Fire and Oil

by woodmanone

Copyright© 2021 by woodmanone

Romance Story: Fire and Oil don't mix,especially with an Ex.

Tags: Romance   Melodrama  

First, I had to rush a bit to get it finished in time, my editor has done his best but I usually rewrite sections after his work, so any mistakes are mine.

As usual constructive comments and critiques are welcome. You can leave your thoughts with the comment section at the end of the story or send a message by clicking on my name. Thanks again for taking the time to read my work. Please enjoy.

Kayce Morgan Randal looked at the young woman sitting at the bar; it was about the fifth time he had checked her out. She don’t look like she’s old enough to be in this honky tonk Kayce thought. He knew the woman was only two years younger than his 30 but he felt she could pass for 18 or even younger sometimes.

The subdued lighting in the bar only added to the young lady’s good looks. The place had a long, old time carved wood bar that at one end made a right angle turn into the wall. This turn is where she and her female friend sat. Sort of a protected site that kept unwanted company from sitting on either side of the women.

She looks about the same as when I first met her, he continued his thought. That long auburn hair with a few red highlights, topping a well curved athletic body that was tall for a woman, she was 5 ft 9. But the thing that still catches my eye is the green eyes that are can cut like sharp glass when she is mad. They can drill through you like a laser or invite you closer with a look.

He knew the age of the young woman because she was his ex-girlfriend, Alyssa Beaudrow. That is if she isn’t married, he wondered. They had just celebrated a month ago, if that was the word, the sixth year of their breakup; but he hadn’t seen her in all those years.

“Not much to celebrate, I prefer to call it a bad memory,” Kayce said softly to himself. Kayce was surprised to see her; he didn’t know she had come back to New Braunfels.

Kayce was born and raised outside of New Braunfels, in Spring Branch, Texas. He was a pretty good size boy by his last year in high school; Kayce was a 6’ 1” 185 pound speedy tight end on his school’s football team. He knew he wasn’t good enough to get a scholarship for college and there wasn’t a lot of extra money for his schooling so he decided to get a job, both to help out at home and for spending money. There not being a lot of job opportunities in New Braunfels or San Antonio for a boy just out of high school, he got a job as a worker on a drilling rig in the oil field outside of Luling, Texas.

The closest city of any size to the oil field is New Braunfels or San Antonio, if you wanted someplace bigger, which are both in the hill country of Texas. Not so Luling Texas; the area is pretty much flat land. It is best known for the Luling Oil Field and growing watermelons. In the summer it is hot and humid and in the winter can be cold with no trees or hills to break the wind coming off the Gulf of Mexico.

Kayce’s job was as a roustabout, an entry level position, but because of the dangers of working on a rig, it paid pretty well. After a year he was promoted to roughneck, a step up the ladder. After one season on the rig In Luling, a friend got him a job as a motorman on a well in the Spindle Top field near Beaumont, Texas. His responsibilities increased and so did his pay; he was making almost twice what he had been.

After a year on the well in Spindle Top, he decided to take a few days off and go to Galveston Island for Spring Break. That’s where he and Alyssa met. She was in the BSN nursing program at Chamberlain University in Houston and she was taking her spring break from school. They first met on the Galveston Island Pleasure Pier. The pier stretched over 1000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. The attractions of the pier were the carnival rides, numerous restaurants and shops.

Alyssa was coming off a two level carousel on the Pleasure Pier and tripped. She fell into Kayce, spilling her drink all over him and knocking the beer out of his hand. She immediately began to apologize. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m such a klutz. Let me pay for cleaning your clothes.”

Kayce wiped down his shirt and the front of his jeans as best he could with napkins from a nearby taco stand. “I will admit shakin hands after this won’t be much fun,” he said with a grin. “Don’t worry about it; this is just stuff I wear for work.”

Alyssa felt an interest in the tall blue eyed, dark haired stranger. “At least let me buy you another beer and maybe lunch.”

“That sounds like a plan. My name is Kayce Randal.”

“I’m Alyssa Beaudrow.”

They had lunch at Bubba Gump’s. After more than three hours, the waitress asked them to order something more or leave; the restaurant needed the table. The long lunch turned into an early dinner.

