from These Golden Years: A Collection of Convenient Short Stories

[vc_row][vc_column text_align=”center”][vc_custom_heading text=”Trust is Golden” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:ABeeZee%3Aregular%2Citalic|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Dorothy “Cook” Miller fought the urge to snap the reins and encourage the aging horse to pick up her step. That would only increase the bumping of the cart. How would her own aging bones handle that?

As it was, they ached for home. For a comfortable seat and her sweet Owen to dote on her. Just thinking of him brought a smile to her face. It always did. The old coot.

The roof of the cabin peeked over the top of the hill. She was almost there.

Shaking and ricketing, the wagon protested the final climb. But it was sturdy. Owen made certain of that. He wouldn’t risk his Dorothy, as he said so often. Yes, he was a kind-hearted man…even if he was a lot of trouble.

She smiled to herself as she pulled up to the simple log structure that was her home. And then she waited for Owen to come out, greet her, and take the horse to the barn.

But nothing happened. No one came.

So she waited.

And waited.

Was Owen all right? The old goat. He must be sleeping. Fine thing, that. She’d been working her hands calloused and he was napping the afternoon away!

But she couldn’t be cross with him. He’d had his share of hardship over the years. She couldn’t begrudge him some peace and rest after what he’d put that body of his through in his younger years as a ranch hand. Too many years abusing it.

It took more effort than she’d have liked to stable the horse and secure the barn, but she did it. Without thinking bad thoughts about her husband. Well…not too many at least.

She stiffled a laugh in spite of the ache in her back. They did pick at each other. But that was their way.

Opening the door slowly, she then glanced about the cabin. There were no lanterns lit within. And as the sun had begun to set, the interior had dimmed.

She made quick work of remedying that. Then she tiptoed to the kitchen and pulled together a few foodstuffs to prepare a simple meal. Dare she rouse Owen to eat? Dare she not?

If there was one thing she couldn’t abide it was a stomach growling, complaining it hadn’t been fed on her watch.

Nope, she’d wake him all right. There’d be no tummy grumbles in her bed tonight.

She had just put the meager stew together and started heating it on the stovetop when sounds outside disrupted her concentration. Or what was left of her concentration to disrupt.

Who would be visiting at this hour?

“Owen!” she called. She would much rather he receive than she. It was best.

No response.



Well now, didn’t that beat all. He was dead sleep. She knew the kind. And it was just like him, too.

She wiped her hands on her apron and moved toward the door. But as she neared the window, she spotted the figure, blurred by the dimness and her declining night vision, move into the barn.

The barn?

Was there a thief upon them? Come to steal their horses from right under their noses? The cad!

The man had another thing coming if he thought she was going to stand by and let a common ruffian take her old mare. Why…she never!

“Owen!” she called again. Whatever was wrong with that man? Did he have cotton in his ears?

Uneasiness prickled at the skin on her arms and she swallowed. Would it be up to her to defend their home? Could she do that?

She closed her eyes. Dear Lord, give me the strength to do what I need to. And the sense to know what not to.

Then she snatched for her broom. A fine weapon. She’d beat back many a beady-eyed mouse with it.

But a horsethief was not mouse, her mind warned.

Maybe they weren’t quite so different, she told herself. Both bullies. Only this one was taller.

Movement beyond the window belied that the man came toward the cabin. Did he think this humble house had valuables? Why? Would he try to harm she and Owen?

Even as she peered, she couldn’t make out more than his form as he came closer. She pressed her back to the wall. No sense in giving away her position. And she gripped her broom stick until her hands hurt.

The moment that scalawag stepped in this house—her house—she’d whack him with this broom with all the force she could muster.

Yes, that was a good plan. Sound. Doable.

A thickness rose in her throat as the steps to the door creaked. She couldn’t do this.

The door latch jangled.

She had to. She would. She raised the broom and closed her eyes. Wait…if she kept her eyes closed, how would she hit him square in his detestable face?

Open eyes. Yes, that was better.

The door opened and…

She swung, smacking the door with the broom hard enough it sent a tremor through her arms and she landed solid against the wall. And all the wind went out of her.

She gasped for breath.

Someone spoke to her.

In a gruff voice.


Hands were on her arm.

She flung an elbow back.

There was a satisfying “Hummpff.”

She turned.

And Owen worked to catch his breath.


