TOM, RANCH BOSS
Tom Gatling comes from a long and storied military family and grew up on one of the last remaining horse farms in DC-area suburban Maryland. His father, a career Marine, instilled military discipline in all his children: unforgiving of any and all infractions: overindulgence, tardiness and unfinished chores, over-concern for appearance, wasting money, jealousy, insubordination and most certainly for betrayal: whether real or perceived. When home from active duty, the elder Gatling would punish the children severely for any transgression, legitimate or semi-so: usually with a wooden paddle, sometimes a switch from a backyard tree, occasionally the back of a calloused hand. Infractions varied based on the type and the degree of severity of the error.
Tom, a natural left-hander, also received punishment at the exclusive East Coast prep school he attended, the same one to which all the Gatling men had gone for generations. The all-male teachers there strictly enforcement the "right hand / write hand" rule, many years after this practice had ended almost everywhere else, given its proven deleterious effects on childhood development. The teachers would smack the hard side edge of a ruler onto the left hands of any boys foolish enough to use them for writing or drawing. (The same teachers, however, would naturally not mind at all when the same boys threw footballs, shot basketballs, or pitched baseballs, or batted lefty.)
As occasionally painful as prep school proved to Tom, he received a top-notch education, and, like most boys with families from strong patriarchal lineages, learned to speak with a perfect East Coast diction that, at times, bordered on a Thurston Howell III-type Locust Valley Lockjaw. While the family did hail from old money, the average military career doesn't pay tremendously well. The family struggled when family fortune began to exhaust itself, right around the time Tom was leaving prep school. Tom had to get a job when he went away to college, and when those numbers still didn't add up, he could no longer afford tuition, and dropped out. He headed to community college and earned an associate's degree, vowing to return to a four-year school for a bachelor's.
He never did.
Tom's days spent on the family horse farm serve him well. An accomplished rider, he knows steeplechase, horse racing, and most importantly, the actual business of how to run a stable. His East Coast lineage instills in him an appreciation of quality and craftsmanship. After junior college, he worked with horses on his family farm, but all his friends were attending schools away from home. He grew bored after a year, and then applied for a job out in New Mexico, where he could apply his riding skills and stable management know-how to ranch work. He mostly traded his equestrian garb for cowboy gear, but would steeplechase with horses on the weekends, donning traditional equestrian clothing: a recreational activity he still takes seriously. The rest of the week, for work, he dresses like a typical cowboy. After all these years out West, his normal speech has lost all easily identifiable traces of prep school, but he still prides himself on locution.
Tom has not had a serious relationship with a woman in about five years. After long dry spells, he often thinks of visiting one of the legendary Nevada brothels, but never does; his father had called men who couldn't score with regular, i.e., NON-professional women "the biggest losers in loserland." Although his father had passed away years before, that adage still resonates.
During these women-free periods, Tom takes comfort by drinking, escalating in stages based on their desert-like length: first beer, then whisky, then during very long, Mojave-like spells, tequila. After his binges, he's sometimes end up with the shakes, particularly in his hands: not exactly the DTs, but not far off. Over the past few years, Tom's hands have started trembling when even stone-cold sober. Stoic, he figures they merely reflect his entry into middle age.
As a ranch foreman for much of the past twenty years, Tom had become an embittered, twisted man with a devious sense of humor. He could act like the sweetest person that walked the earth but if you got on his wrong side, he could get back at you in ways that would make your skin crawl. In this way he embodies his father's Marine and parental credo: "No better friend, no worse enemy." Tom could certainly fill both roles. Now in his early 40s, Tom sports dark collar-length hair and a moustache-with a face most often filled with a scruffy beard of days-old stubble-with small patches of salt-and-pepper gray starting to appear here and there.
ROXANNE, STABLE HAND
Roxanne Fitzsimmons stands 5' 6" with wavy, tawny light brown hair-that would pick up major blonde highlights from the sun-falling six inches or so below her shoulders, wide hazel eyes and a sensual mouth with full, pouty lips. Her Pilates-toned body means a very toned and appealing figure - athletic but curvy too. Her double-jointed arms mean she can keep her hands clasped and bring them from the front to behind her back in one motion; her regular Yoga means major flexibility. A headstrong but pleasant girl of twenty-two, she's just finished her senior year at Colorado University, one class shy of a degree, disappointing herself and her family immensely.
Majoring in Biology, she hoped to proceed to veterinary medicine. Once she realized she would not have amassed enough credits to graduate on time, she searched for and applied for the opportunity to complete her degree on a farm or ranch, where she could work with animals, particularly cows and horses, both for which she held a special fondness. She sent out a great many inquiries, but received few responses. One ranch, the Circle-7 in Pena Blanca, New Mexico, however, expressed interest.
