Cassie closed her eyes to the soothing rhythm of the milk hitting the pail on the ground beside her milking stool. She enjoyed milking cows before the sun came up. To some, it seemed like a terrible chore, but to Cassie, it was a time that she could have to herself, to think, and to reflect on the day ahead of her.
She had been waking up several hours before dawn for as long as she could remember.
“You almost done with that one, slowpoke?” Her brother, Gilbert, poked his head over the top of the stall, reaching out and yanking gently on a strand of hair that had escaped its confinement at the back of her neck.
Cassie smiled wryly. She had stopped wearing braids because her twin brothers couldn’t seem to stop pulling them at every chance they got. They still managed to find moments to pull her hair, but it wasn’t nearly as constant as it had been when she was younger.
“I’m almost done, and you know I milk faster than you when I want to.” Cassie rolled her eyes. Gilbert and Leroy both always assumed that when she took a long time milking the cows it was because she was falling behind. It was actually because it was a moment for her to just sit and enjoy the morning before everything became a rush.
“Well, I will take you up on that. There are two cows left to milk. The last one to finish chops the wood!” Gilbert raised his eyebrows up and down in a teasing fashion.
“That’s not fair. You know that I don’t like chopping wood and it is a chore that takes hours. How about the last one to finish helps Ma clear the table and wash the dishes?”
Gilbert looked a little less certain of his bet. “That’s your chore, and you have to do it anyway. How is that a punishment?”
“Seeing as I am the one who is going to win, you are the one who needs to be punished, and it is a very short task. It won’t take you more than twenty minutes if you put your mind to it.”
“Fine, I’ll do it, but it’s going to be you who is washing dishes today, not me.” Gilbert grinned playfully.
Cassie giggled. “You have way too much confidence for someone who always loses.”
“I may lose on occasion, but I won’t be losing today.” Gilbert hurried off and returned with a fresh milking pail. Cassie was certain that he was way more excited for this bet than he should be. At seventeen, both Gilbert and Leroy were mischievous types of brothers. They always had pranks up their sleeves and challenges that they wanted to try to beat each other or her at, or something else that would lighten the mood.
They were automatic magnets for most anyone in town, especially the young girls who were just starting to look around at their options for husbands. Cassie was pretty sure that if she were a little younger, she might get swept away in more of their games. Sometimes, she just couldn’t help herself, like now.
“All right, let me go empty this bucket and I’ll be right back.” Cassie stood with her milk bucket full to the brim, she went to the large barrel where they put all of the milk and dumped it in before she hurried over to the cow that still needed to be milked.
“Are you ready?” Gilbert asked from across the hall in the other stall.
“Whenever you are.” Cassie prepared her hands. She was not going to be washing dishes that morning, she was going to make sure of that. If there was a chore that both of her twin brothers hated, it was cleaning or dishes. It had been something they had developed early on, not wanting to have anything to do with chores they considered a woman’s job.
“One, two, three!” As soon as Gilbert said three, the sound of milk hitting the pail was the only sound that filled the barn besides the normal animal noises early in the morning. Cassie made her hands move quickly, faster and faster. The level of the milk in the bucket rose swiftly. She kept glancing toward Gilbert. She could just barely see his head through the space between the stall door and the post holding it up. She had no idea how to tell if he was close to being finished. Cassie’s heart raced. She had to admit that there was a good feeling about competing. She would certainly consider herself a very competitive person. She had to be that way, as a girl with three brothers. She had always had to work faster and smarter and harder to beat them. There was no other way.
When the milk touched the brim of the bucket, she stood up triumphantly. “I’m done!”
“What?” Gilbert hollered. “No way! I am almost done, you couldn’t have finished that fast.”
Cassie hurried across the stall to take a look at Gilbert’s bucket while he did the same to look at hers. Gilbert’s bucket was only filled to about an inch from the top.
“Well, I’ll be. I can’t believe you did it.” Gilbert was scratching his head.
“Yes, yes, I did it. And what’s more important is that you will be picking up and washing the dishes after breakfast.” Cassie grinned. It was going to be nice to have a little extra time to prepare before she and her mother headed out to work in town.
“Come on, you don’t mean it, do you? I have to wash the dishes?” Gilbert wrinkled his nose.
“A bet is a bet and I won fair and square. I think it’s only fair that you honor it.” Cassie slapped him playfully on the shoulder. “You know that if we would have settled on the wood chopping, you would have made me do it too.”
