Authors: Justine Elyot
Ask No Questions
2013 Justine Elyot
This is a work of fiction
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.
It wouldn't hurt to keep the sheep up on the fell for a few more days, until this rainy spell passed over, but he needed to get them to the inbye for dipping and shearing before the month ended.
Skip darted ahead of him, zigzagging between placid grazers until Rhys whistled her to heel and she lolloped up to him, tongue out, eyes bright with her need for his approval.
"Good girl." He patted her head. "Best girl." She followed his wellington-booted tread down the slopes towards the farm. As Rhys walked, he mentally ticked-off the list of tasks he had to complete that afternoon. He needed to chase up the planning permission for the campsite. Look into that artisan cheesemaking idea he'd had. Fix the leaking water butt, and the chicken coop roof. The list went on. He still hadn't reached the end – the bits that related to taking care of his own needs – by the time he pushed open the kitchen door.
He pulled off his muddy boots and threw them in the outhouse. His thick socks were soaked all the same and he left damp footprints on the lino as he headed for the towel that hung by the range and applied it vigorously to his wet hair.
Skip trotted round him in circles for a while until he found her a biscuit, which she fell upon, crunching and snapping her strong teeth.
The rain teemed down the window, lending the barn across the yard from it an impressionistic blur. All the same, through the streaming drops, he could see that something was up with the barn door. It wasn't properly shut.
"Shit," muttered Rhys, peering through the window, nose pressed to the glass.
The last thing he wanted was to head back out again. He'd had in mind a strong cup of tea and a quick chapter of his book before enduring the inevitable forty-five minutes of holding the phone away from his ear before a human being became available.
But he couldn't let the door flap open like that. The rain would blow in and damage the hay.
He swore again, deciding not to put his soaked coat back on. Instead he took his oversized Arran sweater from the peg by the back door – ridiculous that he should be wearing this in early June – and reached again for his boots.
"No, Skip, stay here," he tutted at his bounding dog, shutting the door on her before running through the downpour and the churned mud of the yard.
He stepped inside the barn, relishing the temporary dryness and the sweet, if damp, smell of the hay. How had the door opened? He frowned at the catch, but couldn't find anything wrong with it. A rustle from the hayloft made him look up and then release a breath of surprise.
Dangling over the edge, next to the ladder, was a pair of legs in mu
lti-coloured striped knee socks – minus shoes. Whoever they belonged to was lying down in the straw, because no face peered down at him. Perhaps they were asleep. The legs hung there so motionlessly they could almost have belonged to a life-sized rag doll. Was that what it was? A joke by the village kids – an out-of-season Guy Fawkes?
Not quite knowing why he was creeping, he approached the ladder
. The person's feet hung close to his face. They had a human smell, of wet wool and old shoes, and a warmth to them. This was no doll.
He climbed up and found a girl, a young woman, lying on her back, sleepin
g sweetly, arms flung above her head, fingers twitching a little in the straw. Bundled beside her were a soaked denim jacket and a pair of the most unsuitable shoes for this weather and country Rhys had ever seen – little satin ballerina pumps with multi-coloured sequins stitched all over them.
"God, hotpants are in again, are they?" he whispered to himself, looking over her oblivious form.
Her blonde hair was in pigtails, though she was no child – probably in her early-to-mid-twenties, he supposed. Her face, what you could see of it behind rain-obliterated make-up, was pretty and pink-cheeked. She looked perfectly at peace and he had to look away for a moment until a pang of bottomless regret passed through him.
He sat himself down beside her, resting his feet on the ladder rungs, and decided to wait here until she woke up. It was as good a place to be as any. The drumming of the rain on the roof was oddly comforting.
"What's this, then?" he wondered. "Don't get many Sleeping Beauties around here."
She snuffled a little and shifted to her side.
It had been a long time since Rhys had lain beside another human and listened to them breathe. Looking down at her, he lowered his spine, slowly, delicately, until he was stretched beside her. He shut his eyes and listened to the regular rise and fall, inhale, exhale, pretending for that moment that she was his lover, in the exhausted repose of satisfied desire.
That flush on her cheek made it almost believable.
"God," he thought, opening one eye and looking at her again. "I think I could wear you out, you know. Given half a chance. Not that I'll get one."
He shut his eye
s again and thought of what he would do with his imaginary lover when she awoke. She would stir beside him, a sleepy wriggle, and press herself into his side and kiss his neck. He would put his arm around her, turn his face to her, kiss her soundly and ask her, teasing, if she hadn't had enough yet.
There's no such thing as enough when it comes to you
That was what Hannah used to say.
He sat up abruptly, rubbing his eyes. Pathetic fantasy. And what kind of creep was he, having sexual thoughts about this poor sleeping girl? If she knew he had contemplated her violation while she dreamed innocent dreams in his hayloft… He shifted uncomfortably, the beginnings of an erection chafing against his waterproof waxed trousers.
Just as he put a hand on his crotch to adjust it, her eyes flew open. She sucked in a sharp breath and raised herself on to her elbows, fixing him with a vivid blue gaze.
"She wakes," he said with a sweep of the hand that had been on his crotch. He hoped it looked natural, casual, as if he had merely been resting it there without even knowing it. "Well, this is quite an event for me. I don't get sleeping girls in my barn very often." His hand now gripped the top of the ladder, needing its sturdy support. Something was making him unusually giddy.
"Sorry," she said in a cracked, husky voice. "It was just, you know, the rain.
I didn't mean to trespass."
Her accent wasn't local. There was a trace of a
London twang, he thought.