Her college guidance counselor approved of the New Mexico ranch internship; the ranch's offer stipulated that she would have to work all summer for her to complete her independent study and thus, her degree. Once she received details of her only summer offer, it didn't impress her all that terribly much, mostly due to the extenuating circumstances of her delayed degree and the distance from her serious college boyfriend Dave Harrison: low-ish pay, but her own personal cottage included; a hard day's drive from her Colorado home but close to her college girlfriend Angie, who'll be taking summer courses at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; all meals included, but scant details on whether the ranch would accommodate her mostly vegetarian diet. (She occasionally eats chicken and fish, but detests red meat due to her love of cows.) Overall, the idea of summer in the high chaparral of Pena Blanca, New Mexico, seems somewhat less than ideal, but her only choice: the lousy economy means that even low-paid summer ranch jobs are running in short supply.
When Roxanne arrives in late May, she settles into her small cottage on the ranch. Her intelligence and dedicated work ethic immediately impresses ranch foreman Tom, while her natural demure beauty impresses all the men on the ranch. All workers dine communally, and the ranch hands tease her about her avoiding the quality cuts of beef served daily, calling her fun names like "Veg Head," as she eats only the salads, accompanying vegetables, and occasional boneless chicken breast when served for dinner. (Only once has fish found its way onto a New Mexico ranch's dinner table, for fish tacos one evening, which Roxy gladly ate.) She gets along with all the ranch hands, but ignores their flirting. Pete Larson, the unofficial ranch hand leader, gave her the nickname, "The Dishwater Fox" by virtue of her hair color and obvious beauty.
She and her boyfriend Dave had split late in the semester, once she'd found out about his cheating. Essentially, she was looking for a man-free summer, to avoid any workplace romances and messy breakups when her job finished right before Labor Day weekend.
With spotty cell phone coverage and no internet access at the ranch, she and her friends don't call or e-mail each other frequently; her main contact with them comes when she drives into Albuquerque. Roxanne enjoys her weekends with girlfriends at UNM, but her low wages barely can cover her food and bar tabs. One of the first weekends in Albuquerque, shortly after she'd learned of Dave's cheating-and in need of a major feel-good purchase-she visits a Western apparel store and tries on a number of outfits. She likes the styles but not the colors available, so she ends up ordering some clothes that the store would ship to her once it arrives in-stock: a whole new Western outfit: shirt, belt, jeans, and most importantly, cowgirl boots.
Tom has served as Roxanne's boss all summer and they enjoy a friendly, easy, professional relationship. Her dedication to the internship impresses him; in turn, he teaches her plenty of tricks on horse-grooming, rope work and knot-tying, and overall ranch duties. Roxy occasionally notices the shaking in Tom's hands, especially when he's methodically showing her different kinds of knots. She says nothing about it.
Tom also lets her work with the veterinarian who comes by regularly to inspect the horses and livestock. While she assists the vet essentially as a gopher, it clearly demonstrates Tom's belief in her, as he does not bestow this honor on any of the male ranch hands. She even gets to assist the vet set in setting a splint for Flash, a horse that had injured one of his forelegs; a horse for which she'd developed a special fondness.
Tom would occasionally ham up his cowboy image by play-adopting a folksy drawl, putting a grass stalk between his teeth, and making references to legendary Western lawmen like the Lone Ranger or Wyatt Earp; Roxanne always found this kind of self-deprecating humor entertaining and very funny.
Roxanne finds Tom attractive for an older man, but, despite his easy smiles around her, she senses that he wants to keep their relationship strictly professional, as does she, to make certain she passes the internship and completes her degree. Occasionally she thinks she notices a little sexual tension between them, but dismisses it as the wonderings of a recently jilted woman.
Roxy, however, also has overheard from one of the ranch hands about Tom's unique punishments for slackers. In fact, these tales have become legendary around the ranch, showing off Tom's ever-meaner disciplinarian streak: once, Roxanne heard, right before one of his coveted equestrian rides, Tom caught a ranch hand sleeping on the job. Tom dragged him from his siesta spot, cuffed the guy's hands behind his back and lashed his bare feet to the foal-yard's fence post, covering the feet in honey and oats and letting the foals lick them clean. A few of the hands had actually heard the guy pee himself with laughter, but they almost never mentioned the incident for fear that Tom might hear them. To this day no one knows whether Tom was punishing him for napping, or for delaying Tom's equestrian outing.
