Authors: Judy Christenberry
bellow seemed to shake the glass windowpanes as it echoed in the room, swept in by the strong wind. “What are you doing, thinking about leaving in a week?”
She wanted to shush him, to caution him about waking the babies and Abby. Instead she hurried to shut the door. She turned back to him slowly. For weeks she’d been thinking of ways to avoid having this discussion with Brad. Now, however, the time had come.
She looked squarely at him and said in a calm voice, “That’s when Abby said the job would end.”
He laid down the gingerbread men and grabbed her by the shoulder. “You can’t leave!”
“Yes, I can.”
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then why do you want to leave?”
She gave him a furious look and shook off his gloved hand. “I don’t want to leave, but this is how long the job is supposed to last. I have to find another job to continue providing for my family. I can’t expect Nick and Abby to pay me when they don’t need me.”
“Damn it, Sarah, Abby can’t even feed the babies by herself! How is she going to manage without you? And that doesn’t include doing the laundry or cooking!”
“Brad, I’m not suggesting I have nothing to do, but that doesn’t mean they’ll want me to remain.”
“I’ll talk to Nick!” Brad exclaimed. He scooped up the cookies and charged back out the door, just as angrily as he’d come in.
Sarah drew in a deep breath, not even appreciating the aroma of baking gingerbread. Sadness and disappointment were all she identified. If only Brad felt about her the
way she felt about him… Then she truly would be able to stay forever.
That, however, was not to be.
She wiped away the lone tear that streaked down her cheek and went back to work, hoping it would keep her mind off the handsome cowboy.
After a while she looked out the window and saw the snow had arrived. In fact, it was already coming down at a furious pace. She checked the time, worrying about the kids coming home on the school bus.
The same thought was on Abby’s mind as she entered the kitchen from her nap.
“The bus lets them out at the end of the driveway. Will they be able to make their way home?”
“Maybe I should go tell Nick to get them.”
Abby paused, considering her answer. “It probably wouldn’t hurt to ask Nick. Do you want me—”
“No, I’ll go.” She ran back to her bedroom for a long brown sweater that buttoned up
the front. She shrugged it on as she came back in the kitchen.
“Sarah, you can’t just wear a sweater. Where is your coat?”
“This is my coat, Abby. I’ll be fine. I’m just going to the barn.”
Without waiting for Abby to comment, Sarah opened the back door and raced out into the snowstorm. By the time she got to the barn, she was shivering.
“Sarah, what’s wrong?” Nick asked at once.
“W-we wondered if you should m-meet the bus. It’s a l-long walk in the snowstorm.”
“He’s going to. Where’s your coat?” Brad wanted to know.
She turned around to head back to the house, but Brad caught her arm.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“No, I didn’t. Turn me loose. I want to get back to the house. Abby’s on her own.”
“She’s awake?” Nick asked eagerly.
“Yes, and the babies are due another bottle at four.”
“Okay, we’ll meet the bus. Don’t worry about the kids.”
“Thanks, Nick,” Sarah said, smiling at him.
She pulled her arm free and headed to the door.
“Be careful, Sarah. We haven’t put the ropes up yet.”
Sarah turned to look at Brad. “What are you talking about?”
“The ropes so we won’t get lost in a blizzard. When it really gets bad, you can’t see your hand in front of your face.”
“Will you be able to find the kids?”
“The bus won’t leave until we get there. They’ll probably stay on the bus until we drive up.” He wiped snow off her shoulders. “Don’t you get lost on your way back.”
She looked nervously toward the door. “I won’t.”
But Nick stopped her. “It’s about time for the bus anyway. I’ll drive my truck to the end of the driveway.” He turned to his brother. “Why don’t you take Sarah back to the house and wait for us there?”
“Good idea.” Brad grabbed Sarah by the arm and told her to stay right next to him. “I’ll share my coat with you.”
Brad ignored her protest and wrapped his coat around both of them.
“You don’t take up much room, Sarah. Hang on.” He opened the door to the storm and pulled her along in the near whiteout.
She had to admit she didn’t feel the storm’s bite on the way back from the barn. In fact, she almost wished the house were farther away. The warmth of Brad’s body against hers was a welcome feeling, and she treasured every move of his hips against her, every hot breath against her head. By the time she made it back to the house she thought she could have melted the snow with the heat of her body.
