Author's Note-Thank you everyone for your support with this story. It means a lot to me since this is the first time that I'm writing a story like this. I have put up a playlist for this story on my profile. I'll update it everytime I create a chapter. Also, I'm going to be gone on a mini vacation for the next week or so and I won't be updating. Thanks again, and review to let me know what you think. Also, trust me...there will be more Troy and Gabriella in this story once I get the first couple of chapters out of the way. :)
Greed-An excessive desire for getting or having
Kelsi and Sharpay took a seat. There were three chairs on one side of the table with three chairs opposite, and then two chairs at the head of the table. Kelsi had assumed Zeke would be taking the head chair and so she opted to take a middle chair since she also assumed that Gabriella would want to be closest to Zeke. Sharpay, however, took the seat on Kelsi's left so that she would be closest to the head of the table.
"Whiskey?" Gabriella asked as she walked over to the fully stocked bar that Carlos had in his office. Along with having a bar he also had a huge mahogany desk, a long table which everyone would sit at for the will reading, and adorning the walls of his office—and his whole house—were trophies of every single animal he hunted. Deer, elk, moose, duck, and bear heads were attached to the wall, the pairs of eyes following the girls' moves.
"Yes. I thought you'd never ask," Sharpay moaned as if she had been deprived liquid for days.
Gabriella raised her eye brow at Kelsi, but the quiet sister just shook her head meekly. She wasn't a big drinker as she learned that alcohol did nothing to solve any problem.
"Suit yourself," Gabriella said as she brought Sharpay her own cup.
After a while of complete silence everyone else drifted into the room. Jason took the open seat by Gabriella, with Beth sitting on his other side while Turk decided to sit by Kelsi in the last open space.
Zeke was the last one to enter and Gabriella was relieved to see that no Troy Bolton was trailing behind him.
"Good evening everyone. I'm sorry to keep you waiting. I was just over at B and B Ranch. It seems like Troy isn't due back until later this night or tomorrow morning." Zeke put down a stack of papers so that he could roll his sleeves to his suit. The room's ceiling was glass so that the sun could beat down on them, and it was getting to be very warm with all the bodies pressed into the office.
"Now Gabi, I can either do this the easy way or I can explain everything using all my lawyer talk. It's your choice." Nearly everyone looked at her but Gabriella was only concentrating on Zeke's encouraging eyes.
"Do what's fastest Zeke. We all have work that needs to be done tonight." Gabriella folded her arms as she waited for Zeke to start talking again. She wasn't expecting this to take long which would be for everyone's benefit. The sooner they got this reading done then the sooner they could all forget about Carlos Montez once and for all.
Zeke cleared his throat. "Well Carlos was very specific on what he wanted. Beth?" Beth looked a little startled when her name was called. She wasn't expecting to get anything; however, she nodded her head. "Carlos stated that he wants you to keep working here for as long as you want. In addition, for every year that you've been employed at Montez Ranch you will collect one thousand dollars."
Beth's eyes went wide as Gabriella smiled at her reaction. Sharpay's and Kelsi's eyes were filled with shock and surprise too. If the old lady gets money, Sharpay thought wryly, then surly Carlos' oldest daughter will have earned a good sum of money too.
"But that's thirty-three thousand dollars!" Beth fanned herself off with her hand. "I don't know what to do with that kind of money. I don't go anywhere at all besides this ranch."
Zeke smiled kindly. Beth had been real good to him in the past couple of years he's been hanging around the ranch, and so it touched his heart to see her so overwhelmed with surprise and joy. "If you want Beth, I can go through your finance records and help you get everything settled later on?"
Bath smiled as Jason held her hand through all of this shock. "Thank you Zeke. I just—" She stopped before continuing, "I would have never expected Carlos to take care of me like this."
