I wake up in the morning to sunlight streaming through my blinds and a pounding headache. I groan and roll over in bed, once again, ending up in a tangled mess of sheets on the floor. This seems to be a recurring theme with me after I drink. I groan again and just rest for a second, out of the reach of the sun beams blasting through my room. It must be mid-morning by now, but I really don’t have any need to get up. Beau rejected me last night, and I fell asleep with a drunk, broken heart. He did say that if I remembered the conversation, I could try again today, though, but I haven’t decided if I should or not. I roll onto my stomach and force myself to stand up, dropping the layers of sheets and comforter to the floor so I can untangle myself. I head straight to the kitchen and swig down four Advil with some milk, before popping a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster.
“Good morning, honey. Feeling okay this morning?” My dad asks, walking into the house and smirking at me. I groan at him and shake my head. “I guess you should have stopped drinking when Beau asked you to. I can’t believe I’m raising an alcoholic daughter. And she’s not even legal to drink it, yet.”
“Thanks for the lecture, Dad.” I mutter, shoving one of the pieces of toast in my mouth dry before heading to the bathroom to shower.
After a nice long, twenty-minute soak, my head is clear and my hair is clean, and I’m ready for a new day. My first task after I’ve tugged on a pair of shorts and a hot pink tank top is to prove to Beau that I was in complete control of my thoughts last night. Drunk Stella just doesn’t have a filter, whereas sober Stella does. Sober Stella would have never told Beau that she wanted to sleep with him, or kiss him, until after Drunk Stella has. And now that that has happened, I march into the barn where I expect to find Beau probably mucking a stall. Boy, am I dead wrong.
“Bryndle, what the hell are you doing?” I ask, finding my kid sister in the middle of a lip-lock with Beau’s brother, who is even older than I am. I still haven’t officially met the guy, just seen Beau talking to him yesterday. Plus, if I remember correctly, she has a boyfriend back in Panama.
“Kissing a hot guy. What does it look like, drunkie?” She asks, returning her lips to his after they both look at me for a split second.
“Uh, no. You’re going to stop kissing him right now.” I argue, actually trying to step between them.
“Oh, please, Stella. There are some countries where I’d already be married having kids. Having a little make out session with a hot guy is hardly a thing.” She replies, finally stepping away from Gunnar, who stuffs his hands in the pockets of his shorts.
I ignore her and turn my attention to him. “I’m looking for your brother. Where is he?”
“Beats me. I haven’t seen him since I got here about twenty minutes ago. Travis and Charlie are out in the field petting the horses.”
“Okay. Don’t let me see you touch my little sister ever again, got it, lover boy?” I ask, sending him a cut-throat glare. He shrugs, and I push past him and head up to the loft to see if Beau is up there. He’s not. I groan again, frustrated because I had a plan to prove, and he’s messing it up. I stomp back down the stairs, stepping between Bryndle and Gunnar, who are kissing again, and head for the shop where I know my dad is.
“Dad! Do you know where Beau is?” I ask, glancing up at the sky that is starting to cloud up, indicating the rain storm that is supposed to last several days. Why couldn’t the clouds have come an hour earlier? Then I probably wouldn’t be up right now.
“Sent him over the ridge to check on a calving batch of cows that are down in a low spot. Asked him to try and herd them back up to higher grounds with this storm that’s supposed to be comin’. He should be back in a couple of hours though.” Dad rolls out from under his truck to grab a different wrench before going back under, and I go back to the barn to check on Lucy. She seems restless, like most horses are during a storm, which reminds me that Gunnar said those other two yay-hoos are out in the paddock, which isn’t safe for them with a storm coming. I pull my phone out to check the weather, and am a little terrified at the storm cell heading directly towards us. I grab Zeus’s halter and head to the door. When I head back outside, the sky has darkened even more, and there is no trace of sunlight at all. The wind has kicked up, and I’m thankful to see that Travis and Charlie are outside of the paddock, laughing at the horses that are literally running with the wind.
“You guys should go inside.” I tell them, pulling my hat off my head so it doesn’t blow away. “Take your shoes off and make yourself at home.”
