Strong Silent Type(3)

By: Lorelei James


The seven-year-old girl shook her head, bouncing her blonde corkscrew pigtails. “Huh-uh. I looked.”

“Look again.”

“But you’re the librarian. You always help me.”

“This time is different, sweetie, because your teacher wants you to find the book. It’ll improve your alphabetizing skills.” Libby resisted her impulse to smooth the girl’s puckered brow.

“I wish you were my teacher, Mrs. McKay,” she announced before flouncing away.

I wish I had a little girl just like you.

Libby briefly squeezed her eyes shut. Don’t go there. She had enough issues and failures to deal with, thank you very much, starting with the demise of her marriage to Quinn McKay.

Damn stubborn man. What would spur him into action? To get across this wasn’t a game? This was their life hanging in the balance.

Quinn hadn’t balked at her demand of a trial separation. He’d taken it in stride and blithely continued his day-to-day life on the ranch, content to hole up in the horse trailer until she “came to her senses.”

Three months had gone by and they were still at an impasse.

It didn’t help Libby hadn’t spoken directly to her husband in that time frame. Her involvement with their ranching operation made their lack of daily communication a real dilemma. Being the efficient sort, she’d created a schedule for ranch business and bill paying, and for personal issues, such as when Quinn could use the shower and the washer and dryer in the house.

The system worked, but it forced them to leave each other notes. His were terse and to the point. Hers were polite and filled with detailed explanations. Which pretty much summed up their marriage in the last year or so.

But Libby still loved Quinn. She missed him like crazy. Yet after last night, she questioned whether love was enough. Why wouldn’t he fight for her? For them? Why was it solely up to her to enact the changes they both so desperately needed?

If you’re so eager for change, why haven’t you signed the legal complaint paperwork the attorney gave you that’s been in your desk for a month?

Good question.

But at least she’d made an effort to test her wings and gauge if walking away from him for good was a possibility. Bored and lonely, Libby had started hanging out with her single female coworkers at Ziggy’s, a bar which catered to a younger crowd than the other honky-tonks in the area. Getting hit on by eager, hot cowboys did wonders for her self-esteem, even when she’d only flirted, danced and accepted the occasional free drink.

Then Quinn began showing up. He’d hunker down in a booth, drinking beer, sometimes alone, sometimes with his brother. Quinn never approached her. He just watched her.

Until last night.

Quinn’s clipped, “Get your goddamn hands off my wife,” had instilled a tiny seed of hope. Libby secretly wished for Quinn the Barbarian to hoist her over his shoulder and cart her out of the bar. She fantasized her he-man would be in such a lust-filled state to have her, he’d fuck her against his dirty pickup, not caring who might see him staking his claim.

Afterward, he’d race them home and make mad, passionate love to her for days on end. In their bed. On the kitchen table. In the shower. Up against the corral. All the while confessing his undying love for her. Profess he’d been a fool. He’d do anything to keep her and guarantee her happiness for the rest of their lives.

That hadn’t happened. Libby had to face reality—it probably never would. Last night Quinn had simply muttered and walked away. Given up. Dashing her idiotic, girlish romantic dreams of reconciliation.

Tears fell as she reached for the file folder in the back of the drawer. She pulled out the sheaf of legal papers titled Complaint. Libby scrawled her name on the bottom line, dated it and crammed the whole works in a manila envelope.

The rest of Mrs. Rich’s rambunctious second-grade class barreled into the library. Libby hastily set the envelope on her desk and put the whole thing out of her mind.

*

A sage-scented breeze stirred Libby’s hair as she exited the school hours later. Exhausted, she juggled a bag of books and her car keys, so she didn’t notice the man leaning against her car until the tips of his boots were within view.

Libby raised her chin. Her heart whomped when her gaze caught familiar blue eyes.

Quinn.

Even after fourteen years together, just seeing him set her pulse racing. Quinn was the stereotypical Wyoming rancher, more rugged looking than classically handsome. He’d maintained the same stocky build as in his younger years, although it appeared he’d dropped weight since being forced to cook his own meals. But it looked good on him. Everything looked good on him.

His face was smoothly shaven. The fresh scent of his aftershave, mixed with the aroma of his sun-warmed skin, drifted toward her, swamping her with longing.

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