It had been a long drive for Jackson Mansfield, but some obligations just needed to be kept. Promises were one thing Jackson did not break, no matter how hard they might be to try and keep, Jackson was one who always seemed to follow through on whatever he committed himself to. Which was why the pickup had been packed up, the gas tank filled to capacity, and the ex marine hitting the road toward a fixed destination.

Turning off the main county road, and onto the long dirt drive toward the ranch house, Jackson switched off the radio and gave a glance over to his travel companion. "Well, looks like this is it, guy." He smirked briefly to the pup settled on the passenger seat of the truck. He had picked the young dog up off the side of the road about a day back. The dog, he had noticed, had been just wandering along the side of the road. When Jackson had stopped to check on the animal he had found the dog had no collar or tags. With the animal's friendly nature, though, he figured the dog had belonged to a family. Though there wasn't anytime for him to try and locate them. So rather then leave him at the side of the road with an uncertain future, Jackson coaxed the dog into his truck, feeding him half of the sandwich Jackson himself had had. The ex marine was then once more on his way.

Pulling up o stop in front of the ranch house, Jackson cut off the engine before he climbed out, letting the dog jump out after him before he closed the door. Shielding his eyes from the brightness of the sun, Jackson glanced up toward the house. Wondering if what he had gotten himself into was a good or bad thing.
For as much blood, sweat, and tears as the ranch had brought Victoria, it had always been her baby. Ever since she'd been a little girl and grown up in her fathers own ranch, she knew she'd be just like him one day. It wasn't until after she'd finished veterinary school, but the day had finally come when that dream had been realized. The month of April had been incredibly busy, and being short a person -- a rather important one at that, she'd had absolutely no time to do anything other than worry about keeping things running smoothly. That morning had been different, though, and she'd finally had the chance to do what she'd loved the most -- take a nice long ride out in the countryside.

She had only just been getting back when she saw the pickup truck make it's way into the ranch. She immediately knew who it was, as he'd been the only person she'd really been expecting that day, and she wasn't quite sure whether she should be excited to finally meet him in person, or terrified at the idea. It wasn't that she didn't believe they'd get along as well in person as they did through messages, but it was all the memories she knew would be coming to the surface that she was scared of facing once again. She was only just starting to get past the events of the last year, and she knew she couldn't go back to square one. She couldn't face those emotions again.

As she got closer to the truck, she smiled softly, not wanting to show the nervousness that she was actually feeling. He'd been friends with her brother, and she really hoped she'd be able to focus on everything but the fact. "Hey.. you made it.." She smiled again as she hopped off her horse, leading him toward the man she both knew so well and didn't know at all. "How was the trip?" She added, attempting at small talk. "It's nice to finally put a face to the person.."
As nervous and worried of the actual meeting as Victoria was, Jackson was going through the same emotional rollercoaster ride. Maybe not as intense as the woman's feelings might be, but this initial meeting, he was sure, was bound to bring up past memories he had tried to keep well below the surface. He needed to move forward, not be kept tied to the past. Though Jackson knew those kinds of memories would never fully leave him. He just hoped that the accepting of the offered position hadn't been a mistake.

As Victoria approached the truck, Jackson's four-legged companion wandered slowly in the direction of the woman and her mount, sniffing the air as he caught both their scents. A single whistle brought the dog back to his side as Victoria dismounted her horse. "In one piece." He offered pleasant in return, with a friendly smile as the woman walked over, leading the horse in that direction in the process. "Long," he admitted, "though not overly unpleasant. And it is." His smile a bit more genuine now. They had corresponded prior to this meeting, but this was the first time they had actually seen each other. "Nice to meet you, Victoria." He offered in a soft voice, with an extension of his hand out to the blonde.
"It's definitely nice to meet you, too" She said, reaching out to take his hand in a firm handshake. He was polite, she had to give him that. She wasn't quite sure what she'd been expecting, but she was pleasantly surprised. In all reality, she shouldn't have been, she'd talked to him enough times and her brother had always been picky about his friends -- if he'd welcomed him into his friend circle, there must have been something about him worth her time. 

