Three days had passed by. I drove back to the house, thinking he wouldn't be there. I wanted to gather my belongings, and just move on, even though it was killing me. He was constantly on my mind, a vision of him was always in front of my closed eyes as I tried to sleep, not that I could sleep from all the crying I was doing. My throat was constantly tight, and my chest was always pounding. I was feeling sick.

I pulled into the driveway, it was empty, no truck. I was relieved, I don't think I could take seeing him. I knew in the back of my mind, Evie was probably watching for me, so I needed to hurry, get everything, and then, go talk to her. I pulled out my key and went to put it in the lock, but the door opened. My eyes went wide, as Steve was standing there.

"I didn't think you were here." I croaked through my tight throat. His eyes watered.

"I put the truck in the garage. I didn't think you'd stop if you saw it." He took a step toward me, I backed up.

"What about work? I thought you had a new area to go do?" Croaking, again. I cleared my throat as best I could.

"I called my boss, told him I needed some time...Kevin...I..." I held up my hand to stop him.

"Please." I looked down at the ground. "I just came to get my stuff." I turned to walk away. "I'll come back, later..."

"Please, wait." He said softly. "Please." I stopped, my back to him, my head hanging down. Tears were dropping from my eyes on the sidewalk. "I want to say how sorry I..."

"Spare me." I said, looking out toward the street. "I'm in enough pain." I said, with anger in my voice. I turned and looked back at him. He looked like hell, hair everywhere, clothes all wrinkled. Looks like he hasn't slept much either. "I don't need to hear some empty apology. You want something that I can't give, something that I can't do. It's best if I just go. If it's alright, I'll have Evie take my things, and I'll pick them up from her." He stepped toward me, reaching out to take me in his arms. I backed up another step. "Don't touch me." I growled. He didn't listen, he scooped me up and pulled me to him, squeezing me, burying his face in my shoulder. He started sobbing heavily. My tears were running freely now, down my neck.

"I miss you so much." He sobbed. "I was so scared I would never see you again. I didn't know where to look for you." He took a deep breath. This big beautiful man was falling apart on me.

"This doesn't change anything. You are who you are, I am who I am." I croaked again.

"I love you so much." He pulled back from me, letting me go. "Please, Kevin, please, could you give me a chance to change it, to make it better? Please? I know I made a mistake thinking the way I did, it was wrong of me. Please, come inside. Can't we talk about it?" He was almost whispering through his falling tears.

"No." I said, clearing my throat again. "I know how it's going to go. It'll be like when we were on the mountain. You trying to explain it away. You are who you are. I can't expect you to change overnight. I'll come back for my things later, another time." I turned and walked away, leaving him, standing there.

"It starts with both of us." He called out after me. I stopped before the corner of the garage, my back still to him. Just as I was about to turn, Evie came running around the corner into me. She stepped back a step, looking at me, running her hands up and down my arms. Her eyes were wet as well. She breathed out and then threw her arms around my neck, squeezing me. I just stood there. She let me go, and then backed up, punching me in the shoulder.

"That's for scaring me!" I just stood there. She punched me again. "That's for not calling me!" She hugged me again, then let me go. "Are you alright? You look terrible. Looks like you need some coffee." She looked past me toward Steve. "Don't just stand there, you big dummy, go make some coffee!" She grabbed me again. "Have you eaten? My God, you're so thin and pale. Come on." She turned me around and pushed me along with her into the house. She shut the door, and guided me over to a stool at the kitchen counter. "Honestly, you two, you're both a mess." She stepped around the counter and went to the sink, running some water, grabbing a clean dish cloth, getting it wet, wringing it out. She came back around and wiped my face off. She held my chin with one hand, looking back and forth into my eyes. She turned and looked at Steve, she tossed him the rag, and just glared at him. "Wipe your face." She snapped at him, coming back around the counter, making him flinch like a whipped puppy. "What's the matter with you?" She snapped.

"I thought you were going to hit me again." Steve said, softly.

"I should," she snapped at him, leaning toward him, "it might do you some good. Most of this is your fault, you big jerk. Look at him," she said, pointing at me, "he's an absolute mess."

"Evie," I croaked. She came around the counter and took a hand, patting it. "I just want to get my things." She got really mad.

