Disclaimer: I don’t own the Magnificent 7 or they would have been treated better. Not making any money off of them, just writing to entertain myself and a few friends.

Thanks to all who have written in the ATF universe and Mog for creating it. Thanks to Chris for the feedback. Hope I didn’t step on any toes.

Warning: Romance ahead! A Buck/Inez story.

“Hi Buck, you real busy?” Sue Updike asked shyly, standing behind the tall ATF agent who had his head under the hood of his old red truck. Standing up quickly, he bonked his head on the hood. Rubbing the sore spot, he turned a grease-smeared face with a big grin on it to his next-door neighbor.

“Never too busy for you, darlin’. What can I do for you?” He liked the tall thin woman who had gotten divorced just six months prior. He had done all he could to help the woman and her son get back on their feet after her ex-husband left the two of them high and dry. He had plans for the day that included fixing his stubborn truck and going out to Chris’s ranch later but both of them could wait.

Sue moved up beside him and bit at her bottom lip. “I hate to ask this of you but I loaned my car to a friend and now I find that Joey forgot his skates. He stayed over at a friend’s and they were going to go ice skating this afternoon. For some reason, he didn’t realize he forgot them ‘til they got to the skating rink. Do you think you could take me over there just to give him the skates? He was really looking forward to skating.” She looked up at him with big puppy dog eyes and he couldn’t resist.

“Sure, no problem, Sue. You wanna go get…” He stopped as the brunette held the skates up. “I’m that predictable, huh?”

“You’re a sweetheart, that’s what you are. It’s only ten minutes from here.” She smiled and moved to the passenger side door. She got in and waited for him to close the hood and get inside himself.

They chatted amicably during the short trip. The parking lot was full as he pulled in. “I didn’t even know this place existed. Guess I’m not much into skating but it sure looks like a lot of people are.”

“You wouldn’t believe all the adults that come here to skate, men and women, Buck.” She nudged him with an elbow as they made their way inside. She knew he saw a lot of women but didn’t seem to have one that was steady. They had gone out a couple of times and she very much enjoyed his company but there was never a doubt that he was seeing others at the same time. The man was like a humming bird, always in motion, always flitting from one flower to the next. “Why don’t you stay here and I’ll go find my son.”

“Take your time, Sue. I’m in no rush.” He leaned his hands against the wall separating the on-lookers from the ice and the skaters. The arena was huge and seemed to be divided off into three sections. One was for those who could barely stay upright, one was for those who were fairly confident that the skates would hold them, and the third was for the people who really knew what they were doing. He laughed at some of the kids who had fallen into a giant heap. He smiled at a young couple that held hands as they made their way around the rink.

As he gazed at the area of ice that was reserved for those who could do the spins and graceful moves, a lone woman with long black hair caught his eye. He let out a small gasp of air as he stared intently at the woman. She wore all white, a small fluff of fake fur around the neck of her sweater. She seemed oblivious to all around her as she glided gracefully across the ice. She performed a small jump and went into an immediate spin, her hair flowing gently out from her body. She looked like an angel, floating so elegantly around the frozen water. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

“Buck? Buck?” He felt an insistent tug of his sleeve. He looked down to find Joey and his mother at his side.

“Hi there, kiddo. You all set?” He glanced at the dark haired boy but his gaze darted back to the woman in white.

“Yeah, just wanted to say thanks for bringing my mom and the skates.” The twelve year old’s eyes followed the mustached man’s and he grinned. “She’s a looker, ain’t she, Buck?”

“Huh, what?” Once again he looked down to where the boy stood at his side, slightly embarrassed that the boy had caught him so intently watching the woman out on the ice.

“She comes here a lot. She’s real nice, shows some of the girls how to skate, do the fancy moves. Her name’s Inez. Want me to introduce ya?” the boy said with a smug look on his face.

“Nah. She sure is somethin’ though.” His entire mind was on the skater now. She was a vision to behold!

“Buck, it’s no problemo. Hey, Inez,” Joey waved his arm to catch the woman’s attention. He felt a hand grab the arm and pull it down.