At 6 o’clock they adjourned to the Rum Shack which overlooks Galveston Beach. “I know from us talkin you’re studyin to be a nurse but any idea where you want to land when you graduate?” Kayce asked.

“Never gave it much thought, I just want to be a nurse. Rather stay in Texas, but I can be a nurse anywhere. You grew up near New Braunfels you said, so we were almost neighbors as I grew up there. How about you? Did you always want to work in the oil business?”

“Not really. I told you I was from Spring Branch. Our small ranch couldn’t really support much more than Mom and Dad, so after I got out of high school a buddy got me a job on an oil rig. Been on one ever since; going on two years now.”

They were a bit tipsy when the bar closed at 2 A.M. During the night and on their 20 minute walk to Alyssa’s hotel they had discovered pretty much everything about each other’s lives.

Alyssa was staying at the Sheraton Four Points. Kayce rode up in the elevator and walked her to her door. She hesitated, debating with herself about inviting him in. Kayce saw this. Any other time he would have pushed to join her but he felt she was something special.

“I’d like to come down from the oil rig and see you again Alyssa, if I can. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Beaumont to Houston.”

“That would be nice. Let me put my number in your phone and you can call me.”

“I can’t have a cell while working on the rig so I never bothered to get a phone. Write your number down and I’ll call you next week.” The next week Kayce drove to Houston.

Kayce went back the following week and the two after that. He worked 12 hr shifts and was tired and dirty at the end of shift so he waited until Saturday mornings to make the drive to Houston. Kayce would arrive in Houston at 8 or 9 and meet with Alyssa. They would spend two days together doing whatever; just to be with each other.

Kayce would stay in a Motel Six in Houston for two reasons. It was only 25 minutes from Alyssa’s dorm and it was cheap. At the end of each day together, Kayce would return to his motel. Alyssa offered to visit Kayce in Beaumont but he talked her out of it.

“The place I stay is ... well, let’s say not appropriate for visitors. Actually even I wouldn’t go there except it’s close to the oil field and it is dirt cheap. Besides I have a roommate and I wouldn’t wish him on an enemy; especially a girl I care about.”

Kayce called Alyssa on Wednesday. “Hey lady going to have to pass on this weekend. Had a little accident on the rig and I’m not up to drivin. Fact is I can’t work right now. Didn’t want you thinkin I’d forgot about you.”

“What happened?” Alyssa asked in a worried voice.

“Nothing much. The makeup tongs on the drill pipe busted loose and knocked me off the platform. I’m okay.”

“It must be more than nothing much if you can’t work. Did you see a doctor?”

“Naw, if I see a doctor I’ll have to take off work for at least a month. This way I’ll heal up for a few days and go back to work. Give you a call next week.” Kayce hung up.

Alyssa thought for about two minutes, this was late Wednesday afternoon and her next class wasn’t until Monday morning. She packed an overnight bag, a duffle with medical supplies, loaded them in her car and set off for Beaumont. Alyssa didn’t have a phone number or address for Kayce but she would track him down. Maybe he can’t see a doctor, but I’m a nurse so I can help him, she thought. The short drive to Beaumont under an overcast sky took just over an hour.

She was surprised when she drove into the Spindle Top oil field in the fading. Alyssa had expected a forest of tall oil derricks all over the place. She saw were only about two dozen derricks but there were fields of the gently bobbing up and down pumps. They reminded her of the toy her mother had in the kitchen, a bird head that would bob up and down to a water dish. Alyssa giggled at the resemblance.

Alyssa parked in front of the main office and went inside. She explained to the older lady at the first desk that she wanted to find the address for Kayce and why. “He’s sorta my boyfriend but we always meet at my place in Houston. He called and told me he was injured and couldn’t make the drive this week, he also said he hadn’t been to a doctor. I’m a second year nursing student and I thought I might help him.”

The older lady smiled and pecked away at her computer. She gave Alyssa the address and said, “You be careful in that neighborhood, it’s not the best especially with night comin on. Go take care of your man, honey.”

The lady was right, this isn’t a nice area of Beaumont, Alyssa thought as she pulled up to Kayce’s address. The apartment was one of several in what looked like it had been a large one story motel in its previous life. The building needed a few repairs to the outside and a paint job. The area surrounding the building was in worse shape with most of the street lights out.