When they got in the kitchen, she immediately moved away, afraid Brad would realize how much she enjoyed his attention.
“Nick is going to meet the bus,” she announced to Abby.
“Abby, have you seen Sarah wear a coat?” Brad asked.
Abby stared at her brother-in-law. “No,” she said, drawing the word out. “I don’t think I have.”
He turned to Sarah. “You don’t have a coat, do you?”
“No, I don’t. But I don’t go outside that much!”
“Sarah, the winters here are severe. You have to have a winter coat.” Brad shrugged out of his coat and stared at her, his hands on his hips. “If you can’t afford one, I’ll buy it for you.”
“You’ll do no such thing! I can buy my own!”
“Fine! Abby, I need to talk to you.”
Abby looked at Brad, surprise on her face. “What about?”
“No!” Sarah protested, knowing what Brad was going to ask.
“Yes! It has to be decided.”
“What is it, Brad?” Abby asked.
“Sarah thinks you’re going to let her go after next week.”
Abby stared blankly at Brad. Then she quickly shifted to Sarah. “Sarah, you can’t leave me! I couldn’t manage everything on my own.”
“It’s not that I want to leave, but you said three months. The babies are already two weeks, and I was trying to provide for my family.”
“I’m sorry. I should’ve said—I still need you, Sarah. I’ll have to talk to Nick, of course, but I’m sure he’ll let me keep you for longer.”
“Abby, I’m not trying to force you into anything. I just thought—
Well, I was trying to plan ahead.”
“Of course you need to do that. But I’d hoped…I thought you could just stay here!”
Brad turned around and faced the door. It was suddenly pushed open and three small snowmen, or in one case snowlady, came into the kitchen, followed by Nick.
“Nick, may I speak to you?” Abby asked urgently.
“Sure, hon, what is it?”
“In the bedroom, please.” Abby got up and left the room.
“What’s wrong?” Nick asked.
No one answered. Nick followed his wife from the room.
Sarah turned on Brad the minute Nick left. “You shouldn’t have asked that question. I don’t want Abby to feel forced to keep me.”
“All I did was call their attention to you leaving! Abby needs you. How can you leave?”
“I don’t want to leave! But I have to provide for my family. If you recall, Mr. Logan, you’ve already pointed out to me how difficult that will be.”
Anna stared at Sarah, panic on her face. “No! No, we can’t go! School is wonderful. Can’t we stay here?”
How had she allowed herself to talk like that in front of her siblings? She bit her lip, and walked over to Anna. “Honey, I don’t know. We’ll talk about it later.”
“I’m not leaving,” Davey pronounced emphatically. “Robbie and me are friends!”
“Look, we’ll stay as close as we can, but they may not be able to pay me a salary, and I have to make enough to take care of both of you.”
Both of them started to protest, but Nick came back out of the bedroom. “Sarah, may I talk to you a moment?” he asked.
Brad stepped up next to Sarah. “I’ll come with her.”
She turned to stare at him, but he wouldn’t be deterred. He took her arm and led her to Nick as he walked out of the kitchen.
“Yes, Nick?” She expected him to tell her she had to leave. She was bracing herself for it.
“Would you be willing to stay here for the next year?”
“Year?” she asked, stunned by his offer.
“Abby thinks she’s going to need help for at least that time. We can afford it, and I think it’s a good idea.”
“I—I’d love to, if you’re sure.” She was so stunned, she couldn’t even smile.
“Good job, Nick,” Brad said, whipping Sarah around for a hug.
“Brad, I don’t think—”
“Come on, Sarah, I’m just being friendly.”
“Yeah, Sarah, he’s just being ‘friendly.” ’
Nick grinned at Brad.
“Mind your own business, brother,” Brad warned.
“Maybe you should tell yourself that, Brad,” Sarah said sharply.
He gave her a cool stare, stepping away from her. “Maybe so.”
Sarah watched as he turned away. She wanted to call him back, assure him she didn’t mean it, but she held her tongue. But she’d just agreed to stay for another year?
Nick walked into the kitchen, announcing her decision to the three children. Davy and Robbie jumped around, dancing about the kitchen.
Anna came running in the hallway looking for Sarah. “Is it true, Sarah?”
