Shane's Bride (Mail Order Brides of Texas #3) (10 page)

BOOK: Shane's Bride (Mail Order Brides of Texas #3)
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Cecily’s face brightened.  “Now that’s a wonderful idea.  I’ll go and make sure a chair is made comfortable for you.” She turned to leave but stopped when Shane spoke.

“Don’t go to any trouble.  You work hard enough around here as it is.” Their gazes locked for a moment before she glanced away.

“No trouble, just a few blankets.  It’ll give me a chance to clean out your room.” Shane wore a grin as he watched her leave until he caught the enchanted expression on Elliott’s face.  Frowning, he realized Elliott was smitten.

With the help of Poor Boy and Elliott, Shane ended up nicely seated on one of the porch chairs wrapped like a dang mummy.  He’d had to fight back many protests.  He didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings; they were only trying to make him comfortable.  He glanced toward town and saw Lucy coming their way.  What a shock it’d been to have her show up.  He’d never thought to set eyes on her again.  He just wished she would try to get along with Cecily.  Somehow, she’d misread his reason for leaving the plantation and the South.  How she’d turned an argument between him and his father into some romantic notion, he’d never know.  He should’ve tried to get Elliott alone so he could explain that Lucy was passing.  Personally, he was happy for her.  If it gave her a leg up in the world, so be it.

He hadn’t asked about her travels to Texas.  He hadn’t asked how she’d gotten money for such fancy clothes.  It couldn’t have been easy being afraid that she’d be found out.  He didn’t suspect that others would be so understanding. 

Poor Boy scrambled for the front steps yelling something about work he had to do in the barn.  Shane watched as he ran as though the very devil himself was chasing him.  He raked his fingers through his hair.  Maybe Poor Boy was right.  Perhaps Lucy
was
the devil in disguise.  As she came closer, he could see the pasted smile on her face and a dash of fear in her eyes.

Shane glanced at Elliott, and  there wasn’t even a flicker of recognition on his face.  Elliott had spent time on the plantation but he didn’t seem to know Lucy.  He was surprised when Elliott stood and nodded his head ever so slowly.

Lucy’s eyes widened, and she quickly sought Shane’s gaze.  She nodded back at Elliott and took a sudden interest in the white trim on the sleeve of her dark green dress.  She stood ever so still as though she was waiting for Elliott to spill her secret.

Elliott cleared his throat and turned towards him.  “Aren’t you going to introduce me to this lovely lady?” Lucy blinked and gazed from him to Elliott and then back to him.

“Elliott McManus, may I present Lucy O’Connor.  She too hails from our fair state of South Carolina.  She’s been staying here with Cecily and Poor Boy and myself.  We don’t have a hotel here in town yet.” Shane held his breath hoping his lie would hold.

Elliott took Lucy’s hand in his and gave her a gentlemanly nod.  “It is so very nice to meet you Miss.  It is Miss, isn’t it?” He smiled as she nodded.  “It’s a pleasure to meet such a refined Southern woman in the wilds of Texas.  I do have to say I am homesick for South Carolina.  I miss the niceties of life, but I’m here to make a new life for myself, and I plan on being a great success.”

“Why thank you, Mr.  McManus,” Lucy said.

“Please call me Elliott.”

Lucy smiled and tilted her head in a coy manner.  “And you may call me Lucy.  I too miss a bit of my old life, but I’m finding my new life to be full of wonderful challenges.  Isn’t that right, Shane? Who would’ve thought that Shane O’Connor would have ever become the sheriff of any town?”

Shane watched their banter and became decidedly uncomfortable.  He had a bad feeling that this would come to a bad end.  Why did Lucy have to smile at Elliott? Didn’t she know better than to play with fire?

“Please, Elliott, come in I’m sure we can offer you some refreshment.” Lucy waited for Elliott to open the door for her before she entered the house.

Shane wanted to groan out loud.  Why couldn’t she let well enough alone? She’d best forget about playing lady of the house.  He’d talk to her later about it.

“Ready, old friend?” Elliott leaned down and helped Shane to his feet.  He nodded at Cecily who held the door open as they made their way inside.  “Bedroom or kitchen?”

