As Kira rounded the final corner in her car, she took in the amazing view of all the green, rolling hills and the homestead with a scowl. It still looked exactly the same as when she'd left it all those years ago, except maybe a bit greener now that the drought was over. The house was still that ugly shade of white and the various sheds and cattle yards were still up. The only difference would be the new veranda around the Shearer's Quarters. It actually looked quite nice, all that veneered wood, but Kira didn't let that lift her ugly expression. She most certainly did not want to be back here, in the middle of nowhere. There wasn't even any phone reception!
She glanced miserably at the empty reception bar on her mobile – the country really was a good few decades behind the city.
By this time, she'd driven down from the top of the hill, beeping at horses and cows to get them off the road. At the closed gate, she hopped out of the car, grimacing at how dirty her feet were already from just hopping out and opening the other gates. So maybe it was a bad idea to wear sandals, but they were comfy and they looked good. The thin straps that wrapped around her ankles made them look so petite and just plain nice.
She sighed, thinking of all the things she'd be giving up now that she was home, like contact with the outside world. And cleanliness. And fashion. And… she could go on for hours – she had, after all, spent the entire boring trip up and past week fuming – but right now, she could see her mother waving at her from the house.
Kira tried to smile but it came out as more of a grimace. Getting back in the car, she drove it into the house yard, stopping in front of the house. She sat in the car and sighed, then jerked upright when she heard yelling.
"Who left that damn gate open?!"
Wide eyed, she stared as a chestnut horse bolted out the gate that she'd left open and galloped off, heading towards the hill she'd just driven down. Her eyes went back to the gate and she winced as the guy standing there threw off his hat in frustration.
She slowly got out of the car and called down to him, "Oh, er, that was my fault, sorry."
He stormed up to her and, once again, Kira's eyes widened. She did not expect to find such a fine specimen of a man up here, in the middle of nowhere. She usually liked her guys to have at least a few inches of hair, but he was really working the super short look. And those lips – he was just complete and utter perfection.
And now he was staring at her expectantly, as if he'd just asked a question.
"Uh… what'd you just say?"
Those gorgeous lips thinned in frustration while his eyes flashed in anger.
"I said, I sure as hell ain't walking up that hill. It's your fault, so you're gonna give me a lift up."
Kira dragged her mind away from how sexy he was for long enough to answer him. Not that it was really a question, but Kira did like an assertive man.
She smiled at him. "Sure, hop on in."
She didn't miss the way he looked at her Mercedes-Benz, like it was some festering, dead animal. She imagined that he liked Utes or tractors or other manly cars…
Maybe being out here wouldn't be so bad after all. Kira couldn't help but slide him sidelong glances as she drove – she couldn't help it though, he looked damn fine when he was angry.
"Alright, he's up there," he said, pointing to the very top of the hill. Kira stopped the car but he was still looking at her expectantly.
"Wait, you don't expect me to drive off the road, do you? These dirt roads are bad enough!"
The guy muttered something that could've been, "bloody typical," before he slammed out of the car, rope halter swinging around as he stalked up the hill. Kira couldn't help but stare after him lustfully, especially when she noticed how well those jeans fit him.
And then she realised she hadn't even gotten his name. Damn.
"Kira!" her mum called when she finally made it back to the house. Turning her car around on that tiny dirt road was stupidly difficult. And she'd made sure to close the gate this time. "Darling, I haven't seen you in so long! How was your trip down?"
She came down the stairs and wrapped her up in a hug. Kira awkwardly returned it, patting her mum on the back, waiting until she was released.
Now that her man candy was gone, Kira was back to being in a bad mood.
"It was okay, I guess, once I was out of the peak hour traffic in the city. It was boring coming down though."
"And you didn't get lost?" she asked as she grabbed some of Kira's bags. They were pretty heavy, stuffed with clothes and other essentials to the max, but Kira's mum had worked on the farm for pretty much her whole life. She was still amazingly fit, especially for her age. Probably even fitter than Kira, who only ventured to the gym after she'd pigged out on greasy food.
