Texas Redemption(141)By: Linda Broday
Bedecked in the lace-edged work of art, they stood hand-in-hand before the reverend. The man who was stronger than the mightiest storm, taller than a swamp water cypress, who moved heaven and earth to set her world straight stole her thoughts.
Through a brilliant mist, she watched Brodie shake the gold band from the pouch inside his shirt. Parting with the ring meant trust and commitment. She didn’t mind the imperfect fit.
“I pronounce you husband and wife.”
Fiery passion in the kiss sealed the union . He swept her up into his arms, her feet dangling amidst yards of lavender and lace. Albeit a bit scarred, she’d found her soul mate.
Blue Boy’s howls nudged them back to earth. Scowls emphasized Brodie’s craggy features before he put her down.
Brodie rubbed the hound’s ears. “You belong to her, but you have to learn to share though, because I love her, too.”
Heat in the rebel grays held her prisoner. A flush rose. Being undressed by roguish eyes tended to do that. The dewy sheen coating her skin was a good omen.
Brodie settled into the living quarters above the café while a new house took shape on the land adjoining Murphy’s.
The parade of nameless faces no longer tormented him. Truth to tell, he strove to remember the emptiness of former days and nights. Allowing love into his heart had freed him.
“What’ll happen to me?” Adeline’s mouth had trembled.
Both he and Laurel assured the girl she’d always have a bed under their roof no matter what. When the girl gained experience, they’d turn over the deed to Ollie’s Café to her.
Florence Kempshaw dropped by to eat a big helping of humble pie. The rest of the town followed suit, which brought relief. The devil take anyone who harmed Laurel.
They’d deal with him first and find it a pretty big chore.
“I’m anxious to hear what prompted you from running her out of town to smoking the peace pipe?” he’d asked the busybody.
Florence had flushed. “She risked death to keep Vallens and Taft from taking those girls and stood up and fought to stay when it would’ve been easier to leave.”
Now, in the garden, his gorgeous wife captured his full attention. He’d never tire of watching her.
Laurel held a bouquet of purple pansies. “Are you ready?”
“For anything, darlin’. Let me grab my hat.”
The flowers added flair to Olivia Applejack b’Dam’s bleak grave. He missed the jabs the crotchety woman had delighted in poking him with now and again. She’d grown on him before he ever realized he wanted her to. Ollie thought she could paint over the crust so no one would see the size of her heart. She’d fooled him for a while—until he peeled aside the layers.
A cool wind blew raven tendrils across Laurel’s face. He held her tight, brushing them back to dry the tears. He blinked hard when she knelt to adjust the pansies.
“I did it, Ollie,” Laurel said. “I went home. You were right about my family. I also think you pegged Brodie for the handsome rebel he is. We’re married now. I miss hearing your cackle and your mother hen ways, but you probably know that, too.”
Brodie ached with loss left by his mother, Aunt Lucy, and Ollie. The palm he laid on Laurel’s bowed head shook.
“Her spirit lives with us, darlin’.” He tried to swallow but it got stuck on the way down. He suddenly sniffed. “I swear if I don’t smell smoke from that damn corncob pipe.”
Laurel smiled up through misty eyes and drawled, “My grandpappy always said, ‘Girl, ain’t nothing to dying. It’s the living that takes talent.’”
All of a sudden, the breeze ceased. Not a leaf, blade of grass, or ripple of air moved. Amid the hush, a red bird landed on one of the flowers she’d brought. It chattered, scolding.
“Great Johnny Reb. Ollie always insisted on the last word.”
“That she did.” Laurel accepted his hand and came into his arms. “Ollie b’Dam, you try to behave yourself and mind your manners up there. Don’t try the good Lord’s patience with all those righteous sayings.”
Arm in arm, they strolled for the café. A strange horse and rider galloped from the woods and into town.