Outback Thunder(10)

By: Ann B. Harrison

Zoe opened the door and walked into his stable, the smell of the hay and horse manure reminder her how much she loved this place. She wrapped her arms around the horse’s neck and the smell took her back to her life before London. She missed it so much. If not for the break-up with Jonas she never would have left. Midnight snickered and nuzzled against her, nipping at her shirt. She methodically brushed his dark coat. It was a job that always used to clear her head and help her sort out her problems. Zoe ran the brush from his shoulders down his legs and worked her way around his body. When she finished she found a hoof pick and checked his shoes, digging out the mud.

She filled up Midnight’s hay rack and opened his door so he could go out in the paddock.

Then she walked over to the stores to collect her gear for the next day. The scenery hadn't changed much since she had been here last and she leaned on a fence post to look around her. Not that she'd taken the time to wander over the farm. She had been too distraught over her parents’ death to even care about the property. In her mind if it wasn't for the farm they would still be alive.

Her mother had loved going out and checking the dam pumps with her father. It was their time to be away by themselves. Brandon had called her three days after they had been due back. A search party was sent out and the police had requisitioned a helicopter when they weren't found in the first couple of days.

Their four wheel drive had rolled on a deeply rutted road and her father had been killed outright. It was revealed later that her mother had clung to life for at least another twenty four hours before passing away. It was the helicopter that had found them eventually in an area that Brandon had thought they would be avoiding.

Zoe's eyes filled with tears and she clutched at her stomach, doubling over in grief. Sinking down to the grass she leaned on an old fence post and dropped her head into her hands, finally giving into the long overdue emotions. Holding it in at the funeral had been wrong and now it was coming back to haunt her. She let the tears fall unheeded down her cheeks until she was spent. Taking a piece of long dry grass she chewed on it while her emotions settled, keeping her gaze on the distance enjoying the view. When the moment passed and she was more in control she stood and wiped her hands over her face.

The safety talk Jonas had just given them was fair, she knew that. Even though it had set off the emotions she had been holding in he had done nothing wrong by organizing the men to be ready and safe. It was her bitchy attitude and something she had to get over. Buying a helicopter made sense, especially after her parents’ tragic death and Zoe couldn't fault his business ethics. He was taking care of the staff. It just galled her to think that she was still having erotic dreams with him as the only other participant. How he still had the ability to make her blood heat and her body hum with lust was beyond her. Try as she might, she couldn't imagine anyone else in her dreams or her bed.

And now they were living under the same roof. Life was going to be pretty tough for a while. She listened as the helicopter took off and flew overhead. Then she dusted off her jeans and headed into the farm office.

"Hey, Pete, I've come for my gear." She smiled at the farm manager who she had known since she was a child.

His gnarled hand reached out and brushed her hair away from her face. "I missed you, Zoe girl. Welcome home. My, you sure are looking stunning."

"Thanks. I have to admit I missed this place too. And you of course, but you know that, right?" She leaned into him and wrapped her arms around his waist.

"Yeah, I know. Boss ordered you some new gear. Want to see it?"

"Sure. I better be ready in the morning or risk his wrath. That would be fun." She didn't even try to keep the sarcasm from her voice.

"He means well and you know it, Missy. You're just being plain stubborn because you can." Pete moved out of the circle of her arms and walked through to the storeroom. She followed him and watched him go to a shelf, pulling down a new swag still in its plastic wrapping. He dropped it on the floor at her feet and added a first aid kit.

Zoe stood with her hands on her hips and watched the pile grow. A water bottle, a new saddle blanket were added before she held up her hands.

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