Trail of Kisses
relaxed. “There are plenty of other reasons a
woman needs a husband too. Companionship, shared purpose… other
things.” He winked.
    Butterflies swirled through her stomach and
lower. She knew exactly what he meant by other things, and the wink
was too much. “I don’t think my Papa or my uncle would be
particularly pleased to hear you talking like that,” she said, a
little too breathless.
    “ What? Like I’m advocating in
favor of marriage?” He grin was growing by leaps and
bounds.
    “ That’s not what you were talking
about.” The evening seemed uncommonly hot all of a
sudden.
    “ Prove it,” he laughed. “Explain
to me what I was talking about.”
    His teasing was so pointed that she couldn’t
keep still on her barrel. She untied the ribbon holding her hat in
place and began pulling the pins out of her hair so that she could
braid it for the night.
    “ Anyhow, I don’t see that Callie
has many options for suitors in our wagon train.” She changed the
subject, unwilling to let him continue talking about anything that
would give him the upper hand.
    “ There are plenty of men riding
with us who would give their eye teeth to marry a pretty, young
woman who’s just inherited all of her brother’s worldly
possessions,” Cade insisted.
    “ I believe that’s the problem,”
Lynne replied, making a pile of hairpins in her lap. “She does not
want to tie herself to a fortune hunter.”
    “ And I suppose the three of you
and Mrs. Weingarten went through the list of eligible bachelors and
graded us all like ornery schoolteachers?”
    Lynne huffed and sent him a short scathing
look. “Only a heartless bully compares a woman who has just lost
her family and is on the precipice of making a life-changing
decision to an ornery school-teacher.”
    Cade’s teasing grin dropped. “I’m sorry.
You’re right. That wasn’t very nice of me.”
    She continued to study him with equal parts
suspicion and curiosity. Was he really sorry?
    “ So how did the deliberations go?”
he asked.
    “ She’s going to choose between Mr.
Finch and Mr. Rye.” She kept her answer simple. It would have been
too close to a betrayal to reveal more.
    “ What, not me?” His disappointment
was clearly feigned, but it left an odd burr sitting in Lynne’s
chest nonetheless.
    “ I told her you are far too
opinionated and bullying for her,” she said, gathering the handful
of hairpins in her lap and setting them and her hat on the barrel
beside her.
    “ Me? Opinionated?” His grin was
back. “I’m wounded. What did I ever do to deserve such ill
favor?”
    Lynne combed her fingers through her hair to
get out the worst tangles as she thought about whether to answer.
Cade was teasing her, she knew. He was trying to provoke her into
another restless, pointless argument. He was also watching her
every move, eyes aglow. As if he’d never seen a woman braid her
hair before. Then again, maybe he hadn’t.
    “ Why aren’t you married,
Mr.—Cade?” Let him find a way to tease her with that.
    He shrugged, sipping at his coffee. “Never
found the right woman, I suppose. Marriage is a serious business,
not to be entered into lightly or with the wrong person. It’s
forever, whether you’ve made the right choice or not. Best to
consider who you want to spend the rest of your life with carefully
instead of letting some foolish fancy make hard mistakes for
you.”
    Lynne let out a breath. Blast him for giving
her a sensible answer to a question meant to put him on the spot.
It was downright…downright attractive.
    “ And how about you?” He turned the
question on her. “A fine, pretty lady like you with a judge for a
father should be married to some society boy right about now, don’t
you think?”
    An unexpected ripple of self-consciousness and
disappointment hit her gut. She finished with her braid but had
nothing to tie it with.
    “ Most of the eligible ‘society
boys,’ as you call them, who are my age are off fighting in

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