Authors: Judy Christenberry
Brad held open the door to the restaurant and Sarah went in. She stopped when a
pretty young hostess stepped forward. “How many?” the woman asked her.
Brad came in the door after her.
“Right this way,” the woman said, smiling under her lashes at Brad.
After they were seated, Sarah said, “She was flirting with you.”
“I know.” Brad shot her a broad grin that lit up the gold in his dark eyes. “But don’t worry. I’m all yours until we get back home.”
Sarah didn’t respond to Brad’s teasing, he decided he’d better keep an eye on her. He made sure she ordered a good meal. Other than that, there was no conversation during their meal.
She finished eating before Brad. He looked at the food remaining on her plate. “Don’t you want any more?”
“No, thank you.”
“You saving up for a big dinner tonight?”
“I was thinking…since we don’t have anything scheduled this evening—”
Sarah interrupted him. “Of course you can ask her out.”
“Ask who out?”
“The hostess. She’s obviously interested.”
“But I’m not. As I was going to say, I thought maybe we should go to a movie tonight. We don’t have any theaters in Sydney Creek. What do you think?”
She stared at him, bewildered.
“Are there any movies you want to see?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know what’s playing.”
“Did you go to the movies a lot?”
“No. I never went to the movies. It would’ve cost too much for all three of us to go.”
Frowning, Brad asked, “Didn’t you ever do things on your own?”
“Not after I moved back home.”
Brad looked around. “I’ll go get a paper so we can see what’s playing.”
When he returned to their table, he spread out the paper to the movie section. “What kind of movie do you like?”
“A happy one,” she whispered.
He found a romantic comedy that had good reviews. “How about this one? Do you think you’d like it?”
“I guess so, but…I don’t expect you to entertain me, Brad. That’s asking too much.”
“Then how about we entertain each other with a movie?” He shot her another smile that seemed to comfort her. Then, he asked the waitress about the nearest theater, got directions and went to pay the bill. He could tell that made Sarah uncomfortable. She seemed to stiffen beside him.
Once they ironed out their plans, he suggested, “Let’s go back to our rooms and rest this afternoon. We’ve got half an hour before we need to leave to make the five o’clock show.”
He couldn’t figure out whether she was actually looking forward to a catnap, or if she just wanted to get away from him.
It had been three years since she’d been to a movie, Sarah had figured out as she’d lain on the bed in her room before Brad had come to get her. Now she felt excited to go.
She glanced over at him in the truck and wished she could see his face, but the falling darkness cast him in shadow.
Facing her rising excitement, she reminded herself that Brad was taking her to the theater because it was his duty. Still, it was nice to go. She realized how much she’d missed a night out since moving back into her mother’s house.
Sarah sat quietly, watching while Brad drove in the traffic that Denver dealt with now. When he pulled into the parking lot at the theater, she breathed a sigh of relief. “I was afraid we’d be late.”
“No, we left in plenty of time. We can get our popcorn and drinks and still be seated before the show starts.”
“Popcorn? Drinks? But aren’t we going to dinner afterward?”
“Of course. But you have to have popcorn when you go to the movies. And something to drink.”
Sarah stared at him, her eyes wide.
“Come on, honey, we don’t want to be
late,” he urged as he got out of the car. She emerged, too, and he came around to grab her hand, pulling her after him.
When he released her hand to take out money for the tickets, she missed his touch, but told herself he was just trying to hurry her along.
He bought a large bag of popcorn and two medium Cokes. She grabbed the bag from him and followed him into the theater. True to his word, they hadn’t started the previews yet. Just after they sat down, the lights dimmed.
Brad pulled down the armrest on the other side of Sarah and put her drink in the holder. He’d already pulled down his. “Now, do you want to hold the popcorn, or shall I?”
Before she could answer, he said, “You hold it. That way, you can eat it easily.”
So there she sat, with a handsome cowboy, in a dark theater. She never would’ve thought to be there.
“Mmm, the popcorn is good,” he whispered.
She reached out and took a few pieces for
herself. It was warm, well-buttered. Suddenly she found herself having a good time, despite the circumstances.
When they sat down to eat at a nearby restaurant, Brad acted as if their behavior was normal. “Did you like the movie?”
