Texas Mail Order Bride(131)

By: Linda Broday

Now as she clutched the new coat, she thanked her mother’s ghost and the saloon-owner-turned-rancher for looking out for Toby when she couldn’t.

Rand had also bought a soft wool dress in a pretty shade of nutmeg for her, and a coat as well. She unwrapped a woman’s warm flannel nightgown, then shirts, pants, gloves, and a knit cap for Toby. Rand had even thought to add two bars of fragrant soap. The last package held a comb, brush, and mirror.

A pile of quilts, sheets, and pillows lay in a neat stack. Rand’s generosity brought tears to her eyes. She thought of the miserable nights she and Toby had spent in the elements, too cold to sleep. This was a far cry from that.

Maybe, for such generosity of spirit, she could possibly endure a very bossy man with beautiful eyes.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Just glad to help. Probably didn’t get everything you needed. Never bought things for a lady before.” A curious light came into his eyes as he shifted his feet and crossed them at the ankles. “But hopefully I got enough to get you by for now.”

“That and more, Mr. Sinclair.”

He quickly held up his hand to stop her. “My name is not mister. Thought we cleared that up at the start. My rule. I’m Rand. Got it?”

“Yes. This must’ve cost a fortune. I’ll repay what you spent as soon as I’m able.”

“Don’t want paid back,” he growled. “Your thanks are more than enough.”

“Very well. You have my thanks.” But no matter what he said, she wasn’t through with the subject. She would find a way to repay him. One way or another.

“You’re welcome.”

“I need to put more salve on your burn.”

“My hand is fine. Not much pain.”

Callie took his good hand and led him to the table. “All the same, I’m putting more ointment on the burn,” she said firmly.

“I know better than argue with a determined woman.”

“Good.” She got the tin of thick balm and dabbed it onto the palm of his hand. It had already taken away much of the redness, though she knew it had to hurt.

Afterward, he tried to help her in the kitchen, but his fumbling presence only lengthened the task. Finally, she nudged him toward the bed he still had to set up in the room off the kitchen where she and Toby would sleep. He took the hint at last and disappeared.

In the midst of the quiet that followed came a horrendous crash. Looking in, she saw the iron bedstead laying over on the floor and Rand struggling to right it. He stood in the middle of a tangle of metal, muttering a string of cuss words and trying his best to keep her and Toby from hearing the colorful language. Callie covered her mouth to smother the laughter.

His care to keep from being heard touched her. His show of respect raised her opinion of him several notches.

Quickly she moved to offer her services. She held the headboard while he attached the rails, then switched to the foot and did the same. With that secure, she handed him lengths of rope and watched him knot them back and forth across the open space. This would serve as a base for the unwieldy feather mattress. At last, she took one end and he the other and lifted the thick mattress into place.

A little later, surprise rippled over her when he threw a rag rug onto the floor beside the made-up bed onto which they’d spread quilts. “To keep your feet from getting too cold. Keep this door open to draw heat from the stove. I’ll make sure it stays lit.”

“Rand, you’re a good man.” Gathering tears that she refused to let fall blurred his face. “Keep your bed where it is by the fireplace in the parlor. It’s too frigid upstairs.”

His breathtaking blue eyes widened with surprise. He was silent for the space of a heartbeat, then cleared his throat. When he spoke, his voice was raspy. “As you wish.”