tagRomanceEvening Light Ch. 02

Evening Light Ch. 02

byzouzouni©

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***

At 5:30am on the dot there was a knock on her door. In her nervousness she was awake and more than ready to go. A young man who introduced himself as Connor was waiting for her. Connor walked her through her tasks and where all the equipment was kept. Grace on her part remembered everything. Surprisingly it was similar to the way her Grandfather taught her so that she didn't have to work to hard to retain it all. She put her head down and got to work. Occasionally another hand or trainer would walk in to get a horse or return one. They would introduce themselves politely and more than a little curious about her. She was sure she'd get the names straight eventually.

Within a couple of hours she was done and aching having used muscles that she didn't even know she had. She cleaned and returned all the equipment, made sure the horses had fresh water, and was making her way back to her house for breakfast when she literally walked into someone. "Whoa there little lady" he drawled in a deep Texan accent. Grace looked up to see what most women would consider gorgeous, tall, blond and blue eyed. He left Grace cold.

"Sorry" she breathed.

"Name's Taylor Smith, but most people call me Tex, nice to meet you." He said as he took her hand and brought it to his lips. Again most would find the gesture romantic. Grace found it down right creepy from him. Due to her job she was pretty good at reading people and he set off all her alarms. After providing her name and extricating her hand from his she managed a quick exit. She didn't like the way he looked at her, like he was a predator and she was his next meal.

Over the next few days Grace slipped into an easy routine. She found that she could manage her chores and still get to work on time. The schools welcomed her with open arms having waited so long for someone to take up the position. Apparently there weren't many applicants and none that wanted to relocate to a rural area. The principals were open and honest with the challenges they faced and the staff were grateful for any assistance or advice. She was looking forward to working with these people to make life better for these children and the adults in their lives.

On the days she didn't work in the schools she took it upon herself to have lunch with the hands and trainers. At first they were uncomfortable with her presence but soon her easy going nature got to them and they relaxed around her. She was young and the older and married men felt like they needed to protect her from the amorous younger ones, constantly telling them to mind their manners around a lady. Grace was amused and flattered by the attention both the fatherly and not so fatherly but she wasn't really interested in a 'roll in the hay' so to speak. The only one that made her uncomfortable was Tex and she avoided him like the plague. Lucas appeared to be avoiding her so all in all her life was stable.

One day she decided to go and watch the men start training a young mare that had arrived a couple days beforehand. Sitting on the fence she watched as Grant, a young trainer was attempting to put a bridle on the mare. She kept snorting and pulling away from him. He became increasingly frustrated at her lack of cooperation. He started pulling the rope around her neck harder and tighter and the mare's eyes widened in fear.

Grace could see Bradley and a couple of the others start to get edgy at Grant's handling of the horse. When Grant whipped the mare with the reigns Grace had had enough. "Get away from her you bastard." She yelled as she hopped down from the fence. Furious she rushed towards him and grabbed the rope from his hand. "How could you! You're scaring her half to death, no wonder she doesn't want to take the bit." She growled at him in a low voice so that she didn't frighten the horse further. "Give me that bridle." She demanded. Grant was so shocked by her outburst that he numbly handed it over without at word. "Gracie girl, you shouldn't really be going near a riled up horse." Bradley cautioned. Grace just held up her hand to stave him off and approached the mare slowly.

"There now girl, no one is going to hurt you. You're safe now." Grace soothed and continued to murmur to the horse as she got closer. The mare was still snorting but slowly she calmed and allowed Grace to stroke her neck and scratch a sweet sport behind her ear. Grace managed to carefully place the bridle on her and buckled it securely. She then led her in a circle to ensure her comfort before handing the lead to Bradley.

Bradley on his part was looking at her with shock and not a little admiration. "Well now child, aren't you a packet of surprises" he smiled.

Lucas had been leaning against the stable doors watching and was about to intervene when she went flying into attack. He was mesmerized by her movements the way she touched the animal each stroke gentle and confident. It was almost sensual to him. This woman he didn't want on his property was definitely getting his attention. As she walked towards him he said loud enough for her to hear "Don't touch my animals without permission again." And he walked towards the men not allowing her to respond.

"You've got to be kidding me." She grumbled as she made her way to the main house. Once there and over a steaming cup of coffee she told Miss Em about what happened. Miss Em listened and nodded in understanding of her frustration. The both of them sat in quiet contemplation of the strangeness of men

****

Grace was struggling to get her ample intellect around the enigma that was Lucas Marshall. She felt like he was avoiding her but couldn't be sure. Then when he was around her he was so haughty and arrogant that she just wanted to slap him. Being driven to violence was something utterly new for her. It didn't help that he was so damn handsome. Her experience with men was seriously limited and she didn't understand how someone so frustrating could make her heart beat faster.

The days wore on and Grace was enjoying the simple routine that had become her life. Under Bradley's guidance she was becoming more involved with the horses. Out of the direct eye line of Lucas of course. She could often be found in the stables giving Kendra's Smile, the mare she'd helped, a good scratch or a bit of carrot or apple. That's exactly where she was when Tex walked in and leaned against the stall next to her. "Hello there darlin'. Been avoiding me?" he drawled.

"Been busy." Grace replied continuing to stroke the horse in front of her and hoping that he'd go away. She could feel his eyes on her but refused to look at him.

"I can give you something to stroke if you like." He said out of no where. Grace looked at him incredulously and made to leave. "Don't be like that darlin', you know this has been coming for a long time." He laughed as he pushed her back against the stall door.

"Get off me!" she yelled as she tried to push him off her. When his mouth descended on her hers true panic set in and she started to fight back hitting and scratching him. Anything to get him, his mouth and his hands off her. Her struggles only made him laugh.