“Yes, I did. It was funny.”
“Yeah, I liked it, too. Good choice.”
“Did you like the little person?”
“Yeah, he was hysterical. Especially when he was being chased by the lion.”
“Do you think that was a trained lion?”
“I think so. Otherwise how would you get any camera people to film it?”
“I don’t think I’d volunteer even if it was trained.”
“What if Anna or Davy were in trouble?”
“Well, of course, I would. Anyone would try to save them!”
Brad chuckled. “That’s what I figured.”
“I’m not a daredevil, but I’d find a way to save either one of them.”
“And I believe you would.” Then he said, “Eat your dinner.”
“The hamburgers are good here.”
Brad agreed, then said, “I guess we could’ve gone out for a good steak.”
She shook her head. “I like it here.”
A few minutes later, Brad offered some dessert.
Sarah had relaxed after the movie, but she raised her eyebrows at his suggestion.
“No, I don’t think so. Of course, if you want some, go ahead, but I think I’m full.”
“They’ve got a chocolate brownie sundae. We could share it.”
The waiter smiled. “A lot of people share one of those. I can bring two spoons.”
“Great. Let’s do that.”
After the waiter left the table, Sarah leaned toward Brad. “I don’t think I can eat any of it, Brad. I’m really full.”
“You can eat just a little, can’t you?” Before she could reply, he added, “Abby said to call home tonight. We should call now before the kids go to bed.” He pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number at home. After he talked for a minute, he passed the phone to Sarah.
She was relieved when Anna told her she’d had a good day. Davy didn’t have a lot to say, because he and Robbie were playing a video game. Abby assured her all was going well. She found herself smiling when she hung up the phone.
“Everything’s all right, I take it,” Brad said.
“Yes.” After a minute she said, “I really want to thank you, Brad. You’ve been terrific to me. I know you may have preferred the hostess sharing your evening, but I appreciate your sacrificing yourself.”
“It’s no sacrifice, Sarah, believe me. I’ve enjoyed myself tonight.” Then he handed her a spoon as the dessert came. “Come on, take a bite. I can’t eat all this by myself.”
Distracted, Sarah did so. Her mind was on what he’d said. “I don’t think—
Oh, this is good,” she said after a bite.
“Eat up. You’re too skinny.”
“Skinny? I don’t think—Do you think so?”
He laughed. “Honey, you could put on twenty pounds and still be beautiful.”
“Twenty pounds? I couldn’t do that.”
“Okay, maybe ten pounds.”
She ate another couple of bites, but then she put the spoon down.
“Take one more bite for Davy. You know he’d love this dessert.”
“Yes, he would. I don’t think he’s much bothered about what’s going on. Anna is a little more concerned.”
“I know they miss their mom.”
“I guess so. She’d—she’d changed a lot. When Ellis got her started drinking, she’d become a different person. Argumentative and aggressive at some times, negligent and apathetic at others.”
“I know you’re doing the right thing.”
“I’m trying, thanks to you and your family.” She meant that compliment. She owed a lot to the Logans for giving her a place to stay, and even more to Brad for finding her and taking her in.
And for tonight.
This had been one of the best nights in recent memory. Dinner and a movie with a charming, handsome man seemed so out of
place, given her circumstances, but Brad had helped her forget her troubles, at least in his presence.
After they finished their dessert, he drove them back to their motel and walked her to her room. “Will you be able to sleep tonight?” he asked.
She said, “Yes,” but truthfully she wondered if she could. Not when visions of one particular good-looking cowboy danced through her head.
Brad had a lot to think about. If that had been a regular date, he’d have collected a good-night kiss, at the least.
And he’d wanted that kiss.
But his brother and Mike had told him to take it easy with Sarah. She had a lot to deal with.
He’d enjoyed their evening. When Sarah relaxed, she was a joy. He smiled as he thought about the evening. It had been a pleasure to feed Sarah. She looked like a strong wind would blow her away.
Stretching out on his bed, he wondered if Sarah had already gotten to sleep. She’d been tired, but she’d have to face the police tomorrow. He intended to be beside her every step of the way, to lend her support.
That was why he was here.
Brad was up early the next morning, as usual.
