Branding the Virgin(3)By: Alexa Riley
I look across the field to see my younger brother Blake getting out of his truck. I’ve got two younger brothers and a younger sister. It’s me, then Blake, then our brother Trace, and lastly our baby sister, Dolly. Our mom passed away when we were younger, and then our dad followed a few years ago. They left each of us a piece of land and so we all live in kind of a big commune. We all have our own places and our own farms, but I swear one of them is always stopping by. I think they know I’ve become more withdrawn since the accident, so they like to check up on me.
“What?” I mumble as he walks over to me.
“Always so cheerful,” Blake says, taking off his cowboy hat and wiping his brow. “That new hire coming in today?”
“Supposed to be here any minute.” As I say the words, a dark blue SUV comes around the bend and pulls up to the house. “Speak of the devil.”
“What’s his name again?” Blake asks, putting his hat back on and leaning against the bed of my truck.
“MJ. That’s all the application said.”
I watch as the door of the SUV comes open, and out hops a short brunette with long curly hair. “Guess that’s not him. She must be lost.” My words trail off as she steps around the car and comes fully into view. She’s got on a white dress with blue flowers on it, and for a second I’m rooted to the spot. She’s breathtaking, and I feel my jaw drop at the sight of her.
“Wish a little thing like that would get lost on my ranch,” Blake says, tipping his hat up.
I can’t reply to him because I’m watching as she walks over to stand in front of us, a shy smile on her lips. Neither of us speaks a word, and she puts her hand out in front of her and introduces herself.
“One of you must be Ty Jennings. I’m MJ. Short for Mary-Jane.”
I stare up at both cowboys, who look at me like they’ve never seen a woman before. Or maybe more like I’ve got two heads. One starts to smile, reaching out to take my hand, and I immediately know he’s not Ty. Even if they look a lot alike. Ty is the one with the hard look on his face that matches all the pictures I’ve seen. Most of them I could only see part of his face, but looking up at him now, I can see almost every inch of it. The cowboy hat can’t hide him from me at this angle.
Before I shake the other guy’s hand, Ty grabs mine, shaking it first, but he doesn't let go for a second. He looks over at the man next to him, shooting him a glare before finally letting me go. They are clearly related. The other man’s smile only turns bigger and he lifts his hands in the air.
Ty turns back to look down at me. He dark eyes meet mine. They’re dark brown and almost look black around the edges. “You’re not a man,” he bites out through clenched teeth. I didn't even know someone could talk like that. His eyes narrow on me like he’s studying something. Maybe he’s waiting for me to turn into a man.
“Ah. No,” I say simply, unsure how else to respond to that.
“Fucking shit.” He turns his back to me, and I look over at the other man.
“Sorry he’s a dick. I’m his brother, Blake.” He winks at me. “The nice one. And you are?” A dimple forms in his cheek, and I wonder if Ty has one, too. I’m guessing if he did, you’d never see the thing. Then I wonder how cute my little boy will be with that same dimple. It reminds me why I’m here to begin with.
These men are my little boy’s family, and I don’t look to be off to a good start with them. It’s clearly a problem that I’m not a man, and that's definitely not something I can change.
“Mary-Jane,” I say, trying to be polite. “Or MJ.”
“Don’t you have somewhere to fucking be?” Ty barks, turning around and making me jump. I almost lose my footing, but he grabs me right before I can fall, pulling me to him.
“Don’t scare the tiny thing,” Blake jokes, the laughter clear in his voice. At least someone thinks this is funny.
I go to pull away from Ty’s hold, but he only grips me tighter as a string of curses like I’ve never heard leaves his lips. Then he practically jumps away from me from me like I’m on fire. “You have got to be fucking kidding me,” he barks again, making me wonder if he can say one sentence without dropping the F-bomb.
“No!” Blake says, laughing so hard he bends over, slapping his thigh as he howls with laughter.
Ty just turns and storms back into the house, leaving me standing there with my mouth agape.
“I…” I look at the front door he’s left wide open. I wonder if I’m supposed to follow him, but I quickly halt that train of thought. “Maybe I should go and come back,” I suggest. “I think I’m supposed to be at the bunkhouse or something.” Maybe this guy could take me over there. I really don’t want to drive back to town. I feel like my feet are starting to swell a little from the car ride and the summer heat. I really just want to sit down for a minute with my legs out.