"Don't worry baby I'm gonna make you feel real good." He said as he ripped her shirt open to paw at her breasts. Grace was beside herself in fear as she renewed her efforts. Tex became frustrated with her struggles and he hit her hard across the face. Her head snapped back against the hard post behind her. She stopped fighting against her would be rapist and started fighting for consciousness. Tex was thrilled at her lack of fight and used the opportunity to continue his attentions on her breasts and begin to unbutton her jeans.

Lucas was taking a last round of the property since all the others had gone home or into town being a Friday evening. He was alerted by the shuffling and snorting of horses and walked into the stables to find out what had the animals so uneasy. What he discovered was Grace up against a stall with Tex about ready to introduce himself to her in the biblical sense.

This caused him to see red. Fury unlike anything he'd known rose with in him. His anger however was directed at her. He knew it would happen eventually, that she would encourage the attentions of the men. But Tex? Did it really have to be him? Before leaving the two of them alone he took one last look at her wanting to remember her for the brazen hussy that he knew her to be.

What he noticed, however, was not eyes half closed in desire but those stunned by a blow. There was blood trickling from her lip and she appeared to be weakly fighting him off. Lucas realized that this was anything other than what it appeared to be. With a speed driven by renewed fury he reached them and pulled Tex off her landing a solid right cross that sent the blond man sprawling. "Hey now Lucas, you need but wait your turn." Tex said as he gingerly picked himself off the ground.

"You have 30 seconds to get off my property." Lucas said in a low growl. Tex took one look into those cold eyes and took to his heals.

Lucas turned his attention to the dishevelled heap that was Grace. She looked so broken and hurt that his heart almost stopped beating. He covered her as best he could and lifted her into his arms carrying her to the main house. There he rang a doctor and the local sheriff. She wasn't quite out of it but she wasn't really awake either. Her low mewing sounds distressed him further. He didn't know what to do so he knelt next to her and murmured that she was safe and that no one was going to hurt her. No more than 15 minutes later the doctor and sheriff arrived together.

"What happened?" asked Dr Jenkins briskly as he opened his case and went about examining her.

"She was attacked. Hit her head pretty hard I think." Replied Lucas. Sheriff Peters had some more questions and they went to the next room to give the doctor some space to work in. Lucas explained everything he saw as the sheriff took notes. He was hovering around the doorway keen to make sure she was alright.

Dr Jenkins came out of the room and looked at Lucas. "She'll be Ok just a mild concussion and some bruising. I've given her a sedative that should help her sleep but it may make her confused so she shouldn't be along tonight." He explained looking at Lucas. He nodded in understanding and swallowed hard dreading asking his next question but he needed to know.

"Did he ... was she ..." He couldn't get the words out.

"I know what you're asking Lucas but I reckon you got there just in time. He didn't hurt her in that way." Dr Jenkins said gravely. Lucas took a deep breath in relief. Dr Jenkins turned his attention to Sheriff Peters "Now Jacob no fussing out of you, the child needs her rest. There'll be plenty of time tomorrow for your questions. Lucas, you call me if anything changes." He said as he grabbed his things and left.

Sheriff Peters left as well with the promise of coming passed the following day to speak with Grace. Without thought Lucas gathered her in his arms and took her to a guest room upstairs, quickly changed her into one of his t-shirts and tucked her into bed.

Later that night as Lucas was getting ready for bed he heard a series of doors opening and closing and some giggles. Entering the large hallway he found Grace opening yet another door, this one happened to be a linen closet. Only to giggle when she discovered it wasn't her room. "What are you doing?" he asked.

"Went to the bathroom and now I'm lost. Tell me kind sir, which one is my room?" she said sweetly and dissolved into another round of giggles. This one made her swoon and loose her balance. Lucas put his arms around her to stop her from falling. Then realizing that the drugs were confusing her he picked her up and carried her back to her bed. As he lay her down she didn't let go of her hold around his neck.

Instead she drew him closer and kissed him. It was a shy kiss, a tentative one. But when her tongue briefly ducked out to lick his lips he almost lost control. He wanted to devour her. "Mmm I knew you'd taste good." She said as she fell back and went immediately to sleep. Lucas was a mass of tension. His body was reacting to her softness and warmth. He wanted her. He wanted to bury himself deep inside her and never come up for air. He left her room quickly fearing his reaction. She had him not knowing which end was up. Needless to say, sleep was long time coming for Lucas that night.

Lucas had gotten up early to tend to the horses. When he returned he found her standing at the kitchen sink washing her breakfast dishes chatting with Miss Em. Standing there in his t-shirt that came down to her knees she was delectable. Again his body burned with desire for her. And again he was furious at his reaction. Angry that he'd let her stay knowing that throwing a young woman in amongst men was a recipe for disaster. Angry that Tex had hurt her. Angry that she fit in so well. Angry that despite everything, he wanted her with every fibre of his being. Angry that she made him feel this way. It was out of this anger that he spoke his next words. "Don't forget your chores. And don't go messing with any more of my men. I can't afford to loose any more employees." He said harshly.

The moment the words were out he wished he could take them back. He saw the slump of her shoulders, the effort it took her not to cry. When those brilliant blue eyes filled with hurt and anger looked at him, he wanted to die. Wiping her hands on a tea towel she lifted her chin and said quietly "I'll wash and return your t-shirt as soon as possible. Thank you for letting me stay the night." And she walked out.

"I've never been more disappointed in you in my entire life." Miss Em exclaimed and went after Grace. Lucas stood there in despair not knowing how it had come to this.

To be continued ...

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