The cool wind blew down the Black Hills, through the ranch, and man, it felt good. The last day and a half at the Cougar Creek Ranch just about did me in. I leaned against the barn door and swept my red hair back up into the ponytail, which had long ago come undone. I lifted my arm up. Nope, not good. Arm back down.
As I wiped the sweat from my eyes, I heard the distinctive rumble of bikes coming down the dusty dirt road. The crunch of straw behind me alerted me that Mike McIntosh, the ranch owner was coming up. His bowed over, white-haired self, came through the barn, quicker than men half his age. Stooped over, he could see me eye-to-eye. No small feat as I stand at five feet nothing.
“Afternoon, Doc Hopson.”
“How many times do I need to tell you to call me Quinn?”
“I’ll get there eventually. Figured I should call you by your title. Doc Robinson told me you worked hard to get it.”
A stream of tobacco hit the straw.
“Looks like the boys are back.”
Mike pointed and waved at the two motorcycles that pulled up by the ranch bunks. One had a side ride, but I couldn’t see what was in it. That man waved back. From the distance, I could only see a tall, built frame, sitting well on the bike. Even from this distance, that was a nice looking man and a kick ass bike. Looked custom.
“Elijah Taylor, the one who waved, is my ranch manager. He’s the one you’ll be dealing with usually. The other is his brother, Bryce Bearshield. Sturgis just got over.”
“Sturgis?” I played stupid.
Mike spit another stream of tobacco. “Yeah, big motorcycle rally in Sturgis. About fifty miles from here.”
He waved his hand toward the west. “Every year, a million people show up for a couple of weeks. Only time Elijah takes time off. And anytime there’s a MC meeting.”
I just looked at him.
Mike laughed and clapped me on the shoulder. “I forgot you’re still new here. You’ll get used to it.” He pointed back to the herd in the yard.
“How they looking?”
“Should have a good batch this time.”
I turned toward him.
“I appreciate you…”
Mike waved me off.
“Dr. Robinson was one of my best friends when he was here. He says you’re good and to give you a try while you set up shop, and hell, that’s good enough for me. See you in a week and change to check on the cows.”
He turned away and crunched his way back through the barn.
I looked at the two men walking into the bunkhouse. The tall one who waved, turned when he got to the door. Sizing the new vet up, I’m sure.
I walked over to my truck and paused as I opened the door.
Shit. Bikers at the ranch. And not just bikers, a motorcycle club and seeing the cuts, not just any MC. That’s. Just. Great.
As I opened the door to my apartment, I peeled off my overalls, shirt, and pants, stripped down to nothing, and just put them in a trash bag I kept by the door just for that reason. God, I stunk.
I walked naked to the bathroom and as my little legs got into the shower, I let the steam hit me and get rid of the ranch grit. Heaven in little droplets.
About twenty minutes later, hair wrapped up turban style and wearing my signature metal t-shirts and jeans, I was famished. Grabbing the trash bag, I took my clothes straight away to the washer neatly stowed next to the dryer in the kitchen closet. My cell phone rang. I found it in my discarded overalls and dug it out. Then I wished I hadn’t as I looked at the incoming number. Crap.
“Hi, Steve.” I threw a packet of detergent in with the clothes and started it up.
“Listen, Quinn, don’t hang up. I want to apologize.”
I tapped my fingers on the kitchen counter and closed the door to the laundry area.
“I think the time has long passed. I sold you my half and shook my hands free. You got our business and God knows got the secretary as well. When is she due again?
“Don’t be like that. I’m calling because I want another chance.”
“Another chance? Oh, let me guess. Business not doing well and she kicked you out?”
The silence on the other end spoke volumes.
“Goodbye, Steve. And lose my number.”
Hanging up, I just shook my head. Six months ago, when my world came crumbling down, I was a successful vet in Minneapolis. Steve Dickson (seriously, what did I expect with a name like that) and I had been together through college and started our own practice. Wedding bells in the near future. My mom hated him but she loved me.
I wish I could say I was just blind but that would be lying. He’d always had a wandering eye. I just figured it was his eyes that wandered. Not the rest of his body. I shook my head.
I was happy that my old college professor got me a job in Rapid City. South Dakota was about as far as I wanted to get away. And it was perfect for a large breed vet. The gig came with small animal hospital underneath and a bell that rang up here when someone came by plus a cute little apartment upstairs.
Thinking about it seemed to trigger the dainty little bell overhead. I went over to the intercom. “Go on in. I’ll be down in a second.”
Someone coming in for a vet visit. Dog, cat, hamster. I’m glad I’m done with cows for a few days. Love them, but since I haven’t worked on too many since I got my degree, my muscles would be sore for a week.
Grabbing my lab coat from a hanger by the door, I threw it on as I headed downstairs.