It was January and the snow was deep. The ranch had to bring feed out to the cattle as they couldn’t get to it themselves and several groups of cattle had huddled together to keep warm. Jalen had been riding the range and checking the pastures for the cattle as Dallas had requested. He was also on the lookout for any predators that would be trying to hunt the cattle. Dallas had said if he saw any signs he should let him know where they were located when he returned and they would make a plan to deal with them. The harsh winter had driven wolves and other animals that normally would stay in the hills closer to the ranch. Back in the fall Jalen had discovered the depth of the love he had for his mentor and had decided that the Smoking K was now is home and Dallas Kincaid had offered this sanctuary to him for as long as he wanted it and Jalen Brooks, now recently turned eighteen years old had decided to take the older man up on his offer. As he rode along his green eyes watchful he thought about his mentor and smiled to himself. He had never thought such a thing would ever happen to him in his life, that he would find someone who truly cared about him and willing to put themselves out for him and also to be strong enough to be able to pull the reins in on him when it was needed. He felt loved for the first time in his life and because of that found himself also for the first time thinking about his behaviors and actions. He had begun to enjoy his school lessons, finding that Dallas had been right about things there, reading was opening up a whole new world to him he hadn’t known existed before. He also found he enjoyed learning about new things. He had been reading, with Dallas’s help about animal behavior and found it interesting. He had been learning about how horses in the wild interacted and the role of the stallion and the strength of the head mare who kept the other mares together, how the males vied for dominance and when they were old enough tried to form their own herds, stealing mares away from other herds. He learned about bears and their habits and hibernation and now understood the importance of that when he had been asked to watch for them back in the fall. He had been also reading about Lions and their prides and thought that too had been interesting and lately had been reading about the behavior of wolves.
He had found himself maturing more and as he did so found he was being given more responsibilities. Some of them were small things, such as making certain the wood was chopped, and stacked properly, keeping the stove and the fireplace wood boxes filled and feeding the milk cows and milking them as well as doing barn chores and other yard chores Dallas had given him. He began to take pride in being able to do these and to do them well. He liked that he could be trusted to take care of whatever it was he was given to do and found he liked the praise he received not only from Dallas, but from the other older hands when he had done a job well, or took it upon himself to do things he saw needed doing without having to be told and best of all the respect he was gaining. He had not understood respect until he began to experience it on the ranch and it felt good. He didn’t feel so much anymore like the little boy who was of no use to anyone and someone to be degraded and ignored, or talked bad to and treated like a worthless thing to be tossed aside and thrown away. He felt he had worth now and that too was new to him and it felt good.
Jalen saw wolf tracks near the fence and stopped his horse and got down to examine them carefully. He didn’t like to see them so close to the cattle. From what he could tell there were about six of them in the pack. He got back on Jasper and carefully tracked them. He thought if he could find their den then perhaps he could eliminate the pack and keep the cattle safe. He thought about how happy his mentor would be if he was able to do this.
Dallas Kincaid glanced up at the sun and frowned slightly as he saw just how low it was now in the sky. Jalen should have been back long before now. He wondered where the youngster had gotten off to. He had just asked him to ride fence and check on the cattle to be sure they had enough feed and to report any signs of predators he might have noticed along the way so they could deal with them. A sneaking suspicion came over him and he shook his head. He sometimes wondered what made this teen so special to him. He had come across them many times and not one had grabbed his heart the way this one had. He decided to mount up Hornet and see if he could find his errant young one. He rode along following Jalen’s tracks.
Jalen continued to follow the wolf tracks on Jasper. He knew he was getting closer when his horse began to act nervous. He had seen wolf spore along the way and he decided that it would be easier to sneak up on them if he were on foot. He could be a whole lot quieter. Jalen dismounted and tied Jasper to a tree. He glanced at his rifle in its scabbard. Dallas had given it to him for Christmas and he was proud of it, but the rifle still seemed clumsy to him when he wanted to track something. He frowned at not having taken his pistol with him. He hadn’t thought he’d need it with taking the rifle along. He shrugged and began to make his way along the trail the wolves had left.
