“Why, Tyler Atherton, I didn’t know you were here,” Laura
said, entering the room.
“I only just arrived.” He got to his feet. “I came to see your husband, but I understand he’s out.”
“Yes, but he’s due back anytime. Won’t you stay and join us for supper? I’m not the best cook in the world, but I am learning. In fact, Carissa has taught me quite a few tricks.”
Embarrassed by her sister’s praise, Carissa put aside the sewing. “I’m going to gather the clothes for ironing.” She left before either could protest. She hated to admit it, but Tyler’s presence flooded her mind with painful longing. She had loved the attention of boys when she’d been younger. When Malcolm had paid her court, she felt like the belle of Corpus Christi. Men used to fall at her feet if she so much as gave them a second glance, and now she wanted nothing to do with them. But at the same time . . . she was lonely for a man’s attention.
“What in the world is wrong with me?” she asked as she made her way to the back porch. “Haven’t you been through enough, Carissa?”
She began sorting through a tableful of dried but wrinkled clothes. I must be a glutton for punishment, she thought. To feel things I swore I’d never allow myself to feel again. What a troublesome woman I’ve become.
“Would you like some help?”
She looked up, feeling almost frantic at the sound of Tyler’s voice. “That isn’t necessary.”
“I know, but I’d like to help you if I can.”
Carissa wadded a calico gown into a roll and stuffed it in the basket. “I’m perfectly capable. I might not be able to ride horses, but I can keep a house. You might as well rest and wait for Brandon. I’m sure Laura will fix you some refreshments.”
“She’s already offered,” Tyler said, reaching out to take hold of one of Brandon’s shirts. “I told her I can wait until supper and that I’d just as soon come out here and talk with
you. She seemed relieved.”
Like I would be if you’d leave.
“So I was thinking we might go riding on Saturday. Would that be acceptable to you?”
Carissa mashed another gown into the basket and frowned.
“I . . . well . . . it is hard for me to make plans. With Gloria,
I’m never certain what I’ll be able to do.”
“So you named her Gloria? That’s an unusual name.” He placed the carefully folded shirt in the basket atop the wrinkled gowns.
“I suppose it is,” Carissa replied. “I wanted something that sounded pretty, and happy. You probably think me silly, and I couldn’t blame you if you did, but it’s from the Bible when the angels were praising God. Carlita, our maid, was singing a song one day, and I kept hearing her say, ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo.’ I asked her what it meant, and she said, ‘Glory to God in the highest.’ Only in the Latin, they say Gloria. I thought it made a sweet-sounding name.”
Tyler nodded. “I think so, too.”
Carissa didn’t know what to say after that, so instead went to pick up the laundry basket. But Tyler wouldn’t allow her to carry it.
“I plan to talk with you while you iron, so I might as well carry this for you.”
She bit her lip, wondering how she could tell him that she didn’t want to talk to him. All that they shared between them was in the past, where she wanted it to remain.
“The world feels new after a rain, doesn’t it?” he asked, looking at her intently. Then, as if he knew her thoughts, he continued. “Makes me want to leave the past firmly behind me, and concentrate only on what’s ahead. To a brighter future.”
Carissa gave a brief nod, then tried to ignore the way his glance seemed to steal a look all the way into her soul.
“Berto said you made your way through part of the Indian Territories.”
“Yes…." He blew out his breath rather loudly. “It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Kiowa and Comanche can hear a mouse running across an open field. I figured for sure they’d hear me breathing.”
Hannah shook her head, trying to imagine such a frightening experience. “I suppose hiding from the army would be much the same.”
“Not exactly. Those boys aren’t trained that way. Some of the best officers are great at strategy and planning, but they have lived a life of ease otherwise. They’ve either never been trained to live off the land or they’ve forgotten what they knew. Then you have the enlisted men, a hodgepodge of farmers, bankers, clerks, and students. No, I found it far easier to avoid army encounters.”
“I had hoped my father would have the same ability, but he wasn’t raised to live off the land, either. He grew up with a lawyer for a father and followed in his footsteps.” She bit her lip for a moment, wishing she’d not said anything about him.
“Well, some men have good instincts. Your father must have had a great deal of wisdom to bring you all here and settle in Texas. It’s about the best place in the world, you know.” He smiled. “Lockhart probably has it all wrong. I wouldn’t fret overmuch about it until you hear something reliable.”
“I’m sure you’re right.” Hannah got to her feet and tried hard to control her wavering emotions. She thought she might start to cry if she thought too much longer on the hopelessness of the situation.
“Do you have other family?”
“No. I suppose that’s why this all seems . . . I . . . it’s . . .” She buried her face in her hands, no longer able to hold back the tears. It was terribly embarrassing to break down in front of this man she hardly knew. But it was even worse when he took hold of her and pulled her into his arms.
Hannah wanted to push him away but found she couldn’t. It had been so long since anyone had offered her comfort and reassurance. For so long she’d been required to be strong—to resolve problems and issues that weren’t hers to solve. She slumped against him like a wanton woman and sobbed. What was she to do?
“It’ll be all right,” he whispered against her ear. “You aren’t alone in this.”
She felt him stroke her back, and the warmth of his touch left her feeling rather breathless. She pulled away and looked into his face.
“I want to believe that everything will work out,” she murmured. His face was just inches from hers, and Hannah couldn’t help but notice the fullness of his lips.
The card security code is an added safeguard for your credit/debit card purchases. Depending on the type of card you use, it is either a three- or four-digit number printed on the back or front of your credit/debit card, separate from your credit/debit card number. To make shopping at Crossings Book Club® even more secure, we require that you enter this number each time you make a credit/debit card purchase. Please note that your security code will not be stored with us even if you have saved your credit/debit card information.