Jesse Flynn watched an array of emotions flicker across his father’s face. It was impossible to tell what the man was thinking. The letter had arrived two days earlier, and Jesse had agonized over how he was going to share the sad news it contained.
He’d been estranged from his father for close to eight years. And, after a sleepless night, he’d decided to just give the letter to his father to read for himself.
“You’ve read this, I take it?”
“I have, Da.”
Earl Flynn’s only brother was dead, the victim of a heart attack at 53. If that wasn’t bad enough, the letter also stated that the deceased had left his ranch in Wyoming to none other than his favorite nephew, Jesse. His only brother’s only boy.
“I suppose it’s a solid business opportunity for you, Jesse. This would be good news to any hard-working man not afraid to take adventurous risks.” Earl dropped his head back and rubbed his eyes with his free hand. Then he proceeded to reread the letter.
Jesse stood by, tense, on the ready to defend himself as he mentally prepared for the inevitable tongue lashing he would get for even considering the last wishes of Noel Flynn.
That was why Jesse was in his father’s parlor. It was his way of telling Earl that he would soon be off on another adventure—an adventure that would prove to be sound and stable. An adventure that would change Jesse’s life and make Earl proud of him.
“So. All of your friends and colleagues. What are they up to, huh?”
Jesse didn’t want to argue. He’d come to the house to inform his father of Noel Flynn’s death only because it wasn’t the sort of news you wrote about unless you lived far away.
“Da, let’s not…”
“Your friends and colleagues are all married or considering marriage. That’s right, I talk to them, Jesse. Remember, I’m a barkeep; I hear things.
“The men in your circle are considering starting families. Some even have children already.
You’re rudderless, Jesse. Here, in Boston, you have a built-in life. You have a job you can walk right into. You have a business that will one day be solely yours.
“Many men aren’t so lucky, you know. Take my recently deceased brother. Because I was the oldest boy, I got the bar when our father died. But Noel didn’t care, even though there was barely a year between us.
“He didn’t care because he had the freedom to try his hand at farming and, later, ranching. It took him a good long while, but he finally got what he wanted. Most of it due, no doubt, to the patience and persistence of my sister-in-law. Noel was a big one for doing things his own way. Advice was for the faint of heart, he used to say.”
“What is so wrong about a man wanting to make his own way, Da?”
Earl rolled his eyes and made a tsk sound. “What is so wrong? Do you—have you ever listened to anything I’ve said to you in your life, Jesse? There’s nothing wrong with it. But when you don’t have to make your own way, why waste your God-given time?
“I’ve made a good life. I made your mother comfortable and happy. I was able to buy the townhouse. Hard work pays off, Jesse. But why do work you don’t have to do? If you weren’t so stubborn, you would hear the truth in my words.”
“You would like it only too well if I was at the bar working so you could sit with your friends and drink the afternoon away, Da.” Jesse’s face flushed as the pent-up anger he’d walked around with for eight years boiled to the surface.
“You’re never going to find your niche in life with an attitude like that, Jesse. You want something handed to you; you just don’t want the thing that is being handed to you. You have put yourself between a rock and a hard place.”
“How dare you. I’ve tried time and time again to explain to you how I have a need to succeed on my own—without your help.”
“But you’ll take my brother’s posthumous help, won’t you?”
“That’s different, Da. I know the bar business. You forget all the Saturday afternoons I worked there from the age of 10.”
“All the more reason for you to consider taking it over.”
“I want to find something that makes me feel alive, Da. I don’t know the first thing about ranching. It would be exciting and a good life experience if nothing else.” He wished his father could understand his reasoning.
“Life experience! Bah! You can get all the life experiences you want right here in Boston.”
“You know I want to do things the way I want to do them, Da. I can’t explain why. It’s just what I need to do.”
“Sometimes, we need to put our own ideas of what we think we need on the back burner. Sometimes, we need to be grateful and take what is given us.”
“And that’s just what I intend to do.”
“In a place that’s 2,000 miles away.”
“Da, let’s not get into this again. We both know where this kind of talk goes. It’s a sad occasion. I came to share the news of Uncle Noel’s death. I’m sorry, Da. That’s the only reason I came here today. Let’s not talk of the future anymore.”
“Let’s not talk of the future? You cannot be serious. That’s all there is, Jesse. The future. And the smart man tries to work as hard as he can when young so he can have a little rest in his old age.”
“Why do you have to find fault with everything I do? With everything I say? Didn’t I leave here eight years ago because you cannot accept me as I am, Da? Here we are, having almost the same argument we had that night I left.”
“You mean the night you broke your mother’s heart.”
Jesse’s eyes narrowed. “That was unnecessary. You had as much hand in it as I, Da.”
“I was not the one traipsing around New England for a year before even thinking about settling down and working.”
“I didn’t know what I wanted to put my hand to.”
“I’m so glad that after eight years, you’ve finally figured it out, my boy. Especially that, instead of becoming a barman, you needed to try your hand at real estate of all things.”
“I put in three years of study and hard work before embarking on that endeavor, Da. You know that.”
“Oh, yes, I do. You lived under my roof, eating my food, and working only on Saturdays at the bar like when you were in school. I never asked you for rent or any financial input at home.”
“And for that I was—I am—grateful. Exceedingly grateful. But this is my life, Da.”
“Who are you to say that it’s your life? As if that’s some valid reason for behaving the way you have. Your mother spoiled you.”
“I rented the apartment over the bar for you when I was still studying real estate.”
“And you squandered the money I paid you to do so.”
Jesse said nothing. The argument was exactly what he’d wanted to avoid, but knew he wouldn’t be able to once he was in his father’s presence. It just seemed to be the way things were between them. They didn’t understand each other. And Earl wouldn’t accept that Jesse needed to be free to make his own way. Earl didn’t know that Jesse only wanted to make him proud—he just needed to do it his own way.
“And that bank loan you took out to live on. Are you racking up interest?”
“No, Da, I’m not. The loan has been paid in full.” He neglected to say he’d just made the last payment on the thing a week earlier. It had taken him five years, but he’d paid it off with the small income he’d managed to scrape up in the last eight.
“And that livery stable fiasco you were involved in. That was truly a waste of time and money.”
“I was swindled on that; you know it’s true. The man who sold me the business showed me the place with eight young, healthy animals. I hired that groom, the one from Donegal, to take care of things for me.”
“And when the groom told you the horses had been changed for old ones and the carriages were falling apart, you didn’t believe him. You thought he was being high and mighty. Acting out of place, you thought. Always listen to an Irishman when it comes to horses, Jesse. It’s in our blood to know them. It’s in your blood.
“My grandfather, back home, was a trainer. You might have it in you, too, but if nothing else, you know the lines, you know the quality and temperament of a mount. But you never went to talk to the groom. Too busy going out with your cronies.”
