The Longest Ride. Занятие 15

Запись занятия

Материалы к занятию




At a quarter past one, Luke was sitting in a rocker on the front porch of his home when he heard the sound of a car slowly pulling up the long dirt drive, dust rising into the treetops. Dog was at his feet, next to the cowboy boots Luke had found in his mom’s closet. Dog sat up, his ears cocked before glancing at Luke.


“Go get ’em,” he urged, and Dog immediately trotted off.


Luke grabbed the boots and stepped off the porch onto the grass. He waved his hat as he approached the main drive, hoping she’d spot him through the shrubbery that lined the drive. Heading traight would lead her to the main farmhouse; to get to his place, she’d need to turn off through an opening in the trees and follow a worn grassy track.


It was hard to spot unless you knew where it was, and it would have benefited from some gravel surfacing, but that was yet another item on the to-do list he’d never quite gotten around to. At the time, he hadn’t thought it all that important, but now, with Sophia approaching and his heart beating faster than usual, he wished he had.


Thankfully, Dog knew what to do. He’d run ahead and was standing in the main drive like a sentry until Sophia brought the car to a stop, then he barked authoritatively before trotting back toward Luke. Luke waved his hat again, eventually catching Sophia’s attention, and she turned the car. A moment later, she pulled to a stop beneath a towering magnolia tree.


She stepped out, wearing tight faded jeans that were torn at the knees, looking as fresh as summer itself. With almost catlike eyes and faintly Slavic bone structure, she was even more striking in sunlight than she’d been the night before, and all he could do was stare at her. He had the strange feeling that in the future, whenever he thought about her, this would be the image he recalled.


She was too beautiful, too refined and exotic, for this country setting, but when she broke into that wide, friendly smile, he felt something clear inside, like the sun breaking through the mist.


“Sorry I’m late,” she called out as she closed the door, sounding nowhere near as nervous as he felt.


“It’s all right,” he said, replacing his hat and shoving his hands in his pockets.


“I made a wrong turn and had to backtrack a bit. But I had a chance to drive around King.”


He shuffled his feet. “And?”


“You were right. It’s not all that fancy, but the people are nice. An old guy on a bench got me headed in the right direction,” she said. “How are you?”


“I’m good,” he said, finally looking up.


If she could tell how unnerved he was, she gave no sign. “Did you finish all you needed to get done?”


“I checked the cattle, split some firewood, picked up a few things at the store.”


“Sounds exciting,” she said. Shading her eyes, she turned slowly in a circle, surveying her surroundings. By then, Dog had trotted up and introduced himself, twining around her legs. “I take it this is Dog.”


“The one and only.”


She squatted down, scratching behind his ears. His tail thumped in appreciation. “You have a terrible name, Dog,” she whispered, lavishing attention on him. His tail only thumped harder. “It’s beautiful here. Is it all yours?”


“My mom’s. But yes, it’s all part of the ranch.”


“How big is it?”


A little more than eight hundred acres,” he said.


She frowned. “That means nothing to me, you know. I’m from New Jersey. City girl? Remember?”


He liked the way she said it. “How about this?” he offered. “It starts at the road where you turned in and goes a mile and a half in that direction, ending at the river. The land is shaped kind of like a fan, narrower at the road and getting wider toward the river, where it’s more than two miles wide.”


“That helps,” she said.


“Does it?”


“Not really. How many city blocks is that?”


Her question caught him off guard and she laughed at his expression. “I have no idea.”


“I’m kidding,” she said, rising. “But this is impressive. I’ve never been on a ranch before.” She motioned toward the house behind her. “And this is your house?”


He turned, following her gaze. “I built it a couple of years ago.”


“And when you say you built it…”


“I did most of it, except for the plumbing and the electrical. I don’t have a license for those things. But the layout and the framing, that was all me.”


“Of course it was you,” she said. “And I’ll bet that if my car breaks down, you’ll know how to fix that, too.” He squinted toward her car. “Probably.”


“You’re like… old-fashioned. A real man’s man. A lot of guys don’t know how to do that stuff anymore.”


He couldn’t tell whether she was impressed or teasing him, but he realized that he liked the way she kept him slightly off balance. Somehow it made her seem older than most of the girls he knew.


“I’m glad you’re here,” he said.


For a moment, it seemed as if she weren’t quite sure what to make of his comment. “I’m glad I’m here, too. Thanks for inviting me.”


He cleared his throat, thinking about that. “I had an idea that maybe I’d show you around the place.”


“On horseback?”


“There’s a nice spot down by the river,” he said, not answering her question directly.


“Is it romantic?”


Luke wasn’t quite sure how to answer that, either. “I like it, I guess,” he said in a faltering voice.


“Good enough for me,” she said, laughing. She pointed toward the boots he was holding. “Am I supposed to wear those?”


“They’re my mom’s. I don’t know if they’ll fit, but they’ll help with the stirrups. I put some socks in there. They’re mine and they’re probably too big, but they’re clean.”


“I trust you,” she said. “If you can fix cars and build houses, I’m sure you know how to run a washer and dryer. Can I try them on?”


