I didn’t take as much time as I would have liked to work on The Farmer’s Son this week but I came up with a lot of ideas and Ellie shared a lot more about herself with me so I can flesh her character out in the future. If you want to read previous installments of this story, you can find the links on a new page I’ve set up HERE.
The first book in this series, The Farmer’s Daughter, is up for pre-order now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and releases on February 23. If you were following that story here on the blog and would like a free copy, please send me your email address via the contact form and I will send you a copy via Bookfunnel.
You can read the first two chapters of The Farmer’s Daughter HERE.
He remembered well the feel of his grandfather’s large hands around his, rough and calloused. Grease and mud stained his grandfather’s knuckles, lines of age stretched across them, patterns telling the story of a long life lived fully. The fingers of the elderly man completely enveloped his much smaller, child hands.
“Put your hands here.”
His hands moved Jason’s smaller ones to the top and left on the steering wheel. “Yep. Right at the 10 and 2.”
Jason looked at his grandfather. “10 and 2?”
“Yep. Just like on a clock. That’s the position you put your hands in.”
“This is a big machine, Jason. We have to respect it. We treat it right and it will treat us right. And we always practice safety. Right?”
“So, right now, until you’re old enough to control it, you can only ride this with me or your daddy, okay?”
“See that tree over there?”
“We’re going to steer our tractor that way and dig up our soil in a straight line to prepare it for the planting.”
Jason had nodded, a curt nod of affirmation, his jaw tight, his eyes looking straight ahead.
Even as a child he’d been serious, focused on the job to be done. Farming was serious business. His grandfather had taught him that. His father had taught him that. And now he was learning it on his own.
There was no room for error, but there were also no guarantees. The life of a farmer was at the whim of nature, the rise and fall of the milk market, the unknown variables that left them never sure what might hit them next.
That uncertainty was exhausting at times, but Jason wouldn’t have it any other way. Not even now, a year after he’d lost his grandfather to heart failure and the burden of running the business was on the shoulders of him, his father, and uncle.
Well, and Alex.
Jason couldn’t deny how much an integral part of the business his best friend had become since he’d moved in with him five years ago.
The only thing Jason didn’t like so much was the way Alex had been looking at his sister lately. It wasn’t the same look he’d given girls in college, no, but close. The pair of them had joked with each other in the barn almost from the first day Alex had come home with Jason and even more so when Molly had stopped taking classes at the local community college and been home more, working in the barn and the family’s country store. Lately, though, that teasing had become tinged with — Jason made a face as he looked out over the field behind the barn, disgusted at the thought — sexual tension.
The “s-word” was one word he’d never wanted to say in the same sentence with his sister, but especially with Alex in there too. Alex had been a partier in college. A partier, a flirt, someone who liked to date women and leave them. Jason didn’t really believe Molly would have any interest in Alex, who she’d often described as obnoxious and overbearing, but if she did, he was definitely not going to be a fan of that development and might even strangle Alex.
It was true, Alex was more than a friend to him; he was like the brother he’d never had, but if he made a move on Molly? Jason wasn’t sure he could stomach it.
“Hey. You zoning out?”
Speak of the devil.
Jason yawned, stretched his arms up and out to his side. “Yeah, I guess. Just thinking about how the corn doesn’t want to grow right now and we need to get that loan paid off and —”
“And you’re overthinking again, bud.” Alex punched him in the arm. “Come on. One thing at a time. You’re starting to sound like your dad.”
Jason grinned and nodded. “Yeah. True. I’m also starting to sound like a woman. Worrying all the time.”
Alex winced. “You better hope Molly doesn’t hear you talking like that. She’ll kick your butt.”
Jason turned and headed back toward the open barn door. “Well, if Molly was a woman, I’d be worried about that.”
“I heard that, Jason!”
Alex elbowed Jason, lowered his voice. “You know she has supersonic hearing.”
Molly peered around the door of the barn and made a face at Jason. “You know I can take you in a fight, so you better watch it.”
Jason laughed, but knew Molly could beat him in a fight. No, she wasn’t bigger than him by any means, but she was quick, shifty, and tough.
Despite seeing her as tough, Jason had agreed with his dad that they were better off not telling her about the overdue loan. The one that could mean losing the business, or at least part of it, if it wasn’t paid off.
They weren’t telling her yet anyhow. Or Jason’s mom, Annie. Or, for that matter, Aunt Hannah or Aunt Laura.