Gilbert looked sheepish. “I suppose you’re right, but next time I’m not going to agree to a bet like that.” It was about time Gilbert learned his lesson. When she made a bet, it was because she was pretty sure she could win.
Cassie chuckled. “Suit yourself.” She didn’t feel bad for her brother. There had been many a bet where she had ended up with the unsavory task of doing one of her three brother’s chores. The one time that they had used chopping wood as a wager had been one of the rare times she had lost to her brothers. She had spent her whole afternoon in the hot sun, chopping away and her arms had been sore for nearly two days afterward. She wasn’t going to agree to a bet like that again. Washing dishes was far easier. Cassie dumped her full pail of milk into the barrel and then followed Gilbert into the cabin.
“Something smells good,” Gilbert exclaimed as soon as they opened the door. The smell of salt pork, beans, and eggs, accompanied by fresh biscuits, filled the air. Cassie’s mother was a wonderful cook and everyone knew it. It was one reason that they worked down at the diner cooking for travelers who came through town. There were plenty of people who lived in town who ate at the diner as well. Her mother’s cooking was what had them coming back day after day for more. While her mother was teaching her, Cassie didn’t consider herself a fraction of the cook her mother was.
“Just think of how fun it will be to wash all of that delicious food off of the plates when we are done eating.” Cassie threw her brother a mischievous smile.
He elbowed her softly in the ribs. “You don’t have to remind me.”
“What has the two of you squabbling?” Cassie’s older brother, Arnold walked into the house with Leroy at his side.
“We made a bet, and someone is washing dishes after breakfast today.” Cassie beamed as she made the announcement. She was fairly well known amongst her brothers for winning bets when she wanted to.
“I see. Gilbert, you know you shouldn’t have made a bet like that. I know how much you hate to wash dishes.” Arnold laughed as he walked past them into the kitchen. Cassie followed him, her stomach rumbling with hunger. Her eyes lingered on the window for a moment. It was still dark outside. It was strange sometimes to be up and finishing chores, then eating breakfast, all before the sun made an appearance on the day.
Cassie heard of people who lived in the city not getting up until after the sun had risen. She vaguely remembered living in the city, briefly, but the memory was vague. She couldn’t remember if it had been nice to get up after sunrise. When she thought of the city, she thought there would be too many things to do in a day to get up so late.
“You look like you’re having a good day,” her mother said as Cassie walked up and started helping to dish up plates of food.
“One of the best.” Cassie glanced toward Gilbert, then back to her mother. “What about you?”
“Fine, dear, but we are out of flour. Remind me that we need to bring some home and a few other things for the pantry.”
“Do we have money for that?” Cassie always worried about the money. Even with the income she and her mother brought in, their family was struggling. When they had lost their crops to a terrible storm the year before, they had gone through a terrible year that had left them crippled with debts and shortages.
“Yes, I asked Annie for an advance on our pay.” Her mother looked worried for a moment, then the look disappeared as quickly as it came. “Don’t worry, Cassie, it will all work out.”
“All right,” Cassie forced a smile. She knew that her mother bore a lot of stress and worry without sharing it with the rest of the family. Cassie gave every penny of her pay from the diner to her parents. She knew that the ranch and their family were a group effort. They all worked hard to provide for each other, and she was determined to pull her weight. Her three brothers worked with her father to keep up with the ranch work. Between the four of them, they managed everything so that they didn’t have to spend money on ranch hands. Cassie and her mother used their money to purchase things that they didn’t make on the ranch. They also sold milk and eggs to the diner as well as to a few families in town.
Her father sold some of their crops and some animals. Between everyone’s contributions, they were barely making it. Cassie remembered better times before they had lost their crops when they could afford some extra things. Right now, it was down to bare survival. Cassie knew that her family’s dream was to get ahead and one day, not have to worry so much about money. After everyone else was served their breakfast, Cassie took her plate and followed her mother to the table. Everyone else was already sitting down. Cassie’s father was at the head of the table, and after everyone joined hands, he bowed his head and said grace.
Cassie opened her eyes and took a big bite of food. She was hungrier than she had thought. Everyone seemed to be starving and breakfast passed quickly with little interaction. When everyone was done, Cassie’s mother moved to gather the dishes.
“Ma, you don’t have to clean the dishes today. Gilbert is going to do it.”
