A Change of Plans
The empty stock trailer banged and jumped along behind the truck as it made its way up the drive to the old Lewis homestead. Jezebel sat in the passenger seat next to Gabe, her upper body leaned against the door and her right foreleg draped out of the open window. The breeze parted the dense hair on her ruff and chest and lifted her ears while her head hovered just above the mirror. Her eyes were slanted in bliss as she took in the sharp mountain air.
Gabe whistled in awe when he rounded the bend and saw the piles of garbage stacked outside the cabin. The call from Brooke Laramie had come as a surprise, to say the least. He had given his presentation at Texas A&M Vet School months ago and still remembered the encounter at the dog park. He also recalled how Brooke had sat in the back of the auditorium her gray gaze direct and focused on him throughout his spiel. She had put in an application to intern with him for the following year, which would have been taking place now. Unfortunately, before he’d ever had a chance to actually get the sanctuary on its feet the negative emotions of his neighbors and the townspeople along with some mishandling of the release program by the government had brought him up short. As he backed the trailer up to the nearest pile he wondered what Brooke was doing here.
From the front window of the cabin Brooke watched as the truck came to a halt and Gabe got out, followed by the Leonberger. Dart let out an excited whine and then bounded out to meet Jez as she opened the door. Brooke was a little less exuberant in her greeting of Gabe. She was not looking forward to answering the questions that she knew would come when he found out she was no longer in vet school.
“Hey, thanks for coming. I was half afraid you would turn your rig around and drive back out when you saw all this junk.”
“It is something. Looks like Old Carper was saving up for the next Depression.”
“I’m not sure you could call this stuff necessary for survival but he was definitely saving.”
He smiled and met her eyes as she reached out her hand to shake his. Though brief, the contact was enough to cause a clench in his belly. Her skin was devoid of makeup and flawless. Her gray eyes looked out at him from beneath dark, naked lashes and her thick hair was swept away from her face and tied in the back making her graceful cheekbones prominent. He let go of her hand and motioned to the various appliances and boxes of periodicals that his trailer was backed up to.
“Well, guess we better get started.”
“Yeah, guess we better.”
Brooke and Gabe worked together in companionable silence lifting, lugging and dragging. After an hour the sweat had matted the wavy hair to Gabe’s forehead and pooled in spots to darken his navy blue t-shirt. Brooke watched out of the corner of her eye as he lifted a box of old magazines. His biceps bunched and the sun glinted off the golden sprinkle of hair on his forearms. Dang, but the man was sexy. As masculine as the hard labor had made Gabe look she had no doubt it had made her look less than feminine. In anticipation of the dirty work ahead she had left off her makeup and had pulled her blonde hair back into a simple ponytail. Her jeans and tank top had both seen better days. She tried to tell herself that she didn’t care. That she had dressed to work and that’s what they were doing and that to do anything else would have been silly. Which was true, except that the woman in her wished she had taken the time to at least put on some mascara and earrings.
“So, how is the wolf release stuff going?” Brooke asked as she carried her own box into the trailer.
“It’s not. I had a few setbacks that made me decide that maybe the timing wasn’t right.” Gabe shrugged his shoulders and continued on to lift an antiquated microwave.
Brooke puckered her eyebrows in disbelief at Gabe’s nonchalant tone. He had spoken so passionately about how the wolf had as much, if not more, right to roam the land as the cattle and humans that had overtaken it. He had said that he knew that they would be a threat to his livestock and therefore, his livelihood, but he found that only fair considering the lopsided history between man and wolf.
“What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be an intern somewhere?”
“Let’s just say I had a few setbacks of my own,” Brooke replied.
At that they both returned to their work. The trailer was jammed full when Gabe finally fastened the gate and turned to face Brooke.
“I’ll take this load and dump it. Then I’ve got some work I need to do at my place before the sun goes down. I’ll be back tomorrow to get the rest.”
“Alright. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help. All this junk was driving me crazy.”
“Not a problem,” he said with a grin then he turned to call for Jez.
At his call the two dogs, one shaggy and one slick, came flying out from the trees with tongues hanging. Brooke laughed at their obvious joy and Gabe found himself drawn to the lusty sound and her blithe expression. He let Jez into his truck, climbed in himself then started the engine and began the drive out. In his side mirror he could see Brooke standing in the road dust, her arms hugging herself and Dart smiling at her side.