"Now, you listen to me, Kevin." She started, shaking a finger at me. "This is as much your home, as it is his. You made it that way." She looked back and forth between us. "Now, I don't care how you do it, I don't care what you tell each other, but you two are going to get this straightened out! Or, by God, I'm beat the hell out of both of you with a frying pan! Now, talk."

Steve cleared his throat and came around the counter, sitting on the stool next to me. He looked at the floor. "Kevin, I was wrong in what I thought. It was wrong of me to only keep you here without thinking of what you want. I was wrong about the job, and about the house. I know now what you were trying to do, and I was being stupid, very stupid. I just feel the need to provide everything."

"Why?" I croaked.

"I don't know. I just want to take care of you." He said softly.

"We were suppose to take care of each other."

"And I thought that's what we were doing."

"No, you want me in a cage. Inside these four walls. It would be like...Darrin and Billy. I can't live like that." Tears rolled out of my eyes, dropping on my lap. "I need to able to do things with my life. I look at Darrin, talk to him, and he's a prisoner in that house. Is that what you want for me?"

"No." He whispered. "Another reason is...I'm afraid that you might meet someone else. Someone who might take you away from"

"Mitch." I said softly. "That's what this is really all about, isn't it? You lost Mitch to someone else." Steve nodded, looking down at the floor. "That's what you were trying to tell me on the mountain..." I whispered, croaking. I touched his hand. "I would have only have left you if you wanted me to. But now, I feel like your pushing me out."

"No. I only wanted to keep you, keep you safe. I was stupid." He looked up and saw Evie, her eyes wet. "It took someone else to show me I was wrong." He mouthed a thank you to her. She smiled back at him, briefly. Obviously, she was still mad.

"That still doesn't make it right." I whispered, still croaking. Something was wrong with my voice, my throat was killing me. I hadn't really talked to anyone in the past three days.

"I know." Steve whispered. "Kevin, I want to make this right by you. I want you to be able to trust me. I want you to be able to know...that you are safe, here, with me."

"I did!" I yelled, "I felt safe! Every time you held me in your arms! Every time you made love to me! When we would fall asleep together, you would hold me, wrapping me in your arms!" I cried out hoarsely, tears streaming. "But, you started to suffocate me! You wouldn't let do what I needed to do! Oh, God! Why? You should have trusted me! I had so many times, chances to screw this up! And I didn't! It's because, I love you! You should have trusted me!"

"I know, baby, you're right. I thought I did, but I really didn't. Jason is an example. I knew you didn't sleep with him...but I didn't trust're right." Steve took a deep breath. "I was wrong."

"You bet you were wrong!" I yelled, croaking. My voice was giving out."I don't know what else I can do to prove it to you. I only wanted you, no one else. No matter who they were, no matter how they were, I only wanted you." I took in a deep breath, coughing, sounding like a barking seal. "You're the only thing that matters to me, my life, my breath, my soul. I only wanted to do for you." My facial expression changed, deep raging anger took me over. "And, you spit in face. You tried to control me, conceal me, keep me in your pocket. Who the hell are you, anyway? And what gives you the right?" I stood up from the stool, looking down on him. My voice was so gravelly, "Now, I'm going to gather my things, and I'm walking out that door." I leaned close to his face, so very, very angry. "I will never see you again, or want to hear from you again. Are you good with that?!"

Steve's eyes were wide, looking at me like I was some sort of crazy man or something. Perhaps I was, but I was done being controlled and manipulated. I didn't wait for an answer. Steve only gulped in response. I glanced at Evie, who had a hand to her mouth, looking at me in utter shock. I turned and walked down the hall.

In the bedroom, I quickly filled the boxes that my Mother had brought with all my clothes. I kicked them toward the door, filling more and more up. I really didn't have a plan, but at this point, I didn't care. I really just wanted to get out of here, in one piece. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and turned and looked, it was Evie standing in the doorway. She still had a shocked look on her face. I turned back to what I was doing. She came over and grabbed me.

"WHAT?!" I screamed. "I JUST WANT TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!" I pulled away from her, filling boxes, with the new clothes.

"Stop!" She said, "Think of what you're doing! He's pouring his heart out and you're stepping on it!"


