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Gold In The Morning Sun ~
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Gold In The Morning Sun
© By Duke Stevens
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The next morning Tess woke up to a blaze of light flooding the cabin.
Walking to the window she saw an exploding sunrise which seemed to her as powerful as a sudden embrace that holds a promise.
Taking a chance that Clarence and Hannah Story would be unlikely to repeat their Apgar Lookout Trail hike she joined the group going out.
She was glad to see that Clarence and Hannah had gone on another outdoor excursion.
The weather was perfect. The bird-chatter seemed friendly, the mountain and valley views spectacular, the group welcoming and the employees and guides experienced.
No demands, no inconveniences, no intruding surprises.
Tess enjoyed it.
The next morning, Tess went over her first week at Mountain Meadows.
After the first day of hiking, she had joined a bus-load of guests being driven to Missoula for a shopping spree and a Missoula tour.
Later, she had attended yoga classes; had gone on a short horse ride that ended with a meadow picnic; had soaked in the hot tub; had relaxed in the sauna; had tried out the native game dinner and on a few evenings had walked over to the Canteen and watched the guests who played poker and other card games there.
She knew she should be expanding into new areas of exploration.
Every morning she had eaten breakfast at the restaurant and had kept a watch out for the arrival of Christopher McHugh. It wasn’t long that she’d heard that he was usually up before dawn and back at the restaurant two or three hours later to have his second cup of coffee. She wondered where he was spending those first three hours of the day.
Several mornings when she was eating breakfast there he had come sauntering into the serving area from the kitchen. Noticing her he would nod and send her a smile.
It seemed to Tess that speculation was always lying quietly in those piercing green eyes whenever he would look her way.
Chris McHugh was speculating about Tess Gallagher. He had made an effort to put his personal reaction to her out of his mind. He reminded himself that she was a guest which put her off-limits to his male interest.
Yet upon meeting Tess his brain had begun to resist his earlier careful avoidance of female guests and had allowed a slow but steady stream of nagging questions about her to come into mental view.
In spite of his resistance to the persistent internal inquiry about her, he had finally fallen prey to the questions. When Maggie had told him that Tess Gallagher had reserved a cabin for three months he had immediately wondered about such a long stay for a single woman. It wasn’t uncommon for a couple or family to spend two or three weeks vacation at Mountain Meadows but it was not common for a lone woman to reserve a three-month stay.
The questions began to mount. It was costly to stay at the ranch for this length of time. His mind kept going back to why she had come by herself. Was she sick and taking time out for a fresh look at life outside the requirements of her job and relationships?
Was this an effort seeking recovery from a romance that had fizzled or was it to help her recover from a divorce or was her motive for coming here none of the reasons he had considered?
As the week moved forward Chris had ventured deeper into seeking information about her with every spare minute given him. Exploring the net he had learned that she owned a catering service in Los Angeles.
A back-ground check revealed that the business made a profit but hadn’t made her wealthy. She was forty years old in March of this year. She had a business partner, Shannon Terry. Shannon was thirty-five. She had the same residence address as a Chuck Mason. Their address wasn't far from the catering business.
Chris couldn’t find any record of marriage or divorce for Ms. Tess Gallagher of Los Angeles anywhere. That information seemed to take away the possibility that coming to the ranch might have been an effort to recover from divorce.
It didn’t take away the possibility that it had been to secure time away from a failed or failing relationship.
Tess wasn’t aware of it but Chris had been keeping tabs on what she did every day. It hadn’t taken long before he could see that she was avoiding Clarence Story and his wife often waiting to choose something to do after they had left the ranch grounds.
On the day she had signed up for the Mountain Meadows horse ride and picnic, earlier memories of caution kicked-in and he struggled with his desire to be around her within a closer connection than a nod and a smile.
He concluded that it was expedient for him to back out of it and had asked an employee to fill-in for him. He finished the day with regret hounding him.
Tess Gallagher began the second week of her stay within a restless examination for why she hadn’t been able to find a way to be around Chris McHugh that would allow a route to a closer connection to him.