He and Dallas had just begun to read about wolf behavior and he knew they stayed in packs and that the females were very protective of their young and the male’s protective of the females. They were sort of like a family. He also knew pups were usually born in the spring and that there could be pregnant females that the males were protecting.
As he tracked he could tell he was getting closer and closer to the den. He saw numerous tracks and the remains of critters that had fallen to the wolves for their meals. As he got a bit closer, being very careful to be quiet, he could hear yips and snuffling noises. All of a sudden an ear splitting howl was heard and he saw several wolves running toward him snapping and growling.
Jalen ran, caught the first lower branch he could reach of a tree and climbed up into it.
The wolves circled the tree and were barking and jumping, trying to get at him. They snapped, growled and bit the tree branches they were able to get to between their teeth. Jalen climbed a bit higher. He hadn’t expected this. He had thought he would be able to do what he had come here for. He didn’t realize that the wolves would be able to smell him and would turn on him and there they were snarling and snapping
‘Maybe if I stay up here long enough they’ll go away.’ He thought to himself as the youngster shinnied up the tree, just barely escaping the snapping jaws and sharp teeth of the wolves that had turned on him.
The young ranch hand reflected on what had just happened. He had realized as his green eyes widened when he heard the howl and had seen the wolves heading for him that he was in big trouble. Instinct had caused him to grab onto the lowest branch of a tree and pull himself up onto it.
As he continued to think about things He said to himself, ‘Damn…the book didn’t say anything about this kind of thing.’, but then remembered he and Dallas hadn’t completed the entire chapter and perhaps this was part of what they hadn’t read. He sighed and hoped the wolves would leave soon.
Jalen thought to himself, ‘Once they do then I’ll climb down, head home and tell Dallas that I found them and where they live. He’ll be proud of me for letting him know.’ forgetting completely he had been instructed to report the tracks and their location, not to follow them and find the source.
Time passed and Jalen realized he was getting cold. He glanced down. The wolves showed no signs of leaving, continuing to prowl under the tree and snapping, growling, snarling and jumping every so often. ‘I wonder when the hell they will leave. I would have thought they’d have gotten the message by now that they can’t get to me. They must be very hungry to be so persistent.’ He thought to himself. He glanced up at the sky and could see the sun was getting lower. He chewed is lower lip. ‘Dallas will begin to worry when I don’t show up at home before it begins to get dark, but there’s nothing I can do about it right now. If only those damn wolves would just leave.’
Occasionally Jalen tried to throw a stick he’d break off from the tree at them, but it only seemed to make them angrier so he stopped. He wished he hadn’t left his rifle with his horse now. He began to realize that not bringing it along into a situation he really hadn’t expected had been poor judgment on his part. He squirmed. He was certain Dallas would have something to say about that, but hoped that perhaps his mentor wouldn’t find out. The young man sighed. He had been so certain he had been handling this well and had been confident about his ability to take care of the wolves and here he was now sitting in a tree with no weapon and snarling, growling, snapping wolves just waiting for him to come down and be dinner.
Jalen became annoyed at himself at what he now recognized as a very poor decision he had made, to try to approach the den weaponless. He thought the wolves would be more like dogs and not these vicious animals that had him treed.
Dallas Kincaid, the owner of the Smoking K ranch tracked down his young ranch hand. He swore under his breath when he finally came across the young man’s horse and also saw the rifle still in its scabbard. He dismounted and petted Jasper. “Where’s your rider hmm?” He asked the young horse.
The horse tossed his head as if to say he had no idea, but wanted him back in the saddle.
Dallas ran a calming hand over Jasper and said, “I’ll have him back to you soon boy…you just wait here and be patient.” With one last pat Dallas mounted Hornet and taking his rifle from its scabbard rode along, tracking down the youngster who held a place in his heart.