Buck looked stern as he faced the boy. “Don’t, Joe, I look a mess. I’ve got grease all over me and I’m in my grubbies. Besides, I know her already.” Smiling quickly he continued, “Hey, have fun, okay? Sue, ya ready?” The tall man turned to the puzzled mother by his side.

Sue had seen that look before in a man’s eye but never in Buck Wilmington’s. He seemed afraid of the woman in white or was it something else. “Anytime you are, neighbor. Joey, behave. I’ll see you for supper.” She noticed Buck look back several times as they made their way out of the building.

+ + + + + + +

Inez drove home the long way, the way that took her past the condo development where Agents Wilmington and Dunne lived. She often did that on Saturday, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mustached ATF agent. He had been coming into her restaurant/bar for almost two years now, flirting with her every time he and his teammates arrived. Within days of meeting the seven men of ATF Team 7, Buck had started asking her out. Inez, however, had just moved to Denver, away from San Diego and a horrendous, self-destructive affair with a married man. She had no intention of getting involved with any man, let alone a man she knew would only be around for a couple of months before moving on. She had cut him down with quick-witted barbs and sass on each occasion.

However, she’d had time to heal and time to watch and listen and her opinion of the handsome ladies man had mellowed. The problem was, he rarely was serious about his entreaties to her now. Sure, he still made quick remarks to her as he passed the bar on his way to the back table where Team 7 always sat but he hardly seemed to really notice her anymore.

She still noticed him though. She had overheard him talking to a rather large, ordinary looking woman one night. He had been attentive, sympathetic, and funny. The woman had a wonderful time and left with a big smile replacing the sour look she had come in with.

Inez had watched him every time he came in after that. He rarely came in with a woman but quite often left with one. Tall, short, beautiful or plain, it didn’t seem to matter to Buck. He made each one of them feel pretty and desired. She had seen many of the women return to him of their own free will, always enjoying his company whether it was just for the evening or for the night.

Just once, she thought to herself, she’d like to spend an evening with him to see what all the fuss was about. Just one date to find out exactly what was so special about the womanizing federal agent. She feared, however, that her time was past and she would never get the opportunity again. She would never in a million years ask him for a date, she never had and never would ask him or any other man. It just wasn’t in her nature. So her tiny crush would go ungratified. She sighed to herself as she turned the corner. Out of nowhere, he appeared. He was standing by the street, the hood up on his truck, his sweaty body dressed only in a tank top and jeans. Whoa, he looked good!

An oncoming car honked and she quickly pulled her eyes away from Buck and back onto the traffic. “You’re acting like a sixteen year old with a new license! Get a hold of yourself, you idiot! He’s just a man and you can have any man you want,” She berated herself. “Just not this one.” She sighed and drove away, trying to get her mind off the tall handsome member of Team 7.

+ + + + + + +

Friday evening, the whole team was ready to go at five o’clock. Nathan headed for home, he had promised Raine dinner and a movie. Chris had a date with Mary Travis, the Judge’s daughter –in-law. It was becoming a habit with the two of them, Friday night was pizza and a movie and her son Billy. As the other five walked out, JD turned to his tall roommate.

“I won’t be back until late Sunday. It’s about a five hour drive and Nettie wants to go to church with them on Sunday morning.”

“I think I can handle a weekend by myself, Kid, though I sincerely doubt I’ll be by myself, if you know what I mean.” He waggled his eyebrows at the team’s youngest, a big shit-eatin’ grin plastered across his face.

“You’re hopeless, Buck. See ya and try to stay outta trouble, okay?” JD shouted over his shoulder as he jumped into the car with Casey.

“Have fun, kid.” Buck waved as the couple drove away. “Well that leaves the four of us. Anyone up for dinner at the Saloon?”

“Sure, why not.” Vin was hungry, he’d missed lunch today due to a meeting he had with an informant.

“I find I also have an engagement tonight, gentlemen. I would invite all of you along but Maude is in town with her latest beau and I have to escort them around town. I will see you Monday morning.” Ezra tipped his imaginary hat and made his way to his Jaguar.

