Chapter 4

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Gary pulls the horse he is atop to an easy stop and let's his gaze travel around the trees and grass around him. An afternoon ride is exactly what he didn't know he needed. When Jaelyn told him to do whatever with himself for the Saturday afternoon he left his phone in the house and took to the open country. As a kid horses where his relief from school and everything else whirling around him.

The cleanliness of the hot air that he breathes in makes him feel free like an eagle in the sky. The way the bay gelding's strides eat up the earth when they would gallop across the pasture amazes him and places the growing smile on his face. Everything around him screams the amazingness of the Lord and His imagination to create such diverse and special creatures.

"Not much is better than being surrounded by His great creation, is there French Fry?" He can't help, but to laugh. Not only is he talking to a horse, but one named French Fry no less. Oh what a world he finds himself in! "I wouldn't trade if for the moon, though," he mumbles to himself.

Turning back to the house he still has a smile on his face. He may be heading in, but a couple hours in the saddle for an out of practice cowboy is just about all that is logical. Not to mention it has been about seven hours since he shoveled food in his mouth and his belly is begging to tell him just what it thinks about that. Of course, his belly is one thing that he gladly takes orders from when he has the chance. One of the few things.

Back at the barn he unsaddles his horse and brushes him down with the black rubber curry comb. Then he leads him to the second stall on the right and puts him inside. Before Gary heads up to the house he fills the water buckets to all the stalled horses. Smiling in satisfaction he turns from the naturally light barn towards the food filled house.

No sooner has he taken his hat off and opened the fridge than he hears the crunch of vehicle tires the rumble of an engine. He closes the fridge door and peeks out the window. Surprise washes over him when he sees Tyson opening the passenger door on their pickup for Jaelyn to get out. Pulling himself away from the window he returns to the fridge.

"Y'all are back early," he comments as the door opens.

Tyson wraps his arm around Jaelyn and places a kiss on her forehead. "It's been a rough day."

Gary nods. "I'm just going to fix me a sandwich."

The couple begins down the hall, but Jaelyn stops and looks at her brother. "There is a summer festival in town in a couple weeks. I expect you to have a date and be there. If you don't have one I'll find you one."

Before he can get his jumbled up words out of his mouth she has already disappeared behind a closed door. Boy oh boy arguing with his sister has never been good, but her being pregnant just makes it that much worse. And a couple of weeks to get to know a girl enough to take her on a form of a date? That's just too much to handle.

He shakes his head. "I don't back down from challenges, though."

"Hey, Jax, how are you this morning, boy?" Brooke coos to the young black lab at the animal shelter. Saturdays are her day to relax for the most part and recently that has brought her to being a regular volunteer at the animal shelter. Over the past couple of weeks she has come to know the ropes and the animals as well.

Her, now, normal routine consists of checking out any new arrivals, petting on some kitties, and then taking some of the dogs on a walk about town. Today she has brought along a bright pink bandanna to tie around Jax's neck to make his natural handsomeness pop.

She clips the leash on his caller and pats her leg letting the well trained dog to come with her. He trots beside her as she walks down the outside side walk and punches in the code to the outside gate. Once they are about a hundred yards from the shelter and Jax realizes that he is getting all the attention his tail begins to wag furiously while he struts around like he is the king of the town.

Several children stopped to pet him and Jax immediately sits allowing them to. Each time someone takes notice to him Brooke makes sure she mentions that he is up for adoption at the animal shelter. He only came in a couple of weeks before hand meaning that he has been in the 'information stage' where the workers find out as much about him as they can and create an online profile for him. While also making sure he is in the best of health and is settling in well.

If she is being honest with herself this is the highlight of her week, besides Sunday morning small group bible study, of course. Helping the animals and getting to see them so happy when they step out of that door with their new owner is something pictures nor words can describe it just has to be felt.

"He's beautiful," a young woman comments as she scratches him behind his ears.

Brooke smiles. "He is, isn't he? Are you looking for a four legged companion?"

The lady looks up at her from the place she is squatted beside the lab. "Oh, I don't know. I just got settled into my new house. It is a bit lonesome there all alone, though."

"Well, Jax here is up to take that loneliness away if you would like."

The lady stands and wipes her hands on her pants. "What do you mean? Isn't he your dog?"

Brooke smiles and shakes her head. "Oh, no he is at the animal shelter. I just volunteer and like to take the dogs on walks."

"That's awesome that you do that! I will for sure keep Jax in mind."

Brooke smiles at the woman and nods. "Wonderful! You have a good day."

"You too."

Brooke heads back and helps clean some kennels before she is done with her shift and heads off with no specific destination in mind. In her little car she begins to drive until she finds herself at the park and gets out with a smile. The bright, scorching sun shines through the light green leaves of the mesquites. The breeze blows her hair back as she leans up against a large trunked mesquite that the wind has twisted and molded in a tops turby sort of way.

Many Saturday evenings led her on leisurely strolls in the park after being at the animal shelter. Today she found it growing dark and decided that she would take the road that went on the outside of town and around to her and Jeremiah's shared house.

Gary turns his radio up a bit and glances at his speedometer as he heads out of town with the pack of gum he picked up. He didn't really need it. It was just more of an excuse to leave the house since Jaelyn was in obvious pain thus causing her to be in an overly snappy mood. Even knowing that it is all part of her being pregnant it's not easy to handle. Not to mention that it keeps him from being too eager to get married and have a family. He shakes his head pregnancy is not about him so their is no need in thinking about it.

The road is light up by his headlights and the pavement rolls under the tires. His gaze moves out one window to the next and then in his rear view mirrors. Out one window cattle graze in the coolness of the evening. The other holds vastness of land with trees, cactus and little bushes. The mirrors hold more of the same.

As he glances back out the driver side window his foot moves from the gas pedal quickly to the brake. A small car sits in the bar ditch with steam coming from under the hood. Whoever it is whatever happened he wasn't leaving them to be on their own.

He turns around and pulls up in front of it to find a large mule deer buck struggling in front of the car. "I'll get back to you," he mumbles heading towards the car.

He takes in the scene a little more with every step. The front of the car is crunched up and the windshield is shattered starting a point likely for the buck's horns. What was once light green paint on the passenger side os now scratched and scraped.

The closer he gets he realizes that it is Brooke's car and she is still in it.


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