Authors: Judy Christenberry
“You know, you have to change their diapers before you can feed them,” Nick pointed out. “So I’m cleaning up, either way.”
“Thanks for sharing,” Brad said, laughing.
They cleared the table and rinsed the dishes.
Just as they finished, they heard someone coming in the kitchen. They both turned to see Mike coming in the door covered in snow.
“Mike! Are you frozen?” Nick asked.
“Yeah, I think so. Do you have any coffee?”
Brad went to get him a cup. “Is something wrong?”
“No, but the storm is slowing down. I’m going in to town in a few minutes after the snowplow goes by. I thought I’d stop and
make sure everything’s okay over here. Kate wanted to come, but she thought she’d better take care of the boys.”
Both Nick and Brad laughed.
Soon they were all sipping the hot coffee, sitting around the table.
“Have you heard anything from Denver?” Brad asked.
“Nope, but I did mean to tell you that I’ve hired a new deputy, so you won’t need to go with Sarah next time.”
“No! If she goes to Denver, it will be with me!”
There was a complete silence for a while. Then Mike said, “I thought you would be grateful.”
thought you two weren’t getting along,” Nick said.
“We’re doing okay.”
“Then what’s going on?” Nick asked.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Brad said, trying to be nonchalant.
Mike stared at Brad. “I thought you’d be glad to be free of the escort service.”
“There’s not much to do on the ranch in the winter,” Brad assured Mike. “Like today, Nick wouldn’t miss me at all.”
Nick didn’t say anything.
“The reason I offered for my deputy to take her is that I’ve hired a new woman.”
“A woman?” Brad asked in surprise. “What do you mean, a new woman? I didn’t know you had any women!”
“I didn’t, but I do now.”
“Is Mom okay with that?” Brad asked.
Mike grinned. “Yeah. She’s more okay with it than some of the wives of the deputies.”
“Why would they object?” Nick asked.
“Well, for one, you haven’t seen her. And two, I won’t be working with her in a deputy car for eight hours.”
“I see.” Nick grinned.
Brad was stone-faced when he said, “I don’t think she needs to accompany Sarah to Denver. I started it, and I’d like to finish it with Sarah.”
“Finish what?” Mike asked, a curious look on his face.
felt himself tense as both sets of eyes stared through him. He was never so grateful for the sound of the women coming down the hall. He motioned that he didn’t want to continue their discussion in front of them.
As Sarah entered the kitchen she came to an abrupt halt when she saw Mike. “Is something wrong?”
“No, Sarah, not that I know of,” Mike reassured her. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“I just came to see how everything is with the twins. Are they doing all right?”
Abby smiled. “Yes, they’re growing so much. They’re asleep but you can come see them.”
“I’d love to.”
Abby led the sheriff down the hall so he could peek at the twins. Sarah stayed behind to put in a new batch of buns.
“Want me to make another pot of coffee?” Brad asked.
“Yes, thank you.” She didn’t even look at him.
He refilled the cups and brought the pot back to the sink to start a new pot.
“Thank you,” she said softly as he walked back to his seat.
“No problem,” he said, giving his usual answer.
Mike and Abby entered the kitchen. “Those babies are true Logans, Nick. They’re growing like weeds.”
“They ought to be growing as often as they wake us up to be fed.” Nick looked at his wife. “Right, honey?”
“They certainly love their bottles.”
“They’re doing fine, Abby,” Sarah said as she brought over a plate of hot cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. Mike
couldn’t help but take one when she offered him a plate.
“Thanks, Sarah. By the way, I’ve hired a new deputy.”
Abby looked up. “Is it anyone we know?”
“I don’t think so. She’s from Cheyenne.”
“She?” Abby asked.
“Yes, she’s my first female deputy.”
“Good for you,” Sarah said.
“I offered to send her with you when you have to go back to Denver, but Brad didn’t think that would be a good idea.”
think it’s a lovely idea,” Sarah said, darting her eyes to Brad.
“I think you need a man with you!” Brad protested.
“You think my stepfather would attack me?”
“He’s already sent one man to kill you.”
“Isn’t your female deputy able to protect me?” Sarah asked Mike.
“Yeah. She was trained by the Cheyenne police. She’s quite talented with a gun.”
“Then I don’t see a problem with her taking over for Brad.”
Brad stared at her. Then, without saying a word, he got up and walked out of the kitchen.
Sarah stared at the door through which Brad had walked.
“I didn’t mean—
Did I upset him? He was wonderful during our trip last time.”
“Maybe you need to tell him that.” Mike gave Sarah a direct look.
“Did he go to the barn?” she asked.
Nick answered her. “Yeah, he’s probably working on tack, making repairs.”
“I guess I’d better go apologize.”
She ran to her room and put on the big sweater that she used as a coat. Then she hurried out the door before anyone said anything.
Sarah could tell the wind wasn’t blowing as hard as it had been. Wrapping her arms around her body, she headed straight to the main barn.
