Burning Down Montana, Chapter Six


Vesta stood on the porch of the ranch home of Grant Stone with a cup of coffee in her hands.    After being discharged from the hospital, she realized she didn’t want to necessarily just sit in a hotel room for the rest of her time in Montana.     She was never good at being stationary.    Moving from one job to the next was her thing, and she would normally have her cell phone in her hand right now, booking the next show.   Felix, had been a no show, and that wasn’t like him.     Vinny actually insisted that they go and see what the ranch was all about.

The wonderstruck look on her twin’s face screamed seven-year old and not their thirty-seven years of age.   She couldn’t resist.  Honestly, she was a little curious herself, the closest she’d been to a horse were the occasional mounted police on the Strip, but in her line of work, fireworks and animals don’t mix.

Brighton insisted on driving them over,  and it was two against one.  She had to admit, after a steak dinner surrounded by women she felt a kindred spirit with, she was glad she came.  Hearing the stories about how Samara and Layla came to the town captivated her.   They weren’t just some stay at home, kept women.  Samara, had been a top-notch financial analyst, but was the first to fall when cuts had to be made at her brokerage firm.    Layla’s tale of being a detective in one of America’s most dirty and corrupt cities reminded her so much of her own glass ceiling, wall, floor, door and every damn barrier she could think of when she went out for bids.   Although times have gotten better, it is indeed a grueling and slow climb to gain some measure of equality in what is deemed a typically male role.

However, here, it is almost as is this town was in some type of vortex.   The men, Chase, Grant, Brighton, Bradford all took care of the home, or the ranch, welcoming guests, and even cooking the meals while taking tours of the mountains.  Meanwhile,  Samara was elected to the town treasury not to mention advises the accounts of most of the stores in town.  Layla quickly became a deputy sheriff in town, and even the snarly Katrina, whose nickname “Wildcat” fit to a tee, was quickly escalating the ranks in the ATF.

The dinner had been rowdy, even Vesta and Vinny, who normally kept to themselves, joined in on the laughter and shared a few details of their lives.    It was a first for both of them but she had to admit that Vinny had been right about having fun.  They both had rarely had ‘fun’ as kids with taking care of their junkie parents.    Now, if she could just get rid of the feeling that something was completely and totally wrong.

“Vesta.”   It was Brighton who interrupted her quiet musings and she looked over her shoulder at the man.   He carried a flannel over his arm and his other hand held a carafe of coffee.   He’d sat next to her at dinner, but hadn’t been overly friendly during the meal.  Now, the look in his eyes held, hope.  She sighed, put the mug down, and reached out for the flannel.     He set the carafe down next to her mug and slid her outstretched arm into the flannel.    Vesta allowed him to put the flannel on her and smooth out the shoulders.

“Now you have my flannel and my shirt.  The look is complete.”    Brighton laughed as he refilled her coffee mug.

“I’m ready for my close-up Mr. Demille.”  Vesta mocked as she struck a pose.    She laughed a little and grabbed the mug, sipping the hot coffee and enjoying being outdoors.   He came closer to her and they stood shoulder to shoulder, watching the twinkling stars in the distance.   It was a comfortable silence, something she never experienced.

“Vinny decided to settle down here for the night.    He is up in his room, did you want me to see you to yours?”  Brighton asked, huskily, while leaning his head on her hair.

“Not yet, just let me enjoy this a little while longer.”  Vesta could admit to herself that she’d grown accustomed to Brighton’s presence in the extremely short period of time.   She sighed.  Perhaps she should learn to leave well enough alone, but Felix being incognito was bothering her to no end.

“Felix?”  Brighton said, without looking her way.     She merely nodded, knowing he’d feel her movement since his stubble covered cheek was on her head.   A part of her was amazed that he understood her so well already, but another part of her was partially relieved.

“It isn’t like him to just disappear, especially after an accident.”     She’d already called the rest of the crew, to make sure they had all given their statements to the ATF and local police.   Yet no one on her eight person crew had talked to Felix after the accident.

“We will call about tomorrow and see if anyone has heard from him, in this small of a town, someone always knows something.”   She nodded and stared off into the night.

“Are you as restless as I am?”  Vesta asked after a few moments of comfortable silence.    The question shot out of her mouth so fast, she didn’t have time to question her own motives.      She’d just never been able to sit still for too long, that was just her way.

“I’m always restless.” Brighton said, stepping back from her.    He held out his arm, and she took it, not knowing where they were going, but she knew she needed to move.

“Why are you always restless?”  She asked as they stepped over rocks, following a rocky and narrow path behind the ranch and into the wilderness.

“My childhood really.   My brother was groomed to be the earl, and I was trained for the military.   I’d always been the one to want to go exploring, to explore the world, experience life.  My parents, however, wanted me to do my duty to my country, come home, get married to a wife I didn’t know or choose, and have children. I didn’t see myself giving in so easily.”

“Wow, they really still arrange marriages?”   Vesta was floored.

“Pet, the rest of the world still arranges marriages if they see fit.  I’m just a man of means where I don’t have to bow down to their wishes.   If I was poor or even a woman, I probably wouldn’t have had much choice in the matter.”  Brighton said thoughtfully.

“So what happens if or when you do decide to get married, can they stop you?”  Vesta was extremely curious but she couldn’t miss the twinkle in Brighton’s eyes when he turned his head slightly  to look at her.

“Are you proposing already?    At least let me show you my finer points first.”  He said, wagging his eyebrows up and down at her.   She let out a laugh  and he did too.

“Come on.   I’m just curious.”  She said, nudging him a little in his ribcage.

“Oh I am curious too pet, but I thought I should at least let you heal from your injuries before I continue…”  Brighton’s words trailed off.

“Continue to what?”  She stopped walking and turned to face him.    He stood taller and closed the very minimal space between them.  Her breasts were grazing his chest, they stood so close.    He traced his index finger down the side of her face before lifting her chin and looking in her eyes.

“To woo you of course.”  He placed a chaste kiss on her lips, before turning them back to the ranch.   It wasn’t until he’d dropped her off at her room door, and made sure she was safely inside before she touched her lips, remembering what his warms lips felt like against hers.

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