Asking herself if she simply wasn’t his type, Tess explored each time they had met. The longer she explored their brief meetings the more she saw that there was something in those moments that subdued her doubt that she wasn’t his type.
She realized that if her feelings were right about him she would have to find some way to get him to lower his policy of maintaining a distance from female guests.
This morning while walking over to the restaurant she hoped he would be there.
Coming through the kitchen doors he spotted her at a table finishing pancakes. She was dressed in a short-sleeved white cotton shirt open at the collar, silver hoops in her ears.
Looking closer, he saw that she wore the now familiar and pleasingly snug, bluejeans and riding boots. Enjoying the view of her soft breasts that the shirt allowed, he smiled thinking that the white blouse made her look more innocent and youthful. She seemed younger than the near forty figure in the report.
Maggie Owens had been about to leave the restaurant to go back to her office when Chris entered the serving area. She hesitated before turning to walk out the door wondering if anything would change between Chris and Tess Gallagher than the usual nod of his head toward her and that speculative smile.
This morning Tess Gallagher didn’t appear to be aware of Chris McHugh’s entrance into the room. Maggie thought she looked relaxed and meditative. She was gazing out the window.
Disappointed that she hadn’t turned to look at him, Chris followed an impulse to walk past her table. He carried his usual second cup of coffee of the day in his right hand.
Maggie saw it happen. She experienced it as though it took place in slow-motion. Just as Chris McHugh reached Tess Gallagher’s table, Tess abruptly grabbed her purse and moved out into the aisle running into him.
Her body impacted his with frontal force sending the hand holding the cup in a swooping motion away from them in his attempt to stop its steaming contents from spilling all over himself and Tess.
His left arm grabbed Tess in an attempt to stabilize their bodies bringing her tighter against himself while he grappled with the swooping coffee cup.
In spite of the shock of their encounter, Chris took in the pleasing sensation rushing through his body the moment their bodies stilled.
When his startled “Whoa!” shot into the room other customers turned to look at the scene.
Apparently shocked, Tess uttered quickly, “Oh, I’m sooo sorry!” Not fighting the delight soaring through her at the contact of his body now held against hers, her arms went around him.
Maggie wanted to laugh but held it back now mesmerized by the scene taking place in front of her eyes. For long moments Chris McHugh had not backed away from Tess. She hadn’t backed away from him. He was looking down directly into her eyes and Tess was clearly loving every millisecond of the moment.
“Hi! I’m Chris McHugh.”
“Hello Chris McHugh, I’m Tess Gallagher.”
Chris felt a thrill run through him when she spoke his name. He hadn’t missed the sensual tone in her voice.
Tess felt his hardness erupt into their embrace. Smiling a slow welcome of his manhood into his eyes, she saw a light change of color begin to move up into his face.
From where she was standing, Maggie saw the brief embarrassment that crossed Chris McHugh’s handsome face thinking, “This gal must be on a time-table.”
Remembering Chris McHugh’s history, she chuckled thinking, “Maybe she should have reserved six months.”
Keeping her eyes on Chris McHugh and Tess Gallagher the poem that Maggie had found in Chris McHugh’s desk five years before came back to her in full force.
In her mind’s eye it seemed as though she were looking at the fading ink of the poem handwritten in his script all over again.
Gold In The Morning Sun
I ache for a woman, warm and free,
To take my hand and walk beside me.
Steadfast spirit, faithful and true.
I’ve been lookin’ for that woman,
My whole life through.....
And when that woman finds me -
Sorrow’s on the run...
There’ll be silver in the stars -
And Gold In The Morning Sun!
Robbed of my children, falsely accused.
Years of hardship, Justice refused.
Day after day, I’ve tread this path.
I’m alone and weary, but holding fast.
And when my woman finds me -
Sorrow’s on the run...
There’ll be silver in the stars -
And Gold In The Morning Sun!
I long for that Gal, who’ll stand by me.
