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Dusty Mile Survival Guide: Fun in the Garden
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2011 Isabella Jordan
Rule 1: Re-establish sustainable food supply.
"What's wrong, Caro?"
Caroline McGrath squinted up at the guy she loved, irritated at the lopsided but adorable grin on his face. He'd done this on purpose. Damn him. "What do you think?"
Now he was chuckling at her. "Uncle Larry did the tilling for you. All you have to do is plant the seeds and mark them, right?"
"Is that what he told you? Because it wasn't quite that simple when he explained it to me."
Robbie Houston's grin widened. "You have to remember that he used to be in the Marines. They had a certain way of doing things. He likes things done a certain way."
"No kidding." Holding up the complex diagram -- written in perfect penmanship, and in red ink no less -- Caroline showed him the source of her irritation. Plant the seeds and mark them? Right. The schematic his uncle had given her was so complex she'd need a NASA scientist to interpret it. And they were probably all dead because of the same zombie apocalypse she and Robbie were fortunate enough to have survived.
Robbie took the sheet of paper from her. His grin faded a little as he shook his head. "Wow."
"See what I mean?" She wanted him to acknowledge that his uncle had given her an impossible task.
"Yeah." Robbie let the sheet of paper go and it drifted to the ground. He crouched in the freshly tilled earth next to her. "Forget that. Just plant the garden the way you would. As long as stuff grows and we have food to eat, he'll be happy. He's really not all that bad."
Caroline eyed him skeptically. "Then why do I feel like I should salute or something whenever he's issuing orders?"
Robbie's grin was back in all its full glory. It had her insides melting just like it always did. "Just do it your way. I promise it'll be okay."
"Just one problem there."
"I've never planted a garden, Robbie. I've never even tried to keep houseplants. I can literally kill a plant by looking at it."
Robbie's amusement didn't waver. "You've never planted a garden?"
"Never even helped someone in your family with one?"
Pushing his dark hair back off his forehead, the way he always did when he was thinking of a solution, he nodded. "Okay. No problem. How hard can this be?"
"Wait." Realization hit her. "You've never gardened either?"
"I have." He was only a little defensive. "I was little though."
Caroline blew out a frustrated exhale while Robbie sank to his knees in the dirt beside her.
"So let me get this straight. You volunteered me to garden because you can't?"
"I'm sorry. Most girls I've known can garden," he told her.
"Most girls can, huh?"
He seemed to know she wasn't really mad. "You're not most girls," Robbie said. "In more ways than one. I love you."
Caroline had to smile at that. But that happy thought worked its magic and passed quickly. Her gaze swept the scene before her. Love each other they did, but that didn't get Uncle Larry's garden started.
Following the line of her gaze, Robbie nodded. "Okay, let's start with the tomatoes." He leaned in closer, his breath whispering past her ear as he spoke quietly, making her shiver. "He's got the seedlings started. We just need to dig up the dirt and plant them."
He moved away from her only long enough to grab the box with the tomato plants that sat just beyond the edge of the tilled area. Then he crouched behind her in the dirt, taking a tomato plant in one hand.
"Okay, Caro, get the trowel and dig out a hole for the first plant." His voice was at her ear again, sending shivers of delight through her.
"What's a trowel?"
"The one tool sitting in front of you at the moment."
Caroline did as he asked, picking up what looked like a hand shovel and digging out a hole in the earth at the corner of the garden. "How's that?"
"Good. Now..." His arms came around both sides of her, and as she watched, he placed the tomato plant into the hole in the earth. With his hands, he gently pressed the plant into the hole, making sure it was secure, and then used the trowel to place loose earth all around it.
And dozens more to go. Caroline glanced at the full box and sighed.
"Is it that painful?" Robbie asked.
"No." But her attempt at enthusiasm fell flat.
"Then what's wrong? Gardening's not your thing, huh?"
"It shouldn't matter what is or isn't my thing now, should it? We need the garden. We need food. I'll learn to like it, I guess. I just hope the plants survive."
"They'll be fine," he assured her.
"Wait. Even if the plants make it, how do we keep the vegetables from being eaten? You know, by deer or rabbits?"
"Uncle Larry has an electric fence around this entire yard. It's also to help keep us from being eaten."
Caroline glanced at the 9mm holstered on her hip that she was only now becoming comfortable with. It made her feel better. A pack of zombies could get through an electric fence; she'd bet on it. It would only take one or two to tear it down in one place and the rest would pour through. They'd have more trouble getting past her Glock.
"Let's see if we can make gardening a little more fun for you, shall we?"
Caroline didn't know what he had in mind, but the wet kiss he planted on her shoulder showed promise. "How are you going to do that?" she teased. He brushed kisses across the strap of her tank top to the column of her throat and back to her ear. His tongue swirled in that sensitive shell. His fingers worked at the holster until he'd carefully removed it and her gun, and set it next to the plant box.
"Why do we like anything, Caro? Usually we have a good memory of it." It took a moment to catch her breath to answer. His hand had snaked around her torso and his fingers made a dive into the jean shorts she wore...