The valley always held a fascination for Amanda ever since she was a child. Looking at the majestic mountains that surrounded the ranch had always made her feel alive. Her mother had hated living on the ranch and finally talked her father into moving to town. Amanda was in her twenties and insisted on staying. Luckily she had inherited money from her grandmother and used it to pay her dad a substantial sum for the ranch. Her father didn't like the idea of her living on the ranch and a young woman owning a ranch was quite a scandal but in his heart he didn't want to sell it to a stranger. Now he went out to the ranch every day and worked but at night he rode his horse back to town.
Amanda got up at dawn working her ranch as hard as any man in the valley. After a year the men on the surrounding ranches respected her, even if they thought she should be married and have a man running the ranch. She could ride, rope and fix fences as good as any of them, and even better than most of them. The ranch hands may have had thoughts about their boss being a woman but never made the mistake of showing it. She was a boss and acted liked one. But after a hard morning and afternoon she always liked to escape to her favorite place to relax. Her favorite place to visit was only one-quarter mile past her property border. Even though it was on Trask’s property she still used it. Trask had fenced in his property and she knew he considered her trespassing. She knew that you were supposed to respect fencing but she still felt she should be allowed to visit this one area. Their parents had been close friends and never fenced in this area, equally using it. Now things had changed. Those days were over and it seemed she and Trask always fought over cattle, horses, water, and now this section. It wasn’t like she wanted to take his ownership away of this place - she just needed the peace and quiet that it offered.
When they were children Trask’s father would take them to the entrance of the grotto where they’d tie their horses. He’d carry Amanda down the rocks while Trask would climb down with them. Pop as they called him would then watch over them as they waded in the cold water. When Trask would get into what Amanda called his mean streak and splash her with water she cried. His father would always say, "Now, Trask, why must you make Amanda cry all the time."
She could still hear Trask in his nasty voice saying, "Because she’s only a girl and a crybaby to boot." He’d then push her down in the water and she'd cry harder. Pop would pick her up and carry her out of the water while Trask gave her the meanest look she could remember. Pop would say, "Now, Amanda, don't you pay Trask no mind. He just does things at times that make no sense. It’s that ornery streak in him."
Now years later sitting on her horse she laughed at that old memory as her horse easily jumped over the fence that separated their property. It had been a few weeks since she had last seen Trask. She’d been very careful to make sure he was on the south side of his ranch before she came to the grotto. Her father usually knew what area on all the ranches were being worked and where the cattle were being driven so it was quite easy to avoid him. She avoided the ranch meetings in town by having her father attend them. It didn't pay for her to bring too much attention to herself by attending meetings where a woman wasn’t welcome. She was content to let her dad run things and the money she’d given him made it possible for him and her mother to live in town, and for her and her dad to run the ranch. It had worked out quite well.
Amanda tied her horse to the same tree that had been there for all the years she had been coming to the grotto. She climbed down the rocks to the small stream that ran along the bottom of the grotto. Pulling off her boots and jeans she walked into the stream. It wasn't deep but came up to her waist if she sat down in it. Her body was cooling down from the heat of the afternoon when she heard that voice she'd recognize anywhere - Trask.
"Know I can shoot you for trespassing?"
She didn't even turn around but answered, "I highly doubt that would stand up in a court of law. I think I have to be cattle rustling not sitting in a stream cooling off."
"All the same - you're trespassing and you ain't welcome on my property."
She stood up and turned to him. Her work shirt came to mid-thigh and she really didn't care. She walked to the bank and grabbing her jeans and boots started off in the direction of the rocks yelling over her shoulder, "Fine, Trask. I've never known why you've hated me since we were kids but you're right that it's your land and I ain't welcome here since your Dad died. So shoot me in the back."
She felt his hand grab her arm as he spun her around, "Amanda, you've been sneaking on my land for months and you've never even asked me if it’s okay for you to come here. You ain't been up to the house since Dad died; not even to visit Sally and she stopped baking cookies since you stopped coming. I should fire that damn cook for that alone."
Amanda wasn’t quite sure why he wanted her to visit when he hated her and fenced off his land because of it.
She looked at him, "Trask, can I use your grotto?"
He smirked as he let go of her arm and turning away from her sneered, "No, Amanda you can't - now get your tail off my property and the next time I may just shoot you for trespassing."
She heard him chuckle as he was walking away and she yelled, "Trask?"
He turned to her and she yelled, "You're gonna have to be a good shot because I'm using the stream when I want to."
He walked away but yelled over his shoulder, "Figured as much, I'll be here tomorrow after round-up. See you then if you don't reckon I'll shoot you on sight."