“Who’s at the door?” Kayce asked himself as he painfully got out of bed. He slipped on a pair of jeans and slowly walked to the door. The makeup tongs that had slipped off the drill pipe had hit him in the left side, injuring his ribs, hip and left leg and he was very sore. Opening the door he was surprised to see Alyssa standing there with a smile.

“What are you doing here?” He asked with a big smile.

“I’m not a doctor but I am a pretty good nurse, so I thought I would come and tend to you. You gonna asked me in?”

“Sure” Kayce smiled and stepped back, fully opening the door. He looked around the apartment quickly to make sure it was at least in some semblance of order. “Seriously, why are you here? Not that I’m not glad to see you.”

“Seriously,” Alyssa repeated with a smile as she stepped into the room. “I came to tend to you since you won’t go to a doctor ... and I wanted to see you.” She set her bag and duffle down and turned to Kayce. “All right let’s see to your injuries.” After a couple of minutes examining Kayce’s ribs she asked. “Where else are you hurt?”

Kayce hesitated but at a hard look from Alyssa he painfully pushed the jeans down past his hip and to the floor. Alyssa gasped at the bruising on his hip and leg. For his part Kayce was a bit embarrassed because he was nude. He and Alyssa hadn’t gotten to the more physical stage of their romance yet.

Alyssa examined him with a businesslike approach. The entire time Kayce’s face was red. “Your ribs seem to be bruised, not cracked or broken,” she told him. “Same with the leg and hip. We shouldn’t wrap the ribs because the best thing for them is Advil, heat and rest. Wouldn’t hurt to soak in a hot bath either; a few massages would help as well.”

“Don’t have a tub, just a shower. I’ve been taking hot showers and it helps for a few minutes but then I start hurtin again,” Kayce replied.

Alyssa smiled, took out her phone and began typing. “Okay let’s pack a few things for you,” she ordered.

“Why? Where am I going?”

“I have to be back to classes on Monday. Until then WE ... are going to stay at a nice hotel. This place has a Jacuzzi tub in our room and a large hot tub next to the indoor swimming pool. The hot water and therapy will do you good. Make sure and bring swimming trunks or shorts, you’ll need them for the hot tub.” Kayce hesitated and Alyssa said, “Get with it cowboy, daylight’s burning.”

They took Alyssa’s car as Kayce wasn’t up to driving. He groaned a little but was finally able to sit in the front seat by adjusting it all the way back on its track. She drove them to the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel that was in an upscale part of Beaumont. Alyssa checked in and carried both her and Kayce’s small bags and the duffle with medical supplies. They rode the elevator and to their room. The hotel had an enclosed swimming pool on the roof, along with a large hot tub. Their room was on the floor below.

“There’s just one bed,” Kayce said.

“Guess we’ll have to share, won’t we?” She replied with a grin. “Okay, why don’t you run a hot bath and turn on the water jets. We passed a Broussard’s about ten minutes from here; they have great BBQ. I’ll go get us some supper while you soak.”

Kayce began to undress as Alyssa left the room. I knew she was focused and a bit forceful, what with her school and studies and all, he thought with a grin. But she can sure be a take charge type of girl when she wants to be. He laughed as he started to fill the tub. “Cides I like seeing her like this. Best follow her suggestion,” he said aloud.

He started to put on some shorts but decided not to. “She started this; I’ll just see how far she wants to take it,” Kayce said to himself and smiled. He got into the very warm water and turned on the jets. As he became acclimated to the heat he added even hotter water. About 30 minutes in he heard Alyssa call out as she returned.

Kayce and Alyssa had hugged and kissed a lot during his visits to Houston. In fact, there had been several make out sessions but nothing fully intimate yet. He didn’t want to push or spook Alyssa as she was a special person to him. I surely do like her but I like our relationship so no need to pressure her, at least for awhile, he thought as he soaked in the soothing hot water with the jets massaging him.

Alyssa stuck her head into the bathroom without entering. “If you get dressed we can eat and then I’ll give you a massage.”