“What? Do I have to do Ma’s part too? You said help Ma.” Gilbert crossed his arms with a cross look on his face. Cassie’s mother smiled, her eyes twinkling with amusement.
“The bet was to gather the dishes and wash them, I never said if Ma would do any of it. You know if she helps you will let her do all of it.”
Gilbert shook his head and grumbled as he gathered the dishes, but Cassie knew it was all in good fun. Gilbert could appreciate being the loser as much as she could. While Gilbert finished the dishes, Cassie hurried off to her room. She quickly changed from the dress she used to do chores around the ranch and put on a freshly cleaned one and changed out of her barn boots into some light shoes. She braided her hair and tucked it up so it would be safely out of the way for the remainder of the day. Grabbing a light shawl, she rushed back to the front room of the cabin. She quickly took the book she was in the middle of from the mantel and even managed to finish two chapters before her mother joined her.
“Are you ready to go?”
Cassie nodded. “Of course. Are you?”
“Yes, earlier than normal, with Gilbert doing the dishes. What did you do to manage that?”
As Cassie and her mother headed out the door, Cassie related her morning activities to her mother, telling her all about how Gilbert had lost to her and how he had ended up washing the dishes. The walk into town was a pleasant one. Even though Texas was burning hot for the whole day on most days, the early mornings, just before the sun rose, were crisp and even a tad bit cold. Cassie liked having her shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders and enjoying the warmth.
The very first signs of the sun coming up were starting to show. The sky was just barely light grey, showing that the sun would be up soon, and that meant that customers would be there soon. Cassie smiled. Working at the diner all day certainly took some getting used to. When she had first started, after convincing her parents that she was ready for it, she had struggled with having sore arms and feet all of the time.
The soreness hadn’t gone away, but it had gotten a bit better and she was more used to it. She wasn’t surprised by being exhausted after serving customers all day long anymore.
“Why don’t you start the coffee for the morning if Zoe hasn’t done it already? Don’t take too long to say hello to Zoe. We are running a bit late today.”
Cassie nodded and hurried up the steps to the diner. She loved working with her best friend. Usually, she would take a good portion of the beginning of her day at the diner to catch up, but today, she was going to have to be quick. Her mother was right. People were going to start showing up for breakfast soon.
The diner had a silent air to it as Cassie hurried into the kitchen. Zoe was already there and was taking off her shawl. Zoe always managed to make it there before Cassie and her mother. She lived in town, three houses down from the diner. She lived with her father who worked at the wood mill.
“There you both are! It looks like all of us are running a bit late today.” Zoe hurried over and wrapped Cassie in a hug. Cassie giggled against her best friend’s shoulder. It seemed that it didn’t matter how long it had been since they had last seen each other, Zoe always greeted her as if it had been years.
“There’s nothing to do about it now but we need to move three times as fast. We don’t need Annie to be upset about customers complaining.” Cassie’s mother rushed around the kitchen, pulling out pots, pans, knives, boards, and everything else they might need to prepare a delicious breakfast that would be even more impressive than the one that Cassie and her family had just enjoyed at home.
“Annie never gets upset at you.” Zoe shook her head, an amused expression on her full lips.
Cassie had to nod in agreement. Annie was known for her kind spirit and rarely got mad at anyone. In fact, Cassie couldn’t think of a time when Annie had gotten upset at anyone. That was one of the things that made it such a pleasure to work for her. Annie and her husband were two of the wealthiest people in town, yet they never let the money get to their heads. They were humble and kind people who everyone in town looked up to.
“She’s never gotten upset at me only because I work extra hard to make sure she never has a reason to and today is not going to be any different. Cassie, get the coffee going and Zoe, you get a start on the biscuits. I’ll get the oven hot and we’ll have this place smelling delicious in no time.” Cassie’s mother was like a storm of energy. When either of the girls ran out of things to do, Cassie’s mother had something more for them to keep them busy. It went on and on until people started to file into the diner. Many were men who worked chopping trees or as ranch hands and had nowhere else to have a hot meal. The customers always came with the first rays of the sunrise. They would come to the diner for a meal before they headed off to their jobs.
“Cassie, start getting the orders and bring them in here. Zoe, I need your help assembling plates.” Cassie’s mother was still at her delegation and Cassie had no problem complying. She was more than content to be helping her mother in any way she could, instead of having to deal will all the details and difficulties of managing what needed to happen when. Cassie was fairly certain that it would be beyond her to do so.
