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Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – “After Dinner”

Last week, we got to see more of Calla’s interaction with her father. Today we get just a hint of what might be to come after that.

Calla headed into the dining room after washing the alcohol from her hands. She’d nicked herself at least once with the broken glass, but thankfully it hadn’t bled too much. Although maybe seeing her hands bandaged would get her father to realize what he was doing.
And that he wasn’t only hurting himself.
But, when she stepped into the dining room, it was empty. Where was her father? She thought he would have come right here from his office. Apparently that wasn’t the case, though. And it didn’t sound like he was berating any of the kitchen staff. She’d definitely be able to hear if he was.
She sighed and crossed the room, pushing into the kitchen. Nita turned from the stove. “Calla, dear, what are you doing? Your father-”
“Is probably shut in his room. I just finished cleaning his office.”
“Calla, that isn’t for you to do.” It was the same thing her father had said, but this time there was softness in the words.
“I know. But, none of you should have to deal with the aftereffects of his rages, either.”
“We are paid for it. You aren’t. Instead you feel you need to pay for what he does.”
She shook her head. That wasn’t it. But, she had never been able to put into words just what it was. Before she could try once more, there was a knock on the jamb of the kitchen door. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Murray, the butler, smiling past her to Nita. If her father knew they’d had something going on as long as she could remember, he’d lose it. He didn’t like anyone having loyalties to anyone but him.
One, if not both of them, would be fired. And her life would probably be even more miserable.
“What is it, Murray?” she asked the butler, smiling sweetly. “Does my father need me?”
The smile dimmed slightly, and she imagined it was the mention of her father. She thought that if it wasn’t for Nita, Murray would have given up his position long ago. Frankly, she wasn’t quite sure why any of the employees stayed on and tolerated her father’s behavior. She didn’t have much choice if she didn’t want to live on the streets. Maybe they feared the same thing.
And she thought her father liked it that way.
“No, Miss Calla,” Murray said, nodding at her. “He just informed me he’ll be taking his meal in his room tonight. I shall take it up once it’s ready.”
“Told you,” Calla said, turning back to Nita. “Sulking.” There were shadows in her eyes, though, and she wondered what the older woman knew.
“I’ll let you know when it’s ready,” she told Murray softly.
He nodded and stepped back out of the kitchen. Even though Calla was pretty sure he wanted to come forward and at least kiss the woman. He wouldn’t do that while they were on duty, though. Wouldn’t take the risk. He probably knew how much Father depended on him, but he’d say he could always get a new cook. Murray wouldn’t put Nita at risk like that.
“He is just sulking, right?” Calla asked.
Nita’s mouth thinned, and she turned back to the stove. “Scheming more like it,” she muttered.
A chill went over her. Though it wasn’t like he didn’t scheme every day. Why should this one be any different?

What could her father be scheming about? How will it affect Calla? Hold on and you might just find out.

 

Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – Midas

I’m back with another scene from my fleshing out of Midas’ Daughter. Here we’ll see more of Calla’s interactions with her father.

Calla made her way down to the fountain in the middle of her father’s yard. She settled on the wide base of the pool and trailed her fingers through the water as more trickled down from the three tiers until it fell back into the pool. Something about the cycle of it soothed her frayed nerves. Her father had it installed when he’d moved her mother into the house with him, before Calla had even been born. Maybe that was part of what soothed her as well.
Her father, Dario Midas, was already a wealthy man, so she didn’t understand why he only cared about making even more money. Sometimes she wanted him to see she was right here, to know she mattered more than any business deal or wealth he attained. Other times she just wanted to get away. To find someone who wanted her and not her father’s wealth.
He was in another of his moods today, and it was always best to make herself scarce in these moments. Not that he’d ever raised his hand to her, but she’d be another target for his angry words. Even though, she wasn’t quite sure what had brought this mood on tonight.
She shook her head as she looked into the pool of water in the fountain. All of that was likely wishful thinking. Yet she couldn’t stop it. Everyone said he had the golden touch when it came to business, but he drove every woman in his life away. And he failed to see her, the only one who remained through it all. Maybe she would go as well, if only she had the means. She couldn’t touch any of her money yet, so she was still stuck.
She pushed back up from the fountain, knowing she should go back in and check that he hadn’t done too much damage this time. Hopefully he’d calmed by now anyway. When she stepped inside, the tension was still thick. All of the house employees averted their eyes, and she wanted to head back out of the house. That wasn’t the way to get her father to see her. So, she headed toward his office, even if it was the last place she wanted to be.
She knocked on the door but pushed it open without waiting for a response. Her father sat at his desk, his hands clasped at the back of his head, staring down at the top of the desk. She approached slowly, hoping whatever upset him had passed now.
By the looks of the room, that wasn’t the case. Liquid dripped down the wall on the other side of the room. Glass lay shattered below it. Calla sighed. She’d likely have to order more glasses soon.
“Father, are you all right?”
“Go away, Calla.”
I would if you’d release my trust. She didn’t like the thought going through her head. She was all he had left, and she should want to be here with him. And whose fault is it he has no one else? Certainly not mine.
Another ugly thought that seemed to go through her head at least once a day. She shoved it back down and went to clean up the mess he’d made.
“That’s not for you to do.” There was a distinct snarl in his voice.
“I can handle it, Father. Cook should just about have dinner ready. I’ll meet you in the dining room.”
He sniffed, but his chair creaked as he stood and his footsteps headed toward the doorway. After a slight hesitation, the door closed behind him. Her eyes shouldn’t be burning. She’d brought this on herself. The maids didn’t deserve to deal with the effects of her father’s temper. Still, it was her fault if that’s all he saw her as.