“I made a mistake. I didn’t think Jimmy O’Riordan was speaking out of place, Da. I, I don’t know why I didn’t listen to him. It was a mistake, I know now. But it’s in the past. It’s over. I signed the place over to Jimmy a little over a year ago.”
Jesse couldn’t bring himself to tell his father that he’d been ashamed of having been duped by the livery salesman. He’d been taken for a fool, and he’d felt like one when he’d discovered the truth of the situation.
“You signed it over. The whole kit and caboodle.” Earl rolled his eyes once again.
“So? O’Riordan’s made a big success of the place. Luck of the Irish, I suppose. Would that you had it. But your mother, she was half Italian, you know. Maybe that’s who you take after.”
“Maybe.” Jesse couldn’t resist throwing in some sarcasm.
How could he tell his father about his most recent business venture? It had, by far, been his most hopeful—and his most expensive: the opening of a restaurant with the financial assistance of his acquaintance, Clayton Reese.
Not the sort of man Jesse would have spent free time with, Reese was a low-level criminal who was always on the lookout for a place to rest his illegal financial gains. And, being the one with the money, Reese had been the silent partner. Everything else about the business had been up to Jesse. He’d gone into the venture with his sleeves rolled up, ready to finally show Earl that he could be proud of his son.
“And didn’t you do something about a year ago? I heard some talk about it. They said the food was good, albeit plain fare. I know a few grooms and bricklayers who had some meals there.”
“I worked very hard on that project, Da. The space was lovely, even before I had it refurbished. Afterward, it was almost grand.”
“But the food didn’t match the atmosphere, Jesse. At least, that’s what I heard. Who wants to sit in luxury while eating in simplicity?”
The Bluebird Restaurant. After the eatery had been open four months, it had become glaringly obvious to Jesse and Reese that the place was failing miserably. There’d been nothing about it that had piqued the curiosity of the rich or the bohemian sectors of Boston society. It had stood on an out-of-the-way side street that didn’t get much foot traffic. No one from the fashionable sets had been seen there, so of course, no one from the fashionable sets would go there.
“You told me yourself that your father’s first try at starting the bar up didn’t work out. Some things take time.”
“Ah! Yes, you’re going to tell me the part about the ads you took out in the newspapers. They failed to deliver the expected hungry diners. Am I right?” Earl scowled.
“There were many… setbacks, Da.”
Setbacks. To say the least, Jesse thought. After five months passed, the restaurant had grown behind in rent payments and other bills. After six months, the servers had started leaving one by one. After seven, the cook quit. The Bluebird had shut its doors, and Reese had told Jesse that he didn’t want anything to do with him but get his $15,000 investment back.
In a deal that had dissolved any friendly feelings between him and Reese, Jesse had agreed to a somewhat generous payback arrangement. It called for him to clear all the money he owed Reese within six months. If he could manage that, it would be without interest. If Reese wasn’t reimbursed, in full, in six months’ time, then an interest of 20% would apply and keep adding up until the debt was paid off.
“Setbacks.” Earl looked disgusted. “In six years, you’ve failed at three businesses. I could make a place for you at Flynn’s, in spite of the fact that I’m fully staffed at the moment.”
“Why do you hold it against me?”
“I hold nothing against you. I just don’t understand why you have to traipse halfway across this glorious country of ours in order to find yourself—or whatever it is you think you’ll be doing.”
You know I want to make my own way in the world.”
Earl looked at the letter in his hand, crumpled it up, and handed it to his son.
Jesse steeled himself. The expected tongue lashing was imminent.
“So. The reason for this visit has nothing to do with Noel’s death, does it? It has to do with his foolish, though generous, bequeathal. Who do you think you are?” Earl’s eyes narrowed and his face grew red as he spoke.
“You had the chance to have a perfectly fine job in the bar, but you thought—you think—you’re too good for it. Your grandfather built that business with his sweat. But you, you turn your nose up at it. Think you’re too good to be a working-class man? Your grandfather rose high for an Irish immigrant. You’ve never known hunger. You’ve never known back-breaking labor.
“Go ahead. Take a good look at your palms. You think because there are no calluses that you have the hands of a gentleman? Not quite, my boy. They’re not quite smooth enough. Not quite white enough. The nails are jagged in places. Any real gentleman would know you for the imposter you are.
“And now, you’re out of luck again. Well, it’s your own bed you’ve made. Here you are, having been offered work that you know absolutely nothing about.”
Jesse nodded. “Da, please. I said I don’t want to fight.”
Earl had a point; Jesse had to concede to it, albeit secretly. It still wasn’t easy for the Irish who lived and worked in Boston. The Protestant, old-money Brahmins had no use for them except as nannies, scullery maids, and commode scrubbers.
But Thomas Flynn had made a respectable name, a respectable life for himself in spite of the negative sentiment directed at his countrymen.
Was it so bad that Jesse wanted to jump the wall into a better class of business owners? Something bigger, something that catered to people with money. It wasn’t because he thought he was better than his kind. It was what his grandfather had done after all.
Thomas Flynn had come to America at 12 years of age. He had been all alone, having lost his parents in the famine. Straightaway, the boy had found work cleaning the stables behind one of the townhouses of the Boston rich. The family story related how he’d saved every penny until the age of 20. Then, he’d bought a little corner house in the Hill section. He’d gone about turning the first floor into a tavern, pushing his ever-growing family into the rooms above. And when Earl was 16, his father Thomas had died of a heart attack on his way up the stairs after a long day of work in the bar. He’d been 46 years old.
Earl went on as if Jesse hadn’t said a word.
“There were eight of us Flynn children. Well, eight of us living, anyhow. Your uncle and I, being 11 months apart, were the babies. But I, because I was the oldest male child, inherited the bar when your grandfather died.
“I put my two unmarried sisters to work, along with Noel. Our other four sisters were married with homes and families of their own.
“Of course, my mother was upset at my taking the girls from the house. But I needed employees I could trust. Mam was teaching the girls how to be wives and mothers. I told her they knew that stuff instinctively. What they needed to learn was how to make money.
“And you know something? Neither one of them regrets it. And their husbands are more than happy with their housekeeping and mothering skills.”
“That’s all fine well and good, Da. It sounds like you did things the way you wanted to.”
Earl continued on as if Jesse hadn’t said a word.
“We all worked hard and made a great deal of progress over the next five years. By the time I turned 22, my two unmarried sisters had husbands, and I had married your mother and brought her to the apartment over the bar where Mam and I still lived. Of course, we had plenty of room—there were only three of us, instead of the original 10.
“By that time, Noel had married your Aunt Sue and whisked her away to Pennsylvania. He’d settled near Sterling after the war.”
Jesse sighed. “Da, I know you feel as if I’ve ungratefully turned my back on our family and Flynn’s Bar.”
