He stopped only a few feet away. “So, I heard you own Two Ponies now.”
“Well, I guess it is true… there are no secrets in small towns.”
“Not in this one, anyway. So, you here to sell?”
“Oh no, I’m not selling. I live here now, and I’m going to open a girls’ riding school—a summer camp,” she said. “Say, I could use a good rider and trainer to help me find some well-broke school horses and prepare them for my program in the spring. And before that, I’ll need help with the construction of a new barn and fencing. Would you be interested in a job?”
The Indian looked Katherine over, apparently trying to size her up. She guessed most people might have reported him to the police, instead of offering him work.
“Well, I’m actually unemployed at the moment. When the mill cut back, ‘we’ were the first to go.”
“Blackfeet, you know—Indians.”
She didn’t care for the sarcasm in his voice. “I’m sure they had their reasons.”
He chuckled. “Well, I’m sure they did.”
“Oh, really!” Katherine considered ending this conversation and walking away. Perhaps this young man was trouble, but somehow that seemed to intrigue her all the more.
“Sure, I’d love the job. When do I start?”
Stunned, it took her a moment to respond. “Fine… good… soon,” she said, coiling what she could of her short hair around her finger. “Do you have a phone?”
Suddenly, he pulled a knife from a sheath tied to his pant leg.
Katherine gasped and stepped back. For a moment she feared she had been foolishly reckless. Had she somehow offended him? She was relieved when he cut a piece of bark off a nearby tree and carved his number onto it.
“Sorry, I’m not accustomed to people carrying a knife,” she said.
“You should yourself... a pretty little thing like you.” Looking her over from head to toe, he smiled approvingly. “There’s a lot of crazies out there. You should at least know how to defend yourself.” He paused a moment and cocked his head. “I’ll teach you… consider it a favor for being so hospitable to a perfect stranger, a trespassing one at that!”
“Well, we’ll see if we have time for that,” she said. “There will be plenty of work to be done.”
“Here you go.” He handed her the piece of bark followed by an outreached hand. “Let’s seal the deal.”
Katherine extended her hand confidently, hoping to impress him with a firm handshake. Instead, her hand shook uncontrollably when they touched. He was the one who was cool and collected. From one moment to the next, she couldn’t decide if she was more annoyed by him or more captivated. But one thing she knew for certain—she looked forward to seeing him again.
“I’ll call you Monday,” she said in the most professional sounding voice she could muster.