Texas Redemption(140)

By: Linda Broday

“Don’t be ashamed of anything, Sis,” Virgil’s voice broke.

“Amen,” her papa agreed.

Blue Boy’s pitiful howl appeared to add agreement.

Twilight had turned the sky orange and purple by the time Laurel heard the big Appaloosa. A dignified stranger riding abreast of Brodie drew frowns. Perhaps the man had turned down the lane by mistake.

She flew into Brodie’s arms the minute he swung from the saddle, not caring that people watched. Worrying about proper things tuckered a body out. She’d learned not to waste good time. Folks would think what they wished anyway.

This man was hers.

No reason to hide the love she’d almost lost.

“You’re back.”

Need reflected in the rebel grays made her pulse race. He planted a long kiss, letting her know he could assume a pirate’s plundering duties in the wink of an eye. Her knees went weak. She leaned against Smokey for support when he released her to reach into a saddle bag for a mysterious bundle.

“Did you bring a guest?” Laurel asked.

A tall, reed-like man in a frock coat tied his horse.

“Reverend Thompson has agreed to wed us tonight. I didn’t think you’d fuss about having the ceremony with your family.”

“Tonight? I somehow pictured myself in a grand gown.”

“What’s going on?” Ben James rose from his favorite roost, wood shavings falling from his lap.

“A wedding, Papa.”

Mary James beamed. “Land’s sakes! This calls for a feast. Don’t know what I’ll scratch up befitting the occasion, but I’ll scare up something. Girls, come and help me throw it together.”

Adeline, Hannah, Millie, and Mama scurried into the house, chattering like magpies.

“Reverend, I don’t entertain often, but I’m a real good listener. Ever whittle?” Her father offered a chair.

Laurel’s attention never wavered from Brodie.

He was a gunslinger.

And a scoundrel.

But the man kept a length of lace next to his heart, and she loved him with every fiber of her being.

“Darn Ollie. She couldn’t have waited just a few more days.” Unshed tears clogged her throat. She plucked at the string securing the package he clutched. “It would make this perfect.”

“I don’t have the power to bring her back.” His husky voice cracked. “But I did fetch something else.”

“The preacher, and whatever that is you’re holding.”

“Always mean what I say and say what I mean.” Unspoken promises hung heavy in the swamp breeze.

Deliriously happy, Laurel floated. “Fork over that gift or I’ll sic Blue Boy on you.”

Brodie’s twinkle shifted. “He’s mighty vicious, all right.”

Accepting his elbow, Laurel navigated the steps in a trance, unable to take her eyes from the lines and crevices that added character. Each one told of the many roads he’d traveled in order to get where he was.

“Still waters run deep,” Ollie had once remarked.

Laurel couldn’t wait to begin exploring things she’d only begun to learn.

Brodie poked his head into the midst of a lot of pots and pans banging. “Mrs. James, I’d be obliged if you’d suggest a place for a moment’s privacy.”

“Use my bedroom, son. It’s safest from interruption.”

Laurel took his hand. “I’ll show you.”

Safe from prying eyes, he placed the gift in her hands. She ripped off the brown paper. Rich folds of a beautiful dress unfurled. Thickness rose in her throat.

“My darling husband, you truly amaze me.”

“Every bride should have a wedding gown. You don’t mind it being lavender? The color brought us together.”

“Mind?” The purple satin brushed her cheek, as whispery soft as a baby’s breath. She blinked back tears. He’d given a present of great significance. The past was behind at last and they had nothing ahead to fear.

“I hope it doesn’t bring back bad memories.”

“That you selected lavender means more than you’ll know.”

The wedding gown slid to the bed as her arms went around his neck. She inhaled the faint scent of leather, tobacco, and shaving soap. The mirror reflected a daunting pair.