Dallas followed the tracks in the snow easily and his heart began to pound as he heard yips, snarls, growling and snapping up ahead. As he entered on the scene his heart jumped into his throat. ‘Dam, I’m going to kill him as soon as I get the young fool out of that tree!’ The older man swore to himself as he put his rifle to his shoulder and let off a shot at the largest wolf, dropping it in its tracks. The others, yipping ran off and Dallas replaced his rifle in its scabbard and dismounted, tying Hornet to a nearby bush and glancing up at Jalen, approached the tree.
Arms crossed, he looked up through the branches of the tree. “Come down Jalen, its safe now.” He said in a bit of a stern voice.
Jalen had seen Dallas approach. He had felt both relief and trepidation as he had seen his mentor. Jalen watched as Dallas came into the area and bit his lip as he saw the smoky blue eyes look up at him with a mixture of fear and something else Jalen couldn’t quite put his finger on. He watched as Dallas had taken aim and shot the largest of the wolves from his horse and then once the other wolves had run off dismount and come to the base of the tree and had looked up at him, his arms crossed and had given him the stern command to come down. ‘Uh oh.’ He thought to himself as he heard the stern command. Jalen had been glad when Dallas had let off a shot, killing the lead wolf and the other wolves had run away. Now he wasn’t too sure he wanted to come down from the tree. Jalen bit his lip, knowing from the man’s visage he wasn’t happy with what he had seen. He positioned himself on the branch and began to climb down to where Dallas was waiting for him. When the young ranch hand got to the last branch, he dropped from the tree in front of his mentor.
Dallas first pulled Jalen into a bone crushing hug. “Are you all right Kid?” He asked huskily.
Jalen nodded. “Yes Sir, I’m fine…those wolves just wouldn’t leave.” He said a bit angrily.
Dallas told him quietly, “They had no intention of leavin’ until they had their prey.”
Jalen’s green eyes widened. “They didn’t?”
Dallas shook his head and said, “No, you were an intruder on their territory and they were intent on runnin’ you off or killing you. They probably have pregnant females and wanted to protect them.”
Jalen flushed a bit and mumbled. “Sorry…I didn’t know.”
Dallas nodded. “We’ll talk about it; right now we need to get you home. You’re cold and it’s getting’ late. Fortunately the snow will light our way because we probably won’t make it home before dark.”
Jalen snuggled in Dallas’s arms nodded. “That sounds good.”
Dallas pulled Jalen up on the back of Hornet after mounting and rode back to where Jasper was patiently waiting. He let Jalen down and the youngster mounted his horse and the two headed for the ranch house.
Jalen glanced over at Dallas from time to time to try to see the mood the rancher was in. He couldn’t exactly tell if he were in trouble or not. The man had been stern, but then had crushed Jalen to him letting him know how much he loved him and had been worried about him. The older man hadn’t scolded him or said anything yet about what had occurred out there. He could see Dallas was thinking as the man’s jaw was tight and his eyes stayed straight ahead. When he did glance over at Jalen the youngster saw a small smile on the man’s face and caring reflected in the smoky blue eyes. He supposed he’d just have to wait until they got home, but he just couldn’t resist asking, “Dallas…am I in trouble?”
