Stage west dalton, p.1
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       Stage West - Dalton, p.1
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           Annie Pelle
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Stage West - Dalton



  Annie Pelle


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  Copyright 2012 by Annie Pelle

  This is book one of the Stage West series. The second and third stories will be published shortly. Thank you and I hope you enjoy the series.

  Chapter 1

  Graduation Day

  Meadow University

  As she watched her best friend Lindsay walk across the platform to receive her degree, Sarah wondered what was in their futures. Sarah’s degree was in Corporate Management and Lindsay had graduated with a degree in Ranch Management. We are done, we made it to graduation. We are going home! Sarah thought to herself. Well, Lindsay is going home and I am going to visit her home for a couple of days.

  David, Dalton, Lindsay and Sarah arrived at Stage West after the graduation ceremonies. The view from the plane as it is circles the ranch is breathtaking. The house is a multi-wing style building that affords the siblings some privacy. The property surrounding the house is lush and filled with desert landscapes. There are several outbuildings including multiple barns, an exercise corral for the horses to be trained and a corral for the injured livestock to heal. Sarah loved the ranch almost as much as the Matthews. She had visited there many times since their freshman year in college.

  Lindsay’s family ranch, Stage West, is in the ranching community of Peacock, Arizona. The holdings of the ranch were vast and varied, including livestock, real estate, and breeding programs. The ranch had been in the Matthews family for many generations and was now being managed by Lindsay’s two brothers. David manages the daily operations of the ranch and Dalton manages the businesses that had grown from the family ranch as well as any other holdings the family might acquire. Lindsay is going to take over some of the daily business at the ranch so that David would have more time with the breeding program. Sarah had known Lindsay since their first day at Meadow University. They were roommates their freshman year and had been best friends since then.

  Sarah’s task was to now find a job and get established. Her dream job would be a personal assistant to a top executive but as a fresh graduate she supposed she would have to work her way up to that dream position.

  “Shouldn’t we have a party to celebrate our graduation?” Lindsay asked. David laughed and then turned to Sarah and asked “Do you think you need a party to celebrate your graduation?”

  “No” Sarah replied, “I am just glad to be done, that is my celebration.”

  Lindsay frowned but agreed. “Anyway, Dalton’s birthday is coming soon and we have to have big party then” Dalton grimaced at that thought.

  As they arrived at the house, Gabby greeted them with a smile and hug of congratulations. “Sarah, I am so glad to see you again.” Gabby was the Matthews longtime housekeeper, cook and general in charge of the household. She had been with the Matthews since Lindsay was a child and helped the siblings when their parents died. Gabby had “adopted” Sarah the first time she had come home from college with Lindsay. Gabby’s husband, Nathan, was the horse wrangler and their sons, Nick, Travis and Colin work in various capacities at the ranch and at Matthews International. Nick helped David with the ranch’s breeding program and he was also Dalton’s best friend since childhood. Travis the computer genius and headed the IT team at Matthews. Colin was in his last year of training to be a veterinarian.

  Gabby sent everyone to freshen up from the trip and then told the travelers to come to the dining room for a special dinner to celebrate two new college graduates. As they ate that night, David and Lindsay started discussing the ranch business that Lindsay would begin assuming. Dalton barely sat down at the table before his cell phone rang and he had to go attend to Matthews International business. Sarah was so relieved to be done with school that she enjoyed the fact that she didn’t have to rush to finish studying for any courses. School was tough for Sarah, she got good grades but she worked hard for them. Lindsay got good grades but school was easier for her.

  The day had been a busy one so Sarah excused herself to head to her room to go to bed. She could hear the family talking as she prepared to go to sleep. It was enjoyable listening to them and was slightly envious that she had not had any brothers and sisters. Sarah’s only remaining relatives were an aunt and uncle in Tucson. They were not a real close family but they did keep in contact.

