Chapter  6

Kevin sat in the rented van grumbling to himself, granted he was appreciative of A.J’s efforts to get him to Montana the fastest way possible.  However, being bottled up with his buddies for the next three or so plus hours was not what he had in mind.  He wanted, no needed to think.  His life had been turned upside down and then straightened out, only then to be turned upside down again in the last forty-eight hours.

Silently he watched the landscape roll by.  Cass lived in beautiful country but it was damn difficult to get there.  Living a hundred miles outside of Billings in a little town called McLeod.  McLeod was a great place as far as Kevin had seen.  A quaint little place nestled in the foothills of the Custer National Forest. 

Pulling into a gas station, A.J. jumped out to fill up.  “Bozeman would have been closer A.J.,” his lips puckering with annoyance.

Sticking his head into the window of the van as he pumped the gas A.J. said, “Yeah but we have so much talkin’ to do bro.”

Silence slipped into the van and the chatter ceased.  The only noise heard was Kevin groaning loudly.

Kevin understood that he at least owed them a simple explanation of what had happened.  A.J. hopped back in and they headed down the road to who knew what.

Nick had run into the store of the gas station and stocked up on munchies, it had been awhile since they had actually taken a road trip.  Their concerts were large and well attended these days but limited in number.  As lavish as it seemed to most their success had enabled them to fly everywhere.  Kevin having his pilot license was an extra benefit.

Kevin blankly looked out the window as he wondered what he was walking into.  So many unanswered questions on his mind.  One by one he began making a mental list of questions.  Was she his or not?  Why didn’t Cass tell him or at least inform him, five years was along time?  It’s not like she didn’t know his where-abouts or how to contact him.  In his wildest hopes, he wanted to be able to drive on to that ranch and just have Cass say yes.  Knowing Cass and the fact that she had kept this a secret for so long, that was not going to happen.

A smiled drifted across his face when he thought back to how stubborn and ill tempered she was, at least on the outside.  If he hadn’t talked to Abe that day he probably would have thought that it was her usual demeanor.  Then he remembered when she had caught him in her office with the contract from management company sitting on her desk.  Sitting back in the chair, he had given her a languid smile. 

Her face became as fiery as her hair.  Cass’s hair was unusual to him, it was a deep rich red, blazing almost.  In the four days that they had been there she had always worn it tucked under her cowboy hat.  The first time he saw the gorgeous mane he was bowled over by it’s beauty.  Waves of crimson red flowed down her back.  When she walked by he wanted to touch it.

“What are you doing in here?  You have no right!  Get out and get out now!”  Cass was shrieking at him as he stayed where he was.

Clasping his hands together, he leaned forward on the desk.  His eyes landing on the contract,  “You have a problem Miss Collins.”

She stormed to her desk, “I don’t have any problems except for lack of privacy at the moment.”  Her hand reached for the contract and she tugged on it.  Kevin laid both hands on it, refusing to relinquish it to her.

“This is mine, give it to me now!”

“We need to talk Cass,” as he stood up behind the desk with the contract still in his hands.  Coming out from behind the desk, he leaned back against it.  “The fellas are thinking about leaving.”

“Why?” she managed to ask through stiff lips.

Kevin began reading aloud the money aspects of the contract.  Reciting the last clause of the bonus, “If the gentlemen remain at your premises for the entire length of the scheduled stay.”

“That is none of your business,” she spat as she grabbed for the pile of papers in his hand.

“Well one of the reasons we switched management companies was so that it was our business.  It’s amazing what lengths they are going through to get some material.”  His gazed settled on her hair as it tumbled down her back, since she had whipped her hat off and flung it on the desk. 

Debating whether or not to set her up was difficult.  Kevin normally didn’t use manipulation as a tool.  In this particular case it would work for him and her.  He would get the peace and quiet that they needed and she would get her money.  “So Cass how bad do you need this cash?”  Coolly he handed her the contract.

He watched her pride and conscience battle each other.  He noted a new expression came to her face.  “Kevin do you bet?”  She asked coyly.

“On occasion, why?”  Kevin grinned knowing that she had avoided the question and had skillfully maneuvered the conversation away from it.

Her lips curled into a devastating smile, “How about we bet whether you guys stay or not?”

Kevin crossed his arms as he leaned on the desk.  The possibilities were endless and so enticing.  “What did you have in mind?”

Cass bit her bottom lip before she responded trying to fight the self-satisfaction she was going have kicking this man’s ass.  “Say we have a little contest, one to your advantage and one to mine?”  She paused slightly, “You know a little about farms and horses, a contest that involves both.”

“Go on,” Kevin was highly interested in what the she-devil standing in front of him had in mind.  He could tell she was highly competitive, but then so was he. 

Cass’s self confidence was only out paced by her delight, “Sucker,” she said internally.  Out loud she said, “I have to have the north field baled.  It is all dried and ready.  So the contest for strength and endurance would be to split the field in half, first one done wins.  Abe and Gary will run the flats and the tractors.  No cheating, a set of gloves and hooks, that’s all.”

Inside Kevin was dying with laughter, she has got to be kidding, I’m a man.  I’m gonna whip her butt just for the fun of it.  We’re staying on one way or another, but this was going to be fun.  “That doesn’t sound fair to you Cass, I’m bigger and stronger.”

Cass’s laughter filled the air, “Are you afraid Kevin?”

Kevin stood up from the desk, his arms dropped to his sides and he looked her in the eye, “Hell no, but you better be.”

Cass dropped her head slightly to hide the little grin.  “Go for the macho pride, it works every time,” she snickered to herself.

“Where do the horses come in?”  Kevin’s curiosity getting the better of him.  Evidently she had no idea that he had horses on his own farm back in Kentucky.

