Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 25

This week I’ve been busy trying to extract Jason’s storyline from the novel because if I don’t I’m going to have an opus on my hands and I’m not interested in writing one of those. I figure I’ll plop a novella about Jason in between The Farmer’s Daughter and The Librarian, which is already partially written. I’ll share the remainder of his story here on the blog on Fiction Friday, though.

The following chapter will definitely be rewritten. I hesitated even sharing it this week because I didn’t get to rewrite or rework it as often as I usually do before I post it to the blog. Luckily (I mean that sincerely) I don’t have a huge following so not too many people will be disappionted. Haha!

For those who do read each week, stay tuned for updates or you can download the book when it is done. I’m still trying to figure out a way to offer it for free for my blog readers. I know there is a way. I just need to research it more. The final book will be much shorter than what I post here after editing and removing Jason’s story, of course.

Anyhow, to catch up on the rest of the story click HERE.

Chapter 25

 I miss you, he texted.

Her: You just saw me in the barn a couple hours ago.

Him: Two days without kissing you is too long.

Her: It is. Drive me to my grandma’s in the morning? Dad’s working on my truck.

Him: Can I kiss you before I drop you off?

Her: Maybe.

Him: I’ll meet you after milking.

Her: I can’t wait.


The leather of the Bible cover was smooth under Franny’s hand as she brushed the dust from it.

She could see better now since her surgery. She really had no excuse not to read it.

Except that whole being mad at God thing.

She sighed and slid her fingers down the spine of it and then across the front again, across her name embossed in gold on the front. The Bible had been a birthday gift from Ned 20 years ago.

“New King James,” he’d announced proudly as she unwrapped it. “Just like you asked. Not too modern. Not too old fashioned. The perfect translation.”

The perfect translation yet it still couldn’t help her translate her pain into joy or her ashes into beauty.

She held the Bible against her as she walked toward the back porch. She usually sat on the front porch, but she needed a change of scenery today and she only had a little time before her friend Betty, Annie’s mother and Molly and Jason’s other grandmother, came to help her finish a quilt they’d been working on.

The sun poured yellow and white across the paint-chipped floor, stretching shadows of trees toward her brown slippers as she walked.

“Should have brought a quilt out here with me. It’s getting chilly.”

Sitting in the chair closest to the railing she lowered herself slowly onto the soft pillow she’d sown several years ago at the sewing club and looked out toward the dirt road and the field.

Someone had parked a truck in that patch of field behind the maple tree where Ned used to hang the tire swing for the kids and just beyond the chicken coop. The area where Robert had made a makeshift entrance for the field when he drove in there to plant the corn.

“Now who would have done that? It gets muddy out there. Don’t they know that? They’ll get their truck stuck.” She lifted herself slightly and squinted toward the truck. “Is that that Stone boy who works for Robert? What’s he doing parking in the field like that? I hope he’s not out there with one of those little blond floozies again.”

She shook her head, her Bible on her lap, knowing she should open it, but her eye was drawn to movement at the truck as the passenger side door opened. Was that her granddaughter climbing out of that truck?

Franny’s eyes narrowed further down and her mouth pressed into a thin line as she watched Alex slide out of the truck, walk around the front of it, and approach Molly.

“Now, what do you think you’re doing there, young ma—ooooh my.”

The sight of Alex pulling her granddaughter close and cupping her young face in his hands before he kissed her expanded Franny’s eyes from narrowed slits to round circles.

She shook her head. “Well, now I’m not sure if I’m glad I got that surgery on my eyes or not.”

She stood when she saw Molly turn toward the house, deciding she wouldn’t let her granddaughter catch her watching her romantic visit with the farm hand.

She was sitting on the couch in the living room with the Bible on her lap trying to act innocent when Molly slipped through the back door, the screen door bouncing closed behind her.

“Hey, Grandma.”

“Hey, girl. Didn’t know I was going to see you today. What brings you over?”

Molly stayed in the kitchen, reaching for a glass in the cabinet next to the stove. “I just wanted to come and say ‘hello’. I haven’t stopped by for a while.”

“Mmmmm. I see. Well, if you stay a bit you’ll get to see both of your grandmothers. Betty is on her way over to help me finish a quilt.”

“Great! Hey, I’m going to grab myself a glass of water. You want one?”

Franny leaned back against the couch and made herself comfortable. “Yes, actually, that would be nice. It is a bit warm today.” She coughed softly. “I guess you’ve worked up a sweat before you got here.”

Molly sat a glass of ice water on the table next the couch for her grandmother and held hers as she sat next on the couch. Franny studied her second oldest granddaughter’s flushed cheeks and knew it wasn’t only the warm day bringing that light pink to her skin.

“I didn’t see your truck. Did you walk here today?”

She raised an eyebrow, waiting for Molly to answer. I’ve got you now, Molly-girl.

Molly’s uneasy expression and the quick way she adverted her eyes to study something obviously more interesting on the cushion of the couch amused Franny.

“Oh. Um. No.” Molly waved toward the window behind her. “Alex dropped me off on his way into town. He’s going to swing by later and pick me up.

Franny propped her elbow on the arm of the couch and leaned her face against her hand.

“Mmhmm…. I see.” She turned slightly toward her granddaughter, stretching an arm across the back of the couch. “So, tell me, Molly, do you love Alex Stone or was that kiss I just saw him giving you part of a summer romance?”

Molly choked on the water she was drinking, droplets sputtering from her lips. She set the glass down and wiped her mouth before looking at her grandmother with wide eyes. “I’m sorry?”

“Are you now? Well, should you be? Sorry, that is?”

Molly watched her grandmother with wide eyes and a partially opened mouth, unsure of how to respond.

“I was on the back porch and saw you two having a nice moment, you might say. Outside his truck. Just now.”


“I hope these little rendezvous of yours have only involved kissing. Or was this the first rendezvous?”

Molly looked at the ceiling and sighed. Lord, have mercy. You sent my grandmother to keep an eye on me?

“No. I mean, yes, it was only kissing, but no it wasn’t the first time.” Quieter, under her breath she added: “And I guess that eye surgery did wonders for you. Sadly.”

Franny smirked. “It was my eyes that were the issue, sweetie, not my ears. I heard that.”

Molly was glad to see some of her grandmother’s spunk had returned, though she wished it had been used on another family member instead of her.

“Does your daddy know about this?”

“No. Not yet.”

Franny sipped her water, glancing out the front window. “It should be interesting when he finds out.”

Molly swallowed water in large gulps. “Mmm, yeah. It should be.”

Franny smiled, sipping her water again. “He’s a good looking young man. That Alex.”




“Bit of a drinker, though.”

“He’s not drinking like he used to, Grandma.”

“Used to watch him drive up this road with some pretty young ladies in his truck.”


“You better not be another notch on his bed post, or I’ll have his hide.”

Molly gasped. What else had the doctors done to her grandmother at that hospital? Apparently, they had turned the dial on her sass factor all the way to ten. “Grandma!”

“I’m serious, Molly.”

“Grandma, I wouldn’t  . . . I mean, I don’t think he’s . . . he’s different now, Grandma. He’s . . . changing.”

“Some men will say whatever you want to hear. They’ll say they’ve changed when they haven’t. But I hope he really has so he’s worthy of my granddaughter.”

Molly sat her glass of water on the coffee table, pulled her legs up under her and turned so she was facing her grandmother. She casually propped her arm along the back of the couch to match her grandmother’s pose.

“You’re really enjoying yourself teasing me, aren’t you, Grandma?”

“I am but I’m also serious. I want you to be careful, Molly.”

“I am.”

Franny raised an eyebrow over her glass as she drank from it.

“Really, Grandma. I am.”

Franny sighed and lowered the eyebrow as she sat her glass back down. “Well, he’s a hard worker. That’s one good thing he’s got going for him. That and those pretty blue eyes. I’m sure you’ve noticed them.”

Molly smiled, red spreading along her cheeks again. “Yes. I have noticed those.”

“Your grandpa was a hard-worker too, you know that.”

“I do.”

Molly leaned back, hopeful the interrogation was over. She decided she needed to try to change the subject. “Grandma, how did you and grandpa meet?”

Franny knew her granddaughter was changing the subject but decided to let it go. She motioned toward the bookcase across on the other side of the room, from the couch. “On that bottom shelf over there is a photo album. Go get it for me, will you?”

Molly heard the front door open as she lifted the album from the shelf and sat back on the couch.

Hannah carried a basket into the house, walking toward the kitchen. “Ladies. What are we up to today?”

 “Your niece is just over here changing the subject.”

Molly shot her grandmother a warning scowl with a hint of a smile. Franny winked.

“What’s that?” Hannah asked from the kitchen.

“We’re just looking at photos of grandma and grandpa,” Molly said quickly.

The last thing she needed was Hannah chiming in on her relationship with Alex.

Staring back at Molly from her grandmother’s photo album was a couple Molly knew were her grandparents, despite how young they were. She could see them in their eyes, in their broad smiles, standing outside the farmhouse she was now sitting in, his arms around her. The photo was black and white. Franny was wearing a flowered dress, her hair pulled back in a 40s hairstyle. Her grandfather was handsome, square jawline, bright eyes, dark hair swept off his forehead, wearing a uniform.

“That was the day before he left for Vietnam.” Franny tapped the photo with the tip of her finger. “He’d proposed to me a month earlier.”

“What color was the dress?”

“Blue with red flowers. Your great grandmother made it for me as a graduation gift.”

Cupboard doors opened and closed in the kitchen. “I picked up some of that soup you like, Mom,” Hannah called from the kitchen. “And a couple boxes of crackers.”

Franny tapped her finger against another photo. “Here we are on our wedding day, after he came home. He was over there about a year before he was shot in the leg. Doctors didn’t think he’d walk again so he was discharged.”

Another page was turned. “Oh, and here a year and a half after our wedding, with your uncle Walt. He was such a fat baby.”

Molly and Franny laughed.

Hannah walked from the kitchen, drying her hands on a dish towel. “I put some lasagna in a container in the fridge for dinner tonight and some pork chops for lunch tomorrow.”

“Thank you much,” Franny said still looking at the album.

Hannah sat on the arm of the couch, craning her neck to look at the album on her mother’s lap. “Is that me with Robert?”

Franny smiled. “Oh, yes. You loved to have him give you piggyback rides around the yard.”

Molly looked at a photo of her grandfather standing outside the barn, a little girl about five, with reddish-brown curls cascading down her back. “Is that me?”

Hannah sat on the couch next to Molly. “Oh, you were so funny. You’d follow Dad around with that little metal bucket we used to use for the chicken feed. ‘I milk da cows now’d, Grandpa,’ you’d say, you rlittle pants falling off your diaper clad bottom.”

The three women laughed at the memory.

“And who knew that a few years later Sarah and Max would be doing the same,” Molly said, talking about her much younger cousins, now 14 and 16.

Franny traced her fingertip along a photo of Ned, mentally transported to a day 10 years earlier when he’d talked about retiring, letting the boys take over more of the operation of the farm.

“We’re going to have more time for ourselves, Franny,” he’d told her. “More time for long walks around the farm, watching fireflies in the field, maybe we can even take a trip or two.”

They had had a few years of those nights to watch fireflies and they’d even taken a couple of trips to a couple of lighthouses a few hours away before Ned became sicker, but Franny had expected many more years and in so many ways she felt robbed.

She bit her lower lip as Hannah and Molly laughed about other photographs on the page; Robert in bellbottoms, Annie’s hair when she was pregnant with Molly, Hannah’s high heeled shoes she almost fell out of on her prom night.

Molly glanced at her grandmother and noticed the tears glimmering, hovering on the edge, ready to spill over. Her laughter faded and she reached over to cover Franny’s hand with her own.

“You okay?”

Franny nodded, but closed her eyes, a tear escaping down her cheek. When she opened her mouth to speak, she found she couldn’t. An ache squeezed at her chest as more tears pooled in her eyes.

“I miss him, girls,” she whispered a few moments later. “I miss him.”

Hannah moved to kneel in front of her mother, sliding the photo album from her lap and laying it on the coffee table.

“We do too, Mom. We do too.”

Sobs shook Franny’s small body as she bowed her head. “I’ve — I’ve been mad at God.” She opened her eyes and looked at the ceiling, so she didn’t have to look at Molly and Hannah, see their looks of surprise, maybe even shock or disappointment. “It’s wrong, but I’ve been mad at him for taking Ned away from me.”

Hannah clutched Franny’s hands in hers.

“Mom. Look at me.”

Franny shook her head and closed her eyes again.


She looked at Hannah, her eyes red from crying.

“Remember what you told me after my miscarriage? You told me that it’s okay to be mad at God. You told me, ‘He’s big enough to handle it.’ Remember?”

Franny continued to cry, nodding.

