Read Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series Online

Authors: Corrissa James

Tags: #Contemporary Western Romance

Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series (7 page)

BOOK: Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series
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Susannah tried to smile, but she was sure it looked more like a grimace. “Jonathan and Daniel would knock it off in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, my brother Andrew is the ringleader, and I swear that boy lives for trouble.”

Dalton stood up. “Let me make a call and see what we can do.” He stepped inside the house, leaving Trish and Susannah alone on the porch.

“So?” Trish raised an eyebrow in anticipation.

“What?”

Trish reached out and patted Susannah’s knee. “Oh come on, I saw that flush in your face when I mentioned the sheriff—there it is again. Gimme some details, girlfriend!”

Susannah laughed nervously. She barely knew Trish, had only just met her last week when Trish’s ex-boyfriend tried to kill her. So how was it that this woman could seemingly read her thoughts? “I don’t know what you mean.”

Trish frowned playfully. “Woman, if you and I are going to be lifelong friends, you have got to learn to share the juicy gossip with me!”

Susannah rolled her eyes and groaned. “There won’t be anything to share since I think he’s avoiding me.”

Trish eyed the other woman for a moment. “Avoiding, huh? That just means that when you two get together, there is going to be one hell of a fireworks show.” She laughed. “Oh, I see you’ve already experienced those particular fireworks.”

Susannah was grateful that Dalton returned to the porch at that moment as her face was burning so brightly that her whole body felt like it was on fire.

“Well, I spoke to the sheriff. He thinks he can get the state to drop the charges for Daniel and Jonathan, but that means Andrew takes the brunt of it. But he said he won’t do anything until he hears from someone named Annie, told me to tell you, so you could let her know to stop by.”

“Stop by where?” Susannah hoped her voice didn’t sound as anxious and excited to them as it did to her, but one glance at Trish and she knew the other woman knew full well what Susannah was experiencing right now. Luckily, Dalton seemed none the wiser.

“Dunno. That was the entire message.”

Trish nodded and shifted in her seat. “So if you have Daniel and Jonathan to help with the farm, and say, maybe Lucas works here part time, do you think you can manage?”

Susannah considered it for a moment. Daniel and Jonathan would probably get more work done without Andrew around to distract them. She’d have to pick up Lucas’s slack, but she’d give up sleep entirely if it meant that Lucas was happy. “Obviously I’d have to talk it over with my brothers, but it should work out okay. And they’d be stupid not to take the offer.”

“As long as they understand that the destruction stops.” Dalton stared down at her, as if trying to drive his point home.

“Oh, stop it.” Trish looked at Susannah and shook her head. “Seriously, they never learn.”

Lucas returned, and Trish and Susannah walked out to speak to him. He listened to Trish’s proposal, his eyes lighting up when she mentioned training horses on the ranch. She told him they had a new group of horses coming in any day and they’d need to be broke and trained. Susannah’s heart surged as she watched the excitement growing in her brother’s face. But as soon as he looked at her, the excitement vanished, and she realized that he understood what it would mean for the farm. Trish took her cue and left the two of them alone so Susannah could explain the situation.

“It’s really the best solution we can hope for,” Susannah finished. “Although Andrew won’t think so.”

Lucas arched an eyebrow and smiled.

“But this might give Daniel and Jonathan a chance to get out from under him. Something’s got to change, Lucas. We can’t go on constantly cleaning up after Andrew.”

Lucas sighed. He looked out over the fields, then turned back to her and nodded once. Then he pulled her into a tight hug.

“So it’s settled.”

They turned to see Dalton and Trish standing a few feet from them. Lucas stepped forward to shake Dalton’s hand.

“Good to have you aboard, Lucas, but remember, she’s the boss, not me.”

Lucas nodded and turned to shake hands with Trish.

Susannah watched, blinking back tears. For the first time in nearly ten years, Lucas would be working off the farm. It was a huge step for her brother, and she couldn’t have stopped the pride from welling up inside her if she tried.

