Vignette 4: Six Pack Ranch Vignettes
This vignette takes place after ROCKY MOUNTAIN FREEDOM and about a month before ROCKY MOUNTAIN ROMANCE begins. Travis, Ashley and Cassidy have been together officially now for nearly nine months. It’s the spring after they moved in together, and they’re still finding new ways to enjoy making their three-some relationship stronger.
Especially Ashley, who has some mischief up her sleeve…
Ashley spoke quietly as she teased, mindful that they weren’t the only ones in the house. “You think you’re a smart one, Travis Coleman, but the only thing smart about you right now is your mouth.”
“Sticks and stones, darlin’.” He leaned closer, his dark-grey eyes peering into hers with far too much amusement as he stole a kiss, the flavor of peppermint toothpaste filling her senses. “You know I’m right.”
“Ha. Right off your rocker.”
“Fight it all you want,” he insisted, checking in the mirror as he smoothed his fingers through his dark hair, taming the tiny bit of bedhead that lingered even after he’d soaked himself down under one of their two massive bathroom sinks. “And if you want proof, just ask Jaxi. My sister-in-law knows everything there is to know about Coleman history ever since she got a bug in her head about the topic, and started digging through the old records.”
Ashley paused to consider before making her next move. If Jaxi had spoken, there wasn’t much use in fighting Travis’s information. “Fine. I’ll let you win this time, but I’ll remind you that your dad said we could renovate the house as much as we wanted.”
“And we did.” He grinned as she slipped into his arms, wrapping herself against him and tilting her head back to stare up into his face. “New bathroom, rearranged bedroom spaces—new wiring and a new kitchen.”
“Old paint,” she grumbled.
Confusion flashed in his eyes, interrupting him on the way to kiss her again, which was kind of sad, because she liked his kisses, thank you very much. “New paint. How the heck could we have put on two coats of old paint in every room?”
Even in the middle of their debate she couldn’t resist running her hands over his broad shoulders, the flannel shirt he’d layered over a T-shirt soft under her fingers. Firm shoulder muscles curved into rock solid biceps, and she sighed happily.
Getting to touch such a fine man anytime she wanted made the start of each day just about perfect, even if it was barely five a.m.
But there was a reason why she’d gotten up with him this morning, and she needed to stick to her agenda. Ashley attempted a small pout—not too much, or he’d know she was pulling a fast one. Just enough to keep him off balance.
“I meant we used old colours. Everything is cream or off-white.”
Understanding flooded his expression. He tightened his hold on her hips and she found herself airborne for a moment before being cradled against his chest. “Ah, now I get it. The artist in your soul is offended by all the blank canvases you see all around you?”
Ashley tightened her legs around his hips, every bit of contact between them so right. But in spite of how wonderful it felt to be in his arms, she didn’t want to lose track of the conversation. “You do see the problem.”
Travis leaned in and kissed her, pacing out of the bathroom with her wrapped around him. He hummed contentedly, breaking the contact between their lips to whisper, “Don’t distract me, woman. I need to get started on chores. It’s hard enough to get out of bed and leave you guys.”
Which was why she’d crawled out from under the covers in the first place. This was the best time to start the wheels turning.
“I just want to find some ways to brighten up the place.”
He lowered her to the floor, their bodies still in contact. He cupped his hand around the back of her neck so he could tilt her face toward him. “You brighten up our world all by yourself, darling.”
Awww. “Sweet talker.”
“It’s true. You know Cassidy and I would be lost without you.”
He pressed their lips together and she got lost in the kiss. It was nearly a year since she’d returned to Rocky Mountain House, hoping to find something special with Travis. She’d never imagined she could end up with both him and Cassidy in a house full of love.
He reluctantly let her go. “We can talk about this more when I see you later. I’ve got to run or Blake will kick my butt.”
He slapped her on the ass and she glared momentarily, unable to keep her expression from breaking into a smile as he tossed her a wink before taking the stairs two at a time.
The floor was cold underfoot, and Ashley didn’t hesitate. She snuck back into their bedroom, her heart beating faster at the sight of the blond haired man buried under the quilt on their oversized bed. She crawled under the covers, nestling against Cassidy’s firm chest.
He groaned softly, but slipped his arm over her, pulling her tight against his warmth. “I thought you two would never stop talking.”
Ashley pressed a kiss against his neck. “I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you.”
Heat slowly wrapped around her, and once again she counted her blessings that she could have such a perfect life. Travis and Cassidy in love with her, and in love with each other, plus a whole bundle of family on the side.
He rearranged her slightly, his lips close by her ear. “What game are you playing with Travis?”
