The Cowboy’s Baby excerpt continued, Chapter 16

With an approving smile, he saw that the Bishops had set up their tent with no problems. They were busy dragging their sleeping bags and pillows inside and barely acknowledged him as he sauntered by checking on things. The three boys also had their tent up. He didn’t have to worry about Alan and Jeremy, he had no thought about them at all, they knew what to do. But the minister was having the same trouble as Ellison and Marcia. He strode over to help, irritated that a grown man couldn’t do any better, and was stopped by Leona. “I’ll do it,” she said, grinning just like Cassie would have. She almost took his breath away. 

“I just don’t understand how you’ve got my wife’s face,” he blurted. 

“Hold off a minute, Ralph,” she called. “I can fix it. Let me talk with Frank first.” The minister stopped huffing and went off to find a bench to sit on. Frank stepped forward to help Leona with the tent. “Wife?” she asked, smiling warmly. 

“You mean Ralph didn’t blab?” 

“He doesn’t seem the blabbing type,” she said, helping with the tent. They got it set up and stood looking at one another. “I assure you, we’re not related in any way,” she said. “Cassie and me. Just a fluke of nature.” She studied him. “Should I cut my hair, maybe?” she asked. “Or dye it brown. Or maybe start wearing long dresses. Would it stop bothering you then?” 

“Bother isn’t really the right word,” he said, stopping when he heard her quiet, knowing laugh. Leona was certainly a better woman than he had thought. 

“By the way,” she said, giving him a serious look. “Congratulations on the wedding. I don’t have to tell you not to break her heart, do I?” 

“I’ve spent the past five to ten years protecting the woman,” he replied. “I’m not going to suddenly go off track and let her get her heart broken.” He paused. “But I can’t believe she suddenly decided to marry me.” Then he shrugged. “No matter. It’s a done deal. The why of it doesn’t matter all that much. 

“And thank you,” he said. “We got married yesterday. The ceremony was real nice.” 

He looked at the tent they had just assembled. “You’re not sharing this tent with the minister are you?” he asked, not knowing if he was appalled or secretly pleased that she might have fixated on the preacher. 

“My tent’s over there, near Leon and Peter and the little kid. I’m here to get reacquainted with my son,” she explained, “not to try to seduce the local preacher man. I was just helping him with his tent.” 

Leona turned her head. She heard someone stomping toward them in the dark. “I think that’s Cassie coming this way,” she said. 

“Damned right it is,” Cassie exclaimed. “Frank! I’ve got to drive that impossible woman back to the house before she pops a gullet.” She took several deep breaths when she got to them. Looking Leona up and down, Cassie made a little hiccupping noise and held out her hand. She grinned broadly. 

“Girl, you do look like me,” she said. “No wonder I couldn’t pry Leon away from this place with a crowbar. Of course, you look like me fifteen years back, and on a very good day. I’m glad you’re here.” 

She changed the subject after Leona shook her hand. “Since I have to drive back anyhow,” she said, “do you need to go with us?” she asked. 

“Not unless Leon does,” Leona said. 

“I’m asking around. Don’t want to be driving around in the truck all night long. Frank, I’ll be back in a bit. Don’t worry.” 

To Be Continued… 

The Cowboy’s Baby copyright 2010. Photos by Roxanne Rix 

WHAT I READ THIS WEEK: Liege-Killer by Christopher Hinz. I loved this book when I read it the first time in 1987. I still love this book re-reading it now.  Available as a Kindle ebook.

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