Shrugging all thoughts of her brother to the side, she couldn't help but smile at the small dog who had tagged along for the ride. Victoria had always been a huge animal lover, and she could never hold herself back from paying attention to a new friend. "Well, hello there, cutie.. it's nice to meet you, too.." She laughed a little as she crouched her body near the dog, her hand moving down to rub at his head. He was certainly a good distraction, and a nice way to break the ice.

Looking up at the man once more, she gave him a genuine smile, "I'm definitely glad you're here.. could really use someone who knows what they are doing." Business -- if she stuck to the original reason for him being there, maybe things would go smoother.. maybe neither one of them would have to think about what they'd been through -- which while different, affected them the same way. "Plus.." She laughed, trying to make light of the situation, "you brought this cutie with you.. I would have asked you to come sooner if I'd known he was part of the deal."

"Anyhow..." She continued, her attention going back to the horse who was patiently standing next to her, waiting for his next cue. "I have to get this other cute guy here to his favorite spot.." She nodded in the direction of the pasture as she motioned for the horse to follow as she started making her way in the direction.

Not wanting to be rude, she gave him a small smile as she added, "You must be exhausted.. We'll get you set up so you and your friend here can relax."
The dog's tail wagged happily as he found himself getting a little undivided attention from the woman. He then lowered to his haunches as Victoria's hand stroked lightly over his head.

"I'm more then happy to help out here." He told her in all honesty. Jackson wasn't some new hand with little to no experience that had come to work for Victoria, he had, in fact, plenty of first hand experience working on a ranch, and with horses. "Well," he smiled sheepishly at the woman, a hand run through his hair than, "he hadn't started out as part of the package." Jackson admitted to her. "Found him running alongside the road on the drive up, and well, just couldn't leave him to suffer some horrible fate." He was glad that she hadn't been bothered by him having the dog with him, but rather seemed accepting of the animal.

Jackson nodded understandingly then. "I'll grab my things and meet you up on the porch." He offered then, unsure of exactly what his accommodations would be there. Then, as she led the horse away, and toward the large, grassy pasture, Jackson turned back toward his truck to collect his things.

Well, at least he was honest; Victoria had to give him that. "Good thing you did.." Giving the small animal a little ear scratch, and instantly falling in love with him, she smiled at his antics. "If I would have found out you left this cute little thing behind we might be going on a road trip.. and you wouldn't be liking me very much." Even though she finished her statement with a laugh, it wasn't much of a joke. She really was too much of an animal person to be able to sleep knowing an animal could have been saved and was simply ignored. He was off to a good start -- bonus points for that.

As Jackson headed to his truck to get his belongings, Victoria finished up with the horse, letting him free out in the pasture with the other horses. She would have to come back out later that afternoon to put them all back into their stalls, but for the time being she was happy with letting them be. They could use the exercise, and they were certainly happy out there. Once the horse had been secured out on the pasture Victoria turned back and headed toward the house. They had some things to figure out, and he needed to get himself settled in; after such a long drive, she was sure he needed to get himself some rest and probably some food as well.

"There's the guesthouse out back.. I figured you'd be comfortable there.. thought you might enjoy the privacy." She said as she sat down on the porch swing, facing the pasture. Turning to look at him as he settled himself down on the porch as well, she gave him a small shrug of her shoulders, "It's got everything you might need in there, so you really shouldn't have a problem settling in and making it yours.." Smiling down at the dog that had made a home out of the porch, she added as she reached down to pet him once more. "Or his for that matter.."

There wasn't much going on for her that night, and with Victoria being the overly friendly person that she could be, she found herself offering, "There's not much in the food department up there.. you're more than welcome to joining me for dinner later tonight, though.."

"You do realize the dog probably would have been long gone by the time we drove back all those many miles." He pointed out to the woman, though not taking her warning too lightly. Jackson was a good enough judge of character to realize that though Victoria put a laugh behind her words, the woman meant every single one she had spoken. 

