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Cowboy’s Princess: A Cowboy Romance by Thorne, Gigi, Gale, Abby (1)

1

Rhett

Heritage.

It's not a property to own. It's a part of the soul you lost. A part you need to plant, and watch grow into something that will honor its real owner.

Heritage is a responsibility. A promise to keep alive the part of their soul and memories you're given permission to keep.

As I walk around the big place, breathing in the beauty I grew up in, I'm not happy with what I'm doing with the duty.

Some of my employees are taking care of the animals, some are making sure the land is in good condition, but there's something dull in the place. The excitement and magic this place once had are now lost, and this is when I feel like I’m really losing my parents.

This ranch was their baby, their passion, the pride of their hard work. It was so much more than land. It carried a part of them, of their happiness and their sadness.

In my thirty years of life, it's the first time I've seen this place like this. Lifeless. Boring. Dead.

Heading for the stables, I check the horses.

“How is it going, James? Is Lily healthy?” I ask nodding my head toward the pregnant mare.

“They both seem healthy, Rhett. One more month until she gives birth,” James says. He's the vet of my ranch. He's been with us for fifteen years. And when I took over the ranch, I kept him even though I had to say goodbye to a few employees we had, since I wasn't sure what to do with this place yet. With all the animals and the distance from the city, I can't afford to take the risk of firing the vet my dad trusted so much. He knows the animals in here more than anyone, and that's the kind of people I should keep around, no matter what I decide to do with this place.

“Good. How is Rage?” I ask, walking closer to my favorite horse. With pitch black fur and his dangerous big body, Rage is definitely a beast, and he likes to act like one. I still remember the time my dad brought him here. He was furious even though he was just a foal. His mother was dead after she gave birth to him and he was so weak because he wouldn't let another horse feed him. I was sixteen then. Almost as furious as he was with all the teenager rebellion I had in me. Maybe that was why we got along so well. Because the little monster that didn't let anyone get close to him walked toward me on his unsteady feet. Me, out of all people. He let me feed him like a baby.

People think they choose their pets. I don't believe that. I think pets choose their owners. And Rage has chosen me.

“He's same ol’ Rage. Moody asshole. Like his owner.” James snorts.

“Don't complain. He didn't kill you.”

“Yet. And I don't know which one will do it. The horse or the owner,” he taunts me as usual before leaving the barn.

Rage lets me caress the soft fur over his nose as I try to think with his strong breathing in the background.

When my parents were here, this place was full of people. Everyone was buying or selling something. In the last six months since I have been here, the crowd has died down more and more each day. I can't keep waiting for them to get back. They probably already found new places to engage with.

“This place needs more, Rage,” I muse. Even though I look like I'm talking to myself, I always thought Rage understood me in a way. I can see the reflection of emotions in his dark eyes.

Guiding Rage out of his stall to the grooming area in the open, I tie him up even though I know he won't try to run away. Grabbing his body brush, I start to smooth his coat. The mindless job lets me focus on what I want for this place. And every day the image in front of me gets better, even though I still don’t know how to reach that point.

When my phone rings in my jeans pocket, I put the brush down. Rage isn't happy the little device in my hand takes away my attention from his usual routine, but when I offer him some hay, he seems to forgive me.

“Hey, posh boy,” I tease my brother.

“It's less work than being a cowboy, brother,” he fires back.

“Back in the states?” I ask. He's been in England, chasing another juicy business opportunity in the last two weeks.

“Yes. I came home yesterday. Jet lag is a bitch brother, I'm telling you,” he groans. “I slept all day.”

“Is it jet lag or the sleepless sexcapades that exhausted you, Brax?” I smirk, knowing damn well the answer.

“What can I say? Chicks can't say no to my charm.”

I laugh. Same ol’ Brax. The womanizer who can't be settled down.

“How is ranch?” he asks.

I lose the smile I had on my face as I look around the place that has too many great memories to count. “I don't know, Brax. It's not like the way it used to be. Something's missing.”

He sighs at the other end of the line. “A lot of things are missing, Rhett. But we have to accept that. It's been almost a year now. You know they want you to take care of the ranch. It's yours. And you're the only person who can make that place like it used to be. Maybe even better than that.”

I know he's right. Braxton has never been interested in this ranch. He loved the business side of the job. Unlike me, he prefers wearing suits and attending meetings to working on the fences or taking care of the animals.

“I don’t know where to start, brother,” I finally admit.

“Do you have any idea what to do with the place?”

“Kind of. Just don't know how I’ll get there,” I say and tell him the rough idea in my head.

“I may help you with that,” he says when I'm done. His voice turns to that professional tone I hear him use when he means business, so I know he doesn't think my idea is a bad one. That approval from my older brother gives me some confidence I need to start from somewhere.

“Give me a week. I'll get in touch with some people I trust and send them to you to discuss your plan with.”

“Don't send me those posh asshole friends of yours. I don't want a city boy to tell me what's good for my place,” I snap.

He laughs. “Always moody. Chill out a little brother. You'll get old fast,” he says before ending the call.

I hope he doesn't send over people who want to transform this place into one of those fake ass fancy hotels with ridiculous cocktails that has more fruit in them than booze.

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