Jenna Owens finds, love, happiness, family and sorrow.
Jenna returned to the ranch that weekend determined to tell Lane exactly how she felt about Noah. She marched to the stables, hoping Lane was waiting. She had to discourage him from pursuing her, make him see that she was in love with Noah, and that nothing could happen between them. That was the only way she could put the situation behind her and commit herself to Noah completely.
When she went into the stables, though, they were empty. Looking around, she realized the work was finished. She’d have to find something else to do for the next four hours. When she turned to leave the stables, she ran directly into Lane.
“I’m surprised to see you here again,” he grumbled, walking past her.
Why was he so angry? “What’s your problem?” she snapped.
He turned and glared at her. “You didn’t come here for weeks because of one little kiss, making me feel like I did something horribly wrong, and now you wonder why I’m annoyed.”
“For your information, I just started college and had a lot of studying to do. You’re pretty full of yourself to believe you’re the reason why I didn’t come here.” It sounded good, and she hoped he believed it. He didn’t need to know that he was right; it would only make things worse.
He shook his head. “I finished up in here, leaving you free to go back home.”
Jenna stood staring at him. “I can’t leave until my father’s finished.”
He walked up to her and took her hand. “Let’s go for a walk and catch up.”
She let him drag her off, wondering if she dared to be alone with him again.
A few minutes later, they sat on top of a small hill. “I’m really glad you came today, Jenna,” Lane said.
She smiled. From where they sat, they could see miles of the ranch, with once-green fields that had dried in the sun, dotted by daffodils that seemed to be the only color in that vast land. She inhaled deeply, the smell of grass and soil refreshing. She loved the land, and couldn’t picture herself living elsewhere.
“Tell me about him,” Lane said.
Jenna turned to him. “Why do you want to know about Noah?” she asked stunned.
Lane laughed, “I got a name out of you. That’s a start.”
Jenna smiled and continued to stare off into the distance. “Noah’s wonderful. He helped me get a job, took me to the university to register. There isn’t one bad thing I could say about him.” It was true. Noah was perfect.
“Why don’t you tell me about yourself?” Jenna challenged, glancing over her shoulder at him.
He stood and plucked a grass stem, setting it between his teeth. “It’s not a very nice story, I’m afraid.”
“Tell me, anyway. I’m not going anywhere.” She had to know more, understand why he was so intriguing to her.
“I lived here a long time ago and recently moved back home. I forgot how beautiful and peaceful this place is.”
“You’ve been here before?” It somehow made sense. Therefore, she had met him another time.
He nodded. “It seems like a lifetime since I’ve been back.”
“Are you related to the Larkin’s?”
“I guess you could call me a distant relative,” he whispered.
“Do you have any girlfriends?” She couldn’t stop that last question, and hated herself for letting him know that was interested.
He turned around to face her with a slight smile on his lips. “What is this, twenty questions?”
“There’s no other way for me to know someone if I don’t ask. Since you aren’t willing to tell me anything on your own, twenty questions will have to do.”
Lane came back and sat beside her, then sighed loudly. “I don’t have a girlfriend, because every single person I become involved with wants only one thing from me.”
Jenna narrowed her gaze, searching for an answer in his face. “And what would that be? You’re winning personality?”
Lane laughed, and the sound was music to her ears. “There’s that, but once they realize I’m related to money, the only thing they see is dollar signs. I hate questions about the Larkin family. I wish I could hide my identity forever.”
Jenna instantly felt terrible for him. He was handsome, sensitive, and caring, a good catch in any single girls eyes. How could the women he dated not see those things?
“Are you sure that’s what they really want from you?”
He nodded, pulled the blade of grass from his mouth and tossed it away. “I didn’t want to admit it at first, but when they only want to talk about the ranch, the cars, and Lambert Larkin, it’s obvious.”
“I can’t stand Lambert,” Jenna muttered, then realized she should’ve kept silent.
“You don’t like the Larkin family?”
Jenna shrugged. “I just have a problem with Lambert.”
Lane bumped his shoulder into hers. “Did he do something to you?”
Jenna shook her head and almost laughed. “I don’t like the way he treats his employees. He barks orders as if he’s better than the people who actually keep the ranch going. He has no concept of the words hard work and pride. ”
Lane started laughing.
