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The Double D Ranch
“You ready?” Jessie hesitated, embarrassed about the collection Grandma left. She led B.J. up the hardwood stairs to the second floor. The scent of his musky cologne preceded him.
B.J. smirked. “Born that way.”
“I doubt it.” Her hand gripped the metal doorknob. When she’d inherited the Double D Ranch from her grandparents, the cache in the upstairs bedroom came as a complete shock. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, steeling herself for his reaction. The area behind the door once housed Grandma’s sewing room but now…
The mess was as awe-inspiring as it was overwhelming, which had been why she enlisted the help of the reluctantly altruistic B.J.
“Well?” he grunted, crossing his arms as he waited. A hard worker, the thirty-two-year-old man had caught her eye a year ago with a smile that lit his face. The smile disappeared, however, when his wife left him for another man. Now the handsome man scowled as a hobby.
Her hesitant fingers tightened around the smooth knob, slowly her wrist shifted, and the latch popped. The door opened a crack. “You ready?” she repeated, taking another deep breath.
He shifted his feet with impatience. “Already said I was.”
Words could do little to describe the mess or the enormity of it. It wasn’t the worst thing she’d ever encountered but Jessie found it embarrassing, nonetheless.
She could’ve had a cleaning party with her best friends, Kelly and Mona, but they’d heckle her to hell and back with what they’d find, plus the whole town would find out in no time. She didn’t want her grandma’s neurotic obsession, the Davidson version of the skeleton in the closet, to become known.
Then there was Josiah. He’d keep the secret. But being confined with the cowboy made it hard for Jessie to breathe. Her father trusted B.J. and laboring beside a stranger would be easier than dealing with the funny feelings bumping elbows with Josiah caused.
No, B.J. was her only option.
She swallowed then pushed the door open. The hinges creaked, filling the silence.
B.J. blinked twice. “What the hell?”
Books--thousands and thousands of paperback books, all romance novels--were stacked in neat rows from floor to ceiling. The bedroom was full save for a three by three space on the floor. It was a dark closet with book wallpaper. To say her grandmother had loved to read was an understatement.
B.J. pushed on the stacks a few times but nothing moved, it was solid. He whistled low.
The confounded man stood with hands on hips staring at the twelve-foot ceiling line. “How am I going to reach the top?”
“I planned ahead, knowing you weren’t ten feet high.” Jessie retrieved a four-foot step stool from behind the door. She unfolded it and he climbed up. In the hallway, a stack of plastic storage totes waited to be filled. She retrieved one and placed it next to the base of the ladder.
Many of the books had worn spines and dog-eared pages. Memories of Grandma flitted to mind. When Jessie was in elementary school she’d climbed into her grandma’s warm lap and asked, “Why do you read them?”
Grandma’s eyes had crinkled as she smiled. “Love, child. They are filled with love. Everyone wants to live happily ever after. Someday, Jessie, you’ll find it too.” She’d tweaked Jessie’s nose then tickled her.
“Hey, Jessie,” B.J. spoke, startling her. He glanced down from the ladder. “You’re gonna need more tubs. What the hell kind of books are these, anyway?” He stared at the cover of a scantily clad woman leaning against a bare chested man in leather pants. “Werewolves in Heat?”
“Grandma had a thing for romance novels.” Jessie shrugged, feeling her face heat.
“Honey, it was more than a thing. She hoarded the damn books.”
B.J. was right. One stack near the wall held one hundred and forty books. Some stacks had thinner books, equaling more
Jessie was grateful for the longhorn cattle ranch her grandparents left her, even if it hid her grandmother’s secret. Her grandparents each died within a year and her breath hitched thinking about them. Josiah had worked for her grandpa Don but stayed on as foreman when she inherited.
As if on cue, Josiah’s sun-kissed face peeked around the corner. The dusty tip of his boot and a stray piece of hay sent her mind reeling to the night he’d found her crying in the hayloft. The memory of his lips on her neck sent a shiver down her spine.
He pointed to B.J. who reached for more books, and mouthed, “You okay?”
Her heart tripped when she gazed into his curious eyes framed with a brow etched with concern. She gave a thumbs up then waved him off, slightly annoyed yet comforted he was checking on her.
More Than a Fantasy