“Maybe fuck up against a tree?”
He raised his brows and gave me his you-better-behave-yourself stare.
“I’ll be good, Daddy.”
“You’re damn right you will, boy.”
I put the few pastries we hadn’t eaten back in the bag so we could take them with us. Then I joined Blake in the shower and continued to show him my appreciation for the get-away by going to my knees and giving him a mind-altering blow job. All too soon, we had to pack up and check out. I had three weeks left with this man who’d changed my life, and I intended to make the best of every moment.
The week after we got back from Houston, there was a seriousness about Riley that hadn’t been there before. He seemed more determined than ever to learn everything he could about the ranch. I began coaching him on how to respond if his father interrogated him again.
Riley continued to dutifully look into school and career options, but I could feel sadness rolling off him whenever he talked about his research. He didn’t want to leave the ranch, and I didn’t want him to.
I’d started to consider making a deal with him—that after he’d taken a certain amount of time to pursue something for himself, if he still wanted to be with me, I would look for another job. Maybe we could find somewhere to live that would satisfy us both, but as the days passed, I had less and less time to consider our dilemma.
Calving season was fast approaching, and things were getting busier as we prepared for the babies and I worked with Riley to solidify his knowledge of the ranch. I hadn’t gotten more than a few hours of sleep for several days, and as tends to be the case when everyone is busy and stress levels are high, we had one of those days were absolutely nothing went right.
First a pipe leading to one of the watering stations in the furthest pasture ruptured, and the repair wasn’t something we could do on our own.
Then one of the cranky pregnant cows got aggressive with Angelo. He sprained his wrist as he fled over the fence. I tried to get him to go to urgent care, but he insisted he’d be fine and just wrapped it.
Next, the air conditioner in the bunkhouse decided to call it quits.
And then there was Riley. He’d been doing great, mastering everything I’d shown him and remembering the answers when I quizzed him. I even had him creating spreadsheets on his own, but for some reason, on this one day when all the hands were hot and cranky and I’d spent my morning wrestling with the watering system, he seemed to forget everything he’d learned.
I sent him to check on some of the cows that were ready to give birth, and he forgot several of the things he was supposed to look for. I needed to order feed, and when I asked him to log it for me, he ended up erasing the data for the last several months. I’d barely been able to hold my temper and ultimately had to walk away.
With the day going like it had, I never should have tried to quiz Riley that afternoon. Neither of us was in a good mood, but he had so few days left, and I wasn’t going to let there be any chance his father could deny that he’d learned all he’d needed to. As I fired questions at him, Riley got almost as flustered as he’d been with his father a few weeks before.
“Stop. Just stop,” he finally yelled. “This is pointless. I’ve worked so hard, and now I’ve forgotten every fucking thing you’ve taught me.”
I took a long, slow breath before I spoke. “Riley, you’re just having a bad day.”
“What if I have a bad day when my deadline is up? I’ll lose everything, and all your work will be for nothing. I never should’ve agreed to any of this. I should just leave now.” He tried to push past me, but I gripped his upper arms. “Riley, don’t do this.”
I thought he would struggle and try to pull away, but instead he stilled in my grasp and shuddered with a silent sob.
“It’s all too much. I need you. I need your hands on me.” He kept his voice low, and I was thankful he still had the presence of mind for that. I didn’t think there was anyone else in the barn to hear us, but we needed to be careful.
“Riley, are you asking me to—”
“Spank me. Discipline me. Punish me. I just can’t seem to get myself together.”
“It’s okay, Riley. That’s why I’m here.”
He needed me right then, but if neither of us turned up for dinner…
Then I remembered about the air conditioning. No one would want to eat in the bunkhouse kitchen. The idea that Riley would eat at the main house, and I would bring my food back to my cabin wasn’t far-fetched at all, and if they saw Riley with me, hopefully they would assume we were reviewing everything he had to learn. It was a small risk, and I really didn’t have much choice, not when Riley was falling apart.