As Dallas rode along with Jalen he could feel the boy’s green eyes on him. When he glanced over he could see the worried look on the teen’s face. When he did catch his eye he gave Jalen a small smile. He was angry, scared and a bit disappointed that his young ranch hand hadn’t followed his instructions about coming home and reporting the presence of predators instead of going off and tracking them down on his own. He realized that he himself as a youngster had done such things when out here and had paid the price of that when he had ended up in a dangerous situation by being over his uncle’s lap with a hot and sore bottom that didn’t allow him to ride comfortably for the next couple of days. He supposed it was the way of all youngsters to want to test their skills and new found confidence, but being over confident could end you up dead out here and caution and thinking things through carefully were important to keep a person safe. Even then there were never any guarantees and men still died. A flicker of sorrow crossed Dallas’s features as he thought about his Uncle Justin and how he and his partner had been killed in a landslide and he had ended up inheriting the ranch. He gave himself a mental shake. He didn’t need to go there. It was a wound that had continued to heal, but it was still sensitive. He brought his thoughts back to Jalen and understood that although the boy had improved greatly in his knowledge of ranching he hadn’t been born to it and that he had grown up in a city, not out here and still needed to learn many things and today he’d learn another lesson the hard way.
Dallas looked up at his young ranch hand’s words and told him, “I want you to think about everything that happened since you left the ranch today and let me know what you think about bein’ in trouble.”
Jalen bit his lip. He really didn’t like it when Dallas made him think about things like this. He would have rather have him just tell him.
“Yes Sir.” He acknowledged the older man.
As they rode along, the moon was lighting up the snow as bright as daylight and they could easily see their way as the millions of snowflakes accumulated on the ground were reflecting the light. He thought about how excited he had been when he had seen the wolf tracks, but then it came to him as well how he had ignored his mentor’s instructions of reporting seeing any tracks of predators. He hadn’t exactly told him however that he couldn’t track and find out where they were holed up.
Then he remembered that he had left his rifle in its scabbard instead of taking it with him and he had approached an unknown situation unarmed and that was never good out here on the range. The young man squirmed inwardly. That fact in and of itself could land him in trouble. He sighed.
Dallas hearing the sigh looked over. “Sounds like you’re realizing some things as you’re thinking.”
Jalen nodded. “Yes Sir and I can see I’m probably in trouble.”
Dallas said, “Well, keep thinkin’ on things and after we get home, do our chores and eat somethin’ we’ll talk about it.”
Jalen frowned slightly. If he deserved a punishment he realized he didn’t want to delay it, but he also realized Dallas was in charge of him and would determine things, where, when and how. He squirmed a bit in the saddle already guessing at the how.
Dallas regarded Jalen out of the corner of his eye. He had been learning more and more about the boy as time had gone on and he realized he was a spirited young man, but also liked to take charge of things. It had been a struggle to teach the youngster that as his mentor, his word was last in certain things and it had been hard for Jalen to accept that Dallas was in charge of him. He’d be a man one day who would grow into being able to handle any take charge situation. He’d be a good boss or foreman. Perhaps he would think about moving the youngster to a more leadership position on the ranch as he grew under his guidance. Dallas already saw him maturing more and that he didn’t have to remind him of his duties and that he took initiative to do things that were needed without having to be told. Even today showed initiative although there were errors in judgment. That was part of being youthful, but would come in handy as he matured and became boss of his own place one day.
The older man reflected that he had noticed more and more in his young ranch hand a distinct lack of interest in females, something that seemed odd to him as he knew interest in females among boys his age was quite common. He had also been aware of the looks the boy gave him when he wasn’t looking and was a bit concerned about that. He saw the signs that he had some interest in other males and kept a sharp eye on those Jalen seemed to regard to see if they returned his interest. He didn’t want a situation like the one he had had while growing up to happen. If this was Jalen’s preference, then he wanted to be the one to help him through just like Uncle Justin had done with him. The boy wasn’t legally of age yet and so Dallas thought it his duty to protect him from other kinds of predators, the two legged kind.
Jalen could see Dallas deep in thought and wondered what the older man was thinking about. His face wasn’t angry looking anymore, but filled with concern now. Jalen smiled, seeing the softly curling black hair and the man’s Smokey blue eyes and his rugged handsome features. He was a very attractive man and wondered if Dallas found him attractive too. Jalen bit his lip and wondered where that thought had come from. He tried to think of other things…the things his mentor had told him he should be thinking about. The young ranch hand couldn’t help his thoughts drifting back wondering if the whole man was as attractive as the parts he could see. He frowned slightly and gave himself a mental shake. He had no business thinking such things of his mentor.
