I mulled over Ben’s story. I was a lot different than I’d thought it would be in some of my more vengeful moments when I thought he ran off with another girl. But if I was honest with myself, this was exactly the sort of life I would have expected for Ben. He’d always hated Las Vegas and longed for the quiet, for a life he could be useful and at peace. And he’d found it.
“I’m happy to hear things went well for you,” I said.
He let out a rye laugh. “It wasn’t always. I was poor as hell for years and lived in some real dumps, but it was still better than living with my dad. And I’m doing okay for myself now. But what about you, Jada? How did you end up here? It’s been a few days and I’m still surprised that you’re here.”
“I can say the same about you,” I said, laughing.
I launched into how I’d grown to hate Vegas with a passion, about how it triggered my depression and isolation that got worse the longer I stayed.
“Honestly, I just needed to get away. I needed to find a job that I actually liked, that made me excited about my work. So I began scouring the country for veterinarian jobs. In reality, I didn’t care where I ended up as long as got the hell out of Las Vegas.”
“That’s how I felt too,” he replied. “The city is for tourists. It isn’t kind to those of us that live there.”
“Exactly! My family didn’t exactly understand my need to get out of the city, but they supported it, which is all I can ask for.”
“How is your family?” Ben asked, “I always liked them a lot. They were good to me.”
“They’re doing well,” I said. “Not much has changed with my parents, but Sadie is all grown up now. She’s doing pretty well for herself as a model.”
Ben gave me an incredulous look. “I still picture her as that little scrawny girl with the big glasses. Time must have been kind to her,” he laughed.
“Oh, it has,” I said, pulling my phone from my pocket and showing him a picture of the two of us from Sadie’s last birthday. “See?”
Ben studied the picture before his eyes looked up at mine. In a low voice, he said, “It’s been kind to both of you.”
I felt my cheeks heat up. If blushing at a compliment from Ben didn’t make me feel like a teenager again, I didn’t know what did!
After we finished catching each other up on our lives, we sat down at the late a little longer, allowing the silence to wash over us in such a beautiful setting. I think we both had a lot on our minds.
When we did finally head back, Ben kissed my cheek before we parted ways. I watched him as he walked away, my fingertips lightly caressing the place his lips touched.
At the end of Jada’s first week at Break-Ridge Ranch as our new veterinarian, I asked her to meet me in my office for a chat.
I would consider everyone at the ranch to be good friends, but I still liked to periodically check in with everyone in a more formal way. I’ve found it easier to uncover anyone’s questions or concerns that way if they temporarily saw me as their boss rather than their friend. Away from prying ears, it’s led to plenty of honest discussions with employees, both past and present.
Given Jada was new to the ranch and job as a ranch vet, I wanted to make sure everything was going well and address anything that she found cause for concern.
A few minutes until five, I used my cell phone as a mirror to make sure I didn’t have any dirt on my face from earlier in the day when I was working outside. I could hardly present as a professional if my face was covered in grime. There was also the fact that I found Jada wildly attractive and didn’t want her to see me as a total schmuck.
Besides, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if she found me attractive, would it?
At exactly five o’clock, I heard a knock on my door.
“Come in!” I called, stumbling a little as I stood up from my chair.
Jada walked in, a beautiful, wide smile on her face. She wasn’t wearing the scrubs I saw her in on her first few days of work. No doubt Seki had informed her she’d find working on a ranch to be a lot easier in casual clothes.
Today, Jada had on a pair of skinny jeans that showed off her long legs and the gentle swell of her hips. Her black and turquoise striped top hugged her curves, the vee neck revealing a hint of cleavage. I gulped, hoping I wouldn’t end up putting my foot into my mouth during our meeting.