The women would be told when the men had a better idea how they were going to pay it off before the deadline at the end of the summer. His dad and uncle would be meeting with the bank the next week, and everyone would know more then.
They had taken the loan out to keep the business afloat after hardships over the last few years. The brothers — Jason’s father and uncle — had hoped to pay the loan off at the end of the summer, but with a poor harvest the year before, that plan had fallen through. Now the bank was calling in the loan and Jason’s father Robert had warned him of the possibility the family would need to sell off part of the land or equipment.
Jason knew that hiding it all from the women in the family would probably be seen as sexist to some, but he also knew his father and uncle had only been trying to shelter the women from any more stress.
Losing Jason’s grandfather, Ned, the previous year had knocked the family off kilter, and they were still trying to claw themselves to the surface of a new normal.
“I’m off to the store,” Molly said, walking from the barn. “You men going to be okay without this ‘manly woman?’”
Alex leaned back against the barn door, folded his arms across his chest, and Jason caught him looking Molly up and down as he smirked.
“I think we’ll manage okay,” he said.
An uneasy feeling settled in Jason’s chest, but he brushed it aside.
Alex and Molly were always joking and that’s all this was. Another joke.
He bumped Alex’s shoulder with his on the way back to the barn. “Come on, loser. Let’s get back to work.”
Alex pushed himself away from the wall and followed Jason. “Everything go okay with Ellie last night?”
Jason sighed, a weird sound coming from such a masculine figure. “Yeah. Sort of.” He glanced at Alex while he loosened a bolt on the engine. “She thinks I proposed.”
Alex lifted an eyebrow. “Thinks you proposed? Um, I might need a little more of an explanation on this one. Usually, a guy proposes, or he doesn’t.”
“Well, I was going to propose, but I needed to talk to her about something first and then she brought it up and then she just thought — It’s too confusing to explain.”
“So, you’re engaged.” Alex reached for a pitchfork. “That’s great, right? Why don’t you look happier? Don’t men usually look happier when they get engaged?”
“It is. I guess. It’s just . . .”
“You’re nervous about getting married?”
“A little but it’s not that. It’s just, I’ve never told Ellie about what happened in college.”
Alex spoke through a yawn, his expression clueless. “What happened in college?”
Jason starred at him for a few moments with raised eyebrows. Alex continued to look blank for a full minute, then his eyes widened in realization. “Wait. You mean what happened with Lauren Phillips? You never told Ellie about that?”
Jason shook his head. “I was really embarrassed, man. That experience was a low point for me, and it wasn’t even —ugh, just never mind. The point is that I never told Ellie because I was embarrassed and because I didn’t know how she would feel about it.”
“But you guys weren’t even dating then.”
“I know, but it still was wrong, Alex. That’s not how I wanted my first time to be. I wanted it to be with someone I loved. Someone I planned to spend my entire life with. And yeah, I know it sounds lame, but I wanted it to be with someone I was married to.”
Alex shrugged one shoulder and smiled. “Yeah, it sounds a little lame, but it also sounds really sweet and romantic.” He made a face and shuddered. “Yuck. Dude, I think you’re rubbing off on me with all your sentimental crud. Next thing I know we’ll be watching chick flicks together.”
“Sleepless in Seattle isn’t bad.”
Alex held up his hands. “Jase, I am not watching chick flicks with you. Calm down. Don’t start making a list in your head.”
Jason leaned back against the edge of a stall, one arm propped up on the metal frame, looking at the ground, thinking.
Alex cleared his throat. “Jason, you know Ellie loves you. She’s going to understand. Just talk to her.”
Jason nodded, but didn’t look up from the dirt. “Yeah, I hope she does.” He lifted his gaze to look at Alex, his eyes glistening. “Because if she doesn’t . . .” He shook his head, swallowed hard, and looked out at the fields across from the house. “I don’t know what I’ll do.”
Alex pounded him gently on the back. “Don’t even think that way. Come on. Let’s get to work. It will take your mind off things. Plus, the more stressed you are, the harder you work, and I’ll have less to do.”
Jason shook his head and laughed softly. He knew Alex was trying to cheer him up, in his own way, and he was grateful for it, but he also knew he could only distract himself for so long. He’d have to face the music with Ellie sooner rather than later, and he’d better start thinking about how he was going to do it.