"Kevin, calm down." Evie was doing her best, trying to get me under control. "He really means it, I know it." She grabbed me again, spinning me around. "Does he ever apologize? Think, Kevin, think!" I was breathing so hard, sweating so much. I really didn't feel good at all. My head was spinning, Evie was all distorted looking to me.


"Kevin? Kevin?!" She called at me, then, "STEVE!!!"

My eyes were opening. All I could see was a bright light. I squinted and blinked. Yep, still a bright light, very intense. It was blinding me. Why the hell didn't someone turn off the light? I licked my lips, they were so dry. It was like being in the desert, no water, not sunlight, but just bright light.

"Kevin." A soft voice, calling out my name.

"Yes." I croaked. "I'm here."

"I know you are, sweetie. Can you hear me?"

"Uh, huh." I croaked, again.

"Here, lift your head a little. I want you to take some water." I felt the wet on my crusty lips. "That's good. Now, you lay back down. Sleep, okay?"

I woke up, it was almost pitch black. I didn't know what time it was. I didn't know where I was. I was comfortable though, very familiar to me somehow. I gasped and sat up, a total feeling of fear was enveloping me. I looked around the dark room. I saw a figure sitting in a chair across from me. It was not moving. I moved, though, crawling toward it. I got to the end of a bed? I stepped off, crouching, leaning toward the figure, I touched it in the dark. It didn't move. I stood a little taller, moving closer, I poked at it with a finger, no movement. I turned to go back, and heard it breath. I poked at it again. This time it jumped, scaring me as well.

"Kevin." A voice in the dark said.

"What?" I croaked. "What do you want?" I climbed back on the bed, grabbing the sheet. "Who are you?" Croaking, horribly.

"It's me, sweetie." I recognized that voice, that tone. I wanted to melt. I was so scared, I reached out my arms. "I got you, sweetie." Was all I heard, "I've got you." The whispers from the dark. I closed my eyes.

I opened my eyes slowly. Daylight was streaming into the window over the bed. I looked around without moving my head. I heard movement around me, but was too scared to move my head. My right arm hurt really bad. I rolled my eyes and looked at it. It was bruised at the inside elbow joint and there was a piece of tape over a cotton ball? My mouth tasted like hell, and I smacked my lips together.

"Well, look who's finally alive? It's about time too, because I have about ten thousand things to do at home, and I'm tired of nurse aiding your tiny butt. It's like I was saying, he'll either pull through or he's just gonna die. I prefer the fact that you're alive, but my, what a pain in the rear you really are. I was just telling the doctor that yesterday. He, of course, just ignored me, never mind the fact that I really know what's going on, and who knows you, better than me..."

"Evie." I croaked out. "Could I have some water, please?"

"Why, the first sensible thing that you've asked for in days. Of course, you can, Kevin. Let me just get that for you." She held a glass with a straw for me. I took a long drink.

"I have a thousand questions..." I croaked.

"Only five." She held up a hand, as she was sitting on the edge of the bed. "Let me answer them for you. You're at home, in your bed. Yes, you're alive. No, it's been four days." She was unfolding fingers as she went. "Yes, you did some pretty crazy things. No, you can't get out of bed yet."

"The most important question," I croaked out.

She smiled. "He's in the kitchen." She leaned down and kissed my forehead. "He never left your side after you collapsed. He's been here the whole time, day and night." She smiled at me, almost whispering. "I think he's making more coffee, and no, you can't have any. Not yet. Dr. Evans should be here this afternoon."

"What happened to my arm?"

"Dr. Evans had an intravenous feed set up in your arm. You were severely dehydrated. Kevin, you almost died. Honestly, I don't know what you were thinking." She got up off the bed. "They wanted to take you to the hospital, but Steve insisted that we take care of you here at home."

"I need to go to the bathroom." I croaked, throwing back the sheet. I slowly swung my legs to the floor, trying to stand, but couldn't. Evie came and helped me up, I felt so weak, just trying to get myself to the bathroom. I felt another set of hands on me in a moment. I looked over my shoulder, it was Steve. He scooped me up and carried me into the bathroom. Then, he carried me back to bed, then laying me gently down, my arm around his neck. I smiled at him, silently thanking him for helping. He kissed my forehead, a tear dropping on the pillowcase from his eye. I sighed softly at them both. Evie tucked me in, under the sheet.

