I was too wrapped this past week with last minute changes and corrections to The Farmer’s Daughter before publishing it next week to sit down and work on The Farmer’s Son much this week. Hopefully, I’ll have more time this upcoming week. I did have this short part I could share.
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The day Jason came into the store after he came back from college, Ellie couldn’t take his eyes off of him.
Had he been working out? Even more than before he left for college?
She shouldn’t be looking at him, right? Was she lusting? They’d just talked about this at Bible study.
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes briefly, then opened them again to take in the full view of him.
She wasn’t lusting. She was simply . . .she pulled her lip between her front teeth, then released it again . . . admiring God’s handiwork.
She’d seen Jason over Christmas break a few months before, but his biceps seemed even larger, even more well-toned now. There were light brown whiskers along his jawline and that coupled with the faded blue jeans, a nicely fitting gray T-shirt and a blue and white checkered flannel shirt gave him a rugged, should-be-on-the-front-of-GQ vibe.
Standing across the store, close to the new display of spring flowers, he was talking to his Uncle Walt, one hand on his hip as he gestured with the other.
Ellie was mesmerized.
She felt like she was in high school again, wishing he’d look her way, flash her one of his drop-dead gorgeous smiles.
A customer had stepped to the counter, stepping into her line of sight, blocking her view temporarily.
After the customer left, Jason was gone. Disappointment settled like a hard rock in the center of Ellie’s chest. It really was like high school again.
She’d gasped and turned, almost slamming into him as he stepped from the back office area.
He’d smiled. That smile. The smile she’d wanted to see.
He leaned one side against the doorframe, crossed his arms across his chest, “Didn’t mean to startle you, but didn’t want to miss the chance to say ‘hello’ either.”
Warmth spread from her chest to the top of her head, and she giggled.
Good grief. This was ridiculous.
She’d dated Jason from her senior year of high school up until two years ago. It wasn’t like he was someone she didn’t know. She knew him. Very well. And she wanted to know him very well again.
They’d started chatting until another customer came and then he’d left, saying he’d stop by again the next day.
He did stop by the next day.
And the day after that until he finally asked if she’d like to go to the movies.
She’d agreed and their relationship was on again, almost as if they hadn’t taken that two-year break starting at the beginning of his junior year of college.
“You all there, kid?”
Ellie looked up from the cow’s udder she’d been cleaning, pulled out of her memories.
Her dad grinned.
“I told you Patrick will be here soon, so you don’t have to help if you have somewhere to be.”
“Oh. No. It’s no problem. My mind just wandered a little.”
“To anywhere important?”
Ellie laughed softly. “Just . . . life stuff, I guess you’d say.”
Thomas Lambert nodded at his daughter, but his brow furrowed as he looked at her. “Hey, are — uh — things okay with you and Jason?”
Ellie stood and faced him. “They’re fine. Why?”
“No reason. I mean, you’ve just seemed quiet since you came back from your date with him the other night.”
Ellie wiped her hands and stepped around to reach for the milking attachment. “Actually, it was a nice date. I think I’ve just been working a lot of hours between the two jobs lately, plus trying to keep up with the ladies Bible study I’ve been teaching. I’m probably spreading myself a little thin.”
Her dad started preparing a cow across the aisle for milking. “At least you’re recognizing it this time. You’ve always pushed yourself a little too hard.”
“Someone has to since Judi never does,” she mumbled and immediately regretted it.
She couldn’t advise the ladies in her study to speak in love if she didn’t do it herself.
Her dad sighed as he worked. “Ellie, hon’, you need to let your bitterness against Judi go. It’s going to eat you up inside.”
Ellie nodded and kicked at the ground with the tip of her boot. She knew he was right, and she’d tried many times to let it go. She needed to keep trying.
She was grateful when a truck pulled up in front of the barn, interrupting their conversation. Patrick was the high school student her dad had recently hired and this wasn’t his truck, but she could see him in the passenger side. She tipped her head to see around the glare of the sun, curious who was behind the wheel. When she spotted the driver, her heart sank.
Oh. Perfect. Just perfect.
The driver stepped out of the car and touched a hand to the brim of his baseball cap. “Mornin’ Ellie. Thought you’d be at the school already.”
Did all the Tanner men have that same smile, same rugged jawline, sparkling green eyes, and naturally flirtatious charm?
It seemed so.
“Brad.” Her dad stepped into the sunlight and reached out, taking Bradley Tanner’s hand. “What brings you out today?”
Bradley jerked his head toward Patrick. “Pat’s truck broke down and I spotted him up the road here, so I gave him a lift.”
Thomas nodded. “Thanks, Brad appreciate it. How is it going? Back for a visit?”
“It’s going good. Back working at the farm.”
Ellie laughed softly. “Discovered city life wasn’t for you, huh?”
Bradley grinned, slid his hands into his front pockets. “The city couldn’t handle me.”
Ellie had already turned toward her car, so she knew he couldn’t see her when she rolled her eyes. She waved over her shoulder. “See you boys later. I’ve got a shift at the store.”
“So, I’ll see you later?”
She glanced at Bradley as she slid behind the steering wheel and cocked an eyebrow.
“I’ll be there later with some deliveries,” he said, with a grin she knew too well. “I’ll see you there.”
She shut the door with a curt nod and a forced smile, started the car and pulled away quickly.
Back in Spencer Valley for good.
“Just great,” she grumbled as she hit the dirt road leading to town. “Just what I need.”