Falling for the Flyboy(5)

By: Trish Milburn


Cam looked up at Janet and for the first time saw a line of worry on her forehead. Each time a family moved away from Cedar Bend, the school lost money and the ability to buy necessary items like updated textbooks. With each lost pupil, the school crept closer to closing its doors and putting his sister out of work.

“Sis, any tax dollars are better than none.”

“True,” she said with a sigh.

He briefly went over the rest of his plans before shoving the sketch back in his pocket. As he leaned back, he broached the subject that had been whirling in the back of his mind since he’d nearly toppled Amanda Perry in the hall.

“So, how long has Gram and Gramp’s place been occupied?”

“Amanda bought it a couple of years ago. I know I must have told you.”

“You probably did. I guess I forgot,” he said.

Fat chance. When Janet had told him that the former owners had finally subdivided and sold the abandoned farm on the banks of the Cedar River, his hope of buying it himself had dwindled. Up until then, he’d believed it would stay on the market a while longer, until he could save up and return to Cedar Bend with a plan for how he could stay. Though he’d loved flying F-16s, none of the string of Air Force bases had ever felt like home. Cedar Bend did.

When his grandparents’ farm had sold, he’d even counted on the harshness of life in rural North Dakota to dishearten the new owner, forcing her to put the farm up for sale again. Something about Amanda’s speech clicked in his head, and his hope rekindled a bit.

“She’s not from here, is she?”

“Amanda?”

“Yeah. She sounds southern or something.”

“I’m not really sure where she’s from. She keeps to herself mostly. She was just here because she wants to hire a student part-time to help with her craft business.”

His hope dimmed again. If she was hiring help, her business must be doing well, making it less likely she’d leave.

He’d think about that later. First, he had to find a piece of land suitable to support his plans. Once things were under way, he’d focus on how to convince Amanda Perry to sell the farm to him. Despite the fact he’d barely met her, something about the fierceness of her green eyes told him he could be in for a battle.

~

Amanda sat at her oak kitchen table enjoying the aroma of fresh-baked bread and sketching a design for a velvet, flop-eared bunny for a little girl in Kansas when Peachy, her Siberian husky, started barking. After walking into the living room, Amanda looked out the window to find Peachy standing erect on the cobblestone walkway out front. Then she noticed a teenage girl in the driveway, a bicycle placed strategically between her slim body and the powerful dog. Even from several feet away, Amanda could discern the look of frozen fear on the girl’s face.

Amanda hurried to open the door and step out onto the wide, old-fashioned porch. “Peachy, it’s okay.”

The dog immediately relaxed and trotted up the steps to nuzzle her hand. Amanda rubbed the dog’s soft fur, murmuring what a good girl she was.

“You must be Tilly Reed,” she said, looking up from the forty pounds of imposing canine to the Native American girl in her driveway.

“Yes...yes, ma’am. Does she bite?” she asked, not taking her gaze off Peachy.

“No. She’s just a good watchdog. If you let her sniff your hand, she’ll be your new best friend.”

Tilly looked like she might jump on the bike and ride like Lucifer himself was chasing her, but she tentatively held out her hand.

“Go on, Peachy, show Tilly how lovable you are,” Amanda said as she patted the dog on the rump.

She’d swear Tilly didn’t blink once as Peachy trotted up to her and stuck her muzzle in the girl’s hand. When Peachy began to lick Tilly’s fingers with much enthusiasm, Tilly smiled and crouched down to rub the dog’s thick fur.

“See. She’s really a big baby,” Amanda said as she rubbed her arms against the afternoon chill.

“She’s pretty.”

Amanda had fallen in love with the gray and black husky the minute she’d laid eyes on her at the animal shelter. The blue-eyed puppy had captured her heart and found herself a home. She’d helped relieve Amanda’s intense loneliness that first winter in her own new home.