“Josiah, you got plans too?”

Josiah grinned. “As a matter of fact, I do. A lovely widow from my parish has invited me to dine with her tonight. You two have a wonderful meal. I will see you also Monday morning.”

“Guess that makes just the two of us, Junior. Meet you there.” Buck made his way to his pick-up truck and drove the three blocks to Inez’s place. He sat in his vehicle for a few minutes, picturing in his mind the ethereal creature that had floated across the ice last Saturday. Shaking the image out of his head, he joined Vin and walked into the Saloon.

“Buenos noches, seniors. Just the two of you tonight?” Inez greeted them as they entered. She made a conscious effort not to look Buck in the eye. She was afraid he would see the longing she held for the man in the sparkle of her eye.

“Yes, ma’am, just us two. How about the small booth on the side there?” Vin pointed to a booth the seven would normally never sit in. There was no sense taking up the large table in the back that the group of men usually claimed as theirs.

Inez relaxed a bit and smiled. “Of course, two beers or would you prefer a pitcher?”

Buck moved slightly closer to the feisty bar owner. “You are looking mighty fine tonight, Senorita. And your perfume, it is scintillating on you.” He leaned down and took a noticeable breath. “Just perfect for you!”

For the first time ever, Inez blushed at the rogue’s compliments. She ducked her head so he couldn’t see the color rush to her cheeks. “I will bring you a pitcher, you seem ready for a long night out.”

“Nah, just two glasses. I got some important stuff to do in the morning with the kids in my building. I’ll be leaving before it gets late.”

Inez nodded and moved behind the bar. She took a deep breath as she grabbed their favorite beer from the cooler. Grabbing two glasses and two menus, she made her way to where the two men were settling in. “Do you know what you want to eat or do you need the menus?”

“Bring on the Mexican Fiesta platter, darlin’. I could eat a horse tonight. How ‘bout you, Vin?” Buck stared longer than normal at the bar’s owner. He was seeing her in a whole new light, not that there was anything wrong with the old vision. Something about the way she had floated across the ice in the shimmering white sweater had left him in a tizzy all week. For once in a very long time, he didn’t have a date for Friday or Saturday and he didn’t care. Tonight, he planned to watch the Mexican beauty and prepare his strategy.

Vin smiled shyly. “Same for me, Miss Inez. You know, Buck is right, you do look particularly lovely tonight.”

Once again, Inez blushed but didn’t try to hide it this time. “Gracious, Senor Vin. I will be right back with your food.” Quickly, she moved away from their table.

Buck turned to the longhaired sharpshooter. “You got designs on her, Junior?” The voice was gruff, almost menacing.

Vin stared at his taller companion in disbelief. “No. God, Buck, I was just bein’ nice. She’s Inez, for cryin’ out loud!”

“And what’s that suppose ta mean? She ain’t good enough for ya?” Buck’s voice took on a defensive tone.

“You feelin’ all right, Bucklin? Jeez, all I meant is that she’s a pal. ‘Sides, she wouldn’t date any of us, she’s made that perfectly clear over the past year and a half. She just looks, I don’t know, different somehow.” Vin leaned back in his chair, studying the man across from him.

“Sorry Vin, I guess I’m tired, that’s all. Get kinda protective sometimes.”

“Sometimes! Ha, tell that taJD. What’s he doin’ this weekend anyway?” Vin figured changing the subject was the best course of action. It seemed to work.

“He’s taking Casey and Miss Nettie to visit her son in Nebraska. A real working farm, no less. I don’t think the kid has ever been on a farm before, it’ll be a shock to his system.” Buck leaned back in his chair but his eyes weren’t on Vin.

“You expectin’ someone, Stud?” Vin drew out the pet name Chris had for the handsome ladies man. He got a smile out of Buck.

“Naw, just inspectin’ the territory. Ya never know when that special one will drop into your life. Ya ever been in love, Vin?” Buck sipped his beer slowly, intending on making it last.

