Read His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage Online

Authors: Patricia Davids

Tags: #Fiction, #Religious, #Romance, #General

His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage (26 page)

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
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“I sense a story.”

He glanced at his watch. “One that will have to wait for another day. I’ll be back in a few hours. I have a surgery scheduled for eight o’clock this morning. You have my beeper number if you need me. I only live about ten minutes away.”

“Dakota seems much better. I’m sure we’ll be fine on our own for a few hours.”

“There is always a student on duty if you need anything. I’ll see you later.”

“Good night, Brian.”

He stood and she rose to face him. The air between them suddenly seemed charged with electricity. She longed to reach out and smooth his rumpled shirt. She wanted to comb her fingers through his tousled hair and coax it into some kind of order. Instead, she stuffed her hand into the hip pocket of her jeans and took a step back.

For a long moment, he simply stared into her eyes, then with a nod, he walked away. It wasn’t until then that she remembered to breathe.

A few hours later, Dakota’s temperature had fallen to a normal level. His appetite returned with a vengeance and he made short work of any apple slices that came within range. When Lindsey turned away to pull another piece of fruit from the brown paper bag by the cot, he whinnied loudly, waking Karen.

She sat up rubbing her eyes. “That sounds like he’s feeling better.”

“Much better.”

“What time is it? Or maybe I should ask what day is it?”

Lindsey glanced at her watch. “It’s the day before Thanksgiving and it’s after nine.”

“Why did you let me sleep so long?”

“You looked so peaceful that I didn’t have the heart to wake you.”

Tipping her head first to the right and then to the left, Karen winced. “My neck would have been happier if you had. Where is Brian?”

“He had a surgery this morning.”

“You two seemed to be getting along rather well last night.”

“I thought you were asleep?”

“I was—most of the time. What did you and he find to talk about until the wee hours of the morning?”

“This and that. You know how it is. Small talk mostly.”

“Small talk?” Something in Karen’s expression told Lindsey that she wasn’t buying that line.

“All right, if you want me to admit that I’m beginning to like the guy, I will.”

“I thought so.” She folded her arms over her chest and looked smug.

Lindsey turned away and began to toss flakes of hay into Dakota’s stall. “Just because I like him doesn’t mean anything except that it will be easier to keep working with him.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I sense more than a casual interest.”

“I’m not looking for love, Karen, if that’s where this is going. I have plans to make the army my career. Marriage and the military don’t mix. Not for me, anyway.”

“You’re thinking about Mother. Just because our parents couldn’t make their marriage work isn’t any reason to believe you can’t make a relationship work. I don’t remember much about Mom because I was only six when she left, but from all that Danny has told me, I can see you are a much stronger woman than she was. You have a good heart and a strong faith. Why not trust that God will bring the right man into your life?”

She glanced at Karen. “What makes you think Brian is the right man?”

Karen stepped up and took her by the shoulder. Giving her a gentle shake, she said, “Girlfriend, what makes you so sure he isn’t?”

Chapter Eight

T
he Monday after the holiday weekend, Brian sat in his office trying to concentrate on drafting a letter of appeal for funds to buy an ambulance when he noticed Isabella creeping toward his Wildcat mug. He knew that look in her eye. Picking her up before she could snatch one of his freshly sharpened pencils and chew it into splinters, he scolded softly, “I see what you’re trying to do. I’ve got to get this letter done, so that means you have to go outside.”

Outside
was one of her favorite words. She loved racing up and down the long fenced area he’d had built beside the building and nibbling on the fresh grass.

He needed a break anyway. The words on his yellow legal pad weren’t anywhere near the tone he wanted to convey. Instead of fine-tuning his letter, all he had done that morning was think about Lindsey.

Rising, he picked up his cane from where it leaned against his desk and made his way toward the door. As he pulled it open, Isabella suddenly leaped out of his arms and took off toward the stall area. He hurried after her, knowing she could easily be hurt if she ran into one of the occupied pens. Fortunately, he saw the double doors at the end of the hall were closed.

He was only a step away from his pet when one of the doors opened and two students came through. It was all the opportunity Isabella needed.

“Catch her,” he called out.

By the time the befuddled students realized what he was talking about, the rabbit had darted between them and through the doorway.

“Isabella, come back here!” His shout did nothing to stem her headlong flight.

Running past the students, Brian entered the stall area and scanned the large enclosure for any sign of his fleeing pet. Checking each pen as he hurried past, he didn’t see Private Barnes until he almost ran into him.

“Whoa, there, Doc. What’s the rush?”

“Did you see a rabbit come this way?”

“A what?”

“Isabella is loose?” The familiar female voice made Brian looked past the young soldier. Jennifer was sitting on a folding chair beside the army cot, but she jumped to her feet, a look of alarm on her face.

Happy to have an ally who understood what was needed, Brian nodded. “Make sure all the outside doors are closed.”

She grabbed the soldier’s arm. “Of course. Avery, you go that way and I’ll make sure everything on this end is shut. Give a shout if you see her.”

“What sort of rabbit am I looking for?”

