visit from a lawyer, her whole life is turned upside down.
mother packed her and their belongings in a truck and drove off Fieldstone
Ranch. Now, she has to make her way to Foremost, Alberta, the “wild
west” of Canada and deal with the dilapidated ranch that was left to her
by her estranged father.
ranch in financial distress, and other problems that crop up along the way,
Rayna turns to the one person willing to help; Vince, the hired hand. But will
his past destroy everything she’s worked towards? And will she be able to
forgive, and find beauty in Alberta’s wild plains?
she could put pen to paper and form words. Now, fifteen years later, her debut
novel is scheduled to be released and her second book is in the works.
Christine has spent the better half of her life
owning and working with horses, and these four legged companions often find
their way into her stories. After all, no work of women’s fiction would be
complete without a horse or two. 😉
She currently makes her home in the center of
the world—no, really. Look at an atlas
music as her car flew down Red Coat Trail at 110 km per hour. She had left the
mountains far behind her, and the road spanning in front had the slow rise and
fall of hills that spoke of their own special majesty. To anyone else driving
through Alberta, they might have been struck by the beauty, but it was lost on
Rayna. Her mind was far away, preoccupied with thoughts that didn’t involve
her car onto a gravel road. Consulting the written directions on her passenger
seat, Rayna saw that it was a straight shot to the ranch from here. Just a few
more miles and her long journey would be over, It didn’t bring her any relief.
memories. Rayna didn’t really know what to expect, but she had thought there
would be more than this nothingness, not even the slightest hint of sentiment
or twinge of recognition. Nothing here looked familiar, and yet, this had been
her home for the first five years of her life.
called that, had come last week in the form of legal documents. Craig Fields
had died at the young age of 52 from a heart attack. “Worked himself to death
most likely,” was what Carol, her mother, had said. Regardless, he had left
everything to Rayna, his daughter, whom he hadn’t seen or spoken to in twenty
years. It had been a shock for her. Carol had just nodded and encouraged her
with a slight smile. He was trying to do right by her, her mother had offered.
Great time to start, thought Rayna, bitterly, as she continued driving down the
gravel road that seemed to stretch on forever.
parents. There was no love lost between
them; that was certain. Her mother hadn’t wasted a single tear upon hearing of
her ex-husband’s death. And Rayna followed her example; having lived her life
without a father, she felt no loss. It might as well have been a stranger that
had died for all the emotion she felt.
unfamiliar gravel roads near Foremost Alberta. She cringed as gravel pinged off
her car, likely peppering the paint with little chips. A cloud of dust followed
her, wafting over the rolling hills. She had driven through farmland, but now, as
she entered the plains, she was in ranching territory. Wild prairie grass
swayed in the light breeze and the occasional antelope bounding across the
coulees lent the area an exotic air that could not be ignored. She hadn’t seen
much of this in the province she had grown up in. She was more familiar with
the busy city of Calgary and the untamed mountains of Banff and Canmore. She
suspected the Alberta plains held their own form of wildness.
and their belongings in the truck and driving away. They never once looked
back. Her mother, Carol, had always said that the people that lived here were a
special breed: hard working and secluded. It wasn’t unheard of to be snowed in
or to have roads washed out and be stranded on a farm or ranch for weeks at a
time. But they were happy, content with life. Watching the passing scenery
Rayna wondered if it had been the land that her mother had run from in all its
beauty and hidden trials.
sight of a weather beaten sign swaying on its arch. The words Fieldstone Ranch could barely be made
out. “I hope that’s not an indication of the shape the rest of the place
is in,” she mumbled under her breath.
driveway that had no visible end, but after cresting a couple coulees the house
could be seen on the next ridge. Horses grazed at the bottom of a valley and a
wide, lazy stream flowed through the middle.
that chased her, Rayna couldn’t help but feel awe over the beauty of her
became apparent that the sign at the entrance to the ranch was an accurate
warning to the shape of the rest of the property. The paint on the white
clapboard house was peeling and she could see where the sunbaked shingles were
peeling back. The barn wasn’t in any better shape; boards were loose and
falling off and the door hung at an angle, attesting to the fact it wouldn’t
close. Any beauty she had thought she had seen was gone. Now all she saw was a
rundown home that held very little worth. And to top it all off, it was now her
stepped out. The air was crisp and clean here despite the early summer heat,
and the chirping birds made relaxing background music. The sound of her car
door slamming announced her arrival, and a dog ran out from behind the barn,
barking and jumping.
away from the dirty animal’s bounding paws.
left her alone but followed close to her feet as if to supervise while she
walked across the yard. Gravel crunched beneath her heels as she walked towards
the house, and not for the first time, she wished she had worn more comfortable
shoes, but she had come straight from work and hadn’t thought to change.
It squealed loudly in protest on rusty hinges and made Rayna shiver despite the
warm weather. Stepping in, she looked around. The house was in good repair
inside, but it was messy. Dust could be seen floating in the sunbeams, layering
the windowsills and every other unused surface. Dirty dishes filled the kitchen
sink and mail lay strewn across the kitchen table. Rustic oak floors had muddy
paw and boot prints and various food spills. It was a typical bachelor’s
house, trailing her hand across surfaces, picking up dust on her fingertips.