 

 

Unfortunately her happiness didn’t last long. She left Lucas at the Jameses’ ranch for the afternoon while she tried to hunt down Tate, returning first to the courthouse, then heading out to his father’s house, and finally her own home. He was nowhere to be found, and he wasn’t responding to her messages left at any of these places telling him to call her. The constant up and down emotions, ranging from nervousness to excitement and then disappointment, frazzled her nerves until she was only left with frustration that was quickly becoming anger. That anger shifted into full-on rage when Jonathan and Daniel were dropped off by a deputy late that evening. She had spent the entire day trying to find Tate, but he had made himself scarce—she now knew it was intentional.

Feeling guilty about not being in better spirits when her brothers came home, she claimed to have a headache. She quickly explained the situation to them, stressing that this was the one chance they had to make everything right, then turned in early for the night. An aching pain really was tormenting her, but the heartache was stemming from the belief that she had really messed things up with Tate, and now he wasn’t giving her the chance to explain or make things right. She went to bed, telling herself that a good night’s sleep would help make everything look better in the morning, yet sleep eluded her. Every time she closed her eyes, she remembered Tate kissing her, teasing her body, and the heartache grew until it threatened to consume her.

Chapter Twelve

 

Tate endured more sleepless nights than he cared to admit. He threw himself into his work, doing so much overtime that he was leaving his deputies with nothing to do. Of course, none of them would tell him that. They barely spoke to him as they were too busy avoiding his seemingly never-ending foul mood. His mood lightened up a bit when Andrew Clark was sentenced to thirty days in county lockup, followed by a year of probation. However, when Tate touched base with Dalton James and learned that Lucas was thriving while working on the ranch, his bad mood returned. His plan had been to make the entire Clark family suffer, especially Annie and Lucas, for making him look the fool. But Lucas was feeling none of the repercussions, which made Tate angrier than he cared to admit, even to himself.

He wasn’t sure how Annie had managed to turn such a bad situation into something good for everyone—everyone but him—but he was sure she was behind it all. With both Bruce Garrison and now Andrew Clark behind bars, the late night calls about rowdy troublemakers basically disappeared. A few would still come in on weekends, but the overnight dispatch operator was becoming just as bored as the deputies. Tate seemed to be the only one working himself into a state of exhaustion every day, but he knew it was because the nights terrified him.

He couldn’t get Annie out of his head. Despite being convinced that she had used him to ensure the safety of her brothers, he still found himself making excuses to go places where she might be. He told himself that catching a glimpse of her would remind him of how truly devious she was. Except, of course, his body didn’t care if she was devious or not. It just wanted to feel her body next to his. Soon Tate stopped looking for her and instead started avoiding any place she might be. That approach didn’t work either.

After the first week of avoiding her, the doubts emerged. Had he misunderstood the situation? He remembered how panicked she’d been when Andrew started knocking on the door. No matter how much he told himself that it had all been an act, he could not dismiss her fear. She’d been truly worried that Andrew would know that she’d been with Tate that night. But that scenario didn’t fit with his ideas of deception. In fact, it would have been better if Andrew had caught them in bed together. Tate would not have been able to be involved in the case against Andrew.

He was spending another sleepless night in bed when he remembered that he didn’t even consider the Clark brothers as suspects until Annie mentioned the Jameses to Andrew that morning, when Tate was supposed to be hiding in the shower. She would never have brought that up if they were all working together to conceal the truth and deceive him. Tate swore as he threw off the thin sheet and pulled on a pair of pants. He’d been so focused on a single comment from Annie that he’d failed to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. Now he was determined to face Annie and get to the bottom of the whole conversation.

He glanced at the clock. It wasn’t quite 4 a.m. He made a pot of coffee and drank two-thirds of it, watching the clock the entire time. At 4:47 he decided that if Annie wasn’t already waking up for the day’s chores, he’d help her along. He smiled to himself as he grabbed his keys. Well, he’d wake her up, but getting out of bed was a different story. And if she were already up and about, maybe he’d just bring her back to his cabin for a languid weekend.