“Half a brain and you figured that out? You have turned your back, Jesse. You’ve turned your back on your own people. You act like you’re ashamed of your heritage. You act like you’re ashamed of who you are.”
“That’s not true. My eagerness to do something other than bar work, my desire to make more than a passable living, isn’t because I’m ashamed of who I am. It’s not, as you’ve said before, because I think I’m too good for the work.
“It’s because I want to make my own way. I want to do what my grandfather did and make something of a business. I know you don’t understand it, but I want to be successful in my own way.”
Jesse wanted his father to be proud of him, though he would never say so in so many words. He didn’t want to fight. But if he was ever going to achieve his goal, then he needed to move up the ladder from being the working-class son of the owner of a tiny bar in the Hill.
It had been four years since he’d set foot in his father’s modest townhouse—not since the day of his mother’s funeral. Even then, the two men had found it difficult to look at one another, much less speak. This visit promised not to end much differently.
Jesse waited patiently for the moment when he would feel the need to storm out of the house, punctuating his exit with a slammed door.
But then, a curious thing happened.
Earl had been resting his forehead on his hand, and Jesse noticed that there were tears streaming, unchecked, down his face. It was the last thing he would ever have expected. He didn’t know what to do. Wringing his hands, Jesse stood by as Earl’s grief and apparent frustration overtook him.
It took an effort to process his father’s response to the unhappy news. Here was the man who had raised him—the tough, stalwart, unyielding man who was his father. Jesse had always thought Earl to be unbreakable. But here his father was crying tears of anguish and loss, broken by the news of his younger brother’s death.
It was disconcerting. For as long as he could remember, Jesse had felt only anger and contempt toward his father. He’d always found it utterly impossible to please the man. No matter what he did, what venture he embarked upon, it had always been with the intention of gaining his father’s admiration and respect.
At 26, he’d had three major business failures and a number of smaller ventures that had also fallen through. Earl would never support Jesse’s decision if he decided to go out to Wyoming—he’d ridicule his son’s desire to take over Noel and Susan Flynn’s ranch in Pinevale.
It wasn’t as if any of Jesse’s cousins would take it upon themselves to relocate halfway across the country. They were all settled, with jobs and careers of their own. They had spouses and children. They had lives. In Boston.
For Jesse, it would be easy to pick up and leave. There was nothing to hold him to the town he’d been born in. Not even family.
“Da, I’m sorry about Uncle Noel. I hope you know that.”
“Of course you are. It’s him you take after, and not me.”
“Okay. Whatever that means.”
Earl rubbed his forehead and slid his hands outward to his temples. He looked up.
“I suppose you’ll be going out to Wyoming, then? Or has my brother’s business been too fortunate for your taste? You won’t have the opportunity to build from the ground up. Isn’t that what you always said you wanted? To build from the ground up? Like your grandfather did with Flynn’s?”
“That’s not exactly what I said. Da, I was hoping to get your blessing.”
“Is that so? So you can take over Noel’s business? His ranch? An industry you know nothing about, instead of staying here and working for me? What if I made you my partner? You would work with me. Alongside me. I’ll change the name of the bar. It’ll be Flynn and Son’s. How would that suit you?”
“Boston has nothing for me, Da. You and I haven’t spoken in years. Karen Smith’s father won’t allow her to have anything to do with me. Most of my acquaintances see me as a failure. You see me as a failure. I just can’t hold my head up here anymore.”
“Six months behind the bar and any lack of previous successes will be forgotten by your friends and by others. I can’t speak for Mr. Smith, mind you, but it’s the natural way of things, Jesse. My father left Flynn’s to me, and I will leave it to you. You know the business already. People will forget you haven’t always been there. What do you want with going to a strange place with strange people and ways?”
“I suppose I must be more like Grandfather than you are,” Jessie retorted sarcastically. His father would never understand him.
“Don’t get cute. Your grandfather had no choice but to come to America. His parents both starved to death in the famine. It was no lark that brought him to these shores, Jesse.”
“And it’s no lark that takes me to Wyoming, Da. I’m, gratefully, not starving—I, fortunately, have more options than a 12-year-old Irish orphan. But this is the option I wish to explore. Please, try and understand. This is my life.”
“How can I understand something so stupid as to look a gift horse in the mouth?”
“I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m sorry about Uncle Noel, Da. I’m sorry for your loss.”
He turned on his heel and strode into the small foyer of the cozy townhouse, then opened the door and stepped outside. He didn’t pull the door to slam as he had four years earlier. He shut it softly behind him, squared his shoulders, and started down the stairs to the street. If all went according to plan, he would be in Pinevale in less than a week.
Two days after leaving his father’s house for the second time, Jesse boarded the train for New York City. He hadn’t contacted his father to let him know he was leaving. There’d been no need to. The two men often went months without even running into each other in town. And since Earl had stopped going to mass after the death of Jesse’s mother, Jesse might not know for weeks if something were to happen to Earl. It was a somewhat unsettling thought. The idea of being in Wyoming was appealing in that there would actually be nothing he could do if his father were to meet with danger. That was much preferable to being sent away.
He looked out the window at the passing landscape. Once the train reached New York, Jessie would board and settle in for the three-day journey on the express to Pinevale. It would take a total of fewer than four days, counting the travel from Boston to New York.
Marveling at the convenience of it all, he intended on purchasing a first-class ticket. There was no need to save money at this rate. Jesse was so deep in debt with Reese that he couldn’t give a care as to how much it would cost to get out to Wyoming. His Aunt Susan had sent him the fare, so he might as well use it and pay her back after he sold the ranch.
After thinking long and hard on it, Jesse decided, once he was in Wyoming, to jump right into the running of the ranch. He reckoned he could learn the bare basics of the business in a few weeks. That way, when prospective buyers came to the place, he would have some ability to communicate with them. According to his aunt, this was an opportunity for him to be a gentleman rancher if he chose, leaving all the hard work to the ranch foreman and the cowboys.
He wondered if playing the cavalier was the best course of action. He wanted to draw gentlemen buyers to the place. If it had only to do with him, he’d make his usual rash decisions. But the responsibility for making sure his aunt had a settlement for her old age was his, now. He intended on doing his very best, as far as anything to do with Aunt Sue was concerned.
In New York, there was a couple hours’ layover before the express train departed. Jesse’s luggage would be transferred and his berth made ready during that time, so he decided to go outside of Grand Central Station to grab some early dinner. Dinner would be served on the train two hours after leaving the station, making it four hours away. Jesse felt that something light was necessary; he’d only had a biscuit and a cup of coffee early that morning.
He walked into a small lunchroom around the corner from the station. Any kind of dinner in the place would be out of the question. He glanced at the cases of foodstuffs as he took a small table. He ended up ordering bratwurst on a roll and a mug of pilsener, then gazed out the window as he ate.