How? Why?


“Oh dear!” She grabbed for his arm to help hold him up, dropping the broom as she went.

He held up a hand. “I’ll be fine.”

“Owen, I’m sorry…but you were a horsethief!”

He looked at her, an eyebrow quirked. “A horsethief? When? In a past life?”

“No…just now when I saw…well, you see, you…oh, nevermind.” Her cheeks burned and she couldn’t seem to get the words out.

He rumbled.

Was he coughing? Fighting for breath? Had she killed him?

“Owen?” She grabbed for his arm.

He took her hand as he continued to shake, head down.

After some moments, he glanced at her, his whole face lit up as he released his laughter at last.

Laughter? This was funny to him?

“Owen Miller, I might have killed you!” She shook off his arm.

He howled louder. “Most certainly, my dear. And I deserved it. And more I’m sure.” His eyes gleamed.

“You most certainly did!” She crossed her arms, failing to see the humor. “You scared me something terrible.”

His laughter faded and he met her gaze. “I apologize. I had no idea you would be so concerned.”

“Well, I thought you were asleep.” She moved back to the kitchen. “I hadn’t a thought who would be traipsing around in our barn at this hour. Unless it was someone up to no good.” She shot him a look.

“Sounds like me, all right.” He winked.

She stirred the stew, it had begun to burn. Couldn’t anything go right this evening? “I am sure glad you’re amused.”

His smile faded and he walked to her. “Don’t be mad. I won’t live long enough to work it off.”

She couldn’t help the grin that tugged at her lips when she peered at him. “Maybe. But you could try.”

He rubbed her upper arms. “I hereby solemnly swear. I will work my hardest to make it up to you.”

The grin that threatened overcame her features.

“Til death do us part.” His own smile filled his face.

She leaned into him and let the tension of the past several moments slip away. All was forgiven and forgotten. Except…where had he been?

Pulling back, she opened her mouth to ask.

“Shall I…set out the bowls?” He looked at the pot.

She found herself too tired and unwilling to further muddy the waters with another discussion. Perhaps it was his business where he had been. Maybe he’d just been for a ride. Or over to visit Mr. Hayworth. It was no matter.

She sighed. “Hope you like your stew a little on the burnt side.”

“I’ll take it. As long as I get to sit at the table with you.”

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][wyde_icon_block icon=”flora-icon-arrow-4″ size=”large” style=”none” color=”#000000″][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Dorothy put two dinner plates in the dish bin.

“Now you get on home,” Amanda said, her voice bearing a gentle reprimand. “You have long since earned a decent rest!”

“As if you haven’t,” Dorothy countered. Why was the woman forcing her out of the homestead’s kitchen and sending her home? Was she not welcome?

Dorothy chidded herself. She knew better. That wasn’t it in the least. Amanda Miller simply wanted to send her home early to enjoy the evening. That was all.

Then why didn’t it sit well with Dorothy? Was it always so hard for her to be the receiver of such kindnesses?

Hands pressed against her shoulder, shoving her toward the dining room.

“I meant what I said,” Amanda’s tone did not invite the retort already building within Dorothy. “Now, off with you.”

Lucy giggled from across the room.

Dorothy winked at the child as she grabbed for her shawl. “You are too kind to this old bird.”

Amanda shot her a look that mocked a hard edge. “And you are too hard on yourself. You deserve an evening off every now and then. I can manage by myself just fine.”


Amanda held up a hand. “I won’t hear it. Just go.”

Though her words were edged, there was a smile on the younger woman’s face.

Conceding defeat, not something she did easily, Dorothy nodded and, wrapping her shawl around herself, headed toward the front door.

At the last second, she turned. “Don’t forget—”

“I won’t!” Amanda yelled from the kitchen. A clanking sound told that she had begun scrubbing the plates. “For the love of all that’s good and holy, Cook, just go!”

Without another word, Dorothy opened the door, slipped through, and headed out. It was only a matter of moments until she sat in the wagon, her sights set on her cabin. And only a half hour later, she paused at the front of the small structure to wait for Owen.

She waited.

And waited.

Where was he today?

This had become old news.

More and more of late, he had not been home when she returned. He’d been consumed with errands. It was always something.

She slapped the reins and steered the animal closer to the barn. In short order, she was in her own kitchen stirring up something for their dinner. But when Owen might show up, she didn’t know.