She'll touch my heart, most tenderly.
I’ll hold her close! I’ll hold her fast!
The pain that’s been... will now be past.
And when that woman finds me -
Sorrow’s on the run...
There’ll be silver in the stars -
And Gold In The Morning Sun!
Coming back to the moment, Maggie Owens realized she was glad Tess Gallagher had come to the ranch. She had never seen such an expression on Chris McHugh’s face. She liked it.
Maggie hoped that Tess would turn out to his gold in the morning sun.
He was past due.
Customers smiled and went back to their former conversations exchanging amused looks.
Maggie Owens left the restaurant with a smile on her face wondering when the betting would begin.
Chris McHugh put his coffee cup down on the table Tess had just vacated. Sitting down, he motioned for her to reseat herself, “I might as well finish my coffee right here. Will you stay a while?”
She smiled and sat down across from him, “Okay!”
“Would you like something?”
“A cup of coffee?”
“Coming up!” Glancing toward a waitress he lifted up his cup and nodded toward Tess.
The waitress brought it over and placed it in front of her, “Black or?”
“Black is fine thanks.”
His mind whirled. He was breaking his own rules. He wondered who would be the first employee to complain. Bringing the coffee cup to his lips, he glanced around the room over its rim checking to see who might be watching them.
His eyes didn’t meet anyone’s gaze. The employees appeared to have gone back to their work and the customers were now concentrating on finishing their meals.
Tess was questioning if she should have sat down beside him instead of across from him. In seconds she decided she had made the right choice.
“How do you like the ranch so far?”
Smiling she said, “I like it! The air is wonderful, the valleys and meadows peaceful and the mountains magnificent.”
She wanted to add and some of the men in Montana are incredibly goodlooking. She didn’t.
She paused then asked, “ Do you go out on any of the group activities?”
Remembering that he had opted out of the horse ride and picnic she had recently been on, he nodded, “Yes, I usually lead the Mountain Meadows horse ride and picnic.”
“When will you do that again?” she asked.
Holding back a laugh he realized he enjoyed the direct way she flirted with him, “It’ll be on the schedule.... Will you come?”
Tess said softly, “I’ll be there.”
Shifting his position in his chair he kept his eyes fixed on hers.
His smile deepened, “You know, I shouldn’t be fraternizing with the guests, don’t you?”
“I heard that...”
With a low chuckle he said, “I think maybe you won’t be easy to ignore.”
Laughing lightly, she said, “I hope not.”
Chris McHugh felt a stirring of something long hidden.
They spent the next few minutes making light conversation. He explained how the dude ranch had gotten its beginning and the circumstances of his finding his way to it. He asked her what she did when she wasn’t vacationing and she provided him verification of the information his back-ground check on her had provided him.
Glancing at the clock on the wall Chris pushed his empty coffee cup away from him, “Guess I’d better get back to work.”
She nodded. They walked to the restaurant door together.
Outside, he presented his right hand to her. Looking down into her eyes, he said, “It was nice meeting you, Tess Gallagher. I hope you enjoy your stay at Mountain Meadows.”
Sliding her fingers into his she felt a swift pleasure roll through her when his strong handclasp enclosed her hand, “I hope I do too, Mr. McHugh.”
Her eyes smiled into his, “Chris, it is.”
Reluctantly, he let go of her hand. He turned and began moving toward the ranch office. A few feet out, he turned around and glanced back toward her.
Seeing she hadn’t moved but was watching him walking away from her, he lifted his hand bringing it up with extended fore-finger to his head. He saluted her, “Have a good day!”
Tess felt regret when he had turned to walk away from her. She couldn’t take her eyes off his retreating back. His long legs moved his body forward within a sensual masculine stride. The blue jeans didn’t hide his sexy thighs and firm buttocks. His strong chest covered this morning in a navy-blue cowboy shirt brought to memory his naked upper body she’d seen during the roof repair.
Smiling, she returned his pleased grin and seductive salute. Sighing, she told herself to move. Glancing around the now busy ranch grounds she began walking toward her cabin telling herself to be careful.