This was actually the opening scene in the original version of this story. Next week, we’ll see the fallout, or at least a hint of it, from this one.

Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – Flip

Last week I shared the first scene of Midas’ Daughter. Today I have the next one. Here you’ll get to meet Flip, who was mentioned in last week’s scene. And if you missed starting this last week, you can read it here.

“You must be kidding me.”
A part of Flip Castellan wanted to shrink away from the angry man. The same part that always had from the time he’d moved here with his father as a just barely sixteen-year-old. Six years later, and he still hated it just as much. So, he shoved it away and stood a little straighter. “I’m not, Mr. Midas. I told you when Mr. Dobrin called the other day, that he didn’t want to go through with the deal any longer.”
“What the hell did you do to make him change his mind?”
Of course, it was his fault. Everything was always his fault. Even when it wasn’t. “I didn’t do anything, Mr. Midas. He-”
“Maybe that’s the problem. Your father never would have let this happen. Letting him put you in charge was a mistake.”
Flip’s hand tightened into a fist at his side. His father had needed to step back. His health had been declining. It had improved once he was away from the stress of dealing with Dario Midas’ temper tantrums. Flip had been picking up the slack for him even before he’d taken that step back. Who was Mr. Midas to tell him he couldn’t do the job when he’d been doing it all along?
But, he didn’t bother trying to interrupt his boss. He’d learned long ago, that there was no point in that. He’d just keep railing on, and it could very well cost Flip his job. He couldn’t let that happen. For more than just the money it brought him. But, he didn’t let his gaze go anywhere near the main house. Near Calla. That would give everything away.
He was still ranting along, but Flip barely heard anything he said. It wasn’t important what he said anyway. He was laying all the blame for what had gone wrong on Flip’s shoulders.
“You better fix this,” Mr. Midas said. “You have until the end of the week.”
“But, that’s tomorrow,” Flip said. Then added quickly, “Sir.”
“Then, you’d better get on the phone and figure out where you went wrong. And be quick about it.”
He turned and strode out of the barn, leaving Flip standing there. Flip fisted his hands a couple times, trying to let go of the anger as well. That man didn’t know just how much he did around here, while he was shut in his office or meeting with his fellow rich men. And he didn’t get, probably never would, that it was his own attitude that tended to lose him deals. Not anything Flip did or didn’t do.
He left the office in the barn and headed down the aisle to the only occupied stall. He reached up and petted the mare’s face. “He doesn’t even see, does he? Not what he does to himself. Not what he does to you or Calla, either. Not that I think he’d change if he did know.”
The horse snorted and nudged his shoulder. As if she agreed with him, or maybe it was just the mention of her mistress’s name. He dug a carrot out of his pocket and offered it to the mare. “I’m sure she’ll be to see you as soon as she can.” And it would probably be best if he wasn’t around when did come. He couldn’t risk Mr. Midas seeing them together and making assumptions.
He patted the mare’s neck. “I better go start making those calls. If I get canned, I won’t be able to take care of you or her.”
And that was something he couldn’t let happen.

