Chapter 1

I do not own the characters in this story they belong to VA but the story is. This is my first fan Fiction story a little different than what you have been use to. Let me know what you think the story will be getting better as it goes along.

Raise on a 400 acre ranch in North East Oklahoma and the wide open prairie I am use to hard work and heartache believe me I have been through it and never want to go back again.

My name is Rosemarie Mazur I am 17 years old and my mother and father are Abe and Jamine Mazur. My story starts with a sad beginning follow me on my way to recovery and see if I can ever truly be happy again.

I stood and watched them push the dirt over his body as the rain beat down on me it was the most miserable feeling I have ever experience in my life. With every load of dirt I could feel the weight on my heart bearing down heavier and heavier. It was an extraordinary feeling of numbness to watch ten years of my life being buried.

I know he was just a horse to most people, but to me he was a best friend my comrade. I didn't have any other friends to speak of. He loved me as I am and never complained or judged me. In return I put my heart and soul into our partnership. Him and I competed in Western Pleasure riding, In the show arena we were unstoppable we work as a well oil machine in tune to each other moves. It It hurt real bad to lose him. My mother escorted me away from the grave site as my dad manned the backhoe and finish burying the rest of my happiness. Mom had tear tracks on her cheeks and even my dad had tears in his eyes. For being 'just a horse' he was going to be sorely missed by all.

It had been an accident pure and simple. It didn't make losing him any easier, it was just the facts. And with him gone I wasn't sure what I was going to do or even how to do it. I had a lot of extra time on my hands all the sudden. I retreated deep within myself to nurse my broken heart and lick my wounds. All of my shy tendencies showed back up at school I didn't fit in anymore to many memories to cope with. My mind just didn't even register when someone would say hello I was running on autopilot. I secluded myself from everyone and flatly refused to even talk to the shrink my parents took me to.

While it never crossed my mind that I wouldn't be all right my parents grew extremely worried and concern with my behavior.

Apparently to most I was over reacting. I didn't see how mourning the lost of my best friend was over reacting. Sure I was depressed. The majority of my life had been uprooted and shaken. I was desperately attempting to right it. I still think my parents are the ones that over reacted. Not that I'm complaining, but just as I was beginning to step back onto some stable ground and get my head on straight they decided to go into the Peace Corp and help out in other deprive countries no place for me to be. I'm still convinced they were simply looking for an excuse to send me to my daddy's brother. All the way in Cherry Knob, Montana.

That's how I found myself standing in a crowded Montana airport feeling just a little lost. A part of me was sure this was a really bad idea. When I saw my uncle Pavel any doubts disappeared. Even in his mid thirties he was a handsome man. His kind blue eyes and calm ways put me at ease immediately. We fell into easy conversation and by the time we were turning from the narrow gravel road into the long winding gravel driveway of the ranch I had told him everything.

Unlike anyone else, he truly understood. The bond formed in a partnership with a horse is something that cannot be explained or understood without the experience. Uncle Pavel knew what I was going through, he had felt the same connection I had and experience the same lost a few years back.

When the truck topped the ridge the lead in to the valley where the heart of the ranch was I felt the urge to ride again as I gaze across the large valley wanting to explore it. It had been absent for nearly six months. My uncle had accomplished in four hours what my parents had been trying to accomplish for six months. Maybe the Bar 3 Ranch spread had something to do with it too.

The main house was a majestic two story log home with what looked like two large barns and an indoor arena with several lean to sheds scatter here and there. The whole spread was surrounded by pastures filled with gleaming quarter horses of every color imaginable and big multicolored cattle. Soaring blue mountains cradled the ranch. A flawless blue sky only served to magnify the awesomeness of my surroundings. I wanted nothing more than to stand and groom a horse and soak in the therapeutic scent of fresh hay and just the natural barn smell.

As we got closer I saw three figures lounging on the wrap around porch of the main house. Uncle Pavel parked the truck and I jumped out. I wanted to go explore. Instead I eyed the three men from the porch as they approached. The tall skinny bean pole of a man and the shorter bulldog like man loped toward us while the tall distinguished looking man followed at a slower pace. I could only assume he was the owner of the Bar 3 Ranch.

The next half hour was spent getting acquainted with Mason Ashford and Eddie Castle, the ranch's two cowboys, and Brad Belikov, the ranch's owner. Eddie was the tall cowboy with an ornery gleam to his eye and a ready grin. Mason was no taller then five feet ten inches, but his shoulders were wide and beefy and his biceps strained against his shirt sleeves. Brad was my uncle's boss. He was as tall as Eddie but his shoulders and chest were wide and filled out. There was no doubt in my mind he was the boss. I put him in his mid fifties. His dark hair was silver at the temples and the corners of his welcoming dark brown eyes were crinkled, but he was a very handsome man.

