Deacon couldn’t sleep. He’d tossed and turned so many times he felt like a pancake on a griddle. Not that he was a stranger to restlessness. In fact, he couldn’t recall the last decent night of sleep he’d had since the skiing accident. The doctor had originally attributed it to his broken collarbone—that the physical discomfort was the reason for his inability to shut his eyes for more than five-minute intervals.
But Deacon knew it didn’t take four years for bones to heal. That was the relatively quick and easy part. The healing of his heart had occurred at a much, much slower rate. Surrendering to the insomnia, he shoved back his quilt and dropped his feet into the fuzzy slippers waiting at the side of his bed. He snagged a robe from the bedpost and wrapped it around his body before making his way down the long hall to the kitchen, eyes bleary and spirit heavier than Santa’s gift sack of presents. His one and only mug had recently been washed and settled into the drying rack next to a single place setting that got more use than the matching seven collecting dust in his cupboard.
Deacon was a bachelor. He didn’t need more than one of anything, really. A quaint, one-bedroom cottage he’d built with his own hands. One good horse. One dog. (The good part was debatable on that).
One fulfilling job.
One woman to love.
He’d once had that woman and Deacon knew his chances of ever meeting someone to fill that void again was slim-to-none. He’d already used up his one shot.
Twisting the heels of his hands into his eyes, he blew out a sigh that woke Rascal from his dog bed.
“Sorry,” Deacon apologized as he grabbed his mug and filled it with apple cider purchased from a local farm just a mile down the road. He punched a few numbers on the microwave and waited for his drink to heat. “You can go back to bed, Rascal.”
The dog was fast asleep before Deacon had even finished the sentence. How he envied that—the ability to shut out the world with just one blink. When the microwave dinged, he retrieved his steaming drink and hunkered onto the plush, leather couch in the living room. Snow fell on the other side of the picture windows, fluttering down in iridescent flakes that looked like the sugar crystals sprinkled atop a gingersnap cookie. The forecast called for sunshine by morning. Deacon was grateful for that. If it was going to storm, he preferred mother nature get it out of the way during the night. Come daylight, there would be chores to tackle and business to take care of. Everything was made easier under clear skies.
In just a few short hours, he’d have not only a seemingly insurmountable list of jobs to complete, but a new farmhand to deal with. What had his mother been thinking? He knew her heart was in the right place.
It always was. But this Kate woman sure rubbed Deacon the wrong way. She’d marched onto the property, her head filled with notions as to how his farm fit into her story, not how she fit into his farm. It was hard
to tell exactly who worked for whom. He’d have to set her straight after a hearty breakfast and a couple hours of sleep under his belt. He
knew the first full day on the job set the pace for the remainder of the harvest season. He wasn’t about to let her believe her little news piece took precedence over selling trees. That just wouldn’t work.
One mug of cider down and a half hour of wakefulness later, Deacon found himself with his laptop open and Kate Carmichael’s name typed into the search bar. He had to laugh at how presumptuous she’d been
during their introduction, like she was someone famous who deserved recognition. Even if she had been an Oscar winning actress, Deacon likely wouldn’t have noticed. He didn’t pay attention to things like that, didn’t have time to waste in front of a movie screen or television set. He was a simple, hardworking man who used all of the available hours of the day for productivity. Maybe that was the reason he gave himself a little leeway when it came to researching Kate right then.
It was night and he wasn’t wasting anything other than the sleep that always eluded him anyway.
Before he knew it, he’d fallen into an On the Job with Kate Carmichael rabbit hole. Episode after episode of the woman learning new trades. Tennis coach. Rattlesnake removal specialist. Fortune cookie
writer. He had to admit, it was undeniably entertaining. She had a charisma in front of the camera that he hadn’t detected during their brief time together. She was confident and self-assured, not ruffled and
harried like she had been when she’d tried to mount the horse and ended up with her feet in the air and her pride bruised.