Every inch of my body is buzzing, the adrenaline coursing through my veins as my heart speeds up and the air around me becomes hard to breathe. Looking up at the house, it looks exactly the same as I remember.
There's a porch that runs the entire length of the front, with flower boxes that hang off the railing. The small building where people can buy fresh vegetables and apples is closed, both doors are shut and locked.
The sign is still up on top, with the prices for picking apples yourself, or if you buy them fresh in the bag. The gate is open, and I can see Mr. Jamison's old blue Ford Model T, with the wooden bed parked against the barn.
Inhaling deep through my nose, I exhale slowly through my mouth. Make this quick. In and out, signed and over.
Grabbing the black folder on the front seat, I climb out of the car and sink into the sand instantly. The ground opens up, attempting to swallow my entire body, stilettos first.
You've got to be fucking kidding me.
Grabbing the hood of the car, I pluck myself free, and dump the sand out of my shoes. Balancing on the tips of my toes, I walk to the door.
Clearing my throat, I adjust my skirt and ring the bell, but no one answers. Ringing again, I try to look through the window beside the door, but I can't see anyone inside.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
The noise draws my attention around to the back of the house. Carefully walking to the gate, I hold it as I lean in and look around. I don't see anyone, but I can hear the banging coming from inside the barn.
“Hello?” I call out, staying on the outside of the gate. “Hello? Mr. Jamison?”
Hanging my head, I'm not sure if he hears me and is choosing it ignore me, or if he's just completely consumed by whatever project he's working on. Mr. Jamison was always working on something, that's what I remember about him.
The first time I met him he was building that barn. The walls were up, and he was shingling the roof. I wandered in, like most kids at a young curious age. I think I was nine.
“Hey kid, grab me that box of nails and bring it to the ladder.” He yelled down to me, and from then on, I worked on the farm under the table, making extra money.
The extra money was good. My mom had nothing, we were poor as shit, barely able to make ends meet with her job at the supermarket. It was a struggle for her, and what little I made on this farm helped us.
Stepping to the open doors of the barn, I call out again. “Mr. Jamison?”
Looking in, I see a man in the back, hammering a shoe for one of the horses. His back is to me. His skin is glistening and sweat is dripping down his arms as he hits the shoe one last time before looking back at me over his shoulder.
Inhaling a sharp breath, I take a step back.
Why is he here?
“He sent you, huh?” Setting the hammer down, he pulls a rag from his back pocket and wipes his face. “Not that it matters, because I ain't selling. I told him that, and I'm telling you the same.”
Holy shit. What happened to the boy I remember?
Ryder is not the boy I left behind. His arms are thick and firm, with muscles popping out all over the place. His chest ripples as he moves. The soft jaw I see in my head is now sharp as glass, with cut angles and stubble giving it a shadowy hue.
His bright red hair is tousled to perfection, and his green eyes stop me in my tracks. I'm in awe. He's all grown up. And sexy as fucking hell. I'm not prepared for this at all.
Wow. Where did this man come from? He's nothing like I remember.
With my mouth ajar, I stare at him. My brain is having trouble formulating words, and my heart gallops in my chest.
Get it together!
Clearing my throat, I smile through thin lips. “Good to see you too, Ryder.” Gathering myself, I walk into the barn. “I guess you know why I'm here then.”
He stops a few feet from me, his eyes looking me up and down. “I'm glad you took time to step away from your fancy life and whatever runway you strolled off of.” His eyes stop on my feet, and he points at my shoes. “Be careful, I don't think those are made to get dirty.”
Rolling my eyes, I pull the folder from my chest and open it. “How about we just cut right to chase and stick to why I'm here. You don't need to worry about my shoes.”
“Save it, the farm isn't for sale, and even if it was, it's definitely not getting sold to you. So, you might as well just turn around on those spikes and follow the call of Gucci all the way home, because you're wasting your precious time here.”