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Authors: Rebecca H Jamison

Chemistry Lessons

BOOK: Chemistry Lessons
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Chemistry
Lessons

by
Rebecca H. Jamison

©2016 Rebecca H. Jamison

All rights reserved.

www.RebeccaHJamison.com

 

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form
whatsoever, whether by graphic, visual, film, microfilm, tape recording, or any
other means, without prior written permission of the author, except in the case
of brief passages embodied in critical reviews and articles.

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, names,
incidents, places, and dialogue are products of the author’s imagination and
are not to be construed as real.

 

Library of Congress Control Number: 2016906928

 

Cover design by Christa Holland

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Rosie walked along the mostly empty irrigation canal with her golden
retriever, Cheddar, at her heels until she got to the fence dividing her
property from her neighbor’s. She gripped her long, blond ponytail before
bending to slip her body between two rows of barbed wire strung across the fence
posts. Cheddar, having learned long ago not to take chances with the fence, did
not follow her.

Rosie hadn’t met her new neighbor, but the fact that he’d hired movers
instead of hauling his own pick-up loads didn’t inspire her confidence. Betty
from down the road had told her—with a wink—that the new neighbor was a
bachelor from the East. He’d come to Lone Spur for a change, having already
backpacked through Europe, run the Boston Marathon, and swam the English Channel.
Now he wanted to conquer the Wild West.

Once Rosie crested the small hill past the fence, she
saw why the water level was low. Her new neighbor’s sprinkler system threw
white jets across his barren fields. He was using
her
water—water she
could never get back. Hadn’t the irrigation coordinator told him about the
schedule?

Rosie quickened her pace. As she breathed in the hot desert air, she
considered whether it might be better to let the police handle this. Stealing
water was a serious offence.

The problem with the police, though, was that it might be hours before
they took care of the problem. And Grandpa wouldn’t approve. She couldn’t risk
upsetting him—not with his heart condition.

Ahead of her, Rosie caught a glimpse of her neighbor. Wearing board
shorts and a T-shirt, he looked better suited for a surfing competition than
for running a ranch. After a few more steps, she could see that he also wore
flip-flops. Didn’t he know this was rattlesnake country?

Her neighbor pulled his screwdriver away from the irrigation pump and
waved. His broad smile startled Rosie. She was ready for a fight, not
friendliness. Plus, she wasn’t used to seeing men her age that smiled with such
confidence. At least she thought he was her age—he seemed about thirty, but he
could’ve been older. He obviously hadn’t been beaten down the way most men
around Lone Spur had. Desert living did that to people.

This had to be the guy whose lawyer sent a letter, asking the other
neighbors’ opinions about the construction of a small resort on the property.
Her grandfather had thought it could help boost the local economy, and Rosie
had agreed. The only one she knew who hadn’t liked the plan was Jade Harris,
and that was because her parents owned the Harris Bed and Breakfast on the
other side of town.

Other than his confidence—or what looked more like arrogance to
Rosie—she supposed there wasn’t much that was extraordinary about him. He had
dark brown hair and wore aviator glasses. She probably could have found ten men
that looked just like him among the miners in Copper City.

She stopped on the other side of the ditch from his irrigation pump. “You’re
using my water,” she shouted.

He held a hand to his ear. “I can’t hear you.” He pointed a few yards
away to a crop of cottonwood trees. “Maybe we should talk over there.”

Rosie leaped over the irrigation ditch and switched off the pump. She
waited until the motor died down before she spoke. “It’s not your turn to use
the water. There’s a schedule.”

He laughed—he actually laughed. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure
of meeting you. I’m Destry Steadman.” He thrust his hand out to shake hers.

“I’m Rosie Curtis.” She took his hand reluctantly, noting his strong,
warm grip.

“Rosie from the water police?” He chuckled and removed his sunglasses
to reveal dark blue eyes almost the same shade as Rosie’s.

Rosie folded her arms, reminding herself that it wasn’t Destry’s fault
she’d arrived home two hours late because of Grandpa’s doctor appointment. “Rosie,
your neighbor.” Destry had only caused her to miss an extra half-hour of
watering time. “Someone should’ve given you a copy of the schedule.”

“Someone gave me a copy, but I didn’t know it was that big of a deal.”

