Chapter 32

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"I think your parents had a good time," Brooke comments to Gary as he sits in the drivers seat of his pickup.

He glances over at her with a smile. "I think so too. Mom always says she loves it best when we are all together. Did you have a good time?"

She smiles at him for a moment before saying anything. "I did. Your family is so close."

A laugh rattles his chest. "Trust me it hasn't always been that way. You know Cane's been gone for a while up until a little bit ago." He keeps his eyes on the road and mulls over his next words. "It really hasn't felt like a close family in a long time."

"Do you mind me asking why?" Her voice is quiet and her gaze soft.

He still stares straight ahead. "Well, ever since Little Lynn got married and especially since I moved to the ranch I hardly know what she is up to or Karl and Andrew either. Cane, well, very rarely did any of us besides Lynn know what he was doing before let alone now."

"Oh I see."

The ride is silent for a long time. Brooke wonders what he is thinking about, but doesn't dare ask. Somehow she wishes that he could understand that his family is a heck of a lot tighter than hers has ever been. Trying to distract her mind from family she tries to think of what kind of vehicle she might like to have. "What kinds of SUV's do you like?"

Looking over at her he smiles. "I don't know. I don't look for those kinds of things."

She rolls her eyes. "Well, maybe you ought to start. I don't know what I'm looking at or for either one."

"A bigger one." His statement is laced with amusement. 

"You are so much help I almost don't know how to handle it!"

He looks over at her. "What do you want me to do? Make the decision for you?"

"No," she says and turns to look out the window.

"Well I really don't know what you want me to do."

Shaking her head she says, "Nothing." The tone of her voice leaves no question to the bitterness inside her.

Gary sighs. Wonderful. Just wonderful. I never could read women anyway.

Many miles roll behind them before another word is spoken. Gary fidgets as he drives trying to figure out what to say, if anything at all. Finally he mutters, "I'm sorry." He takes her hand in his. "You know I have to head right back tonight, but this week I'll look at some and see what I can find out about them."

She smiles. "I'm sorry too. And thank you."
***

Brooke flips the sign to open the next morning. It is back to the work grind. To make things even better Kristen is out of town, so she left Brooke in charge.

The washer and drier run in the back and she tidies up her work space. Just as she puts clean combs in the container the bell above the door rings. She turns around and greets the middle aged oilfield worker. "What can I help you with today?"

A smile takes its place on the dirty blonde headed man's face. "I was wondering if y'all did colors? My wife and I just moved here and she's having a hard time settling in. I thought getting her hair done might make it a little better."

"Of course! We do colors, highlights, waxing, cuts, and styles." She can't help the fuzzy feeling as she thinks about the sweet relationship the couple must have. "Would you like to schedule her an appointment, or get a gift certificate?"

The man seems to relax just a little bit as he nods. "A gift certificate would be great!"

After ringing it up and scribbling some things on the print out she hands it to smiling. "There you are, sir. I hope you and your wife settle in soon."

"I'm sure we will. Thank you," he says before strolling through the door.

Maybe the day won't turn out as bad as it started. She rubs the top of her head. Launching herself into her brother's obnoxiously tall pickup resulted in putting a knot on her skull.

Before she has much time to think about it the bell rings again and in walks a whole family. "Hello! What can I help y'all with today?"

The mom steps forward from the group. "My son needs a hair cut. Do you take walk ins?"

"Absolutely! What kind of cut is he wanting?" Brooke searches the group for the son as she speaks.

A boy around thirteen is pulled forward. He looks at her almost as if she is a ghost.

"Tell her," the lady says bumping the boy.

He shakes his head just a little. "Uh, I want to leave the top just a little bit long, but I want the sides and back a buzz."

Trying to envision exactly what 'a little bit long' means Brooke motions to the first chair. "Alright. Why don't you have a seat right here and we'll see what we can get done."

She used the end of her comb to show him different lengths that she can leave the top. Finally he settles on leaving it a half inch long. Shortly she has the back done and is just touching up the top.

"Alright, what do you think?" She asks handing him a small mirror.

He moves it around before nodding with a beaming smile on his lips. "It looks perfect!"

"Good!"
***

Gary pulls his phone out of his pocket after it dings with a text. The bay horse underneath him trots along easily. To his surprise there is not just one text, but close to a dozen! Four or five pictures from Brooke with a information loaded text for every two. Then five or six pictures from Little Lynn.

A busted fence and missing cattle has kept him running, or rather riding, circles for going on two weeks now. He knows it is getting to Brooke, and frankly he isn't enjoying it. Two weeks is longer than he cares to be without her, especially after a half a week with her.

The pictures from Little Lynn are a couple of Alyssa laying on top of Cobalt who is stretched out on his side. Another few are of a couple kids riding together.

That's a lot of kids. He texts back.

Then he turns to Brooke's messages. He skims over all the details of each car. "Goodness she sure is taking this car shopping thing serious," he mumbles to himself.

Come on, you didn't realllly look at the pictures, did you? Little Lynn shoots back.

A frown takes over his face and he goes back to look them more closely. He almost shrugs it off, until he sees that one of the girls riding is Alissa, one of her students he had spent a lot of time with when he was living and helping his sister.

Hey! She's not riding Hopper, is she?

Nope!

His gaze stays locked off in the distance. It has been a long time since he's actually seen those kids he grew to love. Never did he think he would miss being surrounded by kids. Well, maybe after he had his own, but somehow those kids' joy is infectious.

Slowly his fingers start to type. Tell her I said hi.

A weird sadness settles on him that he just can't understand. She's making great progress! What is possibly so depressing about that?

Looking up he sees his mount has carried him halfway across the pasture. A hint of a smile plays with his lips. "I guess I haven't been paying attention," he mumbles to himself.

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