  Sarah would leave Stage West the day after tomorrow. Thanks to Gabby’s nephew, John, she had an apartment in Phoenix. Gabby and Sarah had picked out household items during spring break and they were already in the apartment. Sarah was ready to get started on her dreams.

  The next morning Sarah awoke earlier than Lindsay so she went to the kitchen to spend time with Gabby.

  “Good morning, Gabby” Sarah said arriving in the kitchen.

  “Good morning, Sarah” Gabby replied. “What would you like for breakfast? I made my special cinnamon rolls”

  Sarah’s eye widened at the thought “Gabby, your rolls are the best, bring me two.”

  “How is Nathan, I didn’t see him last night?” Sarah asked. Gabby went to dish up the rolls. “Oh you know, there are always things that need to be dealt with. Last night, one of his “girls” was due to have her foal. He never misses one of those. There is a staff of people here but Nathan is always there. He told me to tell you to come on down and see his new beauty.”

  Sarah exclaimed “I can’t wait to see her. It has been a long time since I saw one of his babies”

  After taking a few bites of the cinnamon roll, Sarah spoke again “Gabby, Thank you for getting my apartment ready for me. It will be nice to have everything unpacked except my clothes when I get there tomorrow. I need to start my job search right away and not having to unpack will help me find a job that much faster.”

  “It was my pleasure Sarah. I wish you would stay a few more days. When you get a job you will be too busy to come see me. I won’t be able to take care of you in Phoenix. “Gabby grumbled.

  Sarah smiled at the woman who had “adopted” her. “Gabby, I am not a Matthew’s family member and I am not your family, but you have always treated me as such. I may not be here at the ranch but I will always need you to take care of me. I will keep in contact with you. You have my address and phone number and now that Travis has you set up with email; we can keep in contact that way also. And Lindsay and I are best friends; I will be back to the ranch occasionally.”

  “I know Sarah, but it isn’t the same as taking care of you every day. You are one of my kids too.” Gabby responded. Sarah’s smile to Gabby was filled with great affection. “Now, you better get down seeing Nathan’s baby before he calls to check up on whether or not I told you to come to the barn. Ask Nick or one of the hands to saddle you a horse so you can take ride while the temperature is cooler too. Shoo, get going.” Gabby rushed Sarah out the kitchen door.

  As Sarah walked to the barn where the foal was, she had to laugh at Gabby. She had David, Dalton and Lindsay along with her family to look after and she was wanted to add me to the list. Sarah appreciated it very much.

  The barn for the mares and their foals was the closest to the house and it was fabulous. It was state of the art in breeding of mares. Nathan spotted Sarah when she arrived at the barn and came rushing to get her. “I was afraid that old woman would keep you in the kitchen in a gabfest and you would not be able to escape to come see my new baby.” Nathan said as he scrambled Sarah along the rows of mares.

  “It is good to see you to Nathan” Sarah laughed. “Yes, Gabby mentioned right away that I should come to the barn, but I had to talk to her for a f
ew minutes. She has been wonderful to help me with my apartment and I wanted to let her know how much I appreciate her help”

  Nathan waved her comments away, “She lives to take care of people, and it is her gift. The Matthews kids are all settled in at the house and her boys are nearby but you are not and she needs to see to that also.”

  “Hey Sarah” Nick called from down the row. “Dad is dragging you to see his baby”

  Sarah laughed in reply. “How are you Nick? I am glad to see you again. I would stop to talk to you but someone is insisting that I see his new beauty.”

  Finally Sarah reached the mare and Nathan’s new baby. Nathan slid open the door and motioned her in with him to see the mare and the foal up close. Nathan’s new baby was beautiful. She had a dark coat and white spot on her face and she was feeding with her mama. “Oh Nathan! She is gorgeous. What did you name her? Sarah exclaimed.

  “Her name hasn’t been chosen yet?” remarked David who had come in to join them. “Nathan thought you should have do the honors”

  “Nathan, why me?”