She mouthed “thank you,” her voice stolen by emotion.

Molly swallowed hard as Hannah, still kneeling, laid her head in her mother’s lap and began to cry. Franny touched the top of Hannah’s head, sank her hands into her daughter’s dark hair and bent over her in a protective move, continuing to cry softly.

 Molly felt like she was interrupting a tender, private moment somehow until Franny looked over, slid her arm around Molly and pulled her close.

The front screen door squeaked open a few moments later and footsteps followed.

“Hello? Franny? You here?”

There was pause in the footsteps and then a soft gasp. “Oh…my. What have I walked into?”

Molly sniffed and looked up at her other grandmother Betty, smiling slightly through the tears. “A good cry.”

She held her hand out to Betty whose eyes softened with compassionate realization, not needing to be told what the tears were for.

She took Molly’s hand.

“Well, then, let me get in on that good cry, ladies.”

Molly held Betty’s right hand and leaned against Franny and Hannah reached up and clutched Betty’s left hand. The four women cried together, letting go of the emotions they’d been holding in for far too long.

Special Fiction Saturday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 23 Part II

I shared part one of this chapter yesterday on the blog. I apologize ahead of time for the cliff hanger.


Freshly showered and her hair piled back on her head ready to clean the cows’ stalls, Molly walked to the barn with trepidation. She had no idea how to act in front of Alex after their encounter a couple of hours earlier. She needed to find a way to get him alone and find out what he’d been up to.

What am I going to ask him? Hey, were you about to kiss me in there or am I just having some sort of out of body experience?

She looked inside the barn for Alex, but didn’t see him.

“Molly, hey.”

Molly inwardly groaned.


The brother with the worst timing ever. Similar to the mother with the worst time ever.

She could tell by her brother’s tone she was being given some kind of additional chore.

“Dad needs you and Alex to help us pick up some extra feed at Henderson’s.”

“Where are Tyler and Blake?”

“They’re down at the lower barn moving the cows back inside. So, you and Alex are up. Come on. Dad’s waiting in the truck and here comes Alex.”

Molly looked up to see Alex walking toward a truck she didn’t recognize.

Jason opened the front passenger side door of the large white pick-up. “Shotgun!”

Molly scowled. “What are you, 12?”

Her brother turned and stuck his tongue out at her as he hopped in the front seat. Alex shot her a lopsided grin and opened the back door of the extended cab of the truck. “Looks like it’s you and me in the back, my lady.

Molly quickly pulled her eyes from his, warmth rushing through her.

“Whose truck is this?” she asked, not moving.

Her dad leaned his head out of the driver-side window. “Jason Porter’s. He loaned it to me while my truck is being worked on at Bert’s. Can we end the 20- question and answer session now and just hop in so we can get this feed picked up and get back before milking?”

Alex propped an arm on the inside of the door and motioned inside with his other hand. “Shall we?”

Molly kept her eyes on him as she climbed into the cab and slid in. When he walked around to the other side and slid in next to her she quickly moved her gaze toward the front of the truck, her heart racing, wishing she could have talked to him before they’d left. She could feel him looking at her and when she glanced at him she saw his foot propped on the bottom of the door, his knee up and his arm casually laying across it while he watched her with a small smile.

She needed to distract herself.

She asked her dad how much feed he had bought, if it was new for the cows, and about some of the neighbors. Anything to take her mind off the way Alex was watching her. After the 20-minute drive to Henderson’s Hardware, listening to her dad talk about farming, they found their delivery and loaded it into the bed of the truck.

With almost all of it loaded, Jason started loading the last seven large bags himself, carrying two bags at a time, one on each shoulder. “I’ll put these extras in the back of cab.”

Robert walked back to the front door of the store to pay the invoice as Molly dragged her hand across her forehead, wiping at perspiration from the heavy lifting.

She glanced at Alex, leaning against the back of the truck, his hat pulled low on his head, his arms folded across his chest, the pose similar to how he’d been standing in the laundry room.     

“You okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re something else you know that?”

“What do you mean?”

“You work as hard as any man I’ve ever met.”

Molly smirked. “Well, that wasn’t sexist at all.”

He swallowed a laugh and then stepped toward her, lowering his voice. “Hey, we need to talk about earlier. Can we —”

“Invoice paid. Let’s head on out, guys.”

Molly tipped her head to look at the ground and followed her dad. Oh my gosh. My whole family has horrible timing.

Walking to the passenger side of the truck and opening the door she glared at the feed bags piled in the backseat of the cab. She looked at the front of the truck and noticed there were only bucket seats, nowhere else to fit another person.

“Um, Jase? Where are Alex and I supposed to sit?”

Jason rubbed his hand across his unshaven chin and jawline. “Oh. Yeah. I guess I forgot we had to fit two people back there too.” He shoved the feed bags as far as they would go against the truck door. “It will be a tight fit, but I think you two can manage.”

Molly had barely gotten her heart under control from the ride to the store. Now it was racing again at the thought of having to sit even closer to Alex for the 20-minute ride home.

Her breath caught at the wink he gave her as he leaned on the open door. “Come on, Mol. I think we can manage. You first.”

Once Alex was inside, the door closed behind him, Molly couldn’t think of anything beyond the feeling of his side pressed into hers  — she closed her eyes and drew in a breath slowly — the warm, solid, utterly masculine side of his body.

She shifted slightly so she was facing the front of the truck. No matter how much she shifted, though, his thigh was still pressed tightly against hers.

Alex’s hand shot up behind her to catch a bag of seed that slid toward her when her dad pulled out of the parking lot. He held it in place on top of the other bags and stretched his other hand in front of her to steady the bottom of the pile. Now she was not only pressed up against him but trapped between his arms, possibly for the duration of the drive.

He looked down at her with the cocky grin she’d once thought was obnoxious but had somehow become endearing to her recently. “That was close. You could have been crushed by that bag of feed.” His eyes sparkled with amusement. “And sorry. I’m probably smelling pretty bad right now.”

Smelling bad? Uh, no. He was smelling amazing despite the warm day and the fact they’d just been lifting heavy seed bags into the truck for the last half hour.

Molly shook her head, looking up at him, his face now inches from hers as he leaned against her to hold the bags in place.  “You aren’t.” Her voice faded to a whisper. “At all.”

He kept his eyes on her for several seconds, one hand holding the top of the feed in place, the other the bottom and when he moved his thumb it grazed her side through her shirt. She drew her breath in sharply and held it. He dipped his head until his mouth was close to her ear, out of sight of Jason and her dad.

She closed her eyes at the feel of his breath warm against her skin.

“We need to talk about earlier.”

She nodded.

“Can we meet somewhere later?”

She nodded again.

“Is it bad I want to finish what I started earlier and kiss you right now?”

Molly glanced at the front seat out of the corner of her eye, grateful that the country music station was blaring so loudly from the speakers.

She shook her head slowly, gasping softly when she felt his mouth on her earlobe and his hand lightly touch her side.

“Sorry,” he whispered. “I couldn’t resist. Your ear was right there. Waiting to be kissed.”

Fifteen more minutes. Just fifteen more minutes and I can get out of this truck, clear my head, and make sense of all this.

Jason turned down the radio. “You two okay back there? Enough room?”

Alex lifted his head from where he’d lowered it to kiss her ear, his eyes on hers as a playful smile tilted his mouth upwards. “Yep. Little bit cramped but we’re doing just fine.”

Jason turned part way to look back at them. “Are you two whispering about something?”

Molly smothered a smile behind her hand. She knew she couldn’t answer without laughing and was grateful when Alex answered for them.

“Yes, actually. I was just telling Molly about how much you snore at night and she was just telling me she knows all about it. She was completely sleep deprived as a child thanks to your freight train impersonation.”

Jason scoffed. “Whatever. You should tell her what a pig you are to live with.  Which reminds me, it’s your turn to wash the dishes and don’t wait a week like last time.”

“As long as you didn’t eat those disgusting tuna fish sandwiches again and leave the bowl in the sink.”

Molly looked toward the front of the truck, at the back of Jason’s head after he turned toward the front again. “You know, Jason, you wouldn’t have to put up with Alex as a roommate if you would just propose to Ellie already.”

Jason groaned to cover the nervous butterflies in his stomach. He and Ellie had agreed to tell their families about their engagement in a couple of weeks at the annual firemen’s fundraiser, which was the only barn dance in the area. Alex had agreed he wouldn’t tell anyone until the official announcement.

“Seriously?! What is with everyone lately?”

“We just want to see you happy, buddy.” Alex winked. “And I just want to sleep without hearing your snoring. Let Ellie deal with it.”

Jason turned to look at him. “You know I’m kicking you out when I get married, right?”

“Did you hear that, Dad?” Molly laughed. “There is hope, yet. He just said when he gets married.”

Robert playfully punched his son in the arm. “Hallelujah!”

Jason shook his head, laughing at what the good-natured ribbing.

Molly looked at Alex again, lowering her voice. “Jason’s right, though. He’ll probably move Ellie in with him. Where will you go then?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “Haven’t thought that far ahead. Never do. Planning makes my head hurt.”

He leaned his head close to hers again, his lips grazing her ear as he spoke. “Wherever it is, though, it won’t be far away from you.”

The truck swerved abruptly, and Molly fell against Alex, her hand falling on his knee to steady herself.

“Whoa!” Robert called from the front. “That was a huge deer! Everyone okay?”

Alex smiled at Molly, who realized her hand was still on his knee. “All good back here.”

Molly pulled her hand away quickly and propped it on her own knee, her cheeks flushed bright pink. She focused her gaze out the windshield, but she could see Alex watching her with a Cheshire Cat grin out of the corner of her eye.

Her heart beat faster with every mile that passed. Alex kept quiet for the rest of the ride, but his smile had faded and his hand slipped off the lower part of the seed bag pile more than once to graze her side. She was trying to control her emotions, but her thoughts were jumbled. There was also an insane urge pulsating through her to push him up against the inside of the truck door and press her mouth to his, ending this insane cat and mouse game he’d started. She was definite a move like that wouldn’t go over very well with her dad and brother, though.

Robert parked the truck next to the barn, near the back door. “Okay, kids, let’s get these unloaded and then everyone can head in for some lunch.”

Fifteen minutes later, when the feed was unloaded and stacked in the barn, Molly headed toward her truck.

“I’m going to sit up on the hill and read a book while I eat lunch,” she called over her shoulder. “See you guys later.”

“And I’ve got to run to town for some errands,” Alex called over his shoulder, walking toward his own truck. “Be back in a bit.”

Robert waved toward them on his way to the house, Jason falling in step next to him “Sounds good.” He patted Jason on the shoulder. “I guess it’s just you and me eating Mom’s friend chicken for lunch.”

Jason pumped his fist in the air. “Yes! More for me!”  

. “Just save some for your poor, starving father, big boy.”

Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter, Chapter 22

I’ve enjoyed working on this story. I’ll be honest that there are some weeks I’m behind on writing and I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull off a chapter for Friday, but I work on the novel anyhow because I deserpately want to escape from the real world right now. I need to focus on something other than the news. As much as I try to stay away from it, the news seems to creep in – either by over hearing someone complain about it or reading the letters to the editor from the local paper or a family member mentioning it in passing. So right now I have my fiction world to live in and then when I’m in reality (don’t worry, I’m still in reality 90 percent of the time *wink*) I’m planning for homeschool that starts next week.

As always, this is a work of fiction in progress. What I share on the blog is not the final draft of the novel or novella I’m working on. I reread, rewrite, and rework the stories a few times before I finally publish them on Kindle or Barnes and Noble. I also try to fix typos, plot holes, and punctuation issues in the final draft and have it proofed and edited. If you see errors in the chapters I post on the blog, feel free to send me a note on my contact form (link at the top of the page) so I can make the corrections, if I haven’t caught them aready.

To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE.

Sweat pooled in areas Alex didn’t even know it could pool as he stacked haybales, shoveled manure, and laid straw in the stalls. He had decided the harder he worked the more he could take his mind off how stupid he’d acted two nights ago. It was also taking his mind off the way Molly kept watching him with a concerned expression. And off Molly in general.

It was two days before she finally said something. She stood next to the wagon, hands on her hips, head tipped, and raised an eyebrow. “You’ve been quiet this week. You okay?”

He stacked another haybale. “Yep. Fine.”

“You sure?”


She caught her lower lip between her teeth and let it out again. “Are you mad at me?”

Alex lifted a haybale, then set it down and looked at her with a furrowed eyebrow. “No. Why would I be mad at you?”

“I don’t know. You’ve barely talked to me the last couple days.”

Alex stretched to place the haybale on the top of the pile, turned toward her and used the bottom of his t-shirt to wipe sweat from his face. The move revealed smooth, tanned skin below his belly button and just above his jeans, which made Molly draw in a quick, sharp breath.