Tom's victim became an absolute wreck afterwards, quitting the ranch when the mockery from his fellow ranch hands' calling him "Honey Bunches of Oats," or "HBO" got too merciless. Now, supposedly, the ranch hands tell Roxy, the guy drinks himself silly every day and every night at a dive bar in Pena Blanca.
Roxanne had also heard a rumor about the previous summer's "ranch girl," Maggie, whom Tom had supposedly tied up in the hayloft and tickled mercilessly to punish her for some minor infraction about which he found out just before one of his rides. Roxy just figured that the ranch hands were yanking her chain, teasing her about how deep-down mean Tom really supposedly was, just to mess with her, as the new kid on the block-and the only woman now on the ranch.
Roxanne's last day at the ranch is scheduled for Friday, the 3rd of September, just before the long Labor Day weekend. Many of the ranch hands are making plans as well, with some already having taken off. She's planning on taking that Saturday to pack up her items, then heading back on Sunday to drive back home to Denver, possibly staying overnight with a college girlfriend in southern Colorado should it get too dark or she get too tired.
After 5PM on Thursday the 2nd of September, after thinking she's finished her work day, Roxanne hears a knock on her cottage door. She's just opened up a can of tuna to make into a Salad Nicoise, takes her first sip of wine and starts to relax. She looks at today's mail and sees one the few letters she's received the entire summer. She realizes that no job offers have come in for her, and lets out a sigh when she hears a knock at the door.
"Roxy? It's Tom. You there?"
Surprised, Roxanne pauses for a second, shifts her eyes puzzlingly, and then musters a faint, "Uh, sure. Just a sec." She straightens herself up, walks over to the door and opens it. Tom is standing there wearing his usual cowboy gear and several day-old stubbled beard, and carrying a rather large cardboard box in both, visibly somewhat shaky, hands. He continues,
"I know tomorrow's your last day and all, but some of the hands have taken off for the long weekend already. Need your help grooming a couple extra horses."
"Oh, uh, OK, sure," Roxanne replies hesitantly, not expecting any additional duties this evening.
Purposely ignoring her obvious confusion, Tom adds somewhat coldly, but with a smile, "No problem with a few extra horses is there?"
"No, of course not. No problem at all."
"Oh, and this package arrived for you." Roxanne looks at the large package that Tom is holding. Seeing that it shows the return address from the Albuquerque Western store that she'd ordered nearly three months ago, she remembers what it contains and beams a broad smile; she'd been very much looking forward to its arrival.
Tom hands the package to her, somewhat tenuously, given the slight trembling in his hands. He adds,
"I know this store in Albuquerque: fancy place. I'm sure you're eager to check out your expensive new clothes."
"I sure AM, Tom. Been waiting all summer for them."
"Well. You can open it when you're done," Tom orders, firmly, with a little added emphasis on the "done" part.
"Thanks," Roxanne replies. Tom says nothing, but sees on the kitchen counters a lot of tin cans and boxes of food, thinking that Roxanne is planning a massive feast for herself, not realizing that she was packing up all her non-perishables. She sets the box on top of her kitchen table, just a few steps from the front door, thinks about its contents and how she can't wait to put them all on after so many long weeks of waiting.
Roxanne follows Tom's instructions and heads toward the stable. Today, she's been wearing a lavender western shirt, over well-worn and faded Wranglers, a wide black leather belt with a worn, open rectangular pewter buckle angled in slightly on each corner. As she was working outside most of the day, she's wearing her jeans over her black cowgirl work boots. Tom, having walked to the nearby hay shed, watches Roxanne walk from her cottage to the stable, approving of her responsiveness to his orders.
Roxanne normally cares for two horses, with the actual two horses always varying from week to week. When she walks into the stable, however, she notices that five of them need grooming. This extra workload upsets her, especially when suddenly compounded with the realization of not having received any job offers pending her internship's imminent completion. She leans against a pole, sighs, and sobs just a bit. Tom sees her plight; he makes no effort to console her, as he himself must take on some extra duties with the other hands already departed for the weekend.
Roxanne grooms four horses: hides, tails, and manes. She heads over to look at Flash, a dappled gray gelding, her favorite horse in the stable. She sees that his chart shows a full brushing earlier that day. She notices, however, that his mane looks a bit unkempt, so she starts brushing it anyway.
After starting on Flash's mane, her fifth horse of the evening-after about two hours of total grooming time-Roxanne hears her cell phone ring. She picks up and hears the garbled voice of Eve, the summer roommate of her friend Angie, who was also taking courses at UNM. A friend of a friend, Roxanne only met Eve this summer when visiting Angie. Eve's crackling voice comes through:
"Roxanne, it's Eve. Angie had to run out and wanted me to call you. She wanted to be sure she didn't forget to let you know."
