Hello, Leroy. What made ya come all this way?” Rebecca leaned against the post, watching her favorite Jenkins rein his horse in at her fence.
“Came to get my brother. You know how that goes.” He shrugged as he dismounted. “Any idea if the livery got room for one more?” He patted his bay’s neck before gathering the reins.
“Got plenty of room in mine.” She nodded to the lean-to on the other side of her dried flower garden. “You're more than welcome to it.” Leroy tugged at his collar. “I couldn’t intrude—” “Nonsense.” Rebecca shook her handkerchief at him. “If you ain’t in any hurry, why don’t you join me for a cuppa coffee. Just brewed.”
Leroy glanced toward Doc’s and back at Rebecca. “Talked me into it.” He smiled, as he removed his hat. Walking between the dried flowers, he caught a burst of green. “Growing pumpkins while your flowers dry, huh?” He nodded toward the orange squash.
“Yep. I’ve already got twice as much stored for soaps than last year. Let’s see if the stagecoach can keep up.” She chuckled with a twinkle in her eyes.
Silent laughter drew deep crow’s feet at the corner of his eyes. He paused on the porch trying to squash the memory, but it was no use.
Six years ago, Rebecca herself was one of those transplants heading west with family, dreaming of striking it rich.
“You’re laughing at me. I can’t help it, at ten I was all legs. You’d be like that too after being jostled about inside a carriage from sunup to sundown.” She tried to feign irritation, but her cheeks turned rosy and her laugher bubbled until hiccups took over in its stead.
“Even then, I knew you were something special.” He sat at the table.
Rebecca smiled. She didn’t even ask before pouring a little cream into his cup and handing him the spoon. “So, what did Jeb do this time?” She fixed her cup and returned the coffee pot to the stove.
He took a deep breath, savoring the scent of sweet grass drying overhead and the honey resting on the shelves. “Same old Jeb. Missed the step coming out of the saloon and caught the hitching post and porch railing.”
She raised her brow before shaking her hair. “Lucky it wasn’t last week when they were replacing the boards.” She grimaced remembering the exposed nails and crowbars that one of the workers had fallen on.
“That boy’s an accident waiting to happen.” Leroy mumbled under his breath, as he took a sip.
Rebecca heard him, all the same. “Jeb ain’t a boy, and you got to stop treating him like one.” She admired his dedication to his brothers, but she wished he would realize there was more than just crops and brothers to life.
Leroy tapped the spoon on the table, lost in a jumble of thoughts. Of course, he knew Jeb wasn’t a kid. But it was safer dealing with the known than navigating the unknown.
“Besides,” Rebecca continued, “rumor has it, he’s courting Pritchard’s daughter and already has his blessing. What you going to do then? Live with him and Amber?”
The spoon clattered to the table top. “No. I don’t know. No,” his words tumbled forth. He paused and sighed. “No. I didn’t know he’d already asked ol’ man Pritchard. But you’re right, I have held onto the apron strings a little much.”
Rebecca drank her coffee. The last sunflower bowed in the breeze, and a tendril of sorrow caressed her heart. “I know you don’t want to hear it, but it’s time you started settling down.”
“I know. It never seemed like the right time to ask you.” Leroy leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “Your pa died and then your ma. My parents died. You started selling those fancy soaps, and I was barely keeping the farm together. It just never seemed like the right time.”
Her hair cascaded like a waterfall when she titled her head. “Me?” she squeaked.
Leroy took her hand in his. His thumb swirled absentminded circles along her skin. “Yes, you. I’ve loved you far longer than I should have, just didn’t know how to tell you. You think you’d be interested in being a rancher’s wife? My wife?”
She cupped his cheek with her free hand, feeling his stubble. “Do you even have to ask?”
Kari Holloway is a Leesburg, Ga. native, and was a notorious bookworm and penner of tales growing up. Though she tried hiding her writing, it didn't surprise anyone when she published her first book. Between twisting tales of southern romance filled with iconic components of sexy cowboys (Laughing P series) and first loves (Strings Attached), exploring the unexplained in her paranormal series (The Devil's Playground series), finding her way to the battlefields of the Civil War, to grand moments etched in history, and to love's first kiss under the weeping willow, there is something for just about everyone to enjoy. She's currently working on Orb Collector—book 5 in her Devil's Playground series—and another sweet romance called Tracks in the Sand.
When she isn't slinging tales and helping fellow writers, she enjoys playing games like Fluxx with family and friends and baking southern favorites— that is, if her kids don't commandeer her time and play Pokemon or journey to the land of make-believe with My Little Pony reimagined through the eyes of kids.
To find out more about and all she has to offer, check out her website www.kariholloway.com.