Whoops. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Cassidy laughed, the deep sound curling around them and filling the room with happiness. “Honey, we’ve been together for long enough I know when you’re pulling a fast one. And you haven’t tried anything on me in the last few days, which means whatever it is you want, Travis is the one you think will say no.”
She let him see her grin. “That’s what I love about you. You’re sexy and you’re smart.”
“So I’m right? You’re trying to get something out of Travis?”
“Nothing bad,” she swore.
“Of course not.”
He said it with such droll understatement she was the one to laugh this time. “I mean it—although you’re right, my game does involve you, but I already know what your answer will be.”
“You have my blessing in whatever mischief you’re about to undertake,” Cassidy assured her as he rolled over her, and suddenly the plot to get the upper hand on Travis was the last thing on her mind as she stared up into his green eyes. “There is, however, a punishment for waking the man who was not on early chores.”
She batted her lashes, anticipation rising rapidly. “Oh, please sir, are you going to have your wicked way with me?”
Cassidy answered in the best way possible.
The early spring weather was damn nice, and Travis found himself whistling as he worked, ignoring the smirks on his brothers’ faces every time he passed them in the yard.
His youngest brother, Joel, finally said something. “I don’t know that it’s right, seeing you flitting about like a bluebird.”
“Would you rather see him pouting and being all dramatic?” Blake shook his head. “Nope, I far prefer working with this ridiculously-in-love version of Travis.”
Travis just grinned harder as he grabbed hold of a couple of feed pails and marched off toward the corral. To his delight, Ashley was perched on top of the railing by the gate.
She gave him a thorough up-and-down leer. “Hey, cowboy, you’re looking mighty fine.”
He glanced over his shoulder, but unfortunately there was family within viewing distance. He faced her, speaking quietly. “You’re lucky. I was about two seconds away from ordering you to strip so I could test the rail’s strength.”
Ashley raised a brow. “I don’t know how you think not ordering me to strip makes me lucky. I have no objections—”
It was his damn fault for starting this. “You’re a handful of trouble.”
“I’m your handful of trouble,” she pointed out. And then she changed the topic, thank goodness, because he was already going to spend the afternoon daydreaming about dirty sex in the outdoors. “I have a proposition for you.”
“Isn’t that what we were just talking about?” he teased.
Ashley ignored him. “I want to brighten up things. I’m serious, and I have some really good ideas, but I need you on board.”
“Anything you want to do in the house, or the shop. You’re in charge,” Travis offered. “Heck, you’re the one with the artistic eye. It’s not like I’m about to argue with you about colour pallets.”
She nodded happily, which made something inside him warm and content.
“There are some outside things as well,” she warned.
Travis hesitated. “You don’t want to paint a mural on the outside of the house or something, do you?”
“Oh no, nothing like that. Just a few spots of colour. That’s all.”
There was something she wasn’t saying, but he didn’t have time right now to worry it out. “If it’s something my dad and mom will approve of for around the yard…”
“I’m pretty sure they’ll have no objections,”
“And Cassidy’s onboard?” Because that expression in her eyes said he was the last one to know whatever it was she was planning.
He didn’t mind one bit.
The past year had been amazing. Being surrounded by love and acceptance had melted all the hard spots in his soul. Not only did he have two people who told him all the time how much he meant to them, he knew he was completely accepted by his extended family. After years of doubting, and being afraid that he would never find happiness, the change in situation made his head spin at times.
He put the pails down and rested his hands on either side of Ashley’s hips, staring up at her bold smile. “Okay, mischief-maker. Here’s my offer. If whatever it is you’re up to—and don’t pretend you’re not doing something twisted—if you can convince Jaxi and Blake to do whatever it is that’s on your mind, then you get my one hundred percent cooperation.”
Travis raised a hand in the air. “I promise.”
Her smile shone brighter than the sun. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” He grabbed his buckets. “Now, stop distracting me. I’ve got important rancher things to do.”
Still, he took the time to watch as she walked away. There was a skip in her step, the sun reflecting off her blonde hair as she left the yard and headed toward their home.
This being in love thing—it was pretty damn good.
Cassidy waited for the entire situation to unfurl like one of the crocuses poking their heads up everywhere in the fields.
He’d never dreamed his life could be like this. A real family surrounded him with laughter and love, getting in his face whenever he made the unwise decision to go it on his own. He was now a part of the Coleman clan—there were no lone wolves allowed amongst them.
Ever since the weekend, Ashley had been damn near buzzing with excitement, and he was pretty sure it had something to do with whatever evil plot she had started a couple weeks earlier.