“Once, I guess. Didn’t work out, she was married. How ‘bout you?”

“Nope. Know what it looks like though. Used to sit and watch Chris with Sarah. That was pure love, yes siree. One day, I’m gonna find that and I’ll give her my whole heart.” His glance over Vin’s head had the sharpshooter turning his head to see who had come in. Vin didn’t notice anyone in particular.

Inez set the plates down on their table. She smiled a brilliant flash of perfect white teeth. “Let me know if you need anything else. Enjoy.”

“Gosh, Inez, you loaded everything on here. What’s the occasion?” Vin looked from the overflowing platter to the ravishing lady.

“You two have worked very hard this week and you deserve a hearty meal. Eat, eat, before it gets cold.” She stayed until each of them had taken a huge bite of her spicy food.

They were quiet as they ate their fill. Both left quite a bit on their plates, having stuffed themselves. They both relaxed back into the booth seats and finished their beers. Vin sensed that Buck was still preoccupied.

“You sure there ain’t nuthin’ botherin’ you?” he pressed the older man.

“Nothin’, why?” Buck didn’t want to talk about what was on his mind. It was too personal.

“Well, fer one, you’re awful quiet.”

“Been eatin’ in case ya didn’t notice!”

“Never stopped ya before. Two, ya ain’t looked at me once all evenin’.”

“And that’s a bad thing? Ya ain’t the purtiest thing around, ya know!”

“That hurts, Bucklin,” he feigned pain, holding his chest. “Three, ya didn’t even turn yer head when that redhead passed by ya. Ya gotta have a fever or somethin’!”

Buck turned to find the redhead Vin had noticed and he hadn’t. She was gorgeous, built like a brick house as they say, but he turned back to his friend. “All right, I’m a little preoccupied but it’s nothin’, I swear. Just a little woman trouble, okay?”


“No, nothin’ like that. Just ponderin’ on a lady, tryin’ to get her attention and can’t seem to figure a way past her defenses.” Buck raised his hand and the bartender nodded, pouring them another beer. “What ya doin’ with the kids tomorrow?”

Vin smiled to himself. A change of subject was a good thing. He didn’t particularly like comparing notes on women with the team’s Lothario. Vin had very little experience with women, barely more than JD had. He got embarrassed when Buck started in on the weaker sex. “Taking them bowling. They got themselves into a league and they got no way ta get there tomorrow. Promised I’d help out. Ya wanna come?”

“Nah, got plans of my own. Ya know what, Junior, I think I’m gonna head on out. I think Sheila gets off at eight tonight. She’s one I haven’t … seen in awhile. See ya Monday, Pard.” Buck rose and headed for the bar to pay his bill.

“Buck, ya gotta beer comin’!” Vin shrugged, resigned to drink them both. It was still early.

Inez watched the handsome ladies man leave. ‘He must have a date,’ she thought morosely.


The next morning, Buck Wilmington took a shower, paid close attention to his hair, put on his favorite cologne, his lucky jeans, and a blue shirt that he had been told looked particularly good on him. He sat and waited until eleven and then he drove to the ice rink. He stood by the wall, leaning against a post, watching the raven-haired beauty out on the ice. Today, she was in red, a cherry red v-neck sweater and tight dark red slacks that showed off her every asset. No one disturbed the man who’s sole focus of attention was the woman with the long black hair. After about an hour, she made her way towards the gate that led off the ice. He moved to intercept her.

“Hi Inez,” he said almost shyly.

She was stunned to see him standing before her. He looked absolutely marvelous. She gulped and tried to find words to greet him. She finally squeezed out, “Hi.”

“I was wonderin’ if you would have lunch with me today. I know its short notice so I’ll understand if you can’t.” He looked like a small boy asking a parent for permission to keep a lost dog.

The woman before him smiled and nodded. “I have my own car.” It was all that came to mind. She was in a state of shock at seeing the man she had just dreamt about the night before standing in front of her, asking her to go out.

He breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn’t realized that he had been holding his breath. “That’s okay. I’ll follow you wherever you would like to go.”

