The Boundary Fence (A Woodlea Novel, #7)
A warm-hearted and touching story about recovering after trauma, love and community. A new Woodlea rural romance by bestselling Australian author Alissa Callen.
Healing doesn’t just take time, it takes courage…
The scars country vet Ella Quinlivan hides are not solely on the outside. Men are off limits. She fills her world with her friends, work and the colourful community of small town Woodlea. She also becomes custodian of a sandstone cottage of an elderly friend whose teenage daughter went missing two decades ago.
With a broken marriage behind him, Saul Armstrong is determined to recapture his dreams by bringing American bison to the Australian bush. He intends to stick to his side of the high wire fence that divides his farm from his distracting new neighbour, Ella.
When Saul calls out Ella for a bison emergency she isn’t just thrown out of her comfort zone by dealing with an unfamiliar animal. Slow-smiling and guarded Saul stirs emotions she’d long ago discarded.
As the summer heat parches the landscape and dust obscures the sun, hidden secrets come to light. Not only will Ella and Saul be tested, the connection forged between them will be threatened. Will love be enough to guarantee their freedom or will fear continue to dictate the direction of their lives?
Being a rural vet didn’t get any more glamorous than this.
Ella Quinlivan carefully felt inside the Hereford cow sitting on the ground in front of her. When she’d confirmed the cow was not carrying a calf, she sat back on her heels and removed the orange plastic glove that covered her arm from her fingertips to her shoulder.
She cast a quick glance at the young farmer who was fresh home from his first year of agricultural college. It didn’t matter where her hand had just been, or that she was covered in dirt and her face would be flushed from the summer heat, the lanky redhead’s broad grin hadn’t waned. Neither had his attention on the front of her shirt.
She slowly came to her feet. It was going to be one of those afternoons. ‘You said Polly’s been drooling?’
‘She has.’ The answer came from Sophie, the farmer’s teenage sister, who appeared at her brother’s side. A battered, oversized cream hat covered her auburn braid. ‘Is it pesti?’
‘It could be.’ Ella assessed the water trough beside which the Hereford had positioned herself before she became too weak to stand. Pesti virus could be spread via water or animal fluids but she couldn’t see any other cattle in either the cow’s paddock or the adjacent one.
Sophie too scanned the paddocks that contained the sparse stubble of a past winter oats crop. ‘There were some other cattle but Dad sent them to the fat sales last week.’
The young farmer said nothing as he let his younger sister do the talking. When Ella looked at him, he gave her a wink. She pushed the brim of her navy Woodlea vet cap higher and gave him her best I-am-way-too-old-for-you stare before focusing on the prone Hereford.
From previous visits Ella knew Polly had been a poddy calf and was now a much-loved family pet. She also knew the farm traded cattle so chances were there had been a pesti virus carrier in the herd that had been sold.
She bent down to press her stethoscope against Polly’s russet side. This farm wasn’t the only one lightening their stocking rate after the dry winter and spring. Despite the lack of rain the Hereford was in good condition.
She straightened. ‘I’ll send some blood off to confirm it’s pesti and give Polly a shot.’
‘Thanks.’ Sophie’s solemn expression dissolved into a relieved smile. She went to collect a green tub from off the nearby farm ute. When she returned she frowned across to where her brother still stood watching Ella. ‘Oi, Joe, I need some help here.’
Ella masked a smile at Sophie’s exasperated eye roll. The teenager reminded her of herself when she was young. Sophie took the health of her animals very seriously and had already asked Ella about what high school subjects she needed to study in order to become a vet.
Joe speared his sister with an impatient glance before sauntering off to help her fill the bucket from the trough. When he’d placed the bucket in reach of Polly, he strode back to Ella as she finished drawing a sample of blood.
She swiped at a fly. The action caused her honey-blonde ponytail to slide over her shoulder. The young farmer’s grin broadened as he hooked his thumbs into his belt. She made a mental note to talk to Taylor at the hair salon about donating her hair to be made into another wig for cancer sufferers. Blondes, even natural ones, didn’t always have more fun.
Sophie settled a second bucket filled with hay in front of Polly. The teenager stroked the Hereford’s curly white forehead. ‘We can set up a tarp to give her some shade.’
Ella nodded. ‘Great idea. Joe, I’m sure you could weld up a quick frame?’
‘Wonderful.’ She walked towards the veterinary hospital ute before he could add anything else, like ask her what she was doing tonight. It was Friday and even before sunset the Royal Arms would be full of laughter and locals.
