Home > Final Stretch (Glen Springs #1)(9)

Final Stretch (Glen Springs #1)(9)
Author: Alison Hendricks

I let out a puff of air, an ache starting to settle behind my temple. "You want me to get him out of the house so you don't have to deal with him?"

"No!" As empathic as he sounds, I actually believe him. "I just… I think it'll help. He wants to make amends, and I told him to call you later about helping out on the ranch—"

"Jake…"

"—It can just be a one-off project. I think he's a little lost right now. He needs something to focus on. I know you get that, Shane. Don't act like you don't."

I glare daggers at my phone, as if he can actually see me. Pulling out the 'I know about your past' card to win an argument is dirty, even for Jake.

But he's not wrong.

"I have to get back to work, but think about it, okay? I told him to call you around five tonight."

He waits, and finally I say, "I'll think about it," before hanging up.

My gaze moves to the far pasture, where Apollo is grazing. The last thing I need right now is a distraction on this ranch. There's no world where I can say yes to Travis, but if fielding his call makes both of them feel better, I guess it's a small price to pay.

 

Around two in the afternoon, it gets too hot to keep working on the paddock. I duck inside, draw some water from the ice maker, and decide to boot up my laptop to deal with some of the emails I've let get backed up. It's mostly people interested in the horses I've got, but there are a few owners getting back to me about selling, too.

As I knock out some replies, I find my attention drawn to that empty tab at the top of my browser. Something in me wants to search Travis Morrison, if only to be better prepared to deal with him.

I finish the email I'm working on and finally give in to temptation. A Wikipedia article is the top result, followed by his official NFL profile. Neither of those catch my interest, though. Instead I find myself clicking on a news story published this month. The headline reads, Storm, Jaguars Scramble to Rescind Offers After Morrison Sex Scandal

I know I should just stop right there. Nothing good will come of this. But I keep reading, skimming the paragraphs about how no one will apparently touch Travis with a ten-foot pole now.

Instead, I seize on the details of the "scandal," one particular paragraph sticking out:

 

The forty-five minute video which features explicit conduct between Morrison and event coordinator Jeremy Pierce, first appeared on free pornography sites or "tubes" last Friday. Since then, the NFL and Morrison's representatives have filed seventy-four takedown notices, only to see the videos re-uploaded minutes later in an endless cycle that's become a nightmare for all parties involved.

 

I have no idea what compels me to open a new tab and navigate to Pornhub. Some kind of morbid curiosity, probably. It's that same curiosity that leads me to type in Travis' name, and a momentary lapse of sanity that makes me click on the first video result.

Internet being what it is out here, it takes a while for the video to even load past a black screen. Plenty of time for me to close my laptop and walk away from this. But I don't. I stare at the loading spinner until a grainy, pixelated image fills the screen.

Travis' bare back and ass, his muscles flexing as he reaches for his partner.

I stare at that image, waiting for more to load; waiting for Travis to move. I want to see his muscles strain, his ass-cheeks dimple as he thrusts forward. I want to hear him growl out commands. I want—

My phone rings, and I immediately slam my laptop closed, my heart threatening to pound out of my chest. Not thinking, I reach for the phone and answer.

"Hello?"

"Hey, is this Shane?"

It's not the deep growl I was hoping for from the video, but Travis' voice is unmistakable.

"Yeah," I manage, pushing my hair away from my brow.

"This is Travis." He pauses. "Jake's brother." Another pause. "The douchebag who accused you of being a crazy fan."

"I remember," I say, my gaze cutting to my laptop.

"Okay, you're still pissed at me. You have every right to be. But I was hoping I could make it up to you. Jake said you're trying to get a paddock built, and I've got nothing but time. I'm happy to—"

"Fine."

The word comes out of my mouth before I can even think about it. My eyes fly open and I find myself wishing there was a way to delete spoken words the way you can delete them while typing.

Why would I say that? Why would I give him the go-ahead?

I look down my body at the slight bulge in my jeans, knowing the answer.

"…Fine?" he asks, sounding genuinely surprised.

Now's my chance to say no. I'll come across as an asshole, but it's better than whatever I'm setting myself up for now. I open my mouth to tell him I've changed my mind, but that's not what comes out.

"Be here at seven. Jake can give you directions."

The words are gruff. Unpleasant. I hang up right after I say them.

But they aren't a no. They're as far from a no as you can get, and as I sit there with a phone I'm afraid to touch and a laptop I'm afraid to open, I know I'm going to have to spend the rest of the night thinking of ways to get Travis off my ranch before I do something I'll regret.

 

 

6

 

 

Shane

 

 

Some part of me hopes that he just won't show; that I'll be awoken sometime around five with a text or possibly even a phone call apologizing for Travis not being able to make it.

I hope for that, but I don't get it. I wake up right around six, the same time I wake up nearly every day. I do make an effort to check my voicemail, just in case, but there's nothing. No one's called me since Travis did last night. So with an hour to get ready before I possibly see him again, I do the only rational thing I can think of: I get on with my routine like it's any other Friday.

I start the coffeemaker and get into a steaming hot shower, filling a mug once I'm out. I dress in clothes appropriate for work. Jeans that are threadbare at the knees, a shirt that's missing a button near the bottom. The horses don't care what I look like, and I'm not here to impress Travis. Not anymore, at least.

Just as I'm lacing up my boots, I can hear Otto braying, then the sound of a car coming up the winding dirt driveway. One glance at my phone confirms my suspicions. He's not only here, he's actually early.

I tell myself it's going to take a lot more than punctuality to make up for yesterday, but it's a decent start. Better than I expected from some hot-shot football superstar, honestly. But if he even makes it through a quarter of the day I have planned for him, I'll be absolutely floored.

I go out to greet him, and of course Otto beats me to it. He runs right up to Travis in his excited, skipping gait, and I hear the deep rumble of Travis' laugh as Otto rubs his face against the man's chest.

"Didn't really expect this kind of greeting," he says, reaching up to tentatively scratch Otto behind one of his long ears. "Especially since we've just met."

"He's never been good with the whole concept of personal space," I say, walking toward them.

Travis turns his head to face me, looking a little sheepish. "Nice… guard donkey."

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