Mike staggered up the stairs to his old bedroom, only to find it completely stripped of all his personal belongings. Nothing remained of his childhood; the furniture, the gifts his mother gave him on his birthday before she died, all of them were missing. Everything had changed.
He threw off his clothes, too weary to care, and flopped down on the bed. Some time later, he awoke in darkness, coated in sweat. Turning on the bedside lamp, he rubbed his eyes and glanced at the alarm clock, 5am. He wiped his sweaty palms on his knees and swore. Who turned off the bloody air-conditioning? He got to his feet and flicked the switch on the wall thermostat, then staggered into the bathroom to take a shower.
A short while later, he made his way downstairs.. A light shone under the kitchen door; inside he could hear voices. He pushed open the door. A middle-aged woman stood at the stove, and Jess sat at the table, drinking from a mug, a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him.
"Hey, boss, must say I'm surprised to see you up."
Mike flopped down in the chair next to Jess and yawned. "What day is it? I'm starving and I feel like I've just walked across the Simpson Desert."
"You've been asleep about fourteen hours. This is Betty, by the way. Betty, meet our boss, Mike Stone."
Mike raised his head and smiled at the tidy, round woman. "Nice to meet you, Betty; can you make me some of what he's got?"
"No worries, Mister Mike," she said, pouring him a coffee then turning back to the stove.
"Sleep well?" said Jess, running his hand slowly up Mike's thigh.
Fuck, I'm going to be hard all day. Mike met his gaze and drew a deep breath. "I slept like the dead. How about you? Do you usually get up this early?"
"Oh, you can get me up any time of the night," Jess said, squeezing Mike's leg." Do you still ride?"
Mike choked on his coffee and looked up to see Jess's eyes dancing with amusement. "Sorry?"
"I have a couple of horses; I like to go for a ride before work. Thought you might like to come, of course, after you've got over your jet lag. We can ride up to the new plantings. I'll show you around."
Taking a plate of hot food from Betty, Mike turned his gaze to Jess. "Sounds good, maybe in a couple of days. Tell me, are you still doing the rodeo circuit?"
"Nah, no time, but I do enter the local events; won a thousand bucks last year, bull riding."
Mike raised a brow."Bull riding? Hell, that's dangerous."