Just imagine. He, Jesse Flynn, was about to embark on a course in the business of ranching. The familiar sensation of excited anticipation settled about him. He didn’t think he wanted to be a gentleman rancher. He wanted to get out on the plains and feel the prairie breeze across his face. He wanted to learn the business from the bottom to the top. He wanted to do it while on the job. The mere idea, though, was foolish at best.
If nothing else, there was the matter of his debt with Reese. Fifteen thousand dollars was an awful lot of money. In fact, the letter stating that Uncle Noel had bequeathed the ranch to him had come in the nick of time—Jesse had actually considered turning to his father to bail him out.
That thought had lasted for about an hour. He reminded himself that he’d rather be on the street, destitute, than to turn to the one man whose approval he would never attain.
He had the open option to sell the ranch, which he intended to take full advantage of and then go back to Boston to pay off Reese. Using any remaining money, he would need to start over. But where? What would he do? What could he do?
He ordered another mug of beer and let his thoughts run in other directions. He wondered about Wyoming and what it must look like. What must it be like? After a bit, he checked his pocket watch, saw it was time to get back to the train station, and paid his bill.
Outside, carriages, hansoms, wagons, and street trolleys were at a standstill, the horses rearing their heads and stamping impatiently at the cobblestones of the street. He stopped himself from gawking and hurried on. It wasn’t so different than the rush hour in Boston. Besides, he wanted ample time to board his train.
He reached the station and ducked inside and downstairs to the platforms. He checked on his luggage and was led by a porter to his berth.
It was gratifying to see that the private room was tiny yet had everything he might need for his journey. Food and drink could be ordered to be brought to the private compartment or enjoyed in the dining room. His berth boasted a tiny water closet, as well as running water and a shower. He had the notion that he could actually live in the thing, traversing the country from sea to shining sea, for the rest of his days.
He shook his head to bring his thoughts to the present and began unpacking his valise. He’d put most of his things in a steamer trunk that was in the luggage car. But he carried his razor, brush and comb, an extra shirt, two collars, a set of cuffs, two pairs of socks and a nightshirt. He was dressed in a suit.
He removed his tight-fitting jacket, took the newspaper he’d purchased off of the table, and proceeded to enjoy the view and read until the dinner bell. Presently, the click and clack of the wheels on the rails and the rocking of the car lulled him to sleep.
Three days later, he was dozing when one of the conductors walked through the train knocking on the doors of the private berths.
“Pinevale. Next stop. Pinevale. Thirty minutes.”
Jesse scrambled to his feet. His aunt had sent instructions to Boston concerning his arrival in Pinevale. Tom, the ranch’s foreman, would be waiting at the station when the train got in. He would drive Jesse out to the ranch which was about an hour outside of town.
He anticipated getting to the ranch. Although his travel experience had boasted every convenience, he still found himself tired from the trip. It would be good to sleep in a real bed that night. A real bed in a stationary room.
Looking out the window, he saw that the town had risen up outside the train. As Jesse considered his arrival, he felt the adrenaline surge he loved.
“Last stop. Pinevale. Last stop, Pinevale.”
He walked out to the aisle of the train car and down to the next available exit, then hopped down and headed immediately to the luggage car. He was ready to go inside the station building when he spotted someone at the other end of the platform. A tall man with a western-style hat leaned against the roof post. No one else was nearby. It must be Tom.
The trunk had been deposited off the platform, and as Jesse walked over to it, he looked around. The sky was bright blue and stretched far and wide. Across from the train station stood a large field of corn. A carriage was pulled up just down from where he stood, between the station house and the tracks.
He started at the familiar sound of his aunt’s voice, turned, and raised his hand in greeting.
“Aunt Susan!” He stepped forward and embraced the petite woman. He was truly fond of her.
“It’s wonderful to see you, Aunt Sue. I’m so sorry it’s under such circumstances, but it is so good to see you again. To think, this past Christmas was the last that we had with Uncle Noel. I hope you’ve been as well as can be expected.”
“Dear Jesse. I miss your uncle every day, but I’m grateful he didn’t suffer at the end. Why, he barely knew what hit him. Besides, we were blessed to have had 25 beautiful years together.”
“God bless you, Aunt Susan.”
“And welcome to you.” She smiled up at him and, for a moment, Jesse glimpsed
the girl his uncle had fallen in love with and ultimately married.
“Yes, welcomes are in order.” The tall, gangly man in a cowboy hat and neckerchief materialized from behind them. “Howdy. Tom Buchanan.” He extended his hand to Jesse. “Pleased to be making your acquaintance.”
Observing the cowboy made Jesse suddenly feel very citified and self-conscious. His tie and bowler hat seemed silly to him when Tom Buchanan was decked out with a vest worn over his red cotton shirt, blue dungarees, pointy-toed boots, and spurs that jangled when he walked. Not to mention the broad-brimmed hat that shielded the man’s eyes.
“Uh, yes. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Tom. Jesse Flynn.” He took the proffered hand of the foreman and shook it.
“Well, that’s that. You two are going to be spending an awful lot of time together. So much to discuss.” Susan Flynn smiled again. “But there’s time tomorrow to start on those sorts of discussions. You know, ranch stuff. Business stuff. For the rest of the day, Jesse is going to rest, Tom. Come on. Let’s get back.”
“Yes ma’am, Mrs. Flynn.” Tom helped her up into the carriage then assisted Jesse with lifting the steamer trunk into the back of the vehicle.
When Susan and Jesse were ensconced in the carriage, Tom hopped up on the driver’s seat and snapped the reins. The carriage sprung forward.
“It’s just about an hour out to the ranch. You must be exhausted, Jesse.”
“I’m fine, Aunt Sue. Travel doesn’t affect me too adversely.” Even though he was incredibly wearied, mainly from his incessant thoughts and worries, Jesse didn’t want to appear soft to Tom. He’d heard that men raised in the west were strong, quiet, types who most often kept to themselves and worked seven days a week—rain, snow, wind, or shine. Jesse had no desire to appear as less than able to do what any other man could manage.
He leaned back against the cushioned buggy seat. “The train was quite comfortable.”
“And so fast! Why, it’s been over ten years that the express train has carried folks from back east all the way to California in less than four days. Truly, it’s a miracle!”
Jesse smiled. He’d always had a soft spot for his aunt by marriage, and he was concerned about how she would get on with her feelings now that she was a widow. Everything had happened so fast and she’d had no time to really grieve. She’d been quite busy since the funeral.
He’d had no choice but to miss his uncle’s burial, which he felt bad about. But the fact was that he hadn’t been expected to be there. His father, he was sure, had written to Susan offering his assistance in any matter she might need, but traveling all the way to Pinevale for the funeral would have been unfeasible. Earl Flynn could not up and take off for a month or more. And any visit to Wyoming short of that time span was simply not possible for him.