‘Back to your place,’ she thought but she replied, “I hardly ever go out to eat. Maybe you know a good place for lunch around here.”

“As a matter of fact I do. It’s just a short distance, would you like to go with me and I’ll bring ya back?”

“That would be fine.”

They chatted all the way to the hot dog stand. He ordered for both of them and Inez found the food extraordinary. They chatted between bites and soon, both were done. Inez finally found the courage to ask the tall man sitting beside her the question she had been pondering since seeing him at the ice rink. “What were you doing at the skating rink? Nobody knows about my love for skating.”

“Well, I had to drop off some skates last week and I spotted this angel out on the ice. She took my breath away with her beauty and grace. I just had to return to she if she was real or a dream.” He took her hand in his. “I guess she’s real.”

Inez didn’t know how to respond. He had seen her the week before but never said a word to her at the Saloon. Evidently, he hadn’t mentioned it to the others either as none of them had asked her about the skating. “It’s a secret passion of mine. Something I do just for me.”

“I can see why. You’re fantastic. I watched you for a while again today, hope you don’t mind.”

“No, I don’t mind.” Suddenly, she looked at her watch. “Oh my, I need to be at the restaurant in an hour. I’m sorry to cut this short, Buck.”

“Me too. You gotta work all night?” he asked knowing the answer.

“Yes, its Saturday, my busiest day.” She noticed the disappointment in his eyes so she took a chance. “I have tomorrow off.”

The smile he gave her lit up the area around her like a morning sun. She found herself smiling back. “Can I pick you up at eleven? I’d love to take you on a picnic.”

“That sounds fine. What would you like me to fix?” She was still grinning.

“Tell ya what, you bring some desert, I’ll handle the rest.”

“You cook?” she asked in amazement.

“Pretty good if I say so myself. Uh, can I get your address?” He was almost blushing as he realized he still had her hand. He let go so she could dig a paper and pen out of her purse. She wrote her address and home phone down and slid it over to him.

“Well, let’s get you back to your car. I wouldn’t want ya to be late.”

+ + + + + + +

At exactly eleven o’clock the next day, Buck Wilmington, wearing a violet/blue sport shirt and faded blue jeans, knocked on Inez’s door. She opened it within seconds and Buck was relieved slightly to find she was all ready to go. He accepted the women who were never ready when he arrived for a date but he secretly hated it. He tried his hardest to always be right on time, his mother had taught him that courtesy. He always hoped for the same consideration from the woman he was taking out.

Inez had on a light pink sweater and fairly tight jeans. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she had on very little makeup. She had decided during the busy evening that she would not make a fuss over the big federal agent. He had made the first move and she the second. Now was the time to be just her, natural and truthful. She didn’t have the time or desire to play games. She smiled at the handsome man before her.

“I hope I am dressed appropriately. I know you said picnic but you didn’t say where.”

“You look just fine. Do you ride?” he asked hopefully. He had a spot in mind but if she didn’t like horses it was out of the picture.

“Ride? I don’t..” She wasn’t sure what he was asking but he cut her off with his brilliant smile.

“Horses, darlin’, do you like to go horseback riding?”

Inez looked down, embarrassed by a few of the thoughts that had run through her mind. She turned her face back up to him, hoping she had regained her composure. “I haven’t ridden for a long time but yes, I would love to go for a ride… on a horse.” She grinned as they turned for the street where his freshly washed truck awaited.

The ride out to Chris’s ranch seemed the quickest Buck had ever made the trip. Inez had told him about the previous evening at work from her perspective and he was pleased to find she had a wicked sense of humor. They had chatted about several things, nothing too specific however. He pulled into the drive that led to the big ranch house and barn that Buck’s oldest friend owned. Buck knew that Chris had plans with Vin that day and he hoped none of the others would pick today to go riding. He didn’t want the others to know about his date with Inez. He definitely wasn’t ashamed but for some reason, this date felt more personal than most of the others. He wanted this time to be just about them, he and the beautiful Mexican woman beside him.

