With a smile, I secretly contemplated how this little tidbit of info would benefit me. I also tried to figure out how I could gather any evidence of my older brother doing yoga.
“It’d be good for you as well.”
“I don’t ride bulls, Dirk, remember?”
He chuckled, and then switched his pose. “You still need good balance for roping. I can show you a few moves if you want.”
I reached for the feed bucket and answered him over my shoulder. “Hard pass, but thanks for the offer.”
“Your loss. It could improve your time.”
Once I got a few buckets filled with feed, I made my way back out into the stall area. We only had a few horses who were stalled, a mare who was pregnant, a stallion who was healing from a crazy jump over a fence, and foal who had lost her mother during childbirth and was now with a surrogate. “That’s not something I need to worry about anymore,” I stated as I opened the first stall door and poured the grain into the feeding dish.
“Come again?” Dirk said. His voice sounded closer, and I could tell he had made his way over to me.
I faced him. “I’m done. Retiring from roping.”
Dirk’s mouth nearly fell to the floor. “Tanner, you can find another roping partner. Just because Chance doesn’t have his heart in it anymore doesn’t mean you have to give it up.”
I smiled and walked out of the stall, locking it behind me. “I appreciate you giving me advice, Dirk, but my heart hasn’t been in it a hundred percent for a while now. I think I was actually ready to leave before Chance decided he was.”
“What?” Dirk asked, his voice laced with surprise. “But you love it.”
With a nod, I agreed. “I do…I did. But the last few months I’ve discovered I love this more. The ranch. My family. Being home.”
He grinned. “Does a little blonde, green-eyed beauty have anything to do with this decision?”
I returned his grin with one of my own. “She has something to do with it, yes.”
Dirk almost looked relieved. “I’m glad you both realized your attraction to each other like the rest of us did.”
“We’re taking it slow.”
He placed his hand on my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “I really am happy for you, Tanner.” Dirk walked back over to his mat and got into another weird ass position.
“What about you, Dirk? You ever going to take the leap and settle down with one woman?”
He laughed. “Hell no. I’ve got a plethora of women at my disposal. Why would I want to give that up?”
“So no plans to slow down?” I asked.
He looked up at me from where he was sitting on the floor. “Slow down? I just won the world championship. I’m going to give it my all to win it again next year. Hell-to-the-no am I going to slow down. Not for anyone, especially one woman.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, a year ago I thought the same damn thing.”
“No offense, Tanner, but you and I are nothing alike. I like my endless flow of women who are eager to share my bed. I like the no commitment. The thrill of chasing a woman. I like my life exactly how it is. You may have acted like you played the field, but we both know the truth. You’ve most likely been itching to settle down for a while and just didn’t realize it.”
It wasn’t long ago that I thought along the same lines. Not as extreme as Dirk, who gave new meaning to the word manwhore. But a part of what he said was true. I had known something was missing for a while now. Just took me coming back home after a long-ass time on the road to finally figure it out.
I shrugged and gave him a smile. “You don’t see yourself wanting to settle down? Have a family?”
He scoffed. “A family! Bite your damn tongue, son!” He stood, his entire body shivering before he dropped back down on the mat. “Jesus, you’re giving me the heebie-jeebies, dude!”
“Heebie-jeebies?” I repeated as I tossed my head back in laughter. I glanced down at him as I walked by and said, “What are you, in middle school?”
Dirk laughed and then bent his back so much that I nearly gagged at how he was contorting his body.
“Right, I’m going to let you get back to your…yoga. Have fun.”
Dirk drew in a deep breath, then let it out. “You don’t know what you’re missing out on, Tanner.”
Grabbing another feed bucket on my way out of the barn, I called out, “I’ll take your word for it, Dirk.”
As I continued walking away from him, I mumbled under my breath, “What the fuck happened to you, dude?”
We all spent the rest of the day getting everything ready for a major storm that was approaching later in the evening. Needless to say, everyone was running around like the damn world was ending. It was the first major winter storm of the season, and it looked to be a big one.
“Did you get the water trough heaters in?” my father asked as he walked into the small office in the main barn.