They were all warm and welcoming. For the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I felt like I belonged. In a situation where I would normally be very shy and intimidated I instead welcomed their greeting hugs and eager introductions. For once my worn out jeans and boots fit right in. Between the four of them I felt quite dainty which was not the norm.

Although me standing at 5foot 4 with long waist length hair the color dark brown almost black and slightly wavy, went with my dark brown almond shape eyes that someone once said look like jersey calf eyes which I laugh at.

My body was not the typical 17 year old girls body my skin had a sun kiss tan and I had a curvy figure that most women older than I would die for or would pay a large amounts of money to achieve, I guess God bless me in a way. My breast were rather large, and I had a tiny waist and well rounded hips in my Wranglers my butt had the shape of an upside down heart. Back in Oklahoma all the boys chase after me, but with school and countless Western Pleasure riding contest I just didn't have the time for social events, let alone boyfriends. As far as I was concern I was an average looking girl nothing special about me.

I was ushered into the room that was to be mine. It was in the wing behind the kitchen and living room where the ranch hands lived. The family's living space was upstairs. Uncle Pavel carefully set my single suitcase and duffel bag next to the door. I looked around the room and was assaulted by an extreme sense of contentment. I didn't have time to unpack. It was dinner time and Eddie had spent all afternoon making a special meal and by the smell of it I could guess that, one of my chores was to take over the cooking. According to Brad most of the time the three men spent a large part of the time trying to get over indigestion from Eddies cooking. With that all said and done I was flung into ranch life at the Bar 3 Ranch and I never looked back.

Chapter 2

Before I knew it I had been on the ranch for two months. I enjoyed my new school and I was loving the horses and the work. Brad gladly had me helping clean stalls and feeding. I jumped into the position of cooking for everyone as well. I even had a new love interest. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He was also ornery as they come and had Eddie and Mason aggravated enough they would have liked to put a bullet through his head.

He was a three year old quarter horse stallion named Peppy Sans Diamond Q. I called him Rio. We got along famously. In a month I had him working under saddle like he had been at it his whole life. When I first discovered him in the west pasture with four other young stallions and asked Mason about the rambunctious colt the broad shouldered cowboy had laughed. He said I could have the black colt if I could get him under control. Not two weeks later Brad was signing Rio's registration papers over to me while Mason shook his head in bewilderment.

Life was good. Little was I to know yet again I was going to be thrown for a major loop. Trust me, I was more then a little disgruntled. I had just gotten settled in and comfortable in my routine. I was home by myself. Eddie and Mason were checking the back fences. My uncle and Brad were in town picking up some supplies. It was my night to cook something simple for dinner and I had the radio turned up loud while I stirred my potato soup.

I was surprised when I heard tires crunching the gravel in the driveway an hour and a half before uncle Pavel and Brad were due home. Very few people made the drive back to the Bar 3 Ranch if they didn't have to. The roads weren't very driver friendly.

I literally ran to the front door and peeked out. A dusty Red Dodge was parked under the big Oak tree. All I could see of the driver was shined black boots peeking out from clean black jeans. A duffel bag showed briefly as though the man tossed it on his shoulder. The boots started toward the house.

My heart jumped when the stranger came into view. He was a long tall Wrangler clad cowboy with a reckless saunter and heart stopping smile. I knew without a doubt he was somehow related to Brad. They had the same broad shoulders, deep chest, and strong sharp jaw. Well, that and I had seen his picture on Brad's desk. And Baxter, the big mutt dog who I thought only liked me ran to him and drooled all over him. It never crossed my mind to not fling the door open. The man looked up and a few different emotions flicked through his amazing chocolate brown eyes.

"Hi."

I sent him a smile.

"I'm Rose Mazur," I said as he walked up the front steps and through the door I held open.

He set his bag down next to the black leather couch and turned his thrilling gaze on me.

"Dimitri Belikov. You're Pavel's niece then?" he asked in a voice that had a slight Russian accent and didn't sound like it had been used much lately.

"Yes. Brad didn't tell me you were coming," I stated.

A cynical smile curved his chiseled lips and a glint in his eyes.

"He didn't know." he said half mocking

I felt my eyebrows furrow in confusion. He held my gaze with his. I got the feeling he was attempting to intimidate me. If I'm anything I'm a stubborn cuss. I was not going to let him get away with that. The fire in his eyes surprised me.