"No more heroics, mister." She scolded, shaking a finger at me. She leaned down and kissed me again. "I'm going home. Brian is coming over tonight." She said with a twinkle in her eye. "I'll close the bedroom window." She winked at me. I smiled up at her. "I'll see you in the morning." She put a hand on Steve's shoulder, who was only staring at me.

"I probably look like a real mess, huh?" I croaked out.

"Seven days without a shower, yeah, you look like ten miles of bad road." He smiled.

"Thanks." I tried to clear my throat again, then reaching for the water. He jumped for it, picking it up, sitting gently on the edge of the bed. He held it for me, letting me suck the straw. I let it go, clearing my throat again. I tried to sit up, but was really weak.

"Dr. Evans says you should have some broth when you wake up. I've been warming some on the stove. Would you like some?" I nodded. "I'll go get it." He spun up and raced out of the room. He came back a few minutes later, tray in hand, bowl, spoon, napkin, and more water, this time with ice. He helped me sit up, and spoon fed me the broth, wiping my mouth every once in a while, so gently. Doorbell. Steve looked at me, with a surprised look on his face. "Might be Dr. Evans, I'll be right back." Steve set the tray at the foot of the bed, and dashed out of the room. He reentered, sliding up to the bed, sitting down, picking up the tray. A man in a suit walked in. He was tall and large. He carried the proverbial doctor bag. He set it down on the bed.

"Well, this is a pleasant surprise." He said in a booming voice. "I'm Dr. Evans." He held out his hand, taking mine, gently. "You must be Kevin. Been here a few times, but we've never really talked." His hand went to my forehead, "I'm surprise you're even alive, young man. I've never seen dehydration quite like yours before. We're you sleeping in the sun for days or something? Most people would have been turned into old shoe leather or a mummy by now." His hand went to my cheek, and then he pulled down the sheet, putting on his stethoscope, listening to my chest. He took the ends out of his ears, and smiled at me. "I think you need a few more days in bed." He leaned toward me. "Plenty of fluids, lots of broth, and when you want, solid food. One for the books, I'd say. Had this been the desert, you would have been dead. You're a lucky young man. I'll see you in a few days time."

Steve and the doctor talked in the hall for a minute, and then Steve stepped back in the room. "I'm going to show him out. I'll be right back, okay?" He said, smiling. I was alone. I lifted my head, and there at the foot of the bed was a chair. It was from the spare bedroom, the armchair that belonged to his grandparents. I partly remembered a dream, a terrible dream. It played over and over in my mind, me yelling and screaming and then it was like something was smothering me, trying to get me to be silent. I remembered I couldn't breath, like a truck sitting on my chest. I remembered the dark, something in it, something I had touched, a soft soothing voice came to me, telling me everything was alright. Hands, hands all over me, touching me everywhere, pulling me here and there, like I was a toy being fought over by kids. I shook my head of the images as I focused on Steve walking back in. He smiled and sat on the edge of the bed, folding his hands together in front of him.

"I'm not sure what happened," I croaked out, "I can't remember much, just foggy dreams really..."

"Easy, sweetie, easy. Save your voice. Let's get you some more broth, okay?" He grabbed the tray again, slowly feeding me the rest of the bowl.

"Can I ask where are you sleeping?"

He was hesitant, and then he looked over at the chair. "I'm alright, really. You need to rest now. Let's get you down into the bed."

"No." I croaked. "I need you to sleep in here with me tonight."

He kissed my forehead. "Sweetie, I do. I'm always right here."

"No. With me. In the bed. Please." He smiled at me, kissing me again, gently.

"I'd be happy to. Now, you get comfortable. I'm going to go clean up the dishes. Do you want anything else?"

"Only you." I croaked out. He smiled, shedding another tear. He walked out. I did my best to get comfortable, but couldn't. Soon, he returned and came to the edge of the bed. He helped me adjust down a little, he fluffed my pillows, and then got undressed. He shut off the light and climbed in next to me. He helped me to roll to him, as I didn't have the strength. I fell asleep almost immediately against him.

