The Softer Side of Texas


The Softer Side of Texas

by Sai Marie Johnson

and Blushing Books Publications

Ivanka lifted her head and glanced at the clock. “It’s about time to feed the horses, don’t
ya think? I think I’m going to walk down to the barn and get to work on that,” she said, walking
around the table to exit the kitchen. Aaron pushed his chair back and nodded at her.
“Mr. Jessup, should I go help her out?” he asked, uncertain.
Jesse yawned and leaned back in his seat.
“Yeah, I think I’m a bit tuckered out. You and Ivy ought to be able to handle the job
easily,” Jesse said.
Aaron smiled and followed out the door after Ivanka. “Ivy!” He called to her as he
quickened his pace to catch up.
“You didn’t have to come out here, Aaron. You could have sat to enjoy your lunch. I just
needed a breather, ya know,” Ivanka said.
Aaron nodded and looked down. “I just wanted to say I had no problem standing up for
you today, and I’m really sorry that guy said all those things about you,” Aaron said.
Ivanka smiled and turned to walk into the barn. “Yeah, well, I’m used to being called all
kinds of derogatory things. It’s really just the territory of working the bar,” she said.
“You don’t seem like the type who would, or should, be working a bar, Ivanka. I mean,
you seem like a real nice girl, and I just can’t picture someone like you behind a counter in a
smoke-filled hellhole like that bar,” Aaron said, walking behind her.
“Well, I had to do something. Mama and Daddy were having issues making the bills, and
I felt like I needed to help. You know, like it was an obligation I needed to fill. Especially after
my brother passed away,” she said, grabbing the grain bucket and continuing towards the first
“I can understand what you mean. Is that hose over there the watering hose?” He pointed
to a black hose in the corner as he asked.
“Yeah, if you want, you can start watering, and I’ll grain them out. Then we can flake
them. I was actually thinking of saddling up Duchess and going for a ride, myself,” she said.
“Oh, yeah? You got a horse I can follow you on? I’d like to get a tour of the property, the
right way,” he said as he went for the hose.
Ivanka nodded and turned to dump the grain in the first stall feeding trough.
“Yeah, you can ride Mack. I’ll show you the creek at the back of the land, too, if you
want. It’s where my brother and I used to go swimming as kids,” she said with a smile.
Aaron nodded and proceeded to complete his chore quickly.
“Sounds like fun. Guess I ought to get my butt in gear and water these animals so we can
go for that ride,” he said with a wink.
Ivanka’s lips twisted into a delighted smile as she turned to continue down the line in the
opposite direction. It was a definite fact that Aaron Kilpatrick was setting himself into the
dopamine areas of her brain, and Ivy had to admit she liked it. Probably a lot more than she
should have.
After Ivy and Aaron completed feeding the animals, Ivanka took Duchess and Mack to
the saddling stalls, where Aaron met her.
“Wow, this is a gorgeous horse,” he said as he ran a brush over Mack’s back.
Ivanka could tell from his demeanor that he had a great appreciation for the animal, and it
was another notch in Aaron’s favor. “Yeah, he was my brother’s horse. Now, he just kind of sits
in the stall or, sometimes, we put him out in pasture, but he doesn’t really get ridden often,
anymore,” she stated.
“Well, I hope I can change that. I’d love to take him out and get him some exercise. Has
he ever been in any shows? You could win a pretty penny on him, for sure,” Aaron said.
Ivanka nodded in agreement.

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