Authors: Judy Christenberry
“Sarah says since we both eat, we should both share the chores,” Anna said, sounding smarter than her years.
Brad said, “I agree with Sarah. And we felt better when we shared in the chores, too.”
Nick brought his son back into the kitchen. “Okay, Robbie, this is your last chance. If you can’t be polite and participate in the chores, you don’t get to eat lunch.”
Everyone grew quiet in the kitchen, staring at the little boy. He stepped up and said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t nice, Anna, when I pushed you. And I’m sorry I didn’t act nice when you asked me to help, Sarah.”
“Thank you, Robbie. That was a very nice apology. Now would you kindly take drink orders, you and Davy?”
While they were doing that, Sarah carried
several dishes and a salad to the table. Then she took out the hot rolls and put them in a basket lined with a cup towel. She put the rolls on the table and asked everyone to sit down.
Much to everyone’s amusement, Robbie collapsed in his chair, exhausted. “Finally!”
time Sarah brought out the cake she’d made that morning, Robbie had forgotten all his complaints.
She began cutting pieces of cake and the boy willingly got up to deliver the plates to everyone at the table.
Brad took a bite of cake and chewed it silently. Then he looked at Sarah. “This is even better than my mom makes, Sarah.”
“Brad! You shouldn’t say such a thing in front of your mother!” Sarah protested.
“Yes, he should,” Kate said calmly, “because he’s right.”
“Oh, Kate, that’s so nice of you.”
Brad threw up his hands. “Sure, take her word for it, but not mine!”
“I don’t think you should insult your mother’s cooking. She’s such a good cook.”
“I know that. I grew up on that homecooking.” Joking, he patted his flat stomach and flexed his arms, and Sarah couldn’t help but notice how big and strong he looked. It was all she could do to turn her attention back to what he was saying. “But on some things, you’re better.”
“Don’t you worry about hurting her feelings?”
“No. She’s a confident woman.” He winked at his mother. “Right, Ma?”
Kate slapped his hand across the table. “I think you both should stop arguing. That’s what I think.”
“Okay, Mom,” Brad said.
Sarah just lowered her gaze and continued to eat her cake.
When the cries from the babies alerted Abby of feeding time again, Kate offered to help her with the twins. Mike got up to go on into town to work, kissing his wife goodbye first. The kids, at Sarah’s prompting,
carried the plates to the sink. She calmly accepted their help. When they finished, she thanked all three of them.
Brad watched all that, as did Nick. He wanted to be sure his son was helping as he should. When Sarah released the kids to go play, Nick went outside.
Brad called to him, “I’ll be out in a minute.” Then he turned to Sarah. “You did a good job with Robbie today.”
She looked at him, surprised. “Thank you, Brad.”
He still didn’t leave. In fact, he got up from the table and moved closer to her. He was so close that she could smell his freshly showered skin. So close that she could see the gold flecks that shimmered in his dark eyes. So close that she almost lost her breath.
She tried to step back, but her behind hit the counter. Looking up at him, with nowhere to go, she felt her heart begin to pound and her mouth go dry.
Why was he standing there?
“Wh-what did you—
I mean, is there something else you wanted to say?”
“Yeah,” he said with a grin that made those gold flecks dance. “I wanted to tell you you’re doing a good job.” Then he finally did what she was hoping against hope that he’d do.
He kissed her.
After craving it for so long, Sarah wanted to revel in the feel of his lips against hers, his body pressing into hers. But she knew she couldn’t. Contrary to her desire, she pulled back. “Brad, you shouldn’t do that!”
“Why not?” he asked a bit breathlessly, she noted. “Someone needs to tell you what a great job you’re doing.”
She put her palms on his chest to push him away. But when her hands made contact with his hot, rock-hard chest, she had to struggle to stay the course. She pushed him slightly. “I—I appreciate it, but you shouldn’t kiss me.”
Brad didn’t move. He merely grinned at
her. A grin that threatened to upturn her heart and swamp her emotions.
Just when she didn’t think she could resist him anymore, he stepped back.
“Okay. I’ll see you tonight.”
And just like that, he left the kitchen. Leaving her swaying like a tiny ship caught in a storm.
She had to sit down in a chair before she fell. She didn’t know why the man was kissing her. He’d made himself clear, in her mind, that he wanted nothing romantic to do with her.
Why, then, did he keep kissing her?
And why did she want it so much?