  “Because she is a beauty like you, and she needs you to name her” Nathan said.

  Sarah blushed and had to laugh at herself. A beauty? Me. “And David, you agree that I should name her, why don’t you give her a name?” Sarah asked looking confused.

  David laughed. “I have at least 10 other foals that will be coming soon, I think I will have plenty of chances to pick out a name. This one is yours to pick.”

  “Okay, well. I have never given a name to a horse before but I will pick the name to be Star Dancer, what do you think of that?” Sarah asked David and Nathan. As they exchanged looks Sarah moved to the mare. Her name was Destiny Star and her filly was just as beautiful as she was.

  “It is a great name” Nick said as he came to the group that was gathered around. “Keeps it in the family, so to speak.” David and Nathan agreed. “Okay, Sarah, we will register her as Star Dancer in your honor”

  “Now we need to leave these two beauties alone so mama can get some time in to take care of her baby.” David confirmed as we all left the stall.

  “Hey Dalton, did you come to see Nathan’s new baby?” David questioned the newcomer to the barn.

  “Nathan has a new baby, wow what a surprise!” Dalton remarked sarcastically, “I would have never guessed why you all were gathered around in a barn.”

  Nathan grinned and grumbled at the same time. “Smart mouth. My new baby is now officially named Star Dancer thanks to this beauty” Nathan pointed to Sarah indicating she had named the new foal. “We may make a rancher out of her yet, and then she can stick around”

  Sarah laughed and missed the look on Dalton’s face. Dalton swallowed a groan and thought to himself. Sarah, a beauty? Never going to happen. She was plain and that would never change. And why would we want her to stick around she wouldn’t fit in here.

  “David, you can place the order for the new equipment.” Dalton commented as he headed for the house. “Your dreams are coming true big brother. Congratulations! Stage West is the best breeding program in the country and now it is going to be even better. I’d love to stick around and be lazy like the rest of you but some of us really do work.”

  “David, why didn’t you drown him at birth and save us all a lot of aggravation” Nick questioned.

  Sarah grinned at Nick then commented “What a best friend you are?”

  Nick just laughed.

  “On a different note, Nick, your mom said you would saddle me a horse so I could take a ride before lunch?” Sarah asked

  “Sure, follow me and I’ll get you started.” Nick replied still puzzled at the look on Dalton’s face a few moments ago.

  “Sarah, did you think Dalton acted a bit odd just then?”

  “No, why?”

  “Just curious, maybe he had some business on his mind”

  Several minutes later Nick brought Sarah her horse, Copper, and explained to her the communications equipment. No one rode at Stage West without some way to contact a person on the ranch in-case of an emergency. “Ok, do you want me to go with you on your ride? I can take a few minutes for a break if you want company?”

  “Thanks Nick, but I know you have plenty to do. I appreciate you getting me set up to ride. If you see Lindsay, tell her I’ll be back before lunch.”

  As Sarah rode off on Copper, she recalled Nathan’s comment about sticking around on the ranch. That would be great to be with this family all the time but I have no knowledge of ranch business so what would I do here. No, this would be my place to escape to when I needed a vacation from my future job.

  Sarah enjoyed my ride around Stage West, it was big and beautiful and there was plenty to see. She would miss it living in Phoenix but she would be back often.

  That night Lindsay and Sarah set out by the pool and had a long conversation. Sarah was going to miss her so much but they would always be friends. “Sarah, I am going to miss you so much, why don’t you live here with us? We have plenty of room, you can work with me.”

  “Lin… you know that isn’t possible. I do not have experience at ranching and what would I do, get your coffee? I will be fine in Phoenix, it isn’t that far away. You will come to see me and I will be back to visit you.”

