Midnight Fantasies(2)

By: Vicki Lewis Thompson

Outside the hail continued to fall, bouncing up from the ground like popcorn. She leaned back against the cave wall and watched. Despite her wet clothes, she felt snug and protected, the way she always had inside this place.

But all the memories swirling around in her head made her miss Keely terribly. She’d never known their mother, who’d died when B.J. was born, so her older sister had been doubly important to her. In the beginning they’d had an ideal childhood. Their dad, Arch Branscom, was the head wrangler for Twin Boulders, owned originally by George Garfield, a widower and father of Noah and Jonas.

The four kids had grown up almost like brothers and sisters. But then Keely had hit puberty with a vengeance and nobody on the ranch had seemed to know what to do about that. Keely’s rebellion had escalated until she’d posed nude for the centerfold of Macho magazine at the age of nineteen. After a huge fight with Arch, she’d left and had never come back.

That had been ten years ago. Most of the time B.J. tried not to think about her sister, but in this musty cave, she couldn’t help it. Nothing had turned out the way she’d dreamed it would as a kid. She’d imagined Keely would marry Noah and she would marry Jonas.

Now Keely was who-knew-where, and Noah seemed too busy for romance now that his father had died and he was responsible for the ranch. As for Jonas, he more than made up for Noah’s lack of interest in female companionship. Jonas had turned into the Romeo of Saguaro Junction. He seemed to have the hots for every eligible woman in the county, with the exception of B.J.

She could only think of two possible reasons for that. Number one, he considered both her and Keely as sisters, so they were off-limits. Number two, he’d never seen her in anything other than dusty jeans, never watched her do anything but ride and rope like a good ranch hand was supposed to. That hardly contributed to her sex appeal. Even her nickname, B.J., made her sound like one of the guys. No doubt Jonas had forgotten it stood for Belinda June.

A few times she’d thought of putting on something sexy to see if she could change his perception of her, but she never had. For one thing, she didn’t want to risk the humiliation if he failed to react. For another, she couldn’t bear to be nothing more than one of his many conquests. If she couldn’t get rid of her secret yearning for him, at least she had a dose of pride to go with it.

The hail had let up some, but the rain seemed even heavier. B.J. decided to wait it out. Just for something to do, she pulled her long braid over her shoulder, took off the elastic holding the end and unbraided her hair. Ah, that felt better. She massaged her scalp and finger-combed her long hair, made wavy by the braid. And that was another thing—Jonas hadn’t seen her with her hair down in years.

The sound of hoofbeats from outside the cave surprised her. Surely Hot Stuff hadn’t circled back. Trigger he definitely wasn’t.

“Easy, son, easy. Sonofabitch. It’s really coming down.”

Jonas. That was sort of weird, considering she’d just been thinking about him. She started to call out and warn him that she was in here. With no horse outside, he wouldn’t expect to find her waiting for him and it might scare the stuffing out of him.

Then she closed her mouth again. Maybe it was her rekindled memories of all the pranks the boys had pulled, and all the times she and her sister had plotted revenge, or maybe it was her general dissatisfaction with Jonas’s lifestyle these days, but she had the childish urge to make him yelp in fear.

She heard him sloshing through the mud toward the cave, and her heart beat faster. This would be fun. Of course, if he had a flashlight, then he’d see her right away, but he still might yell when the beam hit her. Maybe she’d make a face at him, to unnerve him even more.

As he approached, he uttered a colorful curse. “Dead batteries. Perfect. I have a choice of getting drowned or snakebit. Okay, snakes, look out! I’m coming in!”

While B.J. held her breath, he took off his hat and ducked into the cave. Then he paused, as if listening for a telltale rattle. “So far, so good,” he muttered.

She stayed very still.

“All right, snakes! If you’re here, make yourself known!” He crept slowly over to the ledge where she sat.

With the light from the cave’s entrance at his back, she could make out his movements, but obviously he couldn’t see her.

He reached toward the ledge and his hand closed over her thigh. “Jesus!” He leaped backward, bumping his head on the top of the cave. “Who’s there?”

She clapped a hand over her mouth to hold back her laughter, because in that split second she decided not to tell him who she was. Maybe he wouldn’t guess right away, and she could pretend to be meeting him for the first time. It could be interesting. “My…my name’s…Sarah,” she said in a voice made husky by the laughter she’d swallowed.