Eve Polastri sighed as she gazed out of her vast window at the land she had recently inherited. Just weeks ago, she had been in London, working a life as peaceful as can be when you're an MI5 agent. And now here she stood, four thousand miles away on a ranch that was entirely hers. Uncle Konstantin had died and left his Texas land to her in his will. "God's Country," he had always called the Lone Star State. Eve was Konstantin's only living relative and he was a traditional man and so left his entire estate to her. Eve had no idea what to do with a herd of beef cattle, a barn of horses and two thousand acres of West Texas grassland. When she got the call from Uncle Konstantin's attorney, it was made clear that she had to come and visit to make the ranch legally hers. So she had used up the last of her holidays, packed a bag and caught the first 747 across the pond. At first, Eve was excited and, on the plane, planned what she would do with the money she would aquire from selling the land. But, when the tyres of the pick up she had rented in Houston hit the gravel road of Konstantin's old farm, Eve understood why the old man had moved here and never left. The peace she felt, the slow way of country life- it was everything Eve needed now she had split from Nico. Their marriage had fizzled out and he had left her for a teacher at his school.
"Ma'am," a cowboy had greeted her on the front porch when Eve climbed down from the Ford 150. His ten gallon hat and Wrangler jeans looked like something from a movie.
The cowboy introduced himself as Kenny, Konstantin's lead Ranch Hand. He was immediately likeable and helped Eve to understand the ways of Ranch life. He gladly took her on horse rides across her new land, taught her the basics of the business she had inherited and took her into town to see the cattle at the market.
This past month had been, Eve thought, the most life changing of her entire adulthood. She squinted into the golden sunset through her bedroom window at the barn. Kenny and the other ranch hands could be seen working, hefting bales and tools into truck beds. Eve sighed again. She really did love it here. On her nightstand, her phone vibrated.
"Hi, Carolyn," she said heavily into the receiver. She had been both expecting and dreading this call.
"Eve," Carolyn replied matter-of-factly. "Have you made your decision?"
Eve pressed her forehead to the glass, wanting it to be cool and relieve her stress headache that had formed in anticipation of this call, though the Texas heat didn't save her.
"Yes, I'm," she paused and blew out a steady breath. "I'm going to stay here."
"MI5 days are over?" Carolyn asked rhetorically, "you were always such an adrenaline junkie, Eve, how ever will you get your kick out there in the country? I daresay you'll have to take up Rodeo!"
Eve forced a laugh, "PBR? Not quite the same as tracking assassin's, no."
"Well, all the best, Eve. When you get bored out there, your job will be waiting."
Carolyn hung up.
Had Eve made a mistake? Spontaneous was an understatement. Eve couldn't believe how quickly her life had done a 180. She looked down at the cowboys working hard in the hot evening sun. Kenny had advised her to hire another, at least one other, ranch hand as soon as she could so they would be ready for the summer season. He had posted an advertisement in the local town earlier that week and they were expecting cowboys to start showing up for work any day now. Below her, the cowboys drove out of the driveway, red dust swirling around the trucks as they sped onto the highway.
Eve sat on the bed and felt alone. Kenny and Hugo had been very welcoming and gentlemanly but she missed the company of women. When they took her to the local honky tonk bars, for social hours, she wished to have the soothing conversation that comes only between two
women. The cowboys seemed to talk only of hunting, fishing and country music.
A knock on the front door startled Eve and she sat bolt upright on her bed. Had one of the ranch hands forgotten something? No, she would have heard the truck tyres on the gravel road.
Eve hurried down the wooden staircase of her ranch home. Behind the screen door, she saw the blurred outline of a slim figure, leaning casually against her porch. She didn't recognize this mysterious person but tentatively opened the door anyway.
"Polastri, ma'am? I'm here for the summer ranch hand job."
Eve's jaw dropped. Before her stood a toned, beautiful blonde cowgirl. Her thumbs rested casually on the belt buckle that held up her Levi's and her straw hat was pulled low over her delicate features.
"Er, yeah." Eve finally managed to say when her eyes adjusted to the beauty before her. "Yeah come in, please."
The cowgirl stepped over Eve's doorstep with the click of her cowboy boots on the wood and Eve couldn't help but notice how long and slender her legs were.
"Thank you, ma'am," she said with a tip of her straw hat. Eve noticed an accent that definitely wasn't Texan.
Eve gestured to the kitchen and poured glasses of sweet tea for them both. Eve didn't have any idea how to interview for a ranch hand job. She needed Kenny here.
"So," Eve said, composing herself. "What's your name?"
The cowgirl leaned forward, her shoulders flexing, exposed by her white tight vest top.
"Villanelle," she said and extended her muscular arm. Eve took her calloused hand and Villanelle bowed to place a kiss to Eve's knuckles.
Eve's heart threatened to beat out of her chest as the two of them made eye contact just as Villanelle's pursed lips made contact with Eve's skin.
"Nice to meet you," Eve almost squeaked.
"The pleasure's all mine."
Eve felt her neck prickle with heat that wasn't to do with the weather or the menopause.
"When can you start?" she spluttered, not bothering whether this cowgirl was all hat and no horse. She could be terrible at her job but Eve didn't care. All she knew was that if she hired this woman, she would have to see her every day for the next five months. And that was exactly what Eve wanted.
"Right away, ma'am." Villanelle smiled, revealing perfect white teeth that matched her pearl snap shirt tied around her slim waist.
Being called ma'am by this godlike woman had Eve weak. Villanelle thanked her and left, with a tip of her hat and a "see you tomorrow."
Eve closed the door and slid down it, unbuttoning her jeans and slipping her hand into her underwear as she did so. Villanelle had unlocked a fantasy in Eve she didn't even know she had.