He stopped the truck by the barn and ran around to open the door for Inez. He offered his hand and she gently placed her hand on top of his as she exited. “Gracious,” she whispered. He smiled and nodded, not trusting his voice as the sultriness of her voice affected him on several levels. He could feel the physical presence of her and what it was doing to his body but he was struck more by how her soft whisper pierced his heart. He gulped, trying to find some moisture in his mouth. Other than taking her hand for a few minutes yesterday, he had never really touched her before and her warmth took him by surprise.

Finally, he found his voice. “Make yourself welcome inside while I get the food stuff together. The gray is mine. I thought Nathan’s mare, Mercy, would fit you just right. She’s the third one on the left. Stay clear of the first one on the right, that’s Ez’s Chaucer. He had a tendency to nip.” He busied himself with the food he had packed in the bed of the old Chevy. Inez wandered into the barn and was instantly as ease. She had grown up with horses; her uncle often had her out to his farm. She had loved the feel of the wind on her face as she galloped across the desert on a spirited palomino. She was amazed at how comfortable she was with Buck. She knew he was sexy and she desired him, probably more than was decent but she had never really thought of him as a friend who would be there to listen to her. Yes, she knew he could be caring and attentive but she hadn’t experienced it for herself before. It felt good!

Buck came in a few minutes later with two full saddlebags. He smiled as he watched her run her fingers down the muzzle of his gray gelding. “His name’s Bourbon. We’ve been together for a long time. I never rode until I met Chris but I was hooked after my first trail ride. When Chris got this place from his dad, he bought a couple of wild horses. We were young and stupid back then and we thought we could train them. Wrong! But, one of them was pregnant and she produced this scrawny little gray foal. He took to me right away, would follow me like a dog all around the place. Sarah put a stop to that though when he ate all her flowers one day.” He stopped, a sad little smile on his face. “I haven’t thought about that day for a long time. Boy, she was mad. From then on, Bourbon stayed with the other horses.” He went and grabbed two saddles and quickly got both horses ready to ride. He tied the saddlebags to the saddles and then turned to the woman waiting patiently. “All set.” He cupped his hands and leaned over for her foot. Her hand on his shoulder, he hoisted her up into the saddle. He adjusted the stirrups and then mounted Bourbon. He led the way out of the barn, through the paddock, and out into the field. They headed for the mountains.

After riding for an hour, they came to a sparkling clear lake. One side of the lake was bordered by steep cliffs, which reflected silently in the still water. The other side had several copses of trees. It was the most peaceful place that Buck knew of and he often came here alone or with the other guys camping. He had never brought a date here though. It was too special, too personal. It was here that Buck had taught Adam how to fish. It was here that Buck had held Chris when he broke down and cried almost a year after the tragedy that had taken Sarah and Adam from them. It was here that he had heard Sarah’s voice, telling him it was all right to leave Chris for a while.

The team had initiated Ezra into the brotherhood here and they had celebrated Vin’s return to health here after he was released from the hospital. They had worshipped the moon and watched the sun rise from the rocks that sat by the water’s edge. This was not a spot for a casual date. However, it was the first spot that Buck had thought of when he asked Inez if she would go on a picnic with him. He gazed at the raven-haired beauty and wondered why.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous, Buck!” She sat in awe of the splendor of the place. She hadn’t experienced the beauty of nature in so long. Why didn’t she do this every chance she got? Had she forgotten the serenity of nature in her desire to succeed in business? She suddenly felt very small and worthless.

As if reading her mind, Buck spoke from beside her. “Makes you appreciate life, doesn’t it? I come here sometimes just to get my head on straight, to remember what’s really important.”

“I can see why.” With his assistance, she dismounted. She waited while he tethered the horses and took off the saddles. Grabbing the bags, he took her hand and led her to the camping site where Chris and he had built a small table and a fire pit. He spread out a blanket and then set about preparing lunch. Inez watched in utter fascination. No man had ever done this for her before.

They chatted while they ate fried chicken and coleslaw, watermelon and cheeses, warm bread and grapes. Inez had brought strawberries and short cake. They were both stuffed when they finally cleaned up.