"Hey, Eve," Roxanne answers, tiredly. She continues by explaining how she's just been working late this evening, addresses a proposal from Eve, and explains a bit why it sounded good to her. Tom, walking back from the hay shed to the stable, hears Roxy's conversation, stops, and eavesdrops.
"You didn't know? I thought would have Angie had told you. Been ages. Cheated, yeah. Can't believe it. Yeah, how stupid of me. " Tom overhears Roxy tell Eve, cursing her own gullibility at not knowing about her ex-boyfriend Dave's two-timing for quite a while.
Tom overhears something else altogether.
Tom then hears Roxanne reply to an obvious invitation, "Tomorrow night in Albuquerque with the girls? Perfect! Thanks, Eve. Tell Angie I'm really looking forward to it. See you all then. Sure could use an exciting night out."
The spotty wireless coverage then disconnects the call. She knows that tomorrow, instead of starting her drive straight back home to Colorado, she'll be hitting ABQ for a well-needed side-trip. She places her phone back in her belt-clip and thinks for a moment about tomorrow night.
Tom walks into the stable and startles her, as she had no idea that he'd been standing nearby.
RANCH GIRL, INTERRUPTED
"Finished?" Tom queries coolly. He has by now changed into his full equestrian gear, clearly ready for a ride, although he is still sporting his unshaven look, unusual for him at ride-time. Roxanne jumps at hearing his voice unexpectedly. "Oh, didn't know you were there."
"I asked if you were FINISHED."
"Right. Yes, all finished."
Roxanne begins to pack up all the grooming gear while Tom inspects the horses. He inspects all the horses and finds them all groomed perfectly. Upon checking Flash, he notices one side of the mane uncombed. Roxanne is still putting away all the grooming materials back in their proper places.
"Roxanne. You forgot to comb Flash's mane."
"I did? Oh, wow. I had started to, and the phone rang, and I must have-"
"Yes, you did. And it's not like you to slack."
"Tom, you told me to work on the four, and I did. Then I looked over and read Flash's chart where it said he'd received his grooming already, but I noticed his mane needed some more attention, so I started working on him when the phone rang and-"
"Stop. You obviously DIDN'T finish. Want to come over here and see?"
"Well, um, uh, not really, because I believe you and I had really thought I'd finished him."
"NOW. I told you to groom him."
"Look, Tom, his chart shows Pete did, earlier today. Apparently he didn't finish, and I thought all Flash needed was the one side of his mane. Pete obviously and took off without-"
"Enough back-talk! Just fucking do it, woman."
Roxanne, taken aback, had never heard Tom swear in front of her. She had always thought that Tom considered it improper to curse in a lady's presence. She manages a,
"Sure thing, Tom. I'll get right on it." Roxanne proceeds to groom Flash's mane well-very professionally. She figures she'll leave a good last impression with Tom, as ultimately, she needed his sign-off on her internship for her final class credit.
She had no idea the kind of lasting impression she was going to leave.
After another ten minutes of grooming the horse, Roxanne looks around for Tom, but doesn't see him. She packs away the grooming brushes, retires to her cottage, and thinks about getting organized. A bit flustered from her encounter with Tom, and now more than a bit hungry, Roxy instead grabs some of the last bits of perishable food-some lettuce and cheese-from the fridge, and some crackers from the pantry. Outside she hears Tom taking off for an evening ride on his horse.
She opens a bottle of red wine, sits down, pours herself a glass and takes a sip. She opens the package containing her new cowgirl outfit: black satin shirt with silver mother-of-pearl glass snap-buttons, faded Levis; wide, tooled light brown leather belt with an oval Western pewter buckle; a same-toned set of nearly-knee-high light brown leather cowgirl boots, with plenty of detailed stitching.
Roxy loves the smell of her new clothes and especially of the fine shiny leather of her new belt and boots. She even thinks the color of the belt and boots match her own hair color: light brown, not quite blonde, but certainly reminiscent of it: the color of straw. Excited to wear her new outfit when she heads into Albuquerque for her girls' night out tomorrow night, she sets all its component pieces aside, and finishes her dinner.
That evening after dinner, between sips of wine, she starts packing her belongs and straightening up the cottage. She figures she'll finish both jobs in the morning before she gets Tom's sign-off and leaves the ranch for good to head to the city. A bit wistful over her imminent departure and uncertain over the state of the lousy job market into which she is now heading, Roxy drinks glass after glass of wine. A bit tired from her long day, the wine affects her strongly, and she basically passes out from exhaustion, emotion, and alcohol around midnight.
