Sequel: Good Enough
Status: Finished: The sequel is up! Read this, then go read that! (That's how sequels work) <3

Strong Enough

Country Song

“Did you lose your mind in the last half hour while I was gone? Do I need to get you to a doctor?” I could see humor in my dad’s eyes, but I didn’t find this situation funny. “Maybe I just heard you wrong.”

“No, sweetheart you heard me. Good to know you haven’t lost that attitude though.”

“I don’t know if you realized this or not, but he’s the exact opposite of my favorite person as of late.”

“Sweetheart, I just want you to help his fix the fence. It’s not hard. Ethan and Max have put the lumber by the broken sections, so all you have to do is ride around it and fix it.”

“Why not just have Ethan and Mas fix the damn fence then?”

“Because those boys are great with the cows, but shit with the fence. They’re the ones who fixed it last time. You see how well that worked out.”

“Fuck, Daddy. I’m not doing this.”

“Princess, I love you. But, I need your help here. Bill, Carl, Peter and I need to finish counting the cows. Then we’re sending Ethan and Max out to find any that have wandered off. You know the fence is a two-person job.”

“What about Westley? I can totally see him being manly and fixing a fence.”

“Jacquelyn, just do it.” Damn, he pulled out the full name.

“Fine, but I’m still mad at you.”

I stalked off the porch to where Gadget had been resting, drinking from a pail of water. I pulled myself up to her back before guiding her to the stables where I found Bryden letting his own brown horse rehydrate.

“Let’s get this over with.” I looked down at him from Gadget’s back. He shook his head. I knew my attitude was getting on his nerves. Well, him popping up everywhere was getting on my nerves.

I guided Gadget over to the beginning of the fence and signaled her into a gallop, hearing Bryden ride up behind us. We rode about five minutes before coming to the first section. We dismounted and started working.

He’d pick up the pieces of wood and hold them while I hammered nails and wound wires around the wood. It was easy enough to do—I don’t know how Ethan and Max had issues with it. We didn’t speak as we worked. I did my best not to look at him. I did my best not to think about him. But, when he’s working two feet from you, it’s easier said than done.

We’d fixed three sections before we stopped and took a break under a tree to get out from the midday sun. I pulled a water bottle from the backpack I’d brought and threw him one.

I sat, back against the tree, taking a sip from my water as he reached and pulled off his white shirt. I nearly choked on the water. I couldn’t hold back the cough as I tried to get air back in my lungs.

“See something you like?” My eyes shot to him in a glare. I was trying so hard not to look at his chest. Or his abs. But damn, the boy had been working out. I guess working at the ranch was good to him more than just financially. His muscles were defined, but not disgustingly so. He also had a few tattoos now gracing over his tanned skin. I tore my eyes away from him.

“Since when do you like tattoos?” I ignored his question.

“I got my first one about a month after you left.” My body tensed a bit. I think he noticed, but he didn’t say anything. He simply lowered himself to the grass, laying down in the shade in front of me, hands folded behind his head.

I stared out into the open grass of the ranch, keeping my eyes from his body. I could hear his breathing so I couldn’t really pretend he wasn’t there, but I did my best. Of course, he couldn’t actually let me imagine he wasn’t there. He had to open his big mouth.

“Are you ever going to talk to me?” I turned back to look at his face, seeing him propped up on one elbow looking at me.

“I still haven’t decided.” I returned my gaze to the open field, seriously considering making a run for it.

“Come on, Jacqui, it’s been five years.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” My eyes narrowed as I refocused on him.

“I mean, you act like it happened yesterday.” I just about snapped.

“To me, it was yesterday. Every day for the last five years, I’ve had to consciously remind myself not to think about you. Five fucking years. Do you realize how much that hurts? Can you even imagine the kind of pain that causes me?” I threw my empty water bottle at him. I needed to do something and I couldn’t punch him. He was too far away.

“I’m sorry.” As if that made it okay?

“I don’t care if you’re sorry.” I shook my head, standing up and walking over to Gadget, still not sure if I was going to run or not.

“Then what the fuck do you want from me?”

“Nothing. I told you. I don’t want anything from you.” I turned back to him and let my voice get louder.

“Dammit, Jacqui! I’m trying here, okay? You think the last five years have been easy for me? Every girl I looked at reminded me of you. Everywhere I went, everywhere I looked I saw your face. I haven’t had a morning where I didn’t wake up thinking about you, or a night when I didn’t dream of you in my arms.” He was yelling. I could hear the pain, but that just pissed me off more.

