Ranching can be a hard & lonely business, love is a sight for sore eyes.
“Come down to Jackson Hole with me. Getting away will do you good. It was supposed to be a romantic weekend, but her old college roommate passed, and Lynn feels she has to go to the darn funeral.”
“They put a lien on my God damn ranch, Carl. I’m not exactly feeling romantic,” John growled.
Carl ignored the snark as only age-old friends can. “We’ll catch some trout, stare at the fire, bitch about life and get shit-faced. It will do you good,” he repeated.
Removing his hat, John scrubbed his fingers through his hair and stared out over the pasture. Six generations of the Dutton family had worked this ranch and he was going to be the one to lose it. Getting drunk sounded like a plan.
Casting the line with a flick of his wrist, John grimaced at the throbbing in his skull. Getting shit-faced was for the young. The problem with drowning your sorrows for a night was they came flooding back with the morning light. He was backed into a corner and couldn’t see his way out. Movement in his peripheral made his bleary eyes shift down the shore. It was worth it. A ratty plaid shirt and cut-offs had never looked so good. Maybe it was the long, tanned legs hanging out below. His brows lifted in recognition. So did parts south of the belt buckle. Any way you looked at it, she was a sight for sore eyes.
“Good morning, darlin’.”
“Why John Dutton, I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear you say those words,” the brunette purred, smiling over her shoulder.
“I never said them in high school?”
“I believe that was usually, ‘sun’s coming up. Better get inside.’ You had a healthy respect for Daddy’s Winchester.”
He chuckled, nodding. “That sounds about right.”
“What tempted you away from Paradise Valley and the Yellowstone? Or is it who?”
“A need to clear my head.” He rubbed his temple ruefully. “Not sure the whiskey helped. As to who, just Carl. Lynn stood him up for a weekend getaway and I’m a poor substitute.”
“You and Carl Reynolds finding trouble. Good to know some things never change.”
“What about you?”
She turned away, hand fluttering up the hill. “Like you, getting away. The paparazzi vultures were circling, and I got the lake house in the divorce.”
“I’m not. I hope 5.2 billion papercuts burn like hell.”
“Hell hath no fury,” John murmured, watching the beauty dip her toes.
Time had brought a chiseled refinement to Cyn’s features, but she was still his walking wet dream. There weren’t too many men that would argue. When she’d left Montana for the runways of Milan, she hadn’t looked back. Her best friend, Evelyn, had been just as shellshocked as John. They’d ended up comforting one another all the way to the altar.
Years later when Cyn breezed back into town on a billionaire’s arm, the two women picked up like they’d never been apart. Her visits had been a little more awkward for John, but there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do for either of them.
“You still pissed over Alex trying to buy the Yellowstone?”
“It wasn’t him wanting it, just his confusion over the word no.”
“I used to mention it now and then to rile him up.”
“You know it.”
Tilting her face to the morning sun, she closed her eyes. Recent tabloid headlines taunted him. Could a man be that stupid?
“It true he was cheating on you?”
Cyn nodded, turning to look at him. “That part was true. It true you’re having money problems?”
It was John’s turn to nod, then shake his head with a humorless chuckle. “Trouble is all I find lately. Between lawsuits, feuds and dead cattle, money is just another problem.”
“I also heard your girlfriend stripped you of your office and took all the credit for breaking up a white supremacy human smuggling ring after your Livestock Agents made the bust and rescued a child. What am I missing?”
“Partially true. I resigned as Livestock Commissioner. Took the hit to stop the questions and was allowed to appoint Jaime as my successor. The Governor wouldn’t appreciate being called my girlfriend. And the child was my grandson.”
“Feuds,” she murmured in understanding. “Is Kayce’s boy okay?”
“Tate is traumatized as you’d expect. Having nightmares, but we’ll get him through it.”
“If he’s as tough as the rest of the family, I don’t doubt it.” She bit her lip, eyes narrowing in speculation. “It sounds as if the hits and bruises are piling up. Your boys aren’t much of a surprise, but it’s all over town someone did a number on Beth’s face. Domestic?”
“You hear a lot. And unfortunately, that was business.”
“Going after a woman and an eight-year-old child, your enemies don’t fight fair.”
“They didn’t. Now they don’t fight at all.”
“You weren’t kidding about trouble.”
“Come up for a refill and maybe some breakfast if you don’t think Carl will miss you,” Cyn offered as he looked at his empty coffee mug.
“Carl’s still sleeping off the whiskey. He should really stick to beer.”
Settling on a stool with a fresh cup, he was content to watch Cyn glide around the kitchen. She’d always been graceful, but modeling and age had added an elegance to her movements.
“You still miss her?”
The question startled him out of his musing, but he didn’t need to ask which her. “Everyday,” he admitted.
Adding ingredients to the hot pan, Cyn nodded. “I think about wasted time.”
“Same. All the times I put work and the ranch ahead of her.”
“Evelyn understood who she was marrying, John. She shared your work ethic.”
“I was better with her. A better rancher, father, just better.”
