Authors: Michelle Freeman,Gayle Roberts
© 2013 by Micronic Inc.
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without
permission in writing from the author. Reviewers may quote brief passages in
time Ann saw Jason, he had a sheep between his legs. The sheep’s name was Molly,
and she seemed perfectly relaxed as Jason expertly ran the shears over her body,
removing her wooly fleece in one large bundle. Ann, however, was anything but
relaxed as she watched Jason. There was a distinct increase in her heart beat,
a fluttering in her chest she hadn’t felt in a long time.
tall, with a broad chest, and very tan. He was also incredibly attractive, so
much so she almost dropped the pitcher of lemonade she had brought from the
house to go with the picnic lunch beneath the trees. And he was young.
at least ten years older than he is.
belonged to Ann, one of several hundred pure-bred Jacob sheep that she owned as
part of her sheep ranch, and one of several hundred sheep that needed shearing
each year. Ann had no experience with shearing and left that to Ben Crenshaw
and his small crew. But for Ann’s ranch, he’d brought only Jason. The job was
small enough for just one man to do over two days.
to the area farms during shearing season as an itinerant sheep shearer. He’d
told her last year he’d be retiring after one more season and that he’d be
turning his business over to his nephew, Jason. Ann hadn’t been outside when
Jason had been setting up this morning; she’d actually never been introduced.
She’d been talking to Ben, going over some mundane detail, something she now no
I’m not sure I’d have survived even shaking hands with
Jason expertly flip Molly on her feet, the ewe giving herself a shake before
walking off to join her flock-mates in the pasture. As Jason stood, he looked
directly at her. She found herself looking into a pair of startling green eyes,
beneath a shock of sun-bleached hair. He smiled at her, a smile that sent a jolt
of heat through Ann’s body. She was caught off guard, swallowing hard, managing
a small wave in return.
stretched, working the kinks out of his back and shoulders, muscles flexing.
That was too much for Ann; she was totally undone. She fled the barn, back to
safety beneath the big oak tree outside, anything to take her mind off Jason.
was taking a break for lunch, Ben talking with Paul Monroe from a nearby ranch,
who had come by to help out. Shearing was a nice time. Everyone made the rounds
from farm to farm: the shearing crew, neighbors, and various relatives from the
city who wanted to get a taste of country life all showed up. Everyone brought
something to eat, so lunch was a big affair. Ann set down the lemonade with
shaky hands and busied herself with paper plates and cups, even though there
was really nothing that needed doing out here.
ma’am?” She turned at the sound of a man’s voice. “Is there a place I can clean
up before lunch?” Jason was standing a few feet away, all green eyes and long
legs. He had his t-shirt over his shoulder, jeans riding low on his hips, displaying
smooth tan skin over those well-muscled arms and very masculine chest.
Ann shook herself, realized she was staring. “This way. You can use the
bathroom in the house.”
What in the world is wrong with me?
men before, handsome men, even dated some of them, and married one once. But
Jason was obviously something completely different, triggering a cascade of
sensations in her body she’d thought long gone.
“I can just
clean up at the faucet, if you point the way. I don’t want to tromp through the
house.” Jason took a step closer. Ann found herself lost in those eyes.
You’re not any dirtier than anyone else.” She managed to extend her hand. “My
name is Ann Franklin. I missed meeting you earlier.”
her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Jason Mitchell.”
Ann led him
up the steps and across the porch into the house. “Right here. You can use the
towels on the rack; they’re washable.” She smiled at Jason, hoping for an
answering smile, wanting to see if it really did light up his face and reach
all the way to his eyes. She was rewarded with another grin and found she was
right. Jason ducked into the shower, and Ann returned to the kitchen.
herself at the counter, stirring another spoonful of mayonnaise into the potato
salad. Her mind was on Jason, lost in thought.
wondered what exactly drew him to her. Was it just that he was young—really
good looking—and she was lonely? That didn’t sound very appealing. It made her
sound old… and desperate. It had been a long time since she’d had anyone
interested in her. There had been no one… well, no one serious… since her
husband David had left her, over a year ago.
handsome, no doubt. But there was something else, something in the way he
looked at her, something in his eyes that made her heart beat faster, her hands
tremble and her knees go weak.
Or, you’re just making all that up because
he’s young and cute and he’ll be gone by the end of tomorrow.
help?” Jason’s words were soft, but Ann jumped nonetheless. The spoon flew from
her hand, landing between them on the hardwood floor.
