Seeds of Summer

Seeds of Summer by Deborah Vogts Read Free Book Online

Book: Seeds of Summer by Deborah Vogts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Deborah Vogts
difficult it was to be an older sister—a confidant—and then suddenly be the one who makes all the rules, in charge of everything and everyone, and not having the slightest clue what her future held.
    â€œWhat about you?” he asked. “Dillon told me you came home from college to take care of him and Chelsey. That’s quite a sacrifice.”
    Natalie’s eyes filled with tears. She spun away to swipe the dampness from her cheeks, but it was useless. One concerned comment from a complete stranger had caused the floodgate to burst. Tears gushed from her like a fountain. Then a gentle grip on her forearm urged her to turn and be comforted.

    J ARED TOOK THE YOUNG WOMAN AWKWARDLY IN HIS ARMS, UNABLE TO resist consoling her tears. “I know it’s hard, but I can tell you’re a strong person. You’ll get through this. God can help you.”
    She cried into his shoulder. Most people, he’d learned from seminary, kept their grief bound until it burst from inside, usually at the least expected moment. His heart ached for this girl and her family, and he timidly patted her back.
    â€œSometimes it’s easier to speak to a stranger than it is to confide in someone you know.”
    Her sobs eased, and she pulled away, her embarrassment palpable. “It’s been so hard.” Her words came out choked, and Jared strained to hear.
    â€œI’m listening.” He closed his eyes and had to concentrate to absorb her words and not the light flowery scent of her hair.
    â€œHe died so unexpectedly. Trapped beneath a tractor. A horrid death—but I can’t tell Dillon that. The kids and I weren’t here when it happened, but still the images come to me in my sleep. They won’t go away.” Another sob escaped her lips.
    Jared nodded and gazed at her, the porch light illuminating herface in the dark night. “I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but once you’re over the shock, the nightmares will fade.”
    â€œI planned to graduate from college next fall, but that’s not going to happen now.” She wiped her cheeks and sniffed. “Not with the ranch, the kids, the summer hay crop and cattle…So much for my queen scholarships. They’ll all be for nothing.”
    Jared straightened, wondering if he’d heard correctly. “Queen scholarships?” He conjured a picture of her in one of those long sequined gowns. Somehow, the image didn’t fit her personality.
    â€œGo ahead, laugh. Everyone does.” She leaned against the side of the car, and her teary eyes glistened beneath the stars. “You’re looking at the former Miss Rodeo Kansas, first runner up in the Miss Rodeo America pageant held last December.”
    Jared tried not to gawk. Not only was this woman beautiful, she was accomplished—and exposed. “Obviously, the judges didn’t know what they were doing when they gave the prize to someone else,” he said under his breath. “Forgive my ignorance, but what does a rodeo queen do besides look pretty?”
    She shook her head as though she’d been asked that question before. “Why do people always assume it’s all about being pretty?”
    â€œProbably because the participants are gorgeous.” He grinned, present company included. “Okay, you’ve piqued my interest. What does it take to be a rodeo queen?”
    Natalie sniffed and wiped the remaining tears from her eyes. “I like to think of the pageant as a scholarship program—based on appearance, personality, and horsemanship. It’s so much more than a beauty pageant—at least it is for me.”
    Jared imagined Natalie on a galloping horse with a white hat and western garb. It suited her better than a sequined gown on a lighted runway. “A beauty pageant on a horse,” he said, unable to keep the teasing note from his voice.
    â€œIt’s harder than you think.” Her eyes

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