She hadn’t come here to fall in love with Mr. Christopher McHugh.
In her cabin Tess looked over the schedule of events. She thought about simply doing nothing today. Her body was sore from previous activities.
Glancing toward the television she decided to click it on.
Fifteen minutes later her cell phone rang.
Shannon asked, “Hi! Have you heard from Rod?”
“Have you checked your messages this morning?”
“Check them... I forgot to tell you earlier that he’s trying to get hold of you.”
“When did he first contact you?”
“A couple of days ago... maybe three?”
“We’re done! He knows that. Did he say why?”
Shannon didn’t say anything for several seconds then asked, “He may not believe that?”
“I’ve been on that boat going nowhere long enough... He and I’ve been through all of this before.”
“I know, but I wanted to warn you he’s lookin’ for you. I told him I didn’t know where you were and that you wouldn’t be back for three months... Sorry, I forgot until this morning.”
Tess said, “No problem... What was his reaction?”
“He didn’t believe I didn’t know where you were... He was annoyed that I wouldn’t tell him.”
“Okay! Thanks for calling. I’ll check the messages.... How’s it goin' there?”
“No problems so far! Keep me up-to-date, okay?”
Tess took the time to go through the morning’s encounter with Chris. When she had finished Shannon giggled, “It sounds like he is attracted to you.”
Tess grinned, “Maybe....”
Shannon was laughing softly as she clicked out of the call.
Tess stretched. Reopening her cell phone, she checked her messages.
Rod Dante had left a message.
Clicking open the voice mail she heard his deep voice, “Tess? I want to talk to you. Please return this call.”
She resisted the seductive pull on her that hearing his voice had triggered. Remembering their troubled four-year history together she steeled herself against its power.
Muttering softly, she said, “I think not, ‘Big Guy!’”
His voice had instantly brought back the power of his presence.
The first time she had seen “Big Guy” Rodrigo Dante was at an International Fancy Food and Confection Show in San Diego four years earlier.
Shannon and she had attended the show hoping to find new products to enhance their expanding list of foods and confections offered to their customers.
Tess had just finished trying out a French pastry and was licking her lips at its pleasing taste when a tall man walked over, looked down at her and said, “That's the way I feel when I look at you.”
Looking up into bright blue eyes, she had smiled, “Really?”
To Tess Gallagher, Rod Dante had looked like a misplaced lumberjack. He was six, five, broad shouldered and carrying some extra weight he didn't need. A few strands of his greying curly black hair had fallen forward into his eyes but hadn’t hidden the sparkle in them.
She was to learn later that he was Top Chef at a prestigious Los Angeles restaurant, The Morning Glory. Their relationship would turn out to be fun only for its first six months. After that it would hold frequent fights leading to many breaking-up and making-up episodes. If it hadn't been for his sense of humor Tess would not have stayed with him as long as she had.
They had finally agreed that for the relationship to survive they would be faithful to each other. If one of them wanted out it would become a done-deal. No fighting about it. No harassing the other. No looking back.
After learning of Rod’s last sexual escape Tess terminated their relationship for good. For six weeks he had left her alone. Then she began receiving a barrage of emails, letters and phone calls telling her that he couldn’t forget her... No one was like her... He had made another dumb mistake... She had to forgive him.
Tess had gone over their last four years together. Gazing at herself in the mirror she had reexamined what she wanted the rest of her life to hold and couldn’t come up with a rational answer to why she should begin doing Rodrigo Dante all over again.
She told him to leave her alone.
Apparently he had lost his hearing.
When the office door opened and Chris McHugh walked through it, Maggie Owens lifted her head. She wanted to ask him what he thought about Tess Gallagher but held it back.
An hour later the telephone rang for the tenth time.
Chris looked up when she remained silent for long seconds.
“Yes, this is Mountain Meadows Dude Ranch.”
