Welcome to the second chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but will be fully edited once it is complete.
If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,
The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.
Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.
“You ready to learn how to paint a vehicle the right way, Mr. Stone?”
Alex winced and made a face. “Yes, as long as you stop calling me Mr. Stone. It makes me think of my dad and I’m nothing like him.”
Burt laughed and pounded his hand on Alex’s back. “Okay, then, Alex, let’s get started. The first thing we have to do is sand the paint off this old truck and get it ready for a new coat.”
“So, we can make it look new but what about the engine? Are we going to be able to save it?”
Burt’s smile faded briefly. “Save it, no. Replace it, I hope so. The biggest issue is finding a new engine for a truck this old. It’s definitely testing my scavenger-hunting skills right now.”
Alex rubbed his chin, nervous energy buzzing through him. “Let’s at least get the paint job started. Maybe we can set it up somewhere as a display if nothing else.”
Burt retrieved a large box of supplies from the other side of his garage and carried it to the truck, setting it down at Alex’s feet. “Tell me something. Is there anything else you plan to do along with presenting her with a newly refurbished truck?”
Alex laughed. “What, spending half my savings on fixing up her grandpa’s truck isn’t a big enough Christmas gift?”
Burt’s eyes glistened mischievously. “I’m not saying that, but, I mean – will you, possibly, be planning to present her with — ” He raised his hand and tapped his wedding band on his ring finger. “A lovely piece of jewelry?”
Warmth rushed from Alex’s chest up into his face. He choked on the coffee he’d been sipping and continued to cough for several seconds.
Burt’s laughter echoed off the high ceilings of the garage. “I’m guessing the answer to that question is a big no.”
Alex worked to recover, wiping a hand across his mouth. “I hadn’t really – I mean, that wasn’t part of the plan right now, no.”
Burt reached into the box for the sander. “My niece is a sweet young lady, Alex. Don’t let her slip away.”
Alex shook his head. “No, sir. I don’t intend to.”
Burt straightened and winked. “Then you might want to think about securing her long-term presence in your life with a ring. A fancy one. With a gold band and a diamond.”
Alex took a deep breath and let it out again. “No pressure or anything, though, right?”
Burt pushed a sander into his chest. “None at all. Now let’s get to work on your first surprise. You can mull the possibility of the other one over for a bit, but don’t wait too long. You’re going to need some time to pick out the ring.”
Alex swallowed hard. This harassment was most likely some sort of cosmic payback for how he’d harassed Jason about his need to propose to Ellie a couple of years ago.
There was no denying he loved Molly. More than he’d ever loved anyone before. Marriage, though? He’d seen what happened to his parents. Marriage didn’t always mean happily ever after, and it was a reality that weighed heavy on him and made him hesitant to do the one thing he wanted to do but was too afraid to.
Robert shivered, pulling the door to the shed closed behind him. In front of him sat a pile of boards he needed to cut to size, sand down, and put together in the next six weeks.
To the right of the boards sat a broken porch swing, tilted on its side and propped up against a piece of old farm equipment. A rusted chain, broken in two places, had been draped over the back of it.
A faint smile tilted his mouth upward as he looked at the broken remains of the swing.
In his mind he was sitting on that same porch swing on Annie’s parents’ front porch, the setting sun casting light pink across her skin, transforming an ordinary evening into an extraordinary one. He’d leaned forward, his 18-year-old heart pounding out a high-speed rhythm as he tilted his head to press his lips gently to hers.
The kiss was innocent and brief, but it had sent a rush of energy skittering through his entire body. He had been wanting to do that for over a year and the fact he’d gathered up his courage to do so made him proud.
Her parents had been away at an adult fellowship at the church that night, and she’d stayed home with her younger sister, who had been inside coloring and watching a cartoon. She’d leaned back from the kiss and smiled, touching a hand to her cheek and then her fingertips to her lips. Then she’d shocked him and leaned in for another kiss that he had welcomed. What was as welcome was the sound of footsteps inside the house, the front screen door bursting open, and the teasing voice of Annie’s sister Brenda.
“Are you two kissing? Eewww! That is so gross and I am totally telling mom and dad!”
Removing the swing from the front porch ten years ago had been emotionally hard for Robert, but the chains had rusted out and the boards on the seat were splintering. He’d planned to repair the swing sooner, but time had gotten away from him and now most of the boards were in even worse shape. The entire swing would need to be replaced at this point, but it would be worth it to see her face light up 33 years after they’d first sat there together.
That’s if he could finish the project in between milking cows, running the farm, and helping his sister with the family farm store.
Keeping it a secret from Annie would be hard since she could read him so easily, always able to tell when he was hiding something, even something good.
Already this morning she’d asked him what he had planned for the day, where he’d be and if he needed any help. She’d been by his side since the day they’d married, a constant support, a partner in life as much as in marriage. Her protective nature had kicked into high gear after his accident and she’d quickly joined forces with his daughter and mother in frequently checking up on him, asking if he was too tired or needed her to tag along and lend a hand.
Right now, though, what he needed most was for her to check on him less. Otherwise, she’d find out the surprise before he could reveal it on Christmas.
He started at the sound of a phone ringing. Getting used to carrying one of those smartphones around and actually answering it had definitely been a challenge in the last year but if he didn’t answer it, family members came looking for him.
The caller ID told him someone was calling from Harper’s Hardware.
“Yeah. Hey, Terry, got those bolts I ordered?”
Terry Harper let out a breath on the other end of the phone. “Wish I could say I did. I called the supplier again and it looks like those bolts are out of stock just about everywhere. There’s some kind of supply chain issue out west.”
“California, I’ll bet.”
“You said you don’t have any other bolts in stock similar, though, right?”
“Right.” Terry sounded as disappointed as Robert. “Is there any other way you can complete your project without them?”
Robert shook his head, even though the owner of Harper’s Hardware couldn’t see him. “Unfortunately, no. Anything else won’t be sturdy enough for what I need it for.”
“What’s your deadline?”
“I’d like to have it done by Christmas Eve. Sooner if possible so I can install it.”
Terry huffed into the phone. “Hmmm. Well, I’ve got one other supplier I can try. I’ll give them a call and see what we can do.”
“Thanks, Terry. I really appreciate this.”
“Of course. You know I’d do anything to help you make Annie smile. She’s a good woman. She deserves the best.”
Robert smiled, looking at the pile of wood he hoped to transform into her gift. “Yes, she absolutely does.”
A beep in his ear alerted him he had another call. He thanked Terry again and said good-bye before answering his brother Walt’s call.
Like usual, Walt didn’t bother with a greeting. “We got a problem.”
“A fuse has blown on the freezers at the store. A whole row is out.”
Robert’s eyes widened. “A whole row of freezers?”
“Yes, and if we don’t get that product somewhere cold, we’re going to lose it. Has Benny Jenson still got that freezer truck?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll give him a call. I’ll get a hold of Jason and Alex and send them up ahead of me.”
“I’ve got Brad going too. We’ll need all hands on deck.”
Robert pondered the pile of wood and huffed out a brief sigh as he hung up. He looked at the broken swing one more time before he closed the shed door and headed to his truck.