Home > Retreat (Getaway #1)

Retreat (Getaway #1)
Author: Jay Crownover

Not Quite a Cowboy

“They don’t even look like real cowboys.” I muttered the words under my breath low enough so that only my best friend could hear them. She turned her head in my direction and gave me a look that told me she had had enough of my whining and endless snarky commentary. We’d gotten up early to fly out of San Francisco and had landed in Billings, Montana, only to then hop on a teeny-tiny charter flight that brought us out to Sheridan, Wyoming. It had been a day filled with travel, and my sarcasm and snark were at an all-time high. Partly because I really had no interest in being here, but mostly because, for the last few months, I’d been a miserable human being to be around and I couldn’t seem to rein in my bad attitude, even when I really wanted to. She was getting tired of it, and frankly, I couldn’t blame her.

“Just because they don’t have on cowboy hats and leather chaps doesn’t mean they aren’t cowboys; you have no idea what a real cowboy even is. When have you ever been on a ranch before or traveled any farther east than Las Vegas? The closest you’ve been to any kind of cowboy was when we went to see Garth Brooks a couple of years ago. You promised to keep an open mind, and so far you are sucking at it.”

I sighed and shifted away from Emrys. Her dramatically shaped eyes could see right through me and I didn’t need a guilt trip from her when I already felt like crap. I turned my attention back to the three men standing before us and begrudgingly admitted to myself that two of them could pass as the sexified, carefully marketed country music version of what a cowboy should be. They could easily give Luke Bryan a run for his money with the way they were packed into their tight jeans. They were both more than passably attractive from what I could see under the brims of their matching camo baseball hats, the ranch’s logo stitched on the front. When they introduced themselves, I found out that they also had what I would consider authentic cowboy names, Sutton and Lane. I wasn’t sure which one was which because I was completely distracted by the third member of the not-so-welcoming committee. He was the one I was specifically talking about when I made the ‘not a cowboy’ comment. He looked as out of place on this working ranch in the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming as I felt. He was also watching me just as closely as I was watching him. His name was Cyrus . . . which was maybe a cowboy name but to me sounded more like the ruler of some ancient kingdom. In fact, he would fit in way better in Sparta than he did here on the range. The thought made me snicker, which got me an elbow in the side from Em, even though I kept the wayward thought to myself.

The man, who most definitely didn’t look like a cowboy, didn’t have any kind of hat on so there was no mistaking the fact that his narrowed eyes were locked on me. His lack of headwear also revealed that he had his dark hair buzzed in a trendy undercut and styled back in a way that required product and know how. Two things I would never associate with an actual cowboy. It also showed that he had the faintest hint of silver at his temples above his perfectly even sideburns. Even with the dusting of gray, I still only put him at somewhere in his early- to mid-thirties. The silver in his hair should make him look prematurely aged, but it didn’t. He looked tough and distinguished, and if he was dressed in something other than lovingly worn Levi’s and a faded Jack Daniel’s T-shirt, he would give the executives and CEOs who I did business with a run for their money in the silently intimidating department. Not that I could imagine any of the men I worked with looking as good as this one did. He did something special for that cotton T-shirt that stretched tightly across his broad chest. And the way he impatiently shifted his weight from one heavy-looking black boot to the other pulled denim tight around places I should be embarrassed to be looking. I wanted to ask him why he had boots on that belonged on a Harley rather than in the stirrup of a saddle, but I didn’t want another sharp poke from Em, so I kept my musings to myself.

No, the man named Cyrus didn’t fit what I had thought would be waiting for me when I agreed to this crazy plan of Emrys’s, and if he hadn’t walked out to greet us with the other two men when the passenger van we had taken from the miniscule airport dropped us off, I would have automatically assumed he was part of the tour group and not one of the guides. He didn’t look like what I expected someone who was intimately familiar with the outdoors or the inhospitable and uninhabited terrain of the Wyoming landscape to look like. His rough appearance and unwavering gaze made me question again why I had let Emrys talk me into this vacation that sounded more like punishment than any kind of fun I was familiar with. I was even more hesitant to venture off into the wooded mountains than I had been before, as my stare-down with the man dragged on and on to the point that I knew looking away would mean some kind of defeat. I wasn’t sure what the battle I was engaged in was about, but I was a sore loser at the best of times, and considering I was at the lowest point I’d ever been, I knew there was no way I could be the first one to break eye contact. I loved my best friend, but at the moment I could happily strangle her for deciding we needed this girl’s only trip that would force us both to unplug and regroup over the next week.

“You ladies are the last of the group to arrive. We’ll get you settled in and then everyone can meet in the main house for dinner so we can all go over what to expect for the next week.” It was the guy in the middle who spoke. He was the shortest of the three and he was the only one who seemed capable of smiling. The man with all the muscles and the scowl kept watching me, while the last guy looked bored and annoyed. His expression indicated that he felt like he was being put out having to play welcome wagon for a couple of city girls. Considering this little jaunt was costing both Em and me an arm and a leg, the least these not-quite-cowboys could do was roll out the welcome mat and pretend that they were thrilled to do so. We were paying for an unforgettable experience, and so far they had delivered, but not in a good way.

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