After pausing, Maggie looked toward Chris and raised her eyebrows. She said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Dante but we do not give out the names of our guests or where they are from.”
Chris felt apprehension slide through him.
This time, Maggie’s tone turned cool, “Mountain Meadows is open to the public.”
When she hung up, he asked, “What was that about?”
Frowning, Maggie said, “A Rodrigo Dante is looking for Tess Gallagher.”
“What was his reaction when you told him we don’t give out guest information?”
“He didn’t like it. His tone got brittle and pushy.... Should I tell Ms. Gallagher?”
Chris glanced out the window, “No, I’ll tell her.”
Maggie’s eyes filled with an amused knowing look.
Turning his gaze back toward Maggie, Chris grinned, “What?”
“Nothing, Mr. McHugh.”
Maggie could see the smile in his eyes but held her tongue.
Spending the rest of the morning on the account books, Chris McHugh was finding it difficult to keep his mind off Tess Gallagher. The telephone inquiry implied that she may have come to the ranch running away from a relationship. It had been obvious the guy hadn’t been sure she was here.
Wondering how Dante had tracked her this far, Chris sighed asking himself if trouble were coming.
He shut down the computer, shoved back his chair and strolled over to the water fountain to get a drink before going to the restaurant and eating lunch.
Minutes earlier Maggie Owens had left for her lunch break.
Glancing at the door of cabin nine, Chris McHugh's eyes shot back toward the computer. He accessed Zabasearch.com and looked around for a Rod Dante typing California as the state to look in. The name came up but no residence or business address with it.
Los Angeles popped up beside Rodrigo Dante’s name.
Minutes later he quit looking around the net and shut off the computer. Lifting his eyes to once again look toward cabin nine he saw Tess Gallagher shutting the cabin door behind her.
Tess Gallagher saw Chris McHugh open the office door. He looked around the ranch grounds and then began striding toward her. He raised his hand as though he wanted to talk to her. She wasn’t sure he was directing that wave to herself. Thinking about stopping and waiting for him to catch up with her, she hesitated.
She didn’t want to misinterpret his intentions.
He nodded to her and kept his pace directed toward her.
She decided to stop walking and wait for him. Keeping her eyes on his easy stride, she wondered if his son and daughter were as attractive as he was. Tess hoped they would come to the ranch soon. She wanted to see them.
The sounds of the western meadowlark filled the air. She saw a pair of bluebirds swoop down toward the grass and flit quickly up into the air again. Swallows and humming birds buzzed around the grounds.
The day was crisp and sunny.
Guests were heading toward the restaurant to have their noon meal.
Stopping in front of her, he asked, “Got a minute?”
“Are you going to eat lunch now?”
“Yes, are you?”
“Yes.” They began to move together toward the restaurant.
He looked like a man with something on his mind.
As they neared the restaurant door he stopped her and directed her toward a ranch bench.
Sitting down, he said, “Will you sit down?”
She lowered herself beside him.
Turning to look directly into her eyes he said, “A Rodrigo Dante called this morning asking if you were here... I thought you should know.”
He saw her body tense, “Did you tell him I was here?”
“No, we don’t give out the names of our guests.”
Tess felt stunned at Rod’s audacity to attempt to track her down. She looked away from Chris. She couldn’t imagine how Rod had gotten so close to her vacation destination so soon. Shannon had not told him where she was.
Her mind raced. She wondered what had caused Rod to decide to go this far in finding her instead of waiting for her to return home.
Chris reached for her hand. His gentle touch shot pleasantly through her.
“Is there something about this man’s inquiry I should know about?”
Tess brought her eyes back to meet his, “Are you asking if he’s dangerous?”
“Something like that.”
“I haven’t any reason to think so... But, I wouldn’t have thought he would track me down either. So I guess I don’t know what to say.”
Chris could see she was reluctant to discuss her connection with Rod Dante.
Nodding slowly he lifted his hand from hers, “If he comes here and you are uncomfortable about it we may be able to do something that will send him away.”
