Hana laughed, following the taller woman at a trot. Jasper sat beside Mitch, holding a cloth to his friends’ knee as Mitch wrapped another one around his hand.
“Hello, sweeting,” he called. “Nothing serious.”
“Sit this one out, Mitchell. I don’t feel like taking you to the hospital,” Issy scolded.
“It’s not serious, Issy. Just messy,” Jasper assured her. “Now that you’re here, keep him outta trouble and I’ll get these critters rounded up.” Whistling to Oak, he told the boy to get a horse for him.
He jumped on the back of one of the older Mustangs, bareback with no bridle, and took off with his dark hair streaming behind him. Whooping and whistling, clapping loudly and yelling, he got the horses moving. The kids kept them going in the right direction, and in ten minutes they had them all in the corral, including stragglers.
“Should have let him to that in the first place,” Mitch admitted.
“Darling, you should always let Jasper round them up. He’s got such a way with animals. He was a shaman in another life.”
“Hell, I think the kid’s a shaman now,” Mitch added. “I never seen the like of what that boy can do with even the most cantankerous beasts.”
“He does pretty well with cantankerous people too,” Issy said as she cleaned blood off his knee. “If you don’t behave better, I’m gonna make him deal with you.”
Mitch laughed, then sucked air in quickly between his teeth. “Yowch, baby, that hurts!”
“Teach you to be more careful next time.”
Jasper rode up a moment later, sliding off the horse. Oak took the animal back to the barn. Hana was very impressed and her eyes told him so. Leaning over, he kissed her deeply.
“I’ve been wanting to do that forever,” he grinned. “Commere.” His kiss was longer, deeper, more compelling.
Hana’s knees melted to mush as she stood there with him. Even the fact that their friends were watching and waiting, didn’t upset her. Of all the people she knew, these two probably minded less than anyone.
“Time to get to work now. Sure you won’t join me?”
“I don’t know the first thing about it, but I’ll stay here and watch—and kibbutz. I’m good at that.”
“Deal, if for each time you kibbutz, I score a kiss.”
“I can do that. Where do you want me?” She looked around the area for a good place to sit or stand.
Jasper’s eyes twinkled as he looked at her from under his wisps of hair. His wink was slow, teasing and seductive. “Baby, you don’t honestly want me to answer that with young’uns around, do ya?”
Hana blushed, ducking her head away from her gaze. “Oh, good grief, I can’t believe either of us said that.”
“What’s he talking about, Mama?” Ash asked his mother in all seriousness.
“I’ll tell you when you’re older,” his brother said, taking him by the back of the neck and leading him inside.
“Sorry ’bout that, Issy,” Jasper sighed.
“Not a big deal. Oak will distract him and he’ll stop asking for a while. He’s eleven, got to find out sometime. Willow, honey, get Hana a stool, would you please?”
“Sure! Can I watch too?”
“Of course, just stay out of Jasper’s way.”
“Don’t I always?” she feigned disgust with her mother.
All this time, Jasper was setting up his gear. His tools were neatly laid out on a sturdy table in the barn. He’d backed the SUV up next to it with his portable forge ready to bring out when he needed it. A substantial stall was set up for the horses to be led into.
Jasper got the first horse, bringing him into the stall where he set about examining his hooves. Hana noticed that rather than having to support the heavy leg himself, the stall was built with a padded cross beam. Jasper lifted the horse’s leg up, placing another padded beam across the ankle, latching it in place.
“Hold up, you ain’t goin’ nowhere,” he said calmly to the horse. He talked and soothed the animal as he worked, trimming and smoothing the hooves one by one. When he had finished, Oak led the horse to the open field, letting it go.
Jasper repeated the process several more times. Straightening, he grabbed his lower back, easing his body into an arch. “Lord, I didn’t know I got banged around so much last time I rode Bastion!”
Hana hopped off her stool, walking over to examine him. Her cool fingers felt the area at on his lower back that looked bruised and slightly swollen.
“Probably stiffened up when we were driving,” she said, rubbing her hands over his skin.
Jasper sucked air in quickly through his teeth when her hand dropped beneath his waistband in the back.
Hana pulled her hand away quickly. “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”
“Noo, not there you didn’t.”
Blushing a hideous, burning shade of red, Hana backed off, babbling somewhat. Mitch chuckled, Oak smiled sympathetically, but Willow looked puzzled.
“I don’t wanna know, do I?” the girl said finally.
“No, darlin’, you don’t,” Jasper said. “Run go get me some of Mama’s stash, would you?”
© Dellani Oakes 2022