She slapped his arm, ticked that he would laugh at her when she was being serious. “It’s not funny!”
“Take it easy. It’s just that I never saw anyone become so impassioned during conversation before.”
“I can’t help the way I feel.” Jenna stood to leave, but he grabbed her hands and pulled her back down.
“Don’t go just yet, Jenna. I want to spend more time with you.”
“I can’t stay here all day. My father will be looking for me soon.”
Lane reached out and brushed his hand down her cheek and she trembled. He inched closer and her mouth parted. Her eyes widened as he continued to hover so close.
Jenna wondered what to do. Should she let him kiss her or pull away? His lips crushed down on hers before she could make up her mind. She closed her eyes tight and let it happen comparing that kiss with the first one. One kiss led to another and another. Before she knew it, she was lying in the grass making out with Lane. If she didn’t stop now, who knows where it might lead.
“Lane, I can’t do this with you,” Jenna whispered. As his lips continued their assault on her senses, she pushed at his chest and sat up.
He turned her face toward him. “You already did.” He stared into her eyes and smiled. His thumb slid over her bottom lip and he kissed her again, his tongue sliding into her mouth. Her arms locked behind his neck pulling him closer. She responded so easily to him, loving the feel of his mouth on hers. Lance kissed entirely different from Noah. Noah kissed her tenderly. Lane kissed with a sense of urgency, as if he couldn’t get enough.
Jenna came to her senses suddenly, and broke the fiery kiss. This was wrong. How could she be doing this again? “I’m sorry, Lane, but I’m in love with someone else. This can never happen again.”
She stood and rushed to the stables, going inside and threw herself face down on a mound of hay. Why did she let him kiss her again? Why was it so easy to lose her with him, yet stop Noah from going too far? She hated the doubts and questions running through her mind. When would the madness end and let her regain a normal life?
A hand on her shoulder spun her around. “I hate that you’re upset with me, Jenna,” Lane said. He shook his head, a somber expression on his handsome face. “I don’t want you to be afraid of getting close to me.”
What was she supposed to say? Nothing came to mind, so she looked away. She couldn’t face those intoxicating green eyes that threw her mind into a tailspin and made her heart beat like a bass drum.
“If you say the only thing we can have together is friendship, I’ll respect that. I promise I won’t kiss you again.”
He sounded sincere, but she wondered if should believe him. He wasn’t the only one to blame here. She didn’t exactly prevent it from happening. Did she want it all along?
Lane walked Jenna to her father’s truck and went back to the stables while she waited. When her father climbed into the vehicle, he slammed his door violently, making the truck shake. Jenna didn’t know what was bothering him, but she knew she wasn’t going to ask either.
He squealed the tires as they pulled onto the main road, something he’d never done before. Jenna hated the silence between them, but she couldn’t bring herself to say anything. She assumed he’d had an argument with Lambert, or something else happened at the ranch to put him in a bad mood.
When they were a mile from the house, he finally asked, “How could you go off with that boy?” His tone was cold and harsh, and frightened her.
“I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to speak to Lane.”
He jerked the steering wheel and sent the truck off the road. When he slammed on the brakes, the tires screamed in protest. He threw the truck into park, turned and glared at her, his brown eyes blacker than oil. “I’m talking about you and Lance Larkin!”
What was he talking about? “I…I’ve never met Lance Larkin.”
He shook his head. “You were talking with him at the truck just before I walked up.”
Lane was Lance Larkin? A cold chill started from her head and raced all the way down to her toes. Lance had lied to her! How could he do that? “He told me his name was Lane. He said he was a distant relative of the Larkin’s.”
“Lambert’s furious about this. I promised him you’d stay away from his boy. I don’t need to tell you what kind of person he is after all the rumors that have floated around about him over the years.”
He turned away and pulled back onto the highway.
So many emotions were rushing over her. He deceived her, and that hurt. She was angry that he lied to her, and continued the lie as if it were nothing. Betrayal, that nasty word that left a bitter taste in her mouth.
They pulled into the driveway, and she bolted and ran to the comfort of her room, hot tears streaming down her face. Within a minute, her mother was standing in the doorway. “Jenna, will you tell me what’s going on?”
