Emmy's Equal

Emmy's Equal by Marcia Gruver Read Free Book Online

Book: Emmy's Equal by Marcia Gruver Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marcia Gruver
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Christian, Fiction/Romance Western
“I’m assuming you gave Nash the list of his added responsibilities?”
    Papa nodded.
    “Good. He’s a capable man but downright forgetful these days. Must be his age.”
    Emmy frowned. “He’s not that old. You make him sound fit for the grave.”
    Ignoring her, Mama opened the door. “All that’s left to do is wake up and make our way to the station. With the luggage, there won’t be room for much else, so Nash will drive us down first then go after Bertha.” She regarded Emmy at last. “I expect you to put on the carriage dress I laid out for you and be downstairs and ready for breakfast by six. Understood?”
    “Yes, ma’am.” She took in her mama’s gloves, hat, and the parasol she lifted from the hallway stand. “But, Mama, where are you going?”
    “To see about Aunt Bert. If I don’t help her pack, she’ll do as good a job of it as you did. With Charity in St. Louis, I have to keep an eye on Bertha’s shenanigans, or no telling what she’ll get up to.”
    “May I go?”
    Mama wagged her head. “No, you may not. What you may do, however, is sit with your papa and keep him company until I return.”
    Emmy stole a glance at Papa’s face to confirm he was no more thrilled than she at the prospect of an afternoon together. “Oh, please, Mama.”
    She gave Emmy a pointed look. “Do like I say, Emily. I mean business.”
    The door closed in Emmy’s face. She grasped the knob, her slender fingers clutching with the desperation of a drowning cat. Leaning her head briefly against the cool wood panel, she prayed for rescue. When none came, she turned to find the man she was duty-bound to honor hiding behind his paper. With the sensation of a guillotine falling overhead, she crossed the room and took a seat in the chair farthest from her papa.
    ***
    Wheeling around the barn with a bucket of whitewash in one hand and a long-handled brush in the other, Diego bumped into Cuddy coming the other way with a pitchfork. “Whoa, my friend!” he cried, sidestepping the sloshing limewater and righting the pail. “You came close to turning a lighter complexion than how you were born.”
    Cuddy grimaced and held up the tool. “And you nearly wound up dangling from the end of these tines.”
    Diego set aside the brush and paint and draped one arm around Cuddy’s neck. “I’ve had the feeling all morning that you’d be pleased to see me skewered.”
    Cuddy ducked his head. “Dreadful sorry, Diego. It ain’t about you, really.”
    His arm still looped around Cuddy, Diego patted him on the chest, laughing when it thudded like a thumped muskmelon. “Forget it, partner. I know what’s hung in your craw. I’d feel the same in your boots.” He gripped Cuddy’s shoulder. “Just don’t take it so much to heart. Your father is very proud of you.”
    Cuddy held up his free hand. “Hold it right there. You’re supposed to be whitewashing this barn, not the facts.” He sighed and eased gently away. “Don’t cry for me, Diego. I’m a big boy. I reckon I can handle the truth when it’s dumped in my lap.” He flashed a somber smile, shouldered the pitchfork, and rounded the corner of the barn.
    Intent on Cuddy’s hasty retreat, the
whoosh
of leather on sandy soil startled him. He spun around with balled fists.
    Greta had managed to slip up from behind and stood inches away with a wide grin on her face. “I spooked you, didn’t I?” She giggled. “I didn’t think it possible to sneak up on an Indian, Diego. Melatha will be scandalized.”
    His hands relaxed at his sides. “Not as scandalized as your mama would be if I had sent you home with a shiner.” He grinned. “I almost slugged you, Greta. What were you thinking?”
    Her lashes swept down to cover her eyes, as if the truth about what she’d been thinking embarrassed her. “I brought food.” She held up a plate covered with a red-checkered dishcloth then leaned to peer around him. “For Cuddy, too. Where’d he rush off to so fast?”
    Diego

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