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“Don’t ya think that skirt’s a little too short?” Jack Reynolds exclaimed, knocking Megan’s feet off her desk.
“Why? I’ve got the legs for it!” Megan snapped back. “Nobody else is objecting!”
“That’s cause they know it won’t do any good to say anything.” Jack responded, taking a seat across from her desk.
Jack Reynolds was the founder and president of his own security and investigation business. He was quite handsome for a gentleman in his early fifties. Even though his six-foot frame was showing slight signs of age, his light brown hair was still full and his bright green eyes still very clear.
“So, what’s up Pop?” Megan asked, brushing aside her hair.
“Don’t call me Pop!” Jack exclaimed. “I hate that!”
“Ok. What’s up Ole Man?” She kidded.
“And that either! I especially hate that term!” He retorted.
“Ok. Ok.” Megan said. “So what’s on you mind, DAD?”
“I need you to help out an ole army buddy of mind.” Jack replied. “He’s got himself in a hell of a financial bind and he’s got some really serious problems at his ranch.”
“I need you to get out to New Mexico as soon as possible and take control of the situation.” He continued. “I’ve already told Clint you were coming.”
“New Mexico!” Megan exclaimed. “That’s out west!
“Yep. At least, it was the last time I looked at a map.” Jack quipped, grinning.
“What’s the matter, somebody hold up the stage coach, kidnap the school marm, rustle some cattle or burn down the saloon.” She quipped.
“Are you finished with the wise-ass remarks?” Jack asked, getting exasperated with his daughter.
“I don’t know all the details.” He continued. “I do know he’s losing money and he’s got trouble with an insurance company paying off some claims.”
“I’ve got some notes jotted down in my office.” He added. “You can look them over. You probably should take them with you unless you want to commit them to memory.”
“What if I don’t wanna go?” Megan inquired, smirking.
“Then I’ll boot your butt out the door!” Jack exclaimed. “I don’t care what your mother would say!”
Slipping on her black high-heel shoes and smoothing the front of her skirt, Megan followed her father down the hallway to his office. Her father’s office was much larger than Megan’s, decorated with several posters of his favorite professional football team, the Eagles.
“Hope you can read my writing.” Jack said, handing her a handful of notes.
“Over the years, I’ve managed to decipher your handwriting pretty well although it does resemble hieroglyphics.” Megan quipped.
While Megan read over the notes, Jack gazed at his daughter standing next to him. At twenty-six years of age, she’d never been married, not even engaged. It concerned her mother as much as it concerned him. She was a prize catch for any man although she seemed ever elusive. With two Bachelor’s degrees from Penn State, one in business and one in law enforcement, her brains complimented her dazzling beauty.
At five-foot-eight, Megan had the face and figure men took notice of immediately, often admiring her beauty for lengthy moments. Her sandy-blonde, Farrah Fawcett hairstyle was a bit outdated but it was the way she liked it. She could bring it off perfectly. Her sculptured figure couldn’t have been more perfect. She had everything going for her except her smart-ass attitude and constant smoking habit. Her father hoped she outgrow both and settle down.
Megan preferred living life to the fullest, building up her bank accounts and having sex whenever the mood struck her. Around the office, she was known as the “Wildcat”. A term, her father frequently overheard amongst his other employees.
“Who’s this Trey guy?” Megan inquired, interrupting her father’s thoughts. “And this Collin guy?
“Those are Clint’s two sons.” Jack replied. “But, he only wants you to talk with him and Trey. He doesn’t completely trust Collin for some reason so try and avoid him as much as you can.”
“What’s the Rockin’ J?” She asked. “The name of his ranch?”
“Yep. Clint’s last name is James.” Jack answered. “Hence, the name Rockin’ J.”
“It’s a wonder he didn’t call his boys, Frank and Jesse.” Megan smarted. “That would’ve been a helluva tag.”
“How soon can you get your butt out there?” Her father asked. “A couple of days maybe?”
“I need to put some ideas together on my laptop, gather up some clothes and get my car serviced before I go.” She replied. “Maybe a week.”
“No good!” Jack exclaimed. “Three days from now I want your butt parked on Clint’s front porch. He’s even offered you accommodations at his home. It’d save me money on your expense account if you’d take him up on it.”
“I’d prefer to stay at a Holiday Inn or something.” She responded. “Course, they probably don’t have anything but boardin’ houses or rooms over the saloon.”
