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 (8 page)

BOOK: Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series
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Chapter Thirteen

 

For several weeks, Susannah went out of her way to run into Tate, but he continued to avoid her. Not that she had numerous opportunities to see him as she was so busy with the additional chores on the farm. But Lucas seemed to have a new spring in his step, which made all the extra hours worth it. Plus, working herself to the point of exhaustion meant that she often fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Often, but not always. On those nights when she couldn’t sleep, she was plagued with memories of her night with Tate, which meant that the next day she would be surly and tired and not at all pleasant to be around. Today was one of those days, so she was not at all appreciative of her family’s efforts at breakfast that morning.

“Daddy says you’re working too hard, Aunt Suz.”

Susannah glanced at her niece, who was shoving a piece of pancake in her mouth, then frowned at Lucas, who shrugged. She flashed a tight smile at Jenny. “There’s nothing wrong with hard work.”

“There is when it is giving you permanent frown lines.” Daniel wouldn’t look at Susannah as he spoke, focusing instead on his coffee.

Susannah scowled. “Is this how you all feel?” She waited as they exchanged knowing looks. “Well excuse me if I have to work extra hard to keep as many brothers as I can out of jail.” She stood up from the table and dropped her dishes loudly in the sink. She heard the others scatter from the table. She turned back and saw only Jonathan still sitting, sipping his orange juice, surrounded by piles of dirty dishes.

“You could at least clear off the table if you’re so worried about me!” The only answer to her shout was a slamming screen door.

Jonathan stood and helped her clear the table.

“Don’t bother,” she snapped. “I’ll do it.”

He ignored her and continued piling up the dishes, then stood by the sink to dry as she washed. Jonathan was only a year older than she was, and it was clear to her that he did not belong on the farm. He was an artist at heart, and she always pictured him filling canvases with his artwork in a studio somewhere. He was all set to go to college and study art when their mother died. He’d put off school for a year then, and when their father died, art all but disappeared from his vocabulary. Susannah still wasn’t sure if it was because he was afraid to pursue his dream or because he felt guilty about leaving his family and the farm.

“I don’t know if I can ever thank you for what you’ve done.”

Susannah snorted. “Stay out of trouble. That’s easy enough, right?”

“No, I mean for everything, all of it. You’ve been what’s held this family together, since...” Jonathan stopped drying the plate in his hands and looked at her, his face contorted in an effort to hide the pain that was all too clearly etched into his expression.

Her shoulders sagged. “I haven’t done anything that you all wouldn’t have done for me.” She winked at him. “Well, maybe not Andrew.”

They finished the dishes in silence, and once they got them all put away, Jonathan hugged her tightly. “They’d be real proud of you, Suz. We all are.”

Susannah tried to pull away from him, but he wouldn’t let her go.

“Which is why we’re all worried about what you’re doing to yourself these last few weeks.”

She stiffened in his embrace, which finally caused him to let go. She tried to step away from him, but his words stopped her.

“So you are taking a day off. I think they call it a girls’ day out.”

“What are you talking about, Jonathan? There’s too much to do around here.”

He shook his head. “Bull. Look, whatever you are dealing with—and don’t even try and feed me a line that it has to do with Andrew or the farm or any of us—whatever it is, you need a break. So you and Jenny are gonna drive up to Sioux Falls for the day. Go shopping, get your hair done, whatever it is that girls do.” He cleared his throat, a slight pink rising to his cheeks. “Whatever you need, but when you come back, I want my sister back.”

He hugged her quickly, then slipped out the door before Susannah could argue that she was too busy to take a day off and that getting her hair done would not fix what was wrong with her.

“I’m all ready, Aunt Suz.” Jenny stood in the doorway, her Hello Kitty purse slung over her shoulder.

Susannah took one look at her niece and nearly burst into tears. She had been shutting her family out—shutting everyone out—these last few weeks, telling herself it was because she needed to focus on getting the work done. In reality, she knew she just didn’t want to deal with anyone who might be happy when she was feeling so miserable herself. She hugged Jenny tightly. “Just give me five minutes and we’ll be on our way, sweetie.”