She looked away quickly so he wouldn’t notice her staring.

He finished wiping his face and dropped the edge of the shirt, placed his hands on his hips and shrugged again. “I’ve just had a lot on my mind. I’m not mad at you.”

Molly wasn’t sure if she should ask what he’d had on his mind or not. Maybe he would think she was prying.

She cleared her throat, shifted her weight to her other leg and kicked at a pebble on the barn floor, focusing on it instead of his blue eyes with flecks of green. She felt like she was in high school again. Why couldn’t she just talk to him like an adult, like she had for the last five years, instead of acting like something had changed between them?

“Oh. Okay. Well, good then. I’ll let you get back to work.”

Alex’s gaze drifted through the open barn door and followed the path of a car pulling into the driveway. He nodded his head toward it as Molly looked at him. “Looks like you have a visitor.”

Ben’s black BMW looked out of place among the beat-up farm trucks and tractors, with the silo that desperately needed a new coat of paint as a backdrop. In fact, Ben looked out of place in a pair of khakis, a dress shirt, black dress shoes and a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses.

He stepped out of the car, looking in her direction as he slid the sunglasses off and smiled.


“Hey,” she said back as she walked toward him. “What brings you to Casa De Tanner?”

He laughed, that deep throated laugh that used to send a tingle of excitement through the center of her chest.

“Your parents actually. They invited my parents for dinner and told them to bring me along. I guess they all felt sorry for sad Ben sitting around without any friends.”

Molly held her hand up to block the sunlight and watched Ben’s dad pull his modest gray sedan behind his son’s luxury car.

“Oh, okay. Well, I had no idea. It will be nice to have you.”

Ben lifted a hand briefly in greeting to Alex who was now standing in the doorway. “Alex, hey. How’s it going?”

Alex nodded briefly, his jaw tight. “Fine.”

“Looks like you’ve been working hard today.”

Alex rolled his tongue along the inside of his cheek, contemplating biting it to keep himself from saying what he really wanted to say. “Uh-huh. Farms are like that. The hard work and all.”

Ben cleared his throat and made a clicking noise with his mouth like he was trying to think what to say next. “Yep. Well, anyhow . . . good luck with that. Talk to you later.”

Alex turned back toward the barn, his eyes narrowing and his muscle tense. “Yeah. Talk to you later.”

Annie stepped onto the front porch of the farmhouse, an apron around her waist. “Alex,” she called. “why don’t you head up and get a shower and come back for dinner. It will be a bit before it’s ready.”

Alex paused and leaned one arm against the barn door. “Ah, no. Thank you, though. I’ve got some more bales to stack before it gets dark. Take a rain check?”

“I’ll hold you to it. Just make sure you get something to eat, okay? I don’t want you making yourself sick out there.”

Annie turned her attention to Ben and his parents. “Sylvia, Richard. Hello. Ben, good to see you again.”

Ben and his parents followed Annie into the house and Molly turned to watch Alex walk back into the barn. She felt a pang of disappointment that he wouldn’t be joining them for dinner. He was a regular sight at their table but there were days he’d missed, of course, so why did it bother her so much he wouldn’t be at the table tonight?


“That was an amazing dinner as always, Mrs. Tanner.”

Annie cleared away Ben’s dish and reached for Molly’s as well. “Thank  you, Ben. That’s nice of you, but please call me Annie. We’re both adults now.”

Ben laughed softly, pink flushing along his cheeks. “Of course, Annie. Old habits die hard.”

Annie winked. “Similar to how we can’t ever seem to call our teachers by their first name even when we’re adults.”

Everyone agreed that was true and laughed, sharing their own similar stories before everyone wandered to the living room to sit and chat.

Molly found her eyes wandering out the side window, toward the barn, wondering how Alex was, if he was okay. After several moments she excused herself to the front porch to think, letting Ben and her parents catch up and discuss politics, the weather, religion, and probably ten other things people aren’t supposed to talk about in mixed company. Luckily, Robert and Annie could talk about those topics with Ben and his family because most of the time they were all on the same page.

She sat in one of the chairs facing the ban and looked for Alex, to see if his mannerisms had changed, if he seemed any less tense than he had the last couple of days.

“Someone looks thoughtful today.”

Ben’s smile was something between Hollywood heart throb and boy next door. Once upon a time that smile would have made Molly lightheaded and giggle. Those days were long gone and she wondered if he knew that or if someday she’d have to tell him.

  Ben sat in a matching chair across from her. Her grandfather, Ned, had made the matching chairs as a 25th anniversary gift for her parents. Molly was glad she had chosen one of them instead of the porch swing that held way too many memories for her involving the man standing across from her.

Ben was a man now, something that Molly needed to remember. He wasn’t the boy who had broken her heart all those years ago and he’d already apologized for that. She needed to let it go.

Ben had changed, he’d grown, he’d matured, emotionally as well as physically. His jawline was more square now, his shoulders more broad, his face revealing almost a decade of hard-learned lessons which luckily hadn’t stolen any of his good looks.

“Have you found an apartment yet?”

Ben nodded as he took a drink from his glass of water. “Yep. Moving in next week. It’s about a block from my office.”

Molly ran her hand along the smooth wood arm of the chair as movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. She glanced across the yard at Alex walking back into the barn then turned her attention back to Ben.

“What about you, Molly? Have you thought about getting your own place?”

Molly thought back to her conversation a few days earlier with Liz about moving in with her to help with the baby. “Yeah, actually. I have.”

“You’re old enough to live on your own now, you know?” Ben winked and set the glass on the small wooden table between the chairs. Water droplets from condensation dripped down the side of his glass, reminding Molly how much the humidity had spiked in the last couple of hours.

She sighed and smiled, knowing he was teasing but feeling a twinge of annoyance. “Yes, Ben, I do realize that.”

Ben’s smile faded. He must have sensed the tension in her response. “Listen, I’m just teasing. Don’t take me seriously. I know you like to be closer to the farm so you can help.”

“Oh, Ben, I know you’re kidding.” She waved at him in a dismissive gesture. Her aggravation wasn’t really directed at him. It was at herself for never actually making a change and letting her life grow stale and predictable instead.

 “I do like being close to the farm but, yes, I am looking at finding my own place soon. It won’t be too far away, though. I still plan to keep working on the farm. For now, anyhow.”

“For now?”

Molly shrugged. “I should probably figure out what I want to do with my life at some point.”

Ben leaned back in the chair, propping his ankle on his knee and laying an arm casually across his ankle.

“Isn’t this what you want to do with your life? There’s nothing wrong with working a farm.”

“No, there isn’t but sometimes I wonder if there is something else out there for me.”

“Like what?”

Molly held her glass between two hands, rubbing her thumbs along the top of it. Her eyes drifted toward the open barn door, focusing on Alex has he lifted more hay bales. She wondered what was on his mind while he worked, why his eyebrows were furrowed and his jaw set tight.

He must be almost done with that load. He’d been working all afternoon. He’d shed the button up shirt, hanging it over the fence outside, and his white tank top was stained with dirt and sticking to his skin. Sweat glistened across the back of his neck and across his biceps. He probably smelled awful, but to Molly he looked amazing and she was having trouble remembering what Ben had asked her.

“Um . . .Hello?” A soft laugh from Ben snapped her back into the moment as she realized she still had no idea what she would do with her life besides farming. “Honestly, I have no idea yet.”

Watching Alex instead of talking to Ben was rude and she knew it. She needed to focus her attention on her visitor.

“So, have you figured out what you’re going to do about Angie and Amelia?”

Ben paused as he drank his water and grinned. “Well, you’re a bit more blunt than you used to be.”

Molly laughed, warmth rushing to her cheeks. “Oh. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to —”

Ben waved his hand, smiling. “No. It’s fine. But, no, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet. I know I can’t keep burying my head in the sand, though. I can’t keep pretending this situation isn’t looming over me like a dark cloud.”

“Don’t you want to know what she’s like?”

Ben looked confused for a moment.

“Amelia, Ben. Don’t you want to know what she’s like? She is your daughter.”

Ben cleared his throat and shifted forward slightly then leaned back in the chair. Red had colored his cheeks and the tops of his ears. “Um, yeah. I do actually. I’m terrified, though. What if she hates me? Even worse, what if she likes me and I screw it up?” He winced. “And then there’s Angie. I know she hates me so that will be plenty awkward.”

A warm breeze brushed Molly’s face and she looked up to see the dark clouds she’d been expecting finally inching toward the farm.

“It will be awkward, yes, but if I was in your shoes, I couldn’t imagine spending my life with that huge ‘what if’ hanging over my head. I’d also hate to think of you having to face Amelia in the future and answering her if she asks you why you never tried to meet her.”

The lines along Ben’s eyes crinkled as he stood from the chair and stretched his arms over his head. He leaned against the porch railing, sliding his hands in his front jean pockets.

“You always were good at driving a point home.”

Not always, Molly thought as she watched Alex lift his tank top off, wipe his face and chest with it and toss it into the back of his truck before reaching for the button up short sleeve shirt and slid it back on it again. He stood in the doorway of the barn, his back to her as he buttoned it.

Ben coughed against his hand in an attempt to grab her attention.

“So, Alex has been here awhile, huh?”

She looked at him, but her mind was clearly somewhere else for several seconds.

“Huhm? Oh, yeah. About five years. He was Jason’s roommate in college.

“Seems like a good guy. Hard worker.”

“Yeah. He is.”

Ben jerked his head toward the barn. “How long have you had feelings for him?”

“What? I don’t ha —”

“Your cheeks are flushed, Molly and you haven’t been able to take your eyes off of him the whole time we’ve been talking.”

Molly coughed nervously. “It’s not that. It’s just, he seemed down today so I was just wondering if he was okay.”

Ben raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Uh-huh. I see.”

“What? I’m serious.”

Ben nodded, his expression still serious, his eyes focused on hers. “I hope he’s good enough for you.”

Molly pulled her gaze from his and looked at the porch floor, shaking her head slightly. “He’s just a friend.”

“We’re not dating anymore, Molly. You don’t have to lie to me.”

He stepped closer to her, reached down, and briefly touched her under her chin, bringing her eyes back to his. “More importantly, don’t lie to yourself. That look in your eye when you were watching him? It speaks the truth about how you feel about him. If you care about him, tell him. Don’t be like me.”

The sky opened up after Ben and his parents left and soaked the ground, bringing much needed rain to the wilting corn crop in the field. From her bedroom window, Molly watched Alex walk to his truck, climb inside and drive away, thinking about what Ben had said.

Was she lying to herself about how she really felt about Alex? She chewed on a fingernail as the truck disappeared down the road toward Jason and Alex’s house, knowing she was. Her feelings for him were definitely developing into something stronger than friendship. It sounded so cliché, but most days he was the first person she thought of in the morning and the last person she thought of at night.

She rubbed her eyes. They were dry and red. She needed sleep. It was early, the sun had barely set, but she had a long day ahead of her, including a trip to the hospital after milking to check on Liz.

As she crawled under the covers she felt relief about one thing at least — she wouldn’t have to tell Ben she didn’t have feelings for him anymore. It was clear he already knew.

Extra Fiction Thursday: Quarantined, a novella, Chapter 5

As always, this is a work of fiction in progress. What I share on the blog is not the final draft of the novel or novella I’m working on. I reread, rewrite, and rework the stories a few times before I finally publish them on Kindle or Barnes and Noble. I also try to fix typos, plot holes, and punctuation issues in the final draft and have it proofed and edited. If you see errors in the chapters I post on the blog, feel free to send me a note on my contact form (link at the top of the page) so I can make the corrections, if I haven’t caught them aready.

Following along with the story and missed a week or want to follow along? Find the other chapters HERE.

Have some thoughts on the story itself? Let me know in the comments.

Chapter 5

Cassie climbed under the covers and flopped on her back to stare at the ceiling, moonlight cutting a square across it from the window.

What was with all of Matt’s weird questions tonight? The situation with Liam and Maddie must be rattling him even more than she realized. She rolled to her side, fluffed up her pillow, hugged it and tried to get more comfortable.

It wasn’t working.

Her mind was racing too much.

Maybe Liam and Maddie’s situation was rattling her too.

She was thinking about them and their marriage, and viruses and if her family was safe and how to get groceries if they had to shelter in place for even longer and the media and what they’d be saying for the rest of the week with Matt and his staff having still worked for a week after they knew they’d been exposed to a contagious virus and  . . . .

She squeezed her eyes shut, sucked in a deep breath, and held it for several seconds before letting it out again. She had to calm down. What was that one relaxation technique she’d heard about again? Breathe in six seconds, hold five? Or was it, breathe in seven and hold six and then let it out for the count of four or was it letting it out for the count of seven? Oh, forget it. Trying to remember the technique was making her even more anxious.