They nod and head to the house, where Bryndle and Gunnar are also headed. Even though Zeus seems riled up by the storm, he skids to a stop at the fence when he hears me whistle. I hook the halter over his head and lead him in the barn and quickly saddle him before going to get the other horses brought in. It’s not safe for them to be outside during something like this. Dad shuts up his shop and comes and helps me after I have Faith and Apollo brought in, and I watch as rain starts to fall outside the barn.
“Beau is never going to be able to move those cattle on his own. Not with the weather acting like this. Those cows are going to be more stir crazy than me when I had my wisdom teeth removed and wasn’t allowed in the barn for a week.” I tell Dad, grabbing two rain slickers from the tack room, putting one on and tucking one into my saddle bag. “I’m going to help him.”
“Be safe, honey. Don’t make any stupid decisions. You know how this ground is when it’s muddy.” Dad warns when I swing up on Zeus while I’m still in the barn. Normally that’s a definite no-no, but I know I’d never be able to get on him if we were outside. His ears are forward and alert, and he stomps his hoof in impatience.
“Don’t worry, Dad. I promise I won’t do anything stupid. I love you.” I remind him before steering Zeus out of the barn while Dad opens the pasture gate for me. I haven’t seen a storm form like this one in a long time, and I have to remind myself that Zeus isn’t as sure-footed as I’d like him to be in the mud. If it was just mud and not a storm I’d have ridden Apollo because he’s the most sure-footed in the mud, but he hates storms; throws a fit and kicks at his stall.
It’s still only showering as Zeus and I head back towards the ridge, and by the time I reach the gate for that pasture, there is literally standing water in my boots because it’s raining so hard. I swing off of Zeus and open the gate, leading him through before swinging up on him and being forced to take the long way around to where I know Beau will be working to push the cows up the hill. It takes us about ten minutes out of the way to go around the ridge instead of straight down it, but I don’t want Zeus pulling any muscles or tendons. The storm is getting really bad when I reach the pond that has quickly filled up and started to over flow into the spillway, but Zeus just splashes through the water and we emerge on the other side where I see Beau on the ground, trying to hold onto Jessie’s reins. The horse is freaking out, rearing back, and finally breaks free of Beau’s hold and she gallops off up the hill.
“Beau!” I call as loud as I can, but my voice is drowned out in the rain and wind. I ignore the cows who are going stir-crazy just like I predicted, and push Zeus to where Beau looks completely defeated sitting in the grass in the pouring rain. “Beau!” I yell again when we get closer, this time catching his attention. His head snaps up, and his eyes widen in disbelief.
“You’re so stupid. What are you doing here?” He asks, reaching for me as soon as I swing off of Zeus.
“You told me to try again in the morning if I remembered our conversation last night. I remember everything, Beau.” I shout over the wind before rushing to him and locking my lips on his. His button down shirt clings to every inch of his body as his arms encircle around my waist that is clad in the rain slicker. I’ve never had a better first kiss, and I can’t decide if it’s because of the rain or because of all the sexual tension that has built up between us over the past week and a half, but whichever it is, I’m not complaining as I’m clinging to him almost more than his shirt is.
“Stella, this is not the time for this.” He finally argues, tearing his lips from mine.
“I think it’s the perfect time. I’ve wanted to kiss you since you showed me the tattoo you have honoring your grandfather, but I never had the guts to while I was sober.” I admit, squinting at him through the rain pellets that are pelting my face.
“We need to get the cattle moved to higher grounds!” He shouts, ignoring what I just told him.
“Dammit, Beau! Would you forget about the job for once in your life and listen to me? I felt you kissing me back. I know you admitted to Drunk Stella that you want to sleep with her. I know you’re trying to run from me right now.” I argue, pushing my finger into his chest. His eyebrows knit together for a second as he processes my words, and suddenly his lips are on mine again and my feet are off the ground.
“I’m not running from you, Stella.” He tells me when he pulls back and presses his forehead into mine while my eyes are still closed. “I’m running to you. But I’d really rather continue this when we’re not in an eminent flood threat and don’t have cows counting on us.”
