If you missed the previous installments, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
A NEW BEGINNING
© Kylie Griffin 2013
“No.” I stopped in the row next to him and stared around at the parts of a dismantled pipeline strewn all over the ground. Precious water dampened the dirt at the base of one palm. “Is everything all right?”
One, broad shoulder shrugged. “Blocked pipe. Mud from the river builds up near the gate valves. Got to unblock it by hand. Should’ve updated the pipes … this is boring you, isn’t it?”
“Not at all.” I handed him the hydro-pouch with a nervous smile. “There’s a lot to learn about helping you run this place. You might need to take things slow, explain a lot, but I’ll get it. I’m fit, strong, used to long, hard hours.”
The hydro-pouch halted halfway to his lips. “I’m not after a slave, Ms.Una.”
“And I’m not offering to be one but I’d like to think you’d let a partner share that dream of yours.”
His frown deepened. “A partner?”
I took a deep breath and looked around the paddock, feeling the heat, knowing I was sweating as much as he was, both of us tasting the ever present dust and grit.
“You’ve a grand vision for the future, Mr.Tann. I like a man that knows what he wants and goes after it. You’re a bit like me in that respect.” I shoved the broad brimmed hat back so I could look up at him. “I’d hoped for a future, one slightly better than what I left behind but when I got here I wondered what I’d Bonded into. I worried that you’d take advantage of my situation but you’re not the man I expected.“
He remained silent, watching me through hooded eyes, his gaze intense. I gave him a small, anxious smile and smoothed a hand over my cover-all, well aware of how lean and skinny I was.
“You’ve a beautiful home. I can see the love and care you put into it. You have a good eye for crafting and you obviously work hard.” I scuffed the dirt with the toe of my boot. “There’s a beauty in the starkness of this land. I won’t say I really like it yet but I can feel the peacefulness here.”
“It grows on you.”
I nodded. “In time I’m sure it will.” I wet my lips. “I’m a plain looking woman, Mr.Tann, and I doubt I’m very experienced with what pleases men compared to others you’ve known …”
“Stop.” The quiet word halted my rambling.
I stared down at the ground, flushing, thinking I’d offended him with my plain speaking. I’d never been good at saying things eloquently, but it wasn’t in me to dodge an issue no matter how awkward it was.
Two large, mud-coated boots entered my field of vision. A grease-stained finger tilted my chin up so that I looked at him. His broad face held an oddly contented look.
“I never expected you to appreciate or recognise the beauty in any of this, so that you do fills me with a greater satisfaction than you could know.” He laid his large hand over my heart, his touch gentle. “What you have here is all I need, not looks, not experience or fine education.”
My heart squeezed tightly with his soft words and the intense expression on his face. I bit my lip, hope curling deep inside me.
“Besides, I know I’m not one to boast about good looks.” The ghost of smile softened his rugged features. His thumb smoothed over my lip. “If all you want is a partner, I’ll settle for that. But if, by some miracle, you feel we could become lovers then I’m willing to wait. I’m a patient man and one who knows how to make the best of any given situation.”
A slow grin curved my lips. “When we get back to your cabin, Mr.Tann, I think I’d like to formalise our Bond-contract into a permanent arrangement.”
Astonishment lit his features. “There’s no rush to decide. You might change your mind. Life out here’s hard.”
I shook my head. “My future is here now, with you.”
He swallowed hard and a muscle ticked in his jaw. “I’m honoured to be your partner, Ms.Una. Never thought to find someone like you.”
“Do you think we could call each other by our given names?” I asked, wistfully. Formality seemed rather irrelevant now.
“I’d like that, Kaylee.” He hung the hydro-pouch on one of the palm-fronds and crouched. “Here, see your first lesson.”
I moved down beside him and discovered how to unblock a pipe. It took another three hours to check the remaining lines and the sun was setting as we made our way home through the dust.
“Rylan?” He turned to look down at me. “I meant to ask you earlier. Why did you call this property Pearl Station?”
“Don’t you think it suits?” It was an odd name and my puzzled frown brought a crooked smile to his face. “Think about it. This land is as pitted and ugly as an oyster’s shell yet if you delve beneath that layer, inside her you’ll find a treasure worth discovering.”
Touched by the poetry of his words I reached for Rylan’s hand and laced my fingers with his. He seemed surprised but then tightened his grip, his touch warm and comforting. The decision to come to P-171 was no longer as frightening as it seemed several hours ago.
I’d found my own pearl and he was worth more than I’d ever hoped for.
© Kylie Griffin 2013
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I hope you enjoyed reading this short sci-fi romance story as much as I did writing it!