She seems to decide something then, and spins on her heel to walk away. I do not check out her ass because I am a gentleman. Also because the tail of her plaid flannel shirt comes down past her hips.
But mostly because I’m a gentleman.
“Come on,” she calls over her shoulder. “You can walk with me while I check the fence line.”
I’m not sure what we’re checking it for or why I’m already taking orders from her when I’m not positive I have this job. But I’ve got nothing better to do on this cold November afternoon, so I fall in beside her and try not to step on any piles of little black berries I’m ninety percent sure aren’t berries.
Jade’s walking fast for a girl almost a foot shorter than me, but she’s not breathing hard at all. She’s also not looking at me.
“So we’re the third largest domesticated reindeer herd in the continental U.S.” She stops and adjusts something on a surprisingly tall fence, then continues on like the world’s least-friendly tour guide. “A lot of them came from abusive homes or neglect situations, so I’ve been doing rehab with them and getting them ready interact with the public.”
I want to ask what reindeer rehab entails, but I suspect she’d think I’m making fun of her. “They look good to me,” I offer. “Not that I know what healthy reindeer look like, but I assume they are. Healthy, that is.”
I’m spewing word salad like it’s on the menu, which isn’t like me at all. I’m usually pretty polished around women, so I don’t know why this one’s making me blather like a moron.
Jade spares me a glance and continues walking. “They are healthy. We had four new calves born last spring, which gives us fourteen steers, sixteen cows, and one bull who’s not going to be a bull much longer.”
I’m almost afraid to ask. “What do you mean?”
She gives me a pointed look. “Harold—stage name Donner—is getting castrated next week.”
Jade shrugs and keeps walking. “Bulls are impossible to deal with during rut. Nonstop grunting from August to December, and they’re mean as hell. Dangerous, too.”
“I’ve known guys like that.”
Jade stops walking again and turns to face me. She narrows her eyes just a little, and I fight the urge to take a step back. “They die young,” she says. “Reindeer bulls do. You get three or four breeding seasons out of them, and they might live a year or so after that, but not much. Unless you castrate them, they’re pretty much goners.”
I’m not sure we’re still talking about reindeer, but I don’t love the way she just glanced at my crotch. Or maybe I’m imagining things. “So you’re cutting off his balls to save his life.”
“Pretty much.” Jade starts walking again.
“Sexy, sweet and satisfying, with exactly the right amount of holiday charm.” – Lauren Layne, New York Times Bestselling Author
“Studmuffin Santa has just enough sweet and sexy to satisfy this discriminate reader: a credible story, likable and relatable characters, flawless writing, and clever dialogue.” – Fresh Fiction Reviews
“Her characters are appropriately quirky, her stories just this side of silly—in the best way—and her humor kind of off the wall, but the heart of her books? It’s solid and it’s deep and it’s relatable.” – Beth, Panda & Boodle