“Fine.” I breathe, allowing him to put me down before swinging onto Zeus. “I’ll go get Jessie. Stay here.”
Jessie didn’t make it too far before she found a tree to stand under, and I hurry to pull her out from under the giant death trap. She doesn’t go willingly, but with a light tap on her rump, she shoots out from under the tree and I lead her back down to Beau. He climbs back on her and together we force the cows from their safe haven by the pond, up the hill to higher ground. Once all twenty cows and probably eight little calves are safe and sound, Beau and I head back to the barn to wait the storm out.
“This thing is brutal.” I gush to Beau as I’m untacking Zeus and cross tying him in the aisle.
“You’re telling me. You weren’t the one who was dumped on his ass at the first thunder clap in the middle of a down pour.” He chuckles, cross tying Jessie before heading up to his loft, returning ten minutes later in dry clothes. “Since I don’t imagine you want to stay soaked while we’re trapped here, I left some sweats and a t-shirt on the cot up there if you want to change.” Beau says sheepishly, and I realize that my rain slicker did not do anything and that I am in fact, soaked.
“Thanks.” I smile graciously before heading up the stairs to find a pair of black sweats and a plain white t-shirt. I laugh when I realize that my bra matches my tank top, and since it’s wet too, it shows right through the white shirt. I head back down the stairs, not even caring that Beau is going to see through the shirt. I mean, he saw one hell of a lot less yesterday.
“Hey, so if we’re going to be stuck in here a while, we could continue what we were doing earlier ya’know.” Beau smirks when he sees me from where he’s sitting on a hay bale outside of Lucy’s stall. I put Zeus back in his stall after wrapping his legs because he gets restless in his stall when it’s storming, and I don’t need him scratching his legs all up.
“I bet you’d like that, yeah?” I ask, walking towards him and straddling his lap.
“Very much so.” He answers, wrapping his hand around the back of my neck and pulling my lips to his. I find that I very much enjoy kissing this man in front of me, but I enjoy his lips on my neck even more. “You have no idea how hard it’s been to keep from doing this since the moment I laid eyes on you.”
“Then why haven’t you?” I ask as his hands slip up the back of his shirt that I’m wearing.
“Because I didn’t want to lose my job.” He answers, and I frown.
“But now it’s okay?” I ask, confused.
“Let’s just say that I got your dad’s permission.” He murmurs, his hands brushing against the clasp of my bra.
“I’m pretty sure you didn’t get my dad’s permission to do that.” I chuckle, pulling his lips to mine when his fingers undo the clasp. “We should go upstairs.”
“You’re damn right I didn’t get his permission to do that, but I very much enjoyed it.” He answers, breaking our kiss long enough to carry me up the stairs and yank both of our shirts off. My bra quickly follows since it was already unhooked, and he pulls me on the bed on top of him.
“We’re not doing this right now.” I tell him, this time making it my turn to kiss his neck before kissing his collar bone and shoulder.
“I’m pretty sure this is not your imagination, Stella.” He chuckles, running his hand up my back.
“It’s not going any farther than this though.” I decide, sitting back and running my fingers down his sculpted chest while his eyes rake over me.
“Fine by me.” He says as he flips us over so he’s on top. My head rests against his sheets while he uses his forearms around my head to support himself while he kisses me. Our tongues dance for a little while, before he rolls onto his side and runs his fingers up and down my side while continuing to kiss me.
“Best non-sex ever.” He murmurs into my ear while I’m resting with my head and arm and half of my torso on his. He’s playing with my hair that has dried while we’ve been laying here, and I have no idea what time it is. The rain hasn’t stopped, but I think the heavy part of the storm has stopped, so I don’t know if anybody will be coming out here any time soon.
“We should probably go see what the damage is from the storm.” I try to reason, my eyes closed and nearly asleep from him methodically playing with my hair.
“We can wait until we hear sounds of life outside. Although, I’d actually be okay if this barn was the only thing left standing on Earth and we were the last two people left alive.” He replies, and I smile and press a kiss to his chest.