After all the commotion had slowed down Zeke moved onto the next subject. "Now Jason, the next matter concerns you and the horses." Gabriella smiled as she expected her father to give Jason full custody of the horses. "Carlos said specifically that you have two options. You can either take ten thousand dollars and leave the ranch for good, or you can stay in the house that you've been living in since you turned eighteen and be in charge of the whole stable—earning what you earn now for a living."
Gabriella's fist curled. "That's not fair Zeke. Jason had been living and working here longer than most people. He deserves to own all the horses and get money. God knows that father had more money than what he needed."
Jason put his hand over Gabriella's. "It's okay Gabriella. You know I'd never leave. I like it here. I'm content with the animals."
Gabriella turned to him. "But you deserve more Jase."
"I'm lucky to even get anything. He wasn't my father," he reasoned calmly. He knew Gabriella was getting worked up, but he really didn't mind his options. He liked the two room house that was near the stables. He had built it with Turk and Frank ten summers ago, and it suited him really well. "Zeke, I think you know my decision. I'm not going to take the money. I'll stay put right here."
Zeke smiled at his friend. "I figured as much. Now Turk, you're here to represent the boys?" Zeke turned to the older man who was considered to be dressed up even though he was just wearing blue jeans and a shirt with no holes in it.
"Lay it on me Zeke. What did the old bastard, God rest his soul, leave us?" Turk wasn't expecting much as he was basically only at the will reading so that he could report back to the boys how everything went down. Some of the men were getting worried how things would turn out if the ranch was left in a woman's hands.
"He documented here that he wants to give you and the men some tools, hunting things, and you, Rob, Frank, and Junior each get their pick between a small sum of money or one of his trophies hanging around the house. The only off limit animal heads are the ones in this office."
Turk grunted his response for this statement while looking around the office. They were pretty big prizes.
"I'll go over more of the details concerning the tools when I can talk to all four of you at once. It'll be easier and quicker that way." Zeke looked around now. This was the part of the will that he was dreading. He knew that this was cruel and unfair to Gabriella, but it was his job to announce Carlos' wishes. "Now concerning Gabriella, Kelsi, and Sharpay this is the bottom line: in order to inherit the ranch all three of you must live and work on the ranch for one whole year. At the end of the year you can either sell your third of the ranch or stay living here."
Gabriella's eyes went wide as she heard Zeke say these words. Her throat tightened up while her hand curled around the table's edge; making her knuckles turn white from loss of blood flow.
"What?" She gasped in a faint whisper that nearly died out before it was heard.
Zeke looked up with pain in his eyes. He knew that this was going to kill Gabriella. He cleared his throat and kept going, looking down at the papers in his hands again. "If you do not want to stay on the ranch then you can instead collect forty thousand dollars and the ranch will be donated to a business—"
"But he hated businessmen who tried to buy the ranch from him. He said that he'd rather die than let any city slicker turn his cattle ranch into a tourist spot!" Gabriella exclaimed, slamming her tense hand down on the table.
"Newsflash Cowgirl, Carlos is dead," Sharpay snapped. She had only one thing in mind, and that was money. She was sure that she was going to get something, but forty thousand dollars? That was ridiculous. If Carlos thought she was going to stick around on the ranch, then he was mistaken.
Gabriella glared at Sharpay while Kelsi gasped at Sharpay's exclamation.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Zeke bit out, giving Sharpay a warning sign through his eyes that she understood right away. "Now as I was saying, in order to inherit the ranch all three girls must stay for a year. Each daughter will be given a maximum of fourteen days which they can be away from the ranch starting today. So that means if it takes three days for you to pack everything up from your old house, then you will only have eleven full days off the ranch."
Gabriella shut her eyes. Her heart was pounding and a light sweat broke out on her skin, but she had to push past the unsteady feeling in her body to concentrate on the matter at hand. Neither of her sisters knew how much the land really was worth. They were getting away cheap if they didn't stick out the whole year.