She sat up and swiped at the tears. “I met a boy at the ranch. I thought he was a ranch hand, but today I learned the truth.”
She looked at Jenna, and then moved closer, her pale green eyes clouded in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
Jenna stood up and began pacing as the anger welled again. “His real name is Lance Larkin, but he told me his name was Lane. We’ve kissed a few times, and I told him all about Noah, but I can’t stop thinking about him.” Tears rolled down her cheeks again. Why was this happening to her? Why did she have to go and mess up her life this way?
“Does Noah know about this?”
She shook her head.
“You need to tell him.”
How could she tell Noah the truth? What would he think of her when he found out she was just a cheater? He’d probably never want to see her again. It was too much! She went from being a loner, to having a boyfriend, and then looking elsewhere and ruining everything.
“Who do you want to be with?”
Jenna stopped and looked at her mother. It was a simple question, but she didn’t have an answer. “I don’t know.”
“You need to figure out what you want before this situation gets worse. It won’t be easy, but Noah needs to be told before he finds out from someone else.”
Jenna threw herself on the bed and cried for herself, for Noah, and Lance.
Noah stopped by just as they finished eating dinner that night. She knew it would break his heart when she told him the truth, but she couldn’t hide it from him forever. She took his hand and led him to the edge of the woods, needing the privacy, and distance from her house.
“Noah, there’s something I need to tell you, and I hope you won’t hate me.”
He smiled at her as he always did, his eyes drinking her in. “I could never hate you. You can tell me anything.”
That was how he felt now, but once he knew the reason she’d been so distant, their lives would change forever. She took a deep, steadying breath. “The reason I pushed you away was because...”
“Jenna, just tell me.”
She looked into his eyes and tried to hold back the tears. “I met someone else,” she blurted, shocked that she finally said it.
His smile vanished, and he shook his head. “I knew it! I even asked you and you said nothing. All this time, you were lying and cheating on me. Did you think I’d never find out?” he shouted.
“It wasn’t like that.”
“How could you do this to me? I never lied to you, not even once, and I expected the same from you!” He turned and stormed off.
Jenna ran after him and grabbed his arm. “Noah, please don’t leave this way.”
He jerked his arm out of her hand and turned to face her. His eyes were cold sending a chill down her spine. “Who is it?”
How could she tell him when she wasn’t sure who exactly Lance was?
“If you can’t even give me a name, then there’s nothing worth talking about.” He turned to leave.
“It’s Lance Larkin.”
He stopped without turning, his head down.
“He lied to me and said his name was Lane. Until this afternoon I didn’t know the truth.”
Noah spun around and looked at her sadly. “Are you in love with him?”
She shook her head and stared at the ground, wondering what her feelings for Lance were and why she felt so attracted to him.
“Then what is it?” he snapped sharply.
“I don’t know,” she moaned.
Noah sighed so loud that the sound washed through her as if she’d done it herself. “I can’t be with you right now, Jenna. When you decide what you really want, call me.” He stormed off, leaving her alone in the driveway.
Jenna started crying again, wondering what to do. Then she saw his taillights come on as he backed up on the road. Could she be hopeful? Had he changed his mind? Would he give her another chance?
“Jenna,” he called.
She ran to the truck, hoping Noah would stay to work it out.
“I’ll pick you up for school and work, but I don’t think there’s anything we can salvage right now,” he said and took off down the road.
She stood on the gravel road, sobbing, wondering if she’d ever be able to fix things between them. The only person who’d ever come into her life and made her feel alive was someone she’d let down. She wished she’d never met Lance and had stopped going to the ranch with father years earlier.
Noah kicked himself all the way home. For weeks, he knew something was off with her, and he tried to talk to her about, but she lied. It was happening all over again. Did he have the words, sucker written across his forehead or something? Why did this keep happening to him? What had he ever done to deserve this?
He was tired of giving his heart away only to have it ripped to shreds as if it were nothing but a piece of paper. Well he’d take her to school and work, but he’d make sure she saw no emotion whatsoever. He would act like he didn’t give a damn, even if it killed him in the process. He didn’t need this crap. There were plenty of other girls out there.
He parked his truck and went into the house, thankful that his parents weren’t around. He went to the refrigerator, and grabbed a few beers then headed to his bedroom.
