The next few days passed in a blur of learning to ride Roughshod, doing ranch-related chores, and generally working myself into exhaustion—while Eddie filmed every last detail. My mother, who had a cook, a chauffeur, and a housekeeper, would be appalled. Personally, I was too exhausted to be anything but grateful when I walked into the kitchen Saturday morning and Genevieve said that Ty had gone into town, that I had the morning off. My muscles did a victory dance.
“I’m not afraid of hard work,” I insisted as I followed Genevieve out to her beloved chicken coop an hour later. “I’m just…”
“Not used to it,” she filled in. “I know.”
“Cows and horses are scarce in the New York metro area.” I tightened my palm around the woven basket that was supposed to carry the eggs. “The co-op in my neighborhood has chickens, but I’ve never had time to get involved.”
Or the inclination, really. I was content getting my eggs at the local market and never seeing the face my food originally came with. Bonding with cows and chickens felt a bit like a betrayal if I was still going to eat hamburgers and nuggets.
“Don’t worry, you’re doing great,” Genevieve insisted.
She hauled open the door to the chicken coop and waved me inside.
I sucked in a breath—and immediately regretted it. Not the freshest smelling place I’d ever been. And there was enough dust in the air to mark the streaks of sunlight slanting in through the cracks in the wooden walls. It would be a great setting shot.
A quick glance over my shoulder told me Eddie was already filming it. That’s why he was my go to guy.
“There’s always a period of adjustment. You should have seen Ty when he first got back,” Genevieve said, stepping in after me. “You’d have thought he’d never ridden in his life.”
“Got back?” I asked.
“He didn’t tell you?” She smiled, like she was both confused and amused. “Ty went to college in New York.”
I sucked in so much chicken smell and dust-filled air I erupted in a coughing fit.
Ty Haywood, the ultimate Texas cowboy—with his rough hands, dirty boots, and knee-melting drawl—had living in a city? My city? It was almost too much to believe.
“Sure did.” She walked up to a shelf of straw-filled nests and reached into the first one. “College and graduate school. Worked for a couple years at some big engineering firm until…”
Her voice trailed off. From the slight catch in tone, I had a feeling I knew what she was going to say. We hadn’t spoken about it since the night in the hallway. We hadn’t had any time alone, without Ty around. Apparently, now was the time.
This was not for public viewing.
I exchanged a quickly look with Eddie, nodding toward the door. We were here to shoot high-jinx and hard work—maybe some embarrassing moments of me falling off a horse—not emotional confessions. Eddie understood.
“I’m going to step outside,” he said, maneuvering his way through the small door. “Need a few exterior shots of the coop.”
“Good idea,” I said.
Genevieve slipped her hand into my basket and set a small brown egg inside.
“He came home when Michael died,” she said as soon as Eddie was gone, and almost so quietly I didn’t hear. “He had a promising career and a life in the city, and he gave it all up to come back and help me.”
This fit the picture of Ty I had come to know in the last few days. It was obvious he worried about his littler sister and that he put high priority on family and duty. What other choice could he have made.
“He loves you.”
“I know,” she said, reaching up to swipe a tear from her eye. “With Mama and Daddy gone, Michael and I were gonna run the ranch. Michael loved ranching. His family never owned a ranch of their own, but he ran the Black Willow like he was born to it.”
“You don’t have to talk about this,” I said, wondering why she felt so comfortable sharing with me. Then again, it wasn’t like there were any other women around to listen.
“It feels good to talk about it with someone.” She huffed out a tight breath. “Ty would listen, but he always wants to fix everything. Make it better.”
In her sad smile I saw the same pain I’d felt when my dad passed.
“And some things can’t get better,” I replied.
Before I knew what I was doing, I stepped forward and wrapped her in a tight hug. I wasn’t usually the comforting, maternal type, but I understood what she was feeling—what she was going through. And I knew that nothing would make it better.
“That’s what makes us women,” I said as I stepped back. “We carry this with us every day. We could let it freeze us, incapacitate us, but we don’t. We move forward. That’s what we do.”
“That’s what we do,” she echoed.
A soft cough from the doorway warned me that Eddie was ready to get back to work.
“It’s safe,” Genevieve called out before I could. “I’m all through crying.”
I should have known she saw my subtle nudge to get Eddie to leave us alone for a minute. She was a smart girl. And, apparently, so was her brother.
“So tell me more about Ty in New York,” I said as I joined her at the nesting boxes. “This is something I need to know more about.”
By the time we returned to the house, we had more than a dozen eggs and I knew a lot more about a certain handsome cowboy and the many layers beneath his Yankees cap. And I was intrigued to find out even more.
Andy's Playlist #9: Fix You by Coldplay
Tune in tomorrow for the next installment.