“How are things going in here?” Annie’s bright and cheerful voice filled the air as she walked into the kitchen, just as Cassie was going out.
Annie was the type of person to change any room she walked into. Her voice seemed to fill every crevice, demanding attention whenever she spoke. She was a small woman, shorter than Cassie, yet round and soft, like what Cassie would imagine a grandmother might be like. She had greying hair and grey eyes that didn’t miss a thing.
“Good morning, Annie,” Cassie said as she hurried past into the dining area.
“Good morning to you too, Cassie.” Annie’s words followed her out. Cassie started on one side of the dining area. There were four tables with various amounts of guests. By the time that Cassie made it back to the kitchen, she had almost half a dozen orders memorized. She relayed them to her mother while she took out cups of steaming coffee and baskets of fresh biscuits and little plates of butter that she had helped her mother make the night before.
After that, Cassie let herself fall into the flow. She was back and forth between the dining area and the kitchen, taking orders and delivering food. Her feet started to ache about halfway through breakfast, but she was practiced at pushing it back in her mind to a point where she barely noticed. The kitchen was a bustle of activity. The dishes were piling up and food kept being prepared. When Cassie took out the last plate of food, she breathed a sigh of relief. After each meal, her mother managed customers who stayed late or decided to come in a bit late while Cassie and Zoe did the dishes in preparation for the next meal.
Cassie enjoyed doing dishes. She was able to stand in one spot and rest in a way and she and Zoe were able to talk to their heart’s content. Even though they saw each other every day, they always managed to come up with something interesting to chat about. If it wasn’t about them, then it was about juicy bits of information they had overheard while serving tables or things that Zoe had heard in town. Cassie rarely spent time in the town outside of her time in the diner. Not only was she usually busy helping her family with the ranch, but she did not need to be in town. Her only friend was Zoe and they had plenty of time together at the diner.
When she stepped into the kitchen, even her enjoyment of dishwashing didn’t keep her from groaning. There were dishes everywhere, piled high on every surface. Cassie pulled a basin to one side and began filling it with a bucket while Zoe did the same with the other basin.
“Do you want to wash or rinse today?” Zoe asked.
“I can wash. You washed last time.” Cassie took a healthy portion of soap and put it into the dishwater, giving it a vigorous shake with her hands until the water was full of suds and ready to receive the dirty dishes. They filled the third basin where Zoe began to rinse the extra bits of food off of the dishes before putting them into Cassie’s basin. Cassie took the thick sponge that they used to wash dishes and began to scrub quickly and vigorously. She went back and forth, back and forth.
Eventually, she had an entire stack of dishes in Zoe’s basin and Zoe hurried over to start rinsing the clean ones while Cassie continued washing. It was a routine they had developed long ago. They both knew exactly what to do and it was the fastest way to do it. They had both made sure of that.
“So, has Arnold said anything about me?” Zoe asked softly, sending a glance toward Cassie’s mother. Cassie’s mother was oblivious to their conversation like she was most days. She was already moving about, starting to chop and stir vegetables for their lunch meals while still serving a few lingering guests out front.
“Arnold?” Cassie giggled. “Arnold has never mentioned a girl, not you or anyone else. Maybe you should set your sights on someone more deserving of your attention.” Cassie became somber. She didn’t want her friend to get her feelings hurt and Cassie knew her brother well. He wasn’t currently interested in anyone really, and if he was, he hadn’t said anything to her about it.
“You’re probably right. I’m just not as attractive as you are. You’re the one that everyone wants to get to know, yet you have no interest in getting to know anyone. Tell me there is someone you want to let past those tall walls of yours.”
Cassie shook her head. Zoe made it sound so dramatic. “I don’t have tall walls. I just have no interest in putting my feelings where they will undoubtedly be hurt and torn apart. I learned my lesson the hard way, remember?” Cassie winced as she thought of Frank, the first man to break her heart.
“Cassie, you can’t let what happened stop you from ever finding love. I am sure that there is a good man out there somewhere who is just waiting to be discovered so he can love you the way you deserve. I hear all kinds of men talking about how you never want to give anyone the time of day. I even heard a rumor that the mayor’s son was interested in you.” Zoe elbowed her softly and Cassie felt her cheeks blushing.
It was true. Wilson, the mayor’s son, was after her. He had shown up at the diner several times, asking her to give him a chance. She was more than a little reluctant. She had no reason to want to get married, and she had no reason to trust anyone, especially a man she knew so little about.