It seemed my stay on the ranch, along with the friendships I had formed and my new horse, had given me my confidence back. Dimitri seemed a little surprised by it too. I attempted to pin him to the spot for a split second before flashing a wide man-eating smile. That took him aback as well.

"Welcome home then," I said. "Your dad's going to be really happy to see you."

He stared at me like I was the last thing he expected to be greeting him at the door, he continue to graze over my body from the top of my head to my boot clad feet then back up to my face stopping both times to look at my chest. At first I thought I might have forgotten to button my shirt and I quickly look nope all button. I took that as a compliment. I held his gaze steadily.

Not to be out done, I proceeded to look at him from the top of his black Stetson hat he wore low in front his dark brown hair down to his shoulders look so soft I wonder what it would feel like to run my fingers through it "OH MY, I NEED TO NOT THINK LIKE THAT". I continue to his broad shoulders to his well toned chest down to the extremely tight wranglers he was wearing I thought I notice a bulge in front but dismiss it as my imagination, back up to his chocolate eyes. It may have been my imagination but I thought I saw something in him soften a little but there was a hint of intrigue in them to. He offered a small smile my way.

"Thank you," he said quietly. "I'm going to take my stuff to my room and take a shower."

I nodded and watched him as he walked away. When he had disappeared down the hallway with Baxter at his heels I made my way back to the kitchen wondering if I had been dreaming. WOW he was really easy on the eyes I could look at him all day. If I wasn't mistaken a really good looking cowboy had just walked into the place I had come to think of as my home.

I was working on an English paper when I heard the water for the shower turn on. I picked up the phone and dialed Brad's cell number.

"Howdy, Miss Mazur."

"Hello, Mr. Belikov."

It was a running joke between us.

"What can I do for you?"

"Dimitri just came home," I said.

"Dimitri came home?" he repeated.

"Yes he's in the shower," I affirmed. There was a pause. "What should I do?"

Brad was quiet for a few seconds longer.

"Feed him and let him talk," he said finally. "We'll be home in about an hour. Thank you, Rose."

I grinned.

"I thought you ought to know."

We said our good byes from there I went to the stove to stir the soup. I was humming to myself. My mind tends to wander frequently so I jumped a mile when someone cleared their throat behind me. I whirled around and came nose to nose with Dimitri. He gave me a slow lazy grin as he passed by me brushing against me to sit at the table. My breath caught in my throat the slightest touch I could feel sparks and heat what was wrong with me.

"How long you been here?" he asked casually.

I absentmindedly stirred the soup one more time trying to settle my breathing before joining him and picking up my pencil.

"About two months."

He tried to peek at my paper.

"You're a senior."

I glanced at him briefly. He looked like he would like to talk but wasn't sure how to start a conversation. I took pity on him. It didn't look like life had been easy on him lately. His eyes were tired. I decided to to put my paper away and talk.

"Yeah. I'm actually only seventeen, but my school in Oklahoma was further along then the one here. I tested out of a lot of stuff. How long have you been away?" I asked curiously. "If you don't mind me asking," I added hurriedly.

He leaned back in his chair and relaxed.

"I don't mind, I've been gone for a long time. Just doing odd jobs traveling around," he said in answer to my curious look. "Why are you here? If you don't mind me asking." he said with curiosity in his voice.

I cock my head to the side trying to figure him out. It was the beginning of an unexpected friendship. I was inexplicably comfortable and at ease with him. The fact that he was six years older then me never crossed my mind. We both recognized a kindred spirit in each other. It was like we knew each other for years instead of just hours. I had absolutely no hesitance in sitting and talking to him.

"The love of my life after 10 years died, I got depressed, my parents decided to join Peace Corp. and they decided my uncle could straighten me out. So here I am," I summarized.

"The Love Of Your life?" Dimitri asked with a strange look in his eyes like longing or jealousy naw can't be.

"My horse. I showed the Oklahoma circuit year round with him," I said shortly.

I was getting better, but I still missed him. It helped that the tall cowboy merely nodded in understanding.

"I've missed home," he said bluntly.

"I think home has missed you," I said just as bluntly and then giggle.

He chuckled a deep rich chuckle.

"Has anyone ever told you you're a character?" he said as he tilted his head to the side.

I grinned impishly.

"Usually I'm a piece of work, but that works too," I admitted.

It made me feel good to make him laugh. His laughter was contagious.