A fatigue that stemmed from more than the heat dragged at her feet. She no longer had the energy to deal with masculine attention. She might have been genetically blessed but having a pretty face hadn’t been an asset when her brother died, her parents divorced or her father started a new family. She was so much more than how she looked.
She stopped herself from favouring her right leg. Ticking the so-called attractive box also hadn’t stopped her world from caving in on that icy English lane.
She disposed of the used glove in the small bin on the back of the ute and the needles in the yellow sharps container. When footsteps approached, she took a second before facing Sophie and Joe.
‘I’ll give you a call,’ she said, careful to not hold Joe’s gaze for too long, ‘as soon as I hear anything.’
Joe went to speak but then grunted as his sister’s elbow jammed into his side.
‘Thank you,’ Sophie said, smile sweet. ‘Don’t worry about closing the gate. Joe can finally make himself useful.’
Ella gave the siblings a wave before driving away. In her rear-view mirror she saw Sophie turn to her older brother and waggle a finger at him. This time Ella didn’t have to hide her smile. It was common knowledge that she wasn’t interested in any kind of relationship. Even Edna Galloway, the notorious local matchmaker, left her alone. Sophie would make sure Joe received the same message loud and clear.
Ella took the first turn right to head to town. The silver-tipped leaves of the gum trees beside the road didn’t sway. The blades of the windmills, for which Woodlea was renowned, didn’t spin. The only movement in the thirsty landscape was the shimmer of heatwaves across the black bitumen.
She adjusted the air conditioner temperature and angled the vents so cold air rushed over her hot skin. Her tight headache didn’t ease, so she took a sip from the water bottle beside her. Joe’s interest shouldn’t have bothered her. Usually she had no trouble ignoring unwanted attention.
She slowed as she entered the town limits. The emotional toll of helping out after the bushfires last month must still be having an impact. Despite all the animals she’d saved when she’d spent a fortnight out west, far too many had been lost. She had to be tired and that’s why she was on edge. There couldn’t be any other explanation.
At the mixed practice veterinary hospital she drove along the side lane to park near the stables. A bay thoroughbred whickered as she left the driver’s seat. The sociable gelding had been chased by wild dogs into a barbed wire fence. After rubbing his glossy neck, she checked that the bandage on his front leg remained in place.
The drone of the cicadas followed her as she headed into the cool of the vet surgery. The clinic was closed, and with no overnight guests in the kennel room, the normally bustling building was quiet. She busied herself with restocking the vet vehicle and completing the day’s paperwork. Smothering a yawn, she double-checked the details she’d typed onto Polly’s computer file.
A country melody blared from her mobile. She slipped it free from her shirt pocket and saw Fliss’s smiling face on the screen. Ella hesitated. The local doctor was a close friend, but through no fault of Fliss’s things had become complicated since Ella had returned from helping out after the bushfires.
She answered the call before she could change her mind. ‘Hi, Fliss.’
‘Hi, stranger. Hope you weren’t outside in this heat for too long today.’
‘Only this afternoon.’
‘How’s life out of town? All settled in?’
Three weeks ago she’d moved to a small farm that had belonged to an elderly friend who’d needed the support of an aged care facility in Woodlea. Though Ella had purchased the property, she viewed herself more as a custodian of what had been Violet’s childhood and family home. The sandstone cottage was still filled with many of Violet’s possessions that Ella was slowly helping her sort through. Ella was now also the owner of two affectionate and inquisitive brown-and-white goats.
‘Just about. I left Hewitt a message, but can you please pass on my thanks for the hay?’
‘Of course. Speaking of Hewitt, he’s pulled a muscle in his back so instead of going into the pub for dinner we’re having a barbeque if you’d like to come?’
‘Thanks, but I can’t.’ In the past she’d have been the first person there and the last to leave. ‘I promised Violet I’d see her after work. We’ve got boxes to sort through.’
‘No worries. I’ll see you at Cressy’s on Sunday then?’
Ella didn’t miss the doubt in Fliss’s words. It was only a matter of time before the perceptive and no-nonsense doctor asked her what was going on. Ella briefly closed her eyes. She couldn’t hide forever even if Sunday wasn’t Cressy’s baby shower. ‘I’ll be there.’
‘Wonderful. Give my love to Violet. See you soon.’