Taking out a small card he handed it to her, “Here’s my cell-phone number... If you ever need me, day or night - call me. Okay?”
Accepting the card, she relaxed, “Thank you!”
Chris thought she looked as though she had something else she wanted to say to him. He waited.
Tess grinned, “Will you have lunch with me?”
He fought down the desire to lean over and kiss her. Instead, he sent her a warm inviting smile, “I’d like to do that but maybe it’s better not to do it right now.”
The question went through her mind if a staff member had asked him about their encounter this morning. She got up from the bench.
Tess smiled at him and walked into the restaurant alone thinking, “This is going to be much more difficult than Shannon envisioned.”
Chris McHugh spent the rest of the day helping Rob Owens in the workshop and going over with Maggie Owens several problems that had cropped up with the maid service. He later talked with Jake about a complaint about the food service.
For the rest of the day he had carried the image of Tess Gallagher as she had looked when asking him if he would share lunch with her.
At day’s end he had walked to the restaurant and ordered his dinner hoping Tess would be there or soon walk through the door. Not seeing her, he felt a new sadness begin to stalk him as he left the restaurant and headed toward his cabin.
Tess spent the rest of the day in her cabin.
By 4:00P.M. she ventured out for an early dinner. She finished it without seeing Chris McHugh and walked back to her cabin to take the evening shower early.
Stepping out of the shower stall she tossed her hair away from her face. Glancing in the mirror, she wondered if she had misread Chris’ male reaction to her.
Slipping into the silk nightgown she enjoyed the feel of it as it slid over the curves of her body.
The minute she had laid eyes on it she knew she was going to own it. She had chosen the gown with its sky blue softness because it had reminded her of the sweetest looking baby boy she’d ever seen wrapped in a blue blanket giggling up at her, adorable in his packaging of sky blue.
She liked the memory.
Walking to the bed she fluffed up a couple of pillows and lowered herself on the bed’s yielding comfort.
Leaning back against the pillows she clicked the remote reactivating the television.
With half of her concentration she caught the drift of the program and allowed the rest of her mind to revisit her brief interactions with Christopher McHugh.
Tess knew she couldn’t spend the rest of her time here in her cabin. Wandering around in her options on how to spend the time at the ranch, Tess could see that while she wasn’t used to a lot of physical activity her long commitment to daily exercises had helped prepare her for the outdoor excursions the ranch vacation offered her each day.
She would need to make a choice about tomorrow.
Rod Dante’s image shot into mental view. Sighing, she examined their history together wondering if he would take time off his job to come here and attempt to talk to her should he confirm she was here.
Making a quick decision she flipped open her cell-phone and returned his call. He didn’t pick up.
Leaving a message, she said, “Rod, I’ve not changed my mind. Please respect that decision and don’t call again.”
Pausing, she finished, “We agreed to let the other go, remember?”
By 9:00P.M., Tess had fallen asleep with the television still on.
Six hours later she woke with a start. A low bark close by had awaken her.
Listening carefully she heard the bark ascend into the high pitch howl of a wolf. As the howling continued she listened for a returning answer from his pack or the wolf’s mate.
Sitting upright, she stretched and looked toward the clock. It was 3:00A.M.
Lifting herself from the bed, she moved across the room to where the window was exposing a bright moon-lite night carrying into its silence the wolf’s continued cry. She couldn’t hear a mixture of replies to his call and she realized this was a lone wolf calling for his mate.
Knowing a wolf can hear sounds over six miles away she waited for an answering howl.
Suddenly a low bark sounded at a distance, echoing back a single ascending reply to the calls of the dominate wolf.
Trying to locate their meeting, she spotted the male waiting for his companion to come to him again. Attempting to measure him, she thought he might be over five feet long, perhaps one-hundred and sixty pounds. His powerful chest and commanding posture told her that here was an alpha wolf.
Her breath caught as he lifted himself gracefully into the air coming off his perch on a large grouping of rocks to bound toward his mate, his large front paws and sturdy hind feet hurling himself across the distance that separated them.