The carriage drove on and they rode in silence for a while. Jesse studied the landscape of gently sloping prairies dotted with grazing livestock, mountains rising up in the distance.
“It’s beautiful out here, Aunt Sue. I can see why you and Uncle Noel wanted to settle in this area.”
“Well, you know your uncle. He always wanted the wide-open spaces. Made him feel free, he said. Even in Boston, when we were young, it was Noel’s dream to work outside on the land under the huge expanse of sky we have here. The west started calling him when he was just a boy. You know, we had a very blessed life, but our happiest years together were the ones spent here in Pinevale.” She gazed out toward the mountains and sighed.
Jesse put his arm around his aunt and hugged her close. He knew from his late uncle’s letters of the past that Susan had never gotten over the fact that she’d been unable to have children. Now, with the death of her husband, she’d been left completely alone in the world. There were no children to come to her aid in her time of grief.
Jesse didn’t know what to say by way of comfort to her. Despite her show of good spirits, he imagined his aunt must feel very lonely. He resolved to do whatever he could to help her. He loved his Aunt Sue and wanted her to be happy.
As the carriage moved closer to the ranch, Sue pointed out various natural landmarks.
“It’s such a lazy climate. Relaxing.” But as much as his body could resist its temptation to be tense, Jesse’s mind could not ease up.
During his journey, he’d come to the decision to sell the ranch as soon as possible. He needed the money and, as he understood it, the place was his to sell. He wasn’t afraid of hard work, be it mental or physical, but he was confident he could never learn the ranching business. He didn’t know a thing about it. Not even on paper. And he was a businessman first.
That way, he’d be back in Boston before September. He would pay off his debt with Reese, and then he’d figure out his next course of action. He was too overwhelmed to think beyond that. And he was too overwhelmed to think about it anymore, so he continued gazing out over the land.
They were now on the actual ranch, having made a turn off the main road and onto a side road. At the break in the fencing around the perimeter of the ranch, Tom hopped down from the carriage to pull the iron gates open. Jesse watched the entire procedure with delight until Tom boarded the carriage again.
They passed through the gate, riding under a heavy marker of wooden posts with the letters NFS RANCH, for Noel and Susan Flynn, and the year 1868 dangling from chains on the beam that crossed overhead. He noticed signs on the side posts advertising the breeding stocks of cattle that inhabited the ranch. The brand was burned into the posts, as well.
About three miles along the road, huge prairies on either side boasted hundreds of head of cattle grazing complacently under the blue sky.
Jesse had never imagined anything like it and felt a small thrill at the openness and the scope of it all. He quickly reminded himself that he was only a visitor here, in Wyoming.
Tom Buchanan would oversee the work on the place, like he’d been doing in the month since Noel’s death. Jesse thought it best not to get in the cow boss’s way. Tom likely had a system he wouldn’t want to be questioned about. He’d been Noel’s foreman for 15 of the 22 years the ranch had been in operation. As Jesse recalled, the ranch hadn’t done so well in the years preceding Tom Buchanan’s appearance.
The past came rushing back to him. He remembered visiting the ranch when he’d been 11 years old, when he and his parents had stayed there for two months.
His father and Noel would go out on the land each day. Noel, no doubt, was intent on making Earl his partner in Wyoming. But Jesse’s mother, having been born and raised in Boston, had wanted to stay close to her family.
So, Earl had taken his family back to the little townhouse he’d bought just the year before. It had relieved them to be out of the apartment over Flynn’s bar. Not a day had gone by, it seemed, when Jesse’s mother wouldn’t marvel aloud about the fact that Earl had grown up in the flat with his entire family—including six sisters and his brother, Noel.
It must have been around Christmastime that year when Earl received a letter from his brother telling of the arrival of Tom Buchanan and all the good he was doing. The man was simply a wizard at ranching, having been in the saddle and on the land since the age of 10. Tom had even gone on his first cattle drive at the tender age of 12.
So, after Tom had shown up at the NFS Ranch—seemingly as an answer to Susan’s fervent prayers—the ranch was turned around and netting a profit in less than a year.
Jesse found himself wondering why his Uncle Noel hadn’t left the ranch to Tom. He could have been sure that Susan would be well taken care of by Tom.
His uncle had been aware of Jesse’s failings in business. Why would he give his life’s work to someone who couldn’t even run a livery stable? It didn’t make sense.
As it was, there was nothing to do but confer with Tom and keep him on as the one who oversaw everything concerning the ranch. Of course, Jesse would be completely honest with Tom about his desire to sell, and he would sell to Tom at a lower price if the foreman was at all interested. In her letter, Sue had written that Noel had left Tom with a piece of land to the east of the ranch, but it was Tom’s responsibility to acquire anything beyond that. It was what Tom had wanted.
But Jesse thought it all to be somewhat curious.
The next morning, Jesse felt as if he could sleep for six more hours. The big feather bed in his room was the most comfortable he ever remembered sleeping in. However, the mingled smells of fresh coffee, bacon, and biscuits hearkened to him.
After battling with himself and losing to the coffee and biscuits, he arose and went to the small commode off the room. There was running water in the house. Uncle Noel must have put it in for Sue; Jesse was sure his uncle would never indulge in such extravagance for himself.
There was a large porcelain tub that also contained a shower behind a curtain. He stripped and turned on the water, and when it was getting warm, he stepped in and let the steamy vapors swirl around him.
He was out in two minutes, having spent no time luxuriating. He and Aunt Sue had a meeting with the attorney at half-past nine, and he remembered that it had taken almost an hour to drive to the ranch from town the night before.
After shaving, Jesse donned a clean shirt and the suit he’d worn the day before, happily noting that it had been aired, brushed, and steamed where needed.
“Jesse?’ Aunt Sue’s voice called up to him.
“Yes, Aunt Sue. I’ll be right down.” His called response carried down the stairs that led to the kitchen. The big main stairs were in the front of the house. From what Jesse could determine, he was in the original homestead part of the house. He bounded down the stairs and found his aunt and a young helper girl of about 14 named Cassie preparing breakfast
The dining room table had been set for two and after the food had been laid upon it, Cassie left the room.
“Thank you, Cassie. I’ll see you later. After school, dear.”
“Yes ma’am, Mrs. Flynn.”
Sue turned to Jesse. “Such a sweet girl. She lost both her parents to a carriage accident four years ago. Awful. Poor thing has no other family, so your uncle and I adopted the girl, you could say. Nothing legal has been done, but I adore the child. She’s been quite a comfort to me since Noel… uh, since your uncle passed.”
Jesse didn’t know what words he could possibly say that would comfort Sue. He could tell she was missing his uncle quite a bit and wondered if his own arrival at the ranch had poked at her memory. He reached for a biscuit, noting that the table was full of delicious dishes—scrambled eggs, bacon, steak, fried potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, biscuits, gravy, butter, black coffee, and pound cake.