At 7AM sharp, a loud series of knocks awaken her. Her head cloudy, she gets up, realizing she fell asleep in the clothes she was wearing yesterday. She heads to the door, attempting to scrape the top of her tongue on the bottom of the top row of her unbrushed teeth. Groggily, she mutters a
"Who is it?"
"Roxy, it's Tom."
Puzzled at why Tom would be knocking on her door so early on a Saturday morning, she replies, "Oh, OK, just a minute, Tom. I'm not exactly presentable."
"No need to open the door, Roxy. I just wanted to let you know that I'll need a little help from you today before you leave."
Roxanne's eyes squint, perplexed. "What the f-" she silently mouths. She had finished everything that Tom had asked her to do, and then some, yesterday evening. She still needs his sign-off, however, and Tom's current demand irks her, especially when she's feeling hungover a bit. Still, she wants to leave on a good note, so she quickly musters a,
"Sure thing, Tom. I'll just need a few minutes to get ready."
"Good," Tom replies coolly. "Meet me in the stable in ten minutes. Ten, got it?"
Roxanne hurriedly brushes her teeth, and then combs her wavy sun-streaked light brown hair, pulling it back into a high pony tail. She changes her clothes into another set of cowgirl-wear: black Justin cowgirl boots under a pair of well-worn faded Wranglers, 2-1/2" thick studded black cowgirl belt with a fancy-designed curvy cowgirl buckle, and a red-and-white checked country shirt: an outfit she'd worn many times over the summer.
She arrives at the stable twelve minutes later. Tom, dressed in workday cowboy gear, looks at his watch on his somewhat shaky wrist, and then shoots Roxanne an annoyed glare, followed by a once-over as he notices her everyday-but-still-hot country outfit. They both know she's a teensy bit late, but neither one mentions it. To Tom, however, late is late.
Roxy, for her part, doesn't think that the two minutes of tardiness even matters when she's working on the day she's supposed to be leaving, but says nothing about it. Her head is still achy from the semi-cheap wine she drank last night, she's thirsty, and the barn is getting hot even at this early hour. Instead, she asks:
"Tom, what's up? You said you needed some help with something?"
"Yes, thanks for asking. Turns out Pete and the rest of his gang of slackers failed to groom more horses than we thought yesterday," returns Tom, his voice sounding more gravelly than usual. (Tom must have just woken up, Roxanne thinks.)
Roxy's heart sinks as she looks down, dejectedly. She needs time to pack all her belongings, load them into her car, get dressed and made up and into Albuquerque by 6pm, when she, Angie, and Eve are going to grab dinner and head to the bars for their girls' night out. Angie had told Roxy about a bunch of nice guys who regularly hung out at the bar they were heading to, and Roxy was looking forward to meeting them. She hasn't kissed a man all summer long. Tom continues,
"I'd help you but they also left a mess of things for me to straighten up in the barn and the owners are coming back tomorrow, so it all has to happen today."
Roxanne bites her bottom lip, frustrated at the news. She knows she's got a good several hours of packing up as well as cleaning the cottage before she leaves later today.
Tom notices her fidgeting and offers, "Look, I know you've officially already finished your internship here; you'd just be doing me a huge favor. Tell you what, why don't I sign your evaluation form now, so it doesn't seem like I'm holding you HOSTAGE or anything," as Tom chuckles, allaying Roxy's unease. Cheering her up, she responds
"Oh, hey, that'd be great, Tom. Thanks."
Tom winks at her, "Sure thing. Plus, I've got an idea for later, if you're up for it."
Puzzled, Roxanne wonders what Tom's talking about, but proceeds with her grooming duties. She finishes grooming all five additional horses right at high noon when she spots Tom walking by. She tells him she's finished, and then explains that she is going to grab lunch, resume packing her belongings, and finish cleaning out the cottage. Tom approves.
Roxy finishes packing by 1PM, and then walks outside to her car, carrying a suitcase. Tom happens to be walking by, sees her and offers to help her load it in the trunk. Roxy tells him she's going to go back and clean up the cottage.
Tom replies that she doesn't have to; that he'll make the ranch hands clean it as punishment for their leaving without grooming all the horses properly, "for openers," he emphasizes.
Tom then offers to take Roxy riding instead, and as she has spent most weekends in ABQ, she has never ridden with Tom. Plus, everyone knows that Tom uses riding as his alone-time. Still, Roxanne loves to ride and knows she really doesn't need to start getting ready till 3PM for her to leave by 5PM and get to Angie's house by six.
Roxanne's excited to ride. Still, she wonders why Tom is bestowing the honor on her.
