Lawfully Loved (Texas Lawkeeper Romance)(7)

By: Jenna Brandt

A pleased look crossed the older man’s face. “I’m glad to hear that, Deputy. It’s about time. I appreciate your promise to intervene.”

Rebecca approached the men with a smile and a twinkle in her eye. It was pleasantly surprising to see her father and Jake getting along. Her father rarely took to strangers.

“Dinner is ready,” Rebecca declared.

Jake’s eyes darted around the room. “Are we waiting for Mrs. Caldwell?”

It was Rebecca’s turn to stiffen. The uncomfortable effect of the question was palpable in the room. How was she going to answer his inquiry?

Her father interceded by saying, “My wife won’t be joining us tonight. She isn’t feeling well.”

“Am I imposing? With a sick family member, I don’t want to be in the way.”

Rebecca stepped forward and shook her head adamantly. “Her condition is chronic. No reason for you to leave, Jake.”

Mr. Caldwell turned to his daughter and raised his eyebrow. She knew he must be puzzled by the use of such a familiar name, but he didn’t embarrass her by asking why she used it. Instead, he stood up and motioned to the dining room. “You heard my daughter, it’s time to eat. Believe me, you don’t want to let the chicken get cold, it’s best when piping hot.”

Commenting from the corner of the room, Lydia stated in defense of her sister, “It’s still good cold, Papa.”

“That’s true; it makes a great meal the next day,” he looked around at his children, “but not that much of it makes it to the next day with all these ones around.”

Lydia giggled. “It’s mostly Georgie’s fault.”

Right on cue, the boy hollered as he ran past all of them, “Let’s eat. I’m starving.”

The party of five made their way into the dining room where Lydia had already set the table and Rebecca had placed the food.

“My, this looks delicious,” Jake stated while his hungry eyes moved around the table. “And smells just as good.”

“Then we should sit down so we can partake in it,” Mr. Caldwell instructed.

Everyone took their seats and Jake reached for the bowl of green beans next to him. Mr. Caldwell made a disapproving sound. “We say grace before dinner in this house, Deputy.”

Jake’s face turned red as he averted his eyes. “My apologies, Mr. Caldwell. I wasn’t thinking.”

“That’s alright,” he stated, then started to pray, “Dear Lord, thank you for the food you’ve provided for us as well as the roof over our heads and the clothes on our backs. You give us everything we need and we are eternally grateful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

They passed the food around the table, everyone taking as much as they liked from the dishes. Rebecca watched with anticipation as Jake bit into his first piece of chicken.

His eyes grew round with appreciation. He took several more rapid bites before stating after he swallowed the last mouthful, “You weren’t exaggerating when you said your chicken is the best in three towns.” He looked directly at her with a grin on his face. “I wager, it’s the best fried chicken in all the county.”

Her heart fluttered at the compliment. It was the first time she had cooked for a man that wasn’t family or at one of the church picnics and his affirming words made her almost swoon.

The rest of the meal passed with pleasant conversation while Rebecca tried to keep from openly staring at Jake. Towards the end of the meal, she made her way into the kitchen to bring out her specialty, carrot cake.

As she re-entered the dining room carrying the platter, Lydia squealed with delight, “Goodie, goodie; carrot cake, my favorite.”

Rebecca cut the first piece of cake and placed it on a plate. As the family’s guest, she wanted to serve Jake first. She walked around the table until she was standing next to him.

As she leaned forward to put the cake in front of him, her arm brushed the side of his and her golden curls fell forward against the side of his face. The contact caused Rebecca’s hand to quiver as a tingling sensation spread up her arm.

Jake must have noticed her hesitation because he reached out to take the dessert from her, resulting in their hands grazing for just a moment. Rebecca’s eyes flickered to Jake, who was already gazing at her with his smoldering green eyes. A deep blush flashed across her body. Quickly, she spun away.