“Ouch! I swear I’m going to get you one day, Big Boss. And when that happens, I’m going to happily enjoy a chicken dinner,” I said to the angry cock that was currently making threatening noises at me.
He made one last ditch effort to peck my ankle, but fortunately, I was able to dodge in time.
“Crazy bird,” I cursed under my breath.
A light chuckle had me whipping my head around to catch whoever was stealthily watching me. Austin was standing there with an amused smile shot toward me.
“Austin! What are you doing here?” I said with a huge grin. I strode toward him and pulled him into my arm for a deep kiss. He yelped out in surprise at first but quickly got with the program and wrapped his arms around me.
A soft neigh had me pulling back to find Joy noising her muzzle against my jean pockets where I usually kept the sugary treats for her.
“There’s nothing there for you, sweet girl.” I laughed and gently pushed her away. She huffed at me before losing interest and walking toward a patch of grass to graze with Bliss, Joy’s sister.
It was only then that I noticed both horses were saddled up. I turned to Austin again with a brow raised. He revealed a sexy smirk that tempted me to kiss his sweet lips again, but that thought was interrupted by his words.
“Trish said we could take them out for a ride on your lunch break,” he said.
“I’ll be right back!” I threw over my shoulder as I grabbed the egg basket to bring inside. Austin’s laughter carried in the wind as I ran, and he was still laughing when I returned minutes later.
Austin’s laughs stopped and his eyes widened when he saw me sprinting straight at him. I slowed down enough so that I didn’t hurt either of us as I wrapped my arms around his waist and peppered kisses all over his face.
He giggled against my attacks as he tried to push me away without any real force behind his attempts. Eventually, the kisses died down as did the laughs that came from both sides.
“You ready to stop fooling around and go for the ride?” Austin said with a huff. He blew a piece of hair that had fallen over his face during the scuffle before turning to me with a glint of amusement in his eyes.
God, he looked so beautiful.
After becoming official boyfriends during the last dance, I often questioned how stupid my younger self was for never realizing Austin’s beauty. If only I’d been a bit more in touch with my reality instead of being the dense idiot that my mom claimed me to be, then Austin and I might have gotten together a lot sooner.
Not that there was any point in wishing for the past to change. What I needed to focus on was the happy future that I would build with the man I loved.
We mounted the horses and guided them to the trail that led to the wide field of plains that was nestled in the back of the farm.
At first, Austin and I rode at a slow pace beside each other as we chatted about our day. He’d taken the afternoon off and that was why he was able to surprise me with a lunchtime ride. I told him about the visitors we’d had this morning that I helped for the apple picking as well as my grand battle royal with the fussy cock that earned me red spots on my ankles.
However, it didn’t take long for the excitement of the ride to build up. Once we reached the flat area of the plains, the urge to fly in the wind with Joy was boiling in my blood, but I didn’t want to leave Austin by himself. He knew the basics on how to ride a horse, but he wasn’t confident enough to go the speeds that I was hoping for.
I tried to suppress the excitement of the thought of the thrill, but Austin must have sensed something. He urged me to go on, even after denying that it was what I wanted.
“Go on, I’ll be waiting here for you,” he said after a few seconds of back and forth. He dismounted Bliss, effectively ending the conversation and he found a nice area in the grass to sit on and gave me the shooing gesture.
“Thanks, babe. I’ll be quick,” I said before urging Joy to pick up speed. Her powerful muscles moved under my legs as she moved. She started out at a slow trot but very quickly gained speed until she was going at a full sprint.
I leaned my body forward, closer to Joy’s head as the wind blew through my short hair. I let Joy decide our direction, not really worried about running into anything since there wasn’t much in this area besides flat land and grass.
Here, I could just enjoy the ride. Joy and I were one as we chased the freedom of the endless field.
As we sprinted, it felt like we could go on forever, ride into the wind, and separate ourself from the real world. But I looked to my side and noticed how empty it was.
Sure, I had Joy with me, but I was distantly feeling the ache that was overtaking my soul.
He was waiting for me. Austin had never once restricted me from following my needs. In fact, he had always encouraged me and been a safe space to let me be. And most importantly, he had become the home that allowed me to rest my weary heart and body.
I slowed Joy and turned her back the way we came. She let out an angry snort, probably annoyed that I was cutting our run short. I wasn’t able to take her out on these runs very often, and although I felt bad for ending her fun so soon, my heart wasn’t in it anymore.
I was anxious to return to where I belonged. By Austin’s side.