That's how Brad and my uncle found us an hour later. I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my cheeks and it was to the point that Dimitri was simply laughing at my inability to stop laughing. It was like eight months of suppressed laughter decided to spill out of me all in one hour. It felt good for me to laugh.

The reunion between father and son was extremely emotional. My uncle and I made our excuses and escaped to the barn. He helped me clean all twenty-eight stalls and feed all the horses that were stalled inside the barn. He told me a little about Dimitri. I was right. life hadn't been treating him real well. He was born and raised in Russia until his mother pass away. He was twelve years old. That's when his father and his brothers move to Bar 3 ranch. He went to college for a year before deciding to join the rodeo riding bulls. He then traveled the rodeo circuit for a few years before drifting home. It explained the weary look to his face.

We made it back to the house just in time for the soup to be finished. I took great pleasure in dishing up food for everyone. Eddie and Mason wouldn't be back to the ranch house for a while so I kept enough for them in the pot. The dinner table was especially joyful that night because of Dimitri's safe return home. It made the sense of contentment I had felt since coming to the ranch take a deeper root.

It wasn't the arrival of Dimitri that turned my world upside down. He slipped into my life with hardly a ripple. We got along great. I was extremely excited to have someone closer to my age on the ranch. We formed a strange friendship. Both of us were loners by nature and therefore were completely comfortable around each other. No one ever said it made a lot sense. In fact, Dimitri wasn't the one that shook up my life. It all went back to high school drama and immaturity.

Dimitri went back to college at the local level. The college was halfway between Cherry Knob and the bigger town twenty minutes west. He was my ride to and from school. It was more convenient then taking the bus or driving myself. And I liked Dimitri's big truck. It purred. As I said, we formed a quick and lasting friendship in the couple of months he had been home.

But, I should have known from prior experience high school kids, male in particular, rarely saw that girls and guys could be friends just friends. Especially Bobby Jo, athlete extraordinaire.

He was a nice guy. The first week I had been at school he had taken me under his wing and made sure I knew where I needed to be and that I had people to sit with at lunch, all the essentials. After that initial week the pursuit began. I wasn't looking for anything except friends. Bobby Jo was looking for a relationship and a serious one at that.

I had found out the hard way that guys don't take kindly to taking the backseat to a horse. It wouldn't be fair to him or me. He didn't take me seriously when I turned him down he kept up after me to go out with him. I couldn't seem to get him to understand that he wasn't really interested in me, he was merely fascinated with me a new girl in town.

I was standing outside the school on a glorious Friday waiting for Dimitri to pick me up. He was normally late on Fridays because his class let out the same time the high school let out. I was perfectly content to lounge in the sun and wait for him. Apparently Bobby Jo saw an opportunity to corner me and he took it.

"Hey, Rose."

I looked up and had to suppress a groan. I really would love to be friends with him, but he made it very difficult.

"Hi, Bobby Jo," I muttered.

He started rambling about something, and I know it was rude, but I wasn't paying attention. It was a beautiful day. I wanted to go home and ride my horse and tell Dimitri about my latest art project. I didn't really have the energy to be fending off party invitations. That was my first mistake. I have a one track mind. Usually that one track involves horses somehow. Bobby Jo didn't really ever have a chance at having my full attention in the first place, and when Dimitri's familiar Red Dodge pulled into the parking lot and my mind was gone. He stopped the truck next to us and I turned my gaze back to Bobby Jo.

"Look, I have chores to do before it gets too late so I can take my horse out for a ride. I'll talk to you Monday?"

I started to turn toward the truck. Bobby Jo grabbed my arm. He wasn't threatening in any way but it annoyed me. I am stubborn, independent to a fault, and sometimes aggressive. I don't like it when anyone doesn't take me seriously. I meant it when I said I would talk to him Monday.

"Did you even hear what I asked you?" Bobby Jo asked with a frown.

Looking back I can see I wasn't being very nice. I didn't mean to be rude or mean. It was just that I already had something I wanted to do and I don't like to change my plans.

Dimitri apparently saw the annoyance flash across my face. He rolled the passenger window down and leaned across the console.

"Ready to go, sweet britches?" he asked, using his little pet name for me along with a brilliant smile.

"You bet!" I told him before turning to Bobby Jo. "I'm really sorry. I'm just a little preoccupied. We'll talk Monday. Promise."

He scowled at Dimitri.

"Whatever. Have a good weekend," he muttered.

I gave him a little wave, tossed my bag in the truck, climbed in, and buckled up. Dimitri gunned it out of the parking lot, making me laugh. He had told me that he loved to make me laugh. I didn't have the heart to tell him it wasn't all that hard to do. Life was returning to its usual amusing state now that my heart was bouncing back life didn't seem so bad.