  The next morning as Sarah was preparing to leave, Gabby confirmed three times that Sarah had her phone number address and email address and that Sarah was to call the minute she got to her apartment. Lindsay smiled and hugged Gabby. “Okay Mama Gabby, Sarah knows what she is to do. She will be in contact with us. And I already asked her to come to Dalton’s birthday party and that is only three weeks from now.” Sarah smiled at Gabby and Lindsay and got in her car. Last night, Sarah had said her goodbyes to David, Nathan, Nick and all the rest. David had wished her well and told her to remember where her family lived and that he would see her at Dalton’s birthday party.

  Arriving at her apartment and getting settled was uneventful. Again Sarah was so thankful to Gabby for getting everything arranged including utilities. The first thing the next morning Sarah could start her job hunting. Sarah called the ranch and reported in to Gabby that she had arrived safely and that she did not need to worry about Sarah.

  Three weeks later Sarah was back on her way to Stage West for the weekend. Dalton’s birthday party was going to be on Saturday night. Sarah was a little nervous about it, it was a “dress up” occasion and she hoped her outfit would be suitable. Sarah had been so busy that she only had a chance to email Lindsay a picture of it and she approved so it should be good. Dalton’s party guests would also be business contacts and Sarah was a little nervous about that too.

  The weeks she had been living in Phoenix had been very busy. She had had several interviews and luckily gotten a job with Davis Enterprises and would start there the week following the party. Sarah was going to be in an assistant/manager role. Her responsibilities would be to review the corporate structure and recommend training and changes for personnel. She was very excited. Sarah had just received the news of the job and had not even told Lindsay yet. She couldn’t wait to get to the ranch.

  As Sarah arrived at the ranch, David was just parking his truck in the garage and motioned her that way. Sarah parked and got out to greet him. His greeting was a great big hug and a welcome home. Sarah grabbed her suitcase and left the garage to go the house. Gabby greeted her with a big hug also and said she had been gone from home too long. “Gabby, I send you an email everyday there is no way you could have missed me” Gabby grinned and said “It isn’t the same thing as you being home where I can take care of you”.

  “Go put your bag in your room then go see Lindsay in the office, and then both of you come eat.” Gabby pushed me out of the kitchen.

  Sarah did as instructed by Mama Gabby; she put her suitcase in the room she had designated as hers and went to find Lindsay. Then she knocked on the
office door and heard Lindsay call “Come in” As Sarah entered; Lindsay looked up and rushed to give me a hug. “Sarah, it is good to have you home.”

  Sarah laughed, “You are the third person who has told me that. Did you all forget that my home is in Phoenix, not here?”

  “Sarah, this is your home too” Lindsay pointed out. “You are my best friend and you always have a place here.”

  “Thank you” Sarah replied with tears in her eyes. “Now, Gabby wants us to come to the kitchen as soon as possible” Lindsay secret smile was a mile wide “She has been counting the days until you got here and wants to find out all about you. She will probably put you to work on party arrangements also.”

  As they walked to the kitchen, Lindsay explained “I have some work to do in town tomorrow morning so I leave you to explore the ranch. Then in the afternoon we will have “girl’s time” as we get ready for the party. I love the dress you bought. It is beautiful. The men at this party are going to flip when they see you in it.”

  That night the ranch was busy with party preparations. The catering company had brought out some of the equipment that was able to be set up ahead of time. They would return early on Saturday and set up the rest. Gabby, Lindsay and Sarah directed catering staff, finished last minute details and visited. They were so busy that Sarah didn’t have a chance to tell them her news. She’d tell them on Sunday when they were resting from the party.

  Early the next morning Sarah wandered down to the barns to look at the horses and see how much Star Dancer had grown in three weeks. The barn was practically deserted excepted for the much loved horses. As she roamed the stable, she reflected on how much she loved being with the Matthews family and how accepting they were of her. Star Dancer and Destiny Star had been moved to the far row of stalls. Sarah still had not seen any of the ranch hands but as she stood there admiring Star Dancer; she heard Dalton and Nick enter the barn.

  Nick asked Dalton “Are you looking forward to the party tonight?”

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