"If, by any means, Kelsi and Sharpay stick out the whole year and they then want to sell their part of the land, then they may," Zeke continued. Gabriella bit her cheek to keep from saying anything. "So…" he trailed off. He honestly did not know what to say. He told them the rules, and he told them the consequences of what would happen if they left. "The ball's in your court ladies. I'm certain we already know what Gabriella has decided."
Gabriella could see the money bags in Sharpay's eyes. There was a look that all greedy people had, and Sharpay was the leader.
"There has to be another way Zeke," Gabriella intervened. The silence was unsettling her. "It's not fair. Nearly everyone in this room has worked long and hard for my father, and if they don't stay then we'll lose everything! It's not right." Gabriella stood up abruptly. "I'll find a way myself to keep the ranch."
"Gabriella—" Beth started to say in her motherly tone, but she was cut off by Gabriella.
"No Beth! Do not lecture me right now! You know it's not fair! I think we all know what Blondie's answer is going to be. We're going to lose our home because she won't be able to handle Montana."
"I'll stay." Kelsi's voice was soft and gentle. She looked scared as everyone in the room looked at her. Sharpay raised a perfectly plucked eye brow as she had no idea why Kelsi would choose to stay.
"I promise I won't get in the way, but I just want to let you know that you won't have to worry about me leaving. I can stay." Kelsi had nowhere else to go. Having her father die might have been the best thing for her at the time as now Kelsi no longer had to run. She could stay at the ranch and keep out of everyone's way.
Gabriella forced a smile out. "And you Blondie? Are you gonna take the cash or are you gonna stick it out?"
Sharpay stood up and smirked. "I think all of you are crazy. This ranch is not mine. The room I slept in last night is not mine. And this ranch, which does not get good cell phone reception, is not mine, nor will it ever be mine. I want the forty thousand dollars, and I'll be on my plane tomorrow morning, and then hopefully at the beach by nighttime."
Gabriella nearly had tears in her eyes at hearing Sharpay. She wasn't sad. Oh no, Gabriella was far past being sad, but now she was a whole new emotion. She was angry and irritated at Sharpay's greediness.
"You want money?" Gabriella asked with a high pitch laugh that held no amusement. "I'll tell you what Blondie, you're getting ripped off if you leave now."
Sharpay narrowed her eyes. "Don't try tricking me. It's not gonna work, sis."
Gabriella smirked. She had Sharpay right where she needed her. "Zeke, why don't you write down how much this ranch is worth, and then show Blondie. Maybe then that will make her stay?"
Zeke looked uncertain for a moment, but when Gabriella was like this then no one asked questions. Gabriella waited for the shock to wash off of Sharpay's face once she read Zeke's hand writing. She had looked like she was going to feint.
"Now divide that number by three and that will be your sum of money in exactly one year. I promise to buy your share of the ranch at the end. This place is important to me, and I don't need you messing it up," Gabriella spoke with a steady tone. She couldn't let Sharpay know how nervous she really was about this.
"How could this land be worth so much? How can we be rich like this?" Sharpay asked more to herself than anyone else.
"Because we are not rich. There is no 'we'." Gabriella snapped. She then looked at Zeke. "I think we have all decided that we're gonna stay put. No businessman is going to take this land for free."
"Hold up!" Sharpay snarled. "I have every right as you do. He was my father too. So now there is a 'we'. Actually, there's an 'us'. You, me, and Kelsi."
"Actually," Zeke cut in before Gabriella could think of a comeback. "There is one more part of the will. Now, I will read that once you and Kelsi sign some papers stating that you agree to the terms I just told you about. You must live and work on the ranch for one year, only getting two weeks vacation."
It had only taken five minutes to get through all the paperwork before Zeke could start again. Kelsi had signed her name in such a delicate way which was complete opposite of Sharpay. Sharpay had a bubble around herself which screamed overdramatic.
"Now, over the next year, Gabriella will be in charge of all things concerning the ranch. She will give orders, make decisions, and handle everything necessary to run Montez Ranch, but there is one catch."
Gabriella looked at Zeke expectedly. "Well?..."
