Lawfully Loved (Texas Lawkeeper Romance)(9)

By: Jenna Brandt


“Honestly, Mr. Caldwell, I’m not sure I’m ready to make such a commitment. I was married before and she passed away.” He kicked the ground, keeping his eyes averted. “Your daughter seems wonderful, but I don’t want to be disloyal to my wife by courting anyone.”

“Deputy—”

“Please, Mr. Caldwell, call me Jake.”

“Jake, I didn’t know your wife, but I think she would want you to be happy. I’m not saying it’s now or it needs to be with my daughter, but you should find a way to accept your loss before you end up being alone the rest of your life.”

His eyes jerked up and met Mr. Caldwell’s own. “I’m good at being alone.”

Mr. Caldwell shook his head. “No one is good at being alone, Jake. We just convince ourselves of that so we can justify keeping others away to not get hurt.”

Was he right? Was Jake pushing people away because he was afraid? He never considered himself a fearful man, but it was possible he was operating out of such a place. If he continued the pattern, what kind of future would that mean for him?

Mr. Caldwell interrupted Jake’s thought by saying, “From what I can see, you’re an upstanding man, Jake Bolton. I’ll continue to watch you to determine if my initial evaluation of your character is correct.” Gesturing towards the house, Mr. Caldwell said, “Rebecca is making buttermilk pancakes this morning, and they’re my favorite. We should get inside before my children eat them all.”

Mr. Caldwell led Jake behind the house and through the backdoor, which opened directly into the kitchen. Rebecca’s head popped up from the stove where she was flipping pancakes on a cast iron griddle. A charming smile crossed her face as she saw them.

“Good morning,” she said, “there is orange juice and coffee on the table. Help yourself to either.”

Jake made his way over to the kitchen table and grabbed a cup for coffee. He poured himself a full cup of the liquid heaven. Black coffee had kept him awake many a times when he was working early mornings or late nights, watching men at the jail or investigating clues on cases.

He took a large swig of the dark drink, and was met with a pleasant taste. Apparently, not only was she a good cook, but she could brew a tasty cup of coffee.

A few moments later, she brought a platter of pancakes over to the table. After setting them down, she walked over to the edge of the kitchen closest to the front of the house and yelled out, “Lydia, Georgie, it’s time for breakfast.”

“Your mother isn’t feeling any better?” Jake inquired.

Rebecca’s head dropped as she shook her head.

Mr. Caldwell rushed to explain, “It’s not often my wife leaves her room anymore. Don’t take it personally.”

Jake wondered what ailed the woman. He knew there were all sorts of sicknesses that spread quickly, especially out in the remote parts of the West where medicine and doctors were scarce.

The children entered the room and sat down at the table. The adults joined them and Mr. Caldwell said a quick prayer before they started eating.

A few minutes into the meal, the kids started chattering about the town celebration planned for the rest of the day. Apparently, there was going to be a festival with various activities in the afternoon and a dance in the evening.

Lydia glanced over at Jake with a mischievous smile on her face. “You should come with us, Deputy. I know my sister would like it.”

Jake’s eyes discreetly wandered to the left where Rebecca was sitting next to him. Her eyes were downcast with her hands folded in her lap and she was red, he assumed, from embarrassment.

Did she want him to come with the family? More importantly, did she want him to go with her?

“If all of you would be amicable to me attending with your family, I would be honored,” he said, still staring at Rebecca.

As if feeling his eyes on her, her eyelids fluttered up exposing her gorgeous blue eyes which were bright with hope. “I think that’s a wonderful idea.”

They finished the rest of their breakfast and Jake excused himself, stating he would be back at two o’clock to walk with the family over to the festival.

Joyful anticipation filled Jake’s heart as he thought about the upcoming celebration. He hadn’t planned on meeting a family like the Caldwells when he left Abilene the day before. As he briskly walked back to his room at the saloon, he wondered what would it take to help him put his past to rest so he could move on with his future?