Daughter of Joy

Daughter of Joy by Kathleen Morgan Read Free Book Online

Book: Daughter of Joy by Kathleen Morgan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kathleen Morgan
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical, Ebook, Christian

    Conor cursed as he readjusted the main draft regulator door on the big cookstove for what seemed the hundredth time. Though all the other dampers and regulators were wide open, if he didn’t get the draft regulator on this particular stove opened to just the right angle, the fire refused to burn hot enough. Problem was, if it didn’t burn hot enough, the water in the coffeepot would take a month of Sundays to heat. And if he didn’t get at least one cup of coffee before he headed out to milk Ethel …
    With a frustrated snarl, Conor slammed the regulator door closed and tried once more to open it just so. He really didn’t have time for this, he thought. He still had to wash up and finish dressing before he milked. Since he’d forgotten to inform Mrs. Stanton what time they and then the hands expected breakfast, he’d most likely also have to wake her up on the way out. Of course, Conor added sourly as an afterthought, if the woman had been doing her job, she’d have thought to ask him that very thing last night herself.
    To give Abigail Stanton her due, he admitted as he tinkered with the regulator, aside from the blatant defiance of saying grace, she had tried to be pleasant and helpful last night. She had even borne Beth’s ill-disguised antics with surprising patience.
    Yet Conor knew there were bound to be more problems in the making. There always were, when it came to Beth and a new housekeeper.
    He smiled in wry remembrance. There was, to name just a few, poor Mrs. Hutchinson, that officious little biddy who’d soon had her wings clipped when Beth sewed all her underdrawer legs shut. And then there was that busybody Frannie Kent, who had been the shocked recipient of a particularly prickly pinecone in her chair, not to mention having her supply of fine perfumes poured out and replaced with a potent vinegar mixture.
    God help both Beth and Abigail Stanton, though, Conor thought, if the pair of them started anything today. He’d slept poorly last night and wasn’t in the mood.
    The back door creaked opened. A blast of frigid air swirled into the kitchen. Conor stood, then swung around, a sharp reprimand on his lips for the ranch hand who had dared walk in at this hour.
    Abigail Stanton, a kerosene lantern clutched in her hand, strode into the kitchen. Even in the dim, flickering lantern light, Conor could see the color flare in her cheeks.
    Following the direction of her gaze, he recalled that he stood there, bare-chested and bare-footed, dressed only in his blue denims. Though typical apparel for his early morning forays into the kitchen, it was not at all appropriate garb before a well-bred woman not his wife. There wasn’t much he could do about it now, though.
    “I always start up water for coffee first thing, ” Conor offered with a vague motion toward the cookstove. “And, since I didn’t expect you’d be up quite so early …”
    She managed a tremulous smile. “I wanted to get an early start. Besides, it’s not like I’m unacquainted with half-naked men, after all.” Then, as if realizing how that might be construed, she hurriedly added, “I was speaking only of my husband, of course.”
    Conor held up his hand. “I’m quite aware who you were talking about, Mrs. Stanton.”
    He paused, waiting for her to say something more. When she didn’t, he motioned toward the cookstove. “Well, since you’re here, you might as well start learning about this stove’s particular quirks. It’ll take you some time before you can regulate it well enough to keep from scorching the soups and burning the breads.”
    Abigail Stanton walked to the kitchen table and put down the lantern. She removed her shawl and coat, hung them on a peg by the back door, then made her way to his side. “A temperamental stove, is it?” she asked, all seriousness and apparent sincerity.
    “Very.” For a fleeting instant as she squatted beside him at the cookstove, MacKay caught a faint scent of lavender soap. The

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