Mirror Lake Ranch: Once in a Memory


Chapter 1

Krystina

“God, I hate him,” I muttered to myself glancing at the folded-up piece of paper in front of me that contained ten digits and nothing more, as the stewardess announced the descending of our flight from New York to Denver.

I wasn’t even sure which him I hated more. Jimmy – I’m sorry James – or Gentry. I was legally allowed to hate the first, after all what was the point of an ex-husband if not to be an outlet for distasteful feelings?

Technically, Gentry was saving my ass. I had no desire to go crawling back to the hole of hell we three had called home not so many years ago, I wasn’t very close with what family I had there. Now, I had nowhere to go now that I was an unemployed trophy wife.

My departure gift from my marriage had a lot of zero’s in the right places and could set me up for life back home while only keeping me just so in the big city. I had no desire to bathe in the humiliating shame that was my failed marriage – failed love – by staying in NYC.

So, when my high school best friend Gloria called from her very busy mom life to say she had convinced her brother to hire me on at his ranch, thousands of miles from my mothers and my ex-husband in New York, I shouldn’t have resisted. But I did. Because it was Gentry and I despised him. But Gloria didn’t know that or why I felt it. With that I eventually shut up and accepted. Not because I knew a damn thing about ranching or Colorado. Hell, I even would place bets that I wouldn’t enjoy it.

But Gloria was right.

I was husbandless, jobless, essentially homeless and running low on friends, allies and options in my old life until my head was cleared. My bank account would let me start over elsewhere but Gloria’s husband Damion was a highly trained private investigator who scared the shit out of me and worked on his wife’s whim.

Gloria had decided that in my current state I needed friends. So I was move to Gentry’s. Who was not a friend but answered to his sister. I was lucky Gloria wasn’t forcing me to be a nanny to her kids. The vomit inducing happiness she found a few years ago was not what I needed. 

The plane landed and soon we were all being ushered off the terminal and into Denver International. I hung in the back of the crowd. I hadn’t spoken to Gentry in nine years, five months and two days. I hadn’t seen him in that long either with the exception of across the room at Gloria’s wedding four years, eight months and nine days ago.

Yeah, Gentry Hollis made that kind of impression that left a girl counting.

I strapped my cross body carry on to me and stood nervously waiting for my three other pieces of luggage. I had Gentry’s number on a piece of paper in my coat pocket and wished that Gloria had sent me an updated picture of her older brother.

Gentry didn’t do social media. I know because I had searched in a very creepy stalking manner over the years and furiously so in the last fifty-two hours since his sister had decided our fates.

I pulled my bags from the convoy belt and trudged through the airport searching every face in the crowd for a long few moments and just before I begun to fear that he had changed his mind and not shown up after all, I heard a deeper yet all too familiar voice behind me shoot chills up and down my arms.

“Krystina.”

I’m not sure why I thought I would need an updated picture of to recognize him. Gentry hadn’t changed but for the slight aged improvement. At eighteen I didn’t think a man could get any better looking than the muscles and testosterone that build his nineteen year old body. Dark brown hair, striking green eyes and bold, defined jaw. Now a crease or two along those same eyes and stubble the jaw was the only imminent change I saw when I faced the man that would forever haunt me the most.

Mentally I stumbled for words. A thank you, an apology, a greeting, any damned thing. People milled around us but I didn’t see them. Not really, just as a back-ground blur. Gentry pulled all my attention like the vortex he was. His boots were polished, his jeans dark and his coat a fur lined blue jean jacket. A black felt cowboy hat rested in his hands showing that his hair hadn’t faded or thinned.

We stared at each other for another long awkward moment before Gentry motioned to the dark maroon luggage I had wrestled off the belt and next to me.

“That’s all you brought?”

“For the moment. I didn’t think most of what I left in storage back in New York is exactly Colorado ranching material.”

“Probably not,” he replied with a slight frown. Great. Still a man of few words.

Gentry grabbed my luggage with ease and headed towards the exit. I followed behind feeling like a little lost puppy.

I thought I knew cold in New York. But Denver’s crisp snowy air proved that all to be a lie. Snow was falling at a steady clip but it didn’t seem to bother Gentry. He strode through the parking lot with purpose, coming to halt next to an early 2010 model four door, dark green Dodge Ram pick-up truck. Sitting down my bags in the mucky parking lot mush just long enough to fish out his keys and wrench open the back door.

I don’t think he saw me flinch at the dirty snow slush that dripped from my bags as he tossed them in.

‘I am no longer that girl. I am not a plastic surgeon trophy wife anymore. I will adapt to life here. Ranch life. The kind of girl I was pre-James. Pre-New York.’ I gave myself a mental and stern pep talk.

I climbed in the passenger seat of Gentry’s truck and situated myself.

“Call Gloria while you have cell service and let her know you arrived safely and that I picked you up,” Gentry grumbled making it sound as if at some point it was questioned at if he would meet me here at all.

I glanced at my phone, my reception was already spotty so I opted to send my best friend a quick text instead. Satisfied it had sent, I put my phone away and leaned into my seat, staring into the edge of the city as we moved away from it.

“Might as well try and sleep if you can, gonna be three, maybe four hours to the ranch in this weather.”

“Guess that means you aren’t willing to have a catch-up conversation then?” I asked, knowing the answer but being petty enough to ask for it anyhow.

“Guess not,” he replied adjusting his grip on the steering wheel.

“You going to just ignore me the entire time I’m here?”

“Best I can. Besides, you won’t stay here long, little New York. It just ain’t your style.”

I was fuming. Heated so…. So… annoyed at Gentry Hollis. Maybe our situation was my fault and partly Gloria’s, but still. I expected pleasantry, fake or not, even from him.

Was he already planning on how to get rid of me? How to run me off? I stared into the blackness out of my window and bit my tongue.