As of sometime last night, Farmhand went live for sale. So you have one last chance to read a little, and decide if it’s worth plunking down $2.99 for it. If you do, and you enjoy it, please leave a review! It’s the best tip you can give an author. Nothing elaborate necessary, just your thoughts as you finish the book.
And before you ask, yes, there will be more, with other characters central to the stories. I’m already working on the next one.
Chapter 3: Settling In
The summer ripened, along with the grass, into golden heat. Irina slid into the rhythm of the farm like she had always been there. Dev never forgot she was a woman, but he had changed his mind about her usefulness as a hand. She might not have the brute power of a guy, but she had the brains to work around that. After a heavy rain, he found her hauling a calf out of the mud at the edge of the lake. Dev dismounted to give her a hand, and then hooked an elbow around his saddlehorn, chuckling.
A bit later, calf in tow, she walked up to him. “Now wipe that smirk off your face, mister.”
“I will when you wipe off that mud.” He pointed.
She put a hand up to her face. “Here?”
“Um…” He reached out and touched her forehead. “Everything from here, down.”
Irina stuck her tongue out at him. “You could have come to help.”
“You didn’t need me, you had horsepower.” Which was what he’d seen to make him back off. She had the rope passed around the barrel of the calf, behind his forelegs, and was using the power of the horse to belay the hundred pound plus critter out of the knee-deep mud. The calf was up past his belly in it.
Dev had to swallow and hope he wasn’t falling for her. She’d said she could only stay to end of summer, she had obligations, and she’d looked like she meant that. The passage of time didn’t help him any, and she didn’t talk about a future.
He’d show her what to do and she did it. As the days passed and she made her way into his dreams, he tried not to touch her or even look too close. But she looked damn good in tight blue jeans, and the day she took trauma shears to her t-shirt and tied it up under her breasts he had to go dunk his head under the pump.
Dev jumped as he realized his father was standing there looking at him. He ran his hands over his head, rubbing the water out of his still-short haircut. He offered lamely, “washing off the dust and sweat.”
Gray snorted. “Seen the way you look at her.”
Dev sighed. “Yeah, Dad.”
“So?” Gray raised an eyebrow. “Seen the way she looks at you, too.”
Dev flushed. “Dad… she’s a hand. And even if I weren’t technically her boss. She’s…” he searched for the right word. “Broken. Something bad’s happened to her.”
His father nodded. “I know. But healing happens here.” He thumped Dev in the chest. “And so does love.”
“Dad…” Dev sighed. “I’m not going to force the issue. She’s working herself too hard. Trying to work out whatever devil’s riding her. I can see that. I’m just trying to keep up.”
Gray laughed. “Glad to hear she’s working out, boy.”
Dev grunted and walked back toward the barn. Irina was standing just inside the door, watching him come. He realized she must have heard everything.
“Dev,” her voice made his name a caress. “I’m not broken… Just bruised.”
She reached up and cupped one damp, bristly cheek. “Thank you for giving me some time to work it out.”
Dev raised a hand and captured hers against him, feeling the cool length of her fingers, callused, but soft on his skin. “Careful, Irina. You light this fire, it won’t go out easy.”
Her eyes flashed. He saw her take a deep breath, and then she pulled away and all but ran out of the barn, leaving him standing there lost in a swirl of emotions. He was falling for her, he realized. He couldn’t bear to think of her leaving the farm behind… and him. But he didn’t know anything about her past, really. Did she have a family? What was the story behind the scar?
He made his way blindly to the workbench and leaned on it. “I’m busted up, too.” He whispered. “It’s been a broken road. Wonder if it’s finally coming home.”
He didn’t see her again until dinner time. She acted like nothing had changed, but Dev couldn’t keep his eyes off her even though he caught some knowing looks from his father. She was beautiful, he admitted, all fire and action. Her graceful movements and the way she made him laugh. And, as she stood and laughingly pushed his father out onto the porch with his pipe, she was kind.
She returned to the kitchen, picking up plates off the table. Dev started to stand. “Let me help.”
“All right, you can dry.” She handed him a dishcloth and he leaned on the counter as she plunged her hands into the dishwater.
“You’re good for him.” Dev glanced toward the open door, letting the cool of the evening in.
“He’s a dear. Easy to take care of.”
Dev snorted. “That stubborn old coot?”
“I guess it’s just me then.” She flashed him a mischievous grin that made his heart melt.
“You’re good for me, too.” He told her, trying to keep his voice steady.
She looked up at him, surprise in her eyes. Dev leaned forward and kissed her. He wrapped an arm around her when she didn’t resist, pulling her closer. She tasted of raspberries from dessert and was so warm and soft. He kissed her softly, lips clinging to hers and she kissed him back and leaned into him. He could feel her breasts soft against his chest.
She gasped a little when he flicked her lips with his tongue, opening for him. Dev couldn’t help it, he delved deeply and touched tongue to tongue. When he finally pulled back a little she was flushed and her heart was racing… he could feel it against him.
“My hands…” she was holding them out, trying not to get him soapy.
“Doesn’t bother me, baby.” Dev felt a foolish grin on his face. “You can get me all hot and wet anytime.”
She laughed, her head tilted back, still in his arms. He felt a thrill at her, here where he wanted her at last.
“You have the dishtowel.”
He handed it to her, stepping back and letting her drain the sink and then look shyly at him.
“I won’t push you.” He told her softly. He could see that look in her eyes. Like she wanted to stay… and wanted to run. He didn’t want her to run, so he’d try to be patient. Which was hard in more than one way right now.
“Thank you. I’m… trying. I want…” He put a finger to her lips. The distress on her face told him to wait.
“Come on, let’s go set on the porch with Dad before he comes looking for us, all right?”
After she went to bed, Gray headed into the house. Dev followed him as far as the kitchen, fetching a bottle and a glass, before going back out onto the porch to sit alone in the soft yellow light. The moon was up, and it was bright as day out there. Dev poured a little in his glass and tossed it back, then did another. He rarely drank, but his mind was all in an uproar, and this would help him think… or stop thinking. Dev went to bed late that night. He’d been up trying to relax enough to get her out of his mind. He wanted, but he wanted it to be right. He slept badly.
The next morning, his father frowned at him as he walked out of the house, but didn’t say anything. Irina stepped out in front of him as he was walking to the barn. Her hair was wet and tousled still, and he could smell her shampoo. It took his brain a little longer to register the expression on her face.
“Dev Mac, if you ever…” She hissed, poking him in the chest with one finger. He stepped back, clutching his head.
“Hey, keep it down.” Dev pleaded weakly.
She hissed back at him, “If you want to have a chance with me, you can’t hide in a bottle.”
“Hey…” he protested. He wasn’t very witty today, he thought absently.
“Oh! Men!” She whirled and stomped off. Dev stood looking after her with his mouth open.
Gray came up behind him. “I’d say she’s right, and pissed. What were you thinking?”
“Dad… Leave it. I won’t do it again. Hurts too much.” Dev put a hand to his aching head.
“Better not, or I’ll break your balls myself.” Gray growled. Dev winced and hid in the dark barn.
Irina was riding fences that day. Dev had given up going with her, his leg couldn’t manage long hours in the saddle just yet. He hung around the house instead, cleaning out the weeds from the garden, an ongoing battle. It was almost dark when she rode in. He sat on a crate in the garden, bad leg stretched out, pulling weeds slowly. He’d been watching for her and feeling miserable. She rode like an Indian princess, he mused, casual in the saddle but one with the horse.