 

Fiction Friday: Dougal & Shae

It’s the end of January which means it’s time to share the beginning of the last of my back story novellas. I’m not sure I’ll be sharing more of these, at least not here. I do have other ideas for them, though. I may talk more about that another time, as I firm up those plans. But for now, here’s the first scene of Dougal & Shae’s story(Flames).

Dougal Magaldi scanned the room around him from behind the bar. He’d only been in town a couple weeks now. He was just glad he’d been able to find a job so quickly. His father hadn’t wanted to leave home, and the pub they’d been running together the last two years. But, it hadn’t taken him long to realize he couldn’t work for his father.

He loved the stubborn old bastard, but he couldn’t work for the man. And he really didn’t want to have to go crawling back, saying he’d failed just as his father had predicted. But, he’d landed this job, so he wouldn’t have to think about that. At least not yet, not as long as he could hold onto the job and his apartment.

The clientele here was definitely different from what he was used to at the family pub. A bit rougher. Not nearly as many couple and families. A lot more men, and women, on the prowl. And more troublemakers among them.

He looked at a couple of them right now. They hadn’t done anything just yet, but they were throwing back the drinks quite hard. But, even though he’d only worked behind the bar the last couple years, he’d spent most of his life in the pub. He’d gotten good at pinpointing the riffraff from those just out to have a good time.

These two definitely fell into that first group. Nothing he could do unless they actually started causing a problem, though. And from what he’d seen so far, his boss wouldn’t take action until it went almost too far. Nothing he could do about that either. All he could do was his job.

Two men came up and leaned against the bar. These didn’t seem so much like troublemakers, and Dougal offered a smile as one held up two fingers and said, “Guinness.”

His smile widened. “Ah, a couple Irish lads,” he said, a burr in his voice as he reached into the cooler for the bottles. He always seemed to pick it up when he visited his mother’s family. But, he’d been back from Scotland for a few weeks now. He would have thought it would’ve faded again by now.

”And you’re a Scottish one,” one of the men said, grinning at him.

“Born there,” he admitted. “Came over when I was three. Just went back to visit family recently, though.”

“Our father came over from the Old Country when he was a teen,” the other man said.

Our father. Brothers, then. He supposed he could see it now. One of them went rigid at a commotion down the bar. Dougal glanced that way and saw the men he’d pinned as troublemakers. And that’s just what they were doing now…making trouble.

The taller of the two men in front of him sighed. “And here I thought we were off duty.”

“Donny,” the other man said, “it’s not our fight. Maybe they’ll…”

A beer bottle went flying before he could even finish the sentence. “Sure, Dev, maybe they will. Come on.”

Dougal watched as they started to wade in to the fight and debated whether he should step in or call the cops. His boss would hate that second option, but when he saw the flash of a knife, his debate was over.

Fiction Friday: Roman

It’s Friday, so it’s time for the first scene of the third back story novella I’ve been working on. This one is Roman’s, who you’ll meet in Shed Some Light(Carlos’ story – who you may recognize if you’ve read Healing the Heart). This is the story of how Tereza came to be Roman and his wife’s daughter.

Roman Pella looked up at the knock on his door and rubbed a hand over his rough cheek. He should have shaved before he came into the office, but it hadn’t been a good morning. Or the night before. Another specialist with news they didn’t want to hear. He’d wanted to stay home with Cristine, but the office had already given him enough leeway with time off and shortened days, so he could make it to the appointments.

There wouldn’t be any children for him and the woman he loved. This last specialist had made that pretty clear.

“You look awful, Pella. You need to go home early?”

Roman glanced up at his boss and shook his head. “Out of personal days. And I’m not sick. I can get through. You got something for me?”

He didn’t like being short with his boss, who had been very sympathetic and accommodating with everything he and Cristine had been going through. But, he didn’t want to talk about it. Not right now when the reality was weighing him down so much.

His boss gave a short nod as if in acknowledgement of what Roman hadn’t said. “Two new clients, in fact. If you can’t take them both, let me know. I’ll figure something else out. But, it’s a big case, and not a one of the defendants could afford a lawyer.”

How many could there be? That didn’t really matter if they weren’t being tried together. “They were all charged separately, though?”

“Only one of them was being charged with the murder. The others have assorted charges, but the DA decided not to lump them all together. The trial would have been a circus.”

