The next day…?
“Ozzie’s going to fly away!” Vicky cried in a panic as the dog hopped a long the field. She began running after him.
When Kraven left the barn, he found Theo leaning against wooden fence laughing watching their girl chase the dog.
“What’s she doing?” He asked stepping forward and hugging him from behind.
The previous day had been spent mostly cuddled to Vicky. As punishment for his teasing, Theo was made to tend to the animals alone, giving Kraven some alone time with their girl. But true to his word, beyond heated kisses they had done nothing.
Theo turned his head and smiled, relaxing against him before turning back.
“She thinks he’s going to fly away,” He answered chuckling.
“I was going to tell her the wind wasn’t near strong enough, but…” They both watched her chasing him now giggling.
The beautiful August weather had yet to return, but the rains had stop and the winds had died down, leaving just a strong mild breeze behind. There was still dark clouds and a chill in the air but it was passing. They would actually be able to drive today if need be.
“She is beautiful.” They both watched her dreamily, they were unsure how long for but when she finally caught their dog she ran over to them, cradling the crazy animal like a baby.
“I saved him, Kray. He was going to fly away,” She told him proudly. Neither man bothered to correct her.
“I saw and can I say, it was an amazing rescue.” He released Theo’s waist, his partner took the dog from her arms while Kraven picked her up.
“The dog is almost as big as you, we can’t have you hurting yourself,” He explained seeing her frown.
She opened her mouth to say something but stopped herself and turned her head as though to hear something. “I think I heard a car…”
“Probably a ranch hand checking to see if we need any help after the storm,” Theo suggested. It wasn’t unusual.
They had a couple of people who lived in town and often worked for them. But they had no ranch hands living there, it wasn’t needed, they could deal with the horses themselves. Though in truth since Vicky’s arrival they both had thought about perhaps employing a live on ranch hand. That way they’d have more time for her.
They would wait for now and see how things went. But one thing both men had agreed on is that she wasn’t leaving.
“Probably…” He placed Vicky on her feet but kept his arm around her as they walked around to the front of the house. Theo kept hold of Ozzie until he was sure the car had stopped, he didn’t want him getting hurt.
Both men were surprised to see the expensive car parked in front of their house.
They recognized it straight away, but wasn’t sure why the man was there, Kraven hadn’t made the call yet.
Devon stepped out of the car, he didn’t say anything, and his eyes were glued to the short girl in between the two local giants.
She was stunningly beautiful, he wasn’t blind to her beauty, but that’s not why he was in a trance. “You are Joyce’s daughter?” It came out sounding more like a statement than a question.
The girl nodded but said nothing.
He gave her a genuine smile, she was the spitting image of her mother the last time he saw her.
“You look just like you mother.”
Again she said nothing, but he could tell she was nervous.
“I was planning on calling you and your brother to meet her another time. But you are welcome to come in and stay for a cup of coffee.” He was shocked. Neither man was normally so polite, especially Kraven – he was like a bear with a sore head.
“Yes,” He quickly agreed and followed the group inside.
The more he looked at her, the more innocent and younger she looked.
Who was her guardian? He knew there was no other living family except the Hogan’s – his family. Unless her father was around of course.
“Take a seat. We will prepare the coffee and join you in a minute.”
He wanted to argue and say he could speak to his cousin alone but knew better than to get on the men’s bad side.
After a few minutes of waiting she finally returned and not surprisingly, the two large men didn’t leave her side. She sat on the couch between the men.
Devon made a note to ask them later what was going on between them.
“What’s your name? I’m Devon.”
“V..V..Victoria,” She strutted, but had an angelic voice.
“It is great to meet you, Victoria. Can ask how old you are? Where’s your father?” The men glared at him for some unknown reason.
“She is twenty-five and you know as well as me Ryan Willingham is long dead!” Kraven snapped. That was more like the man he knew.
“Forgive me. You look much younger. I did not intend to upset you.”
“I.. It’s okay,” She replied quietly.
“I have a million questions,” He smiled. “I don’t even know where to begin. You will have to come and have dinner at the manor tomorrow evening, Victoria. All the family will be there and I know they will love to meet you. My fiancée and her family will be there too.” He watched her frown and shake her head.
It was the first time he was meeting his fiancée’s family and he would have liked Victoria to join them.
Gigi – his fiancée – had told him her brother was apparently less than sociable, as was Kraven and Theo and Victoria did well with them.
Not only that, though, but he also wanted her to meet and come to think of herself as a real member of his family.
“You do not have to be scared, I will be there with you,” He told her seeing her worried expression.
He stared aghast at Theo.
“With all due respect, it has nothing to do with you… Either of you,” He looked at both the men who looked ready to punch him now.
“She is the one I’m asking, my cousin. She wants to meet her real family.”
Kraven was livid. “She is our real family!” He growled angrily but relaxed a little when she hugged his side.
“I will tell you this once, she does not wish to meet any of your family except you and Archie,” He spoke through gritted teeth.
“Now, out. You can return tomorrow with your brother.”
Devon looked to his cousin and she nodded.
“Fine. I’ll be back. But first…” He looked between the three.
“What is going on between you and Victoria?” He asked accusingly.
“We are dating.”
“Oh, hell no. You cannot date her! You will just break her heart like every other woman in town.”
By this point, everyone was standing. “We will date her and we won’t break her heart!”
“We? Both of you?”
“Leave now or you will not be welcome to return,” Kraven warned.
“Fine, but you haven’t heard the end of this, I won’t let you mess with her!”
The men looked ready to fight but she stepped between them.
“I.. I l..like them and t..they l..like me.” Devon listened.
“Come b..b..back to..tomorrow and w..we’ll speak.”
