“Where’s this place again?” I check the GPS as I try to control my Golf through the narrow country lane. I’ve never been out of the city, and fears about going on this adventure make my hands shake. I'm a creature of comfort and only do things if I know I'm in control.
I start to concentrate on where I'm going and not think about the music I have to face when I return home. One week of tranquility and me-time—that's what I said to myself when I booked the cabin. It has been the first time since working for the firm that I've ever thought of going on holiday, or in this case, calling in sick. My parents believed that only the weak needed time away. I did question them a couple of times when we traveled on vacation as a kid, and they would always tell me it was different. Things that were deemed as breaking their rules were always classed as exceptions. I was one of those people right now—the weak—and I didn’t care.
I shifted back to reality as I start pushing the buttons on the GPS. My GPS goes wild once in a while, not that I hardly use it unless I’m stuck in traffic and want a shortcut. Yet, I’ve done it so many times, and it usually corrects itself. I'm not concentrating on the road. Then again, all I’ve seen so far are trees, a few cows, and a few horses—there's nothing worth looking out for. Before I lost signal, it had indicated my destination was five miles in this direction.
I should have checked the entire route when I stopped at the diner a few miles back. I was too busy wondering whether to answer my phone or not. My dad was calling, probably wondering why I hadn't called him since I got my promotion this morning. I couldn't. I imagined the disappointment in his voice, and I couldn't handle it.
I open my window and think about the country air breezing through it. It should relax me and make me feel like this journey is a good idea. However, something's wrong—instead of slowing down, I press the gas to go faster. I'm panicking and tapping the GPS, hoping it'll tell me what direction to go, or at least give me the comfort that I am heading in the right direction.
Instead, it does the complete opposite as it flashes to a black screen. “Did it say…” Before I can even finish my sentence, my car makes a loud sound and then drops into a ditch on the side of the road.
This is crazy. I’m an associate working for Lock & Smith, one of the top law firms in the city, I see a ditch on the side of the road, and I close my eyes ending up in the ditch. I feel like Alice in Wonderland wanting to leave but too scared to do so.
No, I need to figure a way out of this damn ditch. I went to college, law school for crying out loud, and being stuck in a ditch isn’t the greatest challenge of my life. I keep turning the ignition and using the gas to get out of it. Maybe a little too much gas, because all I can smell are the fumes coming out of my car. It's not moving, but I'm hoping my journey doesn't start and end here. I feel useless as I think about my phone I switched off an hour ago after Dad’s attempts to speak to me.
I don't even know who to call for help?
“Maybe I’m just running away…” I shake my head as the words spill from my mouth. The negativity I never thought existed is pouring out as I drop my head on the steering wheel and start to cry.
Last night I was at the cabin, and now it's being rented for the first time in five years. Grandpa used to rent it out every summer. He would tell me everyone deserved to enjoy the beauty of the lake. I was older and no longer spent my summer vacations with him. After Grandma died, he stopped going there so much. He said there was no point.
If the hotel hadn't called and stated they were stuck, I never would have rented it out. I didn't need the money, and unlike him, I wasn't sentimental.
One of the girls said they had cleared it out, and I was curious to see what it now looked like. Memories of the times Grandpa used to take me there flashed through my mind. I ended up staying because it was too late to go back to the ranch, and I didn't feel like leaving. Leaving meant I was erasing the memories of him, something I hadn't relived in a long time.
I forgot to take supplies with me. I wasn't sure if the girl renting it would want anything. I remembered Grandpa used to leave some drinks, food, and necessities for whoever was staying, but I had eaten most of that when I spent the day there. I thought it would be nice to greet them. Maybe tell them about things to do so they wouldn’t come to the ranch and disturb me. My time on the ranch is mine, I don't get visitors. People know better than to visit me without arranging it first.
I grab Curtis, my horse, and we head down there. That's when halfway down the lane, I see a little red Golf stuck in a ditch. I’d put the warning signs up around the ditches at the start of the road. Maybe I should just repair the damn thing. I didn't want people coming down this way without a prior invitation. That was the main reason for the ditches—to stop trespassers coming and going when they felt like it. I only put up the signs this morning when they told me about the booking. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered.
I get off Curtis and whisper to him, "Stay here a minute. I'll be right back." I take the rope and tie him to a nearby tree in front of the car. I don't want him to be startled. At times, he can get distracted. I've only had him a year, so we're at that stage where we're both getting to know each other. I keep the rope low enough, so it doesn't restrict his head.
I take a deep breath as I start heading toward the car. I meet hands at the ranch and even when there's the odd fair, I'd go into town, but I avoid talking to most people. A conversation used to be a daily occurrence with me when I worked in the city, but now it was something that was rare, and it made me feel nervous.
The sun’s beating down on my hat, and I remove it, as I was taught to do as a boy when introducing myself.
Don’t hide your face, Grandpa used to say to me. I was shy back then. The shyness went away as I became a top criminal lawyer, but it was a front because it returned the moment I moved to the ranch.
Her head’s on the steering wheel as I approach her window. She probably didn't even see me, so I gently knock on it. Still nothing, so I shout as I begin to lose patience, “Hey!”
She jumps up and looks at me with her big brown eyes full of tears.
Her hair’s stuck to her forehead, maybe from the heat of the car, and her windows are all rolled up.
Did women really get that emotional about being stuck in a ditch?
I shake my head at the idea of her big brown eyes filled with tears because she was in a ditch. She shakes her head and tries to move some hair stuck across one of her eyes. I watch as she takes a deep breath waiting for her to say something.
She rolls down the window. “Don’t do that!”