Ella ended the call and stared at the now blank screen. She wasn’t sure how she would explain to Fliss that being around pregnant Cressy was proving difficult. Ella had never hidden that she was happy on her own but seeing the growing swell of Cressy’s stomach had awakened yearnings she hadn’t expected.
She stared unseeingly at Polly’s file. Yearnings that only reminded her of what she could have had, someone who loved her, a home and a family, if she hadn’t made such foolish choices. She shut down the computer, ignoring the little voice that said there could be another reason why she’d avoided Fliss and Hewitt’s barbeque.
Now in her personal four-wheel drive, she drove through town. Outside the white wrought-iron trimmed Royal Arms, a row of dusty cars had already congregated. With the season continuing to be tough, it was reassuring to see people finding a social outlet for their uncertainty and stress. Next Thursday she would be talking to local farmers about livestock nutrition in dry times. The free event would provide a further chance for people to connect and to chat.
At the final street before the road headed out of town, she turned and pulled up outside the manicured gardens of Woodlea Lodge. A sign on the fence indicated that bore water was in use and was why the small swathe of lawn appeared such a fresh green. Arms laden with a large box, she followed the paved path to unit four. She didn’t get a chance to knock before the door swung open.
Violet stood in the doorway, leaning heavily on the floral walking stick Ella had gifted her. Though she was tiny and thin, the lift to the older woman’s chin countered any impression of fragility. ‘In you come, that box looks heavy.’
Ella followed Violet into the tidy two-bedroom self-care unit. ‘It’s fine. It’s the last of the items from your sewing cupboard.’
‘It shouldn’t take long to go through then.’ Violet tapped the table with her walking stick. ‘I’m sure you have better things to do on a Friday night than visit me.’
Ella sat the box on the living room table. ‘With the day I’ve had, the only place I’m going to after this is home.’
Violet patted her arm. ‘I’d better put the kettle on.’
Ella knew not to offer to help. Independent Violet had made it clear the first time she’d visited her sandstone cottage for a cuppa that she didn’t appreciate assistance.
Instead, Ella unpacked the jars of pins, buttons and packets of lace and quilting squares. Each visit she brought a new box of Violet’s belongings. Some items would go back with Ella for safekeeping, others would go in a pile to be donated to the charity shop and another pile would be for Violet’s fellow residents. Mrs Amos in unit eight loved vases while Mrs Lewis in unit three collected old teaspoons. Any spare books would go to the little street library outside the adventure playground or the community bookshelf at the Reedy Creek Hall.
As she took out the final item, a pink cotton shirt with a tear, she glanced into the kitchen where Violet was spooning tea into a teapot. She could only hope the shirt had belonged to Annette and not Libby.
The answer came in a rattle of china as Violet walked into the living room and stared at the shirt before lowering the empty teacup and saucer onto the table. Ella quickly moved out the closest chair for Violet to sink into.
Violet might want to talk about her sixteen-year-old daughter who had vanished from her bed one summer night or she might not. When Violet didn’t speak, Ella gently squeezed her shoulder before going into the kitchen to collect the teapot, milk jug and second cup.
When she joined Violet at the table, the older woman moved the shirt to her left. ‘Staying pile.’ There was only a slight quiver in her voice.
Ella held up the jar of buttons.
‘Mrs Poole’s pile,’ Violet said, voice stronger.
When they’d sorted through the items and finished the tea, Ella took out her phone. She scrolled through the pictures before showing Violet an image of two goats who had jumped onto an outdoor table so they could peer into the kitchen.
The goats, a mother and daughter called Cinnamon and Nutmeg, were how Ella had first met Violet. Cinnamon had been prone to mastitis when Nutmeg had been born.
The life returned to Violet’s faded eyes. ‘There’s my girls.’ She tenderly touched the screen. ‘Thank you for looking after them so well. They look so happy.’
‘I can drive you out to see them?’
‘Thanks, maybe Sunday. I have bridge tomorrow.’
Ella nodded. Violet wasn’t yet ready to return to her beloved family home. While she’d made new friends and had all of her needs catered for in the retirement village, the transition hadn’t been easy.
‘I’d best get going. It’ll be dark soon and the two mischief-makers will be hungry.’ She kissed Violet’s papery cheek.
Violet clutched Ella’s hand in wordless thanks. They both knew she wasn’t going home just to feed Cinnamon and Nutmeg; she would also be turning on the veranda light. Just like it had for the past two decades, the single light beside the front door would shine into the night to show Libby the way home.
