“Motherfucker,” I growl, kicking the side of the tractor.
“Whoa, easy, mate,” comes Jack’s annoying accent.
I roll my eyes even though he can’t see me as I throw the wrench into the toolbox beside me and grab a hammer. Holding it in both hands, I swing hard, smashing it down on the tire bolt with a satisfying clang.
“Jesus,” Jack says, walking around to the side where I’m currently crouched in front of a huge tire. “What the hell did it ever do to you?”
“It’s fucking stuck,” I mutter as I smash the hammer down again, before reaching for the wrench to try the bolt again. It gives a little this time, but still won’t budge, so I smash it once more with the hammer.
This time when I try it, it comes loose and I wrench it off, finally able to change out the tire that’s been fucked ever since I accidently rode over one of the metal pegs that helps hold the vines up. It feels like it’s been one fuck up after another these past few weeks and the last thing I need right now is Jack in here giving me shit about it.
When I finally turn to roll the dead tire away, Jack is standing watching me, arms crossed and a huge grin on his face.
“What?” I snap as I roll it toward the side of the shed.
“When’s the last time you got laid?”
I lean the tire against the wall, my eyes closing as I force myself to stay calm and remind myself that I actually do like this guy. Taking a long deep breath, I turn and face him. “And you’re asking me this why?” I ask, mirroring his pose.
Jack shrugs as he walks over to the new tire and starts moving it into position beside the tractor. “You seem tense,” he says as he tries to lift it.
He’s got no chance. The thing weighs a ton, so I move over to help him. “I’m not tense,” I reply as we both lift the tire and slide it onto the axle.
“You sure about that?” Jack asks, grinning. “I mean I know when I need to relieve a bit of—”
“Jack,” I say, a warning tone to my voice.
“What?” he asks, hands out as though he has no idea what I’m talking about.
I shake my head at him. “Just when I was starting to maybe like you,” I grumble.
Jack laughs, reaching for the wrench which he holds out to me. “Please, like you don’t already? We both know I’m impossible to resist. But seriously, Tommy, when?”
“Fuck’s sake,” I mutter under my breath as I start to screw on the bolts. “I don’t know. A few weeks ago,” I lie, knowing it’s been far longer than that.
Caitlyn and I broke up over six months ago and things hadn’t been great for a while before that, so if I were to guess, I’d say it’s closer to eight months since I had sex. But I’m not telling Jack that. Not a chance in hell he’d let me live down the fact that the only action my dick has seen for the better part of a year is with my own hand.
“So, you and what’s her name are definitely over?” he now asks.
I tighten the last bolt on the tire before standing, stretching my back as it cracks a few times. “Caitlyn,” I reply, throwing the wrench back into the toolbox. “And yes, we’re over.”
“What happened?” Jack asks, and he almost sounds genuinely interested.
I shrug. “Don’t know. Grew apart, it happens.”
“Only if you let it,” he replies as he wanders over to the bench along the side of the wall. He reaches into the small fridge that sits under it and grabs two bottles of water, throwing one to me. “You not really into her or did something else happen?”
I twist off the cap and take a long drink. “You know, you’re in danger of sounding like a chick, don’t you?”
Jack’s grin widens. “Or I’m sounding like a happily married man who gets laid with very hot sex on a regular basis.”
I roll my eyes, finishing off my water as I avoid his question.
“Come on,” he says. “Talk to me, Goose. It mustn’t have been that great if you just let her walk away.”
“It’s not as simple as that,” I eventually say, even as I wonder why the fuck I’m getting into this with him.
“Yeah, it is,” he says matter of factly. “If you’re into someone, you fight for them. Look at me, I traveled halfway around the world for the woman I love.”