“You can take my Suburban.” Her father offered. “You’ll need it for all the things you’ll need to take with you.”
“No thanks!” She exclaimed. “I’m taking my Vette. I don’t need a damn truck!”
“One canlı bahis other thing.” Jack warned. “Knock off that attitude with these people. At least, try and tone it down some. I’m counting on you to help these nice folks out. They don’t need you pissing them off.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” Megan said as she stepped out of the office. “But I’m not making any promises.”
Back in her own office, Megan reread the notes her father had scribbled down. Not wanting to have to memorize them, she set up a database on her laptop to record the information. After transferring the notes onto her computer, she logged onto the internet to see if Taos, New Mexico might have a website. As luck would have it, there were several. She bookmarked them all.
Taos was best known for its Spanish history, cultural activities and skiing. Not much was mentioned about ranching or anything agricultural. Megan spent the rest of the afternoon downloading information and maps on the area. By mid-afternoon, she had her tan attaché packed with information she thought she might need, along with her laptop computer. Leaving the office shortly before 4pm, she stopped to have her car, a black ’96 Corvette coupe, serviced. It was her pride and joy since it was one of the few things she owned. Opting for apartment living over home owning, Megan preferred not to be encumbered with responsibilities.
That evening she carefully selected and packed her clothes for the trip to New Mexico. Opening the gun safe secured to the bottom of her queen-size bed, she removed her Glock Model 21 pistol and three ten-round magazines. She rarely fired it except at one of the indoor shooting ranges, just to keep her marksmanship well-honed. Also, attached to the bottom of her bed was a Remington Marine Magnum 12 gauge shotgun with a custom pistol grip, which fired three-inch magnum rounds. Megan packed both guns carefully along with an ample supply of ammo for each weapon.
Early the next morning, she stopped by the office for a brief visit with her father before heading out on the long journey. Driving alone, it would take her two full days to make the nearly two-thousand mile trip from Philadelphia. Megan had booked reservations at the Hampton Inn, but at eighty-five dollars a day she might accept Clint James’ offer to stay at his home if the assignment was going to prove lengthy.
Arriving late on the second day of her long journey, Megan was glad to check into her room at the hotel. After grabbing a quick shower, she dressed for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. The diningroom was elaborately decorated with numerous works of western art and historic displays. For Megan, it was all quite interesting. After dinner, she walked down the street towards town, working out the tense muscles in her legs. The historic part of town had numerous antique stores and quaint shops. Most of the structures along the extremely narrow streets were of adobe construction, obviously having gone through extensive restoration.
The next morning, Megan dressed in a beige business suit for her initial meeting with Clint James at his ranch northwest of town. Grabbing her purse, attaché and map, she drove her Corvette along the winding, mountainous road. The scenery was breathtaking, causing her to slow down several times to take in the magnificent views.
“This is sure alot different then Philly!” Megan thought. “This place is gorgeous!”
Arriving at the gated entrance to the Rockin’ J ranch, Megan slowed as she drove down the winding asphalt driveway towards the house. Rounding a tall rocky outcropping, the beautiful southwestern style home came into immediate view. The expansive front lawn was landscaped as well as any country club golf course she’d ever seen.
“God damn! Now that’s a house!” She thought.
The James’ home was a large and sprawling two-story adobe structure with a bright orange tile roof. Large round timbers protruded from several walls along the front of the home. There were several archways, included one leading to an interior courtyard with a large fountain in the center.
Megan eased the Corvette through the archway, then circled the fountain before parking near the double front doors of the exquisite home. She quickly retrieved her purse and attaché before exiting the sports car.
Clint James came out to meet her on the veranda as she approached the house. His appearance was completely different than she’d pictured in her mind. Instead of being extremely rugged looking and wearing a cowboy hat and worn-out blue jeans, he presented the appearance of an Atlantic City casino pitboss. His salt and paper hair looked professionally coiffured. He was very handsome and quite dapper. He was slightly taller than Megan by a couple of inches and appeared to be in good physical shape. Wearing a beige business suit, similar in color to hers, he and Megan looked like a matched set of business people. Removing his designer sunglasses, she quickly noticed his piercing, bright blue eyes.
“Ms. Reynolds. I’m so happy you made it.” Clint bahis siteleri James greeted, smiling and extending his hand.
“Thank you!” Megan replied, shaking the handsome gentleman’s hand. “You certainly have a beautiful home.”
“I’m glad you like it. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay with us.” He responded.