The first few minutes of the twenty minute ride home was spent in the customary silence. Dimitri was relaxed and happy in his rich leather seat. I glanced at his strong profile out of the corner of my eye and couldn't help smiling. It seemed the Bar 3 Ranch had a healing strength. The weary look around his eyes was fading and I was seeing some of the sparkle I knew had existed come back.

"Who was that?" he asked curiously.

I winced. Dimitri glanced over at me briefly. He could convey so much with those brown eyes of his, or be completely safeguarded. Now was a guarded moment.

"The school's favorite jock. I interest him because I'm not interested and according to gossip the hottest new girl in town," I said with a biting underlying tone and rolling my eyes.

We rode in silence for a few seconds.

"I was a jock in high school. Got a full ride to Cal State in football. I went for a year and decided to join the rodeo. My dad always said the Belikov boys had some Gypsy blood in us. Both my brothers wandered before they settled down and got married. I'm the only one that has rancher blood though. Christian is a successful banker and Taylor trains race horses," Dimitri said, looking a little embarrassed that he had spilled so much. I smiled in acknowledgment and continued explaining.

"I just wish he wouldn't pursue me the way he is. I have no aversion to being friends, but I can't believe the small mined thinking. That and I learned awhile ago that guys don't like to share my attention with the horses and very few choose to share my interest in them. That's why you and me get along so well," I explained.

He glanced over and gave me one of his rare full smiles. I gave him an almost giddy grin. The beautiful day was making me somewhat hyper. I wanted to go ride. It was like an addiction.

"For some strange reason I like you very much. That's why we get along so well," he corrected.

"What can I say? I have that affect on things. The less they like people the more they like me. It's strange. Baxter took a liking to me right away, Rio decided I'm the bees knees, and even you think I'm not so bad. What's the world coming to?" I gasped dramatically putting my hand over my heart.

Dimitri rolled his eyes at me. I laughed happily. It was Friday, it was sunny out, I was with the man I considered my best friend, and I was going home to ride my awesome horse. I was very happy. My body almost seemed to vibrate with excess energy.

"You need to go run a few laps around the arena and calm your butt down," he said dryly.

I stuck my tongue out at him. He laughed then reached over and turned the radio up. Trace Adkins' song Ladies Love Country Boys was playing. I laughed in delight. The song held a lot of truth to it. We were both content to spend the rest of the drive home in a companionable silence.

Mason and Eddie were just riding in when Dimitri parked by the barn. I jumped out of the truck and waited impatiently for Dimitri to join me. He took his sweet time. We were taking Rio on his first ride outside of an arena. I was extremely excited. It never crossed my mind to be nervous. It also never crossed my mind that the exchange between Dimitri and I in front of Bobby Jo was going to fuel mean rumors.

Brad and uncle Pavel were looking at a new stud in North Carolina. They were going to be gone all weekend, maybe longer. Eddie and Mason were leaving later in the evening to compete in a rodeo and would be gone until late Sunday. Dimitri and I were planning on just watching some movies. It was a luxury, living on a large working ranch rarely offered. At that moment I was eager to get saddled though. I was bouncing on my feet. Dimitri just shook his head in mock exasperation. He was used to my strange moods.

"Oh, hey, I got something for you!" he exclaimed suddenly.

I raised an eyebrow. And they told me I was the queen of all randomness.

"For me? Why?" I questioned curiously.

He didn't answer me as he retrieved the item from the backseat of his truck. I was extremely curious.

"It reminded me of you," he explained with a shrug.

He handed my a black hoodie sweatshirt. It had a fierce looking horse head in clear crystals on the chest with the phrase 'I'd rather saddle up then settle down' under the graphic and on the back it said Cowgirl up. I loved it immediately. I loved it even more because it was just a random act of friendship from Dimitri. A happy squeal came out of my mouth and I flung my arms around him on a whim and kiss his cheek. The same electric shock ran through my body. And I know he felt it to by the look on his face. He awkwardly returned the hug. His cheeks were a dull red when I stepped away from him. It absolutely tickled me that I had embarrassed him.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" I exclaimed as I pulled it over my t-shirt.

It was big and soft and just me. Dimitri rubbed the back of his neck and ducked his head not wanting to look me in the eyes. Eddie and Mason were trying their hardest to keep their laughter in. I was grinning like a maniac.

"It's nothing to get all excited about," he muttered.

I just kept grinning. "Let's go ride," I suggested.

Please review and let me know what you think. Debbie