Authors note: I would like to acknowledge the help of Privates1stClass and Gordo 12 for their constructive comments and editing. It is through their contributions that my stories have improved. We hope you enjoy this short tale. Rachel

*

Brett stood looking at me after we had both looked towards the dark clouds lit with intermittent bright flashes of lightning that were followed by dull, distant reports of thunder as it approached the purple-hued mountain range. We could see the heavy rain shadow below the clouds indicating a heavy downpour was in progress about four miles away. We both knew this spelled potential danger given our present position in the arroyo. We were both concerned as we didn't know if the storm would come over the top of us in a short while drenching us to the bone with no place to seek shelter.

"Come on Jenny, we have to move," as I looked at her again more determined than before. She hadn't budged, just stood looking at me—she could be stubborn that was for sure. I gave a heavy sigh, "Jenny, come with me. I promise we'll stop and I'll get you something to eat and drink," I said in my most convincing tone—no movement other than a twitch and a blink ensued. I glanced towards the low mountains and saw another flash of lightning accompanied by an earth shaking boom, the shadow of rain beneath the clouds looked even darker, this wasn't someplace I wanted to be right now. I was beginning to get very anxious, I had heard too many stories that didn't end well not to be.

"Jenny, time to move girl. Come!" Brett said in his low, deep voice, his voice commanding.

I looked at Brett with a frown, "She's a mule, not a dog."

"Oh yeah, guess that won't work," his face showed a hint of embarrassment, "giddap!"

I was just about to start pulling on her lead when she took a step toward us, then another, and followed us up the steep slope out of the wash. I was completely taken by surprise she had responded to Brett—I had never seen Jenny pay the slightest attention to anyone other than my parents or myself when it came to following commands or being led by her lead. Nevertheless, I was thankful she had responded to a man she had met for the very first time.

"Mules can be pretty stubborn," I said with a frown.

"As are many women," he said as he rubbed Jenny's ear and patted her neck not looking at me.

I looked at him not detecting any sign that it applied to me, so I chose to ignore the comment. Since this was our first time in the field together, it was new and so far he had been pretty quiet—our conversation largely restricted to the character of the surrounding rock outcrops and general geology. I knew he could be more talkative and wondered what was on his mind—woman problems were the best guess I could make based upon his comment. At least it wasn't me.

He looked at me with a smile, "You know a wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse, this may be true of mules too."

"How is that relevant? Jenny isn't blind, just stubborn," I replied somewhat amused.

"It isn't really. I've just always wanted to say it and this seemed to be as good an opportunity as any," he laughed.

He had arrived at our ranch this morning in his pickup truck with an All-Terrain Vehicle, or ATV, sitting in the bed along with some beat-up metal boxes and gunnysacks. When I had suggested taking Jenny into the backcountry with us rather than his ATV he had agreed without reservation. It had surprised me as I hadn't gotten the impression when we first met he was that well acquainted with ranch life having grown up in the East—his professional interests and job had brought him to Arizona.

I thought back to the first time I had seen him at a Rock and Mineral show five months earlier. It was a small show so it was possible to see the entire room from one vantage point. My parents had secured a table at the show as my Dad, a long-time collector, had gradually gotten into buying and selling geological artifacts, including fossils. I had noticed him as he systematically and slowly worked his way around, stopping at each dealer's table to inspect a specimen or two and engage in brief conversations.

It was when he reached our table that I appreciated him fully—his deep voice, nice smile, and dreamy hazel eyes below a head of dark brown hair, his tanned face showing a day-old beard. He looked rugged, kind of like the Marlboro man in the old cigarette ads. I tried not to stare but wasn't sure I had been successful. I had watched as he greeted my father with a smile and glanced at me once, then continued inspecting the specimens on the table. I decided to see if there was something he had in mind to purchase.

"Is there anything specific you're interested in?"

When his gaze met mine I felt perhaps I had asked the wrong question, my body went warm and I couldn't take my eyes from his. Thinking to myself if it was something specific he wanted, I hoped it was me. I pulled my eyes down onto the table in an attempt to hide the fact I had almost stared a hole through him, my hands fumbling for something to show him.

