Something about Tamsan’s tone made Anna bridle. Maybe it was just the assumption that she would submit, roll over and play dutiful bottom. Sex was sex. You didn’t have to complicate it with roles and control.
“Maybe you’d be better off finding someone a little more…” Anna searched for a word… “submissive.”
“I don’t need my women submissive, just willing.”
“Your women? You have a harem of them? Maybe binders full of them?”
Tamsan snorted. “Not my style. I’m a one woman sort of lady.” She lowered her head and kissed Anna very thoroughly. “And you’re my sort of girl.”
Anna forgot her misgivings under Tamsan’s lips. Whilst being kissed, it was difficult to think of anything besides Tamsan. It was impossible to feel anything other than Tamsan’s warmth, the physical and the emotional. Being with her was like being wrapped in a blanket that protected her from anything negative. The troubles with the ranch seemed like a distant dream as Tamsan kissed along her neck and began gently nibbling at the place where neck met shoulder.
“Oh my…” Anna sighed. “That feels so good.”
“Being mine will feel good,” Tamsan said, speaking with that possessive tone that simultaneously excited and frightened Anna.
“But we don’t know each other that well,” she said. “You don’t know me… you might… you might find you don’t like me after we spend more time together.”
“Oh really?” Tamsan cocked her head to the side. “What’s your worst trait?”
Anna laughed. “Is this an interview? Uh… My worst trait is that sometimes I work too hard.”
“I don’t think so,” Tamsan said, tapping her lightly on the nose. “I think your worst trait might be your fear of conflict.”
“I’m not afraid of conflict.”
“I think you are. Why else would you be leaving the ranch to go to pot?”
“Ugh,” Anna rolled her eyes. “Again with the ranch.”
“It’s not going to go away.”
“Nor are your reminders of it, obviously.” Anna scowled up at Tamsan. “You’re wrong about one thing, by the way. I’m not afraid of conflict.”
“Good,” Tamsan shifted to allow her to get up. “Then put your boots on and let’s go.”
Horny and frustrated, Anna lead Tamsan to the ranch house where had grown up. Looking at it with fresh eyes, Anna could admit that it had seen better days. The relentless sun had cracked the paint and caused it to flake away in many places. It had once been pristine white, the porch laden with all manner of potted greenery. There were now just two pots still hanging from the porch roof, but neither of them contained any living matter aside from spiders, or maybe wasps. Anna hadn’t bothered to investigate. It was a large house, it had been large even when she was small and they were a family. Now it seemed cavernous, filled with the memories and décor of the past.
“Coffee?” Anna asked the question hopefully. Maybe they could adjourn indoors and do something… pleasant.
“We’ll have coffee when we’ve dealt with one or two things,” Tamsan said firmly, refusing to go up on the porch after her. “We need to talk to Rex, he’s your foreman, correct?”
“What are we telling him?
“You tell him you’re taking on an adviser.”
“What if he says no?”
Tamsan cocked her head to the side. “You own Sun Ranch. It’s not up to Rex who you employ. If he doesn’t like it, fire him.”
“Fire him? I can’t fire him. He’s been running the ranch since… since I was a kid.”
“Yeah, and now he’s taking advantage of that. He’s letting the hands talk about you without respect. He’s taking short cuts on the cattle care – and maybe worse.”
“Maybe worse? What do you mean?”
“I don’t know anything else and I’m not going to say I do until I’m sure, but there’s rumors.”
“Rumors of what?”
“Rumors that Sun Ranch might not be around much longer. Rumors that there might not be a Sun Ranch before this is all said and done.”
“What?” Anna scowled in her direction. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Tamsan looked her square in the eyes and gave it to her straight. “I guess people think that one way or another, Sun Ranch might not last much longer. Either they figure you’ll run it into the ground, or someone has a plan to make that happen.”
Anna felt a horrible sinking feeling in her stomach. If what Tamsan said was right, then she wasn’t just up against the usual difficulties of running a ranch, the ones that had sent her father to an early grave as a result of stress and high cholesterol. She could be dealing with more than insubordination, maybe betrayal, maybe even conspiracy.
“Well,” she said. “Fuck.”