He handed them to her and tried not to marvel at the fit of her jeans as she walked to the porch. Dog trailed behind her, his tail wagging and tongue hanging out, as if he’d discovered his new best friend.


As soon as she sat, Dog began to nuzzle at her hand again, and he took that as a good sign—Dog wasn’t normally so friendly. From the shade, he watched as Sophia slipped off her flats. She moved with a fluid grace, pulling on the socks and sliding her feet comfortably into the boots. She stood and took a few tentative steps.


“I’ve never worn cowboy boots before,” she said, staring at her feet. “How do they look?”


“You look like you’re wearing boots.”


She gave an easy, rolling laugh, then began pacing the porch, staring again at the boots on her feet. “I guess I do,” she said, and turned to face him. “Do I look like a cowgirl?”


“You’d need a hat for that.”


“Let me try yours on,” she said, holding out her hand.


Luke walked toward her and removed his hat, feeling less in control than he’d felt on the bulls last night. He handed it to her and she slipped it on, tilting it back on her head. “How’s this?”


Perfect, he thought, as perfect as any girl he’d ever seen. He smiled through the sudden dryness in his throat, thinking, I’m in serious trouble.


“Now you look like a cowgirl.”


She grinned, obviously pleased by that. “I think I’ll keep this today. If it’s okay with you.”


“I’ve got plenty,” he said, barely hearing himself. He shuffled his boots again, trying to stay centered. “How was it last night?” he asked. “I’ve been wondering if you had any more trouble.”


She stepped down from the porch. “It was fine. Marcia was right where I’d left her.”


“Did Brian bother you?”


“No,” she answered. “I think he was worried you might still be around. Besides, we didn’t stay long. Only another half hour or so. I was tired.” By then, she’d drawn close to him. “I like the boots and hat. They’re comfortable. I should probably thank your mom. Is she here?”


“No, she’s at the main house. I can tell her later, though.”


“What? You don’t want me to meet her?”


“It’s not that. She’s kind of angry with me this morning.”




“It’s a long story.”


Sophia tilted her head up at him. “You said the same thing last night when I asked you why you rode bulls,” she remarked. “I think you say ‘It’s a long story’ when what you really mean is ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ Am I right?”


“I don’t want to talk about it.”


She laughed, her face flushing with pleasure. “So what’s next?”


“I guess we can head to the barn,” he said. “You said you wanted to see it.”


She lifted an eyebrow. “You know I really didn’t come here to see the barn, right?”


Okay, she thought to herself as soon as the words left her mouth.


Maybe that was a little too forward.


She blamed it on Marcia. If only Marcia hadn’t pestered her with questions last night and all morning about what had happened the night before and the fact that she was going to the ranch today;


if only she hadn’t vetoed the first two outfits that Sophia had selected, all the while repeating, “I can’t believe you’re going riding with that hottie!” then Sophia wouldn’t have been so nervous. Eye candy. Hot. Hottie. Marcia insisted on using those words instead of his name.


As in, “So Mr. Eye Candy swooped in and saved you, huh?” or, “What did you and the hottie talk about?” or simply, “He’s so hot!” It was no wonder she’d missed the turn after getting off the highway; by the time she’d pulled in the drive, she could feel a tiny bead of sweat trickling down her rib cage.


She wasn’t necessarily anxious, but she was definitely on edge, and whenever that happened she talked a lot and found herself taking cues from people like Marcia and Mary-Kate. But then sometimes her old self would come barreling through and she’d blurt out things better left unsaid. Like today. And last night, when she said she’d like to go horseback riding.


And Luke hadn’t helped matters. He’d walked up to her car in that soft chambray work shirt and jeans, his brown curls trying to escape his hat. He’d barely raised those long-lashed blue eyes, surprising her with his shyness, when she felt her stomach do a little flip. She liked him… really liked him.


But more than that, for whatever reason, she trusted him. She had the impression that his world was ordered by a sense of right and wrong, that he had integrity. He wasn’t preoccupied with pretending to be something he wasn’t, and his face was an open book. When she surprised him, she could see it instantly; when she teased him, he laughed easily at himself.


By the time he finally mentioned the barn… well, she just couldn’t help herself.


Although she thought she detected something that resembled a blush, he just ducked his head and popped inside to grab another hat. When he returned, they set off side by side, falling into an easy rhythm.


Dog ran ahead and then came rushing back to them before darting off in yet another direction, a moving bundle of energy. Little by little, she felt her anxiety dissipate. They skirted the grove of trees that surrounded his house, angling toward the main drive.


As the vista opened before her, she took in the main house, with its big covered porch and black shutters, backed by a copse of towering trees. Beyond it stood the aging barn and lush pastures nestled amid green rolling hills. In the distance, the banks of a small lake were dotted with cattle, smoky blue-tipped mountains near the horizon framing the landscape like a postcard.


On the opposite side of the drive stood a grove of Christmas trees, planted in neat, straight rows. A breeze moved through the grove, making a soft fluting sound that resembled music.


“I can’t believe you grew up here,” she breathed, taking it all in. She motioned toward the house. “Is that where your mom lives?”

About the Author

Диана Семёнычева

Диана Семёнычева