Leading Megan inside the home on his arm, she was immediately confronted by a large indoor fountain discharging crystal clear water down its two-story configuration.
“I see you like fountains.” Megan commented. “They’re both quite beautiful.”
“My ex-wife was into water effects although I’ll have to admit, I like them quite a bit myself.” Clint responded. “This house was her design. She even supervised the construction.”
“She’s quite talented.” Megan remarked. “I take it she’s not here any longer.”
“She moved back to Florida a couple of years ago.” He muttered. “We seldom communicate anymore.”
Leading Megan to his second floor office at the rear of the house, Megan got her first look at the rest of the ranch. One wall of the spacious office was solid glass from floor to ceiling offering an unobstructed view of the ranch. Countless horses grazed and pranced around behind white board fences. In the distance, Megan could see several huge barns and horse trailers lined up in a neat row.
“That’s my youngest son, Trey, out by the barns.” Clint pointed out, handing Megan a pair of binoculars. “He does most of the work.”
Megan focused the binoculars as she peered out towards the barns. Spotting Clint’s youngest son in the distance, she held the binoculars centered on the young man. She had to bite her lower lip to keep from making a verbal comment. Wearing faded bluejeans and a black western hat, he was working without a shirt.
“Oh my God! He’s a fucking hunk!” Megan thought. “I’d like to have his ass between two slices of bread for lunch!”
Stacking bales of hay just inside one of the barns, Megan could clearly see Trey James was built like an Adonis. His strong biceps and triceps were extremely well developed. His muscular shoulders were those of an athlete. When he removed his hat to wipe his brow, Megan got a good look at his face. His dark brown hair appeared thick and rich. His handsome, clean-shaven face was very similar to his father’s. He was drop-dead gorgeous!
Megan quickly scanned over the multitude of horses in the pastures so Clint James wouldn’t think she was staring at his son.
“Magnificent, aren’t they?” Clint remarked. “The most beautiful animals on earth.”
“Yes, they certainly are!” Megan agreed. “Absolutely gorgeous!”
While Clint was obviously referring to the horses, Megan was referring to his son, Trey.
Sitting down at his large and quite expensive desk ensemble, he gestured for Megan to sit in one of the leather casual chairs in front. Megan’s eyes scanned over the office, noticing its expensive furnishings. Along one wall sat a trophy case with numerous awards, belt buckles and memorabilia.
Offering her coffee, he buzzed the intercom to the kitchen, placing the order. Within minutes, a young Hispanic girl entered the office carrying a serving tray with two cups of coffee. She appeared to be in her very early twenties and quite attractive. Her dark skin was accentuated by her long and straight black hair that hung halfway down her back. The girl’s dark eyes set off her very pretty face. She gave Megan a quick smile as she handed her the coffee.
“Maria’s only been with me a few weeks.” Clint stated. “Her father and brothers also work for me on the ranches.”
“Ranches?” Megan inquired. “You have more than one?”
“Two ranches here, another up in Colorado.” Clint replied. “Trey mostly takes care of that one.”
“How many acres do you have all total?” She asked.
“Ten-thousand acres here, another five-thousand east of Taos.” He answered. “A little over four-thousand acres just south of Alamosa, Colorado.”
“WOW! That’s almost twenty-thousand acres.” Megan exclaimed. “We need all the pasture we can get.” Clint remarked. “Out here, good pasture is like gold.”
“Tell me about Collin.” Megan said. “Why don’t you want me to have any contact with him?”
“You’ll have some contact with him. It can’t be avoided.” He replied with a touch of anger in his voice. “He lives here but doesn’t pay a dime of expenses. Drives around all day in his German made car trying to sell real estate.”
“You’re not to discuss anything with him.” Clint continued raising his voice. “I told him you were my new ranch manager.”
“Ranch manager!” She exclaimed. “I don’t know anything about managing a ranch. I know what a horse looks like. That’s about it.”
“Just play it by ear. Trey’ll help you out.” He responded. “He’s been doing most of the work since he could walk. He knows just about everything there is to know. But he doesn’t know beans about management.”
“Won’t Collin pick up on my inexperience?” Megan asked. “I’m sure I can’t talk horses without saying something wrong.”
“Well, bahis şirketleri just make general statements and hum alot. Nod your head if it sounds like he’s making a positive statement.” Clint suggested, smiling. “He rarely talks horses. He only talks real estate and women.”