She closed her eyes and tried to focus on one worry at a time instead.

She couldn’t deny that there were days she regretted agreeing with Matt that he should run for the senate in the first place. They both had such high hopes six years ago; hopes that they could make changes for the voters who had put their faith in Matt, while not being changed themselves. But it was impossible not to be changed by the influences of Washington, D.C. Nothing in this city was like the small upstate New York town Cassie had grown up in and it was also nothing like Stevensville, Ohio where she and Matt had lived before he had been elected.

Stevensville, Ohio was small. Very small. Like everyone knows your name and your business small. It was also still her and Matt’s home in the summers when they left the city behind for much needed breaks. Only that break wouldn’t be coming this year. Not with all the craziness about viruses and quarantines and freezes on travel. Cassie wanted to cry but she was afraid to because once she started, she might not stop. She was homesick for New York and Ohio, for her own family, for Matt’s family, for the familiar she’d left behind when Matt was elected six years ago.

She sighed and opened her eyes, looking at the other side of the bed where Matt slept most nights of the week, unless he was working late and then he stayed at John’s apartment, closer to his office. She touched cool sheets, thinking of how many nights they’d laid here next to each other, back to back, rarely speaking because she knew he needed his sleep, because she knew he needed to get up early in the morning, because she didn’t want to burden him anymore than he was already burdened.

But she missed him. She missed him holding her and them talking about their future, instead of him telling her about the stress he’d been under that day and then falling into a fitful sleep. She missed his hand on her cheek as he moved closer late at night, a small, mischievous smile that signaled he wasn’t ready for sleep yet.

She missed long, slow kisses, roaming hands, but as much as the physical, she missed the emotional connection they’d once had. The connection when Matt wanted to talk with her before anyone else, when he didn’t want to make a decision unless he’d asked her, and when she’d known so much about his day, his job and his life that it was as if they were thinking like one person.

“Cassie, are you sure you’re okay with this?” he’d asked eight and a half years ago when he’d considered running for Senate.

“Yeah. I am.”

That’s what she’d said, but she really hadn’t been sure she was okay with it. She was okay with Matt wanting to help the people of his small hometown and the surrounding counties by becoming a senator from Ohio, but she wasn’t really sure she was okay with the lives of their entire family being upended. She’d given up her social worker career four years before, deciding to spend more time at home with the children. Matt’s career as a lawyer had exploded and from there he’d become involved in county politics and then state politics. When the state’s Republican party came to him and asked him to run for the senate, he’d turned them down at first. But after several meetings, a few months of consideration, and talking to Cassie, his parents, his sister and brother, and his pastor, he’d decided to step into an already contentious race for the seat.

From the moment he’d announced to the day he won the seat the lives of the Grant family had been a whirlwind. After the election, the moving began. Tyler had been 7 at the time, Gracie 3 and Lauren was born in Washington. Every effort was made to ensure that the children and Cassie would see Matt as much as possible, despite his job, but there were weeks they still barely saw him at all.

The idea of having the family living close had been a good one, but the execution of it had started to fail within six months. Meetings, conferences, sessions that ran late into the night, and media-made emergencies were constant, taking over every aspect of Matt and Cassie’s life. Matt still made every effort to attend baseball games, dance recitals, and Saturday mornings at the park, in addition to balancing his responsibilities as a senator, but that left little to almost no time for him and Cassie.

For the most part, Cassie was okay with being the last in line for his attention. She preferred he spend as much time as he could with the children during their formative years. This was a season of life, not a new normal. Time for them, as a couple, would come later, when things slowed down.

If things slow down, Cassie thought, panic suddenly gripping her, like a heavy weight in the center of her chest. If Matt gets reelected we could have another six years of this and maybe even another six after that. . .It’s already been six, I don’t know if I can take another six.

She shuddered, pulling the covers up around her, even though it wasn’t that cold in their bedroom. She tried to imagine six more years, or even more, of accusations against her husband, and sometimes even her, in the press. She tried to imagine six more years of barely seeing her husband; of feeling like her husband’s nanny, even though she loved her children desperately; and of constituents confronting her husband when they were out in public, complaining about this or that change he’d promised he’d make if elected but still hadn’t been able to.

Tyler would be graduating high school at the end of six years. So much of his life had already been consumed by Matt’s position. Would he have to endure it during his high school years as well?

Cassie knew it wasn’t only the quiet life she and Matt had led before he’d entered politics that she was homesick for.  She was homesick for time alone with Matt. She was tired of sharing him with his staff, his fellow congressmen, his constituents, and the press. She was tired of feeling like she was second in line for his attention, even though she knew he didn’t mean to make her feel that way.

Who knows, she thought, feeling sleep finally settling on her. Maybe this quarantine will be good for not only Liam and Maddie but for Matt and me. Maybe I’ll actually get him to myself for once.


The election had been brutal. There was no denying it. Worse than the campaigning, the traveling, the long days, had been the media coverage. Non-stop negative stories aimed at destroying Matthew Eben Grant before he could even open his mouth. The media machine was out of control. There was no denying it, especially after that first month of campaigning when one of the state’s biggest newspapers had questioned his staff’s lack of diversity. Those questions had led to him refusing to answer questions of his campaign staff’s ethnic backgrounds and horrified when a newspaper had called the head of his campaign his “one token person of color,” as if she hadn’t been qualified for her job simply on the merits of her professional experience.

From that story it was a quick jump to combing through Matt and Liam’s social media accounts, searching for anything that would sink them in the political arena. One rogue satirical Tweet from his college days, labeled as sexist by feminists, dominated headlines for a few days, but as it always was with the current 24-hour/7-day a week news cycle, the press had turned it’s hungry eyes to another candidate, another subject to devour. the following week.

The polls showed Matt losing and big, right up until election day, but the night of the election the numbers had come in fast and furious late in the evening. Matt had won by a landslide. Apparently the silent voters, the one who didn’t want to be yelled at or condemned for their opinions, had come out in droves and sent a hard message home to the incumbent and his political party: “We’ve had enough of the status quo and of corrupt politicians with empty promises and even emptier apologies.”

Matt knew, though ,that in less than a year he could be in the same boat and it could be his rear end with the boot of the voter against it as they shoved him out the door. Voters preferences were fickle and ever changing and some days nothing a senator did could make anyone happy. Matt had only been a senator for six years, but it felt like it had been 100. Now he had a small idea why so many presidents went gray while in office, though thankfully he didn’t have the same pressure as a president.

He yawned, stretching his arms out as if he intended to stand up and head up to bed, but he didn’t stand up. Instead he fell back on the couch, remote in hand. He surfed streaming services, suggested shows and movies scrolling by, but he wasn’t really seeing any of it. His mind had slipped back to five and a half years ago, to near the end of the election when the news stories were at their worst. He was being called a racist, anti-woman, anti-this, anti-that. He had lost count of all the names they had called him.

“Is this even worth it?” he asked Cassie one night in bed, snuggled close against her.

“If you can get in there and really help facilitate some change, then, yes, it’s worth it,” she assured him.

But then the win came and with it came more news stories, personal attacks against him and his family. The worst came when one of his staff members brought him an article about Cassie, accusing her of being fired from her previous job.

He was furious. “Where did they even get that story? Cassie was never fired from her job. She left to support me and be with the children.”

Scanning the story, he saw a former co-worker of Cassie’s was quoted and offered only summations, not facts. Still, the headline suggested the accusations were true. It wouldn’t have upset Matt as much if it had been about him instead of Cassie. He’d grown accustomed to being accused of inappropriate acts or offensive words, or anything else the press could come up with, but Cassie?

Cassie was off limits.

Only she wasn’t off limits.

She wasn’t off limits because he had made her fair game when he’d decided to accept the party’s urging to run.

He’d dragged her out into the open and essentially thrown her to the wolves.  

The story had been pushed to the side quickly in a few days with another news story, about another politician, overshadowing it. One of the only good aspects of the 24/7 news cycle was how fast paced it was. It meant a story that was in the forefront one day was gone by the next and even though the story on Cassie had faded fast, he still felt incredible guilt about how much he’d exposed his family during this process.

He’d always wanted to protect Cassie. Now he didn’t know how to. In a hyper-political atmosphere that was beginning to suffocate him, the negativity was coming from every side.

His phone rang and he glanced at the ID before answering it. He let out a sigh of relief when he saw it wasn’t John, a member of the Senate or the press trying to reach him.

“Hey, bro,” he said to Liam. “You hanging in there?”

“Yeah. Locked myself in my office. You?”

“Yeah. Feels weird just to be sitting at home.”

“A good weird or a bad weird?”


“Things okay with Cassie? The kids?”

“Kids are doing great. They don’t know much about what’s going on. Cassie’s . . . okay, I guess. She seems tired.”

“Is she mad at you for all this?”

Matt laughed. “She doesn’t seem mad, really. She just seems like Cassie. She’s cooking for the kids and me, cleaning, checking on her parents.”

“Did you ask her if she was okay?”

“Yeah, she said she’s fine.”

Matt heard a small laugh on the other end of the phone.

“What?” he asked. “No. Don’t even say it. You think ‘I’m fine’ is code for something else.”

“You know I’m no expert on women,” Liam started.

“Uh, obviously.”

“But I am learning during this that apparently when a woman says she’s okay, she’s really not,” Liam continued. “I didn’t know that Maddie was struggling, Matt. I just thought she hated me, that I was doing everything wrong, but I think she feels — I don’t know. Abandoned? She pretty much told me she feels like I abandoned her.”

Matt sighed, laying on his back, staring at the ceiling. He slid his arm behind his head. “In what way did you abandon her?”

“Staying at work too much, for one. She says I worked more so I didn’t have to face us losing the babies.”

“Did you?”

“No, I . . .”

Liam’s voice trailed off and then there was a brief silence. “Yeah,” he said finally. “Yeah, I did. When you asked me to be your press secretary I jumped at it because I knew I would be so busy I wouldn’t have to think about losing the babies, about that empty hole in the center of my chest.”

Matt grimaced as he sat up, propping his elbow against his knee. “Liam, I’m sorry I was so focused on the election, on me really, that I didn’t notice all you were going through.”

“Dude, I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. I didn’t even admit to myself how much it was bothering me.”

“I know, it’s just — I’m really starting to realize how out of touch I’ve been with what really matters in the last few years; you and Maddie, the kids. Cassie. When I decided to run, I pulled all of you —”

“Matt. No. You were doing what you felt was right. And it wasn’t just you who decided to run. We all decided. As a family. We knew this could be rough. Yeah, it’s a little worse than we expected with all the extra political drama going on these days, but we are still in this together. It’s okay. We’re all okay. Well, we will be okay, one way or another anyhow. None of this is your fault.”

Matt flopped back on the couch again. “I know it isn’t. But I still feel . . . guilty. I don’t know. What I do know is that all of this, this forced slow down, has opened my eyes up to what I’ve been missing lately. I don’t like that our family, or our country, is going through this, but it’s putting some things in perspective for me.”

Liam sighed on the other end of the phone. “Yeah. It’s doing the same for me.”

Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 20

A warning to readers this week: don’t panic during some of this and remember I don’t write sex scenes. Just keep going. It’s all going to be okay.

That’s all I will say for this week.

To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE. To catch up on Quarantined (a novella in progress) click HERE.

Jason’s heart was racing, his palms damp with sweat. What had he been thinking? Was he really going to do this tonight? Was he really going to tell Ellie about his past and let the chips fall where they may?

He took a deep breath and tightened his hands on the steering wheel until his knuckles were white. Yes, he was. He was doing this because he needed the burden off his shoulders, and he needed to know how Ellie would feel about him after he told her. He couldn’t keep waiting, torturing himself with worry of what might be.

He and Ellie had gone to school together since junior high, but it wasn’t until his junior year he really noticed her, or she had noticed him, or he guess he would say they noticed each other. It was in history class and Mr. Prawly and placed them in a group together to work on a project. Before that they’d seen each other at 4H meetings or when Robert took Jason with him to pick up equipment he borrowed from Ellie’s dad Jerry. Late one night after working on their project about Pennsylvanian history they found themselves laughing about their shared interest in old movies.

“Cary Grant is the epitome of old fashioned suave and charm,” she’d said, pretending to swoon, her hand against her forehead two nights later when they watched North by Northwest together at his parents.

He grinned, a teasing glint in his eye. “I agree, but I’m the epitome of modern suave and charm, right?”

She’d tipped her head back and laughed and he wasn’t sure if she was enjoying his humor or mocking him.

“Ginger Rogers was a very underrated actress,” he announced after they watched Vivacious Lady at her parents’ house.

“I agree,” she had said and smiled.

Wow. That smile. That smile that was for him and only him. It took his breath away.