She rolled her eyes and gave him a shove. “The fuzzy kind that hops. Now hurry, but don’t scare the horses.”

Brian retraced his steps and began searching more slowly. There were numerous bales of hay and bags of feed stacked along the center of the wide aisles. She could be behind any of them or under the wooden pallets they rested on.

He’d only finished checking a small area when Jennifer returned. “None of the outside doors are open. I’ve left Avery in charge of seeing that no one goes in or out.”

Brian stared around the large building. “Why would she suddenly decide she wanted to come in here? She loves going outside. I distinctly told her she was going outside.”

“That may be my fault,” Jennifer admitted with a pained look. “I brought her out here with me yesterday.”

“And why were you out here instead of at the desk?”

“Avery...that is...Private Barnes asked for some help with the thermal thermometer.”

His scowl prompted her to add quickly, “I held on to Isabella the whole time. I didn’t let her run loose. She wasn’t even frightened by the horse when he came over to check her out.”

Brian sighed, trying to hide his vexation. “All right, we’ll talk about this after we find her. You take that aisle and I’ll take this one. Check everywhere.”

“We don’t have to. There she is.”

He turned to see Jennifer pointing toward Dakota’s stall. The big horse was lying down with his legs tucked under him. His neck was arched as he sniffed the bunny cuddled up against his chest. Brian approached the stall slowly. He didn’t want to startle Dakota into lunging to his feet. One misstep and the little rabbit could be seriously injured, or worse.

“Come here, Isabella,” he called softly. Dakota looked up at the sound of his voice, but the rabbit didn’t move. Brian didn’t see any choice. He would have to go in and get her.

“All right, big fella, you just stay relaxed.” Brian opened the gate slowly and stepped inside the stall. Dakota threw his head up as if he was about to rise.

“Stay down, Dakota.” The command came from behind Brian. He shot a quick look over his shoulder. Lindsey stood at the gate.

“He’ll stay still now. It’s okay,” she assured him.

“How can you be so certain?”

“It’s what he’s been trained to do. He has to follow orders just like the rest of us.”

Trusting her word, Brian walked to the pair and scooped up Isabella. She squirmed and tried to get down again, but he held on tightly.

Lindsey arrived beside them and squatted to pat Dakota’s neck. “They look so cute together. Why don’t you leave her here. She certainly seems to make him happy.”

“It would be too risky.” Brian ran his hand down Isabella’s long, soft ears. “Lindsey, allow me to introduce you to Isabella the Terrible.”

Rising, Lindsey stroked the rabbit’s small round head. “You don’t look very terrible to me.”

“Reserve judgment until you know her better,” Jennifer suggested. “Shall I take her outside?”

Brian shook his head. “No, I’ll take her and then you and I are going to have a talk in my office.”

“Yes, Doctor.” She turned away meekly and left the building.

“I can’t believe it,” he said in astonishment.

“What?”

“She always has some sort of snappy comeback.”

“Maybe she’s saving it until you’re alone.”

“That’s a scary thought.” He made a mental note to be gentle with his secretary when he took her to task for neglecting her duties.

He glanced at the woman beside him.

Thoughts of Lindsey kept him from sleeping, kept him from working, and, worst of all, they kept him from thinking about Emily. It certainly wasn’t Lindsey’s fault, but he had decided it would be best if he didn’t see as much of her in the future. During the past two days, he had accomplished his goal with difficulty. Like today, she always seemed to turn up when he least expected her.

Determined to put some distance between them now, he said curtly, “I have to put Isabella away. Excuse me.”

* * *

Lindsey watched his abrupt retreat and wondered why he always seemed to be rushing out the door as she came in. After their exchange of confidences during Dakota’s illness, she felt she had gained a better understanding of the man, perhaps even made a friend. Obviously, she had been mistaken. Brian couldn’t have made it plainer that he didn’t need or want her friendship.

“Not a very sociable chap, is he?” Avery said, coming to stand beside her.

She felt compelled to defend Brian in spite of his recent attitude. “He can be.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“Where have you been?”

“Jenny had me guarding the doors to keep the rabbit from getting away. She stopped by to tell me the rodent has been recovered. Where was she?”

“Making nice with Dakota.”

“No joke? I didn’t know horses and rabbits got along.”

“I’ve seen horses that weren’t happy unless they had a stall mate. Usually it’s a pony, but I’ve seen them adopt goats or dogs, so why not a rabbit?” Lindsey said.

“If it helps Dakota get better, I’ll buy him a whole herd of rabbits.”

“I’ll second that. Speaking of Dakota, how is he today?”

“Relaxed, eating and drinking well. I’d say he’s much improved. And how are you? You saw the doctor again today, didn’t you?”

“The bone is mending, but I still don’t have feeling in my fingers or my hand.”

“How much longer does he think that will last?”

“You know doctors. It could be a week, it could be a month. Time will tell.”

“Bummer.”

“No kidding. It sure would be nice to be able to drive myself again and not have to depend on everyone to get me places. Karen is a doll, but I think even she is tired of being my chauffeur.”

“Is your car a stick?”

“No, why?”