Cecily said bedroom at the exact same time as Lucy said kitchen.  The two women stared at him and not in a friendly way.  They both had their arms crossed in front of them and no matter which he decided he was sure to catch the devil from one of them.

“I probably should get some rest.” He and Elliott took a few steps towards the bedroom.

“Is that any way to treat a guest? I’m sure Mr.  McManus, I mean Elliott, would like some refreshments.”

“They can visit just as easily in the bedroom.  Shane needs his rest.”  “Elliott, I do think I should lie down for a bit, but we can talk just as well in there as we can out here.  As for refreshments, I would love a cup of coffee.” He walked into the bedroom with Elliott’s help and sat on the bed. 

His old friend looked as though he would burst out laughing at any moment, but he remained silent. 

“Don’t even say a word.”

Elliott helped Shane swing his legs up and got him settled on the bed before he sat in the ladder back chair next to him.  “I’d say you had one too many hens in the house.  So tell me which one of them is yours?”

“Neither.  I have no claim to either of them.” Shane bit back a curse when he saw Cecily standing in the doorway with two cups of coffee.  He swallowed hard.  Damn, she’d probably heard that. 

Without looking at him, she handed both cups to Elliott and walked out.

 

 

****

 

 

Cecily wished she had a place to hide and gather her thoughts.  She had believed Shane when he told her she could stay as long as she liked.  She should’ve known the offer was too good to be true.  It sounded like he was offering Elliot to pick, between her or Lucy.  He didn’t need her, he had Lucy and Poor Boy.  She was just an extra mouth to feed.  Her face heated as she realized how little Shane thought of her.  Her soul deflated, and she wished she could run into the woods and keep running, but no one would bother to come after her.  Why hadn’t she sensed she was a burden?

She took the loaves of bread out of the oven and placed them on the table.  She glanced over at Lucy, who was sitting in a chair watching her.  It was too much, Lucy knowing how Shane felt.  Cecily grabbed her bonnet and her shawl and walked out of the house.  She glanced at the woods, wishing to be free but she’d probably end up dead this time.  The other times she had run, she hadn’t cared whether she lived or died; now she cared.  She tied her bonnet on and draped the shawl over her shoulders.  Taking a deep breath, she headed toward town.

It was crowded inside the mercantile.  What was going on? There must be news of some kind, and she wished she could go in.  Instead, she kept walking.  It was heartbreaking to know there was a room full of people who would be offended by her presence.  Soon enough, she ran out of boardwalk and crossed the street to walk back toward Shane’s house.  He probably hadn’t noticed she was gone.  She watched as Cinders and Keegan came out of the mercantile slapping each other on the back.  She’d bet anything that both their wives had just given them a child.  Normally, the details would’ve been important to her, but she wasn’t included in the good news.  Both Shannon and Addy had gone out of their way to be friendly with her, and she wished she was a normal person, able to return their friendship.

She was surprised when Keegan crossed the street and yelled for her to hold up.  She turned and waited.  Addy sure was a lucky woman, Keegan was a very handsome man.

“Hey, Cecily, it’s good to meet you.  Addy made me promise to tell you we had a little boy,” Keegan said with a great big grin on his face.

She smiled back.  “That’s wonderful news! I’m so happy for you both.  What did you name him?”

Keegan laughed.  “Peg insists on helping to name the baby so we’re working on her.  In fact she wants to name him Shane two.  Me, I like the name Ryan and Addie, she hasn’t decided yet.”

“Shannon told me about Peg and how she likes to name everything.  Well whatever you name him, I bet he’s a fine baby.”

“He sure is.  Cinders and Shannon have a little girl they named Olivia.  My son doesn’t have much hair on his head but little Olivia has a fair amount of red hair, and from what I’ve heard she has a temper that goes with that red hair.”

“Be sure to congratulate them for me.  I’m really happy for all of you.  I need to get back and make sure Shane isn’t trying to tire himself out.”

“You might want to tie him to the bed.” He laughed and tipped his hat to her.  “You take care now, and we’ll see you soon.”

“Keegan? Thank you for taking the time to tell me, I appreciate it.” She drew her shawl tighter around her and headed out of town.  It was strange to feel so happy for them while feeling envious at the same time.  She hoped they knew how lucky they were.  Her eyes teared as she thought of all the babies she wouldn’t have.