“It’s a big deal.” Rosie tried to control her tone. “You’re just lucky
you didn’t use Brett McFerrin’s water.”

“Brett McFerrin?”

“He owns the house at the end of the lane, and he’s got at least forty
pounds on you.”

Destry’s eyes widened. “You mean he’d—”

“Brett’s a nice guy, but it’s not unusual for a man to lose his temper
over water rights, especially when there’s a drought.” Rosie bent to pick up
Destry’s screwdriver from where it lay in a puddle of water. She wiped it on
the side of her jeans and handed it to him. “I’ll be happy to answer any
questions you might have, but I’m in sort of a hurry right now.”

He lowered one eyelid to a half-squint. “Sorry about the water. Would
it work to trade times?”

Rosie shook her head. “Thanks for offering, but you were scheduled to
water earlier this afternoon. I’d be happy to trade in the future if you let me
know ahead of time.”

He reached for the wallet in his back pocket. “I’ll pay you back.” A
typical city dweller, he had no idea that water was more valuable than liquid
gold out here. “How much do I owe you?”

Ignoring the stack of bills in his wallet, Rosie forced a smile. “You
don’t owe me anything. If you need any help with irrigation, or—” she glanced
around at the bare fields and the dilapidated state of his old barn. “If you
need any help with anything, feel free to come talk to us. My grandpa’s been
ranching his whole life, and he loves to give advice.” She turned to walk back
in the direction of Grandpa’s ranch. “It was nice to meet you.” She didn’t have
time to teach him the ropes—not with everything else she had to do. Since
Grandpa’s heart trouble started, Rosie had taken on almost all the work around
the ranch, and she needed to get ahead on her chores before her teaching job
began again next week.

She’d reached the fence where Cheddar waited before she noticed the
lap-lap-lap sound behind her. She turned to look at her flip-flop-clad
neighbor. There was that smile again.

“I thought you could use a hand,” he said. “Maybe if I help, you can
get things watered faster.”

Rosie did need a hand but it was hard to admit it to this guy. She didn’t
even know him and wasn’t sure how she felt about him following her back to her
property. “Thank you.” She made a space in the barbed wire fence, holding the
bottom wire down with her boot and pulling the top wire up with her hand. “Go
on through,” she told him.

“Ladies first,” he replied. To her surprise, he held the fence for her
without any problem—flip-flop and all. When his sandal stuck to the fence
afterward, he snatched it off without embarrassment. Then he navigated the
fence as if it were just another challenge on an obstacle course. Once on the
other side, he gave Rosie’s dog a pat on the head. “I bet you’re thinking I
ought to get myself a pair of cowboy boots.”

Rosie turned away to hide her smile. “That would be a good idea.”

“So is this your land here?” he asked as he kept pace with Rosie’s
footsteps.

She answered, “Yes,” before she caught herself. “I mean, no. It’s my
grandpa’s land. I live with him and help run the ranch.”

He looked down at the cow-pies, trying his best to avoid stepping on
them. “What type of livestock do you keep?”

“In this field, we run a few head of cattle—just enough for our
personal needs. Right now we have two cows and three steers.”

He winced. “So, two females and three neutered males. No bulls?”

“Bulls are more bother than they’re worth.”

“Somehow I guessed you’d say that.”

From the grin on his face, she could tell he was teasing. The man had
obviously never dealt with cattle. Rosie watched as he avoided a patch of dried
cow-pies. “Go ahead and step on the dried ones. They don’t stick like the wet
ones.”

He laughed again. “You’ve lived here all your life?”

“All the life I want to remember.” She’d be surprised if Betty McFerrin
hadn’t already filled him in on her entire life story. Even if she hadn’t, he
would likely hear it from someone else.

“Beautiful place to grow up.” He slowed his pace, looking up at the sky
and then out across the horizon to the mountains in the distance.

Remembering the time, she kept going. “It is, but it’s a lot of work if
you’re going to keep things alive.” Her boots crunched against the dry grass.

He caught up to her—lap, lap, lap—as if he were out for a casual walk
on the beach. His legs were so long, it seemed he took only one step for every
two of hers. He couldn’t be that much taller, could he? He only seemed about
six feet tall.

