Bobby couldn’t have been prouder of his sister in law. Sue Ellen had hardly had it easy (though what else could one expect being married to JR), and yet not only did she find a way out of the darkness of her addiction, but she put it to good use. He’d seen first hand the kind of good her foundation did, which was why he was all too happy to help. He was a bit confused as to why she wanted him to sign off on the donation in person, but if Bobby knew anything, it was that you didn’t say no to a Ewing woman, especially when she had her mind set on something. So there he was.
When he entered the office though, it wasn’t Sue Ellen’s voice there to greet him. Instead, it was another voice, definitely female, and as he drew closer, he found himself adrift like a sailor being drawn in by a mermaid.
She was confident, one hand perched on her hip as the other pointed one of Bobby’s ranchers where she wanted him to go. She was forceful, but only in a way that said she knew what she was doing, not one that was cruel.
“Excuse me.” Bobby’s hand landed on her shoulder, and when she turned towards him, he promptly forgot what it was he wanted to say. Though JR was the philanderer, Bobby Ewing had a reputation all his own. It wasn’t often a woman could just knock him off his feet, but whoever she was, she’d managed it in a single fiery glance.
“You must be Bobby,” she said, “Sue Ellen told me to be expecting you.” She was looking at him like she already knew everything about him, and where Sue Ellen was concerned…well he wouldn’t be surprised.
“I’m afraid I can’t say the same. I actually thought I was meeting her, Ms…?”
“Ryland. Ann Ryland.” She took the hand he offered, tilting her head ever so lightly to the side, like she was sizing him up.
“Ryland? As in Ryland transport?” No. This angelic creature couldn’t possibly be Harris Ryland’s wife, could she?
“Formerly,” she sighed, “but not for quite some time. I just haven’t gotten around to changing my name yet, and Ryland is a lot less generic than Smith.”
“Oh come on,” Bobby offered, “Ann Smith is a perfect name for you. It’s very…modest yet it flows beautifully, much like the woman herself, as far as first impressions go.” She quirked an eyebrow, pointedly glancing at him as if to say ‘I know that’s a line’, but her lips said nothing. Instead, she just gave a half hearted shrug.
“And to think you said Sue Ellen told you nothing about me.” A smirk, and god, it was like the phrase ‘painted lips’ was made for her. She was wearing lip gloss, but in a natural nude shade, and jesus why was he thinking about her lips?
Has it really been that long, Bobby?
“Well you know how she is.”
“Some might say too much so.”
Another wry smirk and Ann shook her head. “There’s no such thing. Not with the two of us. Gals have gotta protect each other. It’s what we do. But as far as you’re concerned, Mr. Ewing, I think Sue Ellen knows I’m more than capable of taking care of myself.”
“Is that a challenge, Smith?” He was grinning, and honestly he couldn’t help himself. She didn’t seem to mind. If anything, her grin merely widened.
“I don’t know, Ewing, are you up for a challenge?”
Bobby Ewing wasn’t the kind of man you messed with. He wasn’t one for games, that was always JR’s MO. And yet, as he caught another flash of her smile, he couldn’t help thinking this was one game he was all too willing to lose.
“Tell you what,” Ann spoke again, “why don’t you come out on my next session with me? I happen to know this little boy worships the ground you walk on. It’d be good for him, and you can see who your donation’ll really be helping.”
Bobby smiled, and for a moment he couldn’t stop smiling. Ann noticed this and a beautiful crimson made its way onto her cheeks.
“What?” Her arms crossed over her chest and she rocked back on her heels, attempting nonchalance but really just further portraying her nerves. Bobby shook his head. No need to chase her away now.
“Nothing. I’d love that.”
So off they went, and for Bobby, it was like magic. Ann had a way with people, and with the horses, it was like she spoke their language. There were very few people in the world who could match him stride for stride, but Ann…oh she was a wonder to watch. Gentle with those she was working with, able to pull things out from them he wouldn’t have even imagined, and yet the way she’d been with the ranch hands, all fire and force without any sense of cruelty…it was safe to say Bobby was in awe.
After the boy left (gifting Annie with a kiss on the cheek), the two of them walked the horses back to the stables.
“You know…you really are quite something, Ann Smith.”
“How many times to I have to tell you, it’s Ryl…”
“No. Whatever your reasoning for keeping his last name, that’s fine, but it’s easy to see that somehow, some way, he hurt you. You shouldn’t have to keep the name of a person who hurt you, no matter what.”
A strange look came over her face then. It was sort of bittersweet, a happiness tinged with sorrow, and he wanted to ask what he’d said to upset her, but whatever it was, it was buried too deep to be unearthed by a man she’d just met. All the more reason to get to know her then. In response, she just reached for his hand and gave it a tender squeeze, one that ran all the way up and down his arm.
“Thank you, Bobby.” Her voice took on this airy quality, and in that moment, Bobby thought he could see a glimpse of something, like he’d cracked her open somehow. But then those walls were back in place and that small, half-hearted smile was back on her face. Oh well. It was a start at least. He wasn’t sure if it was the mystery of her tortured past, her way with living beings, or just the sum of all she was, but Bobby Ewing had seen a glimpse of the real Ann Smith, and he knew right then he needed to see more.
And for her part, Ann could tell she’d waded into dangerous waters. She’d promised herself to never let a man hurt her again, and for years she’d been able to uphold that promise. Now here she was, trapped in Bobby Ewing’s spell and all too ready to drown. But there was something about drowning, when you stopped fighting and surrendered yourself to the inevitable. It may drag you into the unknown, but man, what a way to go.