Jason said, bending down to retrieve the spoon. “No five-second rule for spoons
full of potato salad.” He put it in the sink. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
his t-shirt on, and Ann breathed a small sigh of relief. It was enough to have
him here, so close she could smell the sun on his skin, sheep on his clothes,
and beneath all that, the unmistakable scent of the man himself. She realized
it really had been a long time, if just the smell of a man who’d been working
in the sun all day with sheep made her knees weak.
okay,” Ann said, smiling back. “I wasn’t paying attention. No harm done.” She grabbed
another spoon from the crock on the counter, sticking it in the potato salad.
looks great. You’ve gone to a lot of trouble. We…I appreciate it.” Ann glanced
over at him, meeting his eyes just so she could feel that tremble in her
it’s my pleasure. The neighbors help, so it’s not that much trouble to add a
few things.” Ann was reluctant to leave the kitchen, but she was running out of
things to do to keep her there, with Jason. There was only so much they could
say about potato salad. “Ben tells me he’s almost done, that you’re taking over
the whole operation pretty soon.”
another step closer and leaned against the counter, all long legs and blonde
hair. She turned back to the potato salad, giving it another stir, if for no
other reason than to keep from staring at him. If they stayed here much longer,
she’d be serving mashed potato salad. She forced herself to stop stirring and
looked at Jason as he talked.
plan. He’s riding along just to say good-bye to those that he’s worked with for
a long time, like you. I haven’t seen him put clippers to a sheep in weeks.”
Jason laughed, before growing serious. “He deserves a rest though. He’s been
doing this since I was a little kid, long before you ever started raising
sheep, I would imagine.”
be on your own then starting next season?” Ann was desperately casting about
for any topic to keep the conversation going.
ma’am. I’m pretty much on my own now. But I’ll be back here next year to shear
your flock. If you’re interested, that is.”
And then her heart sank. It would be a whole year before she saw Jason again,
after he finished up tomorrow. She frowned, lost in that thought.
bound by a contract to hire me, so there’s no worries there.” Jason’s voice
held what sounded like disappointment.
She met his
gaze, kicking herself. Everyone told her all the time her thoughts were written
on her face.
It’s not that. I… just… thought of something else. No, I’d be happy to have you
shearing here again next year. You’ve done a wonderful job.” She reached out,
touching his arm. “I just….”
one step closer, and she suddenly found herself in his arms, potato salad
forgotten. He brushed a strand of hair away from her cheek, looking down at
what?” His voice was low, smooth like honey. Ann looked up into his eyes, her
lips parted, breathing shallow but heart pounding rapidly.
“I just… would
miss you, I guess… between now and then.” There, the words were out.
I have such trouble saying what I mean?
lips curved into a slow smile. “Why, I think I’d miss you too, ma’am.”
Ben’s voice carried through the open windows. Jason held Ann a moment longer
before letting her go, his eyes never leaving hers. She could feel the thud of
her heart, sure that Jason could feel it as well.
this.” He stepped away from her, grabbing the bowl of potato salad and heading
out the kitchen door, leaving Ann standing at the sink. She watched out the
window as he set the bowl on the table before turning to Ben.
a foolish, crazy woman, Ann Franklin. You need to get a grip here.
Ann took a
deep breath, heading out to the lawn beneath the trees, checking over the dishes
of food on the picnic table. Everyone had taken a plate and had started serving
themselves, sitting on lawn chairs or on the ground beneath the large trees.
She wandered through the groups, making sure everyone had what they needed.
As she walked
behind the big oak tree, she overheard the end of the conversation between Ben
and Jason. Ben sounded insistent, and Jason appeared angry.
to call, Jason. She said this time it was important.”
shaking his head. “No, she made her decision, and that’s it. I know how much
you like her… but I can’t go back. Not after the things she’s said and done.
She just knows this is the end of the season, and she thinks she can get me to
come back… since I have nowhere else to go.”
she loves you, Jason. Can’t you give her a second chance?”
lonely, not in love. She’s afraid of being alone, that’s all. And she’d never have
given me a second chance….”
hesitated, not wanting to interrupt. She’d turned, taking a few steps back to
the house when she heard Jason’s voice behind her.
just wanted to say again how much we appreciate your business, and the
hospitality you’ve extended. Thank you.”
standing next to Jason, nodding. She wasn’t sure if they realized she’d heard
Jason’s gaze, saw something clouding his green eyes. And she felt a small pang
For what? For something that was even anything? A touch in the
kitchen? An almost-kiss?
shrugged. “My pleasure. It’s the least I can do, for the work you do for me.
Thanks for….” She caught Jason’s eye again. “Thanks for doing such a good job.”
She turned away, walking back toward the house, sudden surprising tears of loss
in her eyes.
It was late
afternoon when Ben came to tell her they were finished for the day and that he
was leaving Jason behind to finish up tomorrow.
last job, Ann. This is it. I’m officially retired.” Ben was smiling broadly,
but Ann caught a hint of sadness in his eyes. Impulsively she reached out,
hugging him. He was blushing when she let him go.
I’d known I was going to get a hug from a pretty girl, I’d have told you every
year I was retiring.” Ben smiled, leaving her in the yard.