Damn, of all people, Jenna found herself involved with Lance Larkin. He knew that relationship was doomed from the start. Lance was nothing but trouble, had always been. He twisted the cap off the beer bottle and chugged, draining the amber liquid.
All he had to do was graduate and then he could get the hell out of this town. He didn’t need all the bad memories. He wished that he’d never given Jenna the time of day when he found her on the road. Not only did he pick her up, but he got her a job, and helped her into college. How ironic that she would just use him for those things? He’d been a fool.
Over the following week, Noah picked Jenna up for school and work, but they barely spoke to one another. She hated the way the situation was between them and longed for the times when they’d been close. She wanted to open up to him again, giving him what he wanted, but she couldn’t honestly say that she had no feelings for Lance. If Noah took her back, she’d just be lying again.
She went to the ranch that weekend and decided to throw herself into work and not think of what a mess she’d made of her life. Lance was in the stables when she arrived, but she ignored him. When she finished, she intended to walk to the truck without a word.
“Mr. Larkin wants you in the office pronto.” Luther stated, and then walked off.
Jenna froze for a moment, and realized she’d have her first conversation with the man she despised. She marched to the house and rang the bell. When the butler opened the door, he stepped aside.
“I’m Jenna Owens,” she said firmly, anger rushing through her. “Mr. Larkin summoned me.” She looked around the entryway expecting him to pop out of a room.
The elderly gentleman led her down a long hall to Lambert’s office. She knocked and stepped inside, not waiting for him to respond. She couldn’t let him see her fear. He sat behind his enormous desk, staring at her with cold eyes.
“You wanted to see me.”
“Sit down, Jenna.”
She moved swiftly to the high-back chair facing him and sat uncomfortably.
“I understand you’ve been spending time with my boy. I usually try not to become involved with my children’s relationships, but this time, I feel I must, before someone gets hurt.”
Was it her family’s lack of wealth? If he didn’t get involved, then why he was suddenly interested in what she did, she didn’t know. Lambert had silvery-gray hair he kept hidden under a hat, with bushy sideburns that made him look older than he was. He was at least 6’ tall and was chubby around the waistline, his stomach hanging over his belt like a pot-bellied pig. Every time he looked at Jenna, her skin crawled. Why hadn’t he spoken to her until then? Why didn’t he want her involved with his precious son? Apparently, she wasn’t good enough to date a Larkin.
“Do you really think I’m capable of hurting your son?” she asked.
He grinned and stood. “Jenna, the reason I forbade you from seeing Lance is because of his track record. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors about his troubles. I promised your father that I’d keep you two apart. You don’t need to come here on Saturdays anymore.” He sat back down satisfied.
Jenna couldn’t believe he was brushing her off that way for seeing Lance. “I enjoy working here and spending extra time with my father. Keeping me off the ranch won’t stop Lance from finding me if he really wants to,” she assured him, then stood and headed for the door.
As she opened the oak door, Lambert came up behind her, pushed it closed and held it with one hand. “If you tell me you’ll stay away from my son, you can continue to work here on weekends.”
Jenna turned and looked into his hard eyes. “I was already planning on ending things with him today. I don’t need you interfering with my life, telling me what I should and shouldn’t do.”
He removed his hand from the door, and she marched out. Who did he think he was, trying to run her life? She didn’t need his permission, and she was sure Lance would do the opposite of what his father wanted.
“Jenna, wait,” Lance called
She stopped and waited for him to catch up hoping Lambert was watching what happened next. The thought of kissing his precious boy in front of everyone seemed like a spectacular idea. Too bad, she was still pissed at him.
“What did my father want?” he asked.
Jenna glared at him. “I’m sure you know the answer to that.”
Lance stared at her, his green eyes filled with sadness. “Jenna, please don’t listen to anything he has to say.”
“If I don’t stay away from you, I won’t be allowed to work here on Saturdays.” He reached for her hand, but she pulled away abruptly.
“He can’t stop me from seeing you off the ranch,” Lance said, smiling. “We can be together without anyone knowing.”
“I already told you all I want is to be friends, and right now, I don’t think that’s possible. Just leave me alone.” Jenna turned and walked on toward her father’s truck.