“Be right there,” Kayce replied. He stepped out of the tub, turned off the jets, opened the drain and then dried off. He put on his shorts and stepped into the room. Walking to his duffle he took out a Tee shirt and put it on. “Now I’m dressed for supper,” he said.

Alyssa had spread out the BBQ feast on the small dining table in the room. “After we eat, I’ll give you a massage with some special oil. Later you can get in the tub again or we can go up to the hot tub on the roof.”

One of the things that Kayce liked about Alyssa was she was a real Texas woman. No low fat, low sugar, healthy foods for her. She ate what she liked and as much as she liked. Her strenuous work load at school and the hands on education at the hospital kept her in very good shape. After eating about half of the BBQ, with her matching him bite for bite, they put the rest in the refrigerator.

Smiling Alyssa said, “Take off the shirt and get on the bed, face down.” At his look she added, “Please.”

Kayce grinned and did as she suggested, he had on underwear this time and she pulled them down off his left hip. Alyssa put some lotion on her hands and began to massage him. Using more pressure on his right side and a lighter pressure on his left, injured side, it wasn’t long before Kayce was voicing his pleasure with a groan now and then as she hit an exceptionally sore area. For the next 40 minutes he endured a massage that ran from mild torture over the injuries to great pleasure in the other areas

“What is that lotion you’re using? He asked.

Alyssa laughed. “Horse liniment.”

“Horse liniment?” Kayce said. “Why horse liniment?”

“It works really well with large area bruising,” Alyssa explained laughing. “I mixed it with a massage oil to cut down the harshness. Don’t tell me a real by god oil man like you can’t take it.”

Kayce laughed and shook his head as best he could. After a few seconds he grinned. “You know, you could do a better job on my hip if I took off these shorts,” Kayce suggested.

“Just lay there and let me and the liniment work on you.”

Alyssa playfully slapped Kayce gently on the butt, the right side. “That’s it for now, get up and get a shower; then we can go up to the hot tub for more therapy.”

After his shower, Kayce came out of the bathroom with just a towel wrapped around his hips. “You know, you got to massage me it’s only fair that I get to massage you. Don’t you think?”

He walked over and took Alyssa in his arms and kissed her. As he did, he massaged her back and then a bit lower. “Feeling better are you?” Alyssa said with a smile. She reached down and loosened his towel so that it fell to the floor. They never did make it to the hot tub that night; nor the next day.

Their three nights together brought Alyssa and Kayce to a major decision. They decided that they didn’t want just weekends together; they wanted to see and be with each other every day. On Saturday they looked at a map and took a road trip to Mont Belvieu, Texas. The little town of about 3500 people was almost exactly half way between Alyssa’s Chamberlain University and Kayce’s Spindle Top oil field. Alyssa had about a 45 minute and Kayce an hour’s drive, to the small air conditioned one bedroom with a bathroom cabin they rented at the Bayou Bend RV Park. The park was on table top flat land with a constant breeze that was either hot or cold.

Between Alyssa’s dorm room expenses and Kayce’s rental for the run down motel, the monthly cost on the cabin was only a hundred dollars more a month than they had been spending for housing. They thought it was worth it to be able to spend more time together. The reason the rental on the cabin was so low was that a chemical plant was less than a mile away. The plant made Polyethylene, a type of plastic. Sometimes if the wind was right more than a slight odor from the plant would roll across the RV Park.

Every morning that Alyssa had classes she would make the hour and a half round trip to the college or hospital and at daybreak every morning Kayce would make the two hour round trip to the oil field. Their evenings or weekends were spent just being together. They would make short road trips around the country side or in good weather just sit on the very small front porch of the cabin. They lived together for almost two years. Alyssa’s life was filled with the stress of classes, tests and time actually helping patients. Kayce’s job was stressful also as he dealt with the extreme hard work in even severe weather and the danger at all times. They were a refuge for each other. Alyssa’s graduation was approaching and she applied to several hospitals for a job.

Kayce came into their cabin after work one evening and Alyssa was sitting at their small table. “I have something to tell you,” Alyssa said after kissing him hello.

He grabbed a beer from their small refrigerator and joined her at the table. “Okay Ally, what cha got.”

“I was offered a job today, from a very prestigious hospital” she told him.

“That’s great honey. Which hospital?”