She had trusted Frank. He had seemed so kind and so right and swept her off of her feet. They had talked about marriage and a future together, and then the next thing Cassie knew, Frank was with Anya, the girl she thought was her best friend at the time. The two were married now and while Cassie would never wish anything as terrible as for them to break up, the betrayal still hurt her to the core.
“Wilson has been coming around a few times a week. You know that you see him in the diner too when he comes.” Cassie was reluctant to admit Wilson’s interest. She knew that Zoe loved the idea of love. She wanted to see anyone get married, or fall in love. Cassie attributed it to her dreaming too much about the stories she read in books.
“I knew it! And the two of you were talking the other day when you were serving him lunch. What did he say? Are the two of you going steady in secret? I am so excited. Imagine, the daughter-in-law of the mayor! I can’t believe it.”
“Woah, slow down.” Cassie held up both of her soapy hands. She didn’t need Zoe spreading any false rumors around. And least of all, she didn’t need the rumors getting back to her parents. Her parents were very much against the idea of her finding or marrying anyone. It didn’t matter that she was an adult and past what most people considered marrying age. They did not seem concerned in the least with Cassie finding a husband and discouraged it strongly, even coming as close to forbidding it whenever she had brought it up.
When she had been with Frank, they had been terribly against it and if Cassie had to guess, they had been overjoyed when things hadn’t worked out between them.
“All right, all right. But tell me what happened.” Zoe’s eyes lit up with excitement and she leaned in closer so that they could talk with no risk of Cassie’s mother hearing, even if she wasn’t completely distracted with her lunch preparations.
“Nothing much. He wants us to go out on a walk or a buggy ride. I don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t know much of anything about Wilson. He is the mayor’s son, which makes me question why he wants to get to know me. I’m a nobody. He could get to know anyone in town if he wanted to.”
“That is the wrong thing to think. You should feel special that he picked you and give him a chance. No one knows much about Wilson, and that is why everyone makes up rumors about him. You know he pretty much keeps to himself. Maybe he is a good man and he is your prince. Maybe this time is the right time.” Zoe clasped her hands in front of her with an angelic expression on her face.
“I doubt it. But I will think about it for you because you seem way more interested in all of this than I am.” Cassie shook her head slowly. Sometimes, she didn’t know what to think of Zoe’s enthusiasm, but most of the time, she loved it just like she loved her true best friend.
“What were you talking with Zoe so intently about this afternoon?” Cassie’s mother asked, her eyebrows raised in a prying way.
“Nothing much. Just about her family and, you know, things she has heard about people in town.”
“I see. You know that if you ever want to talk about anything, you can come to me, right?” Her mother reached back to touch her wrapped hair. Cassie admired her mother’s ability to always look presentable, no matter the kind of day she had had.
“I know, Ma. It’s nothing secret or anything. Apparently, Daniela Roberts is pregnant again, can you believe it? That will be her ninth baby.”
Cassie’s mother smiled. “I do believe it. You know Daniela loves children. I suppose it is only fitting she has many. Besides, her husband is in the railroad business, he has money to spare.”
Cassie tried to imagine what it would be like to have nine children. It was almost an impossible picture. She didn’t know if she would be able to handle it. She had met Daniela’s children. They were all a handful, and they were worse when they fought. Cassie’s mind went to Wilson. Did he want a lot of children? Did he want someone to be a wife at home, watching his children who he could come home and see for a few minutes before the evening meal and then bedtime? Cassie did not want that. She didn’t know what she wanted, but for starters, she wanted to fall in love before she married. She wanted to have a relationship where she would be friends with her husband, and they could share beautiful moments of love and care.
She didn’t know if Wilson would give her that. After what happened with Frank, she didn’t know what to believe about anyone. Were there any good men out there? She didn’t know. Did she want to find a man at all? She certainly wasn’t sure about that. Her family was poor. They worked for everything they had. If she found a wealthy husband, maybe things could be better for her family. But she didn’t want to marry any man just for money.
“You’re awfully quiet.” Her mother’s concerned voice interrupted her thoughts.
“I was just thinking… how did you know you wanted to marry Pa?”
“Well, he was rather persistent. He kept coming for me while I wasn’t exactly open to his advances. Then one day, I realized that life just wouldn’t be the same without him.” Her mother’s eyes sparkled with excitement and memory of the adventures she had once experienced for herself. “Why, is someone after you again? Surely it’s not Frank.”
