I know, I’m late, I’m late… but it’s been an interesting day so far. Three weeks worth of laundry, and the First Reader is sick, poor man, so I did it solo. But I managed about 1500 words in the wash and dry cycles, and I think this novella is going to be ready by the end of October. I will try to finish it out in about 10K words, for a total of between 25K and 30K, and if I put a little boogie in it, I should have that by Fall Break in mid October. Then it will go off to beta readers and I will pull a cover together for it… this is something a little different for me. No magic, no science fiction, just people living.
I can’t remember if I’ve posted a snippet of this before. Oh well, if I have, forgive me… I still have a lot of work to do today.
Dev Macquire looked up from the fence he was mending at the plume of dust. The sure sign of a vehicle coming up the long driveway, it gave him plenty of warning when there were visitors, but today it must be his father coming back. He stretched and started to walk toward the house. Hopefully Dad had found a hand. Some help would be good. It was late spring, and he wasn’t half through the projects that needed to be done to keep the small ranch profitable. His biggest concern was that they would have to give it up and sell, and he’d be damned if he’d let that come easy. It had been the Macquire land for four generations, since Ty Macquire had come up the creek trapping beaver and known he was home.
Now, Dev and his father Gray held the land. The family had dwindled, the death of his mother ten years before leaving just the two men. Even Dev had gone away for a while, and come too close to never returning. He wasn’t willing to give up the land without a fight.
He grabbed his camelbak and took a long pull as the truck pulled up to the house The long gravel driveway terminated in a rectangular paved pad his Dad had put in when Dev was a kid. They used the flat area for repairing vehicles, and Dev had briefly learned to roller skate on it, leading to more than a few bumps, bruises, and a broken arm before he gave it up and went back to the off road capabilities of horses. Dev could tell there was a passenger, and he sighed. As much as he hated to admit it, he needed help. He would like to be able to do everything, but it just wasn’t possible yet. Give him six months and he’d run this place on his own thank you very much.
His Dad climbed out first, beaming. Dev smiled back. Dad hadn’t looked that happy for a while. He must have lucked out. Then the passenger door opened, and she stepped out. Dev felt his face fall. Who the hell was this?
“Dev, this here’s Irina. She’s going to help out for a while.” Gray sounded calm about it. He had to know Dev was pissed.
Dev looked the short woman up and down. Her long blonde hair was pulled back from a classically Nordic face. She looked pale and tired. She had all the right curves, too. Definitely not a farmhand, though.
“Hello.” He greeted her, clipping the word off. He looked at his father, “Dad, can we talk?”
“Yes, Son, we can later. Right now, why don’t you show Irina to the bunkhouse.” Dev knew that look. Don’t argue. He nodded.
“You have bags?” He asked her. Her chin came up.
“I can manage, thank you.” She had a pleasant contralto, and a clear enunciation with no real accent he could hear. So… not a Russian bride, at least. His mind had been running wild on possibilities, and his father was capable of damn near anything when he got the bit between his teeth.
She went to the back of the truck and pulled out a familiar pack and a small suitcase. Dev looked at his father with a raised eyebrow. His Dad, infuriatingly, just smiled back. Irina started toward them. Dev led the way to the bunkhouse, wondering what on earth his father was up to. She nodded politely as he showed her the little bedroom, setting her gear down neatly by the bed. The camo field pack was well-worn but clean and squared away. His practiced eye caught the modifications a soldier who carried it all day every day made for their comfort. Hers, or someone else’s? Did they need to worry about a jealous husband or boyfriend showing up?
“And the bathroom is down t’ the end of the hall. We don’t have any other hands, so you will have the bunkhouse to yourself.” He pointed in the direction, and then turned back to her. She was unwinding the scarf from her neck and he was shocked at the scar on her throat. It reached from one ear to the trachea, and flared angry red. A new scar, he knew from experience.
She spoke in reaction to whatever showed on his face, her voice husky and raw. “It doesn’t hurt anymore.”
He shook his head. “Sorry, Ma’am. I didn’t mean to stare.”
She nodded. “Understandable, though. Can I freshen up while you have that chat with your father?”
Dev looked in her cool grey eyes and suddenly wondered what she’d taste like to kiss. He flushed and turned away quickly. What was wrong with him? He was being surly, and that surge of emotion was not how he usually reacted to meeting a woman.
“Dinner at seven, please join us.” He invited over his shoulder.
Dev stomped into the house, feeling ashamed of himself and put out. Why had Dad decided to bring a woman in as a hand? Did he know about the scar?
“Dad!” he called, wondering where the old man had vanished to.
“In here, Son,” his father was chopping onions in the kitchen.
Dev straddled a chair, and demanded without preamble. “What were you thinking?”
“Well, on the way into town I was following Eddie Clary’s truck. He’s hauling first cut off Lucius’s field this year, you know.”
“Yeah. And?” Dev prompted impatiently.
“Well, the idiot didn’t tie down the hay proper and lost a half a load all over Route 125. So I stopped. Had to – bales everywhere. And the two cars behind me stopped. One was that renter over t’ Clemsons. You know him?”
Dev snorted. “The Prius guy, right?”
“Yep. He sits in it blowing on his horn like the hay’s gonna run off the road itself. Car in front of him pulls off the road and she steps out.”
“Like some icy Russian Princess. She’s wearing this blue sweater and slacks, her hair all twisted up. She walks over and grabs a bale and started pitchin’. I swear boy, my jaw drops and I stand there like an idiot starin’.”
Dev laughed in spite of himself. “She helped out while Prius guy was laying on the horn?”
His father nodded, eyes twinkling with the memory. “So Eddie, me, and this girl, we get his load back up and she ties it down pretty as can be, then hops off the load and nods to us, starts back to her car.” He stopped and shook his head.
“Well, I caught up with her and asked her where she was headed. She just looks at me with those sad eyes of hers and tells me she’s just roamin’. She’s always wanted to see a piece of country and has a chanct. So I ups and asks her if she’d like a job.”