Hesitating for a few seconds, Alyssa answered “The Mayo Clinic.” She hesitated again then added, “It’s in Rochester, Minnesota.”

Kayce stopped his beer half way to his mouth. “Gonna be a hell of a commute.” He took a big drink, sat the bottle on the table and looked at Alyssa.

“I’m going to turn it down. I’ll get something closer to home,” she said with a very small sigh. “Or you could come with me Kayce,” she offered hopefully.

He finished his beer and looked down at the table. Raising his head to look at her, he replied, “I love you Ally but my home is in Texas ... with the oil wells. That’s all I know.” Now it was his turn to hesitate. “You have to go honey. This is what you worked so hard for. You said you wanted to go somewhere you could really help. You have to go.”

Alyssa hung her head but not before he saw the tears in her eyes. Kayce stood and pulled her up and put his arms around her. “If you stay here, with me, you’ll begin to resent it. Not right away but later and you’ll begin to wonder ‘what if?’ ... you’ll begin to resent me too. That would destroy us anyway. You have to go.”

She held him extra tight and let her tears flow. Kayce’s eyes were full of tears also. Finally she pulled back and looked up at him. “I know you’re right but it doesn’t make leaving you hurt any less. We’ve got about six weeks before I graduate and have to leave. Hold me tight until then.”

Kayce pulled her back in close. “I’ve got news too. Been offered a chance to work on an oil platform out in the Gulf of Mexico, the money is damned good. I have to spend 3 to 4 weeks at a time out in the Gulf.” He kissed the top of her head and added almost sub vocally, “With you gone, it won’t make any difference.”

They tried to pack a life time of being together in the next six weeks. The day they dreaded finally arrived and Kayce drove Alyssa to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport for her flight to Rochester. “We can’t take calls on the rig, only in emergencies, but I’ll call you the first time I’m back on shore.” He gave her a final kiss at the gate and watched her walk down the jet way to her plane.

They had already closed up their little cabin so he drove back to Beaumont. He put his truck in storage and stayed overnight at his old motel. The next morning he took a taxi to Jack Brooks Regional Airport. It was a clear hot day when Kayce boarded a helicopter which took him to the oil platform, the Rocky, 189 miles out in the Gulf.

The work was hard and more dangerous than working on an oil rig on land. Kayce sort of started at the bottom and applied himself. After 3 weeks the helicopter flew him back to shore. He shared an apartment with two other single guys from the rig. It worked well as one of them was always out on the platform.

Kayce thought about calling Alyssa his first trip back to shore but decided not to. He’d found out later that they had Wi-Fi on the rig and could schedule regular phone calls twice a week. “Won’t help,” he said out loud. “We still won’t be together and it hurts too much. It will just make it harder. Best to just let her go.”

For the next four years Kayce worked three weeks on and off one week. About a year after he started on the Rocky, his father passed away due to a massive heart attack. Kayce went home for the funeral and stayed in New Braunfels with his mother for a month. He returned to the oil platform but six months later returned home for his mother’s unexpected death. Friends and neighbors said she had never really recovered after his father’s death. They left their small ranch to Kayce.

During the next three years, his hard work, attention to detail, and seeing to anything that needed to be done, even if it wasn’t in his job description, got him noticed by upper management. He was offered an assistant driller spot on a new platform, the Spirit 4 just floated out 173 miles to its spot in the Gulf. The money was very good and he decided to take the job.

After a few shifts on the new rig, he discovered several problems around the drill pipe. “The gas containment equipment won’t handle a lot of pressure,” he told his supervisor, John Stewart. “It could cause a blow out.”

“I know and I’ve reported it several times,” Stewart answered. “We’re still waiting for the big honchos to okay shutting down and making repairs.”

Then a month later, the platform decided it had waited long enough. One calm, quiet, moonlit night the well head exploded, known as a blow out. It sent fire and debris over the drill platform. Most of the men were saved by escape pods and the boats that were always anchored around the platform but 10 died. Several men were injured to varying degrees, Kayce being one of them.

The beeping of the monitor and the wheeze of another machine cycling woke Kayce. He came up from under the darkness and started to struggle. He was choking with something deep into his throat and neither arm would move more than a few inches. That was when is eyes opened wide.

