When You Love a Rancher - Elle Christensen



I stared at my phone and chewed on my bottom lip, trying to decide how to answer the text staring back at me.

Kyle: I’m in need of a steak before I go to veterinary school and am no longer able to eat food with a face. You up for dinner at Jensen’s?

I’d almost answered immediately with a “Yes!” but then I remembered I already had dinner plans with Sam, my current boyfriend. He’d said he had something important to discuss with me, and if I blew him off for my best friend one more time, I was pretty sure I’d be kissing this relationship goodbye. The dilemma here was whether I cared about saving it.

I was twenty-two years old and about to graduate from college. The past four years exhibited a terrible track record when it came to boyfriends. Something my sister, Charlotte, was constantly reminding me. As I look back, no one could deny that I had a penchant for dating assholes. Kyle was the supportive best friend after each nasty breakup. Until I was over it, then he gave me endless grief for choosing yet another loser.

This time, no one could fault my decision. Sam was about to graduate with his MBA in finance, and he wasn’t wild, a frat boy, biker, jock, or any other label that fit one of the guys I’d previously dated. He was responsible, someone I could count on to keep his word, and he genuinely seemed to care for me. And I cared for him too. It was safe and predictable. Not at all boring.

Sure, I wasn’t attracted to him with the same fiery passion I felt for someone else. I hadn’t felt that kind of pull to any of the guys I’d dated, which was why I was probably the only virgin in my graduating class. Passion wasn’t everything anyway, and it often burned out. So, I wasn’t willing to risk a deep friendship for what might be a temporary spark. Luckily for me, Kyle was too focused on his studies to date. Which meant I hadn’t been forced to endure what would most likely have been a string of gorgeous girls leaving his apartment—across the hall from mine—looking freshly fucked at all hours of the day and night. Enough of them had certainly attempted to get in his pants over the past four years.

My thumbs hovered over the keyboard for a minute until I finally sighed and typed in a response.

Me: Can’t. Dinner with Sam. Tomorrow?

Bubbles popped up immediately, then disappeared. When no text came through, I set my phone on the desk beside my bed and went back to packing up the bedroom in my small off-campus apartment. Our graduation ceremony was tomorrow, and we had to be out the day after that. My sister and her husband were coming to help me move to their place just outside Fort Bering. Hopefully, I would only spend a few months there before finding an internship at a ranch. I crossed my fingers and toes that it wouldn’t be too far from Charlotte and Brandt. A tiny part of me considered looking near Dallas, but I dismissed it as quickly as it had appeared. Besides, Sam was from East Granger, a town not far from Fort Bering.

My phone vibrated, and I navigated my way through the scattered boxes on the floor so I could grab it.

Kyle: Sure.

I breathed a sigh of relief. It was our last night together before he left for school in Dallas, and I was afraid of not having that time with him before we went our separate ways. It had been a long time since we’d been apart for more than a school break. Even over the summers, we’d been together because we stayed near the school in San Antonio for our jobs.

Kyle and I met a few days into our freshman year since we lived across the hall from each other. We’d quickly become best friends, and we’d even managed to snag apartments in the same building when we’d left the dorms. We were always there for each other, and it was going to be hard to be so far apart.

Me: We can grab dinner and then work our way through the four bottles of champagne I have stashed in my place. ;)

Kyle: Sounds good. I’ll meet you at your apartment at 8.

I sent him a thumbs-up and a big smiley emoji, then checked the time. Crap. I needed to get ready if I was going to