Chapter 23

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"You know you never did ask me that question you were going to ask me after we went out with Tyson and Little Lynn the other day." Gary tells Brooke through their phone call as he feeds the horse he has up in the pens. It has only been a few days since he got back from their visit, yet he misses her terribly. With everything going on around the ranch he hasn't had much time to sleep let alone have long conversations with her.

She giggles and he can almost see her eyes glowing with mischief. "Well, you know you never reminded me about it either."

He rolls his eyes even if she can't see him. "That is absolutely no excuse." He pours the oats out in a black tub that sits on the ground before adding, "So are you going to ask me now?"

"Well, I don't know. Do you really, really want to know? I mean, do you think you can handle it?" She tries to sober her voice up so he thinks she is serious.

Not getting any enjoyment from the conversation now he sighs. "Brooke I'm serious, I want to know." Frustration laces his voice even though he doesn't really want it to.

Quickly she turns serious. "I was going to ask you if it is hard dating your sister's best friend." Her voice is serious and thoughtful.

He can tell this isn't one of her jokes. She genuinely wants to know. On the other hand he genuinely doesn't have an answer. "Umm," he stammers while processing it and trying to come up with something that in a round about way makes him look a tad smarter than he feels.

Suddenly she feels dumb for asking and expecting an answer. "Sorry, I didn't mean to put you on the spot, just forget I asked."

Gary sighs. That's not what his silence meant, but how is he suppose to tell her that? "Brooke, that's not what I meant. You just caught me off guard."

"I know, I'm sorry," she says quietly before quickly adding, "I'm going to let you get back to work. Talk to you later."

Rolling his eyes and feeling his irritation slowly turning to anger he tries to keep her on the phone. "Brooke please just hear me ou-"

She doesn't let him finish. "Bye, Gary." Holding her phone her hand hits her thigh with a heavy thump. "Why don't I just do a few other stupid things today?" She grumbles looking around the painfully slow salon. From the back of the salon she can here Kristen bubbly talking on the phone to her husband. Even though she knows it isn't right the sound just sends her anger meter soaring.

Gary hears the line click and instantly squeezes his eyes shut tight. In and out he breathes deeply trying to calm the rage inside himself. At this point and time he isn't sure what he is mad at or with. Instead of trying to call her back and having to endure the agonizing rings he sends her a text.

Sweetheart, I'm sorry, I just have to think about an answer. I'm going to check things and move some cattle and then I'll call you if you aren't busy.

Even as he sends the message he feels tense. He knows it's not settled and that bothers him. Fighting is not his thing, okay maybe as a kid he occasionally picked a fight with his brothers, but that's not the same. This time its more than 'who's the toughest' and mom makes you hug afterwards. There's no mom to patch it up and no blood tie to keep you together.

He almost laughs at his own thoughts, but doesn't when his phone starts to ring. Hopefully he looks at the name across the top of the screen. His heart sinks just a bit. It is not who he hoped, but someone he enjoys talking to none the less.

"Hey, Cane what's up?" His voice is only half as cheerful as usual.

A deep chuckle comes from the other end of the line. "You sound as if you were looking for an escape."

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