That soft, long black hair against that pale skin, those large dark eyes and her sweet round face all together with that smile was a knockout combination.

He’d taken her to the movies twice, dinner once, lunch three times and attended youth group with her every Wednesday for two months before he’d finally worked up the courage to kiss her. And now, here he was working up the courage to ask her to marry him.

Those two years in college when he’d been without her, when they had decided to take a break from dating and see “how things developed” as she had said, were the loneliest and most confusing two years of his life. He’d felt like a ship out at sea without a compass. Returning home from college, to the farm and to her had anchored him again. He couldn’t even imagine losing that anchor again.

God, please don’t let me lose her.

 He caught sight of movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his head to see her stepping off the front porch, down the steps, watching him as she walked, her smile broad. His breath caught in his throat. His eyes followed the length of her body as she walked, and he bit his lower lip. Even after all these years she still took his breath away. She was so beautiful.

“I can’t do this, God,” he whispered as she reached the truck and opened the door.

“Hey,” she said after she slid into the truck seat and had slid her arms around his neck. Her mouth was on his before he could ask God for strength for later when he confessed to her about his past.

His mind was clouded by her kiss and her presence. She smelled of lilac and vanilla scented shampoo. The skin along her neck was soft and smooth as he kissed it and then moved his mouth up along her jawline, her ear and back to her mouth.

“We should probably head out to the restaurant,” she said breathlessly a few moments later. She tipped her head to one side, her hand against his chest. “Before we go too far.”

Jason cleared his throat and nodded. “Right. Of course.”

He grinned as he turned back to the steering wheel and she hooked her seatbelt. “But it wasn’t as if things would get too far with us parked outside your parent’s house. Not before your dad shot me.”

Ellie laughed. “Jason, Daddy wouldn’t shoot you.”

“I beg to differ.”

Ellie shook her head. “He loves you. You know that.”

“But he wouldn’t love me making out with you in my truck.”

“No, probably not,” Ellie said with a wink. “Unless we were married, of course.”

Jason swallowed hard. Married. There it was. The word. The one word hovering in his mind 24/7, waking him up at night, giving him near panic attacks daily.

“Right,” he said nervously, pushing his foot on the accelerator slightly, willing his truck to move them faster toward the restaurant where they could talk about the food, the weather, the farm, anything but marriage.

The drove in silence for a few moments, farmland and trees and open fields passing them by.


Hurry up, truck.


“Are you ever going to ask me to marry you?”

Jason’s hand jerked on the steering wheel as he nearly jumped out of his seat from shock. The truck swerved over the center line and then back again into the right lane. Ellie gasped and clutched her hand around Jason’s upper bicep as he regained control of the truck.

She was breathless when she spoke. “Oh gosh. Sorry. I just — I shouldn’t have blurted it out like that, but I knew if I didn’t say something now, I would lose my courage.”

Jason slowed the truck down and pulled off into an empty parking lot in front of an abandoned convenience store. He slid the gear into park and turned to look at Ellie.

“What would make you ask that right now?” he asked, his eyebrows furrowed.

Was she reading his mind? They’d been together so long he wouldn’t be surprised.

“I — I don’t know. I just —” Tears rimmed her eyes. “I’m sorry, Jason. Are you angry?”

Jason shook his head. “No. Not at all. I’m sorry.” He reached over and took her hand in his. The frightened expression on her face sent stabbing guilt shuddering through him. He let go of her hand and cupped his palm against her face.

“It’s not that at all. It’s just that I was actually going to talk to you about that tonight and I was surprised that it was on your mind too.”

A tear slipped down Ellie’s cheek and his heart ached even more. He swiped at it with the palm of his thumb.

“Of course, it is on my mind, Jason. I’ve wanted to marry you since high school. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to have your children. But sometimes I feel like you don’t want any of that at all.”

“No, El, that’s not true. I do want that. All of it.”

“Then why aren’t you asking me to marry you?”

“I — well, I was going to —”

Ellie’s eyes grew wide and her eyebrows shot up. “Oh! Were you going to ask me tonight and I totally ruined your plans?”

“Well, I —”

“Oh, Jason! I’m so sorry! I ruined your plan.”

“No, that’s okay. It’s just —”

Her mouth was on his again before he could explain. The expression of sheer delight on her face when she pulled back, her arms still around his neck, sent warmth  bursting through his chest.

“You know I don’t need a big fancy proposal. All I want is you and of course I’d say ‘yes’ no matter how you asked.”

She was kissing him again and he was forgetting what he’d been going to say. Her body was so warm and solid against his and her lips so soft. Her hands were in his hair as they kissed and he couldn’t focus. Slowly his thoughts began to clear and that’s when the panic set in.

Wait a minute. Did she think he had just proposed and she was saying yes?

She peppered his cheek and neck with kisses. “Oh, Jason! I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting for this moment for years!”

 Yes, she did think he’d just proposed, and she was saying ‘yes’.

“I know. I have been too, but I —”

She cut his sentence short again. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry I ruined the surprise.”

“No, it’s okay, I mean — It’s just that I —”

Her large brown eyes were watching him with hopeful expectation, with joy, with complete and utter adoration. There was no way he could tell her about his past now; ruin her night completely.

“I don’t have a ring,” he blurted.

She tipped her head back and laughed. “I don’t care about a ring, silly! We can worry about that later, or not at all. You know I don’t care about stuff like that.”

“But, it’s a symbol and it’s important, El. I should get you a ring.”

Ellie kissed him gently and shook her head. “Later. I just want us to enjoy this moment together for now.”

Jason swallowed hard. He wanted to enjoy the moment too, but he knew he couldn’t keep his secret forever and Ellie needed to know sooner rather than later. He wouldn’t tell her tonight, though. He’d already made his mind up about that. They would go to dinner, celebrate their engagement and then later, another day, he’d tell her what she needed to know and let her make up her own mind about whether she still wanted to spend the rest of her life with  him or not.


The front door banged open hard against the wall and Alex stumbled inside with a giggling Jessie Landry pressed up against him. He was glad Jason was out for the night with Ellie.

Fumbling for the lights he slid an arm around Jessie and pulled her slender, warm body against his hip, leading her into the living room.

I’m going to forget about Molly Tanner once and for all, he thought, turning to kiss Jessie hard on the mouth, breathing in the smell of alcohol and cigarettes she’d brought with her from the bar.

Jessie was breathing heavy in his ear as his mouth found her neck and shoulder. “Oh, Alex. That feels so good.”

She pulled back, her mouth curled up in a seductive smile, one finger making a trail down his chest as she hooked a finger from her other hand in his belt loop and pulled him toward the couch. He grinned as she roughly shoved him down on the cushions and straddled him, the tiny mini skirt she was wearing pulling up around her slender, tanned thighs. She lifted the small halter top she’d been wearing over her head and dropped it on the floor, revealing a tiny pink flowered bra.

His hands instinctively slid up her back as she kissed him hard. Her hands were in his hair, clutching tight as they kissed, when it hit him. He wasn’t in college anymore. He had just turned 30. Was he really doing this? He didn’t know Jessie at all beyond flirtatious comments at the bar and now he was groping her on his couch? Suddenly Alex saw Molly in his mind’s eye, her sweet smile, the sun hitting her hair, the way she laughed when he created voices for the cows while they were being milked.

Jessie’s mouth moved to his earlobe and then his neck. Any other time his hands would have been sliding up her back to unhook her bra but in that moment all he could think of was how more than anything he wanted something real, something pure, a relationship not built only on physical attraction and he wanted it with Molly.

When Jessie moved her hips against him and moaned his name in his ear, he pictured Molly that morning when she’d left for her Bible study, her green eyes bright as she told him she’d see him later in the barn. Maybe she felt something for him too but was too afraid to admit it. Maybe if he told her how he felt, he’d have a chance to . . . To what? Corrupt her the way he’d corrupted so many others, even himself?

He willed the image of Molly away and clutched at Jessie’s hair, kissing her harder, sliding his hands up her back, his fingers on the hooks of her bra. He flipped her fast onto her back on the couch and she gasped and then laughed as he stood over her, pulling his shirt over his head. She reached up and trailed her hand down his bare chest.

“Get down here, sexy, and show me what farm boys are good at besides milking cows,” she said, her voice thick with desire.

She giggled as he lowered himself and kissed her throat. He should have been excited, but instead he felt a cold chill rush through him. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want another cheap, one night stand. He wanted something real. He paused for a moment over her before sitting back on the couch.

He rubbed both hands over his face. “I can’t do this.”

Jessie’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion as she leaned up on her elbows, still laying on her back. “Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry Jessie but I can’t do this. . .to. . . with you.”

Jessie sat up straighter on the couch, her eyebrows dipping lower as anger began to replace confusion. “Why not? Did I do something wrong? Are you having,” her gaze drifted down his torso to his unzipped jeans. “some kind of issue?”

Alex stood from the couch, zipping up the zipper Jessie had been lowering as she kissed him.

“No. I’m fine. You’re fine. Very fine. It’s just . . .Listen, it’s not you, it’s —-”

Jessie scoffed. “Oh my gosh! Are you giving me the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ speech?! Me? You are really giving me that speech?! Are you serious right now?”

She jumped from the couch, snatching her shirt off the floor and pulling it over her head to cover the pink bra with the white flowers.

“You have some nerve Alex Stone! Why did you bring me all the way out here in the middle of,” she flung her hands in the air. “Nowhereville if you just wanted to toy with me?”

She pulled her jacket on, still yelling. “You are such a jerk!”

“Jessie, wait . . .”

“For what? For you to give me the ‘you’re a nice girl, but,’ speech? No, thank you. I’m out of here!”

The crash of the slamming door reverberated in his head, already aching from the alcohol he’d consumed earlier in the evening.

But it is me, Alex thought as he watched Jessie’s car tear down the dirt road away from his house, dust billowing around it. It is me and it’s Molly Tanner.

He punched the wall by the window hard. Blast that Molly Tanner and the way she’d worked herself into his mind. She’d ruined him for anything fun and spontaneous because all he could think of was his developing desire for something real, something special, and a relationship deeper than a one-night stand.

He cursed under his breath and snatched his shirt off the floor, sliding it on. What was he even thinking? He’d just brought a woman home from the bar with every intention of having sex with her and now he was actually considering taking his friendship with Molly to a deeper level.  He had to be disillusioned at best, crazy at worst.

I’m not good enough for her, he thought, looking out the window toward the Tanner farm. God, if you’re real, keep me from hurting Molly. Don’t let me show her my feelings and hurt her somehow. I can admire her from afar for the rest of my life if I have to.

Alex knew just being near Molly would make him happier than meaningless acts with women he barely knew.

Still, he’d been pushing these feelings down for more than three years now. He didn’t know if he could hold his feelings back much longer. He was cracking and he knew it.

He had to know if Molly could or did feel the same for him. He had to know if her lips tasted as sweet as they looked. Shaking his head he knew it was wrong to think of her mouth, to think of her in a physical way like he had other women, but he hadn’t allowed himself to see her that way when they had first met five years ago when she was just his best friend’s little sister.  The physical attraction to Molly had come gradually for Alex; slowly over the years. He knew he’d fallen in love with something deeper in Molly before he fell in love with her looks.

Alex felt like a cheesy fool thinking it, but he’d been attracted to her spirit before he had ever been attracted to her body. Something about her was different than any other woman he’d met and he’d wanted to know what it was as soon as he saw it. He wanted to know what she was thinking, how she felt about subjects he had never really even thought about before he’d come to the Tanner farm.

When they talked in the barn in the mornings and evenings he saw the world through her eyes and it was brighter, more hopeful and more beautiful than it had ever been through his own.

He felt like a dirty farm boy daring to touch the pristine skin of the fair maiden, even on the days her hands were covered in the same mud and manure his were.

He walked upstairs to the bathroom, tugging on the pull string, a feature that made it even more obvious Jason’s grandparents had never remodeled the farmhouse that had originally been built in the early 1920s.

He turned the water on in the sink full blast and splashed cold water on his face, rubbing it into his hair, growling in frustration.

Some days his biggest fear was that Molly would love him back, or that she already loved him, and that he would somehow ruin her with his imperfections, destroy the beautiful innocence and tenderness he saw in her.

But he knew he’d have to take the risk someday, let her know how he felt about her, end the torture he was putting himself through. Maybe telling her how he felt wouldn’t be the worst thing. Maybe she would corrupt him — in a good way.

Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 13

As I’ve mentioned here before, I usually make changes to the final product from what I share here on the blog. I move chapters around, add parts, delete parts, fix typos (as best as I can), try to fill plot holes and simply tighten the writing before I kick it to Amazon or wherever I choose to publish it. I made changes from what I shared on the blog to both of my previous books, more to the second than the first one. I already know there are going to be a lot of changes to The Farmer’s Daughter before the final publication in the Fall of 2020 (you know, if the planet doesn’t catch fire by then with the way 2020 is going).