When she reached it, she ducked in and looked for Brad. Finding him standing near the stalls, she moved slightly near him before speaking. “Brad, I—
Can we talk?”
He’d gone out without his hat, and the snow had dampened his hair, turning it a darker brown. He ran a hand through it but didn’t turn around. He continued working the tack.
“Brad, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
“You didn’t!” he clipped sharply. And then he did face her, only to say, “Look, why don’t you go back inside? This is no weather—”
But Sarah wanted to be heard. She cut him off by stepping into the middle of the barn where he stood. “I’m sorry, Brad, but I think I did.” When he didn’t protest, she continued, “You were great to me on that trip. But you and I both know that was only because of Mike. You wouldn’t have accompanied me if it weren’t for him.”
“Mike had nothing to do with my being nice to you. I wanted to make the trip easy for you, Sarah. I thought you were being very brave.”
He admired her? After the lecture he’d given her in Denver, she figured he thought she was crazy for taking on the responsibility of her family. In fact, his insistence that she recognize the grave step she’d taken had told her Brad had no intention of doing such a thing.
She appreciated his admiration, but she didn’t quite know what to say. She turned her attention to the stalls. “Why are these horses in here instead of out in the snow?”
“These are expecting sometime soon, so we want to keep them in, in case we need to help them.”
Sarah was walking along the stalls, not yet ready to go back inside and not sure what to talk about. Suddenly she stopped. “Brad, isn’t it a bad sign if a horse is lying down?”
“What? Which one?” he demanded, moving quickly down the aisle to the stall by which she was standing. He opened the door and went to the horse. “Easy, Lady Jane. Take it easy,” he crooned to the mare. To Sarah, he said, “She’s in labor.”
“Can I help?” Sarah asked softly.
“Yeah, come on in the stall and pet her head, talk to her.”
She did as he said. Kneeling down in the straw, she touched the mare’s neck and told her all about Abby’s twins, about little babies being so sweet, and she promised that Brad would help her.
A few minutes later, she looked at Brad and realized he was giving Lady Jane some help in birthing. She couldn’t help watching Brad as he witnessed a birth from the mare. He was as gentle as he’d been with her during their trip to Denver. Only this time he was presiding over the birth of a baby horse.
Her heart swelled, as it had done in Denver. He was a good man. That was why she’d tried not to let her feelings overwhelm her. She knew he didn’t want to mislead her. But she had to be careful and not take advantage of him.
“Here’s your son, Lady Jane,” Brad said, urging the horse to his feet.
Sarah moved back from Lady Jane’s head and turned to look at the wobbly-legged foal. “Oh, isn’t he beautiful?”
“Yeah, he is, but Lady Jane owes you. If you hadn’t seen her down, we might not be looking at her baby now.”
“All I did was ask you a question. You did the rest.”
“Maybe we should just agree that we make good partners.”
“I’m willing to do that, as long as all I have to do is have a conversation and you do all the work,” she said with a smile. “What are you going to name him?”
“I think you should have that honor.”
Sarah’s head snapped up. “Really? You’d let me name him?”
“Why not? You deserve to be rewarded.”
“Oh, that’s a tough decision…. I think he should be named…Duke. Unless you don’t like that name?”
“I like it a lot. Goes with Lady Jane, doesn’t it?”
“That’s what I thought.” She smiled at Brad.
“So…are we friends again?” Brad asked.
“Yes, I hope so. I promise I won’t take advantage of you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about—about getting carried away when we were in Denver last time. I know you were just being nice, and I thought we had—had become friends.”
“We had. I just wanted you to know what you’d done. It’s a big responsibility you’ve chosen.”
“As I told you then, I had no choice.”
“I don’t think—”
“Did you have a choice about helping Lady Jane give birth?”
“Of course not. It’s my job.”
She just stared at him, hoping he’d see the parallel that she drew.
“Okay, okay. Maybe you didn’t have a choice. I just wanted you to think about it.”
“Brother, we have a new colt,” Brad announced as they returned to the house.
“We do?” Nick asked. “Which mare?”
“Did she have trouble?” To Abby and Mike he explained, “It’s her first.”
“Sarah is the one who found her down and alerted me. She came in the stall and petted her head and talked to her, helping keep her calm.”
“Good job, Sarah. I didn’t know you knew anything about horses.”
“I don’t. But I did what Brad told me to do.”
“That’s why I let her name the new colt.”
“So, what’s the name?” Nick asked.
I chose the name Duke.”
Abby clapped her hands. “It’s perfect, Sarah!”
“If you’d like to change it, I’ll understand.”
“Well, I wouldn’t!” Brad protested.
“Easy, Brad, no one’s going to change the name,” Nick said, grinning. “By the way, how does the colt look?”
“He’s good. He’ll look better in a day or two when his legs are stronger.”
“I think he’s beautiful now!” Sarah said.
“Spoken like a true mother, honey,” Brad said with a grin as he wrapped his arms around her.