“How about a walk to settle this food?” Buck held out his hand. She rose and took it. They walked silently down to the lake and then stood gazing over the sweet blue water.

“You are a wonderful host, Buck. The food was excellent.” She didn’t know what else to say. She wanted to pour out her heart and soul to this remarkable man but was afraid that she might say too much too soon.

“Thank you, darlin’. That was good cake ya fixed. Thought you might bring one of your Mexican desserts.” He felt tongue-tied, which hadn’t happened in a long, long time.

“When I’m not at the Saloon as you call it, I like to cook all sorts of dishes. Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorites.” She glanced sideways to catch his expression. Why did he scare her and make her heart flutter so?

“I like that too.” He picked up a rock and skipped it across the still water. He literally didn’t know what to say next. This wasn’t going well and he didn’t know why.

“How do you do that? I’ve never been able to get more than one hop.” Hey, it was something to say.

He perked up. Something to talk about. “It’s easy.” He picked up a few flat rocks and moved behind her. He placed one of the stones in her hand and gently wrapped his hand around her wrist. “You have to flip your wrist as you throw. Like this.” He put his arm around her waist and pulled her close. He moved with her as she threw the stone into the lake. It felt so good to hold her close. He felt her shiver. “Are you cold?”

She swallowed quickly and stammered, “No.” She felt his body so close to hers and gasped slightly.

“Inez?” He whispered in her ear, his breath warm on her neck. He breathed in the smell of her and felt his body respond. But he really didn’t want that now. Why?

She turned in his arms and reached up a small soft hand to touch his face. “I want you to know everything about me. I want you to tell me all there is to know about you. I need to know you, Buck.” She stood on tiptoes and gently kissed his lips, a chaste kiss that left him feeling warm and loved for the first time in a long time.

“Ah, darlin’ there ain’t nothin’ to ol’ Buck that would be of interest to someone like you.” For the first time in years, he felt inadequate.

The woman gazed into sad eyes and hesitated. Maybe he didn’t like her enough to tell her his life story. Maybe she wasn’t his type or he didn’t trust her. “I’m sorry, Senor. Por favor, just forget I said those things. I… I shouldn’t have.” She turned her head away, staring sadly at the lake until she felt his hand ever so gently on her cheek. She looked back up into his midnight blue eyes.

“ I don’t want to forget what you said. I’d like nothin’ more than to learn all about you, darlin’, it’s just…” He took in a ragged breath. “I’m afraid you may not like my whole story. It’s not a happy little family tale. Not that I’m ashamed of anything, mind you, but it’s not something I tell everyone. Are you sure you want to know?” He looked deeply into her eyes, trying to find something, he just wasn’t sure what. But it was there, a spark that lit a fire in his soul.

“I have secrets also, Buck. Nobody’s life is perfect. I will go first and hope that you can get past my transgressions. You see, Senor, I am an illegal alien. I came across the border in a fancy car but I never returned. How much worse could your life be?”

He laughed, a tired, sad laugh. “Ah, that ain’t nothin’, Inez. I don’t have a family, ya see. In fact, I’m a bastard. My mother, the saint that she was, was a prostitute, a showgirl in a topless revue in Vegas. She left home when she was barely seventeen, her family turned her out and she did what she had to to keep herself fed. I don’t think she ever really knew who fathered me, at least she never said she did. She gave me what she could and I always knew I was loved but it wasn’t easy growing up. When I was fifteen, she was murdered. The county didn’t know what to do with me so they sent me here, to a group home. That’s where I was when Chris’s dad found me. I’d been beat up by some of the older boys and I’d run away. Dad was a cop and he located me, took me to the hospital, got me fixed up. But it was when he took me home with him two months later that I started living again. That’s when Chris and I became best friends.” He held his breath, waiting to see her reaction. She smiled.

