Take the Bull by the Horns by Cynthia Terelst
Peyton wasn’t out to find love, she only wanted to find her voice. Lachlan thought he had everything he needed until he met Peyton. Both are broken. Both are strong. Can an American nanny and an Australian farmer mend their damaged souls together?
A nanny and single dad risk their hearts for the chance at a forever love
Two figures made their way down the stairs. I knew Ann instantly from our video calls.
The man beside her was striking. Sunlight glinted off his thick golden-brown hair like surgical blades would shine under focused lighting. He was tanned and muscular with tattoos down one arm, a mixture of black and white and colour, indistinct at this distance. Wowsers, I didn’t know farmers looked like that. I blushed. While Ann oozed warmth, he oozed stoic resignation.
“Are you still tired?” Thomas asked.
What gave me away? “Some strange noises woke me up.”
Lachlan’s boots were on, but he remained seated.
“What sort of noises?” Thomas asked, his eyes wide as he perched himself on a stool at the counter.
“Scratching and grunting.”
“Oh, that’s probably Mr Harrison.”
“Who?” What would a man be doing under my unit?
A light chuckle came from the bench outside.
“Mr Harrison. The wombat,” Thomas said.
A wombat, right. What was a wombat? “Are they dangerous?”
“Mr Harrison won’t hurt you. He’s used to us.”
“OK.” He wasn’t used to me.
I blushed. Lachlan must think I was crazy or stupid. He could have tried to be reassuring instead of just sitting on the bench, not saying a word. Everyone knew half the animals in Australia wanted to kill you.
Bruce laughed as we left the coop. “Goliath lives for another day.”
“She’s a good layer. There’s no need to resort to drastic measures just because she’s a bit broody,” Lachlan said.
Bruce gave me a wink. “Yeah, I mean, you’re more than a bit broody, and we still let you live.”
Lachlan shot him a glare.
Bruce smirked. “What do you think, Peyton? You live with the man. How broody is he?”
I held up my hands. “Leave me out of this.”
“I think that means a lot broody.”
Lachlan considered me.
It’s not like I’d said he was a lot broody straight out. But the man was moody. I didn’t know how to take him sometimes. One minute he was chatty, like the night we watched Mr Harrison, and then he was virtually mute, like when he found me in his gym.
“Scarlet, why don’t you check on the vegetable garden with Peyton,” Jane said.
Peyton took the cue. “Oh yes, you should see how the plants have grown.”
I watched as they left the house. Peyton’s legs were browning up.
“So, how was it?” Jane asked.
“How was what?”
“Sharing a house with Peyton.”
Surely she wasn’t serious. That’s what she wanted to talk about? How much did she already know? The talk on this farm reached her in Tamworth as if she still lived here.
“Peyton is respectful of my time and space. I appreciate that.”
“Right, so you didn’t eat meals together?”
“We live in the same house. It only makes sense that we eat together.”
“And you didn’t watch TV together?”
Mum or Bruce? Could have been Mum. She’d dropped around one night, and we were on the couch watching what I refer to as Peyton’s medical show.
“I wanted her to feel comfortable, to treat the place as her own.”
Jane smirked. “Right, and the way you watch her, is that to make her feel comfortable too?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
Jane’s smirk grew. She was baiting me. “Oh, nothing.”
“I do not watch Peyton. “
I didn’t. I didn’t notice the way she carried herself or how nice her legs were or the way she laughed at Bruce’s poor attempts at comedy or how she was deep in thought when they were assessing a patient on TV. I did think about what she told me about how her fiancé had treated her so badly. No one deserved to be treated like that, especially Peyton.
“Tell yourself whatever you like,” Jane said.
“Peyton.” Lachlan’s voice aroused me from my sleep. I forced my eyes open. I was lying on the couch. Where were the kids? Lachlan reached out for the remote and turned the TV off. I must have fallen asleep during the movie.
“It’s time for bed,” he said.
I didn’t want to move. My eyes were awake, but the rest of my body was in slumberland. My eyes wanted to follow.
“Do I need to carry you to bed like the kids?”
I let out a soft laugh. “I’m quite a lot heavier than a child.”
“You don’t think I could?”
Before I could swing my legs around to sit up, Lachlan had lifted me from the couch. I yelped. Then to help him with my weight, I wrapped my arms around his shoulders. I breathed in grass and man. Good man, not just aftershave and cleanliness. Earth and strength.
I melded into him, swaying with every step he took. Being in his strong arms, I felt secure. I shouldn’t feel like this. But I didn’t try to jump out of his arms. What was I doing?
“Show off,” I mumbled against his shoulder.
“Just proving you wrong.”
He walked into my room and made his way to my bed.
“Is it wrong to like you?” I asked. My heart beat fast in my chest. Would he think I was stupid?
He lay me down on the bed. His face was shadowed. Was he going to answer?
“No, it’s not wrong.”
He bent down and kissed my temple softly.
Oh, the sweetness of it. I sighed. My eyes closed as my body floated in bliss.
“I like you too.”
Was I dreaming?
I opened my eyes. He was gone.
Cynthia Terelst is an Australian author based in regional Queensland, where the sun shines 283 days a year. She is a document controls manager by day and a writer by night. Her contemporary romance novels share a little bit of history, some Australian scenery and a whole lotta love. Cynthia does not shy away from difficult topics, as she feels they should not be ignored.
Terelst has published seven books in her Love Down Under Series and has added short stories to multiple anthologies. She refers to her writing style as heat with heart. Her stories will leave you feeling warm and hopeful.
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