“There,” Tamsan said. “Now we take this wire…”
“Do you work around here? Are you from…”
“The Cluskys hired me this past summer,” Tamsan said. “I’m a ranch hand. Now, can you pay attention here?”
“And you know who I am.”
“Everybody knows who you are. A city girl who ain’t got no business on a ranch, and a lesbian besides,” Tamsan said, mimicking the local drawling accent.
“That’s about right,” Anna said, shrugging. “I’m guessing you disapprove too.”
“You need to learn how to take care of your land and your livestock, aside from that, I’m thrilled you’re here. We need a few more of our kind about the place.”
Anna grinned. Her luck was turning. Usually when she got a crush on someone impossibly hot they turned out to be straight.
“Now we take this wire…” Tamsan lifted the wire, then dropped it again. “You’re not paying attention.”
“Sorry. I just wasn’t expecting to meet anyone like me out here.”
“You need to pay attention, missy. Next time there’s a wire broken, I’ll be expecting you to be able to fix it.”
The warning in Tamsan’s tone made Anna bubble with excitement. It manifested in a cheeky grin. “Well I guess I better pay real good attention.”
“You make a loop in this end of the wire,” Tamsan said, wrapping the end of the wire around on itself and twisting the free end around the remaining length. “Then you hook it to the fence stretcher like so…”
Anna’s attention was waning again. She couldn’t help it. Watching Tamsan work was entrancing, and not because fixing a fence was fascinating. It was because every move Tamsan made sent a little thrill chasing through Anna’s stomach to a part of her anatomy that hadn’t been so excited in quite some time.
“And there you go,” Tamsan said. “Fence mended. See?”
“Mhm,” Anna agreed. “Yes, fixed. Awesome, you’re really good at that.”
“Try paying attention on this strand,” Tamsan said. “Or are you suffering from ADD? Forgot your Ritalin?”
“Nope,” Anna said. “I’m paying attention. Yes I am.”
“Tell you what. If you can fix this third strand yourself, we’ll go out for a drink after this.”
Now that was the motivation Anna needed. She watched Tamsan carefully the second time and subsequently tried to mend the third strand herself. The result was less than ideal, largely because the fence stretcher required a little more elbow grease to work than she had at her disposal. Tamsan had to finish the final strand, but she declared Anna had done well enough to deserve a drink.
There was only one place in riding distance. The Broken Bandit, a saloon that served the local ranchers and had done for decades. There were five ranches in the area and the Broken Bandit sat more or less at the apex of all five of them. The old place had seen more than its fair share of fights, but the longstanding owner, Pater Walsky made sure that most of them were taken outside.
“It’s been years since I went here,” Anna said, grinning as they tied up their horses. “I wasn’t even legal last time. A friend and I dressed up and sneaked in. We got all of a sip of beer before one of the ranch hands saw us. He threatened to rat us out if we didn’t leave.”
“Well you’re all grown up now,” Tamsan said, reaching out to pat Anna’s bottom. The casual, affectionate touch caught Anna off guard, but not in a bad way.
They ordered, then took their beer outside to a relatively secluded spot where they could talk without the curious looks and yahooing from the ranch hands. The back porch afforded them some privacy, and as day turned to night the bright stars above made for a gorgeous backdrop to what Anna was already thinking of as their first date.
“So you moved all the way back here when your Dad died,” Tamsan said. “Didn’t have a job you cared about back in California? A girlfriend?”
“I was working temp jobs,” Anna shrugged. “And my love life wasn’t exactly spectacular. It wasn’t a wrench moving back here.”
“Let me guess,” Tamsan drawled. “The big city wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.”
“It was expensive, and it was cold and the people were expensive and cold too, a lot of them,” Anna said, nursing her beer between her palms. “I had some good times, some good friends, but there gets to be a point where everybody is all coupled up and what you’ve got left are the strays wandering around scratching each other.”
Tamsan snorted. “You’re too young to be that jaded.”
“I’m not that young,” Anna said.
“You’re still too young to think like that,” Tamsan nudged her and grinned.
“Yeah, how old do I need to be? As old as you?”
“You get to your mid thirties and you learn things,” Tamsan smiled.