I shake my head, turning to throw my empty bottle in the trash. As much as Jack can be a pain in my ass, he is right about one thing. If someone’s worth hanging on to, you do it. And even though I’d been unsure of his motives when he showed back up here after fourteen years, talking shit and acting like he was king of the fucking world, I do have to hand it to him. Not only does he know his way around a vineyard, but he’s a hard worker too. And he absolutely adores Lauren. Always putting her first, above everything and everyone else. It’s obvious to everyone that those two were meant to be together and I do like how much she smiles now, how happy he’s made her since he showed up and stuck around.
Plus, his orchard and cider house has been a brilliant idea. It’s definitely going to boost tourism and money to this place, all of which will only help Ellen and Lauren.
But as much as I did like Caitlyn, I knew things weren’t working between us. What we had was nothing compared to what I can see Jack and Lauren, or even Ellen and Will have. It’s like Caitlyn and I were just going through the motions in the end and I’d barely put up a fight when she’d given me an ultimatum, asking me to choose between this place or her. It didn’t even feel like a choice to me.
Somerville’s is where I’ve grown up. I’ve spent the better part of my life working at this place and even though I know it isn’t mine, I still can’t help but feel like this is where I belong. Ellen and Lauren are like family to me and they’ve always been good to me, letting me build a small place at the far edge of their property, overlooking the vines and the small lake they have.
Plus, I enjoy my job and the work I do here, and I love the people I work with…even Jack, mostly.
“Maybe you should try getting on Tinder or something?” Jack suggests, still grinning.
“Fuck off,” I tell him, unable to stop the laugh.
“No seriously, fuck off.”
Jack laughs. “What? Get some action, relieve a little tension? It’ll make you less grumpy.”
“I’m not fucking grumpy,” I repeat, just as Oscar struts into the workroom.
He holds up a hand to wave at me before walking toward Jack. I watch as the two of them go through this weird ass handshake ritual they always do, before Oscar turns and leans against the bench, his arms crossed over his chest just like Jack.
I shake my head at the two of them. “You know he’s actually morphing into you now, don’t you?”
Oscar and Jack both grin as they glance at each other before turning back to me. “Okay, no Tinder, no Grinder. What about something else?”
I shake my head as Oscar says, “What’s Grinder?”
“Oh, fuck me,” I mutter as Jack starts laughing.
“Nothing you need to know about just yet,” he says, moving to cover both of Oscar’s ears. “Come on, live a little, Tommy,” he says now. “There’s this new app that’s all the rage. You get a month’s free trial. Why don’t you give it a shot?”
“I don’t need help getting laid,” I say, glaring at him. “Now if you don’t mind, some of us have work to do. The new guys are starting over at Apple Jacks today and I gotta go make sure they know what they’re doing.”
Jack removes his hands from Oscar’s ears who looks up at him with a legit what the fuck look on his face that comes squarely from his mom and aunt. The kid is a laugh, he and his sister Olivia, and they definitely make the place interesting.
“Shit, yeah I forgot they were starting today. I’ll head over with you,” Jack says, just as his phone rings.
“No worries, I’ll see you up there,” I say, heading out of the shed as Jack smirks at me. It takes me a second to realize I’ve just used one of his catchphrases. His weird Aussie sayings apparently rubbing off on all of us.
As I head over to the work cars parked out front of the sheds, I cross paths with Penny, who’s obviously heading in to start work at the tasting room. She gives me a wave and a grin as she calls out, “Heading into work now, Tommy!” Obviously giving me shit after I called her out earlier.
I find myself smiling back at her, even as I’m shaking my head and checking my watch with mock exaggeration. “About time,” I shout back.
She pokes her tongue out at me and I swear my fucking dick actually twitches as I watch her disappear into the main building. There’s no denying she’s hot. She’s all long legs and tanned skin and this long dark brown hair that I’ve definitely thought about wrapping my hands around as I pulled her head back to expose her neck.
But she’s also like ten years younger than me and a co-worker, so definitely off-limits.
Still, I can’t deny there haven’t been a few times I’ve caught myself checking her out or fantasizing about bending her over the counter in the tasting room whenever I’ve walked in there and found her leaning over it as she does some paperwork.