Travis seemed unaware of the impending doom as he reclined on the couch, a book held in one hand, playing with Ashley’s hair with his other hand as she lay with her head in his lap. Her lips twisted into a smile as she stared across the room into Cassidy’s eyes.
It was a moment of calm in the middle of the work, a deep breath in the middle of everyday activities that seemed so much richer because he got to share them with two people who he loved.
Finally, he couldn’t wait any longer. “Are you planning on sharing secrets anytime tonight?” he asked.
Her smile grew even wider. “Eventually.”
Travis put his book aside, his dark grey eyes questioning as he met Cassidy’s gaze. “What are you two up to?”
Cassidy raised his hands in protest. “Not me. This is all her doing.”
The woman in question twisted until she was kneeling on the couch, her bright blue eyes focused intently on Travis. “You promised if Blake and Jaxi went along with what I had planned, then you would be on board as well.”
“Ahhh, you’re finally going to tell me your big surprise. Go ahead—I’m all yours.”
She leaned up higher and kissed him briefly, unfurling from the couch and heading toward the front hall. “I already knew you are mine, but now I have something that really shows you belong to me.” She glanced towards Cassidy, crooking a finger at him as well. “You too, sugar.”
“I have no objection to being claimed by you.” Cassidy rose to his feet and followed after her, smiling as Travis deliberately moved in close enough that they were torso to torso when they paused in the front hall to watch her pull a shipping box from the closet.
Cassidy leaned against Travis, welcoming the warmth of his body and the sure touch of his hand as its weight settled on his hip. Travis spoke quietly, his lips brushing Cassidy’s ear. “You have any idea what she’s up to?”
Cassidy shook his head. Maybe he could have talked her into sharing details, but it was a whole lot more fun letting her spring surprises on them.
That was part of being a family as well.
Ashley got the top of the box open, dragging out a pair of rubber boots. She beamed up at them as she held them up in triumph. “See?”
They were rubber boots, but the farthest thing from typical Cassidy had ever seen. Instead of black rubber, the boots were bright yellow, and if that weren’t enough, brilliant pink flowers were scattered over the surface.
Travis raised a hand to cover his eyes. “Good grief, I’ve been blinded.”
Ashley stood, settling her fists on her hips with the boots still held in her hands, wild colours radiating out like errant sunbeams. “I told you I wanted to brighten up the place.”
Because he was leaning against Travis’s body, Cassidy felt his partner tense, and heard him mutter a curse.
That was the moment Cassidy realized Ashley really was a genius. “I take it there are two more sets of boots in that box?”
Ashley’s nod made him laugh as he faced Travis. “You did promise,” he reminded him.
“If Blake and Jaxi—”
“Went along with what I proposed, you said you would as well. And they did. Jaxi told me she had no objections to,” Ashley lifted a hand and counted off points on her fingers, “ordering three pairs of awesome rubber boots, and two, seeing that they were worn on a regular basis around the ranch.”
Travis narrowed his eyes. “But Jaxi would have ordered rubber boots for their girls, who are all under the age of three.”
Ashley shrugged. “I don’t see that detail makes any difference.”
She brought out two more pairs of boots, one neon-blue, the other purple, both dotted with yellow stars. She passed them over, and Cassidy accepted his set with a grin.
Cassidy bumped him in the chest with his elbow. “You promised.”
“She cheated,” Travis complained, but he grabbed the purple pair.
“Come on,” Ashley slipped her feet into her boots and had the door open before either of them could move. “If you find me in the barn, I might have a reward for you” she offered, her tone sheer dirty invitation before she took off like a shot.
There was no way to stop his laughter from bubbling up and pouring out. This was why Cassidy found himself getting up every morning with a heart that was ready to explode with joy. Beside him Travis was shoving his feet into the boots, shaking his head and chuckling at Ashley’s evil plot.
Cassidy put a hand on Travis’s chest, holding him back so he could let his admiration show. “You look good in purple,” he teased.
Between one moment and the next Cassidy found himself being kissed fiercely, the best kind of tension rising between them along with a whole lot of anticipation.
Travis pushed Cassidy toward the door. “I’ll give you a five minute head start. And when I find you two, you’d better be ready for me.”
Coloured boots on his feet and joy in his heart, Cassidy raced across the yard to where he could see Ashley waiting, her hand held out to welcome him. Playing games in the hayloft might be childish, but there was nothing immature about the feeling inside. They raced up the ladder, and then Cassidy pulled her into his arms to wait for Travis to catch up.
He lifted her chin so he could look straight into the sky-blue depths. “You really do brighten up our lives.”
“Always,” Ashley agreed. “Just wait until you see the awesome coats I ordered for next winter.”
Copyright © 2013 by Vivian Arend