I also know that The Farmer’s Daughter is going to be one in a series, but I don’t know how long the series will be yet. It’s going to be at least three books so far, with a possible novella about Franny and Ned when they were younger. The first is, of course, The Farmer’s Daughter, the second will be The Librarian (which I sneak peaked here on the blog, but the final book will definitely change from what I shared as an excerpt here), and the third will be The Pastor’s Wife. I’m not sure where else I’ll go from there.

I don’t ever expect to be a successful or best-selling author. Honestly, I don’t care anymore. I used to. But . . . well, things change. Life changes and what we think is important in life changes. I’m just having fun now. I hope some of you are having fun reading what I’m writing and even if only a couple of people let me know they’re enjoying it, I’m okay with that. Anyhow, enough rambling, here is Chapter 13. It’s pretty long this week, but I decided not to break it into two parts.

You can catch up with the rest of the story HERE or at the link above.

Annie looked at herself in the mirror attached to the oak vanity in her bedroom and frowned. Then she wished she hadn’t frowned because when she frowned more wrinkles cut into the skin between her eyes and around her lips and even under her chin and down her throat.

She jutted her chin into the air, remembering how her mom had once advised her to lift her chin this way every day to help stretch the skin there, keeping it supple, smooth, and free of sagging. She hadn’t been consistent in the practice over the years, which must have been why wrinkles were beginning to form there and remind her of her age.

Touching her fingertips lightly on the slightly graying tips of her dark hair, Annie was transported to a time when her hair wasn’t beginning to show gray and lines didn’t crinkle at the corners of her eyes. A time when Robert Tanner had swept her off her feet by riding a horse up the hill to visit her after school each day.

Soft, warm kisses were exchanged underneath the apple tree and plans for the future were made while sipping lemonade and swinging on the front porch swing.

“How many children do you want?” Annie slid one leg up under her on the swing and turned toward Robert, anxious for his answer.

“I’ve never thought about it much, but I’d say at least two.”

Hair a mix of blond and brown fell over his forehead and he swept it back with his hand and smiled, looking at her to see if his answer had been the right one.

“A boy and a girl?”

“Sure.  Or just two boys to work the farm.”

Robert was still obsessed with the idea of being a farmer like his dad, but at least he wanted two children, just like her. She wanted one of each, though, or even two girls.

“Girls can work a farm just as well as boys,” she told him.

He’d grinned and stolen a kiss. “I’ll be happy whatever sex they are and how ever many they are, as long as I have them with you.”

Three weeks after graduation, Robert had begged their parents to let them get married.  His parents had told him: “If you think this is right, then you have our blessing.”

He approached Annie’s parents next. “Mr. and Mrs. Bentley, I know I’m only a poor farmer’s son but I love your daughter and I would do whatever I can to make sure she is taken care of, financially and otherwise.”

Her father, a machine operator for most of his life, who knew what it was to be poor and wanted more for his daughter, had refused. Repeatedly.

Her mother watched them together on the porch one night when they kissed good-bye with a fast burning passion and knew she needed to change her husband’s mind — and fast.

She turned toward her husband with wide eyes. “I have a feeling we’d better let those two get married or they may have to get married.”

Annie’s father, Leon, had looked at his wife with a bewildered expression.

“What are you saying, Eleanor?”

“I’m saying those two are about to burn up with desire for each other and I would rather they do so within the bonds of marriage.”

Leon had been shocked, embarrassed, and ready to grab Robert Tanner by the collar of his shirt and toss him in front of a combine, but he’d finally agreed with his wife. A wedding was set for the end of the summer.

Annie’s mom had been right. Three months after their wedding night, Annie was pregnant with Jason and at the age of 19 they were parents already. Molly came five years later after a couple of miscarriages that dashed the Tanners hopes of having a large family.

Those years had been tough years, of course, but Annie never regretted marrying Robert or having children at such a young age. She was grateful that Robert and God had been with her through it all. Annie pulled the pins from the bun she’d put on top of her head earlier in the day to keep the back of her neck cool. She let her long black hair fall around her shoulders and reached for the wrinkle cream she knew wasn’t really working but at least made her skin feel nice and soft.

She could hear how tired and sore Robert was even before she turned from her vanity mirror to look at him. His steps had faded to shuffles, each shuffle followed by a sharp intake of breath.

She exchanged the wrinkle cream for the pain ointment squirting it into her hand as she turned to face him.

She gestured toward the bed. “Sit on the edge over here so I can get this on your back.”

Robert grimaced as he lifted his shirt over his head and did as he was told. “Yes, ma’am.”

He winced, arching his back when cold lotion touched his skin. His muscles relaxed, though, when Annie’s hands pressed expertly in all the right spots, as if she could read his mind on where the pain was.

“Oh, that’s it. Right there,” he said, closing his eyes, enjoying the feel of her hands on his skin.

“You work too hard,” Annie said, her hands warm across his skin.

Robert laughed. “Is there such a thing as working too hard for a farmer? We don’t have a choice.”

Annie frowned as she rubbed the ointment into the skin on the back of his neck. “The news about Larry really shook me you know.”

Robert nodded, his eyes still closed. “Yeah. Me too.”

“Robert . . .” she slid her arms slowly down his shoulders and upper arms “You’d talk to me if . . . I mean, before you ever . . . if you ever get that down you’d —”

Robert turned quickly to face Annie, opening his eyes. “Annie. I’d never do that to you and the kids. Never. I’m not blaming Larry. I don’t know what was going through his mind that night, but I’m not doing that to you and the kids.”

He was startled to see moisture in Annie’s eyes as she studied his. “Sometimes when people are depressed,” her voice caught with emotion. “they do things they never thought they’d do.”

The skin on Robert’s palms were rough against her cheek but his touch was gentle as he cradled her face.  “Annie, I’ll never leave you that way. I promise. Do you hear me? I’ll never leave you that way.”

Annie nodded, tears spilling from her eyes, down her cheeks. Robert’s thumbs gently wiped the tears. He pressed his mouth against her forehead.

“I love you, Annie.”

“I love you too.”

She managed a smile and then closed her eyes to try to gather her emotions. His mouth warm and soft on hers was a pleasant surprise and she kept her eyes closed, reveling in a moment they found little time for anymore. She opened her eyes and smiled as he pulled away slightly, then flushed warm at the look of desire in his eyes, passion igniting where it often smoldered these days.

When his mouth was on hers again, his hands sank into her hair, pushing it back from her face. She leaned into him as the kiss deepened, hands against his chest, finding comfort in his bare skin as one hand slid down her back, resting in the small of it and the other roamed where the hands of long-time married men roam when they want to show their wives how much they still love and need them.


Molly’s breaths came out in short gasps as she pushed down on the pedals of the elliptical. How in the world did she let Liz talk her into this? Her muscles ached. Sweat pooled in places she didn’t even know she had places for it to pool. Her chest was constricting, but she was pretty sure she wasn’t going to die. Pretty sure anyhow. At least not yet. Thirty more minutes of this, though, and she would probably be leaving the gym in an ambulance.

 Liz, on the other hand, working out on the same equipment next to her, was smiling as she walked, watching some morning news show offering advice on “the latest fashions for the rest of your summer.”

Liz’s long dark hair was pulled back into a cute ponytail that bounced as she walked. Other parts of Liz were bouncing too but they were all the parts of a body that should bounce on a woman, unlike Molly who hated the way the extra weight on her bottom bounced as she lifted and lowered her legs.

Molly glanced to her right and caught sight of town librarian Ginny Jefferies, brilliant green eyes focused straight ahead, a determined expression on her face as she pedaled ferociously on a stationary bike. Molly couldn’t help wonder why she was at the gym. Tall and slender, Ginny seemed in better shape than most women her age, which Molly guessed to be between 50 and 55.

Maybe Ginny had gained a little weight in her belly and hips that only she could see, but it didn’t seem to Molly like she’d gained enough to be pedaling with so much drive. Then again, not everyone worked out to lose weight. Some wanted to maintain their weight or – Molly looked at Ginny’s scowl and tight jaw – simply get their frustrations out.

“How you doing?” Liz asked, barely out of breath.

“Just fine,” Molly gasped out.

“Pace yourself,” Liz offered. “You haven’t worked out in — how long has it been?”

Never, thought Molly.

“A while,” she gasped out loud.

Glancing in front of her, slightly to the left, she watched a barrel-chested man lift weights, his muscles rippling and straining with each curl. His workout tank was stretched tight against his bulging pecks and rippled six pack.

He was huge.

Too huge.

Molly didn’t like men whose muscles were so big they had to turn sideways to fit through a door. Jason was almost there, but not yet, thankfully. Alex wasn’t anywhere near that muscular. Sure, he definitely had well-toned biceps and his chest and back were sculpted in the image of near-pure masculine perfection as if they had been hand carved by an expert stone carver  —

Molly shook her head. Where had that come from? One minute she was wondering if this workout was going to kill her and the next moment she was remembering that day last week when Alex took his shirt off while lifting hay bales in the barn and she’d been unable to look away. She definitely needed to take a break and drink some water. She was beginning to lose her mind.

Snapping the top of the plastic bottle, Molly sat on a chair behind Liz and sucked half the bottle down. The water tasted more amazing than water had ever tasted to her before. In front of her, Liz’s tiny bottom was practically at Molly’s face level. Molly rolled her eyes, internally grumbling about how Liz had never struggled with her weight in the entire time they’d known each other.

Reflections of sunlight bounced across the gym equipment as the front door opened and someone walked in. Molly was too tired to see who it was. She tipped her head back and closed her eyes, wiping her face with the towel the man at the front desk had handed her when she’d signed in.

“What did Liz do, talk you into torturing yourself too?”

She opened her eyes and jerked her head up at the sound of Alex’s voice, her heart pounding. What was he doing here? Standing with the gym equipment as a backdrop, wearing a pair of dark sunglasses, a faded pair of jeans, a faded-white cowboy hat pulled down low on his head, and a black t-shirt that fit him amazingly he looked like he was on his way to a magazine shoot. He was insanely gorgeous, if she did say so herself and she was mortified that he was seeing her while rivulets of sweat traveled down her skin and onto her clothes.

 She didn’t want Alex to see her this way, even though he’d probably seen her just about as fat and sweaty as she was now when they were working in the barn together on those hot summer days. She stood and self-consciously pulled at her workout t-shirt as if she could pull it down enough to hide her bulbous bottom and thighs.

“Yeah, I guess,” she answered weakly, looking quickly at the floor. “It has been a bit torturous.”

She couldn’t see his eyes when she raised her gaze, but she felt him looking at her through the sunglasses. He propped his hands on his hips. “So, is this going to be a normal thing from now on? You working out?”

Molly shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. It’s a good thing to get in better shape . . . I guess.”

Liz stepped off the elliptical, snatched her towel from the chair next to Molly’s and smiled. “Hey, Alex. I don’t usually see you here. What’s up? Here to work out?”

Alex snorted. “Yeah right. The only time you’ll see me exercising is if I’m running from something. Jason left his sunglasses here this morning after his workout. I was heading to the hardware store, so I told him I’d swing in and grab them.”

He looked back at Molly, slid his sunglasses off and hooked them in his shirt’s front pocket. “So, what? You’re doing this so you’ll look like a twig like Liz?”

“Hey!” Liz cried. “Unless saying I look like a twig is compliment, I take offense to that.”

Alex smiled sheepishly, a soft pink shading his chiseled cheekbones. “Sorry, Liz. You look great. Really. It’s just. . . well, not every woman has to look the same.”

Molly swallowed hard as Alex’s gaze returned to hers’. Her breath caught at the tone of his voice when he spoke, soft and tender. “I think you look fine already, Molly Tanner.”

He reached over and pushed a strand of hair that had fallen from her ponytail behind her ear, his expression serious, his fingertips grazing her cheek. Molly’s skin buzzed where his skin touched hers. She could barely speak, suddenly flustered.

“Well, it’s – it’s not all about looking different. Sometimes it’s just about feeling better.”

Alex laughed, the sunlight catching his sparkling blue eyes. “Do you feel better? You don’t look like you feel better. You look exhausted.”

Molly smiled weakly. “Well, I will feel better . . . eventually.”

Alex’s grin faded into a more somber expression. “Then keep it up, by all means.” He took a step closer to Molly and the intensity in his expression startled her as much as his earlier comment.

 “Just do it for yourself, okay?” he said softly. “Not for anyone else.”

Molly nodded, still trying to figure out why his tone had faded from teasing to serious. “Okay.”

Alex smiled again his eyes focusing on hers for a few seconds before he turned toward the front desk. “See you ladies later. I’d better get Jason’s sunglasses back to him before he goes blind in this sunlight.”

