Dana reviews Red Dirt Christmas (Red Dirt #3.5) by N.R. Walker (Published BlueHeart Press, December 11, 2015, 54 pages)
Blurb: Travis had been here for just over a year. We were technically engaged, not that we’d told anyone. He was happy just knowin’ I’d said yes, and I had some head-clearin’ stuff to work through. Knowing I was good enough for Trav was one thing, but knowing if I was good enough to be a husband and father was somethin’ else entirely.
Life at Sutton Station had never been better. Business was strong, Trudy and Bacon’s little baby, Gracie, was a few weeks old now and as cute as a button, Ma’s health was good, and my relationship with Laura and Sam was in a pretty good place. And Travis? Well, life with him was still all kinds of perfect.
But, to Travis’s dismay, Christmas at the Station was just another day. Another day of getting up before the sun, feeding animals, fixin’ what needed fixin’, and checking water troughs all while tryin’ to keep out of the blistering heat.
And this year weren’t much different. Only that it was Travis’s first Sutton Station Christmas. The fact we didn’t go all out with decorations and celebrations baffled him, and if I was bein’ truthful, it disappointed him too.
Which was why I had to make it a special kind of Christmas…
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
I was muckin’ out the stables with Billy when he stopped and leaned on his shovel. He was lookin’ out to the paddock and grinned his half-a-face smile. “Ah, boss. You might wanna take a look.”
I followed his line of sight and let out a long sufferin’ sigh. “Jesus.”
Billy laughed and I shook my head. We could see Trav smilin’ as he rode the dirt bike into the yard. Strapped onto the seat behind him was a six foot pine tree. He pulled the bike to a stop, and his grin got even wider.
I stared at him. “Trav, what’s that?”
“What does it look like?” he asked, his eyebrows knitting together. “It’s a tree.”
“I can see that.”
“Mr Travis,” Billy said, all concerned-like. “You can’t be cuttin’ them trees down. They special to the Aboriginal people’s culture. Mr Travis, you disrespectin’ our people.”
Travis’s face was priceless. He paled, his eyes went wide, and his mouth fell open. He looked at me for some kind of guidance, and I just shook my head and clicked my tongue. Travis turned back to Billy, close to panicking. “Oh. I didn’t know. Oh my God. I just thought it looked like a Christmas tree and there were plenty of them. Billy, I’m so sorry. I can take it back. I mean, I can’t replant it ‘cause you know.” He looked at the tree on the back of the bike and cringed. “Well, I hacked it off at the ground. God, I’m so sorry. Is there something I should do?”
Billy looked at the tree. “Well, there’s a spirit dance from the Dreamtime. The person who takes the tree needs to do it.”
Travis nodded seriously. “A spirit dance?”
Trav stared at Billy, and I stared at Billy. A spirit dance? I had to give it to Billy. He held it together for about five seconds of absolute silence before he lost it. He burst out laughing, which made me laugh too. “I’m just pullin’ your leg, Travis. There’s no spirit dance,” Billy said, holding his sides as he laughed. His smile was so contagious.
Apparently Travis was immune. He glared at us. “Oh, you sons of bitches. You had me going.” He put his hand to his heart. “Jesus Billy, you scared the crap outta me. I thought I’d broken some traditional Aboriginal code or something!”
Billy just laughed some more. “The look on your face was so funny.”
“I hate the both of you,” Trav said, but he was smiling.
“These trees are like a weed,” Billy said. “Introduced by the white fellas two hundred years ago. They grow fast, but they’re not native.”
“I didn’t think they were.” Travis ran his hand along the fronds of the tethered tree. “But it’s the closest thing to a Christmas tree out here.”
“Christmas tree?” Billy asked. “Not too old for that? Still think Santa Claus climbs down chimneys?”
Travis frowned. He looked at his feet and shifted his weight. His voice was quiet. “No. It was just a tradition in my family. My grandfather would cut down a tree and we’d decorate it as a family. We had special ornaments and there would be a huge dinner and it was kind of a big deal. I just thought maybe… You know what? Never mind.”
Billy knew Travis’s grandfather had died not long ago. “Oh Mr Travis, I didn’t mean anything. I was just jokin’ with ya. Here, let me help you get it off the bike.”
Travis sighed and his frowned deepened, and Billy quickly undid the straps and lifted the tree by himself. “Where do you want it, Mr Travis?”
Trav was lookin’ down at the dirt, and Billy stared at me with wide eyes. “Boss? I didn’t mean nothin’ by it,” he whispered.
I saw the corner of Travis’s lip curl up and I rolled my eyes. “Oh, for shit’s sake. He’s joking, Billy.”