 

 

The girls went all out in town, getting their hair and nails done as well as buying new outfits for the street dance scheduled for the end of the following week. Susannah bought a simple black dress that swayed when she moved while still being clingy enough to show off her trim frame. For Jenny, they decided on a jean skirt that fell just below her knees, paired with a white cotton shirt with simple embroidery around the neckline and cuffs. Jenny also got her long reddish locks cut into a simpler hairstyle, one that fell just below her shoulders and would be easy for her to keep up herself. Susannah, on the other hand, decided to be a little daring. The hairdresser used a rinse that brought out the reds in her hair, which in the right light, made it look as if it was on fire. She also convinced Susannah to embrace her curls, creating a hairstyle that worked with her hair instead of against it. For their nails, they both decided on a neutral color, which made Susannah laugh. Working the farm her entire life, she just never saw the point of nail polish as she never had nails to speak of. Jenny was apparently of the same mind. She referred to the brighter colors as “frivolous,” explaining that she had learned that word for a spelling test during school.

When they finally arrived home, it was already dark. Only Lucas sat at the kitchen table, waiting to see them both before going to bed. Jenny showed off her new shorter haircut and her outfit for the dance before running back to the bungalow to put her purchases away so they wouldn’t get ruined before next week. After she left, Lucas pulled Susannah into a tight embrace and whispered “Thank you” before pushing away from her and heading to his own room.

Susannah stood rooted to the ground, stunned. Had she imagined his words? No, she knew she hadn’t. It was the first time she had heard his deep voice in so long, but it was a soothing sound she could never forget. She wanted to shout from the rooftops that he had finally spoken again, but was suddenly terrified that if she reacted in any way, she might jinx it, might find out it was all a joke, that it hadn’t really happened. Instead, she headed to the bungalow to celebrate in private.

But she couldn’t sit still. She tried watching a little TV, but nothing distracted her. Jenny had already gone to bed, the day’s adventures having exhausted her, and Susannah had no one to talk to. Finally, she decided to call Trish James, but one look at the clock made her realize that wouldn’t be the best idea. She got in her truck and drove over to the Jameses’ ranch, telling herself that if a light was on downstairs, she’d stop and share the news. Surely they’d understand her giddiness?

The ranch was dark, and Susannah felt deflated. She drove back toward the farm, but instead of turning down the lane, she continued west until she came to the lane that would lead to Tate’s house. He might not want to see her, but he would be just as thrilled that Lucas had spoken to her. And if she happened to wake Tate up? Well, she wouldn’t feel guilty about that at all. In fact, she kind of hoped she would be waking him from a deep sleep just so he could experience the kinds of frustrations that had vexed her these past few weeks.

She drove slowly down the half-mile lane, which meandered through a thick copse of trees. The lane made a sharp turn to the left, ending at a single-story cabin. No lights were on inside, but the lights from the truck were shining right on the windows at the front of the cabin. If Tate had been sleeping, he wouldn’t be now. As she stepped out of the truck, she heard a noise to the north of the cabin. A small path was just visible thanks to a string of Christmas lights in the trees. She waited a moment, but saw no movement in the cabin, then heard the sound to the north once again, reminding her of metal hitting metal.

She followed the path to a small clearing, where Tate was stacking chairs into a corner, his back turned to her. He was wearing a dark long-sleeved shirt and dark pants. His hair still looked like it needed a haircut. Susannah chastised herself for wanting to run her fingers through it. He shifted to start clearing off a table, stacking up what appeared to be bowls of food on one of the remaining chairs.

“If you had come earlier, you could have participated.” He said it without looking up at her.

She remained at the edge of the clearing, in the shadows. “And what would I have been participating in?”

“A spirit release for my father.” He continued clearing the table. “It’s been one year since his passing.”

Susannah finally stepped from the shadows. “I’m sorry.” The words sounded so formal, so emotionless.