A nurse was notified by the beeping machine of his different heart rate and his blood pressure shooting up. She came to the side of Kayce’s bed and put a hand on his chest to calm him. “You’re fine, don’t struggle so and I can tell you what’s going one. Okay?”

Kayce looked up at the woman. She seemed concerned and yet calming. He nodded his head and tried to look down at his arms. This time she put her hand on his forehead and stroked it. “This is the Mid Jefferson Extended Care Hospital and I’m you day nurse Violet Smalley. You were in a bad accident and you have some injuries that we had to take care of.” She smiled at Kayce and asked “Better now?’

He settled back on his pillows and nodded but again tried to bring his arms up to his throat. “Easy, big guy. You have an intubation tube down your throat to help you breathe; the Doctor will be here very soon and will take it out.” Kayce nodded his understanding. “We had to restrain your arms because you tried to remove the tube, even when you were unconscious. I’ll remove the restraints but please don’t try to remove the tube. Okay?”

A Doctor in his white lab coat came into the room. He checked the vital signs and turned to Kayce. “Mr. Randal, I’m Dr. Klein. You were on the Spirit 4 oil platform out in the Gulf of Mexico. There was an explosion; you and others were injured. Your chest was compressed by the force of the explosion, one of your lungs collapsed and you were having trouble breathing; we had to put an intubation tube in to help you. Now that you can breathe on your own so let’s get that tube out of your throat and then I go over you injuries. Okay?” Kayce nodded as vigorously as he could.

“When I start pulling on the tub please cough,” Dr. Klein ordered. ‘It’s going to feel strange but just cough.” He turned off the ventilator, disconnected the tube at the machine. He took hold of the tube close to Kayce’s mouth and started to pull upward. “Now cough,” he ordered.

The tube came out and Kayce coughed again as it cleared his throat. He tried to talk but all that came out was a rasp. Violet fed him some ice chips to ease his throat. After a couple of minutes and several spoons of ice chips, Kayce was able to croak out a question. “How long have I been here?” He whispered.

“It’s been 10 days,” Dr. Klein answered. “You have bruised ribs on your right side, your left arm has a hair line fracture but the most serious injury was the collapsed lung. That was why the intubation tube.”

“How soon can I get out of here?” Kayce croaked.

“We’ve been able to inflate your lung, the arm fracture is already healing and your ribs are coming along. Tomorrow we’ll get a few tests and in two or three days get rid of the hard cast and replace it with a soft one. If your tests are positive, I’d say in ten days to two weeks or so; if you keep improving. I’ll check on you late this afternoon Mr. Randal.” Dr. Klein left the room.

“I’ll get you some soft food, until your throat has healed a bit,” Violet promised. She left the room but quickly stepped back in. “There is a man from the oil company that wants to talk to you. Are you up to it?”

Kayce nodded and shortly a small man in a suit and tie came in. “I’m Gerald Withers Mr. Randal. I work for and represent Crescent Oil, the owners of the Spirit 4 oil platform. I’d like to talk to you about the accident at the platform. Can you tell me what happened from your prospective?”

Hesitating for a few seconds and talking in not much more than a whisper, Kayce told Withers the problem with the gas containment system. He continued that he reported the problem to John Stewart and Stewart was in turn told they were waiting for permission to shut the well down and fix the problem. “It blew up about a month later.”

“Mr. Stewart and nine others were killed in the explosion,” Withers said. “Several others had some burns, and other injuries; including you.” Withes paused and stared at Kayce for about ten seconds. “Let’s be frank Mr. Randal, are you planning to bring a law suit against Crescent Oil?”

Kayce paused before answering. He now knew the man was a lawyer for the company. He wasn’t interest in the cause of the accident, or the injured or fatalities, just what the legal aspects were. “Before you answer Mr. Randal, we intend to take care of all your medical bills, along with any rehabilitation you need. Also we will come to a monetary settlement with you to help you through your convalescence. In addition your job will be available to you after you are back on your feet.” Withers’ tone was one of ‘see how the company will take good care of you and aren’t we magnanimous’.

