been a marvelous time.”
“Clyde, there, is going to miss you.”
She reached forward and patted the stallion’s neck. “I’m sure he’ll be happy to get a more experienced rider. I know he wants to run farther and faster than I’m comfortable with.”
“Sara, he’s been perfectly content. I’m positive he would love to have you extend your vacation or return soon.” The statement was as close to a hint as his brain could deliver.
“The office is going to be hectic, with everyone’s return. We do these team-building events twice a year. None of them are in the same place twice in a row. Although if I’m ever given a vote, I would pick here.”
Bret caught her quick glance. The shadows being cast by the sun now below the horizon made reading her facial expressions difficult. Her words held interest at least in the ranch. The special moments over the last two weeks held stolen kisses, snuggles, walking hand in hand, and comfortable talk, all of which added to his fragile hope of more. Her smile brightened his day. Her laughter wrapped around his heart. Her ease with people and animals smoothed out many of the bumps of running a working Dude Ranch.
Dismounting they handed their reigns to Doug, the stable hand on duty, and walked to the house. Cook outdid himself with the layout of food, for the last night of this group of 25.
Bart smiled as he thought of how luck shined on him when there weren’t enough bunks in the Bunk House and three of the members, Sara included, needed to stay in the Ranch house. Every spare minute he could get with her, without seeming to be an evil stalker, he used to wine and dine the beauty. He was a cowboy, born and bred, but he did have the internet to find ways to romance a woman. Some of the suggestions were ridiculous, but he picked a few he could do.
Bret made his way to the buffet table to check with Cook.
“Sara, you ready for the bus?” Charles Wellington III asked when he walked to stand beside her. The man was a pompous lout.
Sara washed her hands in the outside sink, dried them on the towel, and grabbed a plate. She took a fair sampling of almost everything. He adored how she didn’t mind eating. So many of the other guests didn’t eat enough to feed one of his chickens. “I’m all packed. By the time the bus arrives, I’ll be ready to leave.” Sara’s eyes glanced his way.
Pompous dude’s eyes met his. The man knew Bart’s time with Sara was about to end, and he was enjoying every minute of throwing his perceived future in his face. Bart so wanted to wipe the expression off Mr. Snooty’s face with his fist or boot, but the deed wouldn’t have been acting like a gentleman. He was sure Sara wouldn’t approve, so instead, he turned his back on the man. He would wait for Karma to take care of business like always.
Two hours later the tour bus pulled into the parking area of the front of the ranch. While the bags already piled near the stop, were loaded by the driver, some of the attendees boarded and some came to Bart to say goodbye. Bart shook hands and invited everyone back. His eyes wandered over the well-wishers and found Sara near the back of the pack of fifteen or so people. He swallowed hard, as he kept a smile frozen on his face.
Charles took his hand and squeezed to the point of pain. In a bare whisper, he stated, “Don’t worry I plan on taking very good care of my future wife. She doesn’t know yet, but she’s all mine to do with as I please.” He let go of Bart’s hand, winked, and turned to walk down the three steps to the ground.
Sara was last. Charles stood at the bottom of the steps starring at them. Bart captured Sara’s hand in both of his. “I’m so glad you came Sara. You made the last two weeks the best in the ranch’s history.”
“I didn’t know I would enjoy this type of life. Tall buildings, crowded streets, and the need to be busy was all I knew.” She glanced over her shoulder, at the douchebag. Leaning closer she whispered, “He means nothing to me. He thinks we are getting together, but he’s delusional.” The bus’s horn honked. “I have to go. Take care of yourself. Thank you for the marvelous memories.” She slid her hand out from between his, smiled, and turned to descend the steps. Charles held his hand out to help her, but she passed by him.
Bart fisted his hands and discovered he was holding a slip of paper. He waved to everyone as the bus pulled away. When the bus turned at the end of the lane leading to the house, he opened the paper.
Returning to visit Clyde for three weeks at the end of next month. My reservations are already made.
Bart read and re-read the message before his brain processed the words. Sara was coming back. She was going to give him more time. Bart took off his hat, ran his fingers through his hair, replaced the hat, and jumped off the porch. He needed to check the ranch for the night. She was coming back.