Roman’s hand had stilled at the word ‘murder’. He’d worked for the public defender’s office since he passed the bar, five years now. And he’d never defended a murder case before. He really hoped this wouldn’t be the first one.

He swallowed then made himself flip open the first folder. Carlos Armas. That name sounded familiar. He started reading over the report and a few things slid into place. He looked up at his boss. “I saw this story on the news. They insinuated it was part of a turf war between the gangs. The victim was his sister, though?”

“Yes. We’ve seen Armas through here a couple times before, nothing’s ever stuck to him, though.”

Roman skimmed through the list of charges against him. The worst of which seemed to be illegal possession of a firearm. Possibly the intent to incite a riot, too. That seemed a little reaching, though. Of course, Roman knew the DA well, and that he liked to try to prove a point.

He set that folder aside and opened the next one. And his eyes widened a little. “Thirteen? They’re bringing these charges against a thirteen-year-old?”

“Not the first time he’s seen the inside of a holding cell, either. You recognize the last name there? You should.”

He glanced back up at the kid’s name and felt a heavy boulder drop into his stomach. “Isabelle. I heard she was clean now. That she has been for a few years.”

“Not soon enough apparently. You can help her son now, too.”

“All right. I’ll need to talk to both of them.”

“There’s someone else you need to talk to as well,” his boss said.

Roman’s shoulders slumped. At this rate, he’d never get home to Cristine tonight. “Who?”

“She came forward to the police last night and identified the shooter. He’s her foster brother and apparently threatened to kill her if she went to the police. They’re keeping her at the station until he’s under wraps. The problem is he wasn’t at home, and his parents aren’t being exactly cooperative.”

His stomach twisted into tight knots at hearing all of that. “How old is she?”

“Fifteen. She’s terrified, Roman. And I think you’re the best one to speak to her. You always have a gentle touch with those who need it.”

A gentle touch? It didn’t seem to be what he had with Cristine. She’d told him to just go. That she didn’t need him there. He shuddered before he could stop it.

His boss dropped into a chair across the desk. “Roman. Talk to me.”

“We can’t have kids,” he said, his voice wavering on the words. It was the first time he’d said them out loud. “This is the third doctor that’s told us, but the first one that said it’s both of us. Even if I could get her pregnant, she’d have about a five percent chance of carrying to term.” It hurt. Even more so because he knew there was no way he could fix it. “I tried comforting her, and she told me to leave.”

“She kicked you out because of it? I just can’t believe that with what I know of Cristine.”

They’d all worked together, with her job as a social worker, sometimes their cases overlapped. So, Scott did know Cristine fairly well. Roman squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. “No. But, she said I was going to smother her if I took another day off work.”

Scott let out a soft sound that could have been a laugh. “She loves you, Ro. I’m sure she’s hurting, too. I thought you were looking into adopting or something.”

“We have been. We got certified to be foster parents. That came through just a little over a week ago. But, we were still holding out hope we could have our own as well. We haven’t heard anything from social services yet about any children. Which I guess is good, if they haven’t had to remove any from homes. But, we wanted children so much. It’s something we discussed almost from the time we met.”

His boss reached down for the folder. “I can give this to someone else if it’s going to be too much for you. Maybe you should take more time off.”

But, Roman shook his head and set his hands over the folders. “No, I can do this. I need to do this, Scott. We’re breaking apart, and me going back home is just going to be the hammer blow that shatters everything.”

His boss studied him carefully then finally nodded. “All right. But you tell me if it gets to be too much, Ro. Don’t drown yourself with it.”

He lied with a straight face. “I won’t, Scott.”

 

Fiction Friday: Tavin & Haiwee

Last week I shared the first scene from Patrick and Sarah’s story. This week I have the first from Tavin & Haiwee’s, Adam’s parents from Stained by Ashes.

Tavin Kindrick stepped softly around the broken branch, careful to make as little sound as possible. He knew his quarry had come back this way. There was a print right there, and he’d been following the drops of blood, growing larger and more frequent the longer he followed.

He kept his rifle in front of him, scanning the trees around him. There was definite movement off to his right. And he was sure he saw the flash of a tan hide. Perfect. He levered another bullet into the chamber and took another step toward where he’d seen the movement. They needed fresh meat out at the camp. Everyone, not just him, was tired of existing on jerked beef and tins of beans.

Adding fresh venison would boost everyone’s spirits.

