Welcome to the sixth chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but will be fully edited once it is complete.
You can catch up on chapters HERE.
If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,
The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.
Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.
“That’s a lot more snow than they were calling for.”
Alex looked out the front window into a barely lit front yard at the Tanners. He’d spent the night at Robert and Annie’s instead of heading back to Matt McGee’s place, which he guessed was his place for now, at least until Matt proposed to Liz and he was back to finding a new place to stay. He’d already been displaced when Ellie had moved in with Jason after the wedding, but he hadn’t minded. There was only so much affectionate newlywed behavior he could handle in a day.
Molly had spent the night at her parents too, sleeping in her old room while he crashed in Jason’s old room, which they now called the guest room.
Robert stepped next to him. “We’ll have to see what it ends up being when all is said and done. I’m going to get my coat on and go make sure it’s staying off the roof of that back barn. I should have fixed up that one spot before now.”
Actually, Alex could have easily fixed that weak spot in the roof over the calf barn himself. He’d been too distracted with Molly’s gift to tackle it. “I’ll head out instead. You stay in here this time. You can have the next round.”
He knew they’d both be awake most of the night, checking on the barn, making sure the new heating system was still working. The system was supposed to be top of the line, but so far it had been rating at the bottom. The fact it had stopped working right when it was supposed to be working, and less than a year after being installed, didn’t instill a lot of faith in Alex that they’d chosen the right company to help upgrade the barn.
The upgrade had come with the construction of a bottling plant to process A2 milk, a type of milk that allowed consumers with a dairy protein allergy to still be able to drink milk. The milk was being sold at the Tanners’ farm store and a few other small markets across the state. Not all of the Tanners’ cows had the A2 gene, which meant the operation was small and hadn’t yet paid off all the improvements and additions that had been undertaken, but Alex was confident it would someday.
When he walked to the calf barn an hour later, his worst fears had been confirmed. The roof was sagging worse than it had been the day before. Forecasters’ predictions of one foot was quickly turning into two feet and the storm wasn’t supposed to stop for another six hours at least.
Finding a ladder in a shed, he propped it against the back wall of the barn, slid on a pair of gloves and hooked the shovel under his arm. Snow pelted him in the face as he made his way up and he wished he’d grabbed that knitted cap Molly had tried to make him wear the other day.
The shovel scraped against snow as he tried to push the shovel into it. It took an effort to push it down and lift it but when he finally did he began flinging the snow off, knowing he probably should have told someone in the house what he was doing. Twenty minutes into shoveling he felt the roof under him sag and he raised his arms out to his side to catch his balance.
A loud crack split the silence and he braced his legs in place on either side of the weaker part of the roof. A few seconds later it didn’t matter because the roof gave way under his feet anyhow. Suddenly he was in mid-air, falling and then crashing hard onto the concrete floor of the barn below, in the middle of a calving pen. Splinters of wood and shingles rained down on him, into his face and across his body. He raised his arms quickly as clumps of snow followed, slamming into his chest.
Pain shot through his back and down his legs. He grimaced, laying his head back against the shredded woodchips of the pen and groaned as small eyes watched him and a calf bleated a protest at having her warm, cozy evening interrupted.
He gritted his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut, lifting one arm slowly, then the other. He tried his legs next. Everything was moving at least. He was grateful that he hadn’t hit his head on impact. Warm breath huffed against his cheek. He slowly opened an eye, closing it again as calf slobber hit his skin.
“Hey, little lady. Move back a bit, will you?”
He felt more warm air on him and knew he was being inspected by small, curious baby cows. He grunted as he opened his eyes and worked to sit up.
He admonished himself. “Idiot.”
He managed to make it to a sitting position then rolled to his hands and knees and pushed himself back on his calves before slowly standing, a low growl rumbling in his chest. He was already in pain, but he was definitely going to feel this even more in the morning. He took two steps forward to make sure nothing was broken, then patted the calf nuzzling the hem of his coat.
“Nothing exciting in there, bud, promise.”
He tipped his head back and looked through the hole in the roof, snowflakes speckling the dark sky and falling into his eyes.
He huffed out a frustrated breath and reached for his phone in his back pocket, wincing when he saw the crack across the screen. He tapped the screen, but it wouldn’t respond.
Luckily the barn wasn’t too far of a walk from the house.
Looks like he wasn’t going to have to walk. Molly must have realized how long he’d been gone.
He cleared his throat, hoping his voice wouldn’t give away how rough his body felt. “Yeah. Back here.”
“You’ve been out here a long time. What are you –” She gasped as she came closer. “Oh my gosh! Did you just fall through the roof? Are you okay?”
She quickly pulled open the door of the pen and walked toward him briskly, laying her hands against his arms and chest.
If he told her he wasn’t okay, would she keep touching him all over? He grinned at the thought. “Yeah, I’m okay. I think anyhow. I’m moving at least.”
She touched a hand to his forehead. “Did you hit your head?”
He started to shake his head then winced at the pain slithering down the back of his neck. “No, but my neck isn’t doing great.” He pressed a hand against his lower back. “Or my back.” He winked. “Maybe you better keep checking me for bruises.”
She took his hand, shaking her head. “Come on. Let’s get you to the house. Maybe we should take you to the –”
He held up a hand. “I don’t need a hospital. I’m fine.”
“Then lets at least get you back to the house and into a bed.”
He grinned. “I like the sound of you wanting to get me into a bed, Molly dear, but not until we’re married.” She laughed and he looked up at the hole in the roof. “But seriously, I need to get this hole fixed first. I can’t have your dad out here trying to do it by himself.”
Molly cocked an eyebrow. “You mean like you were doing?”
She turned and started to walk away. “Come on, I’ll get some wood and we’ll climb up together. We can at least get it temporarily fixed for tonight to keep the snow off these babies and then we can do a more permanent job in the morning.”
She turned to face him again. “What? I’m a farm girl, Alex Stone. Don’t tell me to go back in the house and get warm. I’ll climb up first and shovel the roof and then you can hand the boards up to me so I can hammer them in place.”
He watched her walk to the back room in amazement. He knew for a fact there were parts of her life where she wasn’t confident, but when it came to hard work there wasn’t a bit of doubt in her. She knew how to do anything and everything on the farm as well, or many times even better, than any of the men.
Still, the protective side of him wanted to send her back in the house. He didn’t want to see her get hurt. The snow was falling fast and the roof was sagging in other spots. It could easily send her crashing down too.
An hour later they finished the job without either of them falling through or off the roof. The snow was removed, the hole was temporarily patched, and they both headed toward the house. He stopped her before she could open the back door, though, pulled her against him abd slid a gloved hand behind her head, kissing her hard on the mouth. She returned the kiss by clutching the front of his coat and holding on.
She pulled back a few minutes later, dragging in a ragged breath. “What was that about?”
“Just felt the need to kiss you.”
“Do you feel the need to kiss me again?”
He smiled and kissed her again as snow swirled around them and she slipped her arms around his neck.
That was the one great thing about snow. It was the perfect excuse for a warm kiss and embrace.