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Hours later covered in brown, Talia washed up in the first-floor bathroom. She scurried across the hall to the laundry room. A pair of sweats and t-shirt sat folded on top of the dryer. She pulled on the sweats and oversized shirt. Taking a deep breath, she shuffled her way out to the kitchen.
“Alright, Addie. I am ready to help. What can I do to help with dinner?”
Addie looked at Talia. The wince she tried to conceal told Talia all she needed to know about how she looked. “You don’t have to help me, hon.”
“I’m not a freeloader around here. Give me something to do.” Talia felt her reserve dwindling, but she needed to help out.
Reluctantly, Addie gave Talia the rolling pin. “Roll out this dough. When it’s about an inch thick cut out the biscuits and place them on the sheet.”
Talia could do that. How hard could it be to roll out dough and cut it in circles? The answer was near impossible with only a few hours of sleep. Not to mention cleaning the horse stalls all day.
“Oh dear.” Addie stood next to Talia. They looked at the misshapen dough. Most were a ball or oval. They weren’t an inch thick either.
“It’s alright, Tally. Go sit in the living room while I put these in the oven.” Talia nodded and slumped off to the living room.
A bone deep ache spread through her body. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d worked that hard. Talia now knew how Zeke got those defined muscles. Those muscles she’d been touching, rubbing and ready to kiss. What the hell was wrong with her?
“What’s wrong with her?” Zeke’s voice came out from the kitchen echoing her thoughts.
“She’s exhausted.” Addie said.
“How long has she been sitting like that staring at the blank tv?”
“About 45 minutes. Poor thing needs a good soak in the tub, dinner then straight to bed.”
Footsteps sounded next to the couch. Zeke squatted in front of her. “Lia, you ok?”
“Yep. Just catching my breath.”
“Uh huh. Come on let’s get you upstairs.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“You have two choices. Either you get your butt off the couch and up to your room or I pick you up off the couch and carry you to your room. Easy way or hard way, Lia?”
Talia remained seated on the couch. She was too exhausted to answer.
“Ok. Hard way it is.” Zeke picked her up as if she were light as a pillow.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m taking you to your room, getting a bath ready for you, then bringing you dinner.”
“Ok.” Talia was too tired to argue. She knew she smelled of the manure/mud mixture, but she couldn’t help snuggling into Zeke’s arms. His warmth and strength enveloped her. He smelled like sweat, hay and fresh cut grass. It was like a damn aphrodisiac.