Maggie knew her brother was still having nightmares with her room beside his, every night he'd cry out in strangling terror. She turned back to Mallory with a sorrowful grin. "Sorry, he's still having some issues from what happened over there."
Mallory watched his back as he turned and walked out of the stable with slumped, defeated shoulders. "That's alright, I can't even imagine what he's seen or been through. It's good he's finally home so he can heal." Her heart went out to him and his struggles.
When Ridge reached the edge of the barn he leaned on it with his shoulder. As his gaze scanned the landscape in front of him, it became evident that he belonged here. So why was he torn with so much confusion? He'd thought that once he arrived back home he'd be healed mentally and physically. This ranch had always made him relax and feel renewed.
Straightening back up, he headed toward his truck. Opening the door he stepped in and sat down. Where he was headed he didn't know all he knew was getting away for a little while was needed. Maneuvering the truck out of the yard he headed up the drive and out of the gates of the Five Oaks Ranch.
Twenty minutes later he pulled into the little diner on the edge of town. It had been in this town for over fifty years and a favorite of all the Cauthen brood. Several people waved at him as he entered and made his way to a booth in the back.
The waitress walked over and smiled with evident interest in the handsome, virile cowboy sitting in her work area. He only looked down at the table as she stared at him in awe. Finally she found her voice and took his order.
Just after his coffee arrived, Chase and Luke sauntered in. They walked straight over to his booth and sat down across from him. He scowled at them, thinking so much for some alone time. Why was it that his family was always near? Loving them was easy, but sometimes a man needed time alone and this was one of those times, or so he thought.
"What are you two doing here?" His voice gravely with irritation at the two men in front of him.
Chase grinned and motioned for the waitress to bring them coffee. "We eat here often; it's not only here for you." The humor in which he spoke only infuriated Ridge.
Ridge groaned and put his hand over his face in frustration. "I had to get away from the ranch for a bit. Was that too much to ask?" The pointed look he gave his brothers would've made anyone else run for cover, but not the Cauthen brothers, it only made them grin broader.
Chase winked up at the waitress as she brought over their coffee. "Well hello Rachel, how's it going today?"
Blushing she looked around the table at the three handsome men before she spoke. "I have to say my day is getting better and better. All we need is Oakley and I'd be in sheer heaven." Clearing her throat, she turned to Ridge. "You're food will be out in a moment."
Chase was enjoying the uncomfortable look on Ridge's face. They definitely needed to find a woman for Ridge. Maybe if he had someone for himself he'd calm down a notch. Looking back up at Rachel, "Will you get me a BLT on wheat and what about you Luke?" He turned to his brother.
"BLT on white with extra mayo and one of those homemade pickles you make would be great." Luke said with a look that spoke volumes. He'd been coming in more often since Rachel came to work here.
"I'll take care of it." She headed back toward the kitchen as Ridge looked up at Luke with a brotherly look of discovery.
"Let me guess, you're after the waitress." Picking up his coffee, taking a long drink before he continued. "She's cute, but I thought you went more for the older women."
Luke didn't take offense, but shrugged, "Rachel's a sweet lady and didn't you notice her blue eyes. Heck a man could get lost in them."
Chase looked up at Ridge, "I think he's been bitten by the attraction bug."
"Did you meet the new vet this morning?" Chase said with a lazy smile. He knew the vet was at the barn and Ridge had been there too.
Ridge grunted and took the plate Rachel handed him. "I did."
Luke smirked at the short, blade edged answer. "So, you liked her did you?"
Scowling, Ridge looked up at Luke. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, she's a real looker and you've been away for a while." He left the sentence hanging in the breeze of his assumption with a huge smile.
"The woman's nice looking and seems really nice. Is that what you wanted me to say?" He took a bite of his food and tried not to look at his brothers. Had they noticed the shaking of his hands? Why was he reacting like this to seeing the new vet? Yes, she was beautiful and Luke was right, he'd been away a long time, but he had control of his emotions. Didn't he?
"Yes, that's what I wanted to hear. At least we know you're still alive and a true Cauthen male." Chase laughed at his brother's pun, which of course gained another cold look from Ridge.
"Let's don't go there right now alright. I'm doing just fine alone for now." He said it in a voice that should've stopped them in their tracks but his brothers weren't swayed in the least which totally infuriated him.
"I want to go there Ridge. You need to go there and loosen up." Luke said as Rachel came back with their plates. He smiled up at her and winked. "Thank you darling."
Luke cleared his throat, suddenly acting shy, which was out of character for him. "I think I'll wait until I'm alone."
Rachel walked up with a pot of fresh coffee to refill their cups. Chase decided to take matters into his own hands. "Rachel, Luke here wants to ask you out, but he seems to have lost his courage?"
Luke looked over at his brother with shock and then up at a blushing Rachel. Well the cat was out of the bag so he might as well ride it out. "Would you like to go out to dinner tonight?"
Smiling sweetly she shook her head. "That would be nice Luke."
"I'll pick you up at seven."
She turned and walked back into the kitchen with a smile and giggle. Luke turned to Chase and hit him on the arm. "Don't do that again."
Ridge and Chase both lost their composure. "I think you need to keep your love interests to yourself from now on brother." Ridge said as he looked over at his younger brother.
"Evidently I do." He elbowed Chase as his brother continued to laugh. "I can't believe you just did that."