“Jesus, Tommy, maybe you do need to get laid,” I mutter to myself, scrubbing a hand over my face as I reach for my phone, which I discover is not in my pocket, but sitting back on the bench in the workroom. I stop and turn to go back, but see Jack now jogging toward me, a huge grin on his face and his hand outstretched, my phone in its grip.
“Here, you forgot this,” he says, shoving it at me.
“Thanks,” I reply, sliding it into my pocket as we both walk toward one of the work trucks that we’ll take over to the cider house.
“No worries, mate,” Jack says, sliding into the passenger side.
He used to get in on that side when he first moved here, thinking he was getting into the driver’s side, but he’s gotten used to how things are different now. Doesn’t stop me giving him shit about it though, pretty much every time the two of us drive somewhere.
“So, we have four new guys starting today,” I remind him.
“I know,” he says, as he flicks through the folder in his hands.
“You wanna take them through the brewing process you have planned or start with the fruit picking?”
Jack shrugs, almost as if he’s only half listening. “Let’s do fruit first.”
“Okay,” I reply, as we head over to the other property.
I park outside the main shed, glad to see that all four of the new guys have arrived and are standing around getting to know one another. We get out and introduce ourselves to them, even though we all met during the interview process. I let Jack take them through the plan for the day because despite how hands on I am around this place, it’s still his property.
After, Jack reminds them all to pay attention to my instruction, before turning to me. “By the way, I installed that new app you were asking about on your phone. Username is blue balls, all lowercase and password is tommy needs pussy, again, all lowercase.” Then he turns and walks off, whistling as though he doesn’t have a care in the world.
I want to go after him, grab him and ask what the fuck, but I’m too busy trying to figure out if these new recruits have heard what he just said to me. Thankfully they are all too busy shooting the shit and looking around at their new workplace and by the time I turn back, Jack has disappeared inside.
“Motherfucker,” I mutter to myself, before turning and taking these boys out to the fields.
By the time I get back to my house, the sun is just starting to set, the long summer nights balmy and calm. Kicking off my boots and throwing my dirty work clothes into the laundry, I take a long hot shower before grabbing a beer and heading out to my back porch.
I built this house on the far edge of Ellen and Lauren’s property about four years ago, on a hill that looks down over the vines and the lake that sits in the middle. There are more vines on the other side of the lake and at the end of those are the two cottages on the property, one of which Jack and Lauren now live in.
The orchard and cider house are beyond that, which means I’m far enough away from everyone that it’s quiet and peaceful. Caitlyn never lived out here with me, claimed it was too quiet, too boring. She’d had a place in Napa, but wanted to move to San Francisco, claiming she needed more of a life.
When she’d asked me to decide between Somerville’s and her, I knew that meant deciding between staying here or moving with her. Like I said, it hadn’t felt like much of a choice at the time. Still didn’t now. And last I’d heard she’d left Napa, so I guess it hadn’t been a tough choice for her either.
Just as I sit down on one of the wooden deck chairs, my phone pings. Not recognizing the sound, I pull it from my pocket, taking a sip of my beer before opening up the home page.
And there, sitting right in the middle of it, literally mocking me with its presence, is the dating app Jack installed. Shaking my head, I move to delete it, but before I do, it pings again, a notification flashing up on my screen that says you have a new match.
“What the fuck?” I mutter, my thumb hovering over the app. Quickly glancing around, as though Jack is somehow fucking with me, I hit the app and open it. When I do, the profile Jack created for me fills the screen. As my eyes scroll over it, I see the asshole has actually been pretty nice in what he’s said, despite the username and password he used when he created it. There’s no picture associated with it though and I realize it’s actually a picture-free app, supposedly designed to match people based on their personalities.
But more surprising than that is the number six that’s next to the button that says matches. “Six matches?” I ask myself, taking another sip of my beer.
Glancing around again, I swallow hard before saying fuck it and clicking the button to open it.