"Troy Bolton is supervisor."
"WHAT?" Gabriella screeched.
"He has already accepted. I talked to him a couple of days ago before he went out of town on business. For some odd reason Carlos wanted Troy to supervise you for this year. He's doing pretty good at taking over for Jack, and now he is given an opportunity to be supervisor for Montez Ranch. He must check in with you, and you'll go over record books with him Gabi." Zeke looked up pathetically. He tried to sound hopeful, "It's really not that bad."
Gabriella swore she could taste blood in her mouth from biting her tongue.
Chad watched as Troy got out of his jeep before walking outside fully to let his brother know that he wasn't the only one around. Troy's head swiveled around before he waved to Chad, although the look on Chad Danforth-Bolton's face was anything but his usual cheerful smile.
"Hey man. What's up?" Troy asked while unloading his bag out of the jeep. "Mom and dad home?"
Charlie, Troy's dog, jumped around their feet, wanting to be petted but neither boy moved to touch the dog.
"No. They're still over at the Montez Ranch. Mom decided to stay and help Beth out with dishes." Chad explained. He may have a semi different last name than Troy, but deep down they were still brothers.
Troy Bolton was a miracle baby for Lucille and Jack Bolton who were owners of B and B Ranch. However, Lucille always wanted two boys and so two years after Troy was born they adopted Chad Danforth and made him a part of their family.
Troy crinkled his eye brows in confusion. "Montez," he muttered and then his eyes went wide with realization. "Oh, the burial was today!"
Chad nodded his head silently. Although Carlos Montez shared fences with their ranch neither boy liked the old man. Their only attachment to the ranch now was the girl who was forced to be in charge; however, Gabriella wouldn't have it any other way.
"Dude, that burial was fucked up. You should have been there. All three sisters attended together and man do they look different," Chad said.
"I'm sure Taylor and you will give me the details on the two newcomers, and you know I would have been there if it weren't for the fact that I had business concerning our ranch and the other fact that consists of Gabriella hating me." Troy smiled while saying the last part. Oh, how he loved getting under Gabriella's skin and making her so worked up. It's what made his days better.
"Well before you get your foot stuck in your mouth someone should tell you that Gabriella wasn't really paying attention to anyone today. Mom and Taylor say that the death had finally hit her."
Troy shrugged his shoulders. Deep down he felt for Gabriella as even though she didn't care for the old man, Carlos was still her father, and father's are a part of being a family. "She's tough. She'll deal."
"You know," Chad spoke up, "I have a feeling things are about to get interesting around here. The air reeks of disaster."
Troy rolled his eyes at his brother's words before leaning down to pick up his dropped bag. He hated to admit it, but Chad had a point. There was something in the crisp autumn air that smelled of trouble. Troy could only hope that whatever he was feeling wouldn't interfere with his job at Montez Ranch. After all, he was Gabriella's supervisor, whether she knew it or not, Carlos had put in his will that he wanted Troy to oversee Gabriella, and that was what Troy intended to do.
Zeke made his way over to Bolton Ranch early the next day. He was already up since he was the one who had to take Sharpay to the airport that was located an hour away from their small town. He wanted to do something nice for Gabriella since a part of him blamed himself for her reaction to yesterday. He was her friend who knew what her father wanted, and under legal bindings, he couldn't warn her about what was to come from her father's will.
He was glad to see that Troy was already outside with Charlie running around his feet.
"Hey man. Business went good?" Zeke asked.
Troy looked up. He was in the middle of getting his horse ready to ride up into the mountains. He had cattle on his land that needed to be moved down to the lower pastures just in case the weather took a quick turn. There was something in the air that told Troy that winter was coming early that year. He didn't want to take any chances. If he didn't move them soon then he would be screwed.
"Hey. Yeah, business was business. I'm glad to be home though. The food is always better here than any hotel." Troy stopped working on his horse and offered Zeke a nod. "You're up early. Everything okay?"