When I woke up, I was on my back, Steve was laying on his side, facing me. I felt better this morning, my throat still felt like a patch of gravel, but on the whole, I was feeling much better. Steve slowly woke up, seeing me awake, he smiled.

"Morning, beautiful." He said, stretching his arm up in the air.

"I doubt I'm beautiful after day eight." I croaked out.

"You are to me." He leaned forward and kissed my cheek. "Now, would feel up to a shower? I'll help you, if that's alright."

"Yes, I think I really could use one." I tried to laugh, but couldn't. "I know my hair won't ever be the same again." I smiled and Steve chuckled.

"Sure it will, and we'll get your teeth brushed. And then, I'll get you in the living room, you can watch TV on the couch."

The next hour and a half was a challenge, the shower, Steve holding me up, washing me, doing my hair, then trying to stand me to brush my teeth. I almost fell a couple of times, but he was right there, supporting me. He slipped an old pair of pajama pants of his on me, and put a tee on me. I looked so tiny in his clothes. He only smiled at me. He picked me up and carried me into the living room, laying me on the couch. He covered me with a light blanket, and then turned on the TV. He found an old movie for me to watch while he made more broth.

Later, Evie walked in with Brian in tow. He came around the end of the couch and talked to me. I smiled mostly at seeing him, really trying to save my voice. He sat on the couch edge next to me, saying that he was glad I was alright. Evie came over and joined us, telling me that Brian had been here a few times before, while I was 'sleeping'. She said, she had explained everything to him, and he understood. My head was spinning again. I settled back on the pillow behind me and drifted off.

I woke up slowly, feeling strange. I opened my eyes. I could see Steve's face, very close to mine. It was dark all around me, then we turned the corner in the hall and came into the bedroom. He was carrying me.

"Oh, you're awake." Steve said softly as he looked down at me. I nodded only. "Good, let's get you into the bathroom, and then I'll get you back in bed." I smiled softly up at him.

He carried me to my side of the bed and lay me down. He fluffed the pillows and lay me back on them. He tucked the sheet under my arms, then ran his hand over my hair, then gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"I'll be back in a little while. I have to go make a phone call. Do you want any water or anything?" I shook my head at him and closed my eyes. I felt him get up off the bed.

The next few weeks were slow on a return to normal. I was getting back to myself, feeling whole again. Evie had gone to Mrs. Herrington, while I was unconscious, and explained that I had had an accident, buying me some time with the job. Evie was told that I could call Mrs. Herrington when I was better and arrange for a start date. Steve, was not as lucky. His boss had to hire someone to fill in for him. The guy did not do it right, and Steve had to work extra to get some of the jobs corrected. There were some days that I didn't even see him.

We talked a little before he actually went back to work, and before I started my job, working out our differences, discussing our future together, and what we both wanted from our relationship. Well, besides the constant sex and gratification that brings, oh yeah.

We made a pact to always communicate concerns to each other and never hold anything in, as it had disastrous results. We both learned that communication is the key to a successful relationship, something that we carry to this day.

I went to work at the department store. I found that I was a natural for the retail world. I owe Mrs. Herrington a lot for holding the job for me. I truly loved my job and everything about it. Actually, so much that I went to college at night, taking business courses, eventually earn a degree in business. Steve was very supportive the entire time, actually helping with my homework.

His job, and the way he did it ended up with the man he worked for, making him a partner in the business. When his boss retired, he sold Steve the business, and helped him secure a business loan to purchase all of the equipment that went with it. I helped Steve manage it, well, the just the books. He actually took care of the day to day stuff. We set Sundays aside for ourselves, spending time together, working in the yards, or just doing things together, watching an old movie on TV, going out to dinner, or whatever. I always looked forward to Sunday. Vacations were spent on the mountain with Dean, ending the trip to my Mother's for a day visit.

It was into our fifth year, when the phone call came. It was from the sheriffs office, up on the mountain. I had answered the phone, and sat at the kitchen counter listening to what an officer was telling me. Dean had been found in the little cabin next to the pond. They had gone out to check on him, as one of the neighbors had called in, saying they hadn't seen him for quite a while, and were worried. They went out and found him. He apparently passed away in his sleep. The officer asked that we come up to claim him, and make arrangements for him. I cried so much over that phone call. Dean had become very special to me. Steve held me while I was on the phone with the officer. We both cried after I hung up the phone.

