Nicole sat on the front porch of the ranch house, a knife in hand as she whittled away at the piece of wood in her hand. The project was coming along nicely as the whale was starting to take shape. It wasn’t much of a hobby but to Nicole it was as calming to her as when those city girls go to the spa. She had been a farm hand at the Earp farm since she was little. When her mom died and her dad left, he left her in the care of the Earps. Nicole didn’t mind much as Wynonna had been her best friend since she was five. Then there was Waverly. Nicole would never admit the crush she had on the younger Earp outloud, out of respect for Wynonna. It had been there for a while but Nicole never thought to play upon those feelings more than she had, so instead, Nicole joined the rodeo as one of the nation’s top barrel racers.
She had returned to the Earp Ranch after a call from Wynonna. The ranch was struggling and Wynonna had to let all the staff go. She wanted to make sure Waverly could finish college and not come running home to help her save the ranch, so instead, Nicole did. Truth was, Nicole would give up the world for this ranch.
Just after Wynonna and Nicole had turned 18, Ward and Michelle Earp plus their older daughter, Willa, had died in a car accident. Nicole knew the trauma all too well and did everything she could to help the Earp sisters through their pain. They grieved together and in the process, Wynonna had to become a business owner and a parent in the same day.
“Hey Haught. Can’t keep the wood out of your hand, huh?” Wynonna pulled up a seat next to Nicole.
“Earp, I’m not you.” Nicole laughed as she pushed her shoulder into Wynonna’s, almost knocking her off the chair.
“Waverly comes home soon...”
“Mmhmmm.” Nicole hummed in content as she thought of the beautiful woman.
“It’s been a while since we saw her. She broke up with Rosita last week, so she’s coming home with a broken heart. Gonna take her out to Shorty’s after we all them chores done. Maybe find her someone. She deserves better than a cheap one night stand.” Wynonna nudged Nicole. “Speaking of cheap, one night stands, who’s your next?”
Nicole gripped her chest and mocked shock. “You wound me, Wynonna! I am not a cheap, one night stand. I am the best one night stand anyone could ever ask for. Also, I don’t kiss and tell and you know that.”
“You don’t need to kiss and tell, Haught. Your reputation on the circuit spoke wonders.”
“You know me, Earp. I don’t do relationships. It’s easier to just get what I need for the night and move on.” Nicole focused her attention to the sky. “Looks like a storm is coming in.”
Wynonna looked up at the sky and Nicole noticed the confused look on her face. It was sunny as could be. There was no cloud in the sky. “What the hell are you talking about, Haught?”
“There’s a storm coming, Earp. I better go check that back fence soon. If not, we’re gonna have to corral a bunch of that cattle and I sure don’t want to do that.”
Nicole looked up as she heard the gravel of the drive crunching. A red jeep was pulling in and Nicole knew exactly who it was in the driver’s seat. The brunette had hair for days. Her skin was still flawless. Nicole watched as Waverly climbed out of the driver’s seat, tight blue jeans, cowboy boots that were worn in. A green flannel that left little to the imagination, well at least for Nicole. Nicole couldn’t take her eyes off Waverly as she leaned back into the truck and grabbed a stetson cowboy hat and placed it on her head. Not any hat, but Nicole’s. It was the one that Nicole had given to her the day Nicole left for the circuit. And boy, had she grown up since then.
“Well, I'll be! Nicole Haught, famous barrel rider has made her grand return to our little ol’ ranch.” Waverly smiled ear to ear as she pulled Nicole into a tight hug. “Wasn’t expecting to see you here. Isn’t there a big purse this weekend over in Calgary?”
Nicole was lost in the smell of Waverly’s shampoo and the feeling of having the younger Earp in her arms. “Huh?” Nicole quickly separated from Waverly.
“A big purse, shouldn’t you be down in Calgary?”
“Oh. No. I’m on break from the circuit for now. Taking some time to heal up some nagging injuries.”
“And all the women!” Wynonna said as she shoved Nicole out of the way to pull Waverly into a hug. “Haught and I were just talking about all the women she’s been sleeping with.”