I’d expected Jim to take Joy for a long ride since he was grumbling all week about not having a chance to go for a ride in ages, but to my surprise, he was back not even fifteen minutes later.
He jumped off his horse and scooped me up in his arms for another searing kiss and swirled us around until we both flopped onto the soft grass.
“I love you,” he whispered. The gentle look he gave me had me feeling like a puddle of sweet goop.
“I love you too,” I said, beaming at him. I still couldn’t believe that this was my life now. Never in a million dreams did I think that my feelings for Jim would be reciprocated or that we would be in a long-term relationship.
We returned to the main farmhouse to heat up the lunchboxes I’d prepared. After lunch, I left Jim to his work while I drove to his mom’s house.
“It’s good to see you dear.” Bella greeted me with a hug and pulled me inside the house. “Edna’s already started in the garden. I’m just getting us set up with some lemonade.”
“Homemade?” I asked as I followed her into the kitchen.
“You betcha,” she said with a wink. She filled three glasses and offered one to me. “Also, thank you for offering to help today.”
“It’s a pleasure. It’s actually my honor to be part of Edna’s creative process,” I said as I accepted the glass with a thanks.
Bella’s smile brightened at the mention of her fiancée. I still couldn’t believe how fast the two had moved, but I guessed the timeline was normal considering they had started living together after a month of dating.
Edna had moved into Bella’s place with her own resident now serving as her studio. They had torn down the middle portion of the fence that had separated the house to create one large garden that Edna had full rein over.
The woman in question was bent over a pile of dirt when we entered the backyard.
“You’re working so hard, honey.” Edna stood and turned at the sound of her fiancée’s voice. Bella handed over the lemonade and gave the younger woman a quick peck on the cheek.
Edna’s face burned red as she took small sips from the icy drink. Her gaze was locked on Bella like her partner was the only thing she saw in this world. They exchanged happy smiles together.
They were lost in their own world and had completely forgotten my existence. I was the audience that had the pleasure of witnessing the love the two of them very so obviously shared.
I wondered if this was how other people viewed Jim and me, and that thought had my own cheeks burning. At least for me, I tended to push everything else to the back of my mind when I was around the man I loved. It was a habit that I was trying to fix, but that was a hard thing to do when even after months, being with Jim felt like a literal dream come true.
Edna finally noticed my presence, which only caused her flush to deepen, but she quickly shook out of the love haze that she’d been under to give me a hug.
We drained our lemonades and started fixing up the garden and transplanting the flowers she had already picked out. A few hours later, I was sweaty, sore, and a little sun-burnt, but oddly filled with satisfaction as I looked at the garden we’d just finished putting together.
“We definitely deserve a reward after all this work. I’ll whip up some dinner for us?” Bella said, turning to me.
“Thanks for the offer, but I should get going. Jim should be coming home soon,” I said, checking the time on my watch. If I left now, I should have time to shower before he returned.
When I looked back up, Bella was giving me a look. “What?” I asked with a laugh and wiped at my face, thinking there was dirt smeared there.
“I’m glad that boy finally got with the program and realized his feelings. You two are good for each other,” she said, pulling me in for a hug.
“Thanks, I think so too,” I said with a smile and returned the hug just as tightly. It meant a lot more than she probably knew to hear that. It was another confirmation that Jim and I made sense, that we were meant to be together.
The two ladies walked me to the front and pulled me in for another round of hugs. When Edna pulled back, she handed me a small gift bag.
“What’s this?” I asked as I examined it.
“I made this for you and Jim in mind. I hope you two like it! And don’t forget to open it together,” she said with a wink.
I thanked her and gave them both one last goodbye before getting in my car and heading home.
Jim and my home hadn’t changed much in the last five months of being official, with the only real change being us sleeping together in either his or my bed. I resisted the idea of converting one of the bedrooms into an office or something in case I had a late night of work. I didn’t want to wake him up, so I’d sleep in the other room on those nights, but I would still wake up to find Jim snuggled beside me in the morning regardless.
The man must really love me if he was waking up in the middle of the night to find me when he was quite literally obsessed with sleep.
I chuckled to myself and dropped the gift bag off on the kitchen counter to open later with Jim. He would be home in any minute now, so I hopped in the shower to wash away the grime from working in the garden.
Humming a pop song as I got undressed, my confidence grew as the steam and echoes in the bathroom had me belting out the lyrics. I was mid-sentence when I felt large hands wrap around me.
I yelped and turned, ready to knock the pervert who sneaked into my apartment while I was singing and vulnerable.