Dallas had caught the boy’s look as they rode up the road to the ranch house and shook his head. He could tell the youngster had more on his mind than what the ranch owner had told his young ranch hand to think about, his behavior and choices that day. He dismounted and as Jalen pulled up Jasper said quietly, “Let’s take care of the horses and the barn chores. I have a stew simmering on the back of the stove so we’ll eat after we’re finished here.”
Jalen nodded. “Yes Sir.” He could see that his mentor was tired and so didn’t push things, but did as he was told.
They put up their horses for the night and then worked in companionable silence at the barn chores that needed to be finished. Once that was finished Dallas put an arm around the younger man’s shoulders and guided him to the house. “Get cleaned up and changed. I’ll check on dinner and then I’ll get cleaned up as well. We’ll talk as we eat.” He told Jalen.
Jalen did as he was asked to and shortly the two men found themselves sitting at the kitchen table with warm bowls of stew and freshly buttered bread to dip into the stew.
Jalen said, “Dallas, you’re the best cook I know.”
The older man smiled. “That’s because Cookie taught me while we were on the trail. When I was with my uncle I spent many hours in the chuck wagon helping cookie because I had been doin’ things I shouldn’t and Uncle Justin made me do that for punishments along with a sore bottom.”
Jalen smiled and shook his head. “Hard to see you as a naughty young boy Dallas.”
The ranch owner grinned. “I’m sure, but I was because I kept trying to discover my boundaries and where I fit.”
The young ranch hand grinned. “Well, seems if you were too big for your britches your uncle made sure you were cut down to size.”
The older man smiled. “That he did, but it helped me to learn and to become the man I am today.”
Jalen nodded. “A good one at that.”
Dallas smiled. “Thank you Jalen, I appreciate the complement. I try to be the best man I can be.”
Jalen said, “You do a fine job of it too Sir.”
The older man smiled. “Thank you and I hope to help you to get there too. To be able to be respected and for someone to tell you that one day in your life.”
The younger man nodded. “At least I’ll have a good teacher.” He gave Dallas a winning smile.
The ranch owner returned the smile in kind. “Now…let’s talk about today.”
The youngster’s face fell and he looked down. “I made some bad choices and screwed up.”
Dallas shook his head. “We all make mistakes Jalen, tell me what mistakes you made.”
The young man said, “First, I didn’t follow instructions. I was told to report any signs of predators…but I thought if I found out where they were and was able to eliminate the threat then you’d be proud of me…then when I ran into trouble I tried to convince myself that you’d at least be proud of me because I could tell you exactly where the pack were.”
The older man listened and as the younger one talked and his misery was evident he placed a large warm hand on his forearm and said sincerely and quietly, “I am proud of you Jalen, I’m just concerned about the thinking you used and that you didn’t follow my instructions.”
The youngster glanced up at the smoky blue eyes and seeing concern instead of the condemnation he had expected said, “Well, we had been reading about wolves and I thought I knew enough to handle it for you…I didn’t realize until it was too late that I had made a grievous error in judgment, especially leaving my rifle behind and not realizing I might need it going into an unknown situation. I believed that wolves were more like dogs and not really much of a threat or I would have taken the rifle with me.” Jalen explained.
Dallas nodded. “Can you tell me what you were thinkin’ that you left it behind?”
“Well…I’m not used to carryin’ one and it seemed clumsy to me. I hadn’t brought along my pistol because I had the rifle. I didn’t think there would be danger until I realized it too late.”
Dallas nodded. “I can understand and it was your overconfidence in the situation that truly caused the poor decisions to be made.”
Jalen hung his head and nodded. “Yes Sir, I thought I knew more than I actually did and went in unprepared for the actuality.”
The older man nodded. “In my experience that generally happens when you believe you know more than you actually do.”