Tom asks Roxy to bring him the evaluation form so he could fill it out and give it back, for her to tuck it away some place secure and not forget it before she leaves. She gets the form from the cottage, and Tom signs it, and gives her an additional envelope, back-flap tucked in but not sealed, with what feels like a folded letter inside. On the evaluation, now signed, Roxanne notices that Tom wrote "See attached envelope" in the Comments section, his shaky forced-right-hand cursive scarcely legible. Roxanne goes to her car and puts it in her glove compartment for safe keeping.
They head to the stable, put on the horse's gear, mount up and ride: Roxanne on Flash, Tom on his own favorite horse, Bullitt, a dark gray stallion named after the Steve McQueen movie. On the ride, Tom notices Roxanne's jeans riding up, showing off her boots on several occasions, and compliments her on her kickers' stitching and heels. Roxy feels good about the compliments, as Tom has never given any to her before.
On the ride, Tom shares some of his tales from his childhood and his two failed marriages, details he has never mentioned before either. Roxy wonders whether he's going to talk about the rumors about Maggie whom he supposedly tied up and tickled in the lay loft, or the ranch hand whose feet he supposedly had foals lick honey and oats off of.
Tom doesn't, and she doesn't dare ask.
They return from the ride at 3PM and both head inside to their respective residences. After packing her last few items, Roxy heads toward the shower and hears a car driving away; must be Tom's, she reckons.
Roxy takes an extra-long, extra-hot shower and when she gets out, she towel-dries her hair, leaving her tousled mane loose, to curl naturally as it does. She puts on mascara and lipstick, perfume, nice black bra and panties, then her new cowgirl outfit: black satin shirt tucked into faded Levis, cinched tight with a wide, tooled light brown leather belt with a large oval Western pewter buckle.
Fully aware of the lavish attention that men pay to cowgirls, she thinks about tucking her faded Levis into her new tall, light brown, detailed-stitching leather cowgirl boots, but holds off for the moment-she wants to see what her girlfriends will be wearing, and besides, her brand-new boots LOOK brand new-and then adds a powder blue patterned bandanna kerchief loosely around her neck. She plans to leave for ABQ by 5PM to meet Angie and Eve for dinner and their girls' night out.
Roxy looks out her window, sees Tom outside, near the stable entrance. She notices that Tom's face shows all his beard stubble shaven away and a fresh haircut, looking as if he just returned from his usual barbershop in Pena Blanca. She notices Tom is dressed in his finest equestrian wear, including a helmet that he's carrying upside down, with a few items inside of it. Roxy thinks he looks really good with only his moustache as his last remaining facial hair. Tom appears in great shape for a middle-aged guy, she concedes to herself.
HASTA LA VISTA, CABALLO
Now 5PM, Roxanne walks outside, ready to say her final thank-you and goodbye to Tom.
"I like your haircut," she tells him.
"Thanks. Been needing a trim for quite a while now," he responds with a slight smirk, continuing with, "Want a snack for your drive? Some some organic beef jerky? I know you college girls are into organic foods these days."
"Oh, no thank you, Tom. I really don't eat red meat," Roxy replies. She notices he's wearing cologne, which she's never smelled him wearing before.
Tom comments, flatly, "Normally women don't refuse my meat." Roxanne chuckles, a bit nervously; Tom doesn't. He continues:
"You know, those slacker prick ranch hands-Pete and his band of merry mopes-kept me from getting in a proper ride in yesterday evening what with the extra work they left us. Pissed me off so much that I downed a few solo beers and a couple of solo shots of the Kickin' Chicken last night," Tom explains, using the common nickname for Wild Turkey whisky. "Usually up at 5AM sharp, but the drinking kept me sleeping till six thirty."
He continues, "If you're not in too big a hurry, we can get a quick formal equestrian ride in before you leave. Could even get you started teaching you steeplechase, if you wanted to see what it's all about."
"Oh, thanks, Tom," Roxy replies. "I've love to, but I've already made plans to meet my girlfriends in ABQ tonight. Heading out now. Maybe some other time?"
Tom purses his lips and squints his still-slightly hungover eyes at the obvious brush-off. "You know, women don't usually refuse my rides," he notes dryly. Roxy notices Tom's upside-down equestrian helmet contains a bottle of Anejo Tequila, a whole lime, and a salt shaker, the lighter objects noticeably moving from Tom's shaky hand. Tom sees her noticing them.
"Oh these, yeah. Want a parting shot, Roxanne?" Tom smirks at his pun.
"It does sound great, Tom, but I've got to drive an hour on those winding country roads to ABQ. I really just wanted to thank you again and say good- "
Tom interrupts, "You know, women don't usually refuse my 'lick-HER,' as he adds extra emphasis to the double-entendre's intentional mispronunciation, which Roxanne purposely ignores, now starting to get a little odd feeling from Tom's clumsy attempts at innuendo.
