For John on his forty-seventh birthday. Hugs, and all the love in the world.
John sat on his tractor, watching a dark green S-10 kick up a cloud of dust down his driveway. Whoever it was seemed to be in an all-fired hurry. He lifted the bill of his hat, wiping his sweaty forehead with one gloved hand. Living so far from town, it wasn't often he saw strangers, particularly not ones making a beeline for his house.
Oh well, whoever it was – probably an insurance salesman – could damned well wait. He needed to get the field plowed before the skies gave up threatening and rained for real. And the dogs would make sure the driver didn't mess with anything. The drag of a plow behind his John Deere soon took his mind off the unknown truck, and he raced an ever-darkening sky. Finally, as the first splashes of rain sprinkled his nose, he declared himself finished and headed for the barn.
He hopped off his tractor to swing open the gate, climbing back on to drive through. Damn but things would be a whole lot easier if he could find some quality help. But farm work didn't pay much, and few trustworthy applicants were willing to live on the farm full-time, so he'd adapted, climbing up and down a million times a day, it seemed, just to get his work done. He'd completely forgotten about the S-10 until he nearly ran over it. Now what the hell? The little pickup sat nestled in the barn where the tractor should go. The rain started falling in earnest.
Huffing in frustration, he turned the wheel, hard, bypassing the main barn for a shed in the back. It was a tight squeeze, and not his first choice, but at least the tractor was out of the weather. He peeled his work gloves off and placed them on the seat when he stood, his back popping as he stretched. Forty-seven years old. Today. My, where had the time gone?
A glance over his shoulder showed three dogs on alert in the very front of the barn, out of the rain, guarding the trespasser. If not for their protective tendencies, they'd be swarming the tractor, yipping and yapping as though John had been gone for days, not merely a few hours out in the fields plowing.
Taking a deep breath, he dropped to the ground, curiosity changing to concern as to why the driver of that truck hid it in the barn. Scouting out the best route through suddenly soggy ground, he ran for the nearest stable, swinging the door open and slipping inside, shaking rain from his shoulders. He pulled off his
cap, shook it, and slipped it back on, ready to face what lay ahead. NAPA
Approaching the vehicle from behind, he soon has his answer of "Why in the barn?" The truck bed sat low under the weight of a full bed, with only a simple tarp to keep the contents dry. The gully-washer outside would have laughed at the puny efforts. Thinking, "Real farmers drive real trucks," he stopped to wipe a raindrop off his nose, and when he looked up again, a Sterling Grey Ford F-150 stood where he'd surely seen a Chevy S-10. He shook his head, Man, you gotta stop laying out Seven dust without a respirator. It's done gone to your brain.
The driver's door stood open, a pair of denim-clad legs ending in well-worn western boots protruding. Through the back glass he saw the broad brim of a cream-colored straw hat, as worn-looking as the boots. The man must have heard John's approach, for he turned, and John fell into a pair of sky blue eyes, the corners crinkled with character lines. Man, but I bet he'd look good in a Stetson, and I've always been partial to brown eyes.
One minute a pair of bright blue eyes stared at him, the next, a dark brown, can-paralyze-me-with-a-single-glance gaze glued him to the spot. Where he'd sworn he'd seen a straw hat, a Stetson now sat. A bright grin lit up a clean-shaven face and, convinced he wasn't seeing things, John tried a little test. I like 'em scruffy. An immediate shadow appeared on the cowboy's rugged race, lengthening into an impressive moustache and neatly trimmed beard. Lawdy, I been in the sun too long. Thunder boomed overhead, bringing visions of hovering rain clouds. Oh, yeah, I haven't been in the sun all day.
Tall, dark, and now scruffy cleared his throat and John's heart skipped a beat. While not old, the guy had the weathered appearance of someone who spent a lot of time outdoors… and he was handsome as hell. The two men stared at each other for the space of several heartbeats, frozen in place. Time stood still, the only sounds the bap, bap, bap of raindrops pounding the tin roof, and an image formed in John's head of the stranger spread out on bales in the hayloft upstairs, wearing nothing but the boots and Stetson.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves now," the stranger said, in a drawl that might not be from
but sounded like it hailed from the south somewhere. The accent sounded kinda
familiar, though John couldn't quite place why at the moment. Texas
Wait! He knew what I was thinking? John felt the blush start at his toes and rush up his body like a flash fire, igniting his face clear up to his ears.