Molly’s heart was pounding and she knew it wasn’t only from the workout. Liz stood between her and her view of Alex.

“What was that?” Liz mouthed the words with wide eyes.

Molly shook her head and shrugged at the same time. “I have no idea,” she mouthed back.

And she truly had no idea. What alternate universe was she in right now?

“See you at the barn, Molly,” Alex called as he opened the front door. He slid his sunglasses back on, flashed a grin and waved quickly before walking onto the sidewalk. Molly’s eyes followed him as he walked toward his truck, losing sight of him when a delivery truck paused at the red light and blocked her view.

“Molly!” Liz practically screamed her name, though at a lower volume than an actual scream. “What. Was. That?!”

Molly rolled her eyes. “Oh, Liz. You know Alex. He’s just a huge . . .flirt, or goof, or however you want to say it.”

She turned to pick up her water bottle. Alex was a flirt. But why was he flirting with her?

Liz grabbed Molly by her shoulders as she turned back around. “Molly Tanner! That man is hitting on you! I heard him. He said you look fine. Like fine fine.”

“Liz . . .”

Liz waved her hand at Molly then held it a few inches from her face. “No. Not this time. You can’t explain what just happened away. Alex Stone was trying to tell you something.” She winked. “Like, for one, that he likes you just the way you are.”

Molly laughed at her friend, but had to admit the exchange had been . . . how would she even describe it? Odd? Strange? Tantalizingly awesome?

“Liz, I’m sure it was nothing. Alex is just super friendly and a big joker. I think he was just —”

“He was clearly hitting on you, Molly,” Ginny Jefferies interrupted as she walked by, water bottle in one hand and towel the other. She didn’t look back, opening the water bottle and drinking it as she walked to the front counter to sign out.

“See?” Liz said. “Even Ginny can see it and she’s — well, experienced and full of wisdom.”

Ginny laughed as she turned to face Liz and Molly, patting the back of her shoulder length, dirty-blond hair. “Good save, Liz. I was pretty sure you were going to say ‘old.’”

Liz laughed. “No, actually. I might have thought it, but I wasn’t going to say it.”

Ginny smiled and looked at Molly. “Molly, he’s hitting on you. From the limited amount I know about him, I don’t know if that’s a good thing, so — and let me get all motherly here for a moment — just be careful, okay?”

Molly nodded. “Thanks, Ginny. I appreciate it.”

Molly knew Ginny and her mom were around the same age and Ginny had daughters of her own. Her opinion may have been tainted by maternal tunnel vision, but she meant well.

“What do you know about Ginny?” she asked Liz when Ginny had left. “She seems so, ‘put together’ for lack of a better word. Most of the time anyhow. Lately, though, something seems off. She seems sad, or melancholy, or … I don’t know how to explain it.”

Liz waved her hand in front of Molly’s face, bringing her gaze back from watching Ginny walk down the sidewalk to Liz’s wide-eyed expression. “Don’t change the subject, Molly. What are you going to do about Alex?”

“I’m not going to do anything about Alex. I’m going to go home, take a shower, head to work at the farm store and later I’m going to go work with him in the barn like I always do.”

Liz sighed. “Molly. Molly. What am I going do with you?”

Molly smiled. “You’re going to buy me a cup of coffee before I head home. That’s what you’re going to do.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “Fine. But if I do that then you’re going to consider that Alex Stone may actually be interested in you as more than simply someone who can help him hook up the cows for the milking each day.”

She looked at Liz as they walked.

“Well, if you insist on making me talk about Alex, I’m going to make you talk about Matt. Are you going to go out with him again or what?”

Liz opened the door to the coffee shop and sighed. “I’m just friends with Matt. It’s not like that. He’s easy to talk to and I like hanging out with him but — he’s Matt. I just always think of him as a brother more than a boyfriend. Maybe because he is friends with Jason and I just remember him as that weird military obsessed guy from high school.”

“He’s a nice guy, Liz.”

“Yeah, I know, but he’s also a cop. I don’t know if I can date a cop. I mean, what if I develop more feelings for him and then I’ll just worry about him out there on the streets . . .”

Molly snickered. “On the streets of Spencer? Where what — he might get punched by a drunk guy down at Mooneys or get kicked by a cow?”

Liz turned from the list of coffee flavors behind the counter and tipped her head at Molly. “Molly, you really are naïve about what happens in this county aren’t you?”

Molly shrugged. “Probably, but I prefer being clueless.”

Liz ordered herself an herbal tea with honey and a dark chocolate mocha for Molly.

“I’ll make you a deal,” she said handing Molly’s coffee to her. “You agree  to talk to Alex about the firemen’s appreciation banquet and I’ll consider going out with Matt again. Deal?”

“Liz . . .”

“Molly . . .”

Molly rolled her eyes. “Fine. I’ll talk to him. But do more than consider going out with Matt. Just go out with him already.”

Liz finally agreed, but on her way back to her car she knew she couldn’t keep her promise to Molly. She couldn’t tell Molly the real reason she didn’t want to go out with Matt. It had nothing to do with him being someone she’d known in high school or even with him being a police officer. It had everything to do with the mistake she’d made and didn’t want Matt, or even Molly, to know about.

And Molly knew she couldn’t really talk to Alex about going to the firemen’s banquet. She didn’t want to risk the relationship they had – an easy-going, teasing friendship that she knew might evaporate if she made it look like she was interested in him in way other than a friend and co-worker.

Fiction Thursday: Fully Alive Chapter 6

Find the other parts of this story HERE or at the link at the top of the page. There are other works of fiction at the top of the page, as well, including The Farmer’s Daughter, Quarantined (a short story), Rekindle (the start of another story story), and links to my two books for sale on digital platforms.

P.S. The character in this section will have a name change before the final publication. I just have decided on the name I want for her yet.

Eliana couldn’t stop thinking about the day her healing had come. Cleaning flour from the bowl, preparing to cook a meal for her sister’s family after so long, tears were warm on her face.

The morning she had been healed she had sat in the room of the home she’d been confined to for so long, weak, her heart heavy with loneliness and despair, the same as almost every morning for 12 years. Her husband Josiah had divorced her years before, declaring her unclean and unfit to bear him children. She watched him with his new wife from a distance, watched their children grow and felt the ache in her own womb for a child of her own.

“He will come with healing in his wings,” she whispered the morning she had been healed, remembering the prophecy of Malachi.

His wings. She wasn’t sure what that meant but she thought of what she had heard – that John the Baptizer had spoken, saying that a man who came to him for baptism was the one they’d been waiting for, the prophesied messiah. This man was a rabbi, a teacher, but whispers said he was so much more. Healings at his hands. Blind men seeing, crippled walking, souls rejoicing. She closed her eyes, pictured the man and what he might look like. What he might be wearing. She pictured his prayer garment and thought of how the corner of it, the tzitziyot, was called the wings of the garment.

The wings of the garment.

The wings.

With wings.

She felt it first in the pit of her stomach, a hard, hopeful knot. From all she had heard this man was indeed the one who would come to heal, not only her, but all mankind.

He had been easy to find. She had simply followed the crowd that pushed against him. She walked with her head covered, the covering pulled across her face with her hands that she clutched before her face, her head bowed.

Even though Eliana felt that this man called Yeshua was the messiah and knew touching his garment could heal her, she was fearful as she approached him. She was impure and she knew that if she touched him – this pure man – he would also become impure. He paused to speak with a man and someone in the crowd bumped her and she stumbled forward. He was so close. So close. She lowered herself to the ground as he stood, slowing reaching out. If she could just touch — Her hand trembled and she clutched her fingers into a fist, biting her lower lip, closing her eyes, hesitating.

Adonai, Adonai. . .” she whispered, her lips dry.

She opened her eyes, drew a breath slow into her lungs, and stretched out her hand again, a sob gurling deep in her chest as her fingertips brushed the twisted wool at the edge his prayer shawl. Comfort and warmth flowed through her immediately and the pain she had suffered under for so long was gone. It was gone. She couldn’t feel the crunching agony within her womb. She couldn’t feel anything but peace.

The blood she had felt drip slowly down her leg, off and on, so many days for the last 12 years suddenly stopped. She felt dry where she had wet for so long. Eliana stood abruptly and turned to leave, to go home, get away from the crowds, think about what had happened, about what her future might hold now.

“Who touched my clothes?”

The voice of Yeshua startled Eliana and she looked back to see him looking around him, searching the crowd for the person who had touched him. A lightening bolt of fear coursed through her. She had been careful only to touch the tzitziyot, not him. How had he known? Even one of Yeshua’ followers expressed disbelief that he wanted to know who had touched him and pointed out that people were all around him. Anyone of them could have touched him.

“I felt power go out from me.”

Eliana trembled in fear, her breathing shallow. She clutched her hands together to try to stop the shaking. He knew someone had reached out for his healing. He knew.

How could he know?

How could he know unless. . .?

She watched him and fell instantly to her knees.

The words spilled out of her

“It was me, teacher.”

She felt, rather than saw him turn to her. Her eyes were on the ground, trembles shivering through her.  “I have been bleeding, unclean for 12 years. I have been to every doctor. I have tried everything. I was shunned by my family, my community. But when I heard about you – when I heard of those you had healed, I knew – I knew you could take it all away and heal me. I knew you were the one who has been prophesied.”

He kneeled to her level, cupped her chin in his hand. She lifted her eyes slowly, to eyes soft with compassion.

“Your trust has healed you,” he said softly, so soft she could barely hear him. Then he spoke again, louder. “Your trust, daughter, has healed you. Go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

Her sister’s voice yanked Eliana from her memories of the day.

“Eliana! Have you finished the bread?”

“Yes, Ledah, I have.”

“Well, bring it. We are ready for dinner.”

Sunlight poured in through the window of the family home and across the table lined with food. Ledah’s family sat on the floor, children with big brown eyes looking kindly and expectedly at Eliana as she handed her sister the bread mixture. Her sister immediately started cooking the bread over the small fire pit just outside the door.

“We shall celebrate today,” Ledah said with a smile at Eliana as she placed the bread in the bowl. “Jeremiah has slaughtered our best lamb to celebrate your healing. It still makes no sense, but I don’t care. It is a wonderful day!”

Eliana smiled and shrugged. “I don’t understand it either. All I know is when I touched his garment, I was healed. I can’t explain it. I can’t tell you more than that. But I no longer suffer the way I did.”

Ledah shook her head. “It makes no sense, Eliana. A mere man can not heal you by you touching his garment.”

“Then he is not a mere man, is he?”

“Eliana, we have all heard these stories before. Supposed messiahs come to rescue the Jews. Yet here we sit under Roman rule. Don’t start believing all that nonsense now.”

“I don’t know what to believe, yet, but I know what happened to me and I know I am healed, Ledah. I know I have a lightness I have not known for 12 years. This is a gift I can not take lightly.”

Ledah took her older sister’s hand, squeezed it and smiled. “And that’s all that matters. That you are back with us and soon you will live life again among your people.”

Live life again? Eliana didn’t even know what that meant. After so many year alone, watching her husband remarry and have children from afar, she didn’t even know how to enter life again.

She couldn’t imagine any man wanting to marry her, not after she’d been cast aside by her husband. Her chance of having children was gone.

Yet, she had her health again and that in itself opened up hope to her.

And hope? Well, hope meant anything was possible now.

Fiction Thursday: Rekindle, A Short Story Part 1

In April I shared Quarantined, a short story based on current events. This week I had an idea for a second short story jumping off from the characters I mentioned in Quarantined. This is the first part. You can find links to my other fiction serials I’m sharing on the blog at the top of the page under “Fully Alive” and “The Farmer’s Daughter.” Links to my books for sale are also available under the link at Books for Sale at the top of the page.

Matthew Grant’s conversation with his brother Liam had made him uncomfortable.

Liam’s marriage was in shambles, but Matthew knew Liam still loved his wife Maddie and Maddie still loved Liam. If they didn’t still love each other they wouldn’t be struggling so much with the idea of divorce. It couldn’t be easy being quarantined together during a pandemic with all the issues they had with each other but Matthew was glad they were. Maybe they’d work out some of those issues and save what had been a great union at one time. As it was, their divorce proceedings had been delayed because of the pandemic. As Matthew saw it, this was a way for them to buy more time and truly be sure the divorce was what they wanted.

What made Matthew uncomfortable wasn’t only that he could hear pain mixed with longing in his brother’s voice when they had talked on the video call. It was also that he wondered, worried even, if similar marital trials might one day pull at his own marriage. Maybe it already was happening and he had been too wrapped up in himself to realize it.