He brought his rifle up to his shoulder and took aim. But, the large brown eyes looking back at him didn’t belong to a doe. He kept his rifle where it was. In fact, he didn’t think a single part of him moved, even his lungs couldn’t seem to bring in or let out any air.

The girl—woman, he corrected himself—took a step back from him. And he finally dropped the barrel of the rifle down at his side. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to frighten ye, lass.”

Sounds spilled from her mouth, but none of them made any sense to him. He took his gaze over her. The black hair that hung down past her shoulders, the large brown eyes, still showing fear as she stared at him. Her skin was nearly as dark as the bark of the tree she stood next to.

Her deerskin dress was what he’d mistaken for the animal he’d been tracking. Now that he saw it more clearly, he couldn’t believe he’d made that error.

Tavin took a step toward her. “Are ye lost out here, lass? Can I help ye get back to your kin?”

“English. You speak the English. I know others.”

Tavin let out a low breath. At least he would be able to communicate with her. And that voice. It had such a beautiful sound. “Yes. Your kin? Family?” he asked when she looked at him blankly.

That brought a smile to her face. “Family, yes. I have family.”

He let out a long breath. At least she wasn’t out here all on her own. “If you tell me the way, I can make sure you get back there.” It had warmed up in recent days, but it was still too cold for a young girl to be out here on her own.

But, the girl just smiled at him. It didn’t look particularly grateful. Brighter than that, like she knew a joke he wasn’t privy to. It made the back of his neck itch, but he gestured her to join him. Instead, she turned and started hurrying over the rocks and into the next stand of trees.

“Wait,” he called after her. “Lass, wait up.” He didn’t even know her name, but he wished he could call her something other than lass.

Foregoing that, he slung his rifle down his back, and took off after her. The girl was nearly out of sight as it was. He didn’t want to lose her as he seemed to have done with the deer he’d shot. He wouldn’t forgive himself if she was injured when he’d taken her under his protection.

Tavin stumbled over a rock and landed hard on one knee. He let out a rough cry as pain sliced through it but pushed himself back to both feet. He saw the girl heading back toward him, scowling now.

“You fall?”

Tavin’s face flushed hot at her question. He didn’t need her seeing him being a lumbering oaf. Some of the men said he seemed like he was part mountain goat at times. Right now, he felt more like a bear.

“I’m fine, lass,” he said, brushing a rough hand on his knee. “Maybe I should lead the way. Make sure there is no trouble.”

One of her dark brows rose, and he wondered just how much she understood. “You find the loose rocks for me?”

To his surprise, a laugh burst out of him. She was certainly a cheeky one. Her face lit up with a grin, then she was turning away again. He was never going to be able to keep up with her at this rate, though. “Lass, wait,” he called out.

She stopped and turned back, her hands on her hips of that buckskin dress. “Go or wait?” she asked. “Can’t do both.”

“Nay, of course not. I just…maybe you should walk with me. Make sure I do not trip over those loose rocks.”

That eyebrow was raised again. Like she didn’t believe him. Well, he couldn’t really blame her. He wasn’t so sure he believed himself.

Still, she didn’t start bounding over the rocks again. She hung back so he didn’t lose sight of her. Still, the way she looked back at him made him thinks he was afraid for something to happen to him. He thought it should be the other way around.

She was just a little slip of a girl, about half the size of him. How could she think she could protect him, especially from a fall?

He should be the one protecting her. Or someone should be. Instead they were just letting her run loose out here. How could that be right?

“Does your family care for you, lass?”

She looked back at him, the space between her brows furrowed now. “What’s that mean? Care for me?”

His brow furrowed. How did he explain this to her? “They…love you. Want you to be…safe. Do you understand that?”

“Yes. Yes, they love me. They are family. You have it, too?”

She took off after asking the question, though not as quickly as before. Almost as if she was holding herself back for him. He shook his head then picked up his pace. “Had family. Back in Scotland. Brother’s still there. I came over after our parents died.”

She looked back over her shoulder at him, and he saw sympathy in her eyes. She didn’t say any words, though, just turned back and scampered over some more rocks.

Tavin let out a long breath. Then, he followed her. He hadn’t planned to be gone long. Just long enough to take down some game. He shook his head. Didn’t look like that was happening the way he’d planned.

Fiction Friday: Patrick & Sarah

As I said last week, I’ll be sharing scenes from the four back story novellas I’ve been working on. First up is Patrick & Sarah, from my Stained series.

