Who I Am With You(6)

By: M. Lynne Cunning



"Chivalrous? I think you're confusing me with a damsel in distress, Mr. Kirkwood, and that's the farthest thing from the truth." Katie tried to maintain her carefree visage, but the clipped tone of her voice shone through. "And please don't call me ma'am."

"I'll refrain from calling you ma'am if you'll stop calling me Mr. Kirkwood."

Once again, a palpable silence fell between them. Katie recognized stubbornness when she saw it, and she didn't quite like having it ricocheted back at her. However, she also respected his polite assertiveness, a skill she deemed hard to find in today's not-so-tactful society. Therefore, she nodded silently, coming to an unspoken mutual agreement.

“Also,” Chad added, “I apologize if I've offended you. In no way was that my intention. My sense of humor obviously leaves something to be desired.”

Not wanting to discuss it further, she dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. “Don’t worry about it. It looks like I’ll have plenty of time to get used to your warped sense of humor anyway. If you actually want the job, that is.” It was the last chance she was going to give him to back out.

He nodded. “I do, Katie.”

With that, she held out her hand. “I guess I’ll be seeing you tomorrow then.” He took her hand in his and shook it again, this time with a little more fervor.

“Great. Thank you, Katie. I mean that.”

“We’ll see if you’re still thanking me tomorrow after ten or twelve hours of being outside.” She smirked amusedly. She was exaggerating a little bit, but even then Chad didn’t seem hesitant. Instead, he merely nodded in approval, grinning back at her. “I’d better get back to work though,” Katie added. “I have to have the horses fed before I pick up my son from the bus. It was good to meet you, Chad.”

“If you’d like, I can help you with the horses now.”

His offer halted her, and she tried to recover from her obvious misgivings. “It’s all right. Thank you, but I’ll be fine by myself.” Suddenly, she wanted nothing more than for Chad to leave her alone with only her thoughts to keep her company. He must have recognized that, because he took a step back toward his truck.

“Okay. You have a good evening, Katie. See you in the morning.”

She nodded tersely. “Definitely. You too.” Katie offered him a small wave as she watched him head back to his truck, the gravel crunching loudly under his boots as he went. She headed back toward the barn, stopping just inside the open sliding door to peer out. Hidden in the shadows of the barn interior, she watched as Chad started his truck and headed back out the laneway. When he stole one last glance in the direction she’d headed, Katie ducked back further into the shadows to avoid being seen. She watched the dust rise up in billowing clouds as his truck disappeared, wondering less about Chad’s true identity and more about what she had just gotten herself into.

***

That evening, Katie tucked Mason into bed, pulling his Ninja Turtles comforter up under his chin.

“I’ll help you put the dishes away.”

Katie laughed, shaking her head at his determination to stay awake past his bedtime. “Nice try, but thank you for the offer. You’re a sweetheart.”

“You’ll do it by yourself?”

“Of course. Then I’m going to go to bed, too, munchkin.”

“Can I help pick up the eggs in the chicken coop tomorrow?”

She suppressed a smile. Since they’d formally moved into the farmhouse three months ago, Mason’s favorite way of helping was to collect the eggs from the chicken coop. He didn’t know it, but Katie collected the bulk of them in the mornings after he’d already left for school, leaving only a basketful for him to find when he got off the bus in the late afternoon, but nevertheless, he loved doing it. “Of course. I’ll make sure our new helper doesn’t collect them before you get home.”

At the mention of Chad, Mason sat up straight in bed, all the tucked-in corners of the blankets instantly loosening again. “I can show him how to do it?”

“You’re such a big help around here, Mason, so I’m sure you could show him how to run the place.” Katie leaned over and kissed his nose tenderly. “But right now, it’s time for bed.” Reluctantly, he wriggled back under the covers, and once again Katie went through the process of tucking him in tightly. As she got up from the bed and stooped to turn the bedside lamp off, Mason’s tiny voice pierced the sudden darkness of the room.

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