Brock sat at the desk as Ty looked over Brock’s shoulder as they read the weather report. I sat in the corner, attempting to rest my body for a few minutes. I’d been going nonstop since daylight.
“Yes, they’re all in,” Ty answered, not looking over at my father.
“What are they looking at?” Dad asked, sitting down next to me.
“The latest weather report. Sounds like it’s going to be worse than they thought. I’m thinking we bring the horses in from the pastures.”
Dad nodded. “There’s plenty of room in the barns; let’s do it.”
I stood. “I’ll take Rosie—she doesn’t mind the wind and she’s already in the barn.”
Brock turned and looked at me. “Rosie isn’t in the barn.”
“What do you mean? I put her in the stall a few hours ago next to the new mare we got in. I figured if anyone could calm that mare, it would be Rosie.”
Ty and Brock exchanged a concerned look. “Tanner, I just checked the water in all the stalls in the main barn, Rosie’s stall was empty. I wasn’t sure if you turned her out again or what. I meant to ask you and got sidetracked.”
A feeling of dread came over me for some reason. Had she gotten out somehow?
A light knock came on the office door, and our mom poked her head in.
She looked directly at me and asked, “Do you know when Timberlynn will be back? She said she was only going on a short ride, since bad weather was coming in later.”
“A ride?” I asked. The dread I had felt only moments ago quickly turned to full-on fear.
“Yes, she said she was going to ask you boys if she could take Rosie out for a ride. About an hour-and-a-half ago. She said she’d be gone an hour, maybe less. I thought maybe I missed her coming back in, but I went up to her room and she wasn’t back yet. I just heard the storm is moving in a lot faster than they predicted. I’m worried she might have gotten turned around and can’t get a cell signal.”
I quickly pushed past my mother and nearly sprinted to the saddle shed.
“Tanner! Tanner, wait!” Ty called out.
“She’s out there, Ty. You and I both know it. She’s also not used to these fast-moving snowstorms.”
He grabbed my arm and pulled me to a stop. “No, we don’t know she’s out there.”
Jimmy walked into the barn. His face was etched with concern as he looked at me. “I’ve been trying to call you.”
“Who?” we all said at once, including my father.
Jimmy looked at Ty, then Brock, then me. “The three of you
Kaylee walked into the barn, her entire body wrapped up in a winter coat, a scarf and gloves. “My gosh, looks like the storm is moving in early.” She looked around at each of us. “Ty, I’ve been trying to call you, but I don’t have a cell signal. The wind is so bad, I’m wondering if it knocked down a tower or something. I finally just drove over here.”
We all pulled out our phones. “I don’t have a signal either,” I said.
“Me neither,” Ty stated. He looked at Brock who simply shook his head.
“Jimmy, where’s Rosie?” I asked, already knowing the answer by the look on his face.
“That’s why I was calling. Ms. Holden asked me to saddle up Rosie about an hour-and-a-half ago. Said she was only taking her on a short ride since she wasn’t familiar with the ranch. I advised her there was a storm moving in later this afternoon, and she said she wouldn’t be gone long. She asked me to let you know, Tanner. I called and left a message on your cell that she took Rosie out.”
“If I’d gotten the call, I’d have told you to not let her leave,” I stated.
He rubbed the back of his neck. “When I couldn’t get a hold of any of you, I figured we needed to get Ms. Holden back on in. I went looking for her. I figured she might have gone on the trail you all took the first time you went riding. Then I remembered that she mentioned the lake.”
“The lake! Did you tell her how far off it was?” I nearly shouted.
He nodded. “I did, yes. She said okay, so I figured she wasn’t heading up that way. I’m thinking she might have after all.”
“I need help getting Pogo saddled up…and fast,” I said.
“Jimmy, we need two more horses saddled up,” I heard Ty say.
“Three,” my father added.
“Dad, no. It’s best if you stay here with Mom and the girls,” Brock said.
Dad nodded, then looked back at the tack room. “You boys each take one of the walkie-talkies. I want you to check in every fifteen minutes. This storm could speed up even more. We’ve all seen it happen in the past; it can turn on a dime.”
Brock quickly walked into the tack room and came out with the walkie-talkies and handed them out. “They’re all charged.”