She tried to remember something about this place that had once been her home,
anything, but she might have well been walking these floors for the first time.
two bedrooms and a tiny bathroom. It would take a lot of repairs and a little
seller’s flare. Something like, “a quaint country home with lots of character.”
It sounded nice, but basically meant it was a dump.
kitchen and put a kettle of water on the stove to boil. She’d need to look
around a bit more, get a feel for the place, but she needed a break first.
Searching through the cupboards she managed to find a clean mug and some dusty
tea bags with no label.
thought, a wry smile lighting her face in an attempt to stay positive. At least
the sparse cupboards meant she wouldn’t have to pack up much.
like a sick, dying bird.
her mystery tea bag, Rayna took her mug and sat at the kitchen table. Who was
this man who had abandoned her? And why had he left all his earthly possessions
to her? Perhaps it was out of guilt, or there really was no one else to give it
to. She knew nothing of her father; he could have been a hermit for all she
knew. A small part of her had thought that he might have re-married and had
more kids which was why he had stayed out of her life, but all the evidence
boomed a voice from behind her.
from her thoughts, surprised that someone else was here. The sudden movement
caused her to tip over her mug, spilling hot tea all over her lap. She jumped
up, shrieking in surprise and pain, trying to brush the burning liquid off with
sensation had begun it was gone and replaced with the cold wet of water. Rayna
stood still, in shock, water dripping from her shirt and skirt. She looked up
at the man who seemed to have lost all anger and now wore a concerned look on
his face. An empty bowl hung uselessly
from his hand. Recovering from her shock, Rayna glared at the man. “What is
your problem?” she shouted. “Sneaking up on me and then throwing water all over
throat. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be here.”
doing here? This is my property.”
Understanding lit his eyes. Pulling off an old, weather beaten leather glove,
he extended his hand. Rayna gingerly accepted it, feeling his firm grip and
rough skin chafe against her own.
thank you for sticking around and keeping things in order for me.”
bitterness in her voice had not gone unnoticed. “I’m not looking for any
thanks, just doing my job. How about you get something dry on and I give you a
tour of your new place? And I’d put on some more comfortable shoes if I were
here to see the place, but she didn’t really want to go with this cowboy. “I
left all my things at my hotel in town. I had no intention of staying here,”
she said, looking for an excuse.
rustle something up, if you’re interested in the tour, that is.”
he take a hint? “How about I come back tomorrow morning? I’m a bit tired from
the drive up.”
had let it go, and walked past Vince and out the door. He turned to follow her,
jogging past to open the car door. Great, a gentleman. Just what she needed.
seat belt and looked up at the dirty man leaning on the door of her Audi.
“Drive safe,” he said as he shut the door.
eager to be gone from the ranch and all the questions that came with it. She’d
be more than happy to sell the place and be done with it, forever erasing her
father from her life.
Foremost a half hour later, she parked her car outside the small motel and
retreated to her room.
be said, but other than that it was a cheap motel room and nothing more. Rayna
wasn’t exactly thrilled about staying here for the week or two it would take to
set her father’s affairs in order, but in a small town like Foremost, there
weren’t exactly a lot of options.
clothes, she jumped into the shower to wash off the layer of gravel dust that
seemed to suck all the moisture from her skin.
exhausted. She had worked all morning and part of the afternoon before making
the four hour drive out here. But, as much as she wanted to fall into bed, she
needed to find something to eat. The hotel had a small bar attached and feeling
inclined to stay close to home, Rayna decided it was a good enough option.
clothes, she walked around the outside of the building to the front where she
entered the dimly lit bar.
expected for seven or so in the evening, but there was likely no better place
to go once the day’s work was done. Her short drive through town certainly
hadn’t shown any evidence of anything better.
in an attempt to avoid human contact, Rayna waited for a server to appear.
ponytail came over. She handed Rayna a menu with a broad smile.
“Will anyone be joining you?” she
something to drink?”
for a moment. “I’ll have a glass of the chardonnay and a chicken burger.”
watching her as she stopped and greeted a table full of boys, likely friends of
waitress had offered her water to start. Anything to quench her dry throat.
There was no moisture here. Everything felt dusty. Even her skin was starting
to feel too small for her body, only adding to her feelings of discomfort, and
she’d only been in the ass end of Alberta for a few hours.
get her wine and the waitress promised again that she’d be right out with her
food. Rayna smiled and nodded, but didn’t put much faith in the waitress’
promise. In her experience bar food was never fast.
Rayna had finished her wine and just about used up her last drop of patience.
She hated this little town more and more with every passing minute. Already it
felt like she had been here two hours too long.
another glass of wine but the thought of delaying her acquaintance with the
motel bed had her shaking her head. “No thanks.”
grudgingly admitting to herself that it was actually quite good, she settled
her bill and headed back to her room.
drift off to sleep, but despite her exhaustion, she was plagued with thoughts
of her father’s ranch. How would she stage it? What could she ask for it? She
had no real idea what ranches were worth or what the market was for them. And what
would she do with the cattle? Did she sell them with the property? Horses? So
many questions, some of which she hoped Vince could answer. But that was
tomorrow, and tonight the only answer she needed was the one to her prayer for