Jalen looked up at Dallas. “You’ve done things like this too?”
The man smiled. “Yes, but not in a very long time, but when I was a youth I did them a whole lot more often and had to pay the consequences.”
The younger man sighed. “Yes…I can guess at whose consequences too.”
The ranch owner nodded. “Tell me what you believe those consequences are.”
Jalen squirmed, “Do I have to say?”
Dallas quirked an eyebrow. “Kid, you know the answer to that.” The older man said sternly.
Jalen bit his lip and nodded. “Yes Sir…it means a sp-spankin’.”
Dallas nodded. “Yes, that’s right.”
Jalen hung his head. “Please…can’t we just overlook it just this once?” The youngster asked hopefully.
The ranch owner shook his head. “I’m afraid not Jalen. If I let this slide this time there’s no tellin’ what you’ll do the next time you come up on a similar situation. I believe it’s necessary to provide you with a lastin’ reminder.”
The young ranch hand bit his lip. He knew Dallas was right, even if he didn’t like it. “Yes Sir.” He said quietly.
Dallas nodded. “Let’s get you into a nightshirt then and take care of things.”
Jalen nodded and bit back a sigh. He understood he deserved the consequences of his actions and why. He understood as well that his mentor had his best interests at heart and if he didn’t care he wouldn’t even bother.
Once they were in Jalen’s room he changed into his nightshirt and stood in front of Dallas penitently
Dallas watched Jalen as they went upstairs and the youngster got ready for bed. He didn’t like this part of their relationship, but knew the correction was necessary. Once the young man stood in front of him in a penitent stance he looked up into the green eyes that always held is heart. “Jalen Christopher Brooks…tell me what this spankin’ is for.”
Jalen bit his lip and then said, “Going into a potentially dangerous situation unprepared and over confident, which ended me up in a dangerous situation.”
Dallas nodded. “Yes…bring me your hair brush.”
Jalen’s green eyes widened, but at least Dallas wasn’t using the paddle this time he thought as he fetched the implement.
The older man watched as the young ranch hand fetched the hairbrush from his dresser and took it from him when he handed it to him.
Jalen trudged over to the dresser and picked up the wooden hairbrush. Dallas didn’t often use an implement, but he apparently believed it was necessary this time. He had felt the paddle once and hadn’t wanted to feel it again. The hair brush didn’t look so bad and he brought it to the man who took it from him and laid it aside.
Dallas nodded at Jalen and the youth took his place at Dallas’s right side.
The older man taking the boy by the wrist tugged him across his lap and then slid him over his left knee and pinned his legs with his right leg so Jalen couldn’t squirm or kick too much. With a pat on the boy’s backside he smacked his hand down hard on the center of the upturned bottom, leaving a bright pink handprint.
When Jalen felt himself being pinned over his mentor’s knee he knew this spanking was going to be a hard one. Dallas didn’t position him this way unless he was really disappointed or scared, or worried about whatever it was that he had done. Jalen both jumped and yelped at the sting of the very first swat. “Ouch!”
The ranch owner heard the youngster yelp at the first swat and followed that one with several more just like the first one. He was going to make this a memorable lesson for the kid. He didn’t want him putting himself in danger very soon again and hopefully this would make him think before acting.
The young ranch hand bucked and squirmed over the older man’s knee trying to get his backside out of range, failing miserably. He began to sob as the heat built in his bottom.
Dallas didn’t stop until the globes in front of him were cherry red, then tipped the boy forward a bit more so he could access the soft under curves and sit spots. He continued to spank hard and methodical. He began to scold a little. “Disregarding my instructions and landing yourself in danger as a result will end you up in this position every time kid.”
Jalen, feeling himself being pushed forward more and feeling his more vulnerable sitting parts being made more accessible to the ranch owner’s hard hand yelped and cried. When he heard the scolding words he replied through his tears. “Yes Sir…I’m sorry!”
