Chapter 28

Driving the old truck back to the barn, with a contrite look on her dark features, Lex glanced at Amanda. The younger woman had picked up on her moodiness, and had been uncharacteristically silent for the entire morning. " Hey."

Amanda pulled her glance from the window, where she had been studying the passing terrain. " Hmm? "

" I'm sorry I've been such an ass this morning." Lex was floundering on unfamiliar ground. She was completely out of her element, and wasn't really sure how to make things right.

The blonde woman studied the shadowed features across from her, and opened her mouth to reply, when Lex's upraised hand halted her.

" NoI'm tired and cranky, and I shouldn't have taken it out on you." She gave the other woman a small smile. " And to top it all off, I have got to go back to the house and beg Martha's forgivenessshe's gonna make me pay, let me tell you."

Amanda smiled back. " Yeah, wellI don't think you'll have to work too hardShe's pretty sweet." She reached over and latched onto Lex's spare hand, tangling their fingers. " And you really don't owe me an apology. I can see how tired you are."

Lex shook her head. " That doesn't excuse my behaviorMartha would be the first one to tell you that she raised me better than that." She shook her head. " I would probably be in jail or dead if she hadn't straightened me out years ago." She pulled the truck up behind the hay barn, where a large stack of boards lay. " You want to help me load some stuff up? "

" Wouldn't miss it." Amanda pulled her gloves back onto her hands and hopped out of the truck. Waiting until Lex stepped out from the other side, she walked to the back of the vehicle to meet the rancher. " Is there any special size or type of these things you want us to load? "

Lex had removed her coat and stepped over to the neat waist-high stack of lumber. " I figure we could take a little bit of everything, so we don't have to make extra trips." She opened a small door that led into the back of the barn. " Let me get some tools, and then we'll begin piling some of this stuff into the truck, okay? "

Amanda opened the tailgate and sat down. " Works for me. I'll just keep Ol' Rusty Blue here company." She swung her legs back and forth, giving the taller woman a cute smile.

" What did you call my truck? " Lex asked, mock outrage in her tone. She turned away from the door with her hands on her hips.

" UmmmOl' Rusty Blue? " an innocent look.

Lex stalked back over to the truck, stepping neatly in between the younger woman's legs. Placing her hands on the slim hips, she pulled the small body closer. " Rusty Blue, huh? "

The blonde leaned back on her hands with an evil grin. " Don't forget OLD" She was about to continue when she felt soft lips nibble on her own. Amanda took the initiative and deepened the kiss, wrapping her legs tightly around Lex's back, pulling the older woman into her with a strong need.

Minutes later the rancher broke off the kiss reluctantly, clearing her throat. " Great name for the truck" She stepped back, gently untangling herself from the beautiful woman below her. " I'll just go get theummtools now." She stumbled into the barn on shaky legs.

Lex pulled the truck to a stop several yards from the bridge, afraid of getting too close in case the structure wasn't stable or the edge of the creek crumbled. She stepped out of the vehicle, watching as Amanda did the same. The young woman had a strange look on her face as she followed suit. The rancher moved to the passenger's side of the truck, reaching out to Amanda. " Are you" before she could finish her question, she found her arms full of a crying woman.

" Oh, god" Amanda latched onto the tall woman, sobbing.

" Shhh" Lex gently rubbed her back, " You're okay" She gently rocked Amanda, not knowing what to do or say.

The small blonde buried her face in Lex's chest, sniffling. " S..sorryI guess seeing all this in the daylight kinda brought it all back." She looked up into concerned blue eyes. " I could have been killed"

" Yeah, but you weren'teverything turned out okay." Lex brought a gentle hand to the tear-stained face, wiping under Amanda's brimming eyes. " Do you want to go back to the house? "

Amanda took a deep breath and sighed. " No. I'm all rightjust had one heck of a wicked flashback, that's all" She hugged the tall frame. " Thanks" she released a shaky breath. " Let's get started, shall we? " stepping back and wiping her face with her hands.

" Are you sure? I can always come back later if you're uncomfortable." Lex took a step forward and captured a small shaking hand. Bringing it to her lips, she kissed it tenderly. " I don't like to see you hurting like this."

Bringing their linked hands to her face, Amanda rubbed the large palm against her cheek. " I think it was just shock, I'm okay now." She kissed the inside of Lex's wrist. " Thanks." She released the hand and stepped back again. " Let's go see what the bridge looks like. It's not going to repair itself." She looked downstream. No sign of my car. Probably miles away by now. Oh, well

Lex shook her head in wonder. " You are an amazing woman, Amanda Cauble." She gave the small woman a smile. " C'mon"

They stood at the road where it met the bridge, looking at the still rapidly moving water. Lex took a few more steps forward, until she was directly on the edge of the old wooden structure, peering down at the shattered boards. She sat down on the edge, swinging her booted feet below her.

" Lex? Do you really think you should be that close? What if the edge breaks off? " Amanda took a few tentative steps forward, not quite reaching the rancher. One of us falling in is enough - I'm not about to tempt fate that way!

The older woman looked over her shoulder and grinned. " Then I guess I'd be going for a swim, huh? " She cocked her head and swung her long body down, disappearing from sight.

" LEX!!! " Amanda screamed, running towards the bridge. Before she could get to the edge, however, a pair of hands appeared, followed by a dark hat-covered head.

" What? " The rancher pulled herself back up on the bridge. She saw the panic in the younger woman's eyes and cursed herself. Idiot! She just got calmed down, and you go and scare the hell out of her. What are you using for brains? Lex stood up and crossed over to Amanda, pulling the shaking woman into her arms. " I'm sorryI wasn't thinking." She kissed the blonde head.

Amanda accepted the hug, then stepped back and slapped the taller woman on the arm. " You could have warned me before you went diving off the endI thought you fell! " She grabbed a handful of the rancher's jacket and pulled, hard. " Don't you ever do anything like that again, do you hear me? "

" I hear youI didn't mean to scare you." Lex looked into Amanda's eyes, almost losing herself completely. " Forgive me? " Her voice trembling with uncertainty. Would serve me right if she wouldn't

Amanda raised a gentle hand and caressed the dark cheek. " Oh, Lex. You don't have to ask for my forgivenessyou just scared me, that's all." She stood on her tiptoes and placed a tender kiss on Lex's chin.

Lex took a relieved breath and smiled. " I'm sorryit won't happen again, promise." She led the smaller woman away from the bridge and back towards the truck. " If you don't mind helping me dig out some of this lumber, we'll get started, okay? "


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