Meredith takes off at a fast pace down the porch steps and across the drive. I whistle for Puck and skip to catch up to her with Puck on my heels.
“Look, Meredith, I don’t want to cause any problems by being here...”
Meredith looks at me but doesn’t slow down.
“Don’t be silly. In fact, now you have to stay. Men need to learn they aren’t always right, especially that one,” she says. I can’t help but smile.
“I love my son dearly, but he is as stubborn as they come.”
I chuckle, thinking about both of them squaring off on the porch.
There are several structures on the property and we are heading toward the nicest looking one (other than the houses, of course).
I steal a glance back at the guest house where Lance Teller enters and slams the door behind him.
The barn is about 150 yards away. It’s classic red with white trim and windows that look out over the pastures.
As we enter the shop area on the ground floor, I see a large tractor with an exposed engine. A plethora of tools and work benches are neatly organized against the walls. Wow, they are well-supplied.
Meredith keeps walking up a set of wooden stairs off to the left. At the top, she unlocks the door to an incredible and surprising space.
I stare in awe at the apartment.
Just like everything else at the Teller Estate, the apartment is much nicer than Meredith made it sound. Sure, it’s small, but I certainly don’t need much.
A huge bank of windows offers a view of the lower half of the farm, including the stables where horses are currently being ridden and groomed.
The late afternoon sun bathes the four-poster bed in warm sunlight and a small couch and desk to the right offer a little sitting area of sorts.
A kitchenette takes up the right corner of the space and a bathroom door sits open next to that. All in all, it’s the perfect little studio for Puck and me.
“You’ll start work tomorrow at 7 a.m. It’ll include some weekends, but Lance will let you know on Friday whether that’s the case or not.
“Shipments are every Thursday so it’s all hands on deck on Wednesdays since the trucks arrive early.
“You’ll be paid via check every other week. The pay is $500 per week, we’ll deduct rent from that at the beginning of every month,” she rattles off. “Questions?”
“No ma’am,” I say, looking around. “You sure it’s okay for Puck and me to stay here, Meredith? I don’t want to put you out.”
“Stop worrying. You’ll get settled in no time and it’ll be like you belong here, trust me. In fact, why don’t you come up to the house for dinner?
“We’ll have plenty and it’ll help you get acquainted with the others,” she says as she bustles around fluffing pillows and checking cupboards.
“Oh, no, thank you. Maybe another time.”
“What will you eat then?” She turns to me with her hands on her hips. I don’t have an answer.
“That’s what I thought. It’s 3:30 now, I’ll see you at five so you can help me peel potatoes,” she says.
And with that, Meredith drops the keys in my hand and leaves the room as quickly as she arrived.
After I watch Meredith walk back up the drive and talk to a few others along the way, I walk up myself and drive my truck down to the barn.
There are several parking spaces along the side of the structure and I feel it will be okay to park the ol’ girl there. I grab my dusty duffel bag out of the back of the truck.
I briefly consider working on switching out the timing belt but decide I should probably work on some of my laundry while I have the chance. It sounds like I will be pretty busy during the day.
I am used to hard work. For the last year, I’ve been traveling across the US, taking outdoor jobs here and there and then camping in remote locations for as long as the money would last me.
My friends and family say I should stop running from my grief, but I know it isn’t about escapism.
Pain has a tendency to follow me wherever I go, but it somehow seems more manageable when I’m sitting by a remote lake or snowy mountaintop.
As I scrub my clothing in the large bathtub, I hear a loud, short knock on the door. Puck lets out a low growl.
I look up at the clock to see there’s still twenty minutes til Meredith expects me to be at the house, so I know I’m not late.
I answer the door with soapy, wet hands in time to see a clean-shaven, freshly showered Lance standing on the other side. He starts to speak, but I see his eyes travel down my neckline.
Before I can stop myself, I look down to see my shirt is soaked through from doing the washing. He chuckles, which makes my cheeks burn, and I cross my arms over my chest and glare at him.
“Let’s go,” Lance says.
“Gotta make sure your mutt doesn’t try to kill my livestock.”
I roll my eyes. “What is with you and my dog?” I ask.
“Right. Wren, I just have to make sure he doesn’t harm anything out here. If he’s as good as you say, then it shouldn’t be an issue, right?”
I study him for a moment. If he wasn’t so frustrating, I’d be more uncomfortable in his presence. I have never seen someone so…attractive in person.
“Fine,” I agree. “Lemme just...clean up real quick.”
Lance steps into the studio and sits on the couch beside the bed. I stare at him in shock.
“What? You want me to wait outside?” He leans back on the couch and tilts his cowboy hat up as he gives me a smirk. It sets off a little spark inside me but it also annoys the shit out of me.
“Ugggh, you are a frustrating individual,” I huff as I grab my half-empty duffel bag and go into the bathroom.
“Little early for that, darling, wait til we’re actually working side by side,” I hear him say loudly on the other side of the door. God, is he always this annoying?
I discard my wet shirt and put on a fresh, long-sleeve V-neck. I throw on some deodorant and then finger comb my short, wavy hair. I look...like I’ve been traveling.
Should I put on some makeup? Ugh, no. No time. I step out of the bathroom to see Lance standing close to the door. He peeks behind me into the room.
“Are you doing laundry in here? You know we have washers and dryers, right?”
“I prefer doing it this way,” I say. I slide on a jean jacket and whistle for Puck, who had been lying down on the bathroom rug.
Lance leads us down the steps to a pasture near the barn where I see several sheep and goats grazing. The sun is even lower now and the afternoon warmth has begun to dissipate.
“Does he herd?” Lance asks.
“He can,” I say.
“Does he stop when you ask him to?”
I sigh and climb over the metal gate to the pasture. I give a short whistle and Puck follows me with one swift leap over the gate. He looks up at me with a gentle focus.
I lean down.
Puck tears off toward the sheep and circles them quickly, letting off little barks as he guides them into a large circle.
I notice a few off the to the side who don’t comply.
Puck looks around and spots the two. He easily circles them and moves them in with the rest of the herd.
Puck sits down and watches the herd while waiting patiently for the next command.
“Walk up, here!”
Suddenly he approaches the stock and separates them, quickly dividing the herd into two groups.
“Good boy, that’ll do!”
Puck comes tearing back across the pasture to me. I look at Lance with a satisfied smirk firmly on my face.
He sighs as he looks at me and folds his arms across his broad chest.
“Where’d he learn all that?”
I scratch Puck’s ear. “We had another farm gig last year in Kansas,” I say.
I see Lance’s eyebrows go up in surprise as he continues to look directly at me. I feel my cheeks heat up and wait for him to say something, but he stays silent as he studies me.
“Um, I said I’d go help your mom, so I better get going,” I say.
Lance just nods and we start up toward the house side by side, Puck on my heels.
“So, uh, did you grow up here?”
Lance casts a quick sideways glance at me then clears his throat.
“Yep,” is all he says.
“Cool. Your mom said you’ve been on a bit of a break?”
I see his jaw tighten again.
“Yep,” he says again. Geez, this guy is a brick wall.
I just nod. I don’t know what else to say, so we walk in silence the rest of the time.
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