Today I am so pleased to welcome Jay Hogan to Joyfully Jay. Jay has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, The Art of Husbandry. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
I left the house and headed for the woolshed, Spider slotting alongside as if we did it every day. The building sat at the top of the track, about half a kilometre from the homestead. It was an old but well-maintained, sprawling wooden structure, whose corrugated iron roof extended well past the building itself to cover a large number of pens. One of those was currently housing a half-dozen head of sheep who were no doubt grateful for the shade.
The pungent aroma of lanolin and dried animal manure hung ripe in the air, and by the time I reached the door at the side, the tang lay thick on the back of my throat. I placed my palm on the wood worn smooth with age and use and immediately thought of all those shepherds who’d gone before and fought to make a home in this inhospitable country.
There was an odd romance to the moment, a palpable history, and the thought made me smile, along with the sound of a soft rock band I didn’t recognise but could get used to—something that couldn’t be said of Holden’s singing, which lacked anything resembling a key, let alone the correct one.
I shot a look at Spider who’d dropped into a shady spot next to the door and was watching me with soulful brown eyes. “Staying out here, huh?” I glanced at the door and winced at another of Holden’s attempts to reach a high note. “Yeah, I don’t blame you. Wish me luck.”
I gave the door a good shove and . . . nothing. I made a mental note to get the damn thing fixed and put my shoulder into the second attempt. It scraped open along the floorboards and a hundred years of lanoline, sheep manure, wool, dust, feed, oil, sweat, and wood assaulted my nostrils. Every beam and plank of the old building was steeped in it. Farm animals, wool, and dozens of hardworking bodies. The sound of electric shears and the chatter of men and women working the board was just a flick of the imagination away.
But all those thoughts were forgotten the second I laid eyes on a lean, half-naked Holden, broom in hand, the muscles of his bare back bunching and stretching with every to-and-fro sweep over the wide-plank floors. With his back to me, he never even looked up, his filthy jeans hugging his spectacular arse, his lean hips swaying slowly to the beat of the music, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. And when he dipped the broom to the side and shimmied up and down putting that tight hard body on full display, the sight made me smile for all the right reasons, and blood pulsed low in my belly.
Fuck me, he was pretty to watch.
Shields up, red alert. I shook my common sense free of my dick and rapped on the door. “Hello?”
Holden spun, his palm slamming against his chest. “Jesus Christ, Gil, you scared me.”
I waggled my eyebrows and mimed giving myself a point.
He threw his broom to the floor and stabbed a finger my way. “Dammit. You did that on purpose.” He reached for his phone and dialled the volume right down.
“What? Came in the door and said hello?” I scoffed, raising my palms. “Guilty as charged.”
He grumbled something that sounded suspiciously like cheeky fucker, but I let that one go. “Is this your first time inside the shed?” He picked up the broom and leaned it against the wall, seemingly avoiding my gaze.
“It is.” I set the cool bag on a long wooden bench and wandered over, watching how his gaze immediately skittered away. “I like what you’ve done with the place.”
He shrugged. “Inflicting some semblance of order before chaos descends in a couple of weeks.” He swept his arm around the space. “Welcome to the woolshed—shrine to the hallowed merino, den of iniquity, and leveller of egos. Where the sheep get their own back.”
When life drowns you in lemons, to hell with making lemonade. I wanted to burn the whole world. But eighteen months from the day my life was torn apart, I’m tired of the anger. Tired of the nightmares. Tired of putting one foot in front of the other just trying to survive. Three months on a high country sheep station in the middle of nowhere is precisely the reboot I need. A chance to break free. To breathe again. To find a way forward.
I put my entire life on hold and head south to Mackenzie Country. But falling for the captivating young station boss was never part of the plan. Holden Miller might be smart and sexy and push all my dusty buttons, but we come from two different worlds. I’m not looking for a relationship. I’m not interested in love. I’m done with all that.
But Holden doesn’t care about my rules. Nestled safely in the arms of the spectacular Southern Alps, on an isolated sheep farm at the top of the world, Holden begins knitting my battered heart together one careful stitch at a time. And with every pass of the thread, every braid of the river on our doorstep, I catch a tantalising glimpse of something I’d almost given up on.
Happiness, and maybe even love.
If I have the courage to reach out and grab them.
Note: This book contains references to the past death of a child and PTSD
Amazon Universal Buy Link: https://geni.us/A9e8LB
Heart, humour and keeping it real.
Jay is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Gay Romance and her book Off Balance was the 2021 New Zealand Romance Book of the Year.
She is a New Zealand author writing mm romance and romantic suspense, primarily set in New Zealand. She writes character driven romances with lots of humour, a good dose of reality and a splash of angst. She’s travelled extensively, lived in many countries, and in a past life she was a critical care nurse, nurse educator and counsellor. Jay is owned by a huge Maine Coon cat and a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel
Find Jay in all the places: https://www.jayhoganauthor.com/landingpage