I am a big fan of first meetings. These often set the tone for the relationship, and tell us a lot about how the couple will interact with one another later in the story. Hana Sutherland wasn’t expecting to find love when she accompanied Great-Aunt Enid to the Lazy J Dude Ranch, but she hadn’t counted on meeting Jasper, either. With her new friend, Marnie, she is sitting on the rails of the corral as some of the young men put on an improvised rodeo.
Jasper rode a different horse from the others. It was black with a white blaze on the forehead. It bucked like a demon, spinning to the right as it jumped into the air. Howling like a banshee, Jasper hung on for eight and a half seconds before falling off.
The horse bucked a few seconds longer, then two of the young men grabbed him and calmed him down. Whickering and tossing his mane, he trotted from the corral.
Jasper dusted himself off, but instead of walking back to join the others, he came over to where Marnie and Hana were sitting. Grinning happily, he stopped and looked up at them. His eyes were an astonishing dark green, almost the color of his shirt. Hana’s heart fluttered again and she felt a blush rise up her throat as Jasper casually looked her over, eyes lingering on hers. An emerald sparkle lurked at the depths.
“Who’s your little friend, Mar?” He asked. His voice was a sweet, deep tenor that caressed Hana’s ears like luscious, warm honey.
“This is Hana, she’s new today. She came with her aunt.”
“Oh, Mrs. Parker’s great-niece, right?”
“That’s right. You know Auntie?”
Jasper chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck as if remembering a rather unpleasant experience. “Well, she’s been coming here since before I was born. Yeah, I know her. I know what it feels like to get rapped upside the head by her too.” He chuckled softly.
“Aunt Enid knows how to cuff a kid, that’s for sure!” Hana rubbed her own neck with the memory. “She grew up in the spare the rod and spoil the child era.”
Jasper tossed his dark hair out of his eyes, laughing happily. He had white, even teeth and full lips. Hana had to stop herself from staring until she realized he probably was used to being closely inspected by women. He carried himself with confidence and an air of nonchalance as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
“You two eating at the big house tonight?”
It was phrased offhandedly, but Hana suspected there was more to the question than he wanted to let on. Maybe he had a thing for Marnie? In which case, it sucked to be Hana, because of the available men, he was the one she was most attracted to.
Marnie looked at Hana. “So, you want to?”
“I’ll have to see what Auntie wants to do first, but I’d like to. Do I have to dress up?”
“Casual is great,” Marnie told her. “Some of the guests go all out with the cowboy theme. One guy dresses as Roy Rogers and his wife does the whole Dale Evans thing. It’s cute when they get up and sing their old songs with the karaoke. But you don’t have to do that much. You can show me what you’ve got, we’ll get you set.”
“Cool, thanks!” Hana turned to Jasper. “If my aunt hasn’t got other plans, I’ll be there.”
“Super!” He grinned happily, his green eyes sparkling. “I hope to see you there then. Seven o’clock,” He added as an afterthought. He swaggered off, dusting the seat of his pants with the brim of his hat.
“Oh, my God!” Hana couldn’t control herself another second. “Is he gorgeous or what?” She whispered excitedly to Marnie, hoping Jasper wouldn’t hear her.
“He’s a sweetheart too,” Marnie told her. “If I weren’t so wild about Jeff, I’d think about taking him for a spin. But I saw Jeff first and the brat stole my heart completely! I’m probably just attracted to him because he’s the only man who ever turned me down. Who knows?” She threw up her hands, rolling her eyes heavenward.
“Are those eyes for real? I mean he doesn’t wear colored contacts or something?”
“No! Totally, all Jasper! Come one, let’s go talk to your aunt and find something for you to wear.”
© 2020 Dellani Oakes