“No, Ma. I was just wondering because we were talking about Daniela and her children. Do you ever regret being a mother, just staying on the ranch and taking care of us? I know that you don’t often see Pa. It must be hard, working so hard because of me, Arnold, and the twins. Don’t you ever wish you had taken a life of privilege?”
Her mother laughed softly. “I’ve learned that there are things much more important than money.”
“Like love.” Cassie thought of the things that Zoe had said. Maybe the idea that finding someone who loved her and wanted to spend the rest of their life with her was worth pursuing.
“Yes, love. I love you, I love the boys, and I love your father. When we married, I was determined that it was worth it to marry for love, no matter what happened with money or with anything else. Your father comes first and our family comes first. One day, I hope that you can find love, a man who will want you for you and not for any other reason.” Her mother sighed and paused. Cassie realized that they had arrived at the house.
“Thank you, Ma. I needed to hear that.” Cassie gave her mother a brave smile and then followed her up to the cabin. Maybe she would take Zoe’s advice and give Wilson a chance. Maybe Wilson would care for her more than she imagined. Maybe he would even love her.
Unease and worry nibbled at Cassie’s heart. She hated having to deal with any of these doubts. A certain part of her wished that she could go to the future where she had already married the man of her dreams and had her life in order. But she was here, stuck in the present, in a time where she would have to wait and see what God had in store for her.
“Cassie, he’s here!” Zoe’s squeal was so loud that Cassie was certain some of the people in the dining area had heard them. They were in the kitchen and it was the lunch rush. It was the day after Cassie and Zoe had talked about Wilson’s interest in her.
“Who’s here? What is all the ruckus about?” Cassie wiped her hands on her apron. She followed Zoe to the doorway into the dining area and peeped around the corner. There at one of the tables by the window was Wilson. He had a confident smile on his face, his light brown hair falling over his forehead like a stallion’s forelock. He turned toward where she and Zoe were hiding. Cassie pulled Zoe back just in time.
“I’m sure he’s not here for any reason except to eat.”
“You really think so? He’s the mayor’s son! He has plenty of delicious food at his house. Besides, I even heard that they hired a cook. Their own personal cook! Can you believe it?” Zoe had excitement written all over her face. “He came here, to eat in a diner, just because of you.”
Cassie shook her head. “You make it sound like the diner food isn’t the best in town. Maybe he just got tired of eating at home.”
“Four times this week?” Zoe giggled, covering her mouth with her hand. “He’s here for you, Cassie, I’m telling you. Why don’t you go talk to him?”
“Fine, fine. I’m going. I have no idea what to say, though.”
“Just say that you love him and that you want to marry him.” Zoe was nearly jumping up and down. “You don’t want to let him get away.”
Cassie stifled a giggle of her own. “You’re impossible. I am not going to tell him any of that. If he is interested, he’ll stick around until I am ready. I am not ready right now, and I don’t know what to think about any of this. But I will talk to him today because of you. That’s a start, isn’t it?”
Zoe shrugged. She was disappointed about Cassie’s commitment to Wilson’s advances, but clearly, she was ready to take what she could get. Cassie walked around the kitchen and got a fresh cup of coffee for Wilson. She still had no idea what to say, but she would start by giving him some coffee just like any other customer in the diner.
Her heart pounded against her chest and her breath came quickly. She wanted to turn and rush back into the kitchen, but she forced her feet to move one in front of the other.
When she arrived at the table, she set the coffee down in front of Wilson.
“Welcome to the Blue Diner. What can I get you this afternoon?”
“Cassie, it’s good to see you.” Wilson looked up, his eyes lighting up and his grin spreading wide to match. “How have you been?”
“F-fine. I’ve been just fine,” she stammered. Cassie forced a smile. She felt more than strange talking with Wilson like this. She didn’t want to give him the wrong impression, but she was also worried about pushing people away after what Zoe had said. She couldn’t know what Wilson intended or what he wanted. Maybe he had good intentions.
“I see. That’s swell. Well, I came over here to see you. You never told me if you would be willing to take a ride with me in my buggy.”
“I don’t know if it would be proper for us to ride together alone. It wouldn’t be seen as proper by everyone.”
“I know, but maybe we could take someone along with us. We wouldn’t have to go alone.” Wilson raised his eyebrows expectantly as if he was waiting for Cassie to agree right then and there.