“No. You don’t get to be sorry for yourself. You don’t get to be mad. I get to be mad. I get to be hurt. You’re the one who cheated. You’re the one who fucked up.”

“I know. And if I could take it back, I would. It was a mistake. She caught me vulnerable. I was scared that I was about to say goodbye to the love of my life. I was two days from losing you.”

“You still had two days! You weren’t fucking losing me. Not until you stuck your tongue down her throat that is.”

“I’m fucking sorry. It was never supposed to happen. And when you walked away, I nearly lost myself completely. I fucked up, but you’re the one who ran away.”

“And you’re the one who didn’t follow me. You didn’t come after me. You gave up. I moved on.” Tears were threatening to fall, but I refused to cry. I’d wasted too many tears on him already.

“You walked away. You wouldn’t listen.” There was anguish dripping from his words.

“Fuck you. If you wanted it badly enough, you would have made me listen. You’ve known where I was for the last five years. You obviously stayed cozy with my family. Fucking groomsman for my brother’s wedding, working at my dad’s ranch? Probably came over and helped pull weeds or some shit for my mom too. You managed to weasel your way in with my entire family, why? You didn’t follow me that night, you didn’t fight for me. You quit.” I pushed against his bare chest, emphasizing my point.

“I did fucking follow you. I came to your house. I fucking saw you in the living room crying into your brother’s arms. I saw what I did to you. And it killed me. How was I supposed to try to fix that? I’d fucking hurt you.”

“So you didn’t even bother trying?”

“I’ve been trying to find a way to fix this ever since you walked away from me. I’ve been trying to find a way to apologize, to make it right again, but I can’t. Fuck, Jacqui. You’re the love of my life. And I’d fucking cheated on you.” His hand ran down his face. “I only stayed close with your family so I could know how you were. I wanted to know you were happy.” The tears were falling freely now and I no longer tried to stop them.

“I wasn’t fucking happy. I’ve been fighting every day to keep my sanity. I tried everything I could think of to forget you. It never worked. It didn’t matter how drunk I got, or how hard I partied. It didn’t matter who I went out with, or how much I threw myself into school or work. You fucking ruined everything. You destroyed me.”

That did it. His face fell. His eyes filled with pain. I could see him breaking in front of me, and I couldn’t bear to watch it. I had to get away from him.

Swinging myself onto Gadget’s back I pushed her into her fastest gallop as far away as I could get. I headed straight for the barn, throwing the reigns to Westley, who looked extremely concerned.

As soon as my feet hit the ground, I took off running. I ran towards the ranch house, hoping I could hide somewhere or find a way to escape this ranch. The tears were blurring my vision and I wasn’t expecting a pair of arms to stop me.

“Let me go.” I struggled against the restraining arms. I just wanted to go home.

“Darlin’, what is going on?” My dad’s deep voice filled my ears.

“Just let me go.” I tried to push my way from his grasp.

“Sweetheart, what are you running from?”

“Everything, okay?” I finally managed to get free and stood in front of him, my face harsh as the tears continued to fall. “I told you I didn’t want to go with him. Why couldn’t you just listen?”

“Because you can’t avoid your problems forever. Bryden is a good boy. Whatever issues lie between you can’t be worse than what you’re putting yourself through by running from them.”

“If he wanted to fix them, he had five years to try. He was nowhere to be found.”

“Jacqui, that boy has been working his ass off. In no small part, I think, because of you. He’s been trying to make up for whatever he did.”

“He can’t get to me through you. Or Alex. If he wanted to make things up to me, he should have made things up to me.” I shook my head and pushed his hands away as they reached out for me. I didn’t need comfort from him, I just needed to get as far away from here as I could. “Let’s just go, please.”

I knew he heard the desperation in my voice, which is the only reason I heard the keys jingle behind me as I walked toward the truck. I loved this ranch, but I couldn’t stay here, not while he was still here.

The 45 minute drive home was silent between me and my dad, only the radio playing softly over the sound of the engine. I stared out the window replaying the last hour in my head. How could he possibly think that saying sorry would fix this?
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So....I love this chapter. I read it probably 20 times to edit so it would be perfect. The idea for this chapter is what started the whole story in my head. So it's pretty exciting that y'all finally get to read it. Of course, it's not the best place to stop before I leave for vacation tomorrow, but you'll just be waiting in anticipation for my return and a new chapter. I'll have my computer with me, but probably not internet, so never fear, I'll be ready when I return with brilliant additions to the drama.

Thank you BlueEyedAngel2 for the comment. You make my day and your feedback makes me better.
You're all great! Hope you had an amazing 4th of July weekend! (Even if you're not in the US).