Flint Hills Bride

Flint Hills Bride by Cassandra Austin Read Free Book Online

Book: Flint Hills Bride by Cassandra Austin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cassandra Austin
when she hadgotten a slice of toast, and she assumed Lynnette and the children were downstairs. She was happy to slip out the back door without having to tell Willa she couldn’t go along.
    She headed toward the trail on the far side of the barn and suddenly found Jake walking beside her.
    “Good morning,” he said, as if there hadn’t been a sharp word uttered the night before. “Mind if I join you?”
    “Well, actually—”
    “It’s a pretty day for a stroll. Cold but sunny. Are you warm enough?”
    “I’m fine. But I really—”
    “Good. We wouldn’t want you getting chilled. Don’t you miss these wide-open spaces when you’re in town? I know I do.”
    Emily gritted her teeth. He had taken her arm and was walking slowly beside her as if he were her escort. “No,” she said. “What I miss is the solitude.”
    “Really? I’m surprised. I never figured you for someone who wanted to be alone a lot. But the country’s good for that, too.”
    He was being deliberately obtuse. The only way to get rid of him would be to flat tell him to leave. Of course with Jake, even that might not work.
    “I’d like to be alone now, if you don’t mind,” she said. His fingers tightened on her arm when she tried to pull it free.
    “We are alone, sweetheart.” His voice was low, almost a seductive whisper.
    “Very funny. You know what I mean.”
    “Yeah,” he said, continuing to walk beside her. “I know. But you might get lost…”
    Emily pointed ahead at the path that wrapped around the hill. It was white where the thin soil had worn away from the limestone and stood out in sharp contrast to the brown and gold grass. “I’m not going to get lost!”
    “Or fall and turn your ankle,” he went on as if she hadn’t spoken. “I wouldn’t get anything done for worrying so I might as well come along.”
    Emily had to laugh. She wasn’t sure if it was at him or at herself. Well, he could come today, since there was no chance that Anson was waiting. She would have to figure out some way to elude him in the future. Or perhaps he would get used to seeing her walking every day and stop playing the big brother.
    “There’s another thing I’ve missed,” he said. “Your laugh.”
    “Don’t go getting serious on me, Jake. I get enough of that from everybody else. Little lost Emily who needs to be straightened out.”
    “You’ve got a deal. I promise never to be serious.”
    If she had hurt his feelings, she couldn’t hear it in his voice. He walked on at the same slow pace, his hand lightly holding her arm. She was about to venture a look at his face when she heard him chuckle. “What?”
    “I was just remembering when you were little and came for the summer. Your pa and brothers in the mansion, me and my pa in the little house with Ma the only woman on the place. You turned everybody on his ear. The first time, you were a little bitty thing, about like Willa. Ma wanted you to stay with us. She was sure you’d miss your ma in the night and noneof the men up here would know what to do for you. She had Arlen convinced right away, almost convinced your pa. But Christian wouldn’t hear of it. He barely let you out of his sight.”
    Emily watched the prairie grasses nod in the light breeze. “You were what, about nine? What did you think of the idea?”
    “Oh, I was against it. I figured you were a baby, and I didn’t want some baby crying in the night, waking me up. I kept my mouth shut though, and let Christian do the arguing. After it was settled, and it was safe, I told Ma it had been a fine idea, and I was real sorry you wouldn’t be with us.”
    Emily laughed. “You always knew how to get around your ma.”
    “Not as well as you could get around Christian. I swear! You would talk me into something, and I’d be in trouble. Do you remember the boat we were going to sail down that stream down there?” He pointed to the valley below where a narrow creek reflected the blue of the sky.
    “Oh, Lord. I

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