“One of my father’s notes mentioned something about stolen horses and insurance claims.” She commented.
Before Clint could answer her, a horn sounded from the driveway.
“That’s Trey getting ready to leave.” He said. “He won’t come into the house if he’s been out around the horses or the barns. He’s afraid he’ll track something in.”
“Let’s go out and I’ll introduce you two.” Clint suggested, rising from his leather desk chair.
Clint escorted Megan down the winding staircase to the front door. Stepping out onto the veranda, she got her first close-up look at the younger of Clint’s two sons.
As Trey stepped from his flatbed truck, Megan observed him remove his western hat and work gloves before brushing his thick, dark brown hair back. He’d put on a checkered shirt but hadn’t buttoned it. She could plainly see his partially bared chest and rippled stomach muscles. Standing in her high-heels, she was almost the same height as the young man.
“Trey. I’d like you to meet Megan Reynolds.” Clint said. “She’s Jack’s daughter from Philadelphia.”
“Ms. Reynolds.” Trey spoke softly, with a hint of a smile. “I understand you’re gonna be the ranch manager here at the Rockin’ J.”
“Yes.” Megan replied, shaking his rough and calloused hand. “I’m going to give it a try anyway.”
“Why don’t you join Megan and I for dinner this evening?” Clint suggested. “Maybe you two can find a quiet place to talk afterwards.”
Trey stated he was going up to the ranch at Alamosa and might not be back until late. His response didn’t set well with his father.
“Dinner’s at 6pm sharp!” Clint retorted, raising his voice. “I expect you to be on time!”
Trey didn’t reply. He was clearly embarrassed by his father’s outburst. Putting his hat on, he climbed back into his truck before driving out of the courtyard.
“Sometimes I have to kick Trey in the nuts, if you’ll pardon my language, to get him to do what I want.” Clint stated with a slight grin.
Returning to the second floor office, Megan and Clint began their discussion again. As Clint talked, Megan jotted down notes. Later, she would add them to the database she’d previously started.
For the past six months, the Rockin’ J ranches had lost numerous high-dollar horses to theft. Every horse on all three ranches had been appraised by two certified equestrian appraisers. Clint had filed claims on each of the horses that were stolen. The first three claims had been paid, totaling more than a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. However, until further investigations could be made, the insurance company was withholding any more payments. To make the situation worse, Clint had received written notice they were terminating his coverage in thirty days.
“Can you get another insurance company to cover your horses?” Megan inquired.
“No one will touch the Rockin’ J.” Clint replied. “All these damn insurance companies work together. They’ve all blackballed me.”
“What about the police or sheriff’s department? Haven’t they been of any help?” She asked.
“Not one bit.” Clint answered. “We live outside the city limits. All we’ve got to work with is the sheriff’s department. With no more deputies than they have, they’re covered up with drug investigations, domestic violence calls and traffic accidents.”
“I have to sell a hundred-thousand dollars in horses every month to show a good bottom line.” He stated. “With the notoriety I’ve been getting, I’m scaring off alot of good buyers.”
“Ms. Reynolds. I’ll lay it on the line.” Clint stated. “If I don’t get this mess straightened out right away, I stand a good chance of having to liquidate some assets. Maybe even this house!”
“I’ll do everything I can to help you out.” Megan remarked. “But, I certainly can’t make any guarantees.”
“You’ve got to help me. That’s all there is to it.” Clint retorted. “Failure is not an option!”
“I don’t like being threatened, Mr. James!” Megan exclaimed. “I said I’d do everything I could and I meant it!”
“And another thing. If you ever talk to your son again like you did earlier this morning, I’m pulling out and leaving your ass hanging.” Megan added, picking up her purse and attaché. “One thing I do know about horses is what a horse’s ass looks like.”
“Ms. Reynolds, I apologize for my actions.” Clint muttered. “I’ll be sure to contain myself around Trey in the future.”
“I do hope you’ll still join me and my sons for dinner.” He said in a much calmer voice.
“Yes, I’ll be here by 6pm.” Megan responded.
Before leaving, Megan put her purse and attaché in her car, then walked out to get a closer look at some of the horses. Seeing them up close, gave her a sense of their spirit and their beauty.
Returning around 5:30 that evening, Megan was greeted at the door by Trey’s smiling face. Wearing dark dress slacks and a soft blue sport shirt, he looked even more handsome than she remembered. Megan had to force herself to take her eyes off him.
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