Meeting, they bounced around each other on tip toes, nuzzling noses. She thought the enthralling scene taking place against the backdrop of the full moon worth the cost of the trip to Montana even if nothing else she wanted would take place.
Watching them, she shuddered at the thought of being out alone near a pack of wolves of any size, hungry and hunting. She knew wolves usually hunted in packs because they preferred larger prey than the less-acceptable meal of smaller game.
Tess didn’t believe the more recent economically self-serving view of the skittish and human-avoiding wolf pack as being presented by some reintroduction groups.
The adrenaline rush the wolf call had ignited in her brought her fully awake with only a slight interest in attempting to go back to sleep.
She gave up the thought.
Turning away from the scene when the pair had turned and briskly rushed away from the place where they had met, her eyes scanned the campgrounds.
Taking in Chris McHugh’s cabin, she could see the windows remained dark.
Seeing the dim lights of the Canteen she decided to throw on a robe and go over and get a fruit drink out of the machines.
After shutting and locking the cabin door, she walked briskly toward the Canteen. The early morning air was cool with a breeze building up. Elk bugling sounds filled the night coming from a distance. A series of Elk high pitched screams followed.
The campgrounds held an eerie quiet now. To the far side of the camp, she could see the security guard enter the barn and a few seconds later exit its entrance and begin walking his routine hike around the outside of the stables.
He hadn’t seemed to have noticed her.
Opening the Canteen door quietly she moved to the back of the building where the food machines were sitting. Choosing a Blueberry Pomegranate drink she slipped the change into the machine waiting for the bottle to slide to the bottom of the tray.
Picking it out of the bottom shelf, she opened it then turned and walked toward one of the pine tables positioned by the Juke Box and sat down.
Sipping the drink slowly, she wondered if she activated the Juke Box if it would send the music too loud into the building and disturb the ranch guests in the near-by cabins.
Walking over to it she poured over the selections. Muttering to herself, she said, “Maybe I ought to try a soft melody to see how loud the volume is.”
Holding the coin in her hand, she hesitated. Making the decision to see if she could find an outside volume control she tried to look at the back of the Juke Box. Spotting one, she relaxed.
Choosing “Love Me Tender” sung by Jim Ed Brown, she let the coin fall, heard it settle and pressed the button.
The music soared into the room smashing the silence. Rapidly seeking the volume control button she tried to turn the sound lower. She turned it the wrong way making it louder.
“Oh, my God!” shot out of her mouth as she hurried to twist the loose and unwieldy button in the opposite direction.
This time the music began moving through the building within a soothing stream of quieted melody.
Looking like a startled deer she remained frozen into place for several seconds listening for someone yelling to shut off the music or to come barging into the Canteen to scold her for being here at this early hour and activating the Juke Box.
No one yelled and no one came into the Canteen.
Relaxing, she allowed herself to be caught up the words of the song
In the next cabin Chris McHugh had been jerked awake by the sudden intrusion of music playing loudly.
“What the hell?” shot out of his mouth as his eyes flew open.
Glancing toward the clock, it read, “3:15A.M.”
Grabbing his cell-phone off the night-stand he called security, “Did you hear that?”
John Landers chuckled, “You mean the music?
Not sure what he had heard now that he was fully awake, Chris said, “I guess that’s what I heard.”
“Yes, I heard it... There’s a female guest in the Canteen. Do you want me to tell her to turn it off?”
“Who is it?”
“I don’t know her name.... from cabin nine.”
His heart picked-up its beat. Chris said, “Okay! No, don’t bother... She must have found the volume control.”
John Landers smiled to himself, “Right.”
Walking over to the window Chris McHugh looked down at the Canteen. He knew that John Landers rarely missed anything going on at the ranch. Retired cop, bored with retirement, kept himself in shape, emotionally secure and happily married. Chris was glad to have him.
He was grateful it was John on night duty. Chris flipped the cell-phone lid shut.
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Gold In The Morning Sun
By Duke Stevens
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