“I’d be okay with that, too.” I sigh, rolling off of him and going to find my bra. While he lays there watching me.
“You’re beautiful, did you know that?” He asks, and I glance over my shoulder while I’m putting my bra back on. “You’re blushing.”
“Yeah that usually happens when someone I like a lot compliments me while I don’t have shirt on.” I grin, crawling back over to him and planting my lips on his.
“Mm, so you like me a lot?” He asks, gripping my sides while he pulls his lips from mine and plants them back on my collarbone.
“Mmmhmm.” I sigh, softly tracing the outline of his peck tattoo.
“For the record I like you a lot, too.” Beau smiles, kissing back up my neck to my lips.
“I like the sound of that.” I grin, letting him kiss me for a few more minutes until I hear the rain subside. “We should probably head downstairs.”
“My mind agrees with you, but my heart wants to stay here for the rest of the day.” He grumbles, wrapping his arms securely around my waist and flipping us over.
“I want to officially meet your brother though, and not just the little brush I had with him and Bryndle this morning.” I sigh, closing my eyes and letting his lips on my ear take me away from reality for a few minutes.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, they were doing a little bit of what we’re doing right now, only with all of their clothes still on outside of Lucy’s stall this morning.” I snicker, trying to pull his lips back to mine. He stops kissing me back for a few seconds, before rolling off of me and pulling his boots back on. I crawl on my knees over to him and wrap my arms around his neck, kissing the back of it. “Where are you going? I took care of it, I think.”
“Well I told him yesterday that I’d kill him if he laid a hand on her.” Beau grumbles, unlocking my hands from his neck so he can stand up.
“You’re seriously going to run out on me right now?” I frown, grabbing at his hands.
“I promise we’re not done with this.” He smirks, leaning back down to kiss me after I forced him to look at me.
“You better keep that promise, mister.” I smile, finally letting him go. “Please don’t actually kill your brother!” I shout at the last second as he disappears down the stairs.
I watch the doorway for a minute, wondering if the last however long actually happened before I reach for my tank top that I laid out to dry on a hay bale off to the side of the bed that Beau had been using as a bedside table. I tuck it into his sweats that I’ve had to roll to keep them on my hips, and head down to the barn to drag Zeus back out of his stall. He deserves a bath after the morning we had.
“Hey pumpkin, I’m assuming you and Beau made it back safe and sound after moving the cattle?” Dad asks, walking into the barn as I’m taking the wraps off of Zeus’s legs.
“Yeah. We would have come in but didn’t want to be in the rain any more than we already had been. Beau had a problem with Jessie when I got there, and I think she dumped him after a clap of thunder and started freaking out. I didn’t know she was scared of storms.” I tell Dad, and he stops to look at her.
“Well I think that was the first major storm that has hit since we’ve had her. Beau didn’t know that. Is he okay?” Dad asks, pulling Jessie out of her stall and checking her legs.
“Beau is fine. Jessie didn’t give him any other problems after she dumped him the first time.” I relay the information, looking at the scuff marks in her stall. “But it looks like we have a barn full of horses that don’t like storms.”
“We may have to upgrade to silicone padding if this doesn’t change.” Dad chuckles, and I glance at Apollo, who is still pacing in his stall.
“Yeah, like we have the money for that.” I roll my eyes, sure that we can just keep wrapping their legs.
“Cheap fix in the long run.” Dad shrugs, bending down and feeling her legs for heat. “It looks like we got lucky and she didn’t hurt herself this time.”
“We won’t be that lucky every time though.” I mutter, patting Zeus’s neck before leading him outside. The big boy deserves his nice bath.
“Hey, have you seen Beau since the rain stopped?” Dad asks, coming and leaning on the barn door while I tie Zeus to the wash rack. I freeze for a second, wondering what he knows.
“Um, he went looking for Gunnar about ten minutes ago.” I shrug, avoiding my father’s eye contact while I grab the hose.