“We were not talking about all the women I’ve slept with. We were talking about the fact that there is a storm comin’ and I need to get out to that back fence to get it fixed before it gets here.” Nicole rubbed the back of her neck, nervously. It wasn’t that she was ashamed of all the women she had slept with over the last four years, but she wasn’t proud of it either. “Speakin’ of, I should be headin’ out to get it fixed. Wynonna, you comin’?”
“Why don’t you take baby girl and show her the changes we’ve made to the ranch since she’s been gone? I have a meeting with that ranch down the road about purchasing a new stallion anyways.” Wynonna urged her sister towards Nicole. “Give Haught a hand, will ya baby girl? And when you’re done, we can all head to Shorty’s. He’s trying a new line dancing night. Should be a hoot to see all the drunks trying to dance.”
“Of course! That’s why I came home. Let’s go! Maybe I can even steal a dance from our rodeo star here?” Waverly headed off towards the ATV that Nicole had already packed with the wood to fix the fence and the tools needed.
“Be back before dinner, Haught. You’re cookin’!”
“I always cook, Earp.” Nicole rolled her eyes as she climbed onto the black ATV. Waverly straddled the back, her arms looping around Nicole’s, holding on tight.
As they drove the fence line, Nicole had explained all that her and Wynonna had changed over the last few months since they lost their farm hands. Wynonna had sworn Nicole to secrecy on the ranch’s money trouble, so Nicole had made up some excuse about how her and Wynonna felt they could handle everything on their own for now, wanting to save money to get better stock later in the year. Truth was, their parents had left quite a bit of debt when they died and Wynonna took it all on when she took over the ranch. Wynonna knew that Waverly needed to go to college and she did whatever she had to do to make that happen, as did Nicole. Any purse that Nicole won, she sent half of it to Wynonna to keep the ranch a float while Nicole was gone. As they reached the back fence of the property, Nicole could see the break in the fence that she had long worried was there.
“There is it.” Nicole pointed to the hole a few feet a head of them. “Gotta get that patched up. That storm should be rollin’ in in a few hours.”
“You’ve always been good at that.” Waverly climbed off the back of the ATV and began to unpack what was needed to get the fence fixed.
“Good at what?” Nicole asked as she grabbed the shovel and began to dig out the broken post.
“Knowing when a storm was coming.” Waverly stepped in front of Nicole, their bodies mere inches apart as Waverly ran a hand down the front of Nicole’s red flannel. “You look really good, Nicole.” Waverly took the stetson off her head and placed it back on Nicole’s head. “But now you look...” Waverly’s words stopped as her eyes racked over Nicole’s body. “Dance with me, tonight?”
“Only if we get this fence fixed.”
“Deal.” Waverly grabbed the other shovel and began to dig out the other broken post. “Looks like Brutus did a number on this fence.”
“How did you know it was Brutus?”
“He’s the only one big enough to run through this section of the fence.” Nicole nodded in agreement. Waverly was smart and Nicole learned a long time ago to never underestimate the younger woman.
Mid dig, Nicole looked to the sky. It was getting darker and the clouds were almost to them. “We gotta get this post fixed. That storm is coming in faster than I expected.” Nicole and Waverly made quick work of the post and began repairing the fence.
“Nicole, those clouds don’t look like this is going to be a small storm.”
As the duo finished the fence, the rain began to come down. “We won’t make it back, Nicole. We need to get inside.”
“Ok. I know just the place.” Nicole and Waverly loaded the tools back onto the ATV and sped off to the closest place they could. A small, 1 bedroom cabin that sat at the back of the 2000-acre ranch that the Earps owned. As they pulled up the storm had picked up. Nicole pushed the door open, much to the wind’s dismay. Waverly was hesitant to walk inside but Nicole held out her hand to her. “I got you, Earp.”
Waverly placed her hand in Nicole’s and Nicole pulled her into the cabin. “I haven’t been back here since...” Nicole held Waverly close and nodded against her head.
