Two stories of women owning a business, one in the 1800s and one today. Are they too busy to find love?
Two novellas under one cover of Then and Now: In a Stew and Secrets in the Snow
"Well, well, what do we have here?" He turned from his inspection of Catrine and noticed Sissy. He straightened and frowned. "Ain't you too young to be here?"
Sissy moved closer to Catrine and grabbed a handful of her skirt. Catrine put her arm around her shoulder to reassure her.
"I beg your pardon, sir," Catrine dared before the driver interrupted her.
"You'd better back off, Sheriff," he said. "These ladies ain't what you're thinking they is." He cackled a laugh and continued his duties with the stagecoach.
The rude man confronting Catrine frowned but stepped back a bit, much to the sisters' relief. "And then just what might you be?"
Catrine noticed the star then, hanging crooked from his vest. A sheriff? A disgusting performance for a sheriff, she thought. She remembered that her father was domineering, but he was always dressed neatly in clean clothes that she had kept laundered for him. His star always hung straight on his vest. And what's more, she had never heard that he had been rude to a lady, though she had to admit that was probably because no lady ever challenged him.
Facing this sheriff, Catrine was in no position to be meek.
"Not that it's any of your business, Sheriff, but I'm here looking for a job and a place where my sister and I can live," she got in using a quickly drawn breath. She dragged in another and straightened her spine. She could do this. She had to do this. “If you really are the sheriff here, perhaps you can tell me where to inquire."His eyes widened with a shocked expression. "Are you crazy, lady?" the man asked. "Hell, you come here to a town near a railroad camp with a young girl tagging along and you expect to find work that doesn't involve being on your back?"
"You are not marrying my brother."
His dark hair, sprinkled with a touch of gray, had broken free of any combed arrangement it once had, and fell across his forehead with a sexy casualness she was totally unprepared to notice in such detail.
He shifted all his weight to one foot and raised his fisted hands to his hips. “Well? Don’t you have anything to say?" he asked in an annoyed tone, goading her to speak.
But Cynthia couldn't move. She couldn't speak. What could she say to his declaration? The man's blue eyes glared at her with an icy-hard certainty. She surmised from the expensive-looking motorcycle, his clothes, and his authoritative manner that he was probably rich and definitely used to getting his own way. She should have felt afraid and yet for some reason she did not.
Suddenly she wanted to see those eyes when he smiled because she knew they would be warm and caring. In that moment she realized that her conclusion was based on more than mere conjecture. She knew those eyes. Yes. And she'd seen them in a photograph when they were laughing and loving.
She released the keys in her pocket and clasped her hands at her waist. Her heart, previously beating rapidly with concern, now skipped a beat. She knew who this man was. A smile curled up the corners of her lips. Knowledge gave her confidence and the daring to toy with him for a few precious moments,just for the pure pleasure of it.
"Your proposal of marriage, Mister Bolten, is most unusual," she told him. "But I shall have to decline." She smiled more broadly at his surprised expression. "I'm sure you'll be relieved to hear that I have no intention of marrying you or your brother, for that matter. And now that we have that settled, would you like a cup of hot tea while you give your jacket a chance to dry out before you leave?"
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