Patrick Bailey pulled back hard on the reins for the team of horses hitched to his wagon as the little boy dashed out in front of him. “Woah,” he called, when he was afraid his touch wasn’t enough to bring the two farm horses to a halt. The boy scrambled back from the large hoof that had nearly caught him in the shoulder. Patrick jumped down from the seat almost before the horses had come to a stop.

“You all right?” he asked the boy, reaching out for his arm to steady him.

The boy looked up at him, eyes wide in his small face. His mouth fell open, but no words came out as he kept staring up at Patrick. “Were you hurt?” The boy shook his head, but he still didn’t say a word.

“William!” a woman screeched, and Patrick turned his head that way.

The boy hunched his shoulders, drawing Patrick’s attention back to him. “I wasn’t s’posed to leave,” he said quietly. “But, Tommy was mean.”

“Will,” the woman cried again, her voice rising with desperation. “Where’d you get to?”

“That your ma?” Patrick asked, looking back at the boy.

He dropped his gaze to the ground, and Patrick just squeezed his shoulder. When he looked back up, the woman was looking around frantically and about to dash into the street herself by all appearances. There were more wagons rolling into town, though, and he wasn’t sure they wouldn’t hit her. He couldn’t let that happen.

Patrick straightened and raised his hand. “Ma’am,” he called out to her. “Ma’am, your boy’s over here.”

Her head jerked toward him, and Patrick’s throat went dry. She was beautiful. Likely the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. And he shouldn’t be thinking like that. She was a mother, which meant she’d have a husband as well. That went several levels beyond what he believed to be wrong.

He kept his hand on the boy’s shoulder as she turned and started stalking their way. He heard the boy gulp beside him, and he gently squeezed that hard knob under his hand. “It will be fine, William, wasn’t it?”

He nodded jerkily. “Yes, sir,” he whispered.

The woman reached them, and her gaze took in Patrick quickly, and he saw her swallow hard, her hands trembling slightly as she grabbed the boy’s arm. “Come here, William,” she said sharply. “I told you not to leave the house.”

“Sorry, Mama,” the boy said quietly. “Tommy was bein’ mean again.”

That was the second time Will had mentioned that. It worried something in Patrick’s mind. Who would be mean to such a little boy?

The woman’s nose wrinkled. “That’s enough, Will. Your brother is not mean. He is just teasing. It doesn’t give you cause to take off.”

But, something in the boy’s face told Patrick it was more than that. “Can I walk the two of you back to your house?” he asked her. “Make sure your boy doesn’t take off again.”

The woman took her gaze off the boy and looked back up at Patrick. “That won’t be necessary,” she said. “I can take care of my sons. I have to get back to work before we can go home anyway.”

A jolt went through him at that. “Your husband makes you go out and work? What is he doing?”

All of the color drained out of her face, and he could have kicked himself. But, before he could make his apologies, even though he wasn’t sure exactly what his misstep was, she had squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.

“My husband doesn’t make me to do anything. It would be difficult as he’s been dead three years now.”

His stomach twisted up at that, and the flash of pain he saw in her eyes. Then, his gaze flicked down to the boy. He didn’t look much more than three years old.

“No, sir,” she said, “he never knew his father. Will was only a little over a month when I got word my husband had fallen in battle.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said, and he truly was. He could not imagine how it had to be for her, raising two boys with no man in the picture. “Do you need help with anything?”

“And what would you expect in return?”

The question took Patrick aback. “What is that supposed to mean, ma’am? I expect nothing. I just want to help.”

Her face was still drawn in hard lines, but he thought her eyes had softened with…confusion, maybe. Just how had people been treating her in the years since her husband had died? Patrick had fought in the war, too, and had seen plenty of men fall. Men who had left widows and possibly even orphans. He’d never worried about helping any of them before. But, something about these two pulled at him. He couldn’t explain it.

“I don’t need any help,” she said, raising her chin.

He wanted to argue with that. After all, her boy had just run out into the street and nearly been trampled. Instead, he took a step back. “Whatever you say, ma’am.”

She seemed startled by his response and stared at him as he backed away. But, he could not force his help on her. Or at least he wouldn’t. “Good day, ma’am, Will,” he added tipping his hat and heading back to the wagon. He’d get the supplies and be on his way back to the farm again.

 

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