Noticing her puzzled air, Tom changes course and continues, "No worries, Roxanne. Thank you for your excellent work over the summer," They shake hands and Tom adds, "Don't be a stranger." Tom's right hand's grip goes from a slight tremble to and instant firm-up: no more shaking now, at least at that moment.
He heads inside his own cottage where he lives as ranch boss, which sits between the stable and the bunkhouse where the ranch hands sleep. Roxy turns to her car, but then realizes she hasn't said goodbye to Flash; knowing she's got a few minutes before she needs to leave, she walks into the stable.
Once in the darkened stable, Roxy walks over to Flash, and pets his mane and face. "I'm going to miss you, Flash. Glad your leg got better. Hope to see you again."
Tom appears a second later, setting the tequila bottle down hard on a nearby table. Roxy jumps at the loud thud, surprised to see him.
"Jeez, Tom, I thought you'd gone inside your cottage."
"And I thought you'd driven off to see your little chickie-friends in ABQ," he replies snidely.
"Well, I was on my way when I realized I hadn't said goodbye to Flash."
An awkward pause hits. Roxanne shifts her eyes a bit, perplexed at Tom's non-response. Finally, he adds,
"Signed yer form a coupla 'arz ago," Tom adds, adopting his faux-cowboy drawl.
"Yes, you did. Thanks," replies Roxanne, puzzled, both at Tom's line of thinking and his sudden switch of speech patterns. "I'm sorry, I'm not foll-"
"Means you ain't no Circle-7 Ranch employee no more! Means you're trespassin'. Means I'm gonna have to make one of them there citizen's arrests and bring you to the sheriff fer him ta put you in the pokey," as he takes down a couple of loose leather rein-straps hanging on a wall-hook, walks over to her, and loops them around her wrists several times, quickly tying the knot tightly.
Roxanne doesn't flinch as the rough leather squeaks from the knot around her wrist, still finding Tom's affected folksy cowboy drawl as humorous as she always has.
"Very funny, Tom," Roxanne replies as she thinks he's showing her one last knot-tying tip before she leaves for good.
Tom's not laughing.
"No foolin'. We've got ways to deal with trespassers, rustlers, and all other sorts of ne'er-do-wells 'round these parts."
"C',mon, Tom." Startled by Tom's apparent seriousness, Roxy looks at him and realizes he's not joking. Her eyes widen.
"Holy shit," she thinks, "He's not kidding!"
She looks around, and instantly decides to make a break for it. She makes a frantic dash toward the door, but as she tries to run with her wrists tied in front of her, her new cowgirl boots' soles, not broken in at all and very smooth, make her slip on the hay-strewn stable floor. She lands on her right knee, wincing from the pain. Tom walks over to her before she gets any chance of getting back on her feet and states coolly, in his normal voice,
"You shouldn't have tried to escape, Roxanne."
With Roxy still on the ground, her knee throbbing, Tom grabs her wrists and starts to pull her up off the stable floor and onto her knees. He then grabs a long cotton rope from the table where he had put down his tequila, and ties it around the reins encircling her wrists. Pulling the rope taut, he quickly loops and ties the far ends of the rope to the nearby winch-hook, the kind of automatic hook used for pulling bales of hay and other heavy items on removable platforms up to the storage loft.
Tom presses the green button on the winch-control, which lifts the winch and pulls up on the rope, which pulls Roxanne's arms up, forcing her to stand. She says nothing, for the moment, now too shocked to know what to say and her right knee still in pain.
Tom keeps his thumb on the green control button, bringing Roxanne's arms well above her head. The up-motion untucks her shiny black shirt from her belted jeans. Roxy feels the hot stable air against her midsection. Her very sensitive nipples elongate and rub against her black front-clasp bra. By this time-and with her starting to get extremely nervous-Roxanne definitely realizes Tom's NOT kidding and yells,
"Help! Help!! Somebody help meeee!!"
Tom comes from behind her and almost places his cowboy-calloused hand across her lipsticked mouth, but stops just short, knowing he doesn't need to muffle her cries.
"No one's around to hear you scream, remember?! Still, keep it quiet, will yuh please? Your whinin' is startin' to bother me."
Tom looks around and notices his equestrian riding crop on the table, and a grass stalk next to it. He picks them both up: the crop with his right hand, the stalk with his left. Roxanne notices his hands trembling. He asks her,
"Which one do you prefer, little filly?"
