Shifting Into Love First Gear: The Cowboy

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Chase’s truck rumbled over the dirt road leaving his land. Dust billowed behind him making everything in the rearview mirror hazy with the red glow of his taillights. The week spent driving corn to the grain elevators had him beat, but the need for human contact drove him out of his empty house.

What he really needed was to spend the night talking and laughing with a woman. He missed sex too, but not like companionship. Most likely he’d end up shooting pool with the guys and listening to them talk about their kid’s first step, first football game, first whatever and then brag about how much they still got it on with their wives. But it was better than having a beer at home while he tried to figure out next year’s budget.

He turned onto the highway. It was only lit by a few streetlights on this stretch, but he squinted his eyes. Since when did Milly’s have a red neon sign?

Something that looked like a heat wave passed over the red neon, and it was gone. Milly’s white sign on the side of the road lit up.

He drove the short distance to the bar and turned in. Another wave hit, and this time it washed over him. A red neon sign that read Harrigans blazed above the bar. He parked his truck in front and jumped out. Maybe Milly’s had a new owner he hadn’t heard about, and they’d put up a sign in the middle of the week while he was busy. He decided he was just so used to seeing Milly’s sign that he’d imagined it there earlier.

His heart raced as he opened the door and stepped inside. The pool table was the same, the dartboards, loud music, torn booths all the same.

His heart raced even faster as his gaze landed on a tall blonde woman shooting whiskey into the back of her throat. Her hair landed in waves on her shoulders. Her black blouse was snug, but the buttons weren’t popping off. The way she slammed the glass on the counter made it seem like she’d had a long day. Maybe a long week. She was new. She stood behind the bar, so she must work there. Maybe she was the new owner. God he hoped so. Sweat broke out on his palms. Even if she was just the bartender, it meant she was staying…she wouldn’t be gone in the morning.

He watched her glance around the room. She stared right at him, but he knew she didn’t see him. It made him feel old. He couldn’t tell her exact age, but she held herself like someone who’d seen a lot of the troubles of the world.

He couldn’t help but be let down. Usually when a woman’s eyes met his, they lingered just a little bit. And he wanted to linger with her a long time. But she was already drawing some beers without another glance at him.

“Chase!” called one of his friends from a booth.

He joined the group and said, “Who’s the new bartender?”

“Who, Lana?” said one of his friends.

“You know Lana,” said another.

He gaped at them. He’d never met her before in his life, and neither had any of them.

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