“Alright,” He agreed reluctantly.
“Can I have a hug before I go?”
She smiled and nodded making him smile. She took a couple of steps forward and he reached out to pull her into a hug. Like most people he towered over her. He was over six foot with blonde hair and blue eyes. Victoria seemed relaxed, which put the guys at ease a little.
“Your mother was amazing, I know we are going to be great friends,” He said and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Take care and do not let these two push you into anything.” The two men growled but he ignored it. “I’ll be back tomorrow. I would love you to meet my fiancée another time?” She smiled and nodded. “Okay. I leave, but I will be back,” He glared at the men before looking back to Victoria with a smile. “Goodbye, Victoria.”
Kraven held open the door and Devon left.
“Thank God,” He grumbled banging the door closed making Vicky giggle.
“You are so rude,” She said still giggling.
“No, I just say what everyone else is too scared to,” He said strolling over.
“Now…” Theo moved up behind her, his arms circling her waist. Kraven moved up in front of her, kneeling down to her height.
“Why don’t we go lay in bed and make out?” Theo suggested kissing her neck.
“You can watch Kraven and me together if you like?” She bit his neck not to moan.
“Theo, you know she isn’t ready for that yet and I want us to take her out for dinner on a date before we take it any further.” Theo nodded and stopped the kissing, but still held her.
“We could take her to that French restaurant a couple of towns over… What’s the name?”
“Can’t we have a picnic instead?” She inserted. “I’m not really ready for restaurants yet.” She looked down ashamed but Kraven cupped her cheek and lifted her face but up to look at him.
“We understand, little princess,” He reassured her. “We should have thought.”
“Yes,” Theo agreed. “A picnic sounds perfect. The weather should be warmer tomorrow. We can get some of the guys in from town to take care of the ranch and the horses while we spend the afternoon down by the lake.”
“I will call them. We could take a couple of horses, Vicky can ride with one of us,” The men spoke among themselves. Theo sat down with her on his lap and Kraven next to them.
“Cotters Lake?” She said gaining their attention.
“Yes, baby. Why? Do you know it?”
“Mama said that’s where daddy’s ashes were scattered, near a tree stump with their initials on.”
They nodded in understanding.
“She wants her ashes there too. Could we possibly…” She nibbled her lip nervously.
“Yes, baby. Anything to make you happy.”
“Thank you so much,” She exclaimed and wrapped an arm around each of their necks drawing them both to her. “I l..like you so much.” She covered their faces in kisses and they just sat back and let her.
“And we too, our little princess.”
The following day…
Thomas had been in contact with Vicky and invited the group to his home for dinner in a couple of days. Kraven had called in the ranch hands to help run the ranch for the foreseeable future. They were happy for the work, especially learning it may become a permanent position.
The ranch had enough money for the help but never found the need for permanent hands until now.
They arrived early and after Kraven had explained what he wanted them to do, they went to work.
True to his word, Devon and a younger man who looked a lot like him turned up a little after breakfast.
“Victoria, this is my younger brother, Archie. Archie, this is our cousin, Victoria,” Devon introduced once the pair were inside.
“You were completely right, brother. She is like a pretty little dolly, but with boobs.” That earned the younger man a slap on the back of the head and Kraven and Theo glared at him.
“Forgive my brother, he’s backward.”
“Hey! I am not.” Devon ignored him.
“So, about the dinner tonight…”
“We have already told you,” Theo began to say.
“I know, I know. But my parents are very eager to meet their niece. That is why I have been told to invite you both to dinner as well.”
“Wow, I’m sure your grandparents will love that,” Theo said sarcastically.
“Who cares what they think?” It wasn’t any secret that two brothers didn’t get on well with their grandparents, but the reason why wasn’t public knowledge.
“They’ll be there, right?”
“Yes, sadly. But you do not have to speak to them, I won’t.”
“As fun as it sounds, we have already got plans.”
“Maybe you could call around tomorrow when they are not there then.”
“We will discuss it and let you know.”
They all took a seat in the living room.
“Since when have you been engaged?” Theo asked curiously.
“I thought you were a confirmed bachelor?”
Devon gave him a look as if to say ‘You too.’
“Vicky is different, special. What’s your excuse? Finally got someone pregnant?”
“No, nothing like that and I am glad to hear,” Devon said seeing he was different, kinder with his cousin than anyone else – both he and Kraven was.
“Her name is Gigi Aris, I met her while on holiday in France. She is an amazing woman. I think you and her will get on,” He told his cousin.
“Her family actually own a ranch like yours in France, I believe they own vineyards too.”
“So it’s about money?”
“No, not at all. I love her. I wasn’t made aware of her families background until after I had already proposed.” He smirked. “My grandparents were furious when they heard I planned to marry a woman I met on vacation and but rejected their heiress.”
“Yes, but they soon changed their minds and invited themselves to dinner when they learned you were engaged to the daughter of a count,” Archie added.
“Eh, don’t remind me,” Devon groaned. “I don’t understand why father allows them to attend, he dislikes them as much as us.”
Vicky whispered something into Kraven’s ear.
“Vicky says she will consider meeting your parents another time, but she has no wish to meet your grandparents, ever.”
Both brothers smiled. “That’s great. I’ll speak to them later and we will arrange something.”
“Why won’t Vicky speak to us? Have we done something wrong?” Archie asked concerned.
“She suffers from terrible anxiety and has a bad stutter when nervous. She is working on improving it, but struggles to speak to new people and multiple people.”
She was sat between Kraven and Theo, each holding one of her hands in support.
Her cousins give her a sad smile. “You don’t have to be worried about saying anything wrong to us. Remember I have a backward brother.”