"Tom, really, I thi-"
Not letting her answer, Tom walks behind her with one in each hand, gently rubbing each one to her now-exposed sides and tummy, both of which, she immediately realizes, tickle and excite her. He plants a light kiss on her neck, then one on her right ear. Too much for Roxy to bear, she cries out,
"Tom, stop it! Fun's over!"
"Oh, is it now? I don't think so. You know what, we can do it the easy way, or the HARD way," as he takes his jodhpur-covered rock-hard package and presses it against her taut right butt cheek. Roxy feels it all right, and it excites her too.
"Plus, since I signed off on your form, I'm no longer technically your boss. What we do here doesn't constitute the least little kind of harassment."
Roxanne thinks, "Yeah, but it DOES constitute unlawful restraint," but intriguingly enjoying the excitement of this feeling of captivity and afraid of angering Tom, she resorts to shifting her eyes and biting her lower lip, unsure of her next move.
Tom asks, "You like the feeling of her arms tied overhead? Well, do ya, Little Miss Late This Morning?"
Roxanne, starting to get turned on, doesn't want to give in too easily and shifts her eyes again. Thinking it odd that Tom would call her on a two-minute tardiness on a day she wasn't supposed to be working, she quickly figures she'll role-play along with him. She replies,
"Oh, yeah. Sure, it's actually all right. But I could do a lot more with my wrists untied."
Tom was looking for a different answer.
Visibly annoyed, he replies, "Really. Sounds like you've chosen the easy way-the boring way, little lady. Tell you what, Miss All Made-up Dishwater Fox-With-the-Curly-Locks, let's try this-" as Tom walks around in front of her, and tries to kiss her on the lips. Roxanne turns her cheek, not expecting his kiss and now more than a bit frightened with his attempt at cavemanning her.
Tom admonishes her, "You know, if you're not SURE how you want it, I should just add more rope, you know, to help you make up your mind one way or the other."
Against her better judgment, this warning makes her more scared and more turned on at the same time. Still not knowing what to say, her heart starting to race, she says nothing as she once again shifts her eyes nervously, and bites the inside of her lower lip again ever so slightly.
"OK, then," Tom announces, as he ties a rope around her now-bare midriff, just above her tooled brown western belt and just under her belly button. He brings the other end of the rope through it and pulls it tight around her waist for a moment, as a test. Roxy's rock-hard midsection barely budges inward, which Tom notices, nodding approvingly.
Tom then goes behind her, and puts his hand on her sides, with his thumbs touching her skin just above the rope. His fingertips first touch, and then start rubbing her belt.
"Hey, nice belt, Roxanne. Great tooling. You're certainly a classy cowgirl."
"Uhhh, thanks," she replies hesitantly, with still more eye-shifting.
With Roxy's nervousness now palpable, Tom surprises her when he runs the end of the rope under her crotch, loops it around the back of the waist-rope, and then holds it with his left hand. He tugs on it gently at first, and then pulls it tighter. Roxanne jumps when she feels it rub up against her sex. Mere moments later, she closes her eyes and breathes a heavily from feeling this pleasure.
He slowly dances with her from behind, moving his own hips rubbing closely behind her rock-hard ass. Roxanne feels his hardness, but can do nothing except go along with it and with the excitement brewing inside her. Tom, without a woman for a great many months now, feels her increasing heart rate too, making him even hotter: a veritable vortex of vice.
He pulls harder on the crotch-rope, now pressing up hard against her sex. Roxanne bites more deeply into her lower lip from the sensation. Tom's drops the rope; his hands move up her sides, under her shirt, but stop well short of Roxy's ample, firm, black bra-covered bosom. He hears her heavier breathing and notices her pulse increasing. He just knows he needs to step up the tease.
From the table, he again picks up the riding crop in his right and the grass stalk in his left, walks in front of her, and his trembling left hand rubs the stalk gently under her chin, then under her loose powder blue bandanna, in small circles at first, then slightly larger ones. Roxanne looks directly at him to see whether she can gauge his intentions; Tom makes no eye contact.
He then changes the grass stalk movement motion from circular to linear, and slowly lowers the stalk down to the top snap-button opening of Roxanne's black satin shirt, pausing there. With his right hand he smacks the riding crop semi-hard against the left back pocket of her new jeans. Not expecting it, Roxy flinches a bit, but the smack feels good and only a tiny bit painful.
With this teasing, Roxy is feeling ever more turned on, but still doesn't want to give in. She purses her lips, turns her head, closes her eyes for a long moment, and again breathes in deeply. She wonders when Tom's going to let her go.
Tom again asks, "You know, you never really did answer my question."
Roxy, in her current condition, doesn't remember it. She replies, "What question was that?"
"You know, whether you liked the feeling of your arms tied overhead. You know, helpless. Under MY control."
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