"Holy fuck." Linc murmured as the woman got out of the truck. "I thought you were calling the bee gal." He looked at Deacon.
"That's not the bee lady," Mathias said.
"Yes, it is."
"No, Deac, it's not. The bee lady is Penelope Harlow, and she's about four foot nothing and probably weighs seventy-five pounds." Mathias looked again at the woman who had walked to the rear of her truck and lowered the tailgate. "That's not her."
"No indeed," Linc agreed. "It sure isn't."
The woman they watched wasn't short or skinny. She had to be close to six feet tall and was about the hottest thing Mathias had ever laid eyes on. Her honey blonde hair was held in a braid that fell more than half-way down her back. A tight, racer-back tank top and jeans displayed a shape that made a man want to do a lot of looking and even more touching.
"Penelope skipped out." Deacon informed them.
"Say what?" Mathias kept his eyes on the woman as he asked. "But I thought she was throwing in with Wiley and Molly?"
"So did they. But she got a better offer. In South America."
"Okay, then who's that?"
"Dr. Reese Quinn."
"Doctor?" Linc spoke up. "Someone need a check-up?"
"Not a people doctor. An entomologist. Stop thinking with your dick."
"You wound me, bro," Linc quipped.
Mathias didn't say it, but he agreed with Linc. Dr. Reese Quinn was a woman who inspired a man's mind to go straight to thoughts of sex. As in, long, hard and often. He watched as she turned and then started toward them. Her gaze moved from one man to the other, and when it stopped on Linc, she slowed ever so slightly.
Expecting her to approach Linc, Mathias was surprised when she stopped in front of him, instead. "If I'm not in the right place, I'm gonna be sorry," she said and stuck out her hand. "Reese Quinn. I hear you have a bee problem."
"Mathias Gray Horse," Mathias clasped her hand and looked in surprise as a monarch butterfly flew down and lit on his. The one holding hers. "And I don't know a thing about a bee problem, but as far as I'm concerned, you're in the right place."
She glanced at the butterfly and then up at him. "You do that quite well, Mathias Gray Horse and I'm pleased to meet you. But I'm supposed to be here to see a man about some bees."
"That'd be me." Deacon stepped up beside Mathias. "Deacon Johns, ma'am, and we do have a situation. A swarm that's taken up residence in a tree on the obstacle course."
"Nice to meet you, Commander."
Deacon accepted the handshake she offered. "What makes you think I'm the Commander?"
"Let's just say I recognize command when I see it."
"Fair enough. This is Lincoln Shaw." Deacon gestured toward Linc.
"A pleasure," Linc shook her hand.
"Likewise, Mr. Shaw." She turned her attention back to Deacon. "So, Commander Johns, how about I grab my gear and you show me to this swarm?"
"Yes, ma'am. Do you need extra hands?"
"Maybe two. Lend me this gentleman?" She gestured toward Mathias.
"Great. This way Mr. Gray Horse." She turned and headed for her truck.
Mathias followed, not hurrying to catch up. She was one of those rare women who looked good coming or going, and the sway of her perfect heart-shaped rear encased in tight denim was a pleasure to watch.
She looked over her shoulder at him. "Caught ya."
Mathias smiled as she continued to the truck. "What do you want from me?" He asked when he stopped beside her.
"Oh, honey, you do not want to ask me that."
"Well, on second thought, how about you ask me that after we take care of the bees?"
"I'll do that. But for now, how can I help?"
"Carry this?" She handed him what looked like a big black trash bag with a stiff circular rim at its opening. "And this." The next item was a contraption he'd thought looked a bit like a demented teapot only bigger and with an attachment.
"It's a smoker. Just in case," Reese explained as she gathered up her suit. "Okay, where's this swarm?"
"I have no clue."
Reese grinned, then yelled to Deacon. "Lead the way, Commander."
Mathias and Reese followed Deacon and Linc. "So, you took over for Dr. Harlow?" Mathias asked.
"You don't look like an entomologist."
"I did. Once."
"I'm having a hard time picturing that."
She gave him a smile. "You should have seen me in high school. Six feet of skin and bones. It wasn't pretty. But I was smart, so it got me a free ride to college."
"I had a thing for butterflies when I was a kid."
"Do you still?"
"I do. So, what's your story, Mr. Gray Horse?"
"Mathias. Or Matty if you prefer."
"What do you want me to call you?"
"Oh, you don't want to ask me that," he teased.
Reese laughed. "Well played. And now I'm curious as a cat, but since we're in public, Matty works. And I'm Reese."
"Yes, you are."
"Are you part of the Clear Springs Ground Training Center?"
"Let me guess. Hand-to-hand combat training."
"What makes you say that?"
