The Doctor's Choice(2)

By: J. D. Faver


This girl…this woman looked too delicate to withstand the harsh extremes of the local environment. ‘Doctor Camryn Carmichael’ she’d said, like she was real proud of it.

He sighed and turned on the heater, immediately fogging up the windows, then switched on the defroster.

He tried to recall everything Silky had ever told him about her beloved niece.

Mostly school honors and some equestrian events, but clearly, she’d been the apple of Silky’s eye. He couldn’t imagine how she’d have the gumption to take over the ranch and make intelligent day-to-day decisions that would have such a broad-reaching affect.

No matter. He’d promised Silky he’d stand by her niece when the time came. He just hadn’t thought it would come so soon. Nor had he thought the girl would be such an airhead.

He put the truck in gear and pulled slowly into the slushy ruts carved by others, heading toward the Ryan ranch. He drove through the small town of Langston, where he’d grown up, and past the high school where he’d been an athletic and academic star. He passed the church where he’d been baptized and where he added his baritone to the hymns sung most every Sunday.

A short time later he drove through Silky’s ranch, bisected by the long, flat stretch of highway dividing both their properties. Thousands of acres of grasslands and fertile fields lay under a blanket of melting snow. The Ryan and Carmichael ranches were two of the largest in the area. He snorted in disgust. If you didn’t count the Kincaid mega-ranch; the dozens of small properties consumed by Eldon Kincaid’s ravenous hunger for land.

Tomorrow, he would deal with Silky’s lovely little great-niece and drop the bombshell.

#

Cami entered through the back door of Aunt Silky’s big, Victorian house and spread her sodden coat across a kitchen chair. She abandoned her ruined pumps and sprinted up the stairs barefoot.

Shadow, Silky’s big German shepherd lifted his head and followed her ascent with large, mournful eyes.

Cami had put her things in the room she’d always occupied when she had come out for summer vacations as a teen. Rummaging in her bag, she located jeans, a pullover and thick socks to wear with her sneakers.

Passing by Aunt Silky’s room, she noticed that the door was ajar. She steeled herself,

hesitating a moment before opening it all the way. The room was done in a monochromatic palette of pale yellow with a satin bedspread and draperies to match the paint.

A Silver-Point Persian cat looked at her expectantly from its throne atop the king-size bed.

“Oh, I forgot about you. You must be hungry.” She carried the haughty cat downstairs and searched the pantry for food for the animals. Shadow followed her movements with his eyes. The cat jumped up on the countertop and meowed plaintively.

“Well, Miss Priss, is that where you belong?” Cami confronted the self-possessed feline, fisting her hands on her hips.

Disrespectfully reclining atop her roost, the silvery cat stretched out a hind foot and attacked it industriously with her prickly pink tongue.

“Ignoring me? That’s what I can expect from you, you stuck-up hairball.” She scratched the ruff of fur around the cat’s neck affectionately.

Poor thing. She hoped the lawyer would help find homes for Silky’s pets. Her own small apartment complex didn’t allow animals. Of course, her busy schedule wouldn’t give her time to take care of them anyway. Much better to find a nice local family who would take the magnificent pair. The German shepherd whined softly, his expression a portrait of exquisite grief.

“No boy, she’s not coming back.”

She fed them both in the kitchen, using one of Silky’s porcelain soup bowls to serve the cat.

“Sorry, Aunt Silky,” she murmured, placing the bowl on the counter.

Stroking the cat, whose name she couldn’t recall, Cami considered her present situation. In just over two weeks she was going to start her fellowship. She would have to

pay for her small apartment near the Medical Center, the huge enclave of hospitals in Houston.

Aunt Silky had faithfully sent a monthly check to help with living expenses. She wondered how she would make it on the small stipend offered by her fellowship.

Perhaps Aunt Silky had provided for her continued upkeep, at least until she completed her specialization area. The lawyer had said she was Silky’s sole beneficiary. Did that mean the rambling Victorian house and the ranch that seemed to run on forever? There were barns and grain bins, equipment and livestock. What would she do with all these things?

Her musings were interrupted by the chime of the doorbell.

The dog raced to the front door, his toenails making a skittering sound on the polished hardwood.