“What, sweetie? Is what true?”
“Are we going to stay here for a year?”
Unprepared, Sarah said yes, but she wondered if it would be possible to do that. How long could she tolerate Brad’s teasing and “friendliness” when she wanted so much more from him?
The snow continued all night. When Sarah got up to fix breakfast, she wasn’t sure anyone would be up for it. Abby had warned her that if it was still coming down in the morning, school would be closed. They would wait for the snow to stop and the roads to be plowed before it would begin.
She couldn’t see any reason for the men to be up early, either. She put on a pot of hot chocolate for the children and a pot of coffee for the men. But she didn’t see much point in cooking breakfast.
With extra time, she made cinnamon buns and got a head start on that evening by
making a cake for dessert. She also tiptoed into the children’s rooms to collect their dirty clothes and started a load of laundry.
She’d just sat down with a cup of coffee when she heard footsteps coming down the hall. She looked at the door, wondering who was up.
Brad stopped when he saw her. “I’m a little late this morning, Sarah. I hope it hasn’t caused you any problems.”
“No, actually you’re the first one up.”
“You mean the snow hasn’t stopped yet?” He went to look out the window.
“Not that I’ve noticed. I haven’t gotten the kids up since they won’t have school today.”
“And Nick isn’t up yet?”
“I haven’t seen him.”
“Oh.” He took a step back. “I guess I should—uh, go back to bed.”
“That’s up to you. I have a pot of coffee ready and some cinnamon buns will be coming out of the oven any minute.”
Brad hesitated, staring at Sarah.
She kept her gaze on her mug of coffee, waiting for his answer.
“Thanks. I’ll join you…if you don’t mind.”
“Sure,” Sarah said, getting up to pour him a mug of coffee.
There was an awkward silence as they sat across from each other at the table. Finally Brad broke it. “When did you get up?”
“At six,” she said, taking a sip of coffee.
“So you made cinnamon buns?”
“Yes.” The painful small talk came to a merciful end when the oven timer rang signaling the cake was done.
“That’s not cinnamon rolls,” Brad observed when she took out the pans.
“No, these are cake layers for dessert tonight.”
She dumped the cake layers on wax paper to cool, then went to put the washed clothes into the dryer.
Brad realized she had been busy all morning and still was.
When another timer went off, he called to her.
“It’s the top oven,” she called back. “Could you take out the cinnamon rolls, please?”
He did so, taking a deep breath to inhale the scent of cinnamon.
“Thanks, Brad,” Sarah said as she came back in the kitchen.
“No problem,” he assured her. “I, uh, might take a cinnamon bun to go with my coffee, if you don’t mind.”
“No, of course not.” She took a cinnamon bun off the cookie sheet and put it on a saucer for Brad.
“Thanks,” he said, sniffing the scent of the pastry with anticipation.
Nick came in the kitchen. “Smells good in here.”
After their morning greetings, Sarah asked if Abby was awake.
“No. She got up with the twins at four. After they went to sleep, she did, too.”
At his request she served him and took a cinnamon bun for herself, too. Then she sat down at the table to enjoy some breakfast.
“She’s also made a cake and is doing laundry,” Brad said, nodding at Sarah.
“Maybe you should go take a nap, too.”
Sarah smiled at Nick.
“No, the kids will be up soon.”
As if on cue, they heard footsteps coming down the hall.
Davy and Robbie came in first with Anna lagging behind.
Sarah gave them each a cinnamon bun and a cup of hot chocolate. Then she scrambled some eggs and fried some bacon.
When she heard Abby call her, she hurried off to help with the twins.
“I think Sarah is earning her salary,” Brad said.
“Yeah, I think so. And she put a cinnamon bun away for Abby when she wakes up,” Nick said with a smile.
“I want another cinnamon bun,” Robbie said.
“Nope, that’s for your mother. Time to go get dressed, kids.”
All three children stood and left the kitchen.
“Not bad, Nick,” Brad said. “You’ve got command of these kids at least.”
“Except now you and I are going to clean the table for Sarah.”
“Maybe you should’ve volunteered to feed the babies. That might be more fun.”
“I helped feed them at four.”
“Ah, you’re right. Feeding them now would be too hard, wouldn’t it?” Brad teased.