“Aunt Sue, this meal is worthy of a king. So much food!”
“Well, our meeting with Mr. Murray will take close to an hour, I should think. You don’t want a rumbling stomach, do you? After the reading of the will, I thought I could show you around Pinevale. You and I might have tea at the new tea house that opened on Main Street. You’ll be relieved, I’m sure, to learn that we have two saloons, two hotels, six different restaurants, and even a small theater that doubles as an opera house. We’re about as refined as anyone out here in the west.”
“It sounds as if you’ve made a nice plan for the day, Aunt Sue. Whatever you’d like to do, I’m game.”
“It’s just not worth it to go all the way into town only for an hour’s meeting,” she went on. “We might as well make a morning of it, at least. We can eat lunch at one of the restaurants and then, later on, Tom would like to meet with you. I told him not to take you around the perimeter of the ranch this afternoon because it would be too much in the carriage. It makes no sense at all. You need to get some proper riding clothes for the range—we’ll stop at the general store and see what’s in stock in the way of dungarees and work shirts. Oh, and you’ll need a hat and some boots. What size shoe do you wear?”
“Um, size 10.” Jesse felt the same self-conscious feelings about his dress that he’d experienced the day before. He felt like a square peg in a round hole… entirely out of his element. And he was anxious to begin preparations to sell the ranch and get back to Boston. He might feel like a failure in Boston, but it was preferable to feeling like a fool in Pinevale.
When they’d finished breakfast, Jesse helped Sue clear the table and put the dishes to soak in boiling water.
“There. I’ll tend to those when we get back.” Sue donned a low-crowned, wide-brimmed leather hat. She perched it on her head at a saucy angle, turning up the brim on one side to reveal the bright vermillion underside that picked up the reddish tones in her underskirt. Her reticule and a shawl completed the ensemble.
Jesse thought his aunt looked the epitome of a stylish western lady.
“Are you ready, dear?” Sue smiled up at him as she finished adjusting her hat.
“Ready as ever, I guess.” He grinned at her to cover up the guilt he was feeling. Here he was, about to sell his aunt’s home from under her feet.
It wasn’t like he would be putting her out. She had a place to go. In fact, she’d already told him, during breakfast, about her desire to go back to Boston. He could only think at the time, ‘You and me both.’ But he felt a little bad that he’d made up his mind to sell the NFS before even hearing that it legally was his right to do so.
Together, they walked down to the stable. One of the hands had already hitched up the buggy, and they were on their way within minutes. It was a lovely morning. Jesse decided to put all feelings of guilt out of his head and enjoy the drive to town.
They were quiet as they rode. Every now and then, Sue would point out one of the landmarks she’d shown him the day before.
“It never hurts to get acquainted with the landscape, Jesse. Knowing where you are by using these landmarks is part of life out here. There are no real streets such as we had in Boston even 25 years ago.
Pinevale, itself, is easy enough to navigate, but it’s the travel to and from where there are no roads that’s the challenge,” she explained.
“I must admit, though, that I haven’t been to town since March! I certainly haven’t ever gone two days in a row.” Sue laughed.
“I see the town in the distance, Aunt Sue.”
“Yes. We’ll be there soon.” She flicked the reins lightly to step up the horses.
Jesse wondered if she was missing his uncle a lot at that moment. She was very quiet. But he was beginning to recognize that he had no influence over it. His aunt was going to experience her emotions over the loss of her husband in the way that was best for her. He could only make himself available to talk if she needed or wanted to.
In a few minutes, they were on Main Street. Sue maneuvered the carriage over to a building with the sign, Randal Murray, Attorney at Law hanging in front.
Jesse jumped down and went around to help his aunt then, together, they walked into the lawyer’s office.
The young secretary smiled at them and inquired as to their visit. “Oh, I see. You’re the one with the nine-thirty appointment. I’ll be right with you.” The young man stood from his desk and disappeared through a door, presumably into another office.
A moment later, the closed door burst open and an older man emerged from the office in the back, filling the waiting room with a robust presence.
“Sue. Hello. Come in, dear.” The lawyer embraced her, studying Jesse over Sue’s shoulder. When the greeting was finished, he stepped back and extended his hand to Jesse.
“Randal Murray. You must be Sue’s nephew.”
“Yes, I am. Jesse Flynn.” He returned the man’s handshake.
“Well, why don’t we get down to it. Sue? Is that agreeable?”
“That’s what we’re here for, Randal.” Sue smiled and winked at Jesse.
They followed him into the back office.
“Stewart. Send anyone who comes in away; we’re not to be disturbed. Is that understood?” Murray smiled at Sue.
“Yes sir, Mr. Murray.” The young man bowed and went back to the front room.
“Well, now. This is not the kind of meeting that’s enjoyable for anyone, but there have been those who have begun new lives based on the contents of a relative’s last will and testament.”
Sue nodded, so Jesse joined in and did the same.
“Alright, then.” Murray opened the wax-sealed document and unfolded it. He looked once more at Jesse and his aunt, then began to read.
It was a standard will, but Noel had clearly tried to accommodate everyone who worked for him. There was a tract of land for Tom Buchanan, who’d opted out of the reading as he’d been told about the gift by Noel some years ago.
Sue was left a large chunk of cash and the promise of half of the profits of the ranch, should Jesse decide to sell it. Of course, there was nothing in the document that seemed to surprise Sue. She’d told Jesse that she and Noel had discussed everything that was in the will. She was in complete agreement with her husband’s wishes.
“And now, we come to where your inheritance is discussed, Mr. Flynn.”
Jesse nodded once and waited. He thought it somewhat a waste of time to go through with a traditional reading of his uncle’s will. His aunt had written to him about it, and they’d already discussed it the previous evening over supper.
“…and he is to live on said ranch for a minimum time period of three months before making a decision as to sell or remain on the land.”
Jesse’s thoughts had been wandering, but his head snapped up at the sound of the attorney’s words. “What is that about three months, or something? Would you mind reading that part again?”
The lawyer hesitated, looking at Sue.
“Go ahead, Randal. I want my nephew to be clear as to what his uncle’s wishes were.”
“Very well.” Murray read the section of the will concerning Jesse again.
Sitting up a little straighter, Jesse glanced from his aunt to Mr. Murray and then back to his aunt.
“I, I wasn’t planning on staying out here quite that long,” Jesse mumbled, looking down. Inside, he was panicking. He needed money. As soon as possible. The only reason he was in Pinevale at all was so he could sell the ranch and pay off Reese. He needed money in order to live. He needed money to start a new business. And now, he was being told he’d have to wait three months before he could do any of it.