“As much as a part of me doesn’t want to admit it, Evie was better for you. She pushed you where I never would’ve.”
“Everything was a fight with that woman. Sometimes I miss being told what to do.”
“I doubt that.”
“I said sometimes,” he said with a wry smile.
“I think you miss having a partner. Someone you can let your guard down with, talk to at the end of the day.”
John nodded, forcing a sip of coffee past the knot in his throat. “That’s sounds about right.”
“We talked about the possibility of her going first. Evie said you’d be lost without her. Compared you to your dad.”
“Apple didn’t fall far from the tree I guess.”
“Your mom and Evie were a lot alike too.”
“Both strong women. Probably why they got a long so well.”
“Your dad never moved on. Loved your mom until the day he died.”
John looked down, blinking against the burn behind his eyes. He nodded.
“As ornery and charming as Senior was, underneath he was lonely. That doesn’t have to be you. You can remarry and still love her, John.”
“I don’t know too many women that would agree to play second fiddle to a ranch and a dead wife.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Cyn loosened the edges of the omelet with a spatula. There was a new tension in her shoulders. Stepping up behind her, he rested his hand on her hips.
“Talk to me.”
“We were good at that once.”
“We were. So, what’s stopping you now?”
“I’m trying not to burn your breakfast or be insulted by your less than enthusiastic response.”
Resting his forehead against Cyn’s crown, he breathed in the smell of warm woman and jasmine. “You caught me off guard.”
“That should tell you something,” she said, plating the omelet. “You don’t let your walls down with many.”
She wasn’t wrong. Trying to think of any among the living, he followed her out to the deck.
“Who do you talk to?”
“Carl sometimes, or Rip,” he offered hesitantly.
“Two men who undoubtedly would do anything for you,” she confirmed, looking out over the water. “But in the back of your head you’re still weighing your words, making sure you don’t look weak. And before you say Lynelle, you and the governor scratch a mutual itch between the sheets, but the chess game never stops. It’s all about power.”
“You know me well.”
“We know each other, John. We trust each other. We want what’s best for the other. It’s called love.”
He opened his mouth, but she cut him off.
“That kind of love doesn’t die. Evelyn knew it, but she trusted us. She knew we would never betray her because we loved her too.”
“I always wondered what you two talked about. As suspected, I didn’t really want to know.”
Laughing, Cyn shook her head. “You really didn’t.”
“After all these years …”
“We’re connected. You’re in my heart and dreams. I still get that jolt of attraction when I see you. I never stopped loving you.”
“Parts of me definitely take notice when I see you, darlin’, but that’s me and the other four billion men in the world.”
“No other man makes me warm and tingly just by calling me darling.”
“I’m a rancher. You said it, this is far from home for me. You’re used to big parties, bright lights and traveling the world. You’re a star, baby.”
“Was, and now all I want is to live someplace where I can walk out the backdoor and dance naked under the stars. I’m tired of people watching and judging my every move. This could be so good for both of us, John. Marry me and get an infusion of cash so you can continue to protect the Yellowstone. Quit beating your head against a brick wall. Have someone in your corner. Someone to talk to and wrap around at night.”
Taking her hand, his thumb rubbed across her knuckles in a caress. “What about you? What do you get out of this?”
“I would have someone to hold me, to stand with me in good and bad, laugh with me. Shit, can you imagine the look on Alex’s face if I walked into the country club on your arm? I’d almost marry you for that alone. But the truth is I want you, Cowboy. I always have.”
“You deserve better.”
“That’s what my father said forty-plus years ago and I’ve been regretting listening ever since.”
Silence hung between them. Pushing his sunglasses up, John rubbed at gritty eyes. “I don’t want your money.”
“No you don’t, but you need it. Besides, it was Alex’s money and there’s a perverse irony in it going to the Yellowstone to chase off wolves like him.”
It galled him that he needed it. But Alex, Rainwater, or those new assholes that had bought out Jenkin’s estate, one of them was going to be all too willing to pay up his delinquent tax bill if he didn’t figure something out soon. And he was damn tired of thinking.
“5.2 billion. Jesus,” he muttered.
“I sure as hell didn’t need the money. It was just the only way to hurt him.”
“I still can’t believe the son-of-a-bitch cheated on you.”
“Because you believe in loyalty, John.”
“That and you’ve been my walking wet dream since I was thirteen years old.”
She smacked his shoulder but matched his grin.
“Then quit being so stubborn and we can make those dreams reality. It’s only a few hours to Bozeman. I’m sure you know a judge or two. We could be married by tonight and enjoying the benefits.”
“You proposed to me ten minutes ago and you’re already trying to get me in bed?”
“Are you complaining?”
“Not one bit, darlin’.”
“Then get your hat, Cowboy.”
“How do you know I brought a hat?”
Cyn leaned in, her lips playing over his in the barest caress. “Because I know you, John Dutton. Now, come on.”
Some of the weight lifted as he followed. Sometimes it felt good to be told what to do.
WC ~ 1998
© Mara McBain 06/2020
Created for :
Genre prompt: Fan-Fiction
*TV show Yellowstone - Paramount Network*