Satin Sheets and Strawberries (2 page)

BOOK: Satin Sheets and Strawberries
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But the piece that made the room unusual was on the far side of the room. An old china closet, lovingly polished to a high sheen, held bizarre contents. Artfully displayed on handmade doilies were doorknobs: some were brass, others seemed to be of pewter, while still others were porcelain with hand-painted flowers. One or two appeared to be made from colored glass. The most prominent doorknob was pure crystal that reflected an array of colors.

Well, maybe there was a logical explanation for the doorknobs. Since his aunt appeared unharmed, he decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

"So, Kelli, do you have a last name or didn’t they give you one when they pulled you up from the cabbage patch?"

Kelli jerked as if he’d hit her, and she rose slowly to her feet. "I had a note pinned to me saying my name was Kelli, and the nurses at the hospital named me SantaFe. I was named after the city where I was abandoned." Slowly she made her way to the stairs. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go change."

She was halfway up when Logan came to his senses. "Kelli, wait!"

Before Kelli could respond, Ruth called Logan for lunch.

With a flat voice Kelly said, "Go get your lunch, Logan, before it gets cold."

Logan stood and watched her climb to the top. Part of him wanted to follow her and apologize—another part thought he should wait until she came back down. When Ruth called his name again, he headed for the kitchen. Logan told himself she’d be down in a minute.

But a nagging little voice in the back of his mind reminded him that fairies were famous for disappearing.

 

#

 

When Kelli descended the stairs twenty minutes later, she could hear an argument in the kitchen. Perhaps it couldn’t be called an argument, she thought, since only one person was raising his voice. Logan. She felt a little guilty for eavesdropping, but his voice was loud and it was her house. "Living with a fairy doesn’t constitute a home," Logan told his relatives. "Maybe an asylum, but not a home."

"Never judge a fairy by her wings," Ruth replied.

Kelli bit back a grin.

"Why didn’t you write to me when your house burned down?" Logan demanded.

"We did, Logan, three times," Henry said. "The first two letters Edwin mailed for us. The last one Kelli mailed herself to the U.S. Embassy in Istanbul."

"Istanbul?"

"Wasn’t that where you were?"

"No. I was working in Khartoum."

Ruth’s astonished gasp was clearly audible in the living room. "Oh, my. Where’s that?"

"Sudan."

"No wonder we couldn’t find you, son," Henry said, in wonder. "Ruth told me Istanbul."

"No, Henry, I told you I thought it was Istanbul. All I could remember was there were a lot of letters and it sounded foreign."

Kelli couldn’t hold back a giggle.

"Why didn’t you contact the corporate office?" asked Logan, truly exasperated.

Kelli entered the kitchen. Calmly she poured herself a cup of coffee and grabbed a handful of oatmeal cookies.

"All the phone numbers and addresses you gave us were lost in the fire," Henry said. "We knew you were an archaeologist or something. Someone who likes to dig around in the dirt."

"Geologist." Logan looked at his aunt and uncle and realized how old they’d become. For the past ten years he’d traveled around the globe. Always before he’d ended his assignments at their house. They were his home base, his only family, except for his distant cousin Edwin, whom he’d always disliked. As he looked at their faces he noticed new lines, edged alongside the old ones. Ruth’s glasses seemed thicker and her hand trembled slightly, but love still shone in her blue eyes. Henry’s shoulders were stooped and there wasn’t quite as much white hair as Logan remembered, but he wore a dark green cardigan that looked new. Where had he been when all these changes were taking place? In some foreign country searching for oil. "I’m a geologist. I work for one of the top oil companies in the world."

"There goes my Indiana Jones fantasy," Kelli said, sighing.

Logan glanced up. Worn jeans, sneakers, and a baggy red sweatshirt had replaced the enticing pixie outfit. With her blond hair pulled back into a saucy ponytail and her face free of makeup, she looked around twenty-five instead of eighteen. He saw laughter lurking in her hazel eyes. He knew she was laughing at him. "Do you mind? This is a family discussion."

Ruth and Henry gasped in shock. Kelli stared into her coffee. Tears stung the back of her eyes, but she refused to blink. She should be used to that type of comment. She’d heard enough of them in the endless array of foster homes she was shuffled through.