“Maybe. I’ll think about it.” Cassie was already doubting agreeing to come and serve Wilson in the first place. She was nowhere near ready to go on a ride with him alone in his buggy. “What can I get you for lunch?”
“Whatever you suggest. I trust you.” Wilson flashed her another one of his white-toothed grins. Cassie wasn’t sure how to react. She had never been the type to fool around with someone’s feelings. She was of the mind that someone was either serious, or they weren’t. Right now, she was finding it impossible to tell which Wilson was.
“Very well. I’ll be right back with your food.”
Cassie turned to go but she didn’t leave the area before she heard Wilson say, “You look beautiful today, Cassie.”
Cassie blushed and her cheeks heated up. She knew she should be flattered by Wilson’s advances, but she didn’t feel much of anything toward him, especially not attraction. But maybe her reluctance was a problem with her and nothing else.
“What did he say?” Zoe asked as soon as she stepped through the door of the kitchen.
“He wants me to go on a ride with him in his buggy.”
“Really? When will you be going?”
“I don’t know. I told him I would think about it.”
“You didn’t tell him yes?” Zoe’s eyes widened. “How could you turn him down?”
“I just don’t know if I want to go anywhere with him. I barely know him.”
“Well, I suppose you are right. How can you know though since you haven’t spent any time with him? You might have to do something like go on a buggy ride so you can get to know him better. If you change your mind about going with him, make sure and let me know. I might like to come along.”
Cassie giggled as she headed toward the kitchen. Now she had to choose what to take Wilson to eat. She hoped that she didn’t make him something he hated. When she told Zoe that she didn’t know anything about him, she was telling the truth. All she knew about Wilson was who his parents were and the rumors about him. He had a bit of a reputation about him for not being interested in women for long. There were also rumors about him never wanting to marry a woman because then he would have to settle for just one.
According to Zoe, the rumors were all false, made up by jealous women who were not able to get his attention. Cassie didn’t want to think the worst of him without proof, but she was also doubtful about the rumors. What if the rumors were true and she was making a huge mistake? The possibility made her stomach turn. Whatever was happening with Wilson, she was going to take it very slow and see what happened. She wasn’t going to be naïve and let herself be swept off her feet a second time by someone who hadn’t proven himself. If Wilson really and truly wanted her attention just because he liked her for her, he would be patient, or at least that was what Cassie told herself.
As she joined Zoe at washing dishes, she let her mind wander. She thought back to her days as a child in the city. It was a different life they had led there before they came out West. She had been so young when they came, she had adapted to her new life quickly. There was a big part of her that wanted to go back to the city. She couldn’t describe the feeling, but it was a calm feeling that almost beckoned for her to return. She imagined what it would be like to have so many people in the city streets that she blended in with them, lost in the crowd.
She wondered what it would be like to live in a row of houses, instead of in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. But she had a feeling that her parents wouldn’t want to go back to the city any time soon. They had left the city for a reason, she just needed to figure out what that reason was. Her father always said it was to find their fortune and to create a legacy for their family, but Cassie was starting to wonder if that was truly the case.
“Painted with the Colors of Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
After being heartbroken once before, Cassie May is entirely reluctant to trust her heart to love again. Her life is thrown into turmoil therefore when her parents present her with a surprise betrothal to a man she hasn’t even met. Without a second thought, she refuses to abide by it, protesting that she will never marry a man she does not love. Then, out of nowhere, a mysterious stranger shows up in town, confusing her feelings and challenging her convictions. Joseph always appears to be in the right place at the right time and Cassie finds herself intensely intrigued by him. Will Cassie set aside her doubts and take a chance on the unknown with Joseph? Can she escape the fate that her parents have arranged for her?
Michael Joseph hasn’t had much luck with meeting a loving wife to spend his life with so far. When his parents reveal that he is promised to a girl from his past, he sees his chance to have his happily ever after. Having no intention of marrying someone who may only want him for his money though, he decides to set out to win this woman’s heart as a stranger. Yet when he arrives in Texas, he discovers that approaching Cassie will be a little more complicated than he expected. Will he be able to break down her walls and gain her trust? Or will Michael lose his chance at true love?
Michael and Cassie slowly start to form a precious bond, but shadowy forces are not willing to let them find happiness. When Michael’s life is put in danger, Cassie will need to make a decision that could decide the rest of her life… Will they overcome the danger and stand by each other’s side forever?
“Painted with the Colors of Love” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.