Falling for the Flyboy(7)

By: Trish Milburn

After getting Tilly started on the packaging, Amanda returned to her sketch of the bunny. The letter that had accompanied the order had been written in grandmotherly scrawl. Had the woman fought arthritis to write out her request for a velvet bunny for her granddaughter, who loved The Velveteen Rabbit so much she’d worn out three copies of the book?

That story had been a particular favorite of Amanda’s when she was growing up, so she took extra care in sketching the heart-touching rabbit before sitting down to cut out the velvet pieces.

She’d finished the pattern and was searching through her boxes of material when Peachy started barking again. What now?

Without looking out the window, she opened the front door and almost gasped. Cameron Blue stood next to a black pickup rubbing the top of Peachy’s head. She hadn’t expected him to show up so soon, only a day after the disturbing meeting in the school hallway. She’d hoped he wouldn’t show up at all, that he’d forget his request to see the farm. His self-assured stance and well-made body made her nerves pop like firecrackers.

“Fierce guard dog you have here,” he said as he beamed that hypnotic smile in her direction.

His voice snapped her out of her trance, and she noticed Peachy’s odd behavior. The husky had never gone to anyone without permission. But she didn’t want Cameron Blue to know that. A woman living alone couldn’t be too careful.

“She’s loud enough that I know when someone’s around,” she said.

Cameron leaned down and let Peachy lick him on the face. For a hint of a second, Amanda resented the dog. Shame and confusion knotted inside her again, causing her to speak Peachy’s name more harshly than she intended. The dog, head hanging, trotted back to her. Amanda rubbed between Peachy’s ears to let her know she was still loved.

“Peachy. That’s an odd name for a dog,” Cameron said.

“I’m from Georgia.”

Now what had made her give up that bit of information, that glimpse into what she viewed as her past life?

“Ah. I thought you sounded like you’re from the South. So, how do you like our winters so far?”

“They take some getting used to.”

“Yeah. North Dakota winters have chased off plenty of people through the years,” he said.

“So have Georgia summers.”

A look of surprise flashed across his face, but he quickly masked it. There was something about this guy that she couldn’t figure out. Something a bit cocky. Maybe it was the way he always stood so straight, like someone had tied his back to a utility pole. Or how she sensed a barely contained energy pulsing just beneath the surface.

“I don’t want to keep you from whatever you were doing,” he said. “I thought I’d walk around for a bit if you don’t mind, maybe sit down by the river.”

“Make yourself at home.” Amanda wanted to bite off her tongue. She didn’t want him to feel at home. This was her home, and she wished he’d go off to wherever he made his. She didn’t like the way her stomach churned whenever she looked at him. He upset her carefully created balance, and she resented him for it.

Before she said anything else she’d live to regret, she headed back inside. Tilly, thankfully, was still up to her elbows in packing tape and cardboard boxes. Amanda hurried through the living room and into the extra bedroom where she did most of her work. She stumbled over a box of cotton scraps she’d purchased at an estate sale the previous weekend. She shoved the box out of her limited pathway, wishing for the umpteenth time she could save money faster so she could buy the rest of the farm that sat adjacent to her few acres. She desperately needed the extra workspace the old barn on that piece of property would provide.

Well, she wouldn’t earn the necessary cash if she didn’t get back to work. As she carefully used her new pattern to cut out pieces of tan velvet, she gradually brought her breathing under control.

When she really thought about it, she was glad Cameron had decided to visit the farm today. After his visit, she wouldn’t have to wonder when he was going to show up on her doorstep. She could get her life and her scrambled thoughts back on their neat little path.