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Chapter 22. The next morning, Lex and Amanda finished feeding the horses, and made their way into the hay barn

The next morning, Lex and Amanda finished feeding the horses, and made their way into the hay barn. After Lex had backed the truck up to a tall stack of baled hay, she climbed out and looked around for Amanda. There was no sign of the small blonde anywhere. Now where in the hell did she go? She was about to put the tailgate down on the truck when she felt something dropping on her hat and shoulders. "Hey!" Lex looked up and brushed the straw from her body.

A slight giggle was the response. "Yep! It's hay," Amanda cheerfully admitted, readying herself for another throw. She had climbed up to the top bale, mainly because she had always wanted to, and couldn't resist.

"I thought you didn't like heights." Lex took off her hat and shook the hay free. "Now climb down from there before you get hurt." She put her hands on her hips and mock glowered at the young woman.

"No, I don't like moving heights. I get motion sickness." Amanda plopped down on the bale, her legs swinging back and forth. "Besides, this isn't that high - maybe twelve to fifteen feet, at the most." She was about to make her way down, when the bale suddenly shifted, and the young woman began to fall.

Lex saw the movement, and dropping her hat, rushed to position herself under the falling woman. "Ooof! " she grunted, catching Amanda in her arms, cradling her as if she were a child. "Are you okay?"

Amanda looked up into frightened eyes, and felt the woman holding her tremble. "Yeah." Then realized where she was, and how she got there. "Oh, god…are youokay??"

Lex looked into Amanda's eyes, barely breathing. "Uh-huh." She couldn't seem to take her gaze away from the younger woman's face. Words failed her, as she felt Amanda's arms wrap around her neck.

Amanda didn't think. She gave into her gut feelings, wrapped her arms around the taller woman's neck, and pulled Lex's head down to meet hers. When their lips met, the blonde was amazed at how soft the rancher's lips were. As she deepened the kiss, Amanda felt a strong feeling of belonging, and her heart raced.

Lex was having some strong feelings of her own. When their lips met, she felt a gentle tickle in the pit of her stomach, and when the smaller woman deepened the kiss, a jolt of electricity shot throughout her body, causing her legs to give out. Lex collapsed back into a soft pile of hay, never releasing the woman in her arms.

They spent a few moments just enjoying the kiss, until Lex pulled away slightly to breathe. "Wow." She gasped, still trying to catch her breath.

Amanda laid her head on Lex's chest and took a deep breath. "Sorry…I'm not sure what came over me." She looked into sparkling blue eyes. "I can't believe I did that."

"Are you sorry that you did?" Lex held her breath, afraid of the answer.

"God, no!!" Amanda reached up to caress a tan cheek, trying to calm the erratic beating of the older woman's heart. "It's just that I don't usually make it a habit to throw myself, this time quite literally, at someone I've only know a couple of days." She could feel the rancher struggling to pull air into her lungs. "Are you sure you're alright? What about your ribs?"

A relieved Lex turned her head slightly and kissed the small palm cupping her face. "Never been better." Seeing several things crossing Amanda's face, Lex kissed her forehead and gave her a gentle hug. "If that's how you're going to react after falling from a stack of hay, remind me to bring you in here more often."

"Works for me…I've always wanted to roll around in the hay." Amanda gave her an embarrassed smile. "Ummm…I mean…"

Lex understood. "Relax. Let's just take things slow and easy, okay? No need to rush."

Amanda's answering smile lit up her entire face. "Yeah…I guess we'd better finish up the chores, huh?" She felt Lex's breathing return to normal. "And Martha is expecting me pretty soon."

She's right…got to be responsible. "True. But first…" Lex leaned down and captured Amanda's lips again, feeling small hands tangle themselves into her hair.This feels waaay too good…better stop now while I still can. She ended the kiss slowly, trying without much success to back off. "Whew…I, ummm…."

Amanda brushed the dark hair out of Lex's eyes. "Yeah, that goes for me, double." She climbed off the rancher's lap, and offered her hand to the still seated woman. "Here, since I got you down there, might as well be the one to help you back up."

Lex smiled, but accepted the hand and allowed the younger woman to pull her to her feet.

Not releasing the large hand that swallowed hers, Amanda pulled the older woman into a very gentle hug. "Thanks." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed the strong chin.

"For what?" Lex returned the hug, enjoying the feeling of the smaller woman in her arms.

Amanda pulled back a little, so she could see the rancher's face, partially bathed in shadow. "For working on your fence in a thunderstorm….for pulling a complete stranger out of a raging creek, and for catching me when I fall."

Lex kissed the top of her head. "Anytime." Her voice broke on the word. She released the younger woman, but kept one arm draped casually over her shoulders. "C'mon. I imagine the cows are about to mutiny."

Sometime later, Amanda was standing in the stable, watching as Lex saddled up the powerfully built Thunder. "Are you sure you don't need any help? I mean, Martha would probably understand if I was a little late today." She reached up and rubbed the large horse's head, as he butted her gently in the chest.

"Nah. Not that I wouldn't enjoy the company, but I really don't want Martha to try and reach some of those higher cabinets by herself." She tightened the cinch and looked over at the younger woman. "Her and stepladders don't always get along." She finished with the saddle and patted the horse on his flank. "Last time she fell and twisted her ankle…I thought she had broken it, and it scared the hell out of me." She smiled. "And she's a worse patient than I am." Lex led the huge horse out of the stall. "I'd really appreciate it if you could kinda keep an eye on her, if you don't mind." She turned and reached for the saddlehorn, but a hand on her arm stopped her.

"I don't mind at all…but you have to do me a favor in return." Amanda grasped her coat with both hands, pulling the taller woman close.


"Try to stay out of trouble, and please be careful." She saw Lex open her mouth to argue, and covered it with her hand. "Please? Don't hurt yourself trying to get that old jeep out of the mud - it's not like we can go very far anyway."

Lex pulled her into a quick hug. "You're starting to sound a lot like Martha," she stepped back and gently chucked the blonde under the chin. "I promise, I'll behave." She climbed into the saddle, causing Thunder to dance sideways. "I'll also be checking some of the fence line by the creek, so I may not be back until dark." It all depends on how easy it is to get her car out of the creek and into the maintenance shed.

Amanda patted her leg. "Okay. Just give us a call on your cell phone if you have any problems." She walked beside the huge horse as Lex moved him out of the stable.

"Yes ma'am." Lex tipped her hat with a smirk. "Do you want a ride to the house?"

Amanda looked up at Lex and then to the house, which was only about twenty yards away. An unexpected thrill raced down her spine, as Lex held an arm out to her. "Sure." She allowed the dark woman to pull her up behind her, in an eerily familiar manner. Wrapping her arms around the tapered waist, Amanda leaned into the strong back with a small sigh. "Now this is the way to ride horses."

Lex chuckled, and kneed the stallion forward. "Really? Are you sure you don't want a seatbelt?" She felt the small arms around her waist tighten slightly.

"Nope…this is perfect."

They rode the rest of the way to the house in companionable silence - the only sounds being Thunder's heavy hooves falling to the ground.

Lex pulled the massive horse to a stop by the back porch, and gently gave Amanda a hand down. "There ya go, ma'am. Door to door service, as promised." She joked, feeling a light slap against her leg.

"Thanks," Amanda curtsied, "that terribly long walk would have worn me out!"

Lex laughed as she backed Thunder away from the porch. "Anytime," tipping her hat again, this time giving the younger woman a wink before turning the big horse away.

"Be careful!" Amanda called after her, wincing as Lex sent Thunder into a strong gallop.

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