Not that she'd ever admit aloud that her mother was in better shape than her.
"No, I have Google Maps. At least, I had it until I lost reception out here, but it's pretty much just one straight, dirt road from the town to here."
And did she mention that the closest town was a good forty-five minutes away?
Middle. Of. Nowhere.
"Right, well, I've set you up in your old room, unless you want to be down in the Shearer's Quarters with Katrina and Tristan?"
From what Kira could remember, those Shearer's Quarters were infested with bugs and didn't even have a computer.
"I think I'd rather stay up here," she said definitively.
The inside of the house, unsurprisingly, looked pretty much the same as when she'd left. There were a few more small editions, like photographs of horses and other animals on the walls, but the layout of everything was still the same. Even Kira's favourite armchair, that she used to always curl up on with her father, was still there. She quickly looked away, thrusting the memories to the back of her mind.
One notable new thing was the orange Boarder-Collie puppy that raced up to her, bumping against her legs.
"Oh, that's Maggie – I sent you photos of her when she was a baby, remember?"
Kira faintly remembered seeing photos of a tiny, almost hairless puppy, but she hadn't paid much notice to it other than to coo over it for a few minutes. Maggie rolled onto her back as Kira's mum bent down to pat her.
Her room was pretty much as she'd left it – bare. She'd had horse pictures, school achievements and competition ribbons on the walls when she'd lived here, but she'd taken them all down. Maybe she'd been a bit too quick to act, but she'd never thought she'd be coming back. Everything was packed neatly into the big cardboard boxes that were stacked up in the corner.
"Right, so, I'll leave you to unpack and then you can come and have some lunch and meet my two helpers."
When Kira was packing to come back here, she'd had no idea what to bring. Her wardrobe was filled with dresses and skirts and heels, nothing suitable to wear on a farm. She'd long ago thrown out all her old pairs of working jeans, so the only ones she had left were a pair of skinny jeans. So she'd packed whatever plain shirts and shorts she could find in her wardrobe, even robbing some of her friends' ones too. But, her friends being her friends, she hadn't come up with much.
When she'd eventually, reluctantly, finished unpacking, she went into the kitchen to see her mother talking a girl a few years older than Kira, about twenty-four or five.
"Hi!" she said when she noticed Kira. "I'm Katrina, I've been working for your mum for a few years. It's nice to meet you!"
When she held out her hand, it took a few awkward moments to realise that she was supposed to shake it. If she were meeting someone back in the city, she would've kissed them on the cheek, not shake their hand like they were men. But things were done differently here, so she hesitantly reached out and shook Katrina's hand as the other woman's smile turned awkward. She could sense that Katrina was looking her up and down, judging her. Okay, so maybe her shorts and shirt that showed half her midriff stood out next to the other woman's dirty jodhpurs and flannelette shirt, but she'd driven straight from having a goodbye breakfast with her friends down in Bondi. There was no way she was going to wear plain, farm clothes to that.
"It's, uh, nice to meet you too," Kira said back half-heartedly, attention already gone. "So what's for lunch?"
"Sandwiches, with whatever's in the fridge. There should be some chicken and lettuce there."
Kira headed towards there. "Any avocado?"
She thought she heard Katrina snort, but decided that she must've been imagining things.
"Ah, no, sorry, sweetheart. No one really eats them here. Maybe you can get some when you next go to town?"
No avocadoes? Was she kidding? Well, what the hell was Kira supposed to have for breakfast?!
"Right," Kira said shortly, her mood plummeting. She made herself the most boring sandwich in existence before sliding into a chair, well away from Katrina. There was a definite smell of horse coming from her and Kira didn't want any of that rubbing off on her. "So, is this about the time that you put me to work?" She tried to inject some enthusiasm into her voice, but it came out flat.