The next day everyone’s duties were back to normal. Sarah got up at her usual time and had breakfast ready when the kids and Brad and Nick got up. Half an hour later, the children had left for school, the men for work and the house was quiet again.
After a second cup of coffee, Sarah got up and began tidying the house, emptying the
laundry basket kept in each room. After starting a load of clothes, she went back to the boys’ bedroom and made their beds. Then she went to her and Anna’s room to do the same. Last came Brad’s room. She smiled when she saw his unmade bed. He’d given up making the bed because she always made it up better.
Stopping in midstride, she noticed how rumpled it looked, how the blankets had been torn off and how one corner of his bottom sheet was pulled off. Hadn’t Brad slept well last night?
Served him right, she thought emphatically.
Neither had she. Not after that kiss last night.
She finished his bed quickly, doing a cursory job. Then she left his bedroom and shut the door after her, feeling as though someone was chasing her. Going in there each morning killed her, little by little, smelling his scent, touching his clothes. It was the worst part of her day…and the best.
After lunch with Abby, she helped feed
the babies. They took turns, and today she had Michael. As she held him, she realized how heavy he’d gotten.
Maybe Nick was right, she thought. Like a true Logan male, Michael would grow up big and strong.
Just like Brad.
No, she warned herself, don’t go there.
After the babies went down for a nap, Sarah made a special treat for after school. Anna’s favorite—banana pudding. Anna deserved it; she’d been helping out so much lately.
When the kids came in from school, however, Anna wasn’t with them. She called Davy back and asked about his sister.
He shrugged. “I don’t know where she is. Brad took her somewhere.”
“She came home on the bus with you?”
“Yeah. But when she came off, Brad was talking to her.”
“Where did he take her?”
Again, the shrug. “I don’t know. He wanted to know why she was crying.”
Sarah stared at Davy in frustration. “She was crying? Why?”
“I don’t know.” Davy looked at her, obviously frustrated. “Can I go watch TV now?”
Sarah walked with him to the family room. There she found Robbie. “Robbie, do you know why Anna was crying?”
He sat up and said, “I didn’t do nothing!”
“Robbie, I didn’t mean for it to sound like I thought you did anything wrong to Anna. I was just asking if maybe you had some idea why she was crying.”
He seemed to relax. “Some older boy said something mean to her at school.”
“Do you know who?”
Holding back her own frustration with the two boys, she calmly asked, “Can you tell me his name?”
“I don’t think I should.”
Sarah stared at him, wondering if she should press the issue or get Nick and Abby involved. In the end, though, she figured she’d let him be and go ask Anna herself.
She left the room and went back to the kitchen, keeping her eye out for Brad and Anna to return.
It seemed hours by the time she finally heard Brad’s truck in the driveway. She ran to the door, waiting anxiously.
When Anna came into the house, she had a smile on her face.
Sarah hugged the little girl extra hard. “Are you all right, sweetie?”
“Yes, Sarah, I’m fine. Brad helped me.”
And just like that, Anna moved on through to the television room, leaving Sarah stunned and still confused.
Brad gave her an odd look when he walked into the house. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“What happened to Anna?”
He shrugged, and Sarah wondered if that was a universal male reaction. Then he said, “The boys must’ve said something.”
“Of course they did, but not enough for me to figure out what happened. But they said she was crying!”
He smiled ruefully. “Don’t make it sound
like I surmised something. Her crying clued me in. I asked her what was wrong. She didn’t tell me, but I wouldn’t let her get out of the truck without telling me after the boys went in.”
“Well, are you going to tell me?”
“Yeah. A boy at school said her daddy killed her mother and tried to kill her sister. Anna started crying.”
“Oh, my poor baby!” She felt tears sting her own eyes at the thought of the pain and humiliation Anna must have suffered. She hated Ellis even more now than she did before.
“She’s okay now, Sarah.”
“What happened? Where did you go?”
“I know the boy. More importantly, I know his parents. We went to his home and I asked Anna to go in with me. His mom was there and we confronted him in front of his mother. She was furious with him and promised to talk to her husband about his behavior. And she made him apologize to Anna.”
“Oh, Brad, thank you. I wouldn’t know how to handle that as well as you did.”
“Is that all I get? A thank you? I thought I’d at least get a kiss.”
She stared at him, wondering if it was really what he wanted. Finally she leaned toward him to kiss him on his cheek. He quickly turned his lips to meet hers and deepened the kiss more than she expected.
“Mmm, just what I wanted,” he said, grinning at her when he pulled back. Then he went out the kitchen door.