We made all the calls necessary and left in the morning. We met an older man in town, who was Dean's attorney. He was a real character. He said that he had known Dean for years, and loved him very much, with a twinkle in his eye. He reached behind him and opened an ancient safe, pulling out Dean's will. He opened it and read it. Dean had made a couple of revisions to him will over the past few years. Mr. Hansen read out that the 'ranch' was to go to Steve and I, his nephews, all property and items belonging there to, under the proviso that we would not sell it or divide it up. We smiled at each other. We both knew we would never do that. He gave us a copy of the will.

We had Dean placed next to Benny, in the clearing on the other side of the pond. Steve ordered a marker, but it wouldn't be ready for quite some time. The service held was quiet and somber. A few people from town, some I had met before, but there was a younger man there, who was letting tears fall freely. He left as the little service was over. Steve and I assumed that he was the neighbor that Dean had talked about and saw from time to time. We smiled together, realizing it, and didn't want to intrude on his privacy. Soon, everyone had left, and we were alone, standing in front of the shack.

Steve walked me around the boundaries of the property that was now ours. I had no idea it was so big. It was almost sixty acres. There were hills, trees, meadows, and yes, the pond, with the year round creek that fed it. The idea finally struck me, like a brick upside the head. I knew what I had to do. I ran back to the clearing at the shack, jumped in the car and took off to town, leaving Steve standing there.

I pulled into town, parking in front of the general store. I got out of the car and went inside. I was looking frantically for Mr. Adson. I found him near the back of the store. I shook his hand, and he gave me a hug. We chatted for a few minutes, and then I sat him down, and gave him my proposal. I offered to buy the store from him. All he needed to do was come up with a price, and I would meet it. He said he needed to think about it. I wrote down my number on a slip and handed it to him, telling him that it was really all I ever wanted, I would keep it pretty much the way it was, but kind of modernize it a little. His eyes lit up at my ideas. He laughed, saying that's what this town needed, was someone to shake it up a little. He said he would call me in a few days. I shook his hand, and then hugged him. I ran out of the store, jumped in the car and drove back out to the ranch, and the love of my life.

He was waiting for me, up at the barn. I hugged him, telling him about my idea. He kissed me, deeply and passionately, something that he hadn't done in a long time. I melted into his powerful arms. He turned me around and started talking about the barn. He had always seen it as a structure to live in, and I agreed with him. He laid out all of his ideas in front of me. I got so excited hearing all of it.

"When?" Was the only thing I could say. Steve smiled wide in reply. He led me into the barn. We went up the ladder to the loft. He pulled me to him, kissing me softly, then slowly pulled his shirt off, tossing it aside. He half smiled at me.

"I want to make love to you in our new bedroom." He said, softly. Oh My God! I was all over this, and started stripping my clothes, tossing them everywhere. I lay back in the hay, and waited for him to come to me, my legs spreading wider for him.

In the morning, I yawned, laying there in the hay, butt naked, next to him, the most beautiful man on the planet. I rolled over, laying half on him. He smiled with his eyes closed.

"I think Dean would be happy." I said softly. "He loved to watch us, remember?"

"Hmmm, yes, he did. Dirty old man." Steve turned and kissed me, softly. "Now, I need coffee, really bad."

I rolled on him fully, pinning him to the hay. "Not yet. You're gonna fuck me to death before we go get coffee." He smiled and kissed me again. He shifted and rolled me over on my back, looking down into my eyes. He grinned, then kissed me softly again. "Later. Coffee first." He jumped up, grabbing for his pants. He had a devil grin as he slid his pants on. I sighed and then joined him, getting dressed. We walked out of the barn together, hand in hand.

In a few days, the barn was well under reconstruction. Steve had pulled Marty in, and his crew to get it ready to be lived in. Plumbing went in, a new septic tank was dug and placed, power was strung, and everything was taking shape. I left the mountain to back home, leaving Steve there with the construction. I went to my job and went in, and wrote out notice that I was leaving. I went back to the house, grabbed some things and left.

