Chapter 1


*So after reviewing some of the comments on Chpt. 1, I realized that I never described what Alex looked like now, or what valerie looked like. So, I added to the actual chapter (click here to read the entire chapter with the new additions) and am putting the description of the girls here too. 🙂*

Alexis:
Now at 24, Alexis had become a beautiful woman. She had grown a couple inches and now stood at 5’6”, although she was rarely without some heel, even in her riding boots. Her brown hair was longer, falling at her mid back, and the time she spent in the sun had given her natural highlights. Her soft waves had turned into soft curls, and she most often wore it loose, with just enough styling to keep in from frizzing in the Texas humidity. Her green eyes still had the sparkle of a young girl, excited by everything they saw, but with a hint of experience and growth. She’d always hated the gym, but stayed in shape from riding and walking by the lake, and loved the fact that she had ‘curves’. So did all the men in town. She tended to capture attention everywhere she went, as she carried herself with poise and confidence that added to her natural beauty. Alexis didn’t know Jackson’s type, but she hoped that the woman she was now might capture his attention.
Valerie:
Valerie was hard to miss, as she attracted attention everywhere she was. Standing at only 5’2”, most would assume it was easy for her to get lost in the crowd. But her stunning looks made sure that wasn’t possible. Valerie was a petite blue-eyed blonde that looked like she just walked off the beach in Hawaii, but with the attitude of a true Texan. Her straight blonde hair was shoulder length and flattered her face shape perfectly. And, unlike Alex, Val worked out every day; she always said it was the best place to meet guys, and she always did.

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“Ok, Alex, I know that you don’t think he’ll remember you, but I guarantee that he will. Who could ever forget you?” Valerie smiled, and stood up from the table. “I’m getting you another drink. If you’re going to be getting depressed about the whole thing, you might as well get drunk at the same time.

6 hours later, the girls were laughing hysterically, 4 empty beer glasses and a couple empty shot glasses in front of each of them.

Alexis laughed. “I guess we should probably get out of here. I can’t believe we’ve been talking for so long!”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Valerie looked around the bar. It was only about 11pm, so the bar was still packed, “I can’t believe we drank so much!”

They both stood up from their table and hooked arms. They were swaying and giggling the whole way to the street. Alexis waved goodbye to Valerie, hopped into a cab waiting outside and headed home. It was time for sleep.

…and that is the end of Chapter 1. Get ready to learn more about Jackson in Chapter 2!

“Ok, so we have two options: one, you can keep avoiding the topic and I will tell you more about the boring details you already know of my life. Or two, we can get this Jackson talk underway.” Valerie smiled, knowing that if she just called Alex out, she might get somewhere.

“Whatever Val, I guess we can start”, Alex lightly shoved her friend and laughed. “Ok, so all I really know is that he is coming back in town in the beginning of April, so a couple weeks?” She paused to count, “Yeah, like 10 days.”

“Ok, well then we have 10 days to brainstorm how to make sure that you are at the front of his attention when he does get back. You know that the minute he sees you, he’s going to want you. How can he resist?” Valerie raised her eyebrow and grinned, her signature ‘trouble’ smile.

“Yeah, right. More than likely he won’t even recognize me. Even if he does, the last time we talked was 7 years ago, we probably have nothing in common now!” Alex hoped this wasn’t true, as she could still remember everything about him. She could remember how he looked when he rode his horse, how his eyes lit up when he smiled and the deep drawl of his voice.

“Don’t worry, hun, I already ordered it”. Just as Val finished her sentence, their server sidled up next to them and placed a frosty mug in front of Alex. “See, I told you!”

“Thanks Val and thanks,” she paused to read the girls nametag, “Jessie”. She was a stereotypical female ‘Long Ride’ bartender. Pretty, petite, bubbly and attention grabbing. The male bartenders weren’t much different. They were all attractive, muscular and could hold attention for hours. When Valerie had taken over the management of the bar, that was one of the first things she focused on, she wanted to make sure that the men and women that visited the bar had equal amounts of eye candy in the servers. People love going to drink; they love to drink even more when sexy bartenders are serving.

The first sip helped calm her stress levels instantly. It was bound to be a long night. “Ok, so what’s new with you”, Alex asked Val, hoping to avoid the J word for as long as possible. She knew they would have to talk about him, and that the conversation was bound to be intense, but it didn’t need to start yet.

Valerie giggled, “Avoiding something are we? Ok, well I guess I can give you a break for a bit. Everything’s doing well. As you can see, the bar is packed and you know as well as I do, that it’s like this almost every night”, she glanced around the bar to prove her point. “I just went on another date with that guy Matthew, that I met the other week at the grocery store” She paused to see if Alex remembered hearing about him.

Alex nodded, “yeah, I remember you telling me about him. I thought he was kind of boring though?”

“Oh he is! But he has great taste and took me out into Austin to that great new steak house that just opened. I really wanted to go, so I said yes, but I won’t be going again”, Valerie smiled. She knew it drove Alex crazy that she would go out for dinner with someone she wasn’t interested in, just because the place sounded good. At the end of the day, Valerie didn’t feel like she was using the guys, she felt like she just giving them what they wanted. If they were willing to pay for great dinners, she didn’t mind being the object of affection.