She’d been sixteen when Ben caught her living in one of the outbuildings on his property. The property she owned now. For no apparent reason except that they needed each other, they became family. She was the daughter he’d never had; he was the father she longed for. Child welfare had labeled her an incorrigible runaway, and they were happy to see Ben Williams apply to be her foster father. But by the time she was twenty she was alone again. Ben had died of emphysema at the age of fifty-six, leaving her his entire estate of nineteen acres, five run-down buildings, a livable cottage, and a pile of back taxes and bills.For the past five years she had built and nourished Fairyland, an outdoor park that boasted leaf-covered walks, two small waterfalls, a pond, and an outdoor theater. When Ruth and Henry were left on her doorstep last October, she adopted them as family. She finally had grandparents.

She looked at Logan, sadly. He was right, the three of them were family. Kelli felt like an outsider in her own kitchen. She drank the last of her coffee, pocketed the cookies, and headed for the back door. "I’ve got work to do. Have a nice chat."

Logan quickly rose to his feet. "Kelli, wait!"

When she hesitated by the door, he ran fingers through his hair, desperately trying to think of what to say. "I am sor—"

"Logan, you should never apologize for telling the truth." With her chin held high and her back straight, Kelli closed the door behind her and headed for the woodshed.

 

#

 

Logan pulled up the collar of his blue windbreaker and shivered. The March afternoon was turning bitterly cold. After a year of extreme heat, his body was finding it difficult to adjust. In the distance he heard the hum of a chain saw. A frown tugged at his mouth as he pictured Kelli wielding the heavy machine. It seemed too dangerous for her.

He headed into the woods, following the faraway sound. He had forgotten how clean the air smelled in spring and how beautiful barren trees could look as they sported tiny new green buds. Everywhere he looked held the expectant air of rebirth. Tiny shoots were breaking through the damp soil and anticipation fairly sang in the trees as birds rapidly flew about looking for building materials for their nests.

As he crossed over a wooden bridge spanning a small creek, a smile of appreciation curved his lips. He followed the path toward the chain saw noise, hoping it led to Kelli. He owed her more than an apology. He owed her his thanks.

Logan rounded a curve in the path and stopped. Kelli was bending over an enormous log, and with the expertise of a lumberjack, was slicing it into a manageable size. Afraid that any movement from him would startle her, he stayed perfectly still and watched, fascinated. Plastic safety goggles protected her eyes from the flurry of flying wood chips. The blade was practically through the log when she brought it back up, and with her left leg pushed the log a quarter turn and finished the cut.

The screaming saw quieted to a low roar as she positioned herself for the next cut. Logan took one step closer. A large old English sheepdog raised its head and barked.

Kelli heard Tinkerbell’s bark over the roar of the saw and looked up. Logan. She muttered an unladylike oath, turned off the saw, and lowered the safety goggles to hang around her neck. After placing the saw on the ground, she reached for the thermos lying in the bottom of a rusty wheelbarrow. She watched, amused, as Logan eyed her dog. Tinkerbell weighed about seventy-five pounds, but with her thick shaggy hair she looked closer to a hundred. Presently, she was lying on the ground in a crouched position. Her teeth were bared and her eyes, one blue and one brown, were gleaming. To a stranger she looked ready to attack. Kelli knew the dog was really smiling.

Perhaps he’d suffered enough. "Tinkerbell wouldn’t hurt a fly," she said. She saw him relax and start forward. "You leaving already?" Not waiting for a reply, she continued, "Have a nice trip and don’t forget to write."

"I’m not leaving. Aunt Ruth invited me to stay." Kelli studied the thermos clutched in her hand. She had known this was coming, so why wasn’t she prepared for it? This was now Ruth and Henry’s home too; they could invite guests to stay if they wanted to. But why Logan? Why the one person who could spoil her newfound happiness—the person who could take her family away? She reminded herself again what Ruth had told her about Logan. He never stayed long. Sometimes it was a two-day visit; the longest was two weeks. Kelli could handle anything for two weeks, even Logan. As long as he cleared out alone, leaving his aunt and uncle behind.

"It’s Ruth’s home too."

"But you own it."

She raised her chin. "Are you asking my permission?"