On the drive back to Ambleside, the emotions that all day had hovered close to the surface ached in Ella’s chest. She knew all about having a person you loved go missing.
When her older brother hadn’t returned from a coastal camping trip, it had taken an agonising day to piece together what had happened and another four hours for his body to be located at the bottom of a sandstone cliff. The friends he’d been partying with had assumed he’d disappeared to spend the night with a girl. The reality was that, drunk and disorientated, he’d wandered too close to the cliff and the edge had given way.
Even though her parents’ marriage hadn’t survived, her family at least had closure. Lloyd, Violet’s husband, had passed away never knowing what had happened to his daughter. Now Violet was nearing the end of her life with no answers. If she could, she’d do everything possible to bring Violet some peace.
Ella sighed as she stopped at the front gate. She waited until the cloud of dust kicked up by the four-wheel drive’s tyres settled before opening her door to collect the mail sticking out of her green mailbox. No wonder she was treating so many cows and calves for pinkeye. The dust wasn’t just irritating human eyes.
With a pile of mail and a small parcel sitting on the passenger seat, she drove along the winding driveway to park in the carport that overlooked the paddocks. Shadows dappled the summer-gold hills and the sky would soon burst into vivid crimson and apricot life. A distant boundary fence gleamed in the setting sun. Higher than the surrounding fences, it had been purpose built to contain the bulky, unfamiliar brown shapes that grazed on the far side.
American bison in the Australian bush were an unusual sight and if things had been different she would have loved to have a tour of the next-door facilities. The town talk about customised yards had her intrigued, as too the stories from a colleague she’d stayed with on an overseas trip to Montana. But thanks to its owner, the new bison farm wouldn’t ever be a place she’d be visiting unless for work.
She went to turn off the four-wheel drive’s engine but stilled. A figure on a black-and-white pinto rode over the hill closest to the boundary fence. Even with the distance between them there was no doubt who the rider was. The width of the man’s shoulders and the sure way he carried himself were things she’d been trying to forget.
Look away. Except she could no more look away than she could make it rain.
She’d underestimated the impression Saul Armstrong had made when they’d partnered each other in Cressy and Denham’s bridal party last autumn. The first sight of him since he’d returned to Woodlea six weeks ago dried her mouth and unlocked memories she’d battled to repress. The rugged, masculine beauty of his face. The flash of his rare smile. The warmth of his touch at her waist as they’d danced their obligatory waltz. But most of all the empathy in his denim-blue gaze when she thought no one had witnessed her sadness.
A stark realisation followed the flood of recollections. It wasn’t emotional exhaustion after the bushfires that was making her feel on edge. It wasn’t Cressy being pregnant that had unleashed long-buried yearnings. The real reason she’d avoided hanging out with her friends was because their close-knit group had a new member. Saul.
She gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles whitened. She’d never wanted to be aware of a man again. She needed everything to go to plan and to run on time. Never again could her life spiral out of control. Never again could she allow her heart, or her emotions, to render herself vulnerable. For the past five years she’d remained numb and built an impenetrable armour. Then in one night Saul had decimated every defence she held.
He’d done the unthinkable. He’d awoken something deep inside and reminded her that not only could she still feel, but she was also a woman.
Saul Armstrong was expecting a Sunday visitor. He just hadn’t anticipated he’d have two and that they’d be of the cloven-hoofed kind.
The tip-tap of hard hooves on the concrete shed floor warned him before something solid butted the back of his right leg. He straightened from where he was examining the tractor battery and turned to see a pair of brown-and-white goats looking very pleased with themselves.
Just as well his Australian shepherd, Duke, had raced to the front gate when wheels had rattled over the cattle grid. Otherwise his two unexpected guests wouldn’t have been allowed this close to the farmhouse. But these were no feral goats that had wandered out of the bush. They wore red leather collars and he knew exactly where they’d come from. His jaw tightened. Next door.
He scanned the yard to make sure their new owner wasn’t far behind—a blonde and long-legged owner he’d been bracing himself to see. He was sure Ella wouldn’t remember him from Cressy and Denham’s wedding, but he remembered her. She was a hard woman to forget, no matter how much he tried.
When he was sure it was only the goats paying him a visit he looked back at the pair. With their bright amber eyes and floppy, oversized ears they appeared angelic, until the smaller one lifted its head and gave an ear-splitting bleat that echoed throughout the workshop.