Amanda pulled on her jeans and boots and climbed back up the rocks. She laughed to herself thinking that he could never shoot straight enough to hit anything. When they were kids he always missed the cans that Pop had set up and she had always shot them clear off the fence. She’d quite a reputation in the valley for her shooting ability. Her mom and dad had always admonished her that no man would marry her for her shooting ability and that she'd better start worrying about her baking and cooking ability. Trask's Dad would always tell her not to worry that a man would have to be crazy to want a woman who could cook when he could hire a cook but he couldn't hire someone to be faithful and cover his back when he needed someone to shoot. She’d tried even harder then to become a good shot and although she knew she was talked about in town she didn't care. Her aim was dead on target.
She put her horse in the barn and made sure the other horses were bed down for the night. Then after having a cup of coffee with her Dad and sending him off with some burnt cookies she baked she locked the ranch house for the night. She’d gone into her bedroom and blew out the light when she heard knocking on her window. She grabbed her gun from the nightstand and peeked out to see Trask sitting on his horse.
Opening the window she said, "You fool. I could’ve shot you. What're you doing here anyway?"
He smirked, "Figures you'd shoot a man that knocks on your window. I've been knocking on the door but you didn't answer it and I figured you kept the same bedroom so I rode around this side of the house and knocked."
"Trask, what're you doing here?"
"Amanda, we gotta stop fighting. It's not like we're having a range war but I'm tired of the bad words we keep throwing at each other."
Amanda got mad since it wasn't her that had kept this fool fight going for the past three years but wanting it to end she said, "Fine, no more fighting. Does this mean you're taking down the fence?"
"No, it means you can use the main road instead of jumping the fence and nearly breaking your horses legs each time. A good ranch horse is hard to find."
"What about if I get hurt?"
"You? Heck, you can't even bake cookies without burning them. You can be replaced easily but not your horse." Laughing, he turned his horse and galloped away from her ranch.
Amanda closed her window thinking Trask was and always would be the oddest man she'd known but darn he was good looking. She climbed into bed and didn't give him another thought. Morning came quickly and a good nights sleep was needed when you ran a ranch.
Amanda woke to the smell of fresh coffee, bacon and biscuits - Mom! She quickly dressed and walked into the kitchen where her mother was at the kitchen stove. Walking over Amanda hugged her, "Mom, I've needed a good breakfast for weeks."
Her mother kissed Amanda and said, "Well, since you haven't been very much of a cook I figured a good home cooked meal a few days in a row would keep you going during round up time."
Amanda was elated, "You're going to stay a few days?"
She was surprised when her Mom admitted she missed the ranch although she still wouldn’t move back out there. But at least she was going to stay during the days and ride back with her father early evenings. Amanda sat down at the table and everything tasted so good that she didn't want to get up and go to work - but things had to get done and there was no place on a ranch to sit and rest until the day’s chores were done.
Grabbing a pair of leather gloves Amanda headed out the door to the barn and started the day. Working the fence for breaks in the wire she only stopped for the sandwich her Mom had made. She rode the fence line to the end of the property doing repairs and by then it was mid-day and she had finished for the day.
She thought of heading back to the house to spend time with her mom but feeling dusty and dirty she started to want the coolness of the grotto. It was closer since Trask had said she could use the main entrance. Turning her horse to the east she headed for Trask's property.
It felt odd riding through his front entrance but within a short time she was sitting naked to the waist in the cool water.
She heard Trask approaching before she heard him say, "Amanda, don't you ever keep your jeans on when you're down here. You've done that since you've been ten but now you're a grown woman in front of a man."
She looked at him. This time she really looked at him and saw him as a man instead of just Trask. She stuttered, "Didn't think of it that way since we've grown up together. You've kind of always been Trask. I guess I better get my jeans on or you'll spread some scandalous gossip in town?"
Trask pulled off his jeans and although his shirt was long enough to cover him he was naked from the waist down. Walking into the stream he sat down next to her in the water, "Kind of like when we were kids, huh. Should I splash you until you cry?"
Amanda looked into his eyes and knew this was not like when they were kids. Suddenly everything changed. They both sat there staring at each other. Neither of them said anything. Neither of them taunted the other like they usually did. Trask finally broke the silence and in a quiet voice said, "Amanda, I think we better get our clothes on. Guess we ain’t those kids anymore and you sure don’t look like that skinny brat I used to splash."
Amanda felt a shiver of sensual excitement run through her body and whispered, "What do I look like to you, Trask?"