This wasn't how Kira had planned to spend her summer, especially since summers out here were scorching and the beach was hours away. She'd only just graduated from Sydney University with an Arts degree, so she had been planning on lolling around the beach or in cafes all summer, before she had to make the decision about what she was going to do next year. An Arts degree in philosophy and English was pretty much useless when trying to find a job, and she'd only done the course because she hadn't known what else to do. But now that was over and her awesome fun, relaxing holiday had turned into slaving away on the farm.
Normally Kira's mum Anna would've been fine running the horse stud with the help she had, but apparently when Tristan and his father, the farm manager, were using the chainsaw to cut down some trees, one of them had fallen on Tristan. Kira didn't really know the details, since she was more than a bit angry when Anna was telling her she had to come back and help out, but now that she'd seen Tristan, she wished that she'd listened. She hadn't really noticed any scars or wounds on him, but now she had an excuse to examine him further. That is, if that beautiful hunk of man she'd met earlier and this Tristan were the same person. Kira couldn't really remember Anna mentioning if Tristan had some kind of anger problem.
"You can start helping Tristan out this afternoon. His father's bringing in a trailer-load of hay that needs to be unloaded into the shed up the top."
Kira's nose wrinkled.
"Hay? Really? That stuff makes me itchy and gets in my hair."
Kira's mum was impassive. "Well, I guess you'll just have to wear a long sleeved shirt and your hair up."
"But I don't have a long sleeved shirt." And in this weather? She was going to boil alive!
"Well then it's lucky that I have a few old ones, isn't it? I'll find one for you after lunch. Now, Katrina, do you know where Tristan is?"
"Oh, he was just bringing Napoleon back in because he somehow got out of the house yard." Kira pretended not to notice her accusing stare as she munched on her sandwich. "He was looking a bit jumpy when I saw him so Tristan's working him to make him remember his manners again."
Anna probably knew that it was Kira who left the gate open – she'd probably even seen it – but she didn't comment on it. Kira finished off her sandwich in peace until the door opened and Tristan came in, toeing off his dirty boots.
"Have you heard anything from my dad about when he'll be here, Anna?"
Her mum handed him two sandwiches that she'd made for him – but not for Kira, sexism anyone? – as she said, "He called from town a while ago, so he should be here in about ten minutes. Kira, this is Tristan, who I think you met earlier?"
The smile Kira gave him was ten times brighter than the one she'd given to Katrina earlier. Tristan just nodded his head at her, his mouth filled with sandwich. This grossed her out a bit, but not for long.
"Alright, Kira come with me and I'll find you something a little more… suitable to wear." Kira rolled her eyes but followed her mother anyway; ignoring the little snicker she'd heard from Katrina. She was beginning to not like Katrina, the judgemental country-bumpkin.
Kira ignored how hypocritical she was being. She was good at ignoring things.
When her mum held up the ugliest pair of jeans she'd ever seen, Kira immediately said, "No way."
"Kira, what else are you going to wear?" Anna asked in exasperation. "Because you certainly can't wear those shorts."
"I've got a pair of exercise shorts in my room. Under no circumstances am I wearing those, but I'll wear that flannel shirt."
Anna rolled her eyes as she threw the shirt at her. "You've spent too much time in the city, I knew it was a bad idea sending you to that boarding school when you were so young."
"Mum, I was in year eight; that's hardly young. And I prefer the city to being out here, wherever the hell here is."
"You've turned into such a drama queen, Kir. Now, I think I hear Jake's truck. You better put that on and I'll get out some gloves and gumboots for you, because you are not wearing those dainty little things outside where you could be bitten by a snake. And try not to antagonise Tristan too much, he's a good boy," she added.
Kira gasped in fake outrage. "Mum, I would never!"
She could hardly help myself from antagonising him, especially when he looked so delicious earlier when he was angry. He was definitely all man.
A/N: so this is my NaNoWriMo story! I was going to wait until after November to post this but then I got impatient. I'd love to hear back from you guys what you think, as I'm not overly confident about it!
In this story, I've been trying to make it more character-centric (especially focusing on Kira), since all my other stories seem to get way out of proportion with the huge amount of side-plots.