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
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
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
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.
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.."
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.
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."
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
"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.
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
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.
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
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.."
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
"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.
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
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."
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.
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."
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
"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.
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.