Lawfully Loved (Texas Lawkeeper Romance)(6)

By: Jenna Brandt

Jake was surprised by the invitation, and he didn’t want to impose. Plus, ever since the death of his family, he hadn’t been the best of company, inclined to stick to himself most days. “You don’t have to offer. I wouldn’t want to put your family out.”

Shaking her head, she stated, “You wouldn’t be. Consider it a ‘thank you’ for keeping me safe earlier.”

“You wouldn’t have even been out here if it wasn’t for me.”

“Then consider it ‘thank you’ for doing the town a service by stopping that nuisance.”

“I’m not going to win, am I?” Jake joked with a chuckle.

With a playful smirk, Rebecca confirmed, “You should just give up now.”

“It seems you talked me into it,” Jake stated as he turned around to go into the saloon. “I’ll see you back at your home in a few minutes.”

“Make sure you come with an empty stomach, Deputy. I make the best fried chicken in three towns,” Rebecca stated with pride.

“I think you can call me, Jake, under the circumstances.”

She seemed to be contemplating his offer. With a nod, she stated “Only in private. We wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.” Then, almost as an afterthought, she added, “And you may call me Rebecca.”

“That’s settled then,” he flashed her a grin, “Only in private.”

* * *

The fried chicken pan clattered as it collided with the ground in the kitchen. Luckily, the last of the poultry made it onto the serving dish before the pan hit the floor.

“Lydia, can you come clean up this mess I just made,” Rebecca called out, knowing she didn’t have the time to take care of it herself.

It was unlike Rebecca to make mistakes when cooking, but she found herself nervous thinking about the arrival of the deputy at any moment. She continued to hurry around the kitchen, placing the side dishes—mashed potatoes with gravy and green beans—into serving bowls.

On a whim, she had invited the handsome stranger to dinner, not wanting to say ‘goodbye’ when they reached the saloon. The offer was an easy solution and she welcomed the idea of the deputy bringing some life back into the house.

Their home had become a solemn place ever since their mother became ill. It had taken a toll on the family and left a gaping hole in her constant absence when she refused to come out of her room.

Rebecca was on her second trip to the table when the knock at the door sounded. Quickly, she removed her apron, smoothed out her dress, and patted her curls into place.

She knew she should’ve stated they didn’t know each other long enough to use each other’s first names, but she found herself accepting his offer within seconds. She didn’t know why, but she wanted to get to know Jake Bolton better.

Her father opened the door and ushered the deputy inside. “Good to have you back, Deputy.”

“Thank you for having me over for dinner, Mr. Caldwell,” Jake stated.

“You shouldn’t have to spend any more time at the Long Reach Saloon than you have to. That place is a festering sore for this town.”

With a nod, Jake agreed. “We have similar establishments in Abilene.”

Mr. Caldwell gestured towards one of the chairs in the family room and Jake took a seat. Rebecca’s father sat in the chair next to him. “I’m sure you do, but you also have lawmen there to keep them from getting out of control. We’ve had to take matters into our own hands just to keep the good people of this town safe. If the sheriff cared at all about the well-being of the people out here, he would appoint a deputy to watch over this area.”

Rebecca watched as Jake stiffened under the rebuke. His hands clenched on the edge of the chair arms and she saw his eyes narrow for a moment. He waited several seconds before responding. “I understand your frustration, and when I return to Abilene, I’ll bring the matter up to Sheriff Greystone.”

With a frustrated shrug, Mr. Caldwell stated with resentment, “Little good it will do, hearing complaints from townspeople miles away, delivered by a deputy at that.”

“I can’t promise anything, Mr. Caldwell, but Sheriff Greystone’s been preparing me to take over when he retires. He listens to me on a great deal of subjects. If I report what I’ve seen here coupled with your family’s grievance, you might very well get the deputy you’re wanting.”