“I know, Waves. You spent a lot of time here after your parents and Willa...”
Waverly distanced herself from Nicole as she started walking around the cabin. She ran her finger across the fireplace mantel, the dust collecting on it as she moved across it. “Not all bad things happened here, though. My first kiss happened here.” She smirked at Nicole over her left shoulder.
“It was mine as well, you know.”
“Oh, I know. You never told Nonna, did you?”
“Obviously not. I’m still alive after all. Kissing her baby sister, I'm sure she would have had my heart nailed to the wall.” Nicole had pretended to have forgotten about that kiss, long ago but that wasn’t true. It lived with her every day, played in her head and all she could think about the way the day she would see Waverly again. That day was full of laughter between the two friends. And dancing. And kissing. It was the perfect end to Waverly’s senior year of high school, at least that is what Waverly had told Nicole. Within a few short months, Nicole was riding on the pro circuit and Waverly was off to college. Four years later, they found themselves in the same cabin. Two completely different people.
Nicole leaned down and began to put logs inside the fireplace. Within minutes, she had a fire going. “We won’t be leaving tonight, Waves. The storm is getting stronger.” Nicole saw Waverly shiver. “Come on, we gotta get you out of those wet clothes.”
“Nicole Haught, if you wanted me naked, all you had to do was ask.” Waverly was teasing Nicole. Nicole knew this but it didn’t make her blush any less. “Ooo, the big bad ladies woman is embarrassed by a little teasing?” Waverly giggled as she took off her flannel and laid it by the fire to dry. Nicole licked her lips as she saw the white tank top underneath clinging to Waverly’s body. “Didn’t think you’d be so shy about getting a woman out of her clothes, Cole.”
Nicole turned away out of respect for Waverly. “We both know you’re different, Waves.” Nicole’s voice was soft and sincere. The level of respect Nicole had for Waverly was different than all the one night stands she had over the last four years. Her feelings for Waverly were completely different.
Nicole turned as she felt Waverly’s hand on her bicep. She glanced down at it and then to Waverly. “Dance with me, Cole.”
“T...there’s no music, Waves.”
“Come on, we can hum our own.” Waverly kept her hand on Nicole’s bicep as she walked in front of Nicole. Nicole was hyper aware of Waverly’s movements. Every touch, every look was like a shock through her body. Waverly grabbed Nicole’s hands and placed them on Waverly’s hips and then she slipped her arms around Nicole’s neck, her fingers sliding up the base of Nicole’s neck and into her long hair, causing an unexpected moan to slip from Nicole’s lips as her eyes slipped shut. Waverly knew what Nicole liked just from the one day they had spent together in this cabin all those years ago. “Glad to know you still like that.” Waverly whispered, her lips inches from Nicole’s.
“God, yes.” Nicole melted as Waverly continued doing it. “What song do you want me to hum?”
Waverly smirked. “Cole, you know the song. Our song.”
“Our song...” Nicole had often wondered if that day had meant as much to Waverly as it had to Nicole and that statement was proof that it had. Nicole nervously started humming “Perfect Storm” by Brad Paisley.
They began to sway back and forth and as Waverly got closer to Nicole, Nicole’s hands slipped from Waverly’s hips to the small of her back. “Sing it please? You're voice is so beautiful, Cole.”
“She destroys me in that t-shirt. And I love her so much, it hurts...I never meant to fall like this but she don’t just rain, she pours. This girl right here, is the perfect storm.”
“That’s not the lyric, Cole...” Waverly’s voice was so tender, Nicole didn’t know how much more she could take being this close to Waverly again.
“I know...” Before Nicole could finish her sentence, Waverly’s lips were crashing into hers. It was like their first kiss all over again and Nicole was just addicted now as she was then. The kiss was sweet, slow and everything Nicole had missed in the last four years. It was shorter than she had wanted but with Waverly pressed tightly against her body, none of that mattered.
“Cole, can I ask you a favor?”
“Anything you want, it’s yours.”
“Dance with me again?”
“As long as you’ll have me, I'll be by your side.”