Billy’s eyes shot to Travis, and Travis’s frown became a slow spreading grin. “I’m just pullin’ your leg,” he said with a laugh. “You’re not the only one who can spin one, Billy.”
“Your grandfather never cut down a Christmas tree?”
Travis shook his head, still grinning. “My grandfather would tell everyone we were going to pick a perfect tree, but he’d take me fishing instead and we’d just buy some random tree from a lot on the way home.”
Billy dropped the tree into the dirt and pushed Travis’s shoulder, which of course led to them trying to put each other in a headlock, which was only made more difficult because they were both laughin’ so hard. I looked at Texas, Trav’s horse. Even he didn’t look impressed. He just twitched his ears and swished his tail in a yep-they’re-idiots kind of way. “I know,” I told him. “You have no idea what I have to put up with.”
“Who are you talking to, Charlie?” Travis asked. They’d apparently stopped wrestling and were lookin’ at me.
“Your horse,” I answered seriously. “He thinks you’re both dickheads.”
Travis brushed himself down, though why, I’ll never know. Red dust got into everything here; there weren’t no escapin’ it. “I’ll never get used to the Australian display of affection of calling the people you’re supposed to like horrible names.”
I snorted out a laugh. “You’d think after a year you’d be used to it.”
Billy picked up his shovel and offered it to Trav. “Wanna shovel shit?”
“Um, gee, thanks, but no,” Trav replied, with an I-ain’t-stupid look on his face. “I have a Christmas tree to put up. Considering Christmas is three days away and no one seems to give a shit.”
I lifted up the horseshit covered shovel. “Texas does. Bags of it.”
He rolled his eyes at me and wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. “Tell me, how damn hot is it? You know, Christmas should be cold, not one hundred and thirty freakin’ degrees.” Without waitin’ for an answer, he reached behind his head and pulled his T-shirt off. It was one of my old shirts, kinda threadbare, but I didn’t mind him wearin’ it. It clung to his body when he got all sweaty… Nah, I didn’t mind him wearin’ it at all. I minded even less when he took it off. Wearing just his jeans, boots and hat, he wrapped the shirt around the tree and lifted it easily onto one shoulder. I watched as the muscles in his back and arms flexed, all shiny with sweat, the way the red dirt smeared on his skin, and a lucky drop of sweat as it ran from the back of his hair, right down his spine and disappeared where his jeans slung low on his arse.
Billy snapped his fingers in my face. “You in there, boss?”
Travis turned around and, realising I’d been busted totally checkin’ him out, he grinned. And seeing that Billy wasn’t lookin’ at him, Travis licked his lips all suggestive like, and ran his free hand over his abs as he turned to walk out.
I flung horseshit at him.
He didn’t even turn around. He just laughed. As he walked away, he asked, “I can put this in the living room, right?”
“Would it matter what I said?” I called out after him.
His reply was distant as he reached the house. “Nope.”
Billy laughed, and I grumbled as we went back to shovelling shit. When we’d heard the screen door shut, Billy looked up to make sure Travis was gone. “He got no idea what you plannin’, does he, boss?”
I smiled as I kept on shovelin’. “None.”
It’s been 11 months since I reviewed Red Dirt Heart Book 4 (See review here). I love Charlie and Travis but after all this time, I have to admit that what I loved about them was buried in my memory. It didn’t take long into the first chapter when it all came back to me. This book doesn’t take place after Book 4 even though it has released after it. It takes place somewhere between book 3 and book 4. It is also told from Charlie’s pov. At only 54 pages it doesn’t have a long plot and can be read quickly. For a short book, it is emotionally fulfilling and incredibly sweet with just a touch of trouble for the characters.
In Australia, Christmas comes during the summer season and the heat is oppressive. Travis gets heat-stroke but the worry about his health is a fleeting moment. Mostly Charlie has to worry about keeping his Christmas surprise from Travis. In the past, the holiday wasn’t that important to the members of Sutton Station. But along with a lot of other things that changed for Charlie after falling in love, Christmas takes on new meaning.
For me, this book was like a gift from the author. A trip to visit some beloved characters after a long time away. Just as sure as it felt like I was reunited with Charlie, Travis, and the rest of their station family; the end of the book felt like I had to leave there to head back home. A lot like many people feel during this season, except I didn’t want to go. 😦 Reading this short did make me wish the author was going to write more of this series even though it is complete. Instead, I think I’m going to have to do a re-read, which is still a win. Thank you N.R. Walker for taking us back to Sutton Station once more. It was the perfect “pressie.”
N.R. Walker’s Bio: N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.
She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.
She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things…but likes it even more when they fall in love.
She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She’s been writing ever since…
N.R. Walker’s Internet Links: