After washing the milking equipment and mopping the milkroom floor, Sofia’s belly was growling like a beast had taken up residence under her t-shirt. It was starving for breakfast, letting anyone within hearing distance know about it. Good thing she was alone. The less people knew about her the better–even for such a small thing as being hungry. With a quick check out the window to see Sol doing his own morning routine of lifting his leg to every outside corner of the barn, she headed into the kitchen.
The murmur of voices hit her like a padded wall, solid but easy on the senses. She preferred the mornings in the dining room, where everyone was more subdued, the hush of the sleepy house still clinging to the interior. Even the screech of silverware to plates seemed less harsh, the greasy odor of bacon hanging heavy.
Aaaand speak of enticing things, there sat the new guy at the back corner of the table, looking like his eggs had been dropped on the floor then scooped back onto his plate. Until he lifted his eyes—eyes green and shimmering, like twin raindrops on a pair of sunlit leaves. He’d drawn his lids up slow, pinning her with a penetrating stare.
Yet, there was nothing antagonizing about it. That emotion couldn’t have been further removed if it hibernated in Alaska, on the opposite side of the country. Instead, that bottle green gaze warmed her like a summer morning, liquefying her bones. The man blinked once, slow as he did when he’d lifted his lids to reveal those eyes. His lips quirked on one corner. A silent—and intimate—greeting.
Sofia stood by the sideboard, her hunger for breakfast chugging down the tracks away from her. God, his eyes. They revealed everything, enhancing the curl of his broad frame, which was bent around his taut stomach like he protected himself. He hadn’t been pleased to be sitting where he was.
Until he’d looked up at her.
Then his body had squared up, intensifying. His previous posture of enduring? Abandoned. Yet, he remained rigid after the initial arousal, as though he waited for her to make the next move.
Her hand acted first, groping like the eyeless thing it was for the stack of plates on the sideboard. Her fingertips patted glazed ceramic, registering the goal, but her brain was dislocated. Her mind received the information, it just refused to do anything about it.
Which was stupid. On too many levels. Especially when she was acting like the man got to her, and that was just…well, dangerous. Nobody needed to know what she was thinking. Or not thinking, in this case.
Sofia turned on the ball of her foot like a hasty ballerina and gripped a plate like it meant to play tug o’war with her.
Stupid. Again. Easing her grip, she headed down the small buffet, filling her plate with her usual fare before escaping for the relative freedom of the front porch, where she preferred to eat her meals. Jackrabbit pulse be damned. The luminous green eyes could stay in the house. Far away from her.
Sol trotted over, his tail high and loose, and she got comfortable on the top step while the big dog made a half-circle behind her, finally laying down at her elbow. His long tongue made one pass across his muzzle as he gazed up expectantly, his brown eyes shifting from plate to face, plate to face.
Green to brown? A better trade, by far.
The dog nudged her elbow with his nose, lifting the plate and nearly spilling it.
“All right, already. Jeeze.” He’d nudged a smile from her, too, the dang cur, tugging her back to the here and now. Which was on the front porch. Not the dining room. Where…her thoughts tripped on dancey feet right back to the spot they shouldn’t go.
God, it wasn’t like she hadn’t seen the man sitting in that exact same spot at the table every damned morning since his arrival. His posture wasn’t anything new, either. He always sat like she’d seen some dogs do when Sol got a little over-aggressive: backs to something solid and their center of gravity lowered. Where they could strike while protecting themselves.
The image of the woman in her dreams popped front and center like a jealous starlet craving attention. As if she hadn’t already been more demanding lately.
Since the new guy arrived.
True. The dreams weren’t only more frequent, but more intense. Sofia kept waking up sweating, as if her real body burned like her dreaming one.
Which was crazy.
Low blood sugar. At least, that was surely her problem this morning. She did feel off today: hot flashes hitting her while she’d been squatting under the cows, bumping udders and stripping teats. Her sense of smell was too acute, too. The sweet scent of hot, animal milk cocktailing with steamy cow shit.
Maybe that was why the usual presence of the new guy hit her so forcefully this morning.
Yeah, that was it. She was sick. Was fighting a flu bug. Explained everything, yes it did.
Except her appetite. Her belly gurgled hard enough she felt its hollow passageways straight through to her intestines. Wasn’t the first time in her life she’d been this hungry, and those pangs didn’t even spark selfishness. She shared her breakfast with her dearest friend, no matter how hard her empty stomach cramped.
Because Sol’s belly was as unfilled as hers.
Forget her promise to the pup—she didn’t share out of obligation, but love. Yeah, she’d pledged an oath to always look out for him, but she looked after him because it felt great to do it. His wagging tail and shining eyes were payment enough, stuffing her with so much happiness sometimes her skin got tight.
So, she could share her breakfast without a thought, even though her belly twisted in on itself. “Good, huh?”
Sol cocked his head, his tongue doing a lap around his muzzle again. The give and take of another shared meal over with, Sofia set the plate down on the porch for the dog to lick clean just as Charlie and the rest of the crew trickled out onto the big porch to smoke cigarettes, or enjoy the last of the coffee, and make plans for the day.
The new guy was the last to come out of the front door. Not that Sofia noticed, damn it. She nailed her eyes on her booted feet because the stitching around the toes was a fascinating and prime example of high quality craftsmanship. It really was. Sol’s tail fanned a traitorous greeting.
And because she was fighting the flu, what with the heat flaring up through the collar of her shirt and everything, she smelled him. Dear lord, he smelled edgy like the resin from pine trees. Sharp, clean.
She did not turn her face to catch its receding. No she did not. Nor did she notice him perch on the railing so he wasn’t exactly removed from everyone else, but he was one scooch of his ass cheeks away from it.
Her mind did not imagine said ass cheeks, either.
Quick to latch onto any distraction, she paid strict attention to the house-girl coming out. As did the guy she was not watching out of the corner of her eye. Sol locked onto the girl, too, sharing German’s rapt expression. Maybe they both adored the smell of bacon.
Not one to make excuses for departing, Sofia headed into the house to put her plate and silverware into the dishwasher, thanking Charlie’s wife on her way out toward the unrestricted freedom of the outdoors. Sol didn’t follow her, no surprise. He wanted whatever scraps the flitting bird-girl had brought out of the kitchen. Along with…shut it, Sofe. Enough with the thoughts about this German guy. Time to send him packing.
Sofia headed off without her four-legged shadow, gearing herself up to shovel more manure while plotting ways to get this guy off the farm.
Installment # 12 coming Saturday, December 21, 2013.