I found a large crystal of quartzite with a light rose hue and held it in my hands as he replied. "No, nothing specific. I'll know it when I see it," not looking at me as his eyes went towards the other end of the table. He looked over the remaining specimens, nodded to my father, then left for the next dealer's table. I put the quartz crystal back into place and watched him as he moved down the line of vendors.

I turned to sit back down in my chair and when I did saw my mother smiling at me. Then she offered, "Nice looking man don't you think?"

Damn! Had I been that obvious? The truth was, I could never hide much from my mother—she had that sixth sense when it came to me. There was little reason for me to try and hide it, and I had replied with a flush of red on my face, he was. I was happy she hadn't pressed further as men, in general, were still something of a sore point even though my eyes wandered from time to time.

It was three weeks later when I saw him next at the local rock and gem show put on by our local 'Rockhound and Gopher Club' at the county fairground. I was eagerly awaiting to see how customers would react to my most recent acquisitions from a collecting trip the week before. I had spent extra time cleaning and preparing boxes to display them in for the show, but was especially proud of having found a few excellent crystals, the best one I kept for my own collection, the others I hoped to sell to help cover the cost of future field trips and supplies.

I watched once again as he made his way around the venue, stopped at our table, picked up my best crystal and closely looked it over, put it back down, then moved on without a word. This time he had smiled at me before he left for the next dealer. I was disappointed, I had hoped he would buy the crystal, he was now the third person to inspect it, but passed on it without asking for a price. I knew it was an excellent specimen, but you never knew if the person already had an acceptable example in his or her collection. You had to match the specimen with a collector and that was out of your hands as a dealer—fate played a part in that, it had to be the right time and right place.

The interaction had once again affected me in another way—those eyes and his smile had worked their magic on me again. This time I was pleased my mother had not come with my father and me.

I was just congratulating myself for not having embarrassed myself when my father spoke. "Samantha, are you alright? You look a little flushed."

"Fine Dad, I was just wishing I had sold him something," explaining away my sign of infatuation.

It was about half an hour later, just before lunchtime when he walked back up to our table. This time he picked up the specimen, took a magnifier out of his shirt pocket, and inspected the crystal again. This was the sign of a serious collector, not a person simply looking for something pretty to put on a shelf. I felt myself grow anxious; I might have it sold. After about a minute he looked at my father.

"This is a very nice example. How much do you want for it?"

"You'll have to ask my daughter, it's her specimen. One she collected last week I believe."

He turned to look at me with a smile and an expression of surprise. "You found this?"

"Yes, I'm asking forty dollars. I think it's a fair price."

He looked the specimen over again, then grew a grin.

"Thirty dollars and I'll buy you lunch."

I just stood there not knowing what to say. No one had ever made me a counter offer like this before. I was going to be happy with thirty or thirty-five for it. But thirty dollars and lunch? I was still searching for an answer and looked at my father to buy myself some time. I was sure I wanted to have lunch with him, but I didn't want to look too eager to sell either, not with my father standing right next to me who was a shrewd man in a deal. I was leaning towards foregoing the possibility of lunch.

"Dad?"

"Samantha, it's your specimen and your decision," he smiled.

I turned with a smile, "Thirty-five and it's yours."

"Thirty and lunch," came his calm, firm reply.

He wasn't going to budge on the price and I didn't want to take the chance of missing the sale and having lunch with him wasn't unattractive in the least. Not that I was feeling I was between a rock and a hard place so to speak.

"Deal!" I announced firmly.

I wrapped the crystal in paper and handed it back to him as he handed me thirty dollars. I watched as he placed it into the canvas shoulder bag he carried. Then he turned to me with a smile. "My name is Brett Parker, I assume yours is Samantha Adams."

I was taken aback, he had figured it out, not everyone did—our business was called 'The Adams Family Gems and Minerals.'

