I pulled a rag from the pocket of my jeans, wiping the sweat from my brow.
Vermont was experiencing a warm spring. The walls of the old barn trapped the heat inside, turning it into a pressure cooker. It was only early May, but the weather forecast predicted we’d hit eighty.
“This is not how I wanted to spend my summer,” I grumbled, grabbing a shovel to start the miserable task of mucking the stalls.
I had a college degree. And I went to culinary school, graduating at the top of my class. I didn’t want to be a farmer. Yet, there I was. Shoveling shit.
I came home to lick my wounds and regroup. My family welcomed me with loving arms, providing the unconditional love and support I desperately needed. But there was always work to be done on a large dairy farm. Nobody got a free pass from chores.
My father died when I was twelve, leaving my older brothers with the responsibility to step up and run the farm. Chase and Cam stayed on after high school. They lived in the big farmhouse with their wives and kids, and my mom. The house was spacious enough with seven bedrooms, but it was still chaos with four kids under the age of five running around.
I grabbed the handles of the old rusty wheelbarrow, pushing it outside to the manure pile. How the hell did cows shit that much?
It was so hot, I could actually see steam rising from the towering pile of excrement. I cursed under my breath as I stomped back into the barn, the bottoms of my hot pink rubber boots caked in hay and cow shit.
I was so caught up in my pity party, I didn’t hear my brother come in. I screamed when I felt arms encircle my waist before he picked me up, spinning me around.
“Craig!” I squealed. “When did you get here?”
“Ten minutes ago,” he replied, setting me back on my feet. He ran his fingers through his thick blond hair, wrinkling his nose. “It’s fucking hot and smelly in here.”
“Well, duh!” I laughed, shaking my head. “Has Mom seen you?”
“No. I ran into Chase halfway down the driveway. He’s cutting grass in the west pasture. Said you were mucking stalls. So I headed here first.” He leaned against a post, sighing as he studied my face with a sympathetic frown. “How are you, kiddo?”
“I’m fine,” I lied.
Craig and I were close. Always had been, with only three years between us. We were like the babies of the family. The three older boys were in their thirties, with a huge age gap between them and us.
He tilted his head, his brow cocked. “Cheyenne Carson, cut the crap. You are not fine. Far from it.”
I shrugged. “What are you doing here anyway? As soon as Mom finds out you’re here, she’ll have a list of chores for you a mile long.”
“I’m not staying. I’m on my way to spend a few weeks at Cape Cod with Julie’s folks.”
I forced a smile. I’d only met Craig’s girlfriend one time. But it was enough to know she wasn’t right for him. They met at UCLA, where my brother had just completed a Master’s Degree in marketing. He had no intention of doing farm work for a living.
“Where is she?”
“She flew directly to Boston. I’ll meet up with her in a couple of days.”
“How long are you staying?”
“Just one night,” he said, yanking gently on my ponytail. “Now, stop changing the subject. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“No! I’m shoveling shit! How do you think I am?”
He nodded. “I figured as much. Have you talked to him?”
“No, Craig. And I’m not going to. The relationship is over. I told you that on the phone.”
“What happened? I thought you guys were happy. And then he proposed. He proposed, Cheyenne. And you turned him down.”
“And I told you I had my reasons, and I don’t feel like sharing them right now.”
I winced at the hurt expression on his face. But there were some things you just couldn’t share with your brother, no matter how close you were. He recovered quickly, grinning as he folded his arms across his chest.
“What are you so happy about?” I snapped. “If you’re gonna rub it in that I’m stuck here and you get to leave, save it.”
“What if I told you I could spring you for six weeks?”
“I’m listening.” I leaned the shovel against the wall and stared back at him expectantly.
“Well, remember that contest we entered? The one where we had to come up with a marketing campaign for that company that owns the chain of RV parks?”
“Oh yeah. The one with the forty thousand dollar prize and the trip across Canada. When do you find out if you won?”
“They announced the winners yesterday,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “We won!”
“Holy shit, Craig!” I jumped into his arms, hugging him tightly. “That’s awesome!”
“I know. There’s just one small problem.”
I pulled back so I could see his face. “What?”
“Emily, the fourth member of our group, can’t go now. Her mother was just diagnosed with stage four cancer. She only has weeks to live.”
“Oh my God. That’s awful.”
“Yes. So we need a replacement for her.”
“Why can’t the three of you go on the trip?”
“Because Julie’s super religious, overprotective father, won’t let her go on a trip across Canada in an RV with two guys. There has to be another girl.”
“Are you asking me to go?”
“Yeah. You’d get away from the farm for six weeks. Go on a trip across Canada in a fancy RV. You’d get to do all kinds of cool shit that you love, like hiking and fishing. And you’d get paid ten grand. What is there to think about, sis?”
“Yes!” I squealed, jumping up and down. “Fuck yeah, I’ll go.”
“It’s going to be a blast,” he said. “I’ve gotta call Abe and Julie, and tell them you agreed to go.”
“Okay. I’ve gotta get back to shoveling shit.”
“You do that,” he said, chuckling as he pulled out his cell and wandered outside.
So, I was going to spend six weeks with Abraham McLean. I had not laid eyes on my brother’s best friend in seven years. Not since that summer I saw him fucking the girl in the bunkhouse. The night my sexuality awoke, eliciting dirty thoughts and desires from deep within my psyche.
Abe was the starring character in most of my sexual fantasies. And the intense need to be thoroughly and truly fucked, still burned strong.
Despite having three sexual relationships under my belt, I’d yet to find what I’d been yearning for since I was fifteen. I couldn’t even have an orgasm. Well, I could if I was alone. But no man had ever given me one. I’d gotten pretty good at faking after my first boyfriend dumped me because of my inability to come. Maybe there was something wrong with me. Perhaps my expectations of sex were unrealistic.
I picked up the rake and started spreading fresh hay in the stalls, laughing at my stupidity. As if Abe McLean would have any interest in me. And even if he did, my brother wouldn’t let him anywhere near me.
Nope. My trip across Canada would be a celibate trek.