“I slipped across the border with my sister about ten years ago. My father died and my mother, well, she lost the will to go on. So my sister and I left Mexico and came to the Promised Land.” She paused, remembering the first year, struggling to make ends meet. “I never had to resort to selling my body but I let a married man keep me. It is no different than what your mother did, it’s just that she probably kept her dignity. It took me years but finally, I ran from him, from San Diego, and came here. I took the money he had given me, the jewels he bought for me, and I used them to buy the bar. That was how you met me. I was not ready to give any part of myself to a man again for a long time.”

He still had his arm around her. He moved the other to hold her tighter. “And now?”

“Si, I am ready to find a partner. Not a man who will dictate to me but one who will stand beside me. I finally like who I am and I do not want to loose that.” She reached up again and brushed his hair back from his face. He was a man she could love.

“I like who you are too. Inez, I’d like to tell you more about my mom. Would that be all right?”

“I’d like that.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the lake, talking, holding hands. They cried and they laughed and most important, they shared their souls. As the sun sank in the western sky and the shadows grew long, Buck regretfully saddled the horses once again. They rode side-by-side down the mountain and back to the barn. Inez sat close by Buck’s side on the way back to her apartment. They never stopped talking the whole way home.

He walked her up to her door and stood there while she found her keys.

“I’ve got them.” She looked up at his dark blue eyes and felt sad for a brief moment. She knew he wasn’t coming in.

“I’m not ready to spoil today. Lady, you are one in a million and I am so glad you agreed to go on a picnic with me. I’m going to say good night but I sure do hope that I can see you again soon.” He held her close, her warm body pressed to his.

She bit her lower lip. “I want that very much, Buck. You have my number?”

He nodded. “That I do. I’ll call. Inez, I…. I’ll see you soon, okay?”

She couldn’t speak; her heart was beating so fast she thought it would burst from her chest. “Me too, Buck.”

With that, he bent down and kissed her tender lips, not a chaste kiss but a long lingering kiss that left them both short of breath.

“Good night, sweetheart.” And he walked quickly down the sidewalk and got into his truck.

She stood inside her entryway, her hand touching the place on her lips where his lips had been. She hoped he called soon.

+ + + + + + +

Buck unlocked the door to his condo and opened the door. The lights were on so he knew JD had gotten home before him. He put his things down on the kitchen counter and went into the kitchen.

“Buck, that you?” came from the Easterner’s bedroom.

“Who else would it be?” he answered as he grabbed himself a beer.

“Be right out. Where were ya?”

“Went riding out at the ranch. Did ya have a good trip?” He popped the top off the bottle and took a long swig of the cold beverage.

JD came out of his room, a big grin on his face. “Had a great time. Man, a farm is a neat place!”

Buck moved towards the stairs that led to his upstairs bedroom. “JD, I’d love to hear all about it but I got somethin’ important to take care of. See ya in the morning.” He started to climb the steps.

“But ya just got home! What’s so important on a Sunday night?” JD looked on in shock. This wasn’t like his roommate!

“Gotta make a phone call.” JD heard the door close at the top of the stairs. He continued to stare at the spot that had just been vacated by his best friend. ‘Must be a woman,’ he thought disgustedly. Buck and his conquests, would the man ever grow up?

Settling on his bed, Buck picked up the phone and dialed. It rang twice before a soft, sweet voice said” Hello.”

“Hey darlin’, it’s me. I just wanted to tell you that I had great time today.”



Completely, wanna give my love completely
I’d rather be alone than be in love just half the way
I want to find someone that I can trust

Completely, wanna give my heart completely
To someone who’ll completely give their heart to only me
And when I find that one
That’s when I’ll fall in love

Not half but whole
With heart and soul
Not in between
But everything
That’s the way it’s gotta be
The way I want someone to fall in love with me

Forever wanna feel the word forever
And know there’ll be somebody there forever by my side
And when that feeling comes
That’s when I’ll give my love completely.

It’s all or nothing at all for this heart of mine
And I won’t give up this heart till the day I find
Someone who needs me Completely
Not half but whole
With heart and soul
Not in between
But everything
That’s the way it’s gotta be
The way I want someone to fall in love with me

- Diamond Rio