"Yes. But we're not like the TV show," I laughed.

"I was pretty sure of that," he chuckled, "What time would you like to get lunch?"

I looked at my father as he stood with a big smile on his face. Before I could ask he told me to go as he wasn't hungry yet. In less than three minutes, I was standing in line beside an attractive man looking at the menu at the concession stand at the end of the building. I looked at the prices and knew if he had accepted my thirty-five dollar price it would have been cheaper. Now, I wondered if he really needed the crystal for his collection or not—he wouldn't be the first man to buy something from me in the hope of meeting me. We had gotten our food and drinks and sat down at a table to eat as he carefully laid his canvas bag down. I glanced at the bag wondering what else he may have purchased as I took a bite of my hot dog and then looked at him. "So, did you find any bargains?"

He smiled broadly, which slowly turned into an impish grin, "Just you."

Now, I had been hit on a lot of times in my life, but this time I found myself blushing as if I were a schoolgirl. I looked down at the table, then put my hot dog into my mouth so I wouldn't have to say anything. Damn, he was good! He had me flustered and that seldom happened. I saw his hand reach for the bag and begin to open it, first pulling out the crystal he had purchased from me, then two crumpled brown paper bags.

He slowly opened one of the bags and pulled out a beautiful specimen of galena crystals that were simply gorgeous, among the best I had ever seen. About half a dozen different sized bright silver metallic crystals surrounded by lustrous white calcite and sphalerite substrate—the presentation was what made it special. He handed it to me carefully so I could inspect it more closely.

I hadn't seen a specimen this good in years and I wondered who he could have purchased it from as we knew all of the dealers at the show, surely they would have shown it off to us. I looked at Brett, "This is one of the most impressive specimens I have seen in a long time. Who did you buy it from?"

"I didn't. This is one I collected about two months ago. Actually, it's the second-best example I found and I was considering selling it, I don't need more than one."

I was sure my eyes went wide. He had found this himself! I watched as he opened the second paper bag and produced another specimen, this time of a large pure white, calcite crystal cluster. Now calcite is not hard to find, but seldom did you find one without impurities that tainted the white color in a rosette shape like that of a plant. I was speechless. These specimens were among the best I had ever seen, and that included museum collections. I watched as he slowly repacked them and placed them back into his canvas bag. Now, he had gotten my attention and it wasn't only because he was downright handsome.

We continued to eat and discussed our interests in rock collecting. He was a geologist interested in historical paleontology who also liked to collect rocks and minerals in addition to fossils. I told him I had an associate's degree in accounting and lived on the family ranch where I kept the books for the ranch and the family rock business. I indicated I had a passion for the out-of-doors, especially rocks and minerals, something I had picked up from my grandfather and father. I found I was relaxed with him by the time lunch was finished despite the fact I knew he had obviously set me up.

I was usually leery of meeting men at these local shows. Some of the younger men had asked me out several times over the years, but I had to be careful—often they were more interested in finding where your best-collecting sites were rather than a relationship. I had fallen into that trap once with a really nice-looking guy and paid the price when I returned to one of my favorite collecting sites to find the very best specimens I had left in place for the future were gone. Later, I found out he was also collecting on Bureau of Land Management, BLM, lands without a permit and selling them at these small shows—blatantly illegal and unethical.

Rockhounds, like fishermen, didn't want to share their best personal sites with others. I had learned this lesson the hard way and it had hurt my pride a lot; I should have known better. I had always been careful since that day knowing that men could be interested in rocks and women for very different reasons, using one to obtain the other, or both.

We had walked back to my table and my father had gone off to have lunch. We talked until my father came back from lunch and then made plans to meet the next weekend to take a field trip together to look for specimens. I was surprised he didn't offer the specimens he had with him to my father to inspect and make an offer on. The real reason I suspected he had made the deal with me in the first place. We bade each other goodbye and I watched as he left the building, his sturdy frame silhouetted against the bright light outside the building.