“Oh Val, you crack me up. Does he know that you only agreed because of the restaurant?” Alex laughed, sometimes she wished she could be as carefree with men as Valerie was, but she’d never tell her that.

“Of course not, Alex! I would never crush his ego like that. I want him to think I went for him. I’ll just make up some excuse for why I can’t date him again. Just because I go for the food, not the guy, doesn’t mean that I am not a fun, entertaining and sweet date”.

“Ok, ok, fair enough Val. I just was checking. I would hate for these guys to leave with hurt feelings and an emptier wallet”. She finished laughing just as their server Jessie walked back over with a couple of shots in hand.

“Sorry to interrupt girls, but these are from the guys up at the bar. I guess they thought you were to intent on your conversation and needed a drink. Either that, or they were just hoping to get your attention”. At that, all three girls laughed. The bartenders knew as much as the girls did about getting hit on. It was a common occurrence at ‘The Long Ride’.

“Thanks Jessie, I guess we better tell them thanks too.” Valerie waved at the guys and mouthed ‘Thanks’. She turned back to Alex, “Bottoms up!” They both took the shots and it sent shivers down Alex’ spine.

“Ugh, tequila! This stuff is brutal.” She made a face at Valerie, “it’s your fault, if it had just been me, I would have sent the shots back!”

“Yeah, Alex, I know. Which is why I made you drink it. The only way I’m going to get you to be honest about the whole Jackson situation is if you get your tongue a little loosened.”

“Fine, whatever, I guess you’re right.” Alex could feel the heat of the tequila rising up, she was already feeling more relaxed.

She lifted her shades and saw Valerie waving at her from a corner of the bar. She weaved her way through the tables, smiling and waving at the some of the others that she knew. . Looking around, she couldn’t help but smile. Everyone seemed so relaxed when they were here; laughs were louder, smiles more honest and stories more interesting.

Despite the chairs being wood, they were undeniably comforting after a long day. She could feel the stress melting away as she sat down at the table. She took off her blazer and hung it over the back of the chair. Once the bar got packed, it tended to get a little warm

“Hey Val, where’s my beer”, Alex asked as she got settled? Normally, she wouldn’t be drinking, as she never liked to feel like she was out of control. She had such a low tolerance, that even one beer could impair her judgment. But, she figured that if they were going to be dredging up old stories and trying to figure out what to do when Jackson came back into town, a drink was in order.

Her thoughts stopped as she arrived at “The Long Ride”. The bar could always make her smile. The front looked like it was ripped right out of an old western, complete with swinging bar doors out front. There were horse tie up’s out front, which there were usually at least a couple waiting for their owners to come claim them again. Inside, the tables were already packed with the people who, like her, had decided that 3pm was a perfect time to stop working for the day. All the tables and chairs were real wood, worn from the years of use. It was a place for meeting, drinking and forgetting about the day. The walls were covered in pictures from when Rakesford was just a wide open range, full of wild horses, and wilder cowboys. The only thing that looked ‘modern day’ was the full bar, always packed with the most attractive bartenders, both male and female.

Off to the North-East was their town park. The first weekend of December was set aside for the town holiday celebration. All the trees would be covered in white lights, with the large pine in the town park glittering with multi colored lights and a Texas star. On the Friday night, Santa came through on horseback and lit their town Christmas tree. Everyone came into town that night to wander through the stores and catch up with everyone. The stores always had hot apple cider, cookies, and treats for the town to enjoy. It was one weekend that everything just seemed to stop. Fighting among neighbors, homework for the kids, and stress from work disappeared.

Once the night had fallen, the kids headed home and the rest of the town was ready to party. The stores closed, and so did the street. All of the ‘adults’ stayed out and mingled. ‘The Long Ride’ pulled out tables and chairs, and created a bar in the streets. It was a great night, full of dancing, drinking and music.

To the South of Rakesford was their lake, which she still rode to almost every weekend. Around the lake were beautiful trees, flowers, and the perfect areas for picnicking. During the summer, the lake was filled with the sounds of splashing kids; groups of teens enjoying being away from the schools and families, trying to capture every bit of time they could. During the fall and winter, it was much less occupied. There were still the couples enjoying a Sunday date, and the other horse riders like her. But no matter the season, the lake held a beauty rivaled by nothing.

When she went riding to the lake, she felt like nothing could touch her. She was free to day dream about anything she wanted. Years ago, she would ride, imagining herself in Jackson’s strong arms. Sitting at the bank of the lake she would imagine herself traveling the country not stuck in a small town. As she grew older, she began to fall more in love with the town and began to think less of traveling and more of finding someone that she could enjoy the lake with. When she found Tony, she thought she had found that man. They would ride to the lake together and be one of those cute couples, picnicking, kissing and cuddling on a blanket. She cherished their moments around the lake together, but when it ended, she lost her love for him, but never for the lake. It had always been her rejuvenation when days were tough or emotions were high. No man would ever ruin the lake for her.

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