Read an Excerpt
From Chapter 1
She let out a little sigh and tucked her head under his chin as soon as he stepped outside the barn. The rain was still coming down hard, and he was sorry he didn't have anything to wrap around her. The log cabin she called home was approximately fifty yards away, and by the time he had carried her
A single lantern provided the only light inside the cabin. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, but what he noticed most of all was the scent of roses that filled the air. To the right of the entrance was an oblong table covered with a yellow-and-white checked gingham tablecloth, and in its center sat a crystal vase filled with at least a dozen white roses in full bloom. It was obvious she had tried to bring beauty and joy into the stark reality of her life, and the simple, feminine gesture made him ache for her.
The cabin was spotless. A stone fireplace faced the door, and on the mantel was a cluster of silver frames with photographs. A rocking chair with a yellow-and-white-checked cushion had been placed to the left of the hearth and a tall-backed wooden chair with spindly legs sat on the opposite side. Two knitting needles protruded from a burgundy ball of yarn on the footrest, and long strands coiled down to the colorful braided rag rug.
"You've got a real nice place, he said.
"Thank you. I wish my kitchen were larger. I put up the drape to separate it from the main room. It's always such a clutter. I was going to clean it up after I finished in the barn."
"Don't worry about it."
"Did you notice the roses? Aren't they beautiful? They grow wild near the tree line behind the field. Parker planted more on the side of the house, but they haven't taken root yet."
Douglas's practical nature reasserted itself. "You shouldn't have gone out by yourself. You could have fallen."
"It gave me pleasure to bring them inside, and I'm certain the exercise was good for me. I hate being cooped up all day. Please let me stand. I'm feeling fine now."
He did as she requested but continued to hold on to her arm until he was sure she was steady. "What can I do to help?"
"Would you start a fire? I put the wood in the hearth, but I didn't want to light it until I got back from the barn."
"You carried wood inside?"
"It is my fault the baby's coming early, isn't it' I carried wood down from the hills early this morning. I went back up again this afternoon to collect more. It gets so cold and damp at night...I wasn't thinking, and now my baby's going toï"
He interrupted before she could get all worked up again. "Calm down, Isabel. Lots of women do chores right up to the delivery. I was just concerned about the possibility of falling. That's all."
"Then why did you say..."
"Falling," he said again. "That's all I was thinking about. You didn't fall, so no harm was done. Now, stop worrying."
She nodded and started across the room. He grabbed hold of her arm, told her to lean on him, and slowed the pace to a crawl.
"It's going to take me an hour to get to the bedroom if you keep treating me like an invalid."
He moved ahead and opened the door. It was pitch black inside.
"Don't move until I get the lantern. I don't want you toï"
"Fall? You seem terribly worried about that possibility.
"No offense, but you're so big in the middle you can't possibly see your own feet. Of course I'm worried you'll fall."
She actually laughed, and she hadn't done that in such a long time.
"You need to get out of your wet clothes," he reminded her.
"There's a pair of candles on the dresser to your right."
He was happy to have something to do. He felt awkward and totally out of his element. He didn't realize his hands were shaking until he tried to light the candles. It took him three attempts before he succeeded. When he turned around, she was already folding back a colorful quilt on the bed.
"You're drenched. You really need to get out of your wet clothes before you do anything else," he said.
"What about you? Do you have a change of clothes?" she asked.
"In my saddlebags. If you don't need help, I'll start the fire; then I'll go back to the barn and take care of the horses. Have yours been fed?"
"Yes," she answered. "Be careful with Pegasus. He doesn't like strangers." She stared down at the floor with her hands folded together. As Douglas turned to leave, she called out to him, "You're coming back, aren't you?"
She was fretting again. The last thing she needed to worry about now was being left alone. He had a feeling they were in for one hell of a night, and he wanted her to conserve her strength for the more important task ahead.
"You're going to have to trust me."
She still looked scared. He leaned against the doorframe and tried to think of something to say that would convince her he wasn't going to abandon her.
"It's getting late," she said.
He straightened away from the door and went to her. "Will you do me a favor?"
He pulled the gold watch out of his pocket, unclipped the chain, and handed it to her. The chain dangled down between her fingers.
"This is the most valuable thing I own. My Mama Rose gave it to me, and I don't want anything to happen to it. Pegasus might get in a lucky kick, or I might drop it while I'm drying down my sorrel. Keep it safe for me."
"Oh, yes, I'll keep it safe."
As soon as he had left the room, she pressed the watch against her heart and closed her eyes. She and her baby were safe again, and for the first time in a long while, Isabel felt calm and in control.
Copyright© 1997 by Julie Garwood