His Marriage to Remember - By Kathie DeNosky
“Hey, Sam! You want to stop gatherin’ daisies over there like some little girl and open that gate?” someone called from the platform behind the chutes.
Cursing himself for letting his mind wander, rodeo-stock contractor Sam Rafferty pulled the gate open to guide the next bull down the channel of steel fence panels into the bucking chutes. He needed to keep his mind on what he was doing and forget about the things in his life he couldn’t control. Otherwise, somebody would end up getting hurt.
His younger brother, Nate, came to stand beside him as they both watched a bull rider climb over the side of one of the chutes and onto the broad back of Bumblebee, the biggest, meanest Brahma in Sam’s string of bucking bulls. Nate’s eyes never left the bull, but Sam could tell his younger brother was gauging his mood and how much he should say.
“Bria going to be here today?” Nate finally asked.
Neither man’s gaze wavered from the bull and rider.
“You want to talk about it?”
“Nope.” Sam clenched his jaw so hard it wouldn’t have surprised him if he ended up with a couple of cracked teeth as he waited for Nate to question him further.
Apparently sensing that he was treading on thin ice, Nate wisely nodded as he sauntered away. “Good talk, Sam.”
Beyond telling his brothers that he and his wife were getting a divorce, Sam hadn’t talked to anyone about the breakup of his marriage and he wasn’t about to start now. Bria had her reasons for wanting out. He sure as hell didn’t agree with them, but they were important enough to her to walk away from five years of their being together—three of those years being his wife.
When he got the signal from the chute boss, Sam automatically opened the gate again to guide the next bull into the bucking channel. He realized Bria wanted to get the divorce over with so that she could move on with her life, and even if he didn’t agree that ending their marriage was the only answer to their problems, he could respect that. But why did she have to choose this particular weekend to bring the papers by for his signature? She knew this was the one time of year that he and his brothers got together to put on the annual Hank Calvert Memorial Rodeo, honoring the foster father who had taken them in and straightened them out when the system had given up on all of them as lost causes.
Allowing another bull to enter the channel, Sam thought about the man who had taken in six troubled teenage boys and saved them from a life behind bars, or worse yet, an early death. A Champion All-Around Rodeo Cowboy, Hank had ridden in all the rough-stock events and amassed a sizable fortune by the time he retired at the ripe old age of thirty-eight. But instead of spending his winnings on pleasurable pursuits, Hank had started the Last Chance Ranch for troubled boys, because as he had told them time and again, there was no such thing as a lost cause when it came to people. They had the free will to change—to rise above their circumstances and make something better of themselves.
Sam took a deep breath as he thought about the man whose life was cut short way too soon by a massive heart attack. Hank had wisely used ranch work and rodeo to help him and his brothers work through the anger and aggression they felt over the injustices they had suffered in their young lives. He had counseled them, been their mentor and taught them how to be honorable upstanding members of society. He’d encouraged them to stay in school, tutored them when he could, hired someone to do it when it was a subject he knew little about and set up trust funds to help them get a college education. Hank Calvert was directly responsible for making them the men they were today, and they owed the man and his memory more than any of them could ever repay.
That’s why it irritated the hell out of him that Bria had insisted that the divorce papers couldn’t wait one more day. She knew how important this particular rodeo was to him—to all of them. Why did she have to be so damn eager to be rid of him?
Scanning the crowd in the grandstand, his gaze went to the end of the bleachers, then came back to zero in on the auburn-haired