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“So Paxton, bud, looks like it’s just you, me and the dogs celebrating this year.” He brayed, nuzzling into my side, his teeth nipping at my jeans. “No teeth man! It hurts.” I laughed, pushing at him gently and he turned, running out into the open pasture.

Spring was in full swing on my farm, the flowers sprouting, the summer bird residents back, and the animals fucking happy to be running in the pastures again.

Spring also meant my birthday. Another year passed, another year older. And still all alone. Don’t mistake me, I like my me time, I like living the life of a bachelor. Fucking freedom being my middle name. But sometimes, especially at night, I feel like I’m missing something, someone.

I used to just go out with the guys on my day, dinner, drinking, taking someone home for the night. Fuck, it was great. But I was working so fucking hard now, and when I wasn’t working I was at home recuperating. The thought of a night of food, hard drinking and mindless fucking just didn’t have the same draw to it anymore.

After a quick lunch and a few important phone calls made, I went back outside, sitting on my deck and watching the pups playing around. Suddenly they stopped, their ears pricking up. Both beginning to bark, low and threatening.

“Kids, enough! I don’t see a fucking thing.” I stood, walking over to the donkey pasture fence. The dogs standing by me. I looked towards the trees and saw movement, but it was so far away I could have been mistaken. But then both dogs took off, running towards the spot I was looking.

Fuck! I was hoping it wasn’t an animal, at least not one the dogs could have a nasty tangle with. I headed that way, the phantom figure now coming into a clearer view. It was a person, that much I could tell, walking what looked like a pony. No, a donkey?! Paxton?!

I took off, sprinting now, wondering not only how Paxton escaped. But who had a hold of him. As I got closer I saw them, a woman, she looked dressed for farm life, jeans, boots, flannel.

“Hey! Does this little fella belong with you?” She yelled. I wondered if she would recognize me.

“Yes, he does! Where’d you find him?” I spoke between breaths. Definitely out of shape.

“He was checking out my garden, nothing planted yet but newly turned, guess he was making friends with the worms.” She giggled, and I fucking swooned. She was gorgeous, her y/h/l y/h/c shinning in the sunlight. She held a hand above her y/e/c (?) eyes, trying to shield them from the bright light. Her other arm draped over Paxton’s neck, her fingers scritching his ear.

Paxton ambled over to me, a snort coming from him as he pushed at my hand. “You little fucking escape artist! I’m really sorry, he’s never done that before.” I held my hand out to her. “I’m Jeffrey, or Jeff, whichever is fine.”

She took it, shaking it firmly. “I’m y/n, and I know who you are. I live about a half mile through those woods. Just moved here to help my father.” She smiled, bringing her other hand down from her face and letting me see just how beautiful she was.

“You know me?” I was assuming she meant from tv, but I was curious. Scratch that, I was feeling like a fucking teenager thinking my crush might have a crush on me.

“Yes sir, I think anyone in a 100 mile radius knows you.” A smirk appearing on her lips. “I just didn’t realize that the famous Paxton was visiting me. I might have kept him longer.” She broke into a full on smile, looking up at me from under her long eyelashes.

I reacted not like I thought I would to her calling me sir. Whenever someone has called me that, I instantly feel old. Sir was my grandfather, my dad. I was Jeff, Jeffrey, the occasional Mr. Morgan. Not sir. But when y/n said sir, my body was not at all offended. I shifted a bit, bringing Paxton around in front of me to hid the evidence of my unexpected reaction.

“Well, thank you so much for bringing him back, guess I better check the fence, see where exactly he escaped.” I smiled at her, thinking of a way I could stall her leaving.

“No problem. I’m guessing it’s at the further corner as this end looked fine as I walked him through. If you want, I’ll go with you and check, I’m pretty damn fine with repairing fences.” She grinned. And I saw a way to keep her longer.

“That would be great!” I knew how to fix a fence, but fuck if she needed to know that. “I’ll just go put this little bad ass in his barn and be right back.”

As I took Paxton to the donkey barn, I realized I couldn't stop smiling. I hadn’t felt this way about anyone in a long while. I wasn’t even sure exactly what I was feeling. But it was fucking nice. And I was going to explore the possibilities.

As I walked back over towards y/n, I see that she’s running around with Bandit. “So, Honey,” I looked down at the dog by my side. “ think she’s okay? Your brother seems to like her.” She was throwing a tennis ball and he was retrieving it.

“Yet another of my animals that seems to like you better! He never brings the damn thing back to me, fucking ever!” I was laughing as I tried to wrestle the ball out of Bandit’s jaws.

She giggled, a slight blush blooming on her cheeks. “Well, I love animals more than humans, and they sense that.” She frowned. “So, let’s go see where little mister escaped.”

As we walked around the fence I couldn’t help but have this strange feeling overcome me. Wonderful, but odd. Who was this girl, and why was she causing feelings that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before?!

“AHA! There it is!” She took off, Bandit on her heels. “It looks like the bugger was able to knock the posts down and probably jumped, it’s not that high now.” She began moving the wooden posts around, fucking heavy logs that she lifted with no problem.

“You’re mighty strong, those things weigh a fucking ton.” I grabbed the other end of one she was attempting to put back into place.

“Comes from living on a farm half your life.” She snickered. “You’re going to want to nail or staple the fencing back into places. Also might want to get him a salt block to stop chewing your fences.”

“I guess I’ll be going to the farm store later on. Thank you for rescuing my runaway boy.” I ran my hand up the back of my neck, suddenly nervous as fuck.

“It’s really no problem.” She has crouched down, patting both dogs now, Bandit trying to push Honey away to no avail. “Hey buddy, I have enough lovins for the both of you!” She laughed, then looked back up at me. “I should head back, my pops might be wondering where my ass went off to.”

I’ve always been a risk taker, never settling for the easy way. In my choice of careers, in my everyday life. But I never wanted to take a chance on love. It just seemed to fucking risky, dangerous. The heart’s a fragile thing. But turning 52, and no where closer to a relationship of some sort made me think. Meeting her, made me think. The feelings that were bubbling to the surface were totally new territory for me. So, I took a chance. A BIG fucking chance. So long heart, we had some good times.

“Hey, I know this may sound odd, scratch that, this IS odd. It’s my birthday, and while I normally would be going out with some of my friends, I just am not feeling that this year.” I could feel little beads of sweat running down my face, I tried to wipe them off inconspicuously. “I know this really great Italian place that never gets mobbed, it’s quiet and has a nice atmosphere. I was wondering…”

She never let me finish. “I would love to.” She smiled shyly, standing up right in front of me. “I kinda need to go home and shower, change.” She looked down at herself, Bandit still trying to get her attention, nuzzling at her hand that was hanging by her side, making her laugh.

I wanted to tell her not to change, she took my breath away just the way she was, all flannel, denim and dirt. A farm girl, but fucking sexy as shit. But I wouldn’t say anything, i was already way too out of this old man’s comfort zone.

“Okay, well it’s still pretty early, how about I pick you up at 8, is that okay?” I was stepping foot to foot, my fucking nerves getting the better of me.

“That’s perfect! I can make sure my pops eats and it gives me time to chill.” She was now leaning down to pat both of my little brats. “Bandit and Honey are such well-behaved babies, wish my little buggers were.” She snickered.

“Yeah, they have their moments. Bandit’s come a long way from his beginnings.”

“Sometimes the ones that had the worst beginnings become the best. He knows what he’s got with you here, and he’s grateful, right baby?” She leaned down, kissing his snout.

She loves animals, she’s fucking sexy as hell, and she seems to like me. Well, Happy Fucking Birthday to me.