Travis had been here for just over a year. We were technically engaged, not that we’d told anyone. He was happy just knowin’ I’d said yes, and I had some head-clearin’ stuff to work through. Knowing I was good enough for Trav was one thing, but knowing if I was good enough to be a husband and father was somethin’ else entirely.
Life at Sutton Station had never been better. Business was strong, Trudy and Bacon’s little baby, Gracie, was a few weeks old now and as cute as a button, Ma’s health was good, and my relationship with Laura and Sam was in a pretty good place. And Travis? Well, life with him was still all kinds of perfect.
But, to Travis’s dismay, Christmas at the Station was just another day. Another day of getting up before the sun, feeding animals, fixin’ what needed fixin’, and checking water troughs all while tryin’ to keep out of the blistering heat.
And this year weren’t much different. Only that it was Travis’s first Sutton Station Christmas. The fact we didn’t go all out with decorations and celebrations baffled him, and if I was bein’ truthful, it disappointed him too.
Which was why I had to make it a special kind of Christmas…
The next day, the day before Christmas Eve, Trav was to head out with Billy into the Western paddock, checkin’ cattle, fences, and water troughs. They left long before sunup to beat the heat of the day, and it gave me plenty of time to make last-minute emails and phone calls to make sure everything was going to plan.
It was weird to be excited about Christmas.
Part of me wished real hard that it wasn’t a surprise. I wanted to share this part with Travis. This excitement, the build-up. But part of me couldn’t wait to see his face on Christmas morning.
So I set about gettin’ some office work done until Ma called us for lunch. Travis and Billy weren’t back yet—that weren’t too surprising—and they radioed in to say they were two hours away. So we kept some lunch aside for them and kept on about our day. The general rule of the Outback summer was to work early and late, taking the hottest few hours of the day off. Usually stayin’ indoors outta the sun was the best way to spend it, though I normally found myself in the office getting paperwork done.
I smiled to myself when I heard the old Cruiser come into the yard. It was always a relief to know when people were back, but knowin’ Trav was somewhere close was a comfort I couldn’t explain.
The screen door banged and there was a sound of boots on the floorboards. Ma responded with, “Lunch is on the table.”
Though I was a little disappointed Trav didn’t stick his head around the door, I heard the quiet murmur of voices and the clanging of cutlery in the dining room, and figurin’ they’d be starving hungry, I didn’t want to bother them while they ate. But when they were done, it wasn’t Travis who came to see me. It was Billy.
“Hey, boss,” he said, looking a little unsure. “He didn’t want me to say nothin’, but Mr Travis ain’t feelin’ too good.”
I got to my feet. “Where is he?”
“Don’t think he’s moved from the dining table, boss.”
That was exactly where I found him. He had his head in his hands, his plate of half-eaten lunch still in front of him. He looked up at me and I could see then he weren’t his usual colour. He frowned. “Billy told ya, didn’t he?”
“Yes, thankfully,” I said walking over to him. “Trav, you look like shit.”
I put my hand on his shoulder and he was hot to the touch. Too hot. I put my hand on his chest, then on his forehead and on the top of his head. He was cooked. “Ma!”
It must have been my tone, because not a moment later, Ma appeared in the doorway. “What’s wrong?”
Just then, Trav’s head kind of lolled back and he almost fell of the chair before I grabbed him. “I think Trav’s heat-struck.”
N.R. Walker’s Bio
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.
She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.
She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things…but likes it even more when they fall in love.
She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She’s been writing ever since…
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