He chuckled and scratched between the goat’s tiny horns. ‘Just as well you don’t live outside my bedroom window. I’ve already got guinea fowls who think dawn starts at three in the morning.’
The younger goat bleated again. The strangled sound gave way to the crunch of gravel beneath heavy tyres and Duke’s excited barking. The Australian shepherd made it his mission to race every vehicle that entered Windermere. Except this time he abandoned the challenge to cut across the lawn towards the shed. As soon as he saw the goats, he slowed and lowered himself to the ground.
Saul whistled him to his side. While the earlier head-butt on his leg had been friendly, the way the larger goat was lining up Duke made it clear the Australian shepherd would come off second best.
Duke came over to lean against his legs and he rubbed behind his grey-and-white ears. ‘Easy there. Remember that bighorn sheep you thought you’d stalk …’
A car door closed then Denham entered the shed. He grinned as he glanced between the goats and Duke, who continued to eyeball each other. ‘I thought it was too good to be true I’d won today.’
Saul returned his grin. ‘As usual Duke had you at the first bend.’
The smaller goat made a beeline for Denham and nudged his hand. Denham stroked her white nose. ‘Wonder what Cressy would say if I brought home a goat? You’re actually pretty cute.’
Saul kept his smile in place. He’d been exactly the same when Trish had been pregnant. He and Denham might have ridden bulls on the American pro-rodeo circuit but the prospect of fatherhood had revealed their softer sides. He’d bought Trish a white, fluffy puppy called FiFi that she’d returned to him in their divorce. FiFi had stayed behind in America and now lived with the daughter of a neighbouring rancher who’d been in need of a forever friend.
He made sure his reply sounded light. ‘It wouldn’t be Cressy I’d be concerned about, but Reggie.’
Reggie was a slab-shouldered mountain of a rodeo bull Cressy had raised from a calf. Around Cressy and her older sister, Fliss, Reggie was a carrot-obsessed gentle giant. But to everyone else he was grumpy, disapproving and intimidating.
‘True. But I swear he’s excited as much as we are about this baby. You should see the way he looks at Cressy’s belly.’
Duke pressed closer against Saul’s legs. The Australian shepherd sensed how hard he was working to hide his emotions. Any pregnancy talk only reopened the wounds of all that he’d lost.
To his relief Denham changed the subject. ‘I have time if you want to check the fences to see how these two got in.’
Denham had dropped by to help start the tractor battery that had refused to kick into life even with a jump-start. Despite Saul saying he had everything sorted, Denham had insisted on calling around.
Amusement pushed back the darkness of the past. Denham’s expression and voice had been just a little too eager. ‘What was it that Cressy was having this afternoon?’
‘A baby shower.’
‘Which translates into a house full of women?’
‘Not only that, but Edna will be there. She’s taken on the role of being baby Rigby’s unofficial grandmother and wants to have a talk about whether she needs to help out until we find our feet.’
He knew he shouldn’t laugh at his best mate’s expense but the sheer horror on Denham’s face made him chuckle. He’d only met chatty and forceful Edna twice but that was enough to know having her around at such a time wasn’t the best idea.
He slapped Denham’s back. ‘Let’s take a long look at the fences. Then I’m sure we’ll need a swim and a cold beer.’
They headed towards the side-by-side gator parked at the shed entrance and the goats followed. Duke trotted at Saul’s boot heels, not taking his attention off their two visitors. When the goats went outside to the overgrown lawn beside the water tank, Duke hesitated before jumping onto the back of the gator.
Denham slid into the passenger seat. ‘No need to work out where your tank’s leaking.’
In the sea of parched brown the vivid green stood out like the bright red plume of a fox’s tail in the snow. Saul took the driver’s seat. ‘I know. Otherwise I’d have been digging for hours.’
Knee-deep in grass, the goats would be content mowing his
lawn while they found out how they’d breached the boundary
He started the gator engine and followed the track that led past the substantial brick home and large shed that had once housed an indoor dressage arena. The property had been an equestrian centre and he’d made full use of the infrastructure to build his state-of-the-art bison facilities.
‘It’s hard to believe,’ Denham said, looking around, ‘you’ve only been here six weeks.’
Saul ignored the twinge on his right side from an old rodeo injury. His body hadn’t appreciated working from dawn to dusk every day of those six weeks. ‘I’ve had some help with the fences.’
‘They’re pretty impressive.’
Saul slowed the gator as they neared an open gateway. In the powdery dust there were tiny hoof prints. The goats had reached his house via this laneway.
