It didn’t take me long to put all my clothes away. Because there was almost never cool weather in Las Vegas, I’d had to order warmer clothes from the internet. I’d bought a coat that would be appropriate for working on a ranch, along with a nicer one I could wear if I went somewhere. I also got a pair of winter boots and a nice pair of boots I could run around the ranch in. I’d traded nearly all of my tank tops in for sweaters and my skirts in for jeans. Sure, I’d be able to buy clothes here, but I didn’t want anyone to have to drive me to a store to get stuff before I could even start working.

I was happy for the adorable vanity in my new room, self-conscious that the hair products I needed to tame my curls would clog up the bathroom. This way, I’d have somewhere to keep all my hair products and the little bit of makeup I’d packed.

When I’d finished putting everything away, I sat on the edge of my bed and wondered what to do next. I was tired enough to take a nap but, looking at the time, saw that it was already a quarter until six. Hank said dinner would be at seven and I really didn’t want to sleep through that. I doubt anyone at the ranch would be very impressed if I slept through dinner on my first night here.

I wondered if the best course of action would be to just rip the bandage off and get my little reunion with Ben out of the way. It seemed better than awkwardly looking at him over dinner.

That settled it. As I descended the stairs, I realized I didn’t have a clue where Ben would be. Luckily, I heard some noise somewhere on the first floor and decided to follow it. It led me to the kitchen where I saw Seki chopping potatoes on a cutting board.

I waited until he paused the knife to say anything, not wanting the knife to slip. Making him cut himself would so not leave a very good impression.

Seki looked over his shoulder at me, a smile spreading across his face.

I couldn’t help but return his smile. God, he really was handsome. He was Native American, his flawless brown skin a bit darker than my own. His eyes were so dark that they were nearly the color of his long hair that he’d tied back into a ponytail. Looking down his body, I took in his lean but muscular body and his amazing ass.

“Hey,” he said. “You getting hungry?”

“I am,” I said, walking into the kitchen and surveying his work.

“Good,” he said softly. “I have a roast in the oven and will be adding some potatoes, carrots, and onions to it just as soon as I’m done cutting them.”

I inhaled, allowing the divine scent to fill me. “It smells wonderful. I can’t wait to eat.”

“Would you like to help?” he asked. “I swear I’m not asking you that because you’re a woman.”

Laughing, I replied, “Can I take a raincheck? I kind of wanted to talk to Ben.”

Seki nodded. “Do you want to just get the awkwardness out of the way?” he asked.

I sighed. “Yeah. I think it’ll probably be awkward no matter when I first see him, but I’d rather it be somewhere we can talk. I can’t lie, I’m pretty nervous.”

“I’m probably butting in where I don’t belong, but I think I should tell you that Ben has changed a lot since I first met him. He’s grown up a lot and is quite a bit calmer. Which isn’t to say he’s calm, but definitely calmer.”

“That’s good to know,” I said, mulling over Seki’s words.

“What I’m getting out is that I think he’ll be receptive to whatever it is you need to say to him.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

And I was.

I followed the directions Seki gave me to the barn Ben was likely in. While the tour had been helpful, I knew it was going to take some time before I remembered where everything was.

I walked toward the barn farthest from the house filled with trepidation. I needed to do this, but I was scared. Not necessarily because of Ben, but of how it would feel to see him again. Years ago, I’d been in love with him.

Walking in the bar, I saw him fiddling around with what I was pretty sure was an ATV. My eyes raked down his body, taking in how much it had changed since we were seventeen. Ben’s back was facing me and he was shirtless, hunched over the vehicle.

His once floppy black hair was cut short, buzzed close to his scalp and I could see a full, dark shadow of a beard that was once patchy.

Tags: Nicole Casey Love by Numbers Erotic