There was something odd about the way she
stared at him. It was expectant, almost defiant. He was supposed to make some kind of connection, but he didn't know what. Or perhaps she just thought he was going to tell her off. Yes, that was probably it.
He was far too ashamed of the thoughts he'd been having about her to even think of scolding her, though. In fact, he wanted to make things up to her, offer her an apology, even though he had no intention of telling her what it was for.
"If you want to shelter from the rain, you can come into the farm house," he said. "I've got the kettle on. Have a cup of tea."
"Oh." She blinked at him. That wasn't the response she'd expected, clearly. "That'd be nice. Thanks."
"No problem." He put out a hand for her to shake. "I'm Rhys. What's your name?"
She laughed, a little wildly, before putting her hand in his.
"Awesome!" she exclaimed. "This is just so cool. And my name's Kim. Pleased to meet you, Rhys."
"Not much point putting those shoes back on, is there?" he said, raising an eyebrow at the ruined ballerina slippers.
"Not much," she admitted. "I'm not really dressed for it, am I?"
She looked ruefully down at her silky silver shirt and her purple hotpants to the stripy socks beyond.
"Never mind," said Rhys, jumping down from the loft without bothering with the ladder. "Just bring them with you. Perhaps I can dry them out in the oven."
He stood back, feeling g
uilty for watching Kim's highly squeezable bottom on its descent of the ladder, but not guilty enough to tear his eyes away from it. He chewed furtively on his lip, then twitched his mouth into a smile when she turned to face him.
"Is it really muddy out there?"
"Yes, really muddy. And really wet. Look, you have this."
He took off the jumper and helped her put it on instead. It swamped her, hanging off her shoulders. Christ, she looked ever sexier like that.
He swallowed and shook his head. He needed to stop thinking along these lines, now. But what he was about to suggest was going to make that difficult.
He pushed open the barn door, exposing the yard in its full miry glory.
"I can't walk over that." Kim gave her stripy feet a woeful look.
"Well, you can, but you don't want to. Come on, I'll carry you. Put your arms around my neck."
"Really?" She hesitated, looking him up and down. He sensed her nervousness and it made him want to hold her all the more.
"Don't you think I can?"
"No, I know you can. Just…"
"Come on then. This rain isn't stopping any time soon."
She sighed and stamped her feet, playing for time, then seemed to dismiss her reservations and flung her arms around Rhys' neck. In a second, he had her hoisted aloft, cradled in his arms, ready to dash for the kitchen door.
He took a moment to enjoy the weight of her in his arms, the human connection, the face so close to his,
lit up with a mischievous grin. Then he put his head down and ran through the slippery mud. She squealed and laughed as the rain pelted on to them, kicking her feet in exhilaration.
Rhys felt that he reached the door too soon. He could have run with her like that in the rain for much, much longer. But the moment was over, and he let them into the kitchen and set her down on the floor.
She stood there, shaking herself down, while he dealt with his boots and threw the towel over to her.
"My hero," she giggled, throwing her arms out extravagantly.
"If the cap fits," he said with a shrug and a little hidden flare of the heart.
Skip barked and jumped about them, eager to play.
"Oh my God, your dog," she cried, tickling her under the ears. "I love sheepdogs."
"Yeah, she's a good one." He watched them, leaning back on the range and smiling for a moment. "Anyway. Didn't I say something about tea?"
"I believe you did."
"Go into the
living room, I'll bring it in. I don't suppose you know how to light a fire?"
"What, like a real fire? Coal and all that?"
"Yes, like a real fire. Though I shouldn't have to be lighting one in June, God knows. But we can't have you catching a cold, can we?"
"I'm fine. But I've never lit a fire."
"I'll do it while the kettle's boiling then. Sit down."
He caught her looking around the room with avid curiosity while he laid the fire and lit it.
"This is weird. It's like something from the olden days," she said, falling back into the big armchair at the side of the fire. His armchair. But she could have it for now.
"Thanks for sharing your views," said Rhys dryly, trying to fan the flames.
"I know I'm a dinosaur, just call me T Rex."
"You haven't got a TV," she said, as if this solved some great mystery.
"No. Well spotted. Ah, I think that's done it." The flames leapt up around the wood and coal. "OK, I'll go and see to that tea. How wet are you?"
As soon as he asked the question, he wanted to cringe, thinking of what was inside those hotpants and how hard he had been earlier. How hard he could still get, at a moment's notice, if he didn't watch himself.
Perhaps he should shut himself in the lav for five minutes, put his right hand to good use, get it out of his system. But his right hand was a poor substitute for what was sitting in his armchair.
"I'm fine," she said. "Bit damp but I'll dry out."
"Right," he said, after a pause. "Tea."
He felt sure his smile was too manic, his posture too stiff. She must know he found her attractive. She must know what he was thinking.
"Down, boy," he breathed to himself in the kitchen, putting the tea things on to a tray. "Just been too long, that's all."
When he returned to the living room, Kim had her legs stretched out in front of her, feet resting on a little upholstered stool in front of the fire.
The ridiculous socks ended at her knee and there was an expanse of smooth, fake-tanned thigh before the hem of his jumper, which fitted her like an oversized minidress, met it. Her eyes were shut and she put him in mind of a languid cat, completely relaxed. He was reminded once again, with unwelcome force, of post-coital sleep. Why was everything making him think of sex today?
"Milk? Sugar?" he asked, banging the tray down on the sideboard.
"Oh." She jerked upright in the chair. "Sorry. Could nod right off here, with this fire. Er, no sugar. No, hang on. Scratch that. I'll have three."
Rhys gave her a curious crooked smile.
"Yeah. And loads of milk. The cream, if you've got it."