“Ever do any roping?”

Kevin’s smile turned soft,  “Sure have.”  It was a little fib, it had been awhile but he had someone show him once at a party or barbeque he couldn’t remember which it was.  He recalled the man saying that had thought he was a natural.  He messed around with it for a few weeks and then became bored with it.

“Best time wins,” she grinned as she went around her desk and sat down, “Now get out of my office.”

Kevin turned and placed his hands far apart on the desk.  Lowering his head as close to her as he could get with the monster of a desk between them.  “Either way we’ll stay but if I win you’re going to start being nice to us.  We don’t need you Cass but you do need us.”

Cass gulped for air, somehow he had spun this little bet into something that it wasn’t.  Understanding that either way she would get what she needed was the only reason she agreed with him.  A slight nod was all he needed. 

She watched him saunter out of her office full of himself, whistling away.  She put her head down on the desk and closed her eyes.  She had set herself up no matter what.  Her mind reviewed what had just played out in the office.  Two things were certain, one she was going to win as well as get paid.  Kevin didn’t seem like the type of person that would go back on his word.  Two, if Kevin wasn’t so in love with himself, annoying, and irritating, he’d be kind of cute in her book.

The door to her office swung open again, “When?”

“Tomorrow,” she answered as she pulled herself together.  The last thing I need is for him to know that I’m a little nervous about this.  Well not this, him.

The next day came, they both were up at sunrise.  Brian hearing Kevin leave his room was more than intriguing.  For Kevin to be up before noon meant that something was up.  Brian eavesdropped as Cass, Gary, Abe, and Kevin chatted in the kitchen.  Cass was actually being polite.  First time I’ve seen that Brian mused.  He listened to them speak and was annoyed more than anything that Kevin had just sentenced them to stay here for four weeks.  The slam of the back door signaled that they had left.  Brian shot upstairs to wake his buddies, to let them know what was going on.

Four people gathered in the kitchen and watched two people breaking their necks trying to out do each other.  Becoming exceedingly bored watching them they all drifted off to do their own things.  At Lunchtime all of them re-appeared in the kitchen, nobody was present to feed any of them.  A.J. shrugged, “Sandwiches?”  Each person fending for themselves. 

Nick called them to the window to see both participants sitting on trailer sharing lunch and talking.  “What do you think?”

A.J. fussed a little, “It better be nothin’ he told me to not even think about it.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing people, he’s a married man,” Howie grabbed his plate and headed off.

“Let’s go check it out,” Nick was out the back door. 

The contest began again with an audience.  Cass laughed as she pointed to the guys standing on the other side of the field.  “Be prepared to lose Kevin, be prepared to lose.”

Kevin cocked his head and flashed a smile, “Cass I’ve been pretty easy on you until now.  I’ve slowed myself down so you wouldn’t look like a fool over this.  Not now.”  Kevin yanked his gloves on, grabbing the hooks he drove them into the bale with fierceness.

Abe winked at Gary and he returned one. 

Cass was flustered at the little show of temper.  Before she could recover he was six bales ahead of her.  Until the little exchange they had been even.   She took off running down the row as fast as she could.  When she did make eye contact with Kevin he openly laughed at her.

Two hours later Cass could barely walk let alone lift a single thing.  Kevin sat on the trailer at the end of the row waiting for her.  Casually he chewed on a piece of hay watching a head-strong woman refuse to give up.  The insanity of it all was amusing, he had driven her to the ground but she wouldn’t admit it.  Sighing loudly he slipped on his gloves and grabbed the hooks.  Strolling back to her, he stopped two bales in front of her.  He began hooking the bales that she was supposed to be doing. 

Cass shot a fierce look at him and then frowned, just as silently she acknowledged he had won.

Kevin rode back with Gary and Cass with Abe.  She wouldn’t look at him as she sat with her back to him, her shoulders slightly slumped forward.  Now he felt bad.  It was wrong to beat her into the ground, he could have showed a little mercy.

Both of them jumped off the trailers simultaneously.  “Cass,” Kevin walked towards her. 

“You won Kevin, but that’s only part of it.”  He watched her ass sway back and forth as she left the barn.

“I don’t believe this shit,” Kevin turned to Abe. 

Abe clucked, “She has a heart as huge as this ranch.”

Gary backed the trailer in by hand, “Yeah and pride to match the damn thing.  Don’t worry Kevin.  You have seen the last of my ill-mannered sister for the evening.  She won’t be at dinner, she’ll be upstairs nursing her muscles and her pride.”

Cass quietly slipped into the house trying not to call attention to herself.  Nick was in front of her as she reached the top stair.  “So Cass, what’s that little game about?” 

“Nothing,” she grumbled.  Stepping to the side, she tried to pass.  Something latched on to her wrist and stopped her. 

“Nothing?”  Nick grinned mischievously.

For the first time Cass had become of aware of what she called Nick’s cute quotient.  “Nothing,” she smiled warmly at him.

“Oh okay,” he giggled. 


Hearing his name, he immediately dropped her arm.  No doubt who it was, Mr. Kevin was back.  “Yes Mr. Kevin, I know we’re here to work,” he laughed as he bopped down the stairs two at a time.

“Sorry Cass,” Kevin looked at her sympathetically.

She turned and glared at him, ”Don’t bother.”

Kevin’s head bobbed back at the ice in her voice.  “You wait lady, You’re gonna spend the next three and half weeks kissin’ my ass,” he said rather loudly.

“DON’T COUNT ON IT!”  He heard come from behind the door she had just closed.

“OH!” he yelled as he stormed off to his room for a soak.  He had admit even he was slightly sore.





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