‘Yes, the fencing guys did a great job. Though I’m sure they thought I had heatstroke when I showed them the plans.’
‘I can see why. There’s enough wire here to run a fence to Sydney.’
Saul had made sure that the boundary fence was high as well as electrified by several wires. Then, with space for bison to fan out as they didn’t like to travel in single file, he’d run a parallel fence to form a laneway. This too was taller than a regular fence and marked the edge of the various paddocks. He’d wanted a second boundary fence for the exact reason why he now had goats munching in his garden. One fence could be compromised. Two couldn’t.
As they drove along the laneway, Ella’s sandstone home, with its tin roof and neat country garden, came into full view. When he went for a ride in the cool evenings the breeze would carry the scent of water from the automatic lawn sprinklers.
Denham cast him a quick sideways look. ‘Seen much of Ella?’
Saul kept his grip on the steering wheel relaxed. ‘Not since your wedding.’
‘I thought as much.’ Denham frowned at the farmhouse. ‘Cressy and Fliss are worried about her. It’s always been Ella dragging them off to every possible social event, now they rarely see her.’
Saul only nodded. Denham knew him too well. He couldn’t risk his old friend sensing he’d been thankful that the local vet had kept to herself since she’d moved in three weeks ago.
He resisted the urge to flex his shoulders. He was still coming to terms with the irony that the one person he was wary of seeing was his new neighbour. At Denham’s wedding it wasn’t Ella’s blonde beauty that unnerved him as much as what she fought so hard to hide. He recognised untold anguish and suffering. He saw it in his reflection every morning. He also knew the strength and tenacity it took to present a facade of normalcy. Ella Quinlivan was special. She was also someone he needed to stay away from.
He’d come home to Australia and to Woodlea for a fresh start. He couldn’t now have Ella hold up a mirror to the hurt he was determined to leave behind. Denham didn’t even know the real story behind why his marriage had failed. Instinct told him that instead of helping each other, he and Ella would expose and compound each other’s pain. Neither one would want the other knowing the reality of what lay beneath their hard-won control.
Denham pointed ahead. ‘There’s your problem.’
A section of the large gum tree on Ella’s side of the fence had broken away and fallen on the wire. Today, the breeze that sucked all the moisture from their skin was hot and sedate, but yesterday it had been fierce and unrelenting, whipping up the dust and testing tree branches. While the solid and heavy limb hadn’t crushed the fence completely, it had provided the perfect bridge for nimble-footed goats.
Denham’s grin was gleeful. ‘This will take a while.’ He took his phone from the pocket of his navy work shirt. ‘I’ll text Cressy and also Ella to let her know we’ll have to go through her place.’
Denham’s prediction proved true. After returning to the work shed to jump-start the tractor off Saul’s F-truck, driving the registered tractor along the road to Ella’s front gate and dragging the branch away from the fence, the day’s heat had peaked. By the time the fence again stood strong and tall, the afternoon shadows were casting long footprints across the undulating hills.
‘Please tell me you have beer in that shed fridge of yours.’ Denham passed his sleeve over his forehead, having just loaded the final piece of the firewood he’d cut into the gator.
Saul shook his head. Denham groaned. Saul whistled to Duke. ‘Only in the house fridge under the air-con.’
‘Now you’re talking.’
But it wasn’t until they’d opened the small gate at the bottom of the garden and led the goats to where they belonged that they were finally done. While they walked back across the narrow paddock that divided the two farms, Saul listened out for the sound of a vehicle. Ella would be home soon.
When he closed the garden gate behind them, he released a silent breath. It was inevitable that his and Ella’s paths would cross but it would now be later rather than sooner. He’d continue to have time to prepare himself.
Cold air embraced him as he stepped through the back kitchen door. As much as his new farm looked inhabited with machinery in the shed, Cisco in the stables and bison in the paddocks, the house was still a work in progress. Tea chests sat stacked in the hallway and rooms lay empty. He sidestepped a pile of boxes on the way to the fridge. He was in no rush to unpack anything but the bare essentials. He hadn’t come here to make a home. He’d come to make his dreams of breeding bison a reality.
He cracked open two beers to the sound of a large splash. Denham was already in the pool. He took a swig of icy beer before shrugging off his shirt so he could also take a swim. As for the dreams he’d once held that involved having a woman to grow old with and a family to love, they were now nothing more than the red dust that coated his boots.