She quickly dashed away her tears and took a deep breath.  It sure had been one of those days full of emotion.  She’d better learn to buck up.  There certainly wouldn’t be time to take a walk every time her feelings got hurt.  Sure her life wasn’t what she expected, but she could try to make a nice life for herself.  She just needed a new plan is all and a backup plan for that plan.  Leaving town was probably her best move.  All she needed was a bit of traveling money and she could easily save enough in just a few months.

She tried to be serene as she walked up the steps to the house.  It would do no good to let on how she felt.  She had a feeling that Lucy was the type to jump on another’s weakness.  She had dinner to get on the table, and she had to figure out the sleeping arrangements.  It was more than likely Elliott would be spending the night too.

Walking into the house, she removed her bonnet and then hung it up with her shawl.  She went straight  to the kitchen but wanted to turn and run when she saw the sour look on Lucy’s face.

“Thank goodness you’re back.” Lucy stood and put her hands on her hips.

“Has something happened?” Cecily’s heart beat faster.  Had something happened to Shane?

“No, nothing happened.  I began to worry about who was going to make dinner.  You do know that cooking is part of your duties, don’t you?”

Ignoring her, Cecily peeked into the bedroom glad to see that Poor Boy was back.  She asked him to fetch her some more wood.  She didn’t look at either man, and she didn’t wait for an answer; it was easier that way.  She went to the stove and lifted the lid off the pot of broth picked up a spoon and stirred it, satisfied it appeared to be about ready.  The bit of beef she had added that morning had cooked down into small pieces, making the broth nice and rich.  After giving it one last stir she replaced the lid.

Lucy walked over to the stove and peeked under the lid.  She turned and gazed at Cecily with the same sour look on her face she had before.  “You can’t seriously be thinking of serving this up as dinner.”

“If you’re hungry you’ll eat it.  If not, you won’t.  It’s as simple as that.” Poor Boy raced past them and out the front door.

“Perhaps you can make a cobbler or something.  You’ll shame Shane with that type of food.”

Poor Boy came running back in with a load of firewood in his arms and dropped his burden next to the stove.  “Here you go.” He hurried back into the bedroom.  It was good for him to spend time with Shane.

“If you want cobbler, go ahead and make cobbler.  It’s been a busy day.”

Lucy folded her arms in front of her.  “Well, maybe if you hadn’t decided to take such a long walk you’d have gotten your work done.  Work comes first around here.  I thought you, of all people, would know that.  It’s a good thing I came here.  Shane deserves better.”

“Maybe you should get busy figuring out the sleeping arrangements for tonight.”

“What’s to figure? You and Poor Boy get the floor.  Elliot can take the front room.  There are a few comfortable looking chairs there.  I get the room of course.”

Cecily sighed.  “It’s fine by me.  Just having a roof over my head is enough.”

Lucy stared at her and drew her brows together.  She shook her head in disgust and walked away mumbling something about trash.  Cecily closed her eyes and took a deep calming breath wondering just how long Lucy planned to stay. 

Poor Boy came darting out of Shane’s bedroom again.  “I’ll be back in time for dinner,” he yelled as he ran out the house. 

Cecily laughed.  Poor Boy seemed to be a very different person since he’d been here at the house.  She noticed he didn’t check every corner of the room as he walked through.  Then again, perhaps he was too busy.

“What are you laughing about? Lucy asked as she came back into the kitchen, scowling.

“Oh, I don’t know, seeing him so excited makes me happy.  I know he enjoyed his last job, and he’s close with the restaurant’s owner, but for some reason he smiles more when he’s here.” Cecily turned to the stove again, gave the pot a stir, and when she turned back, Lucy had already gone into her room.  She put the top on the pot and marched after Lucy.

“I would’ve thought you’d have gathered your stuff by now.”

“I’ll just grab a crate and pack my belongings.  It won’t take long.  It’s a nice room, don’t you think?” Cecily didn’t wait for an answer; she went into the kitchen, grabbed an empty crate, and immediately began to fold her clothes and gently place them into it.

BOOK: Shane's Bride (Mail Order Brides of Texas #3)
10.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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