“Because if it isn’t a stick, then you only need one arm to drive. Get a spinner for your steering wheel.”

“What’s that?”

“A kind of doorknob that attaches to the wheel and allows you to steer with one hand.”

“Isn’t that only for handicapped people?”

“Have you looked in the mirror? You
are
handicapped even if it’s temporary. But no, they aren’t only for the people with disabilities. I’ve got one on my sports car.”

“Don’t tell me, let me guess. So you can keep one arm around a girl while you’re driving your Jag?”

“Exactly.”

“How did a guy like you end up in the army?”

“You mean how did one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors find himself enlisted as a private?”

“Yes. I’ve been wondering about that.”

“So have I. My grandfather has some explaining to do when I get home. And for the record, the evils of alcohol cannot be overstated.”

“You got drunk and ended up enlisted?”

“I’m ashamed to admit that I was so plastered I don’t remember, but even my grandfather’s lawyer couldn’t get me out of Uncle Sam’s contract. If he actually tried.”

“Why wouldn’t he?”

“I’ve done a lot of dumb things in my life. I was careless and selfish because I thought money fixed everything. My grandfather was at his wit’s end with me. Maybe he thought the army could straighten me out.”

“I think he was right.”

A half smile pulled at one corner of his mouth. “It’s nice of you to say so. At least I’ve given up drinking anything stronger than soda.”

Lindsey patted his shoulder. “The Lord moves in mysterious ways.”

“So does my grandfather,” he grumbled.

“The spinner is a good idea. Would you be able to put one on my car if I gave you the money to buy one?”

“It would be my pleasure. But before you get behind the wheel, I insist you let me take you to an empty parking lot for some practice before you try it alone.”

“You’ve got a deal. Thanks, Avery. Now, you’re relieved. Is there anything I need to know about Dakota?”

“The Doc wants us to keep checking the cast for hot spots with the thermal thermometer at least once every four hours.”

“Any signs of pressure sores?”

“No, his leg is as cool as a cucumber, but he is getting up and down more and that could cause problems. Are you taking leave for Christmas?”

“I hadn’t planned on it. I don’t want to desert Dakota after his close call.” Voicing her excuse out loud didn’t lessen the nagging guilt she had been saddled with since her conversation with Karen that morning.

“What about your family?”

“Karen has decided to spend the holidays with my brother since I won’t be going home.”

She dreaded the coming holidays. It was hard to think about celebrating Christmas with Danny’s injury looming like a dark cloud over everyone’s mood. “What about you?”

“I’ll be here. Maybe we should have our own Christmas party.”

“That’s a good idea. I’ll talk to the Captain about it.”

After Avery left, Lindsey walked into the stall and sat down beside Dakota. He nuzzled her shoulder briefly, then began nipping at her pocket.

“Okay, I do have a few alfalfa treats in there, but don’t get greedy. You’re not the only horse in this place. See that little pinto across the way?” She pointed to a pony across the aisle. Dakota ignored her extended arm.

“He likes alfalfa, too, so you’ll have to share.” She pulled a handful of green pellets from her pocket and held them out for him. He lipped them up quickly.

After visiting with the horse for half an hour, Lindsey rose and began walking between the pens, stopping to visit with several other inmates. At the end of the building she glanced out the window and saw Isabella racing back and forth in a wire run.

Slipping out the door, Lindsey stopped beside the rabbit’s kennel and knelt down to put her fingers through the chain links. Isabella stopped running long enough to investigate the potential new playmate. “Have you been banished from his office?”

She glanced toward the front of the building. “Care to share any secrets about your owner? Do you know why he’s treating me like a plague victim?”

Isabella sniffed at Lindsey’s fingers then dashed away. “I can see you aren’t going to be any help.”

From inside the barn, Lindsey heard Dakota’s whinny. Rising, she headed back into the building. With only horses and rabbits to talk to, it promised to be a long day. Mainly because the one creature she really wished to spend time with had retreated to his office and she couldn’t think of a good reason to follow him.

It was late afternoon and Lindsey had just closed the book she was reading when the sound of raised voices reached her.

Brian stormed through the doorway. A deep frown etched a groove between his eyebrows.

Jennifer was hard on his heels. “I didn’t take her out of her pen, honest.”

“Is she in here?” he demanded, stopping in front of Lindsey.

Not a word all day and now he had the nerve to behave like this? He wasn’t the only one capable of pretending indifference. “More rabbit troubles, Doctor?” she drawled.

“Isabella has never run away before. You want me to believe she’s done it twice in one day?”

“Dakota and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of her, have we, boy? How much trouble is it to keep track of one bunny?” She rose from the cot where she was sitting and looked toward her horse. He stood in the corner of his pen with his head down. She assumed he had been sleeping. It was then she noticed the small bundle of fur beneath his nose.

Brian spotted his pet at the same time. “She
is
here.”

Taken aback, Lindsey turned to him. “I’m sorry. I never saw her come in. I was outside by her pen for a little while, but I didn’t take her out. She was inside her run when I left.”

“I seriously doubt a six-pound rabbit could open a kennel door and then a barn door all by herself.”

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
11.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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