With her glass half empty and the fries all gone, she stood to leave. That’s when she overheard a guy sitting at the bar rambling on and on, something about keys and the number seven. A birth date, perhaps? A horse he planned to purchase or bet on? He was wearing a cowboy hat. Her keen interest in numerology, plus a story-telling cowboy with a chiseled body talking about numbers, equaled the perfect distraction from her current depressing thoughts.
Ivy casually moved to a closer table and sat back down hoping to hear the man’s words, his story, more clearly, even though the hour was late and she was tired. Fortunately, the kind waitress came by with a cup of coffee . . .
Unable to hear every word the cowboy spoke, details of his story were missing. She spent the next half hour talking to the bartender as he cleaned up and closed up.
“Do you think he was spouting fact or fiction?” To her, however, it didn’t really matter. She’d made up her mind.
The bartender laughed. “That’s a nice way to phrase your question. I hear a lot of stories, and they’re mostly lies. I guess you’d call that fiction.”
“You think his story was all lies?”
“Most stories are. This guy was different, though. I’m not sure I believed his story, but I believed him. Don’t ask me to make sense of that, because it doesn’t.”
Though Troy would never admit it out loud, he also enjoyed the “hot cowboy” reputation invented and circulated by the local horse-riding women. It suited him. He was a good-looking man, and he knew it. The only missing link from his perfect life was hero status. He wouldn’t admit that out loud either, but he longed to be a hero, to tackle some noteworthy action so the world and his father might take notice. A mere fantasy, of course. Such a golden opportunity was unlikely to show itself on the ranch.
He made his rounds to the main barn, the bunkhouse, the guests’ registration lobby, and the kitchen, as he did every morning. Just as he approached The Lodge, his cell phone rang.
“Hi, Mom. Is something wrong?”
“No, dear. Your father and I got to talking and realized we hadn’t completed our conversation with you.”
“Troy,” said Clint, “I’ve pressed the speaker button so we can all hear each other.”
Troy kicked at the dirt. He had work he wanted to do. Could he maintain civility when his personal life was about to be discussed, again? On speakerphone, no less. He cut them off at the pass.
“Mom, Dad, nothing has changed. Got no plans for marriage. No plans for kids. I’m too busy working the ranch.”
“Son, I’ve got no problem with your work ethic, but you’re not getting any younger you know. Your little brother has a wonderful woman in his life now. We’ve never seen him happier.”
Troy wished he could please his parents, especially his dad, but that would require a significant change in his lifestyle. He liked his playboy reputation and didn’t think he had it in him to settle down and be a family man. That scenario was not in his future.
“Dad, I’m not Trace and—” BANG! The loud crash interrupted his comment. Just as well, they wouldn’t have liked what he was about to say. “Got to go.”