Zeke sucked in a breath out of habit. "We did the will reading yesterday. Gabi was not happy."
"I wasn't expecting her to be happy, although if she's angry then she has all the right reasons to be. Carlos is just trying to mess with her from the ground by forcing us together," Troy reckoned.
Troy could only think of the old man as the devil who wanted to merge B and B Ranch and Montez Ranch. However, the only way to merge them completely would have been through marriage, and Troy could recall quite a few meetings with Carlos where the man proposed the idea of Troy marrying Gabriella. Troy had decided the first time Carlos proposed that idea that he would rather get bucked by a horse than marry Gabriella. It wouldn't be right for either one of them at the time.
"Anyways, we're gonna have to set up a meeting time with Gabriella to go over the record books. I think it's only appropriate if I sit in on the first meeting that you have with her. I need to make sure that you are doing your job properly as supervisor."
Troy was about to say something, but someone in the distance caught his eye. She was far off, but near the fences up on higher land. Gabriella was riding near the fences on her beautiful horse. She was a beauty, Troy decided, as his eyes watched her slowly trot along. It was uncommon for her to be moving at a slow pace, but it worked to Troy's advantage as he quickly hopped onto his horse.
"I have to go Zeke. It's time to move my cattle, but we'll catch up soon." Troy watched Zeke for a moment as he tried to figure out what just happened. Zeke was confused by Troy's quick change in behavior, but didn't question his friend as he knew Troy always had a reason behind his actions.
Troy hurried off with Charlie following closely behind. He had his hunting gun in his side pocket of the saddle and on the other side he had water and food prepared. As Troy rode closer and closer to the fence that separated Montez Ranch from his Ranch he could pick up Gabriella's unique scent in the air.
She always seemed to have a unique scent about her as he could detect pure leather and a sweet smell mixed together. It wasn't a bad thing, but it frustrated him to no end that he couldn't figure out what that other scent was.
He couldn't see her as she was moving quickly once again, but he could track her down as he had a feeling that she was riding up to where her cattle was located to help move them down also. Charlie barked at his side, and it was after Troy shushed him that he heard a gunshot go off.
His heart raced at the sound, not flinching from his place on his horse. He kicked the stirrups to move faster, the scent of Gabriella filling his nostrils even more. When he entered the clearing of the woods he stopped his horse.
She had heard him approaching before she could actually sense him. Charlie came up to her, trying to lick her face but she had to push the dog away for the time being. Gabriella put her gun down hesitantly, looking at the damage she created.
"You okay?" Troy asked gruffly. He didn't like how quiet she was being.
"She just charged right at me. I had no other choice but to shoot," she said before she realized that she was being silly for being this upset over shooting a bear that was going to attack. She took a breath and stood up, going to put her gun away. If it were any other animal she would have been proud. Anyone knew in their town that she had the best aim when it came to shooting, and so her steady arm came in handy at times.
Troy hopped down from his horse. "I'm not yelling at you. There's no need to defend yourself."
Gabriella adjusted the hat on her head, grabbing her knife from her satchel attached to her horse. "I'm not defending myself. I'm just stating the facts."
Troy chuckled. "Are your two sisters as nice as you? Or do they have different personalities?"
Gabriella tensed up and Troy decided that he liked keeping her on her toes. "What sisters? As far as I'm concerned they're just two strangers who are going to live with me for a year. After, then I'll buy their portion of the ranch and by on my way."
"Do you need help dressing that bear?" He walked forward without waiting for Gabriella's response and knelt down on the ground. "I would love to be of service to you Ella."
"I know what I'm doing. There's really no need for you right now, and as much as I love a stalker, you can just turn around and head on back to your ranch." Gabriella smiled at him, her whole body flinching when Charlie's tongue ran over her palm.
"Charlie always knew that pretty girls tasted the best." Troy patted his dogs head. "Didn't you buddy?"
Gabriella rolled her eyes. "You disgust me Troy."