“Well I sent Gunnar and his friends to town to grab some groceries if we’re going to have enough food to feed everyone tonight. I was planning on having meat left over, but they ate all of it yesterday. Maybe he jumped in with them.” Dad mutters, heading back into the barn. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding and press my forehead into Zeus’s neck.
“Why is life so difficult, boy?” I ask, while I stroke his cheek and he bobs his head back in a hug that I taught him.
After I don’t see Beau for a while, I accept that he probably did actually go with Gunnar and his friends to town. Not that it really surprises me, but I really hope he doesn’t hurt Gunnar too badly. I hear the sound of Dad’s truck that they must have taken pull into the driveway after I turned Zeus back out into the pasture, just to watch him go roll in the mud. I glare at my horse for literally mucking up the bath I gave him, before heading back into the barn to check on Lucy. It’s started to sprinkle again, but now I’m hungry so I hurry through the sprinkles to the house where the four boys are unloading bags of groceries.
“Put those on the island, please.” I call to them and I get a good glimpse of a black eye that Gunnar definitely did not possess earlier. I suppose I should be thankful that he’s still alive and that Beau isn’t going to prison for murdering his brother, but I’m still upset with him.
I need to talk to Bryndle, but she’s not on the couch like I was expecting, so I hurry to her bedroom and find her passed out in her bed. Rolling my eyes, I resort to the only means of waking her that worked when we were little: yanking the covers and pillows off the bed.
“Dammit, Stella.” She grumbles, opening her eyes and staring at me.
“Get up, I’m making a late lunch for all of us, and if I don’t get to sleep, you don’t get to sleep.” I tell her, heading out of the room only to be yanked back when she grabs my hand.
“Stel, I need to talk to you.” She whispers, darting past me and shutting the door before pulling me back to the bed and tucking her legs up under her like she did when she was little and had something big to tell me.
“Okay, wow, we haven’t had one of these conversations in a long time.” I tell her, also sitting down on her bed similar to how she is.
“Is Gunnar still here?” She asks, her brown eyes wide and terrified and I immediately wonder why.
“Did he hurt you or something?” I ask, frowning at her.
“No, no, nothing like that. It’s just, I made a mistake when I kissed him earlier.” She starts, and I prod her to keep her going.
“I agree. You’re a minor and he’s 20.” I shrug. “But I don’t blame you.”
“Normally I wouldn’t make any decisions like that because I love Felix, but there’s just something that drew me to Gunnar, and I think it might have something to do with the drinks I drank last night.”
“I didn’t know you drank last night.” I frown at my baby sister. I may drink a lot, but that doesn’t mean I condone it.
“I didn’t drink a lot, maybe four shots with the girls after you passed out and left with Beau and everyone else, but then this morning I apparently didn’t get enough sleep last night to wear off the drink affects and this morning he was right there waiting for Beau in the barn and I just kissed him because we’d been talking about how hot he is and I don’t know, it just kept happening every time I saw him, even though he was hiding it from his brother.” She gushes, and I have to take time to process what she just said.
“You were in the barn?” I ask, pretty sure that that fact is the only thing that I managed to process.
“Seriously? Out of everything I just told you, THAT’S what you’re asking me about?” She asks, dropping my hands.
“I’m sorry, you just haven’t stepped a foot in that barn since you were eight years old.” I shake my head.
“Dude, you saw me in there this morning! Remember when you yelled at me?” She asks, snapping her fingers in my face.
“Hey, I was in the middle of a hangover, remember?” I laugh, falling on my back and holding my sides because I can’t stop laughing.
“So what do you think I should do? I mean, I know there can never be something with Gunnar because obviously we’re from two different worlds, but you’ve always been the one good with boy problems.” She gushes, and I can honestly say this is the most she’s opened up to me in a really long time.
“Well, I think Beau may have taken care of Gunnar because I noticed a pretty shiner when they were carrying groceries in, but I think you should tell Gunnar that you have a boyfriend and then you should tell Felix what happened.” I tell her, pulling her into a tight sister hug.
“Did you tell Beau?” She asks, and I nod.
“I didn’t mean to, it just kind of slipped. I’m sorry.” I sigh, and pull on her arm so we can go have lunch.