“Well, that’s the stipulation in the will, my boy. If you don’t stay, you’ll relinquish any hold on the NFS Ranch and any claim to it. I urge you to think about the consequences of denying your uncle’s wishes. You’d be relinquishing the place to your aunt’s hands for good. You would have no opportunity to change your mind once you’ve given up your inheritance and signed it away. I strongly suggest that you think hard on it for a day or two before you go making any hasty decisions.”
“Do let’s talk about it over tea, dear.”
“As you wish, Aunt Sue. Mr. Murray, I thank you. It’s generous of you to allow me time to decide.” Jesse couldn’t help feeling as if he’d somehow been duped. Here he had come all this way with a true sense of relief that the sale of the ranch would provide the necessary funds for him to get his life back on track. And he’d just been told he’d be stuck in Pinevale for at least three months. His plans would be on hold. Reese would get impatient.
The whole idea promised to turn into a big mess.
Aunt Sue stood, followed by the two men. “Thank you, Randal.”
“You’re quite welcome, Sue. And good luck, young man. Your uncle thought a great deal of you.”
Jesse smiled wanly. “Thank you, Mr. Murray.”
They shook hands all around and the pair left the office. Sue led Jesse across the street to the general store, and the bell over the door jangled when they walked in.
A man stepped out from the back of the shop, wiping his hands on a towel. His face brightened when he saw Jesse and his aunt.
“Why, Sue Flynn. How are you?” He embraced the woman. “This must be Jesse. Good to meet you, son.” The man took Jesse’s hand in both of his own. “What can I do for you today?”
“Hello, Kevin. My nephew here needs to be outfitted to ride out on the ranch. As you can see, he’s a city boy—he hails from my hometown of Boston. Jesse, this is Mr. O’Rourke.”
Jesse smiled as best he could, nodding. He was still reeling from the news he’d been given at Mr. Murray’s office.
“Very good to meet you, son. It’s quite a trek, but doesn’t take very long, does it? I’ve heard tell of folks making it all the way out to San Francisco from the east coast in less than four days. Boggles the mind, it does.”
“It certainly does,” Sue agreed. “Now, Kevin. I think we need four cotton shirts, two pairs of dungarees—you’ll need to measure Jesse—he needs boots in a size 10, spurs, oh, and a hat. Some neckerchiefs. And chaps.”
“It’s a tall order, but I do believe I have everything you’ve asked for in stock. I just got a shipment in from San Francisco last week.” Kevin took Jesse by the arm and squired him into a back room to measure and fit him.
After taking Jesse’s measurements, Kevin said, “I’ll be right back with some choices for you to try on. What colors do you prefer?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you have in my size, I’ll take it. If you don’t mind, I’d like to try on the boots while you’re getting the other things.”
“Don’t mind at all. I’ll be right back.”
Within five minutes, the man had returned with three pairs of boots for Jesse to try. They all fit, but Jesse found he was partial to the plain brown leather pair that fit his feet like they were made for him. He then tried one of the shirts Kevin had given him and a pair of dungarees for size.
“That’s it, Kevin. Thank you. Will you pack it all and we’ll pick everything up after our early lunch, say noon?”
“Very good, Mr. Flynn. I’d like to say also that I’m sorry for your loss. Your uncle was a fine man, and he thought a great deal of you. He’d be happy you’re here to take over the ranch.”
Jesse chuckled. “Oh, no. That’s not the case at all, though I thank you for the information. I won’t be staying here in Pinevale.”
“You mean you’re giving everything up? You’re not at least going to give it a try by staying three months?”
Slightly taken aback at Kevin’s knowledge of Noel Flynn’s will, Jesse asked the shopkeeper how it was he’d come by the information.
Kevin stopped his chatter and studied Jesse.
Now I’ve gone and done it, Jesse thought, fearing he’d offended the store proprietor.
“It so happens your Uncle Noel and I were very close, Mr. Flynn. He discussed a great many details of his personal life with me. Pardon me for stepping out of line by mentioning the contents of his will to you.” He gathered up the items of clothing and left the room before Jesse could remedy the situation.
Aunt Sue suggested a small restaurant off Main Street just around the corner from the courthouse. It was a lovely room, and the menu looked delicious. Jesse vaguely noticed that the place was reminiscent of The Bluebird Restaurant. He smirked, thinking maybe he should have come out to Wyoming years ago.
“What will you have, dear? I know it’s early, but I could never wait until we got home to eat again. Besides, it’s fun, isn’t it? Your uncle and I used to come to this little spot every three or four weeks, and I didn’t want to miss it this month. I’m happy you’re with me.”
“I am, too, Aunt Sue.”
They ordered their food, but Jesse was still not talkative. In the back of his mind, he realized his aunt didn’t seem to notice his distress.
Jesse had been hungry in spite of the big breakfast he’d had. But when his food was delivered to the table, he simply chewed and swallowed. He could have been eating cardboard, as far as he was concerned
“You know, Jesse, I can see you running ’round and ’round in your head. The three-month stipulation must be something of a shock to you, I know. But before you commit to a decision, there’s something I wish to tell you. I want you to know, and to understand the truth.”
“The truth? Aunt Sue, I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
“Yes. About your uncle.”
“Alright. I’m listening.”
“When I told you that Noel didn’t know what hit him with that last heart attack, I was speaking the truth.”
“The last heart attack?”
“The whole truth is that your uncle had two previous heart attacks in the year before his death. After the second one, we both knew it was a matter of time before another might kill him.”
“I see. Then what?”
“Well, we talked about it. Like we talked about everything. That was how we were able to stay together despite a lack of children. Despite the fact that I couldn’t give Noel any, he was the best husband. He told me he’d married me for me, not for any children I might or might not have.”
“He loved you very much,” Jesse assured her kindly. “I know because my father used to relish telling the story of my uncle bringing you home to meet his mother. They lived in the little apartment over the bar.”
Susan laughed. “Well, my background was nothing to brag about. My great grandfather was brought here from London as an indentured laborer in 1783, when he was ten years old. I don’t know how or if he ever was able to purchase his freedom, but he was about 50 when he married for the first time and began a family. I do know that. So, you see, a small apartment that once housed a family of ten was no surprise to me. I, myself, had shared a garret bedroom with my five sisters, three to one bed and three to the other.”
Jesse shuddered to think of it. “Being an only child, I never had to share my sleeping quarters.”
“And lucky you are that you didn’t. But then, there’s the plight of loneliness with an only child. Your uncle often worried about you and asked your parents numerous times to let you come out here in the summers. He felt it would be good for you to work with men your own age, good for you to learn to ranch. It’s the job of the future, he used to say.”
“My mother would never have parted with me for an entire summer. I suppose it wouldn’t be feasible to come all the way out here for a few weeks.”
“That’s it exactly. So, you never came, except that one time with your parents.”
“I remember that visit. It was very fun, as I recall. I still have the little cowboy boots Uncle Noel gave me.” Jesse smiled at the recollection, then became serious again.