Dallas replied, “I’m glad to hear it Jalen. Then he paused seeing the bottom glowing a hot red and reached for the hair brush. He then let it fall with a snap that stung mightily. “You will follow instructions from now on kid…if you find yourself in a dangerous situation because of that then you’ll end up here again and if there’s a next time it will be the paddle.” He landed the hair brush three times on the youngster’s center sit spot.
The young ranch hand over his boss’s knee howled at the first sting of the hairbrush. How he could have thought it wouldn’t be as bad as the paddle he didn’t know. In some ways it was worse because it concentrated the sting in a smaller area as he discovered when Dallas applied it sharply to his already sore center sit spot. He howled.
The older man took a tighter grip on the young man’s hip, pulling him a bit closer to his stomach and wrapping his arm more securely around the narrow waist and smacked the under curves with the hairbrush. “I care about you greatly Jalen Christopher Brooks…Scarin’ me like you did today will give you this very much needed reminder.”
Although Jalen wailed at the smack of the brush it was as much for the words. He had never meant to scare his mentor…he himself had been scared as well. “I’m s-sorry!” He wailed.
Jalen couldn’t help feeling very guilty and bad inside, but each burning smack of the hair brush seemed to drive the guilt out of his mind and soul. He sobbed heartbrokenly as the correction continued, knowing he deserved every burning smack.
The ranch owner listened carefully to his young ranch hand. He had had him in this position enough times to have learned when the correction should end. He smacked the sit spots now with the hair brush driving home the lesson that the young man wouldn’t forget for at least the next couple of days or so every time he sat. “I love you kid and I want you around for a very long time.” He told Jalen as he landed the last smacks, setting the brush aside and rubbing the youngster’s back until he calmed enough to realize the spanking had ended.
Jalen howled at the last words and smacks landing on his very tender sit spots. He found he took comfort in the words of love. It took him a bit to realize that the burning smacks were no longer landing where he sat and that the big warm hand of Dallas was rubbing his back. He glanced over his shoulder at the man and saw compassion in the smoky blue eyes and thought to himself just how much he was loved and cared for by the older man. He was amazed at just how much he admired his mentor because of that. He began to struggle to get up and felt strong arms lifting him up right and then settling him in the lap he had just been over to cuddle. He snuggled into the arms that held him tight and laid his head on the strong shoulder, tears still streaming.
Dallas stroked the sandy hair and murmured words of praise, forgiveness and caring to the young man until he calmed down.
Jalen glanced up through red and swollen eyes with spiked lashes and gave Dallas a watery smile. “I won’t be doin’ anything like that again.”
Dallas smiled down at him. “Good, I’m glad you won’t. Like I said, I want you around for a long time to come kid.”
Jalen nodded and said, “I want to be around for a long time to come too.”
The older man smiled and lifting the teen settled him on his stomach in the bed. Then he handed him a handkerchief after wiping his face and said, “Blow your nose.”
Jalen did as he was bid and the ranch owner went over to the wash basin and wetting a cloth came back and taking the soiled handkerchief and tossing it into the dirty clothes basket washed Jalen’s face, then got a glass of cool water and offered it to the boy.
Jalen watched the older man as he blew his nose and felt cared for as his face was washed and a glass of cool water was pressed into his hand. He drank it down and gave Dallas a little smile. “Thank you.”
Dallas smiled back. “You’re welcome.”
Jalen watched as the ranch owner undressed, pulled on a nightshirt and then crawled into the bed with him. He had blown out the lamp and snuggled Jalen up to him close. “Go to sleep now kid.” He instructed.
Jalen, feeling better except for the fire on his bottom snuggled into the strong arms and feeling safe, cared for and secure drifted off to sleep.
Dallas watched and when he felt Jalen relax in his arms and begin to snore softly smiled to himself, closed his eyes and drifted off, knowing life with this youngster would never be dull.