The tone and self serving attitude of the company man didn’t set well with Kayce. “Let me tell you a few things Mr. Withers,” Kayce said with some heat. “First, I’ve paid for my medical insurance since I started at Spindle Top several years ago. My medical bills will be covered with or without Crescent Oil; so don’t make it sound like you are doing me a favor. Second, this is the second time an oil rig has tried to kill me; don’t think I’ll be giving any others another shot at me, I’m done. And lastly, I don’t plan on a law suit at this time; but that’s still a possibility. Unless that settlement is substantial, we could have a problem.”

Withers sat back in surprise as the young oil worker verbally attacked him. “I want a million dollars tax free or I’ll see you in court,” Kayce continued.

“Now see here Mr. Randal that is outrageous. If you sue it will be held up in for years in the courts. You could be an old man before a ruling.” Withers had leaned forward in his chair and now sat back.

“You’re right Withers, it could be a long time, years maybe. But y’all are responsible for this accident. Y’all knew about the problem but because of the cost did nothing about it. Sides, I’ve got a ranch I’m headin to when I get out of here. I can make a living there so I got plenty of time. A million dollars, tax free Withers. Already has been a couple of lawyer type fellars here wantin to represent me. Take it to your masters; y’all got until I get shed this place to make up your mind. That’s it now get, I’m done talkin.”

Violet came back as Withers scurried out. “You lit a fire under his tail, didn’t you?” She observed. “Sorry, I heard everything; your voice carries or I was listening in. Take your choice.” The last was said with a smile. “When did those layers show up?”

“Well,” Kayce said with a big grin. “That part might have might not have happened, but Withers didn’t know that.”

Over the next several days, Kayce continued to improve. His ribs hurt less each day, his throat healed up and he got rid of the soft cast on his arm. Withers had been back with a lesser offer which did nothing but make Kayce mad. He told Withers the next time he saw him the company better be sending the settlement he wanted. Finally on the day before Kayce was to be released, Withers showed up again.

“I’ve got your check for one million dollars and the taxes have been taken care of,” Withers said with a hint of anger. “Sign this non disclosure agreement and the money is yours.”

“Now, ain’t that easier than a court battle,” Kayce grinned as he signed the agreement. “Smart move on Crescent’s part; lawyer fees over the years would have cost them more than this check.”

Dr. Klein came to release Kayce with a warning. “You’re in pretty good condition, considering everything. But you’re not 100% yet. Heard about your ranch so take it easy for a few weeks when you get home and work your cattle.”

“Doc, never did see the sense in followin the south end of a north bound cow. Just don’t much care for the beasts,” Kayce offered. “The ranch is just a place for me to lay up and heal for a spell. I’ll take it easy.”

He said good bye to Violet, got a taxi to where his truck was in storage and set the nose of the truck toward Spring Branch and home. Once he got to his ranch, he opened up the house and began his life after oil.

Kayce became a regular at a couple honky tonks in the area. He wasn’t a big drinker but he liked the people and liked to dance. Because of the settlement he didn’t have to work nor did he have to watch his money too close. Then after a month or so he ran into Sally Ann Rogers.

She was cute at just over 5 and a half feet, with long blonde hair down her back and put together very well. She sure fills out those jeans, Kayce thought they first time he saw her. Sally Ann liked to dance and party and she latched onto Kayce. He’s good lookin, has money to spend and don’t smell like cattle or a factory, Sally Ann thought. Think I’ll just put my brand on him to warn off the other women. He don’t need no body but me.

The two were a pair or a couple or whatever for a going on to three months. Over the weeks, they had spent a few nights out at the ranch or at her apartment. Sally Ann worked in an office from 8 AM to 4 so she couldn’t party all night every night and she shared the two bedroom apartment with another girl. As for Kayce it was a good time with a pretty girl. He liked Sally Ann, she was fun and playful but his intentions didn’t head for anything permanent. He never made any promises, talked about or even hinted at anything more than good times. For Sally Ann, she saw Kayce as a way to a good life without having to work too much. That was when Kayce saw Alyssa at one of the honky tongs.

Kayce watched as Alyssa and her female companion were asked to dance by several different men. The companion would dance with about one out of three of the men, one guy more than once. Alyssa turned down the invitations with a smile and a negative shake of her head. After about 30 minutes, Kayce decided to say hello. When her partner got up to dance again, Kayce slipped into the seat next to Alyssa. She turned to see who had taken the seat and to inform them that someone was sitting there.