Excuse me for trying to help, part of me wants to leave her. It’s clear her car won’t move, and she’s most likely heading up to the cabin. I can tell that she’s a city girl.
The car is clearly not for these roads, and I can tell by the shirt and jacket she's wearing that she's not dressed for a cabin. Maybe, it's not her, but just some city girl who got lost. Why would she be on this lane?
I take a deep breath and think that this time, I'll be a little less demanding. “I can see you’re stuck.”
She nods her head and mumbles, “You don’t say…”
“I thought maybe I could help you out.” I feel so nervous speaking to her which is weird. I'm coming out with lines as if I'm asking her out on a date, and not tending to a damsel in distress by offering her a helping hand. Her head darts between Curtis and me as if I’d use him to hurl her out of the ditch.
“Not with my horse, but I can sort that out later. Are you going to the cabin by Creak Peak?”
Only Grandpa would give the cabin a stupid name. He was an eccentric old man, but there was one thing for sure—there was never a dull moment with him.
I feel as if I’m speaking another language because she’s too busy adjusting her hair and keeping one eye on Curtis. Maybe she thinks I'm an axe murderer or something, and that's the reason for her not wanting to talk or even get out of the car. Maybe she thinks I’ll put her on top of Curtis and slay her body in the woods. She only rolled down the window slightly and just keeps staring at me. If anything, I'm the one who should be nervous—she's a complete stranger and on my property. I should tell her to leave. I look at the bottom of her car, which is apparently stuck, and think that's a silly idea. There's only one thing to do. Get the tractor and lift the car out of there. Hopefully, she has a spare tire, and I can sort that out later. Right now, I just need to figure out if she's the guest and get her to the cabin. If she's not, then I need to get her moving along to wherever she came from or is going to.
“My name’s Branch Meyers, and I’m heading to the cabin to put a few supplies there for the guest. It’s at the end of the lane. Is this where you're going?”
She shakes her head and nods again. I’m getting frustrated with her answers. I didn’t need to rent out the cabin, it’s not like I need the money. Three years out here, and I’ve done well just keeping to myself. I can see by her reaction she’s going to be trouble. This means not only one week of renting the cabin but babysitting, too. I don’t need it.
“Look, if you want to sit out here all day, then fine. I just wanted to help.” It wasn’t like me to lose my patience. Ever since I’d stopped practicing law three years ago and began living on the ranch, I’ve become pretty calm—more like too depressed to react to anything, let alone interact with people, but my grandpa left me his ranch. He wanted me to stay here for a reason, the place I used to visit every vacation as a kid. But when everyone who was dear to me starting to drop off the face of the earth, I came back to the one place I used to think of as my second home as a kid—The Peaks.
It felt like the perfect time to get away from the hustle and bustle of being in and out of court. I used to love the rush of winning a case, I felt like an addict always going in for a fix.
I was invincible until it started with Mom dying, and I began to realize I wasn't invincible.
"Fine, suit yourself. I was just going to help you," I grunt and move away from her car. She's not even looking at me. She's so damn rude! I don't need this headache. I've got horses to tend to and a ranch to run. I don't need someone coming into my life and causing problems.
I'll head to the cabin and leave the key underneath the flower pot. Initially, that was her instruction for letting herself into the cabin. Then, I'll drop the milk, bread, eggs, and drinks I bought in the refrigerator and be on my way.
As I start to move, she opens the door and is mumbling something to herself. I stop for a minute thinking she'd call to me, but she's too busy trying to balance herself to get out of the car. I head toward Curtis and stop once again. I can see her lifting her leg out with her three-inch heels.
What the fuck?
I want to say something, but I find it amusing she wore heels. Really high heels to go and stay in a cabin? I wonder if she thinks they’re hiking boots or something?
Her caramel hand holds onto the door as she tries to balance herself. I stand and watch as I know exactly what’s going to happen next, and it does.
“Argh!” She screams out.
The cowboy in me wants to rush and help her, but the lawyer inside, who I assumed was dead and buried, intends to jump onto Curtis and leave her to it. The cowboy wins as I turn around to help her. She’s still being stubborn about asking for help, so I shake my head and move back toward Curtis.
“I can’t get up!”
She keeps repeating as she tries to stand up and every time falls right back into the ditch. I want to tell her she needs to take her shoes off—it’s common sense. I look at Curtis, and he ignores me. I can tell he’s thinking the same thing. I need to help her. Otherwise, she’ll be out here all night. I don’t know why I should care. I rented her a cabin, but sometimes I hate that other part of me. The part that’s not letting me get on Curtis and just wanting to get on with my life—the quiet one—the one I've been accustomed to leading.
I can honestly say I didn’t see that coming. Who would? How stupid was I to assume the promotion was mine? Ha… I even had the party planned and ready.
The humiliation is overwhelming.
I need to get out of here. I can’t even look at these people. A trip somewhere far away and exotic is what I need. No… somewhere quiet. Maybe the wilderness where no one can reach me? Solitude. That’s what I need, where I can reset, and grasp the reality of what just happened.
I’m not one for getting close to any one particular girl. Hell, I love my life of isolation. Being a billionaire rancher has its perks with just as many drawbacks. I make it a point to maintain my life as private as possible on this sprawling ranch. The less people know about me personally, the better.
But, as everyone knows, life loves to throw you a curve ball straight in the dirt.
The woman that’s currently renting my cabin is somehow bridging a connection to my scarred heart. One that hasn’t been opened in god knows how long.
I have to dig deep down and ask myself the hard questions. Can she actually handle my demons? Or should I get the hell out of dodge before someone gets hurt?