More Than Meets the Eye(10)

By: Karen Witemeyer

“Here.” A bright red bow suddenly appeared around the edge of the door. Attached to Seth’s arm.

The scalawag. He’d snuck up on her.

Laughing, she snatched the bow from his hand. “You must have had this on the kitchen table, waiting for me.”

Seth stepped into the half-open doorway and grinned. “After fifteen years of your shenanigans, I’ve learned a thing or two about getting the upper hand. It’s my only defense.”

“As if you need one.” She punched him playfully in the arm.

“Ow!” He grabbed his shoulder and staggered back a step.

Evangeline rolled her eyes. Really. He was six inches taller than her and carried an extra fifty pounds of muscle. To actually hurt him, she would have to go for the eyes like Zach had taught her. Or the groin. But she loved Seth to death and would never willingly cause him pain. Besides, he was the most normal of their gang, and therefore their best chance for begetting a future generation of Hamiltons. And she wanted nieces and nephews someday.

“Did you finish weeding the sweet potatoes?” Seth asked.

“Yep. Picked up where you left off and worked down the last three rows.” As indicated by her mud-encrusted hem. She’d cleaned the soil from beneath her fingernails and rinsed off her face during Hezzy’s bath, ensuring no dirt smudged her cheeks or nose. She might have a pet pig, but that didn’t mean she wanted to look like him.

Seth nodded. “Thanks. I didn’t get quite as far as I hoped this morning.”

Evangeline shrugged off his comment. “No problem. I didn’t mind the extra time. It’s a pretty day.”

Years ago they had worked out a system. Seth would start and she would finish whatever outdoor chores were required for the day while Zach tackled the larger projects. Seth’s asthma made it difficult for him to work when the wind stirred up the dust, yet he refused to remain indoors like an invalid, so he went out first thing in the morning when things were relatively still and the air clean. He’d work until he felt tightness build in his chest, then pass the job off to her.

“I heard your caterwauling all the way in the house.” Seth grinned as he leaned against the doorframe.

Brothers. Critics, the both of them. As if either one of them could sing. Seth’s voice wobbled like a sick cat, and Zach—well, Zach never sang. Not even in church. So who knew what his voice sounded like? But to Evangeline, music was like sunshine. It brought things to life and made chores whiz by in a happy blur. She loved singing. The louder, the better. Hymns, popular tunes, even little ditties she made up on the spot. Didn’t matter. She’d chirp out whatever came into her heart. Sometimes in praise to God, sometimes for pure fun, and sometimes in self-defense to keep the loneliness at bay.

“The potatoes didn’t seem to mind,” she quipped instead of following her first instinct of sticking her tongue out at him. At nineteen, she was too mature for such antics. At least in theory.

Seth rolled his eyes. “The potatoes don’t have ears.”

“Well, the corn plants do, and they didn’t complain, either,” she sassed.

“Probably because their ears are still covered.” He raised a brow waiting for her comeback.

“Shucks, Seth. You know those stalks are experts in hominy. They adore my singing.”

He groaned.

“Really?” She shoved his shoulder. Not that it moved much. “Come on. That was a good one. Hominy—harmony?”

“Weak, sis.” He tried to hold a straight face, but a chuckle broke through. “Weak.”

“Yeah? Let’s see how weak I am.”

She hooked Hezekiah’s ribbon over her wrist, then poked Seth in the chest. Not just with one finger. She never did things by half measure. She got both pointers out and drilled him in alternating staccato motions until he backed away from the attack, throwing his hands up in surrender.

She felt victorious until a strong force butted her from behind and knocked her sideways into the wall.

She yelped. Seth grabbed for her. And Hezekiah found his opening. He barreled his way inside, snorting in glee as his hooves clicked across the floorboards of the kitchen in his race to the stove. He flopped down in front of the cast iron box and released a contented grunt.

Evangeline shot her brother an apologetic glance.

“Evie . . .” Seth’s voice lost its playful tone. “If you don’t want pork chops for supper, I suggest you get that beast out of my kitchen before I find my rifle.”

“It’s not his fault he likes that spot so well,” she pled on her pet’s behalf.

“No, it’s yours. Who in their right mind brings a feral piglet into the house and bottle feeds the thing? As if we don’t have a big enough wild pig problem around here, you go and bring one of the ugly things home.”