Logan glanced around, uncertainly. It went against the grain for him to ask permission to stay with his aunt and uncle, but he wasn’t positive they would leave with him—yet. They liked living here and had become very attached to Kelli SantaFe in the past five months. Common courtesy required he ask her consent. "Yes," he said, "I’d like your invitation."

Kelli knew what that request must have cost him. He obviously loved his aunt and uncle very much if he had agreed to stay in an elf village. She wanted to scream "No, you can’t stay," because he was the enemy, but her common sense told her Ruth and Henry would probably follow Logan if she pressed the issue.

She looked at him and smiled. "You may stay as long as Ruth and Henry like. Why don’t you go get some shut-eye, you look beat."

"Thanks. They offered me a bedroom in the house."

"Ben’s old room?"

"Yes. They said there wasn’t any room at their cottage." Logan saw a disturbed look cross her face. "Changed your mind?"

Kelli had no option. Ruth and Henry shared a microscopic cottage about a hundred yards behind her house. Their cottage consisted of one large room that was kitchen, living room, and bedroom combined. She’d recently added a small bathroom and closet for their comfort. It really was impractical to expect Logan to stay there with them when there was an unoccupied room in her house. "You can stay." She pulled up her goggles and turned back toward the log.

"Kelli?"

She looked over her shoulder. "What?"

"Can we talk for a minute?"

"Listen, Logan, you’re dead on your feet and I’ve got work to do. Why don’t you get some sleep and we’ll talk later."

"I want to thank you for what you’ve done for Aunt Ruth and Uncle Henry."

"I didn’t do it for thanks."

"I know." He kicked at a rock. The woman before him was small and compact, not quite five feet two. Her eyes were hazel, her nose had a slight slope, and her mouth was a trifle large for her face. She wasn’t beautiful, by current standards, but her skin held a healthy radiance. Wood chips clung to every inch of her body, and he had to suppress a desire to brush them off.

For the past two hours Aunt Ruth and Uncle Henry had told him the story of how Kelli had rescued them from Edwin. Edwin had begrudgingly taken them in after they lost everything they owned in the fire. It was supposed to be temporary—only until the insurance company came through. But the insurance company had claimed they had no record of their policy, and their copy had been lost in the fire.Five weeks after they moved in with Edwin, he had taken them for a drive to give his wife, Suzette, a break. When Ruth saw the sign for Fairyland, she’d asked to stop. The story became fuzzy at this point, but the end result was they had moved in with Kelli that very day.

Logan sadly shook his head at the picture she made with one foot on the log, goggles protecting her eyes, and one delicate hand clutching a chain saw. She was so tough on the outside, so soft in the middle. Anyone who would take in an elderly couple must be a pushover. He wondered why she put on such a tough front. He regretted that he was going to cause her more pain. "I’m sorry, Kelli," he said. "When I leave here, my aunt and uncle will be coming with me."

Kelli pulled her goggles away again and studied him. The shadows beneath his eyes were even more pronounced and his shoulders sloped wearily, but he still radiated authority. Logan Sinclair was a man to be reckoned with; a man who knew what he wanted, and got it. The only thing was, he now wanted what she desperately needed—her family.

She lifted her chin, pulled back her shoulders and faced her opponent without a trace of fear. "I think Ruth and Henry are old enough to make their own decisions." She put on the safety glasses, brought the saw back to life, and tore into the log lying at her feet.

Logan silently congratulated her courage. If she’d screamed, shouted, and thrown him off the property, Ruth and Henry probably would have followed out of loyalty. But she opened her home to him, told him he looked like hell, and said the decision was Ruth and Henry’s to make. How was he supposed to fight that?

With a weary sigh he headed back toward her house. Obviously it wasn’t time for any major discussion. He’d catch up on his sleep, plan some strategy, and then confront the fairy queen.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Logan awoke feeling that someone was watching him. He slowly opened his eyes and stared at the nightstand next to the bed. Less than a foot away crouched the largest cat he had ever seen. Its fur seemed to be a pale gray and its golden eyes shone in the darkness. Could this be Mustardseed? he wondered. The cat certainly didn’t look much like a fairy.

The clock in the red Buddha’s stomach on the nightstand showed it was five-thirty. With a sigh, he realized he must have slept through the night. Logan kept a cautious eye on the feline as he slipped naked from the bed and headed for the shower.

BOOK: Satin Sheets and Strawberries
5.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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