“He led a good life.”

She watched him in silence for several minutes, considering what to say to him. She wanted to yell at him for ignoring her for nearly a month. She also wanted to throw herself at him, ripping off her clothes in the process. Then she remembered Lucas and how she could share his progress with Tate. But how would Tate react? She still wasn’t sure about their rift. She rolled her eyes as the emotions raged inside her.

Finally she decided to stick to a safe topic and moved a few steps closer. “So what’s a spirit release?”

Chapter Fourteen

 

Tate picked up several bowls of food and handed them to Annie, then gathered the rest before heading for the cabin. “My people believe that, when a person dies, their spirit can linger on this plane of existence. For a year after a death, we continue to feed and care for the spirit. Then we hold a spirit release ceremony, which marks the end of the mourning period as well.”

He led her around the back of the cabin, where an outdoor kitchen was set up. He shoved all the bowls into a nearly empty refrigerator. When he closed the door, he finally looked at her.

“My father always liked you, always told me the red fox would make a fine woman.” He could feel the heat from her body. Or maybe it was the heat his own body was generating, being so close to her. He pulled a strand of her hair between his fingers, as if studying it. “Why are you here?”

“To see you.” She stared up at him, her eyes locked on his.

He sighed loudly, glanced at her hair, then let the strand slide through his fingers. “But you are ashamed of me.”

“What?” She grabbed his arm, pulling him around to look at her. “Never! I never have been or ever will be ashamed of you, Tate Trudell. Even after you avoided me for weeks!”

He shrugged out of her grip and looked away. He wanted to believe her, but he couldn’t forget her words that morning.

“Why would you even think that?”

When he looked back to her, he did not try to hide his pain. He wanted her to see how deeply she affected him. “I believe the word you used was ‘ew’.”

She scowled, as if trying to remember, then her face went slack. “No, that was for Andrew, so he wouldn’t do anything stupid. If he knew what we’d just done—that you’d bedded his sister—he would’ve killed you!”

“I think you’re exaggerating a bit, Susannah.”

“No, I’m not, Tate.”

She reached out for his hand, but he snatched it away from her. He was afraid to touch her, afraid he would smother her with kisses and try to forget the sting of her words. But she would not be deterred. When she couldn’t grab his hand, she held on to his elbow, not letting him escape.

“You don’t know him. Since losing our parents, he’s gotten out of control. He does things just to hurt people, probably to cover up the hurt that he’s feeling. At least that’s what I tell myself. My God, I hope it isn’t something worse, but I can’t be sure. And Lucas is the only one who can control him, but even that is a tenacious control at best. So that morning I panicked—yes, I said some stupid things because I was terrified that he would find out just how much I care about you and do everything he could to destroy that. He doesn’t want anyone to have anything he can’t have, don’t you see? And he doesn’t do it with maliciousness and spite, but through his stupid pranks. Everyone else is so damn quick to dismiss it, but I see it. I see the real hate in him, and it is ugly. I don’t know what to do anymore.”

She was gasping for breath after the rush of words, but Tate just stared down at her, keeping his expression neutral.

“You have to believe me. I could never hurt you like that.”

He looked away finally, then walked back along the path. She went with him, and they paused in the clearing just long enough for Tate to pick up several blankets. Then he led her deeper into the trees. She stayed close enough to him that he could feel her breath on his shoulder. When they finally emerged from the trees, they were standing on a bluff looking out over the river and beyond, to her family’s farm.

“What are we–”

“Just breathe,” he said. “Let the calmness in.”

The sky spread out above them, a million stars shining down as if they were just out of reach. Tate glanced at Annie as she looked up, marveling at the beauty of the night. A light breeze played with her hair and a faint smile of wonder tugged at her lips. He could smell the river below them as well as the sand from the banks, its sun-baked smell providing a sharp contrast to the cool night.

BOOK: Heart So Sweet: Book 3 in the Great Plains Romance Series
13.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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