The dog followed him as Jackson strode up to the house, the animal settling down at Victoria's feet once she had sat down on the porch swing. "Just give me a pillow and blanket and I'll be comfortable enough." He smiled over at the woman, with a smile, and then a glance down at the dog by her feet. "Looks like you've made a friend." He chuckled lightly. He wasn't thinking he'd have any problem settling into the guesthouse, and he certainly wouldn't be minding having to share the accommodations with his four legged traveling companion. 

"I would like that." He returned in a pleasant toned voice. He only had a couple duffel bags full of personal things, so Jackson wasn't thinking it would take himself long to get all settled into the guesthouse. So having dinner with the boss lady was going to be just fine with him. It would also allot him the chance to find out a bit more about the ranch he'd be working.
"Psh.. technicalities.. you would still be stuck on that road trip.." She shrugged her shoulders, a small half laugh escaping her lips. She knew he was right, but she also knew that would not have been something that would have stopped her. "First impression always matters.. you came in with bonus points just by bringing this little boy with you.." She'd already spent more than enough hours out trying to get to an animal she knew needed help -- the distance was not something that had ever stopped her, and she knew that would have been the case in that situation. She was certainly glad he'd done what he did.</p> 
"If that's all you need.. you're golden.. Got plenty of those in there!" She smirked, picking up the small dog who was loving all the attention he was getting. Placing him on the swing with her, she watched him freeze for a second, staring up at her before he finally relaxed and curled up next to her. "Aren't you just a sweetie..?" She mumbled, her attention completely on the animal before finally turning it back to Jackson. "He had no option... I would have made him my friend anyway.."
The vet in her wanted to get him checked out, but he seemed to be doing pretty well, so she was sure it could wait until she was back at the office later that week. She did a lot of back and forth between the ranch and the office, and did all the veterinary work that needed to be done at the ranch. She was certainly glad that he was there; it was a big weight lifted off her shoulders knowing someone would be able to help run things without her having to worry that she was missing something. "Kidding aside, though.. it's good to finally get some help.. everyone I talked to has nothing but good things to say about you, so you know.. it's kind of a relief to not have to worry about everything in here getting done and still have to run over to the office, or wherever it is I'm called off to." Pushing her hair out of her face, she turned to look at him once more, "It's been absolutely insane the last month.. I forgot what it was like to breathe.."
Pushing herself off the swing, Victoria couldn't help but laugh as she say the small dog doing the same. "You like the attention, don't you, huh?" Going toward the front door, the small animal did the same, and she couldn't stop herself from leaning down to scratch his head, "I'm not leaving.." Quickly stepping into the house, it took her a mere few seconds to find what she was looking for. She had a mild case of OCD, and everything had a particular place for it. Once she stepped out, she held out a pair of keys in front of her, something which got the animals attention even more. 
"Whenever you're ready, I can show you where that blanket and pillow you wanted are hiding." 
"I do hope there is more then that in the guesthouse." Jackson returned with a smirk of his own. And Jackson couldn't help smile as he witnessed the interaction between the dog he had rescued off the side of the road, and the woman who ran the ranch. If he believed in such things, Jackson would have sworn the fate had been at play there, fulfilling some kind of destiny for the dog and Victoria. 

"I'll do my best to try and keep this place up to the standards you've already set for it." Jackson promised her. He knew how hard it was to try running a place this expansive on your own, add to that having another business to keep going and he wasn't surprised by her claim of things being insane and it being hard to take a breath. "Things will be easier for you now, Victoria." He promised. Now that he was there, installed as foreman of the place or whatever, maybe she'd feel like she could breath again. Just concentrate on her practice of healing the four legged creatures that roamed the country.

"Guess this is where we kind of part ways, huh pal." Jackson chuckled to the dog, after Victoria slipped into the house and left the animal standing at the door for her return. It was plainly obvious who the dog had attached himself to. 

