Chapter 16

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The ladies were not so very happy to leave the island the next day. The only remaining Bitch, Chloe, was feeling a little lost now that her best buddy was gone, but she soon found company with the Romantics, Tanya, Penny and Kim. Everybody knew she didn’t like Kim that much because Kim was Asian and well, Chloe got race issues. Add that one to the things Julianne hated about the lady. The Desperadas, namely Amanda and Stella, were found to be talking in secret the whole time they were waiting for the boat. They were probably scheming on how to get Zach to wherever place they would find themselves at.

Pauline and Julianne spent their last remaining hours taking pictures, much to Pauline’s insistence. Julianne was able to breathe once again when Brent came and announced that they had to leave right that moment. Zach was nowhere in the boat and Brent said he was already on his way alone to the ranch.

“Ranch?” Chloe asked aloud, horror on her face. “We’re going to a ranch?”

“Yes, ladies, you’ll all be living with the horses and some other animals from now on.”

A collective groan escaped from the group of ladies wearing their usual dresses. Julianne held a grin. Good thing she wore pants.

“Where is it?” Tanya asked.

“It’s somewhere in New Mexico, but the exact location will be a secret. Mr. Astor wants his privacy whenever he goes there.”

“Privacy,” Julianne heard Chloe scoff.

“Will we have to like step on mud and shit?” Kim asked innocently.

Brent appeared to be thinking for a moment before he said, “That depends on how you would like to impress Zach. For everyone’s information, Zach likes spending time in that ranch. He manages it himself. And he’s a terrific horseman.”

“I can’t ride a horse,” Pauline whispered beside Julianne.

“Me either,” she answered. She would never, ever ride a horse. She had been on one and it was not such a great experience.

 *****

It took long hours of sitting on the plane before they finally landed and were driven to the ranch. Not one of them had ever been near where the van was taking them. The scenic view kept them preoccupied for almost three hours until they reached the said ranch. Not one crew was obedient as to tell them how vast the Astor ranch was which everyone deduced to be probably really vast.

Zach was already waiting for them outside a really big house made of wood. It was very much like the cabin they left on the island, just bigger and more modern. It was surrounded by acacia trees, shading it from the heat of the sun. What Julianne knew about ranches was that they always have barns and stables and this one got those just some meters away from the main house. Men in cowboy boots and hats were everywhere, doing their own work, trying to be oblivious of the fact that the place was swarming with cameras and crews and beautiful ladies.

Jack Carter was already setting up camp and directing his men when the girls finally jumped out of the van, their wide shades on. Zach smiled at them and Julianne couldn’t help but see the difference on his face from the last time she held eyes on him. He was more relaxed here, his face radiant and stress-free. He was dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt and dark pants and boots. He had a dirty brown hat in his hand as he approached them.

“Hello, ladies,” he grinned. Well, obviously, he was over what happened a few days ago in the island. No anger in his eyes now. But they still wouldn’t meet hers.

Obviously, he was still angry at her, Julianne thought with disappointment, not that she was not planning to say sorry because she would eventually—when she got the time.

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