The three men had gone out to look at Lady Jane’s first colt. Sarah stayed inside to start preparing lunch, while Abby offered encouragement.
“I’m glad you and Brad are friends again,” Abby said.
“Yes, it’s nice.”
“What happened to cause difficulties?”
“I don’t know. We just misunderstood each other, I guess.”
“Well, I’m glad you’ve made up. I was afraid you wouldn’t stay if you didn’t.”
“The kids wanted to stay badly.”
Abby was silent for a moment. “But you don’t?”
“Oh, Abby, yes, I want to stay, but—but when Brad was so hostile, I wasn’t sure what I should do.”
“I’m happy you made the decision you did.”
“I’m glad, too, but it’s one day at a time.”
As Sarah worked, Abby asked her, “Are you sure there’s nothing I can do?”
Sarah picked up a bowl and brought it to Abby. “Can you break up the walnuts for the salad?”
“Sure. These will taste good in the salad.”
“I hope so. Maybe it’ll help get the kids to eat their vegetables.”
“You may have a hard sell there,” Abby said with a grin. “We’d probably have a better chance telling them they don’t get any cake if they don’t eat the salad.”
When the kitchen door opened, Kate arrived. When Mike had agreed to stay earlier, Abby had invited her mother-in-law, too.
“What can I do to help?” Kate said as soon as she hung up her coat.
Sarah looked back at the stove and said, “You can butter the rolls before I put them in the oven. That would be a big help.”
“I’d love to.”
Then Sarah turned to the door and called the kids to come help, too.
Abby looked puzzled. “What are they going to do?”
“They’re going to set the table for all of us.”
“Do you think they can?” Abby asked.
“Oh, yes, certainly with Anna’s help. She’s quite good at setting the table, but I don’t think it should be limited to the girl.”
“No, of course not,” Kate agreed.
The kids came to the door of the kitchen. “What?” Robbie asked.
“I want the three of you to come set the table for lunch.”
“We’re playing a game,” Robbie said and started back to the television room.
“Robbie, I wasn’t asking for you to volunteer. I’m telling all three of you to come help me by setting the table.”
Anna came willingly and even Davy knew what was being asked of him. Robbie, however, remained where he was. “I don’t want to.”
Abby was embarrassed by her son’s behavior. “Robbie, you are to do what Sarah
asked you to do. You need to help do chores around the house.”
“No, I don’t, Mommy. I’m your little boy, not Sarah’s.”
“Then let me make myself perfectly clear. Help set the table for lunch, Robbie!”
“I don’t see why I have to help her. Isn’t she the housekeeper?”
Abby started to rise, but Kate urged her to stay seated. About that time, the men came into the kitchen.
Abby verbally pounced on him. “Nick, you need to talk to your son! He is refusing to help set the table as Sarah and I asked.”
“Robbie, why aren’t you minding your mommy?” Nick asked with a ferocious frown.
“Because Sarah’s not my mommy. We pay her to do things for us. We don’t do things for her!”
“Nick, take him out of here. And don’t let him come to the table unless he helps, like Anna and Davy!”
Sarah went back to work with her head down. Had she overstepped her bounds by
involving Robbie in the chore? As their legal guardian, she had the right to tailor Anna and Davy’s conduct, but truthfully only Abby and Nick could tell their son what to do.
Anna counted the number of people for lunch, then directed Davy to count out nine knives, nine forks and nine spoons. Sarah helped her take down nine plates and carry them to the table.
Davy helped her set. Sarah reminded him to put the fork on the left of the plate, and the knife and spoon on the right side. “Knife closest to the plate.”
Nick came back into the kitchen with an unhappy Robbie. “Robbie wants to say something to you, Sarah.”
“I’m sorry,” Robbie said, not sounding like he was sorry.
But Sarah didn’t challenge his attitude. She said, “Thank you, Robbie. Would you count out nine napkins, fold them in half and put them beside the fork at each plate?”
“Yeah,” he said without enthusiasm.
When he ran out of napkins, he plopped down in a chair.
“Robbie, you need two more napkins,” Abby pointed out to him.
“Anna can get them!” Robbie snapped at his mother.
“Robbie, go to your room,” Nick ordered.
“But I’m hungry!”
“Then if I were you, I’d get those extra napkins before Anna does!”
Robbie marched over to the napkins on the shelf and shoved Anna out of the way. Then he strode back to the table and threw down two more napkins.
“Son, you need an attitude adjustment. Let’s take another trip to your bedroom.”
Sarah was putting the lunch on the table, and the casserole she’d made smelled heavenly.
She put the casserole on the table and then turned to see if Anna was all right.
Abby said, “Anna, I apologize for Robbie’s manners. They will improve shortly, I assure you.”
“That’s all right, Abby,” Anna said.
“You are a sweetheart, Anna.”
Kate concurred, “I agree. I did a poor job raising my sons, too. Only when Abby couldn’t help with the dishes anymore, did I think to ask my sons to help.”