He threw open the cabin’s front door, then jumped back, startled. An older woman stood on his front step, her hand raised as if about to knock on the door.

“Good morning, nephew.”

 

 

Tate handed his aunt a cup of coffee. Ola, his father’s sister, held herself regally as she sat on the edge of the sofa, her spine straight and her shoulders pulled back. She sipped on the coffee as if she were drinking from the finest china instead of an old chipped mug. Every move she made was controlled, measured, deliberate, which made Tate all the more anxious to find out why she was here before the sun was up for the day. But he knew the way of his elders in his family. Any attempt to prod her along would slow her to the speed of molasses, and then it might be days before he found out why she was here. So he sat with her, his impatience straining him to the point that he wanted to scream.

“It is good that you are eager to greet the day, nephew. Your father would be proud of your industriousness.” Her dark brown eyes stared at him over the rim of her mug as she sipped on her coffee again.

Tate smiled but said nothing.

“Your work is going well.”

Tate tried not to squirm in his seat. It wasn’t a question, so no response was required. He knew from experience that offering a response would earn him a disappointed look. The elders were to be listened to. When she wanted him to speak, she would let him know. He focused on maintaining an appropriately respectful look on his face while his mind raced with thoughts of Annie. She’d be awake now, as would her brothers. They were likely sitting down to breakfast, discussing the day’s work to be done. Tate wondered if he’d be able to find Annie alone without alerting her brothers. Assuming he could get away from his Aunt Ola anytime soon.

“You seem distracted, nephew.” She set her mug on the coffee table. “I am happy to see this.”

“You are?” He blurted out the question without thinking, and Ola’s disapproving frown emerged. He knew that frown all too well from his childhood. That frown meant a lecture was imminent, and Ola’s lectures were famous, often lasting well over an hour. He dropped his head into his hands as Ola cleared her throat. He would not see Annie today. He glanced up at Ola and saw her frown deepen. He groaned as he realized it was very possible that he would not see Annie for several days if Ola really got going. Would he ever clear up this whole mess with Annie?

“Look at me, nephew.”

Tate sat up and placed his hands on his knees. He kept his face neutral, knowing that if Ola suspected even a hint of boredom or frustration in his expression, she would extend the lecture by several hours.

“What is her name?”

Tate’s jaw went slack and he looked at his aunt with surprise, although he quickly tried to hide it. “I don’t know what you–”

“Oh, don’t even try that with me. I may be old, but I’m not blind.” When he still didn’t answer, she shrugged. “You do not bring disrespect to this house, correct?”

“No.” He remembered his idea of bringing Annie to the cabin for the weekend and could not maintain eye contact with Ola.

His aunt snorted. “Just like your father. He met your mother and poof!” She threw her hands out in front of her, fingers splayed. “All thoughts left his head—except for thoughts of her.” Ola smiled at Tate as she rested her hand on his knee. “Their union was the stuff of legends. A love so intense that the spirits had to call your mother home early.”

Tate nodded. It was a comment he’d heard many time from the elders whenever they spoke of his mother. He didn’t remember much about her. He knew that she was of Scandinavian descent, and she was who he got his intense blue eyes from. She had passed away when he was still a child, before he started school. His father had never spoken of her.

“Your father’s presence is still strongly felt, nephew. It is good I came when I did.”

Tate looked back to his aunt.

“Have you really forgotten?” She shook her head with disapproval. “Yes, it is very good I came before you did something foolhardy.” She stood up and signaled for him to join her. “Come, it’s time to prepare for your father’s spirit release, before you desecrate his home with your impure thoughts.”

Tate felt his cheeks burn, which made his aunt laugh. He had become so caught up in Annie that he’d completely forgotten about his father’s spirit release. Had it really been a year since his death? The sadness that descended over him with the realization only made him miss Annie more.

BOOK: Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series
13.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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