“Hello Ally,” Kayce said. “It’s been a long time.”

Alyssa was shocked to see him. The look on her face went from disbelief, to happiness, to sadness and finally to anger. As much as a surprise to her as to Kayce, she slapped his cheek. Alyssa couldn’t believe her actions and her face turned red in embarrassment. “What the hell happened to you?” she asked as her embarrassment passed. “You disappeared from my life.”

“Guess I deserved that,” he said as he rubbed this face. “It’s really good to see you Ally, in spite of your greeting.” He smiled at her and gestured to a new by empty booth. “Can we sit somewhere more private? We can talk and I’ll explain.”

Alyssa caught her friend’s eye and motioned to the booth. Then she got up with her glass of wine and moved to the more private area. Kayce followed her and sat down across from her. A waitress came by to get their order. “I have a drink, Alyssa told her. Kayce shook his head. Alyssa looked at Kayce expectantly.

“You look good Ally. I’m surprised to see you here. Thought you would be in Rochester or some other big city.”

“I came back home about 4 years ago.”

Kayce looked at her for about 30 seconds trying to gather his courage and she stared back. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you Ally, but I got to thinking about it. We could only talk or email and we still wouldn’t be together. You started your dream job and I had a three year contract on the oil platform. We wouldn’t get to see each, not more than a few times a year, for a day or two at a time, if that. Honestly it would have hurt too much.”

“What about me?” Alyssa protested. What about how I felt?”

“I know ... I took the coward’s way out. If I didn’t have to talk to you I wouldn’t think about you all the time. I just couldn’t think of you without being able to see you. There was no way we could be together and I didn’t want to hurt all the time. I knew you would be hurt but thought with the excitement of your new job and a new city you could get on with your life a lot easier.”

Alyssa stared at him for almost a minute as he sat and waited for her to explode or maybe slap him again or tell him to go to hell and get up and leave.

“A well thought out plan, at least from your side,” Alyssa complained. “But there is one thing that has kept me thinking of you every day.” She sat and waited for the question from Kayce.

“Okay, what kept you thinking about me every day?” A puzzled Kayce asked.

“We have a son.”

“What? When? How?”

Alyssa had to grin. “I think you know how; we never could keep our hands off each other and it was really intense those last six weeks before I graduated and moved to Rochester.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“How was I supposed to find you? I didn’t have a number to call or an email or an address to write to you. And you never told me which oil platform you were going to be working on. I didn’t even know what company you were working for. So how was I supposed to tell you?” Alyssa sat back to calm down. She motioned for the waitress and ordered another glass of wine.

“You want something Kayce?” the waitress asked.

“A whiskey ... a large one,” Kayce answered.

“Okay, your usual brand? By the way where’s Sally Ann tonight?”

“Out with a girlfriend I guess,” he replied.

“Who’s Sally Ann?” Alyssa asked as the waitress walked away.

“A girl I’m dating. Never mind, tell me about my, er, OUR son. What’s his name? What’s he like?”

Alyssa smiled with a mother’s love on her face. “His name is Joel Morgan, after my father and another important man in my life. He’s 5 and big for his age. He’s a handful. Always wanting to run around outside. He likes animals and it’s all I can do to keep him away from the small stream running behind our place.” She smiled at Kayce. “He’s the spitting image of you Kayce. Same hair, same eyes and he’s going to be a pretty big man once he gets his growth.”

Kayce sat staring at the table as Alyssa finished with a big smile on his face. “You named him after me?” He said with an amazed tone. He was proud and humbled at the same time. “I know I don’t have the right but can I meet him?”

“Would you like to see his picture?” Alyssa asked. At an enthusiastic nod from Kayce, she scrolled through the galley on her phone coming to one of Joel’s pictures. She handed the phone to Kayce.

He stared at the picture for almost a minute before handing the phone back. Kayce couldn’t speak.

Alyssa thought about it and then answered, “Want to come to our place tomorrow? I think it’s about time you two met.”

“Damn right. Tell me when and where and I’ll be there. Should I bring him a present or something?” Kayce was very excited.

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