Marty got back to her house and crawled in the shower. Hot to rinse off the horse smell and cold to cool her off. As she washed, her mind kept thinking how Graydon’s hands would feel on her. Damn, not even the cold water was helping. No matter how much water ran over her face she couldn’t get the feel of Graydon’s lips off hers.
Morning came way too early. Marty was running too late to stop for breakfast and hurried in to see how Whiskey and Ashka were doing. Whiskey was fine, but Ashka was still sulking in the back of her kennel. That afternoon she was still too quiet, so Marty called her owners. Afterwards, she told Nick what they had said. They both thought it odd.
“So, they said the only time she ever acted like that was when there were wolves around?” he asked.
“Yes. That’s what they said. I’ll check around the kennel for odd prints, but I haven’t seen any feral dogs or coyotes in months. As for wolves, I don’t think there are any left in the whole state, let alone this area.” Marty grabbed her coat and headed out the door. The afternoon air was brisk, and the ground hard. She walked around the kennel and stables. No tracks that didn’t lead right back to known animals. Marty had a mystery on her hands and that bothered her. She let it play over her mind as she headed over to Jessie’s to help her clean up after the party.
Ashka’s owners picked her up the next afternoon. Life got busy with new animals and old chores. It was almost a week before Marty realized she never gave Graydon her phone number or address. Oh well. If he really wanted to find her, he could always ask Dirk.
Graydon spent the next few days getting his house set up more to his liking. The apartment was furnished which was a good thing. The only things he’d really brought with him were his clothes, a few books and his computer. He found a car too. It was an older Saab. Still worked well and got good mileage. It gave him the freedom to go where he wanted. That included the Dirty Spoon where he and Kenny were becoming fast friends.
It had been busy at work, and Graydon figured he’d contact Marty on the weekend. He hadn’t seen her at the diner which he’d thought odd at first. Then he realized that his own schedule ran opposite hers. Dirk had been good enough to give him her phone number. It wasn’t really necessary though, once he’d gotten a good smell of her. He still had her scrunchy that he’d picked up the night of the party. It was in his pocket.
On his first night off, he’d gone for a run and found her house without too much effort. Dirk had given him general directions. That and a gentle breeze had him in the right neighborhood within thirty minutes. He knew he had the right place when he found the Volvo parked out front. Graydon had marked the spot and then gone home. There had been no lights on in the house and he had guessed she was asleep. He’d also gone out to the stables a time or two. He’d gone when there was no one around, and he had been careful not to upset any of the horses or dogs.
Sitting at his computer emailing a cousin, Graydon realized he was hungry. He looked in the fridge even though he was pretty certain that the only things in there were butter, milk and a few eggs. Not enough to slake the empty feeling in his stomach. Looking up at the clock, he realized it was only 8:15pm. The Dirty Spoon would still be serving for at least another hour. Graydon grabbed his jacket and headed for his car.
When he got to the diner, he was surprised to find that the dinner crowd was still present. Vicky gave him the back booth that he’d shared with Marty the first night. She didn’t bother with a menu for him, but brought a glass of iced tea and his silverware. She smiled at him and chit chatted for a few minutes. Kenny peered around the corner and when he saw Graydon, he bounded to the booth and took over the opposite bench.
“Hello Kenny. How’s life? Lots of leftovers tonight?” Graydon asked the dog. Kenny just cocked his head at the sound of his voice and then lay down. He knew he’d get some bites of food from the man. If not, the kitchen was close by with his bowl.
Vicky brought Graydon his steak, biscuits and gravy a few moments later. He thanked her and began to eat. He heard the diner door open and Vicky exclaim “Oh you look exhausted” about the same time Marty’s scent hit his nose. He turned in his booth to get a visual lock on her. Vicky was right. She did look worn out. He stood up and started towards Marty only to realize that Vicky was bringing her his way. Marty wasn’t even watching where Vicky was going and was surprised when Graydon suddenly appeared before her.
“Oh! Graydon! I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said in a tired but surprised voice.
Vicky shooed Kenny off the bench and literally seated Marty at the same time she took her coat. “I’ll be back with your dinner in a minute,” she said and disappeared into the kitchen.
Graydon sat down, moved his plate aside and took her hand in both of his. She not only looked tired, she smelled tired. What on earth had she been doing?
“Marty, what have you been up to? You look worn out,” he said with concern in his voice.