There were locations I had yet to visit to collect despite all the years I had spent on our own land—most of these in more difficult to access areas my father didn't care to explore with me as often. None of my boyfriends had the slightest interest in geology and had never wanted to accompany me, leaving me to return to areas more accessible. Brett offered an opportunity to explore one of these with someone who obviously had the knowledge and interest and I had jumped at the opportunity. Not that there wasn't an interest of another sort on my part, I was dating occasionally, but not exclusively. I admitted I was still leery of Brett's motives, but the potential of finding someone knowledgeable near my own age was attractive. My reverie was broken as a distant low rumble became evident.

I held on to Jenny's lead a little tighter as the sound came closer. About half a minute later a rush of ugly brown water filled with bushes, branches, mud, and small rocks came rushing down the wash where we had been standing. The front wall of water had stood at least four to five feet high and would have carried us away. We wouldn't have stood a chance of escaping if we had been caught in it—the thought sent a shiver up my spine.

It's a strange feeling to find yourself standing in bright sunlight and have a previously dry riverbed fill up right before your eyes. The storm front had crested the mountain to the north of us by about three miles bringing clear skies behind it. But that's the nature of the west where bare rocks and bare soil with sparse vegetation do little to prevent the runoff of water from landforms with steep slopes becoming a torrent from a rainstorm miles away.

The advantage of rockhounding on our or the neighbor's ranch was it was familiar territory and close where the cost of travel was minimal. The area included igneous outcrops that offered the opportunity to collect a variety of rocks and minerals, but it did have its fair share of hazards, including rattlesnakes.

We finished collecting that day, not finding anything of exceptional quality, but several examples each of several specific minerals that were somewhat unusual made the trip worthwhile.

When we returned home Brett said he had better examples already in his collection and elected not to take any for himself. They were certainly good enough to sell in the shop and I was impressed with his ability to extract good samples without causing excessive damage to the source site. I bade him goodbye after we had decided we would go out together again, next time he would take me to one of his sites. That offer made me feel better about having made a connection with him in the first place—maybe I could trust him.

I had taken Brett to a good site, but not the one I thought was one of the best. If Brett reciprocated it would build trust between us. I had certainly enjoyed his company and it looked as if Jenny had too—he had given her his apple slices.

That evening I prepared for my date with Carl, we had been dating on and off for several months and I was looking forward to a night out. Carl had decided we would go to a bar with a band for the evening and though I wasn't much of a party gal, it sounded like a good time to let off a little steam. We hadn't done much but kiss a few times, though he had put his hands in places I wasn't ready for and I had removed them without saying anything. He hadn't made another attempt after that, but our last kissing session showed me he was definitely trying to turn me on in the hope I would agree to something more. We had never gone out to a bar to dance before, so it would be a new experience and I very much enjoyed dancing.

The bar was crowded, and loud even before the band started to play. We had found a table with a few of his friends, two of whom I had met before. Carl was a hand on a cattle ranch about twenty miles away and had been employed there for four years running. Not a bad track record from what I was familiar with. His pickup was well-worn, looking like it had been in more roundups than on well-maintained roads, and ran a little rough, suggesting it hadn't been serviced in quite a while. He was fairly loud and boisterous with his friends, and after a few drinks, very intent on wanting to hold me close. Soon two girls my own age joined us, apparently friends of his buddies as they quickly went onto their laps, their low-cut blouses showing far more boob than mine did.

The band started playing and we joined a few line dances, then danced to a few more tunes before sitting down to relax and drink. I was drinking Coke not being much into alcohol when I expected to spend time in the field collecting the next day. I had learned that collecting rocks with a banging headache made for a lousy day—having done it once had more than proven the thesis—I had vowed never again. The other girls were giving kisses and getting very friendly, so when Carl wanted a kiss I gave him one. The taste of beer on his breath made the experience disappointing, and after several more, I moved into my chair and pretended to be into my drink. I could see Carl was getting a little inebriated, his speech starting to slur some after an hour of dancing and drinking.
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Pub: Dec 29 2020 11:04 UTC
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