His arm went around her shoulder as he pulled her toward him, "Like a woman I need to feel against me with her lips kissing mine." It was a fleeting thought he had that he should let her go. That she was half naked and he was a man that was hard and wanting. The moment her lips pressed lightly against his he knew he wanted her. Maybe he had wanted her since they were kids and he never knew what the need was. Now that he had Amanda in his arms a possessive feeling came over him. My Amanda. His lips pressed harder against hers and her mouth opened while his tongue took possession of it. He heard her sigh and her body pressed toward his. He wanted to keep kissing her but the water was getting cold. He changed position to his knees and in a quick motion slid his arm under her knees and his other one locked around her waist. Standing up he had her in his arms. He felt her stiffen in his arms and listened to the uncertainty in her voice.
"Trask, I’m too heavy to lift."
He was already walking with her cradled in his arms, "Amanda, at your 5’6 to my 6’2 to me your tiny and besides you’re lighter than a calf so for once hush."
Putting her arms around his neck she giggled at his description of her being lighter than a calf. When he gently placed her on the soft grass all thoughts went from her mind. She could only think that she had wanted Trask for such a long time. Why she never recognized it she didn’t know but now she knew what she wanted.
He gazed into her eyes, "Amanda? Are you sure you want me? Are you sure since we’ve known each other since being kids that your not feeling like I’m your brother or something?"
Amanda smiled, "Trask, I sure don’t feel like you’re my brother. I think I’ve always wanted you but never knew it."
They looked at each other for a few more moments getting used to the new feelings surfacing - odd for both of them but too much for them to ignore.
Trask kissed her on the forehead and said, "Well, before this goes one more step and you don’t have to answer it now, but I know you Amanda. And if I don’t say it now you’re gonna think I’m only asking because I feel obligated - so know now woman that I want you to marry me."
Amanda giggled and answered, "Well, Trask, I know with your ego you’ll think I want you because your such a great lover so know now the answer is yes."
As his lips came closer to hers he chuckled, "I am a great lover." His hand slipped under her blouse and felt the soft flesh of her breasts. Trask had always known she had large breasts but she wore such loose clothing as she got older. His hand massaged her and pulled her bra up over them. He wanted to take off her shirt but then thought maybe that should wait till tonight since they were outdoors. He stopped kissing her a moment, "Amanda, tonight we’ll do this the right way, okay? I know this ain’t very romantic with our work shirts on but I’m afraid to wait."
Amanda hugged him, "Trask, for once hush." She touched his hand and pressed it against her breast. His kisses were hot and needing branding her as his. He felt her thighs rubbing against his and he slid his hand down her body, for the first time feeling how soft her tummy was. His fingers found her soft private flesh and gently parted her. She was wet and he was ready. Looking into her eyes he slid his long legs between hers and pushed them open wider. He whispered, "I just need to ask one more time. Are you sure?"
Amanda knew he was serious. She felt good that he was concerned and knew she would always be safe with Trask. She smiled and in one sentence said it all, "Trask, I think I’ve always loved you."
He kissed her as he slipped within her body and filled her. He moved slowly letting her body get used to the feel of him pushing his way inside of her. She felt tiny under him and for once he was afraid he would move too fast, "You okay?" Her whimpered yes that she felt wonderful was what he needed to hear. His body moved quicker and he felt her pick up the rhythm. He felt her hands gripping his shoulders and when her legs wrapped around him he sheathed himself all the way into her. The feeling of possessing his woman was knew to him and a feeling he would never let go of. He began to thrust harder into her and Amanda pushed back. They’d always been competitive and making love wouldn’t be any different. Their bodies strained against each other matching the others movements. Over and over he began to pump harder into her until finally she began to whimper his name. He didn’t stop but needed more and more until he felt her body clench on his hard flesh within her. Her hand gripped his shoulders and as she whispered she loved him only then did he let his body join her. Arching his back to thrust deeply he then gazed down at her and groaned, "I love you Amanda. I always have." Then his body demanded release and he groaned in pleasure as he spilled into her body. Finally, he leaned down and relaxed his body onto hers as she hugged him to her.
They didn’t move and just kept hugging and kissing until Trask finally said, "Amanda? My butt is beginning to freeze."
Laughing they quickly got dressed and holding hands climbed back up the rocks to the horses. When they mounted they looked at each other not knowing what to say but then Amanda laughed, "I hope you don’t think I’m going to learn to bake cookies."
Trask pulled his cowboy hat low in his forehead, "Nah, we have Sally who'd never give up her kitchen at the ranch, and besides a man would have to be crazy to want a woman who could cook when he could hire a cook - but he couldn't hire someone to be faithful and cover his back when he needed someone to shoot."
They grinned at each other and both of them knew the fence would come down between their ranches to then encompass both.