"Now's a good a time as any." Jackson responded with a smile as he accepted the keys from the woman. He then retrieved his bags, ready to follow the blond over to the building he'd be staying in.
I'm sure you'll do a fine job.. my brother wasn't one to get along very much with people who slacked off.." Her brother was as much a perfectionist as she was, if not more, and she knew he wouldn't have spoken so highly of him had he been someone to cut corners and do half-assed jobs. She needed someone who would pay attention to detail, and even fix problems before they really became a problem. She might have not known Jackson personally, but if he was anything like he sounded through messages, and like her brother had told her, she had made the right decision in hiring him. "I don't think I have much to worry about in that department.. but, I do appreciate it, nonetheless." 
Looking down at the dog that seemed to have attached himself to her at the moment, she smiled as she made her way out through the backyard and toward the place Jackson would be calling home however long he decided to stay for. She didn't think she'd have much to worry about when it came to him, but she really hoped it wouldn't become too much for him like it had the previous person. He was used to conflict, and while it wouldn't be like anything him or her brother had seen, she hoped those experiences helped the stress of making sure everything was running smoothly to a minimum. The ranch always had a calming effect on her, and hopefully he felt the same way. Plus, it wasn't like she'd be gone, anyway; she needed to focus on her veterinary career, but she would still make sure to be a part of what went on with the ranch on a daily basis. 
Once they reached the front door of the guest home, Victoria turned to face Jackson, an almost sheepish grin on her face. "Sorry about your little friend here.. animals have a tendency to like me." She laughed at the irony of it. Normally at the office they'd hate her until the treats came out, but on a normal day, it was almost like the 'dog whisperer'. Opening the front door to the house, she took the key out of the lock before holding it out to him. ".. and yes, Jackson.. there is the possibility that there might be more than just a blanket and pillow in there."
This was what he had been looking for when he retired from servicing his country. Jackson was wanting to return to a normal, civilian life, and this just seemed to fit the bill for him. It was also a promise being kept. He was familiar with how a ranch was run, so Jackson was sure he'd settle in just fine. This kind of hard work Jackson relished. 

"Ah," he smiled back to her then, "no apologies necessary. This guy's got good instincts when it comes to people." He assured her. Something that had been quite evident when the dog attached himself to the vet. From their brief conversations, and what her brother had told him about Victoria, Jackson knew the ranch owner was a good woman. So he was not surprised that the dog had taken to her so quickly. 

"Well, I surely hope so. I can take sleeping on the floor for only so long." He teased with a friendly like smile as he stepped through the open door. To say he was impressed with the interior would be greatly understating things. While he didn't think the guesthouse would be bare bones, Jackson didn't think it would be filled with the furniture it had. Quite luxurious accommodations in his mind. "This place is great." He announced with a smile, after giving the interior room a look over, glancing over Victoria's way then. More room then he had expected.
Victoria was very proud of what she did -- whatever it was. When she first got the ranch everything had to be built from scratch -- the home, the guest house, the barn.. there wasn't nothing in there that didn't scream Victoria. She had been very involved in the process, and she was sure she'd even become a pain in the ass to those who had to see her on a daily basis while the home was built. The guest home had been the first building to be complete, and that is where Victoria had stayed for the entire process while the rest of the home was finished. 

"I pretty much lived here while everything else was finished... everything just kind of stayed inside.. I never moved it into the main home." She laughed a little at the thought of that. It had been absolutely insane, and she remembered how pissed her brother had been at her when she told him he'd have to help her bring in and put together brand new furniture for her home. Of course, he'd also been quite relieved when he'd stayed there a few months after she'd moved into the main house and everything had already been in place. Sighing a little, she shook her head. She missed him -- it was the little every day things that made it that much harder. 

When everything had first happened she'd been an absolute mess, and could barely even find it in herself to look in the direction of the home. Everything in there had reminded her of him, even when he had not changed much at all. Letting out a deep breath, she smiled a little. She knew she was getting into a mood, and one she didn't want to get into. "He's a smart boy.." She said, talking about the dog. "I'm sure you'll both like it here.." She added, hoping to get her mind off of things and into a much better mood.