"If one of your sisters is as feisty as you, then hopefully I'll make an impression on her. Maybe I can take her off your hands for awhile…" Troy trailed off with a toothy grin implanted on his face. He watched Gabriella carefully. She was standing very cautiously; her hand was still holding the knife that carried the bear's blood on it. He narrowed his eyes as he tried to figure out what she was thinking or doing. She always seemed to know what was wrong by her sense of smell. That was how she got ahead of everyone by her keen nose. "What's wrong?"
"I smell blood, and it's not the bears." Gabriella wiped her hands off on her jeans before trudging back over to her horse that was standing next to Troy's. Charlie for once did not try to jump on her as she saddled up. "Do you smell it? It's coming from the east."
Troy didn't see the need on why it should matter. "Ella, it's probably a cougar eating its lunch. That's at least what normal things and people are doing now."
Gabriella scowled at him before kicking off. "I'm gonna go check it out."
Troy rolled his eyes. "But we don't need to go east. You're going to be going the opposite way!" He watched her ride off before grunting at her choice of direction. He really didn't have to go after her, but he liked looking like the hero in her eyes, and maybe if he did follow, he could get more out of it than seeing an animal enjoying its lunch. "Come on Charlie. Let's go make sure she doesn't hurt herself."
Blood was smeared everywhere possible. The greenest pieces of grass were covered with the sticky red substance. The driest patches of dirt were no longer dry, but instead they were caked with muddy puddles of blood. Gabriella's stomach wanted to rebel against her, but she couldn't let it as she could make out the cattle's head.
She, once again, could hear Troy ride up behind her before she actually saw him. He rushed to her side, his hands on her waist and back before she could speak to him. She struggled in his grip, ignoring the way his fingers worked delicate shapes on her skin.
"Are you hurt?" He asked as his eyes scanned the surroundings of the area.
Troy knew that the cabin where the Montez workers stayed at was close by. Gabriella had two workers up there to help bring down the cattle. Rob and Frank were hard decent workers who had worked for Carlos for at least fifteen years, and were sent a week ago to go up on the land and prepare for a cattle drive to bring the cattle back down to the southern pastures.
"I'm fine. Just stop touching me." She didn't want to admit that when he did touch her, she actually felt a little less sick.
Troy sighed heavily. He removed his hat to wipe at his forehead. "This is one of yours Ella."
Gabriella watched as Troy bent down to look at the brand on the cattle's hoof. "You think a cougar could have done this?" She motioned to all of the tiny pieces hacked up and sprawled around. It was as if the murderer killed and then bathed in the blood.
"No. There's no way." Gabriella wasn't going to argue with Troy. Even she could tell that the cattle was cut apart. She just didn't want to believe it before. "I reckon someone used a knife. And if I had to guess again, I would say it was a very big knife." He looked at her and frowned. "Come on. You shouldn't be by this."
Once again Troy's hands were on Gabriella, but the only difference was that she actually let him touch her. She felt like she was going to faint if she breathed in the blood any longer, and so she was thankful that Troy pulled her away from the gory scene.
He looked disturbed, Gabriella noted, once she could think straight again. "What's wrong Troy?"
"That wasn't done by any natural animal, and that mess certainly wasn't made by a gun." He looked at Gabriella, snapping out of the trance like state he was in. He was concentrating so hard on trying to come up with a solution on who could have done this to the cattle that he forgot that Gabriella was standing in front of him, looking as white as a ghost. "How are you?"
She narrowed her eyes at his 'nice' behavior. "I'm fine. I just want to know who did this. When I get my hands on them I'll—"
"You'll be nowhere near them when we find out who did this. I'll take care of it and you can sit your pretty self down without worry." He looked at her, seeing the strength in the depths of her eyes. "Sometimes you just have to step down and let a man take care of you."
Gabriella swallowed hard. She hated that Troy might be right on this. She never actually realized the possibility that she may be way over her head when running Montez Ranch.