I went next door, and knocked. Brian answered in his underwear. I smiled at him, giving him a kiss on the cheek. He was so hot in his underwear, and was so much bigger than I was. I always teased him, telling him I would steal him from Evie, if she wasn't careful. I took two fingers and flicked his very defined bulge in his shorts. He smiled at me. I went in and found Evie in the bedroom. I jumped on the bed, making her lose the sheet. She rolled her eyes. I told her what was going on. She knew what I meant and started to cry. I hugged her, saying it wasn't set yet. We would be back in a few days. She wiped her eyes, and hugged me. I left and started to drive.

The days passed quickly. Steve went back down and had to take care of his business. I went into town a few times, talking to Mr. Adson. He finally settled on selling to me. We went and found Dean's friend, Mr. Strom, the attorney. He drew up the papers for the sale. I transferred funds for Mr. Adson, and everything was complete. I now owned the general store. I was never so happy in my life. I called my Mom, telling her what was going on. She squealed into the phone. She asked me to call her back when everything was built so they could come up and spend some time. I got busy with the store, changing a few thing, but leaving it mostly with the flavor it had before, as I loved it more that way. It was busier and busier than ever before. Word spread in a good way. I hired a few people and was really becoming a success.

Steve moved his business up the hill, basing it off the ranch. It cost a little more, trucking everything out of there to jobs down the hill, but he was home more and more. Once we had moved to the ranch full time, into the barn, he decided with a heavy heart to sell the house. It sold for almost twice what he paid for it. Evie was broken hearted that we moved away, but she made Brian drive her up to see us all the time. It was like we had never been separated.

The ranch became more than just a place to go home to, it became a home for us, and for our family and friends. I swear I could see Dean standing in the barn, smiling at what we had done, giving me that all too familiar smile and wink. I knew he would be happy at what was going on. Holly really enjoyed coming up and spending time there. She loved the old donkey in the corral, plus the horse I had bought from one of the neighbors. It needed a good home, as they couldn't take care of it anymore. He seemed happy to be here.

Between the store, the ranch, and trying to be there for Steve, I was constantly on the go. We loved each other, making sure to spend as much time together as possible. My life was complete now. I had everything I could have ever dreamed of. Family and friends came and went, staying with us. Steve had built extra rooms in the barn for that reason. Everyone loved it there, telling us how lucky we were to have what we have. We both knew it already.

Now, several birthdays and anniversaries have passed. Steve and I continue to share our lives as we have for the past thirty five years. I look at him, watching him as he walks toward the barn, he's still as sexy as he was when I first saw him, walking the deck of the dome, all those years during my first summer. Yes, he's a little greyer, as am I. But, he is still the love of my life. He still makes my stomach flip when he looks at me with those soft eyes. I chuckle when we try and have those marathon sex sessions we used to have when we were so much younger. Neither one of us can get past a couple of hours anymore and we're satisfied with that.

We have our coffee in the morning and then go about what we have planned for the day. The store is doing so well. I hired a general manager, a local boy, Todd. Well, he's not a boy, really, he's a man. He can turn heads with his looks. He has a good head on his shoulders. I have given most of the day to day to him to handle, as I want to be on the ranch and with Steve as much as possible, who has given up most of his business to some of his guys. He's trained them to know what they're doing and to carry on his reputation. He does go down a couple of times a week to oversee, but it's more for show than anything.

As the sun starts to set into the trees, creating long shadows across the ground, Steve comes to me. He pulls me by the hand, taking me away from my desk, and we walk out of the barn, down the path to the old driveway, where Dean's old shack still stands. It's a very warm day today in the late summer. We walk by the old shack, both of us smile at it and walk across the road to the pond. Steve leads me to the waters edge and starts to strip his clothes. I laugh at what I know he wants to do, and I watch as his shiny butt dives into the cool water. He surfaces, and floats on his back, looking at me. I shake my head and strip my clothes as well, then dive in. I surface just past him near the sand bar in the middle of the pond. He joins me, and we sit on the warm sand, his arm around my shoulder, looking out to the trees.

"There is nothing more important to me than this." I whisper, hearing the birds off in the distance. "I am so very lucky to have you."

He turns and kisses me gently. "Not as lucky as I am, little man." I smile into his eyes. "I love you." He whispers.

"I love you more."



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