Matthew and Cassie hadn’t had a lot of time alone lately. Their life had been a runaway train since the election two years ago. In Washington he faced daily drama and conflict whether he wanted to or not. Becoming the youngest head of the Intel Committee hadn’t helped slow things down any either.

Then there was this crazy never-before-seen virus that seemed to come out of nowhere a few weeks ago and now had him at home with his family, waiting to see if he developed any symptoms after being exposed to it more than a week ago. He was convinced if he had the virus he would have developed symptoms by now, but he stayed home to make sure things looked good to the press and his constituents. Making sure things “looked good and right” to others seemed to be 90 percent of his job anymore, leaving little room for him to actually accomplish the things he’d been elected to do.

All the drama in the House of Representatives left him little time to focus on Cassie or the kids and he regretted that. He regretted it even more when his brother’s march toward divorce had become a growing reality. He’d never pictured Liam and Maddie divorced. They were the perfect couple. They’d weathered some hard storms, including the miscarriages, but Matthew had been sure the challenges would bring them closer together. In fact, he thought it had but maybe he’d been too wrapped up in the campaign to pay attention.

Matthew and Liam’s parents had provided for them the perfect example of a stable, loving marriage. Married 54 years, Bert and Phyllis Grant made it clear each day how much they loved each other. Sure, they had argued, even in front of their children, but those arguments had been resolved usually before the sun had gone down and with a fair amount of ‘making up’. Matthew and Liam, and his sister Lana had been grateful the majority of that making up had gone on behind closed doors.

Standing from the couch to stretch, Matthew looked out the window at his own three children playing ball in the backyard and felt a twinge of guilt. Getting pregnant and carrying three babies to term had been easy for him and Cassie. They’d never had to face the heartbreak of not being able to get pregnant or of a miscarriage. Matthew felt like he’d take it all for granted.

He looked around his living room, well decorated with expensive furniture and commissioned paintings, and thought about how much of his life he had taken for granted, especially lately. He’d taken for granted the newer model car he drove, the highly rated bed he slept on, the full refrigerator and even fuller bank account.

He rubbed his hand along his chin and turned toward the kitchen where Cassie was making a late lunch for him and the kids. Her dark brown hair fell to her waist in a tight braid, the bottom of it grazing the top of the waist band of a pair of red workout shorts. Her favorite tshirt, featuring Johnny Cash wearing a cowboy hat, fit her medium build well, hugging all the areas it should, especially for the benefit of her husband admiring the view that he hadn’t admired for a long time. He watched her stirring the taco meat in the skillet and his gaze traveled down her legs and back up again, thinking about the first time they’d met in an English lecture at college.


He’d leaned over the desk to try to get her attention but she was intently focused on the professor. He had tried again.


She glared over her shoulder at him.

“Do you have an extra pen?” he whispered.

She rolled her eyes, ignored him, tapping the end of her own pen against her cheek gently as she kept her eyes focused forward.

“It’s just,” he leaned a little closer so he didn’t interrupt the other students. “I left my pen back in my dorm room and I want to make sure I’m taking notes.”

He was glad he had leaned a little closer. She smelled amazing. What was that perfume? He had no idea but it was intoxicating. Maybe it was her shampoo.  The fluorescent light from the lecture hall was reflecting off her luxurious black strands of hair and he pondered what it would feel like to reach out and touch it. But he didn’t reach out and touch it. That would be weird. Even a 19-year old college freshman like himself knew that.

A year later, though, he was touching that soft dark hair while he kissed Cassie for the first time outside her dorm after their third date. And over the years he’d sank his hands in that hair in moments of tenderness and moments of passion. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he watched  his wife and thought about a few of those moments, including that time in the back of his new car after he’d landed that job at the law firm outside of Boston.

He could deny it. It wasn’t only the material things of his life that he had taken for granted. He had also been taking Cassie for granted. For far too long.

Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Chapter 4

To catch up with the other chapters click the link at the top of the page or HERE. I shared Chapter 3 of Fully Alive on Thursday Fiction, yesterday.

“Alex Stone sounds like the name of some guy from a romance novel,” Matt McGee said, punching Alex in the shoulder and handing him a beer. “Did you ever realize that?”

When Alex had moved to Pennsylvania, he soon realized watching the Steelers every Sunday was a requirement, whether he liked it or not. He and Jason and their friend Matt had laid out a spread of subs, chips, and sodas, kicked off their shoes and flopped onto couches and chairs, ready for a Saturday football binge.

“How would you know about the names of characters in romance novels?” Jason asked with a smirk.

“Hey, I had sisters growing up,” Matt answered. “They all liked those romance garbage novels. You know, the romances with the cookie-cutter plots.”

“Yeah, just like the movies that are based on them,” Alex offered, cracking open the beer. He took a sip. “Girl with big career comes back to her small hometown for a visit, down on her luck.”

“Girl runs into an old boyfriend,” Jason said.

“Old boyfriend brings back hard memories, but then old boyfriend tries to apologize for all he’s done,” Alex finished with a mock crying face.

“Girl falls for old boyfriend again,” Alex said.

Alex grabbed a handful of peanuts from the bowl and shoved them in his mouth. “Old boyfriend screws up again and girl goes back to big city,” he said around a mouthful of peanuts.

Jason rolled his eyes. “But old boyfriend realizes he’s a screwup and that he really loves her and follows her to the city.”

“He tells her he’s always loved her,” Alex continued. “a d she tells him she’s always loved him. And everyone lives happily ever after.”

He choked out a gagging noise. The three men looked at each other, wiping pretend tears from their cheeks.

“Exactly,” Matt said. “Cookie-cutter plots full of clichés. And you, Alex, are one of those clichés. Alex Stone. The handsome cowboy, ex-boyfriend with the six-pack who comes to steal the girl away from the boring, uptight rich guy in the city.”

Alex lifted his shirt and looked at his flat, but slightly paunchy stomach. He pushed at the soft flesh and sighed. “I’d love to have a six-pack, but I think I would need to work out a little more.”

“Or just work a little more period,” Jason said opening a bag of chips and reaching for the remote.

“Oh, geez, thanks, bud,” Alex said, elbowing Jason in the ribs.

Jason and Alex had been roommates in college and were roommates again, now living in an old farmhouse two miles from the Tanner farm. Jason invited Alex home several times during their four-year stint at Penn State University and when they had graduated Alex followed Jason home and had worked on the Tanner farm since.

Matt, Jason’s friend since elementary school, had fit in nicely with the pair since all three were interested in football, farming, beer, and women, not necessarily in that order.

“What do you think we’d be doing if we’d actually used our degrees?” Alex asked, leaning back on the couch.

“Hey, I am using mine, remember?” Jason said. “Agriculture science and economics. It’s what I do every day. You’re the one who didn’t use your degree in – what was it again? Computer games or something?”

Alex tossed a pillow at Jason’s head. Jason blocked it and laughed. 

“Computer programming and graphic art.,” Alex said.

Matt shrugged. “You two should have been like me and gone straight into the Army after school and then right into a career. Then you wouldn’t have all those college bills to pay off.”

“Alex is lucky,” Jason said with a wink. “His parents paid for his college, so he can live high on the hog.”

Alex shook his head. Jason liked to affectionately rib him about his rich upbringing, but Jason had no idea how poor Alex’s family had really been over the years. Poor in relationships, in love, caring – in all the things that really mattered in life. Alex didn’t like to talk about it and had rarely mentioned his pain-filled past. Jason knew a little about how hard it had been, even if he didn’t know the full story.

They were both in their sophomore year when Alex had taken Jason home to upstate New York with him on spring break, knowing his parents would be traveling to Italy or London or Paris like they did every spring. Only this year his parents weren’t traveling.

Alex tossed his bag on the floor inside the door, starring with a furrowed brow at his mom standing by the fireplace in the front room. “Mom. Hey. What are you doing here?”

His mom, dressed in dress pants and a white blouse, turned, mascara smeared under her eyes, her face wet with tears. She was pale, her face gaunt, her slim fingers trembling as she clutched her hands together.

“I thought you’d be in Italy or something,” Alex said.

“There won’t be any more trips to Europe for your father and me.” His mother’s voice was cold. “Not together anyhow. He’s left me Alex. He’s left us. He ran off with his secretary – finally – after cheating on me with her for the last three years. He finally did it.”

Alex’s cheeks flushed warm with embarrassment at his family’s skeletons being yanked from their closets in front of Jason, the kid with the fairytale home life. He’d already told Jason about his own shady past, how he’d become involved in drugs and petty crimes in high school, trying anything he could to gain attention from his parents – even negative attention. The drug use had been brief and mild compared to what it could have been but their use, coupled with the pranks and shoplifting had almost kept him from graduating high school. Luckily Alex’s grandfather had stepped in and set Alex straight before he ruined his entire life.

Alex glanced at Jason, saw him nervously scratch the back of his head, trying not to make eye contact with Alex or his mom.

“So, um, maybe this is a bad weekend for me to hang out,” Jason whispered to him.

“No. It’s fine,” Alex’s mom said quickly, overhearing him. “You boys can have the house for the weekend. The pool company came this morning to clean that out, there is plenty of food in the fridge and the hot tub is ready to go too.”

She wiped the tears from her face and tried to smile.

“Invite some more friends over, hon’,” she told Alex. “My credit card is in the top desk drawer in your dad’s office. You might as well use it while we can – before he runs it up on the tramp. Buy some more food, rent a DJ, whatever you want to do. I’m going to go to Leslie’s for the weekend. I need some shopping therapy. You’ll have the run of the house.”

She kissed his cheek, smiled weakly at Jason and walked past them toward the winding staircase in the middle of the house.

Alex didn’t throw the party, instead choosing a quite weekend with Jason, watching movies and shooting hoops in the driveway.

Alex’s parents’ divorce was final a few months later. His mother was given the house in the settlement and Alex saw his dad only at Christmas for the next two years.

Alex thought often how he’d trade all the money his parents had thrown at him and his brother Sam over the years for a stable family life, loving parents, and a father he could actually look up to. He’d found more parental support in Jason’s parents than he ever had in his own.

His mom fell apart for two years after the divorce, shopping and drinking in excess to drown her sorrows, living off the alimony until she met David Stanton, the heir to an oil family’s fortune. David wooed her with exotic trips and sparkling jewelry, eventually marrying her in a quiet ceremony on the beach with Alex and Sam standing next to his mom, doing their best to support her.

“Hey, you okay?” Jason asked, pulling Alex out of his memories.

“Yeah. All good.”

Jason looked concerned. “You sure? You need to talk about anything?”

Alex grinned. “You mean do I want to share my feelings over a cup of tea and some crumpets?” he asked. He punched Jason in the arm. “Holy crud, dude. I think that church stuff is rubbing off on you and making you all girly. No. I do not need to talk about anything.”

Jason laughed and shook his head. “Hey, that ‘church stuff’ as you call it, makes me care about people. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”

Alex sipped his beer and looked at the TV. 

“Nope,” he said. “Nothing wrong with it – unless you start asking me to paint your toenails while you tell me how much you loved Steel Magnolias.”

Jason punched him the arm. “Shut up, dude and turn on the game. Plus, I liked Beaches better.”

Alex clicked on the game and laughed.

Since moving in with Jason, Alex had started to feel like he was part of a family, something he’d never really felt before. Jason’s father was more of a father to him than his own had ever been. Jason’s mother, Annie, treated him like one of her own children, even scolding him when she didn’t think he’d drank enough water on a hot day or bringing him chicken soup if he came down with a cold.

Over the years Alex’s feelings about Jason’s sister, Molly, had evolved to the point he knew he was attracted to her but was determined to deny it. For the most part, Alex saw Molly as another member of the family, but after she dropped out of classes at the small community college an hour away to take care of her grandfather, he’d begun to see her more often and in a new light.

He tried to remember Molly was Jason’s younger sister, but as each day passed and they worked closely during milking and cleaning stalls, he found his feelings toward her becoming more confusing. He enjoyed their early morning talks and their late evening joke sessions.

While he’d once overlooked her as simply being a child, a year ago he had caught himself watching her in the field, noticing the curves of her full figure, the way her reddish-brown curls fell down her back and how she flipped those curls over her shoulder when she laughed. She’d developed from a timid young girl into a beautiful woman in front of him in what felt like overnight and he was having a hard time not being overwhelmed by a new awareness of the changes in her.

More than once Alex had mentally scolded himself for being distracted by Molly’s smile, the smell of her shampoo or the feel of her hand grazing his when she passed him the milking hose.

Not only was Alex afraid of what Jason might think of him for having feelings for his sister but he was worried that the man who had become a father figure to him would also disapprove. Even more than how her family would react, Alex wondered how Molly would respond to his budding feelings if he ever gathered enough courage to tell her.

For now, he planned to keep his feelings to himself and hoped he would recognize the right time to tell her how he felt – if that time ever came.