Who I Am With You(5)

By: M. Lynne Cunning



“You’re serious.”

“Dead serious. Is it just you around here? Running this place, I mean?” Chad looked around as though expecting a score of unmentioned workers or family members to emerge from beyond one of the barns or buildings.

“It’s just me. Well, my son lives here, too, but he’s too young to be expected to help me with most things around here.”

Chad saw no sign of emotion in her eyes when she said it. A single mom trying to run a farm practically in the middle of nowhere? There had to be a story there, but his own mother had raised him better than to fish for information that wasn’t his concern. “Give me a chance, Katie. I’ll help you around here with whatever I can.”

Katie stared at him again for a long moment, and Chad could see it in her emerald eyes that she was searching for confirmation of his sincerity. She exhaled then, jutting her hand out again. Chad wondered if she was making the gesture quickly so that she didn’t have a chance to change her mind. “You’ve got a deal, Chad Kirkwood. Don’t make me regret it.”

Chad shook her hand as a flood of relief washed over him. For a split second, he’d thought she was going to reject him. “I promise, you won’t regret it, ma’am.”

“Call me ma’am again and you will be the one regretting it.”

“Sorry, boss.”

“That’s better, Chad.”





Chapter Two

KATIE



Katie didn't know where he'd come from or what his true motives were for showing up at her father’s—her—farm in search of a menial job that he was obviously over-qualified for, but she knew she couldn't complain. She'd expected to get a bunch of punk high school kids looking for some quick cash that would undoubtedly leave her high and dry in a matter of weeks once they'd accumulated the amount of cash they needed to fund their weekend antics or the nicotine addictions they hid from their parents.

Then, in strode Chad Kirkwood. He was more than she could have ever expected as a potential employee, at least from her first impression. He was motivated, more than any high school student would be. He seemed reliable. When she'd tested him by requesting that he show up for his first shift tomorrow at the same time the sun was just starting to rise, he'd accepted the challenge without hesitation. He was older than the students she'd expected to employ as well, meaning that perhaps they would be able to relate better to one another than if she'd employed a kid wanting to constantly complain about his parental issues at home.

And, of course, she also knew he was lying.

There was no way Chad Kirkwood was some has-been accounting clerk just looking for a fresh start after his firm had laid him off and hired a newer graduate to replace him for less pay. He was definitely educated, professional, and knew how to be polite yet assertive with people, she would give him that. However, she just didn't buy his concocted story of wanting to renew his sense of self and his connection with the natural world by honing the skills his grandfather had taught him as a young boy.

"You're an accountant?" Katie had asked him, her disbelief etched on her face.

"Don't let the jeans and T-shirt fool you, ma'am. I'm purely dressed for the job I'm applying for." He shrugged off her questioning glare, his expression revealing nothing. It was his eyes, however, that gave him away; his gaze flitted anywhere but toward her when he said it.

"Don't you want something a little more, I don't know, suited to your abilities? I don't mean that rudely, it's just that you're obviously capable of so much more than being the muscle and brawn I need around here to toss hay bales and work your fingers to the bone day in and day out." She knew she sounded like she was trying to deter him from wanting to work for her at all, and perhaps she was. She hadn't even technically hired him yet and already she felt guilty for being unable to provide him with the kind of occupation he would be best utilized in.

"No offense taken, ma'am. In fact, with all due respect, I'm quite content with my decision to want to work in such a position, so please don't pay the thought any mind. In fact, the idea of being your muscle and brawn, as you say, sounds quite appealing. Chivalrous, even." He smirked at her, but she visibly tensed under his gaze.

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