He hesitated to knock on Sarah’s door until seven-thirty. Watching television seemed like a waste of time, but he wanted her to get as much sleep as she could.
When he finally knocked on her door, it opened almost immediately.
“You ready for breakfast?”
“Yes, I’m hungry.”
“Good girl! Let’s go eat.”
He led her to the restaurant where they’d eaten lunch yesterday.
They ate without conversation. Brad didn’t want to interrupt her breakfast.
When they got in the car, he said, “You got an idea of what they’re going to want?”
“All I can do is tell the truth. Hopefully it will be enough.”
When they got to the police station, Brad guided her inside and asked for Captain John Lazerick. When he received directions, he led Sarah there.
“Captain Lazerick? I’m Brad Logan, deputy for Mike Dunleavy in Sydney Creek. This is Miss Sarah Brownly. She witnessed her stepfather choking her mother to death.”
The man shook Brad’s hand and then Sarah’s. “We appreciate your coming, Miss Brownly. We want to put this man away permanently.”
“So do I.”
“Right, if you’ll come this way.” The man turned to Brad. “We should be finished in a couple of hours if you—”
“I’m coming with her.”
The captain looked at Sarah, who nodded. “All right, then, if you want to.”
“I want to.”
“Okay. Right this way.”
For two hours Sarah answered the captain’s questions, recounting what she’d seen that night when she’d returned from the grocery store, filling him in on what her stepfather had been like to live with, how he’d routinely threatened her mother and the children.
When she was finished, the captain asked Sarah to take a lie-detector test. Brad stepped forward. “Why?”
“We just want to be sure. She’s very calm, almost too calm.”
Brad stepped to Sarah’s side. “Are you okay with this?”
“Yes, thank you, Brad. I—I appreciate you helping me.”
“Just do what you said. Tell the truth and you’ll be all right.”
“I will,” she assured him with a firm smile.
They put her in a room with a window and a tester. Brad joined the others watching her.
He was proud of her. This wasn’t easy for her, but she’d done a great job. She passed the test and Brad was waiting for her when she emerged.
“Good job, honey,” he said.
She buried her face in his chest as he hugged her. “Thank you, Brad.”
The captain said, “You did a good job, Miss Brownly. But you’ll need to testify in front of your stepfather at the trial. Will you be able to do that?”
“Yes, I will. He killed my mother and I want him to pay for it.”
“We want the same thing. Go get some lunch. When you come back, the lawyers will want to talk to you.”
Brad took her arm and led her out. “Come on, I’ve found a good barbecue place.”
“I’m glad to get a break,” she whispered as he drew her along.
“I know. I don’t know how those guys can do this kind of work. It’s too much for me.” After they got in the car, Brad added, “I think I prefer cows to murderers.”
“Me, too, and I don’t even like cows!”
He leaned over and gave her a kiss on her cheek. “I’ll introduce you to a few of them when we get back home. You’ll love them!”
A gurgle of laughter from her eased Brad’s worries.
“I’ll take you up on that, even though I don’t know where we’ll be living when all this is over.”
They talked quietly while they ate in a small, nondescript restaurant filled with diners.
“This barbecue is delicious. Even their veggies are good,” Sarah said as she wiped her hands with a napkin.
“Maybe, but the beef is the good part.”
“You are such a cowboy!” she teased.
He laughed, glad to see her relaxing again. “I hope so. I’ve been one all my life.”
“Tell me about your life.”
“Not much to tell. My dad and mom raised all six of us on the Logan ranch, at least until he died. He started me riding with him when I was three. That was when Nick got his own pony. We were both raised to be ranchers. Some of the other kids have looked for a different life, but not me.”
“What’s so fascinating about cows?”
“Well, there’s lots of interesting things. You not only have to take care of the cows, but you also have to know horses. There’s breeding of the cows and the economics of selling at the right time. You also have to manage your land so you have good pastures for the cows. It doesn’t hurt to be a weatherman, too. And you need a good cook, so you can get the work done.”
“Ah! Finally my skills come into play.”
“They’re pretty important, you know. They say an army marches on its stomach. That’s true about cowboys, too.”
“It sounds like a tough job, though. Don’t you get tired?”
“Somedays, when the weather is rough, I’m really glad to come home. But I like my job.”
“I think that’s important.”