Sarah stared at him, watching his long stride to the barn.
He’d done so much for her, but she thought he didn’t want any attachment to her. And then he went and did something like letting Davy ride his horse because he realized the boy was hurt by not having a daddy to give him a ride, or helped Anna deal with the shame of her father and make sure she was protected by him.
Brad Logan was one paradox.
And one good kisser.
When she’d recovered enough from his latest onslaught, and wiped her tears, Sarah
put the kids’ snack on a tray and took it to them in the family room.
Anna, she noticed, wasn’t there. Sarah left the tray for the two boys and took Anna’s treat to the bedroom, where she found the little girl reading a book.
“Anna, look what I made for you today. Banana pudding.”
“I know, sweetie.” After a moment, Sarah said, “I talked to Brad.”
“Oh, Sarah, he was so sweet to me, and he talked me into going into the house and confronting that boy. His mom made him apologize and she said she was going to tell his daddy, too.”
“That was nice of him, sweetie. Brad is… very thoughtful.”
“Yes, he is. He said you had enough to worry about. He was glad to stand in as my father if I’d just tell him what was wrong. Wasn’t that nice of him?”
“Yes, Anna, it was, but—but we mustn’t rely on Brad too often.”
“He said you’d say that,” Anna assured her with a happy grin. “But he said some things are just handled better by a man, rather than a woman.”
Sarah was at a loss for words. Finally she said, “He might be right in this case. But we need to stand up for ourselves.”
“Okay, Sarah,” Anna said, but Sarah didn’t feel sure that she had convinced her sister.
When she returned to the kitchen, Abby came in right after her.
“Sarah? What’s wrong?”
“Anna had a little problem at school, that’s all.”
“Some boy was teasing her about her dad being in prison after killing her mother and then trying to have me killed. She was crying.”
“Find out who it was and I’ll have Nick—”
Sarah cut her off. “No need. Brad already took care of it.”
“How thoughtful of Brad. There are just some things men do better than women.”
Where had she heard that before? “Yes, I guess so.”
Abby looked at Sarah thoughtfully, but she didn’t say anything else.
The men had come in from the barn, hungry and looking forward to rest, and Sarah was just about ready to call the children in for dinner when they heard a car pull into the driveway.
Brad looked out the window. “It’s Mike. Think he wants dinner, too?”
Nick chuckled. “I can’t believe Mom isn’t fixing dinner for him and the boys.”
Sarah had a feeling the sheriff was there because of her. She didn’t think she could handle any more problems today. She’d had enough to worry about with Anna.
Mike came into the house, holding his hat in one hand and the other up in front of him. “No, don’t offer dinner to me. Kate’s got it waiting at home. I just came to talk to Sarah. I had a phone call from the Denver PD.”
Sarah looked up, her face tight with tension. “What about?”
“Your stepfather accepted a plea. They said they wouldn’t ask for the death penalty if he’d plead guilty for the murder of your mother and for the attempted murder-for-hire of you. So he’ll be kept in prison for life.”
Sarah finally took a breath, long and deep, and sat down. After several additional ones, she felt able to say, “Thank you, Mike.”
“You’re welcome, Sarah. You’ve held up awfully well.”
“I wouldn’t have without everyone’s help.” She looked around at everyone in the room. “You all contributed to it, and I want to thank all of you.”
“It was our pleasure, Sarah,” Abby said. “In fact, I don’t think we’ve done that much.”
“I think you did, Abby. You took a chance on me doing a decent job at housekeeping. That made an immense difference.”
“So, now what?” Brad asked.
Sarah stared at him. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“You don’t have to stay here anymore.
Are you going to honor the contract you agreed to with Nick and Abby?”
“Of course I am. Even if I didn’t love it here, I owe them everything.”
“You don’t love it here?”
“No! I mean, yes, of course I do!” She stared at Brad, not understanding his line of questioning.
He smiled at her, as if she’d given the right answers.
She smiled back uncertainly, hoping that was what he wanted.
“Well, I’m glad to hear you’re staying,” Nick said. “I want my wife to feel rested.”
“Nick!” Abby protested.
“Well, it’s true. Sarah gives you a chance to recover.”
“I know, but lots of women don’t have that option.”
“Don’t worry, Abby,” Sarah interjected. “I’m glad to provide the rest you need. You’ve done so much for me.”
Abby hugged her. “Oh, Sarah, you are so wonderful.”