"You're cute when you do that," the cowboy said, climbing out of the truck and extending a hand. "I'm Andrew, but most folks call me Andy."
John shook the man's hand, an automatic gesture. The flash fire had barely receded when 220 volts of pure sexual energy jolted through his system via his palm, pressed tightly against the stranger's. Up close and personal, the guy looked even better, like some kind of masculine dream out of the magazines John kept by his bed, only real.
The dogs, no longer in guard mode, approached slowly, wagging their tails and sniffing at Andy's boots. What the hell? Those mutts didn't much care for anyone besides John, why weren't they barking or growling?
"'Cause dogs are a good judge of character," Andy said, releasing John's hand to reach down and scratch Old Blue behind the ears. "And they know I belong here."
"What the fuck? Y… you belong here?" John's acreage had been in his family for generations. No way did the guy belong there, no matter how good looking or how well he filled out his Wranglers.
"You put the word out that you were looking for some farm help, right?"
"Yeah, but who sent you?"
"A friend of yours."
"Does it matter? I'm a
farm boy, ready and willing to do whatever you want me to." His lopsided
grin and arms held out to his sides implied he might be talking about more than
just plowing and seeding…. Plowing and seeding the fields, that is. Carolina
"Who are you?" John asked. He had a friend in
but she'd never mentioned any hunky cowboys. He figured if she knew any, she'd kept them all for herself. South Carolina
"I done told you: name's Andy, and I'm here because you need me to be here."
John had always believed that if it sounded too good to be true, then it usually was, especially if "it" changed to suit his wants. John focused on the guy's aged chambray work shirt, willing it to be a torn wife-beater.
"It don't work that way," Andy explained. "You only get what you really, really want, down in here." He splayed his hand over his heart.
A moment later the shirt disappeared altogether and that hand pressed against bare skin. A fine mat of thick, black hair adorned a pair of well-built pecs, the kind earned by hard work rather than pumping iron. A silver hoop adorned a dusky pink nipple. At a single thought from John, dark ink appeared on Andy's wrists, snaking up his arms, over his shoulders, and across his chest, forming an elaborate Celtic design. John had little doubt that the ink extended over the cowboy's broad back too. A slow, lazy smile spread across Andy's face. "Now I think you got the right idea."
"You go to church?" John asked.
"Southern Baptist, born and raised."
"What's your idea of an ideal evening?"
"Well, maybe a walk through the fields, talk about our day, then settle into the kitchen to whip up some super. Together. Afterward we can sit on the porch swing – really close, if you get my meaning."
A joke, it had to be a joke. Perfect guys didn't just fall out of the sky in
"You don't sound like no field hand to me." Texas
Andy's voice softened, bordering on pleading. "Oh, but I am, John, I am. I'm that and so much more. Just give me a chance. I'm everything you could possibly want."
The rain pattering against the roof matched John's heartbeat as Andy drew slowly closer, brushing his lips every so softly against John's.
"What's that for?" John asked.
"It's your birthday, right? That's your birthday kiss."
"How'd you know it's my birthday?"
"I told you a friend sent me, right?" Andy winked a mischief-filled eye. "Well, that was from
and so am I. She wrote me just for you. But remember, once you get me the way
you want me, no more changes. Eden
hates rewrites. And everything under that tarp is marked, "Don't open 'til
Christmas, so don't any ideas about peeking. However, feel free to unwrap your
birthday present any time you're ready." Eden
The glimmer in the cowboy's cocoa-colored eyes hinted at X-rated thoughts. "Anyway, that kiss was from her, this one is from me, and in my character profile, she wrote, 'Andy don't half-do nothin.'" With that he crashed his lips down on John's, stealing John's breath and all rational thought. In the battle of tongues, Andy was winning, until enough of John's brain cells re-fired for conscious thought.
The kiss curled John's toes, shot sparks straight to his groin, and left him breathless and weak-kneed. He would've hit the ground if not for the steel bands of Andy's arm wrapping around him, keeping him upright. "Happy Birthday, farm boy," John's every-wet-dream-come-true said. "Now, what say we go check out that hayloft now?"