“I have been chasing horses for the last six hours. Max, remember Max? He got out of his kennel and ran straight to the barn. Whiskey was in the corral and went nuts. In the panic that followed, five other horses got out. We had kids there, half the staff and one or two other owners all trying to catch Max or one of the horses. Whiskey was actually the easiest because he was in the corral. I just shut the gate and decided the fence would hold till later. Max got kicked by one of the horses and Nick had to do some patch up work. We can’t get a hold of the Sheppard’s to let them know either.”
She stopped to take a sip of tea and catch her breath a bit. “The worst one was Kimmy, an old stock show horse. When she broke loose, she just went. I grabbed my saddle and tossed it on Butters and headed out. Have you ever dealt with a ranch-trained cow pony?” she asked.
“Oh yes. Had one as a kid. Best horse in the world as long as no one else tried to ride her.” Graydon was still holding Marty’s hand. He put it down as Vicky came up with her dinner. Vicky had decided that she needed a steak and French fries with brown gravy and peas on the side. Marty thanked her and started eating without even looking at the food.
“Kimmy loves to run. Still thinks she is running the cattle. So, it took every trick I knew to slow her down long enough to catch her halter.” Marty stopped long enough to chew a bite of steak. “God this is good. I am so hungry.”
Graydon remembered his own plate and decided he’d better eat before Ma Henry glared at him again from the kitchen hatch. He could hear Kenny whining on the other side of the door. Apparently, the Henry’s decided that Marty had had enough of animals for a bit. Maybe they’d let him out for dessert.
“It took me an hour to get back to the stable. Then I had to rub down both Butters and Kimmy and then finish the general clean up. I still have the fence to repair in the morning. Oh, and Nick decided that I get to tell the Sheppard’s that they can’t bring Max back until he’s passed some sort of obedience training or has a major attitude change. What I am afraid of is that the Sheppard’s will just have Max put to sleep.” She picked up her fork and ate some more of her dinner.
Graydon was trying to decide what to say that didn’t sound condescending when Kenny broke through the kitchen door and made a beeline to their booth. He didn’t bark, but the slobbering kisses were distracting enough.
“Kenny! Get down. Down boy,” Marty was saying. Marty tried to get him to sit or lay down and it wasn’t working.
Graydon tried and he too was failing. Finally, he gave up and a low growl rose out of his throat that was barely audible over Marty and Kenny. Marty didn’t hear it, but Kenny did. The dog sat down so fast that Marty pitched forward and bumped her forehead on Kenny’s. She sat up rubbing her forehead.
“Wow! Guess he was concerned about you too,” Graydon said to cover up any chance that she had heard the growl. Kenny was still watching him and hadn’t moved.
“Yeah. Just what I need at the moment. An over-exuberant dog the size of a horse,” she said as she patted him on the head and then gave Kenny a bite of her dinner. Kenny looked to Graydon before he took the bite. Graydon nodded and Kenny licked her fingers clean.
Graydon hadn’t wanted to do that, but there wasn’t any choice. Hopefully there was enough confusion and Marty was too tired to notice. Kenny would certainly be obedient for a while. Graydon finished his dinner and had given his plate to Kenny when Vicky appeared with dessert. Cherry pie for him and an ice cream sundae with extra hot fudge, nuts and whipped cream for Marty.
Marty managed to smile and took the dessert. She ate one last bite of steak and put the plate in front of Kenny. He finished off her dinner before she had gotten past the first layer of whipped cream. She was slowly melting into place on the bench across from Graydon. He could feel her finally relax. He finished his pie and signaled Vicky for the ticket.
She brought it over and he looked at it twice before he realized that they hadn’t given him Marty’s bill. “I’ll be right back Marty,” he said and walked over to the register.
Vicky saw him coming and smiled. “Honey, just go back to the table. You read that bill right. I’ll come by for your money in a bit. Just go take care of that girl,” she said.
Graydon sat back down. He pulled $8.50 out and a $5 tip for Vicky. By this point, Marty was trying to figure out what was going on. She got her wallet out and Graydon just shook his head. “Kenny bought your dinner tonight Marty,” he said softly.
“Oh. They didn’t have to do that,” she said.
“No, but they think a lot of you and it’s their way of helping you out when they can. Especially when they see you come in as tired as you did tonight,” he explained.
“I know. They are so sweet,” she yawned. “I’m so tired that I’m not sure I can drive home.”
Graydon nodded. He had been trying to figure out how to get her home without her driving. “How about I drive you home? I’ll pick you up in the morning and we can come back and get your car then,” he suggested.
Marty looked at him for a moment and then nodded. She was too tired to care.