“He and I spoke at length, when he got sick, about where I would go if something were to happen. We spoke about the ranch and what to do with it. I have to be honest, though—neither of us expected what happened. As I said, Noel never knew what hit him. But I… I discovered his body when I tried to wake him for breakfast that morning.” She blinked back tears.
“I decided I wanted to go back to Boston and live with my sister, Jane, and her family. She’s ten years younger than me and she has seven children, ranging in age from seven to 20. Her husband is a bricklayer. He has plenty of work and their two oldest boys work with him.
“You know, you were your uncle’s favorite of all the children in our family. I made the suggestion that he leave the ranch to you. So, after deciding how I would be provided for, Noel went to Mr. Murray to change his will.”
“And Mr. Buchanan?”
“Tom? He has no interest in owning the ranch. He’ll be happy enough with his tract of land and the small house on it. He wants to continue with the running of the operation, but he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning it. Or selling it.”
“But what will he do when I sell?” The words came to Jesse unbidden and his hand quickly flew up to cover his mouth.
“You know, Jesse, Noel and I both knew about your tumultuous relationship with your father. Your mother confided to me by letter her angst and worry about it. About you. Could you possibly see this opportunity, the opportunity to stay and be a gentleman rancher, as a chance to make a fresh start?”
“No offense to you or my uncle, Aunt Sue, but I can’t make a fresh start here in Pinevale. I know nothing about ranching.”
“That’s what you have Tom for. He’s the best foreman in three counties. We were very lucky to get him. We were the first ranch he stopped at when he first arrived in Pinevale looking for work. He committed to one year with Noel, and now, 15 years later, he’s still with us.”
“Let me get this straight. Tom is not interested in owning the ranch?”
“No. He said it would hold him down.”
“What about the land and house he inherited?”
“If he ever wanted to leave, you’d buy it back, of course. Tom wants to build a business of his own from the ground up. You know, the ranch was a farm when your uncle bought it. For two years before Mr. Buchanan came to us, Noel had been buying up more cattle and lessening the crops grown. We no longer sell the crops; they’re used to feed the herds and us.”
Jesse was feeling overwhelmed. It was all so much more complicated than he could have imagined.
“What is most important to discuss today is the stipulation that you must stay in Pinevale until three months have passed.”
“Well, Noel and I both knew you’d need some convincing to stay here. By staying for three months, you’ll have a much clearer idea of the inner workings of a ranch. Don’t you agree?”
Jesse sighed. “I suppose so, Aunt Sue. I suppose so.”
“Alright, I think it’s time we get back. I have dishes to do.”
Jesse paid the bill and they went back to O’Rourke’s to pick up the packages that waited there. Soon, they were seated in the carriage, traveling down the road back to the ranch.
Jesse’s brain was spinning a mile a minute.
Once they arrived, Jesse went to his room to change from his suit to the new duds his aunt had gifted him with. It was the least she could do, she’d said, but he didn’t really know what she’d meant by that.
He buttoned up the blue cotton shirt and tied a red kerchief around his neck, hoping he was doing it right. He wasn’t looking forward to spending time with Tom Buchanan. The man was supposed to take him around the perimeter of the ranch to discuss anything Jesse might want clarification on. But Jesse felt self-conscious next to the foreman.
The dungarees were stiff, but there was nothing to do about that other than soak them once and simply wear them until they softened to his body. In the meantime, Sue had given him a pair of Noel’s to wear until the others were ready. He slipped his stockinged feet into the boots and walked around the room a few times. They fit well, having been stretched with his uncle’s boot stretcher. After a couple of wears, they would conform to his own feet.
As he dressed, his mind went over and over the dilemma that was before him. If he didn’t stay in Pinevale for a minimum of three months, then he would have no recourse than to return to Boston empty-handed. That simply wouldn’t do. He had to stay, then sell the ranch after the allotted time—there was the matter of his debt to Reese. He felt sure about his decision. It was the only one he could make.
After he was dressed, he went down to the kitchen to tell his aunt of his plans, bounding down the back stairs.
“May I talk to you, Aunt Sue?”
Sue turned away from the biscuits she’d just turned out on the table, wiping flour on her apron. “Well, well, you look like a seasoned ranch hand, Jesse.”
While he was sure that wasn’t true, there was something about the clothing he sported that felt good to him. They were comfortable. They would keep the hot sun or the cold wind from his skin. He wished folks in Boston dressed so.
He grinned and sat at the other end of the table, away from the biscuits.
Sue joined him, taking a chair across from him and folding her hands on top of the table. She waited, an expectant look in her eyes. “You wanted to talk, Jesse? What can I help you with?”
“I’ve come to a decision about the ranch. Of course, I want to share it with you.”
“Alright. What is it?”
“I’ve decided to stay for the three-month time period. However, I can make no promises as to what I might do at the end of that time.”
“That’s perfect, actually. It gives me enough time to pack my things, sell any furnishings you don’t want, and give away some personal items I don’t wish to keep.”
“No, Aunt Sue. You don’t need to pack. What do you mean?”
“I’m going back to Boston, whether you stay forever or sell the ranch in three months’ time. I would like it very much if you would, in the next couple weeks, look over everything I put a blue tag on. Whatever has the tag is yours if you want it.”
“That’s sweet of you, Aunt Sue, but my mind is made up. All I need to take with me back to Boston is the banknote that purchases this ranch. I’m committed to the three months, but I will alert you that my chances of not selling the place are slim.”
As Jesse spoke, Sue cut out the biscuits and arranged them on a baking tray. She placed the tray in the hot cookstove then turned to smile sweetly at Jesse. “As I said, that’s perfect.” She told him, then left the kitchen.
Jesse stood for a moment feeling as if he’d somehow been fooled into something. His suspicions were raised, but he had no idea why.
“A Liberating Love to Set Her Free” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Twenty-four-year-old Ariel Turner has spent her life working alongside her brothers on her father’s ranch in Wyoming. Her dream, since childhood, has been to own some land for herself to feel independent and free. However, being a woman has almost set her dream on fire. Is there any chance that her dream could turn into reality? Sometimes what seems like a great opportunity can turn into great disappointment.
Jesse Flynn is a mistake-ridden Boston businessman who inherited the neighboring ranch of Ariel’s family. He arrived in the small town of Pinevale with intentions that are not immediately obvious. Will he manage to achieve his plan before someone finds out? When he sets his eyes upon her he feels for the first time in his life that he’s found his place. How will Jesse’s past failures follow him and put in danger his new life and happiness?
Sparks fly when the lady rancher meets the businessman. They go about the property operations, side by side as business partners, while secretly, they each long for something more from the other than a good work ethic. Will they find a way to solve their differences, when clouds appear on the horizon or the rain will destroy everything? Is a single mistake enough to break them apart?
“A Liberating Love to Set Her Free” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.