They walked for another ten minutes until they arrived at the hayfield
where Rosie had left her siphon tubes. She grabbed a tube and sunk it down into
the irrigation canal. “We don’t have fancy equipment,” she explained, swishing
the tube back and forth to fill it with water. She capped one end of the tube
with the palm of her hand. Then she bent the tube over the side of the ditch
and removed her hand to let the water flow out onto the field. “The siphon action
only works when the water’s high enough.”

He grabbed a tube. “Simple physics.”

While he swished his tube through the water, Rosie waited for the
moment when she’d inevitably have to correct his technique. But that moment
never came. When he laid his tube onto the field, water poured out as if it
obeyed his every command. He was already working on his second tube before she
grabbed another tube of her own. She filled another and then another, keeping
count as she went. Soon, water flowed out onto the field from all twenty tubes,
twelve of which Destry had laid out. If she hadn’t hurt her back in the car
accident last year she could probably have matched his pace.

She moved on to irrigate the vegetable garden in a similar way, letting
the water flow out between rows of plants. He followed her, matching her
methods. When they finished the garden, she led him back to stop the tubes in
the hayfield and move them to the fields where she kept the llamas and alpacas.
Goats, chickens, and emus found their places beside turkeys in the pens behind
her grandpa’s house while cats and dogs roamed free.

For another hour, she worked alongside Destry, lifting siphon tubes
full of water over the sides of the irrigation ditch until Grandpa’s fields had
received their share of moisture.

She rubbed her arms. Though it was early August, her muscles still
weren’t used to the exertion of irrigating by herself. Hopefully, she wouldn’t
be as sore tomorrow. “Thanks for your help,” she told him. He had done at least
sixty percent of the work.

“No problem.” He bent to rinse his hands off in the irrigation ditch. “Sorry
I took your water. It won’t happen again.”

“Thanks.”

He wiped his hands along the sides of his board shorts. “I’ve been
meaning to ask—what’s with all the animals? Are you running a petting zoo or
something?”

“It’s more of a refuge,” she said. “People around here know I’ll take
in any animal that needs me—doesn’t matter if they were abused, abandoned,
injured, or orphaned.”

She looked over to the end of the driveway, where Grandpa stood
watching. He gestured toward the house, and Rosie knew exactly what he meant by
his pointing. He wanted to invite Destry in for supper. Grandpa had lost most
of his hearing and his ability to work the fields, but thanks to cataract surgery,
he saw with twenty-twenty vision. He’d probably been watching her and Destry
all evening. He might have even cooked more than a can of soup.

She tilted her head toward the figure of her grandpa in the distance. “Looks
like my grandfather wants to meet you. Can you join us for supper?”

“I’d love to!”

She hoped he couldn’t hear her stomach grumbling at the mere mention of
food. The scent of chicken and dumplings became stronger as they approached the
house. From the outside, the house looked completely ordinary—a modest ranch
home painted brown as the dirt that surrounded it. Rosie considered giving him
a hint of what waited inside, but then decided against it. She wanted to see
his untainted reaction.

Mud splatters covered his T-shirt and shorts. “I should probably go
home and change first,” he said.

Rosie allowed her eyes to roam up from his mud-caked ankles, splattered
shorts, and stained T-shirt to his face, which was also smeared with mud. She
gulped. He looked good in mud. Really good. “We’ll hose off before we go
inside,” she said.

With Cheddar at her heels, she led him around to the side yard near
Grandma’s rose garden. He waited by the cabbage rose with big pink blooms while
she scooted past it to turn on the hose at the faucet. “Be sure to get your
face,” she said, handing him the hose.

He did as she asked, holding his face under the hose and transforming
himself back into the city guy who stole her water, which was, in her opinion,
easier to deal with than his muddy, manly look.

Destry held the hose out to her. “I admire your restraint—not blasting
me with this thing.”

Rosie took the hose and ran cool water over her arms before she cranked
the faucet shut. “We’d better go in. My grandpa’s waiting.” She walked past the
roses, grabbing a towel off the clothesline and tossing it to him as they
rounded the corner to the front porch. Grandpa had adorned the porch with
agates, animal bones, rattlesnake skins, and antique tools he’d collected over
the years.

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