"Honey, I have eyes. And you move like you're trained. Low center of gravity and smooth movements. Impressive for a guy as big as you. You're Native, right?"
"But not full-blooded."
"No. My mother was white."
"Explains your skin tone. Your eyes say native though. Unreadable, they're so dark. That's an advantage for a fighter."
"It is, but I'm surprised you know that."
"Surprises can be good. So, is there a Mrs. Gray Horse or any baby Gray Horses waiting for you at home?"
"It is for me. I never get involved with married men."
"Are we getting involved?"
"Oh yes, most definitely."
"I thought maybe you'd be more interested in Linc."
"Tarzan? Yeah, he's hot, but not my type."
This time when she looked at him, their gazes met. "Despite what you see, Matty, and flirting aside, I'm not easy, and I don't hook up with players, and I can guarantee you that Mr. Shaw is definitely a player."
"What makes you think I'm not one?"
"Because unlike mere mortals, I can read those black eyes of yours."
"Over there." Deacon's voice interrupted.
Reese saw the swarm. It was sizeable, easily as big as Mathias' upper body and clustered along the crook of a tree limb. "Okay, here we go." She quickly put her suit and helmet on and turned to Mathias. "Give me the bag."
She carried the bag to the tree, positioned its open end under the limb and smoothly bent it up and over the branch on either side, trapping the limb and the bees inside it. A few hard shakes had most of the swarm caught in the bag which she popped loose from its frame and tied closed.
What remained of the swarm flew around the immediate area of the tree as she walked over to where the men waited. "As long as I have the queen, they won't return."
"And if you don't?" Deacon asked.
"Then call me, and I'll come back."
"What will you do with them?" Linc asked. "Without the queen?"
"Introduce them to a new queen and see if they'll accept her. I have two who will need colonies."
"Do bees ever reject a queen?" Mathias asked.
"So, they what, just walk, I mean fly away?"
"No. They kill her."
"Indeed. But then life often is. Okay, gentlemen, I need to get out of this suit and take the babies home."
"I'll hold the bag," Matty offered.
"Thanks." Reese removed her suit and slung it over her shoulder. "Commander, it's an honor. Again, call if you have the need."
"A pleasure, ma'am." Deacon replied and shook her hand. "And thank you."
"You bet. Enjoy your day, gentlemen." She cut Linc a look, and he gave her a smile.
"See ya, Doc."
With that, she turned away and started for her truck. This time, Mathias fell in step with her. "Did you take over Dr. Harlow's hives and butterfly house when she moved?"
"I did. She basically just packed her clothes and left everything else, which made it easy. All I had to do was show up. Do you know Wiley and Molly Johns?"
"I do. I served with Wiley, and they're friends—and family. Wiley, Deacon, and Linc are brothers, and Deacon is married to my sister Mica."
"Interesting. I'm impressed with what Wiley and Molly are trying to do."
"Really? Why, exactly?"
"Well, first, it's ambitious. They want to create one of the largest apiaries in the county."
"Bee yard. Lots and I mean lots of hives. And along with that, they want to breed butterflies on a big scale."
"You said first it's ambitious. So, what's second?"
"It gets me in the feels, you know?" She patted the center of her chest. "Not many people care enough to try to help, but this is help on a gigantic level. Bees and butterflies are two of the largest pollinators on the planet and are being killed off by pesticides and pollution."
"And that apparently is a danger."
"If humans want to keep eating, yes. Science hasn't found a way to replace pollinators, so without them, we're doomed. Thus, the chance to work with something this important is pretty exciting."
"You really love what you do, don't you?"
"Yes. Do you find that odd?" She tucked her suit into the tool chest in the back of the truck, then accepted the smoker from Mathias and placed it in as well.
"What about the bees?" He held up the bag. "They sound pissed."
"As well as scared. I'll put it in the front with me." She held out her hand for the bag and once she had it, put it into the floorboard of the cab. Then she turned to face Mathias.
"And the answer is, a lot, but we can start with beer and barbecue."
"What I want from you. Meet me at the Honky Tonk on Friday?"
"I could pick you up and take you there."
"Now that's too tempting to refuse. What time?"
"I'll look forward to it. Bye, Matty."
She got into the truck, started it and pulled away, giving him a wave and smiling at the fact that he returned the gesture.
Mathias watched her drive away then turned at the sound of footsteps behind him. "Looks like the bug gal has a case of the hots for you, bro," Linc remarked.
"She's interesting," Mathias replied.
"So, you going to ask her out?"
"She asked me."
Linc laughed and patted Mathias' shoulder. "Atta boy, Matty."
Mathias didn't comment. He was glad Reese was interested because the feeling was mutual, and she seemed like a pretty straight-forward woman, one of those what you see is what you get, kind of people.
And boy did he like what he saw.