Hanging my head, I fiddle with the hay in front of me. I do get it. I not only get it, but I also feel it. I don't have a childhood home. I don't have a place that brings a smile to face or drums up amazing memories. . .
The time I've spent here recently has woken me up. It's real. I feel more alive than I have in a really long time. This place is special, it's always been special.
What the hell am I doing?
This is wrong. I shouldn't be trying to force him to sell his world. And for what? For something that will never give him what he gets here?
I can't do it. I can't make him give up all of this.
I need to do the right thing and tell my step-father he's going to have to find someplace else. This is only one piece of land. There are plenty of others out there who are willing to sell for the right price.
Troy needs to realize that not everything can be bought no matter how badly he might want it. I have to convince him to move on.
He'll listen to me. He has to. He won’t have a choice.
“You ready?” he asks as he laces up his boots.
“I think so.” My voice is timid and unsure.
It's the farmer's market in town today, and I'm going to help Ryder at his stand. I'm nervous as hell. I know there will be a lot of people there, a lot of people I haven't seen in years.
We pack the truck and drive to town. The farmer's market is and always has been the place to go on Sundays for as long as I can remember. From what he says, that hasn't changed at all over the years.
It's where he does most of his business. The market is where most of the town does its business. Buying and selling, trading products with neighbors, catching up on local gossip. You can find anything and everything at the market.
Ryder parks the truck at his rented site, and we both hop out. Looking around I see that Mary's Bees is still here, with her homemade wax candles and fresh honey. I used to love the honey sticks, especially the cinnamon ones. Fred's Produce, Val's Dairy, Christine's Country Fresh Herbs, they're all still here.
Ryder unfolds the tables and puts up the tent to shade us. It's hot as hell outside and the sun will scorch these apples in a matter of minutes. We spent two days baking fresh pies with his mother's recipe. Even Melody came by to help with baking and sorting the apples.
She wasn't as angry or withdrawn as she was the last time I saw her, and we actually shared a couple of good laughs. It felt amazing, like we were a family. A real family. I've never felt that before. Even with my mom and Troy, we've always lived separate lives aside from the small role I play in his business.
In New York you're always coming and going. Social life is more important than quality time. Our family dinners are based around business talk, with the occasional question from my mom about school or my plans for the weekend. Other than that, it's like strangers sharing a meal.
Being with Ryder and his sister is so much different. They joked and reminisced about their parents. There was some banter and a few rogue apple slices getting whipped through the kitchen as they threw them at each other. It was nice, and I can't lie, it felt more like home than my own bed in Troy's high-rise condo.
“All right,” he says, wiping his forehead with a rag. His muscles bulge, shining from sweat. It's sexy, making me lick my lips and grin. Ryder smiles. “I know what you're thinking, and we'll do that later. Right now, we have apples to sell.”
Giggling, I say, “But what if I can't wait that long?”
“You best get to selling apples then.” Smirking, he nods his head at the giant barrel of apples.
Pouting, I drag my feet across the ground to the barrel. “Fine.”
Chuckling, he snatches an apple from the bin and tosses it in the air. “How about this? If you sell all of these pies and most of the apples, I'll even throw in a full body massage later.”
Ryder throws me an apron, and I slip it over my head. He blows me a kiss and smirks as his eyes run up and down my body. “I'd really like to see you in that apron and nothing else, too.”
“Deal.” Letting my eyes drop to his waist, I lick my lips.
“You're bad,” he says. Shaking his head, he sets the lock box on the table for the money and pulls up a chair. “We're never going to sell these if you keep teasing me.”