“Jim! You scared the daylights out of me!” I said when I realized it was no pervert. Just the love of my life, who apparently wanted to drive me to an early death.
Jim wrapped his arms around my middle, pasted his naked chest against my back, and rested his neck on my shoulder. “Heard you singing and thought I’d join and help you wash up.”
I turned in his hold and circled my arms around his neck. “Oh, really? Was that all you intended to do?” I said with a brow raised. I could feel something hard poking against my groin but chose to not to acknowledge it.
He gave me a sly grin but sealed my lips with a hot, open mouth kiss that had me panting and needy for more. Before I could take what I wanted, he pulled back.
“We should get you cleaned up,” he said with a smug look.
“Jim, you can’t be serious right now. I thought you wanted to help, not drive me crazy,” I grumbled, but he only chuckled and flipped me around so that my back was facing him.
“There’s plenty of time for that later,” he said in my ear. He reached around me to grab the body wash and squirted a good amount of his hand before working the soap into my shoulder. “I really enjoyed the afternoon surprise today, so I wanted to do something nice for you as well.”
I groaned as he rubbed my shoulders, then down my back and my waist. Each stroke of his hand released knots that had probably developed from sitting all day driving people around.
“I wasn’t expecting anything in return, but I’m not going to say no to a free massage,” I said, closing my eyes to enjoy the feel of his hands on me.
He chuckled as he continued working his magic to my muscles. “Gemma texted earlier. Said your parents want us to come round for dinner this weekend. Apparently you weren’t answering your phone,” he said some time later. Time was nonexistent when he was making my body feel so relaxed like this.
“Mmhmm,” I replied, vaguely aware of his words. Gemma must have contacted me when I was working in the garden, and I hadn’t checked my phone since, but I wasn’t capable of forming words at that moment to tell him those thoughts.
Jim chuckled again, this time, close to my ear as he pecked a sweet kiss on my neck. “Alright, you’re gonna be all red if I rub any longer,” he said, giving me one last pat on my back before guiding me under the warm spray to rinse off while he quickly washed up as well.
He got out first and helped me dry off with a towel. I stood still, smiling at him with what had to be the goofiest smile in the world as I let him take care of me.
After carefully wiping me down, he stole a quick kiss on the tip of my nose before drying himself as well. “So dinner at your parents’ this weekend?” he asked as he rubbed the towel over his short hair.
Water droplets dripped down onto his beautifully toned shoulders and down his hard chest. I gulped and forced my eyes away as I tried to focus on his words. He gave me a look that said he knew exactly what I was thinking.
“Sounds good,” I replied with a sheepish smile. I’d agree to anything if he was going to ask while dressed in his finest birthday suit.
Jim smiled, pressed a quick kiss to my lips, wrapped the towel around his waist, and exited the bathroom. I did the same with my towel and followed him.
He filled two cups with cold water and passed me one. I chugged the refreshing liquid in hopes to cool my thoughts. It mostly worked, especially when I wasn’t staring at Jim’s tempting body.
“What’s this?” Jim asked as he picked up the gift bag from the counter.
“Edna said she made something for us. Go ahead and open it,” I said, stepping up beside him to watch as he unwrapped the present.
Inside was a piece of art in a glass frame. The art featured our town’s famous Doves with dried flowers arranged around them as the background.
“Wow, this is beautiful. I think these are the flowers she planted last fall. It’s sweet of her to make this for us,” Jim said as he examined both the front and the back of the art piece.
I snuggled closer to Jim, and he automatically wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “We have our very own Doves to protect and bless us now,” I said softly.
I didn’t know if I believed the town legend, but it didn’t hurt having more positive thoughts for our relationship.
Jim placed the Doves on the counter and scooped me up like I weighed nothing. I cried out in surprise as my arms went around his neck to steady myself.
“It doesn’t matter if they bless us or not because I know we’re already the luckiest couple in the world,” he said before leaning down to attack my mouth in a hard kiss.
I laughed around his lips, and held on tighter when he made the sprint toward the bedroom.
Jim was right, Doves of Destiny or not, we were already blessed. We would be happy and live our lives with countless more small moments like these that made every day feel so special.
Jim and I were more than best friends or roommates, we were two people who found where they belonged.
With each other.
Thank you for reading The Holiday Boyfriend and their bonus epilogue 🙂 This might be the end of Jim and Austin’s story, but there will be more stories set in Wintertown in the future!
Until then, you can check out our angel baby Felix’s HEA in Ready, Set, Glow! It’s part of a multi-author, Christmas town series full of small town mischievous and holiday fun. Check out Felix’s book here.