Surely he would be home for supper. That had been a constant. Whether his business took him to visit a friend, or to the General Store, or wherever, he always made it home for the evening meal.

But now, she glanced across the cabin at the complete emptiness. The bare plates in front of the vacant chairs taunted her. Where was that man? Did he dare risk her ire by delaying his return?

And just where would he say he had been today? It was always somewhere different. Surely he was running out of errands after all these days. There were not, in fact, that many places to go in Wharton City.

The clomping of hooves outside drew her attention in that direction.

Ah ha! There he was…

At last.

She looked at her timepiece.

He came in just minutes before she would have been home on a normal day. Had he planned it to be so? And if that were the case, had he been out even on the days she arrived to find him home? Having just returned?

Something unpleasant stirred in her stomach. What was really going on with that man? Was he hiding something?

No, that didn’t seem like him at all. The man had always been an open book.


He had something he needed to keep from her.

Such as what?

She shook her head, unwilling to think on such things.

The door creaked and he entered.

“Good evening to ya’.” She stood just in front of him, planted and ready for a confrontation.

His eyes connected with hers, grew wider, and the most sheepish smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “Why, Dorothy, I…um…didn’t expect to see you home this early.”

She nodded. “That’s as plain as the broad side of a barn.”

His eyebrows gathered. “W-what do you mean?”

She dropped her arms. “Aw, nothing. It’s just curious is all.”

“What?” He broke their eye contact as he turned to close the door and secure the latch.

“I think you know what I’m talking about, Owen Miller.” She wagged a finger at him before spinning toward the kitchen and moving in that direction.

Silence behind her betrayed that he didn’t follow.

“Your dinner’s done got cold.”


“I ain’t got no reason to lie.” Her gaze on him was meaningful. Could she communicate her thoughts that way?

Would he understand? Or was he too thick-headed? She had come to discover that he wasn’t always the best at noticing things like that. His mind just didn’t seem to work that way. He was more…obvious. “Do you?”

He hobbled to the table. “Do I what?” His voice had become gruff.

Oh well. So what if he didn’t like this conversation?

“Do you have any reason to be fibbin’?”

He paused as he lowered himself into his seat, his body caught between standing and sitting. “Why would you ask me a question like that?”

She shrugged and looked down at the beans. “No reason.”

He stood once more. “You got a reason all right. Ain’t no female ever asked a question she ain’t got something she’s aiming for.”

Dorothy put a hand to her chest and inhaled sharply, feigning shock. As if he wasn’t right. He was, of course. But that didn’t mean she had to let on that he was. “Why, Mr. Owen Miller, I’m surprised at you.”

“At me?” he said, his voice rising. “I’m playing mouse to your cat here.”

Dorothy clamped her mouth shut. She needed to think better before speaking again. No more of this childishness. She might as well ask him what she truly wanted to know. Sighing, she let out the building tension in her shoulders. “Where were you this afternoon?”

Something passed in his eyes. It also brought a twitch to his features. She would bet her life that he hid something. No way was he about to speak truth to her. Not a chance.

“I…was at the General Store.”

“Yeah?” she challenged.


She crossed her arms. “What’d you get?” Her eyes roamed over his person and around him. There didn’t appear to be anything new.

“Ah…” He seemed to hunt for an answer. “Some pipe tobacco.”

Her eyes narrowed. Shoot! He was quicker on his feet than she’d thought. But she’d do one better. “I thought that’s what you got Monday.”

“I, um, smoked it all.”

She nodded. “You smoked it all, did you?”

He bobbed his head as he looked toward the floor.

“In two days?”

The silence in the room was thick.

“Well,” she retorted. “One thing is certain. You have a bad habit forming.”

He didn’t look up.

“And it’s one of two things.”

He peered up at her, a brow quirked. Did he not catch her meaning?

“Smokin’ too much. Or lyin’.” With that, she stomped across the great room, to their shared bedroom, and shut the door soundly.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][wyde_icon_block icon=”flora-icon-arrow-4″ size=”large” style=”none”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

What on earth was that man thinking? How could he lie to her? To her? It just wasn’t right. They’d been married precious few years and now he trampled on her trust? Lord knew she didn’t trust easily.

Lord knew…

If only Owen could understand that. She thought he did.

She squared her shoulders and shifted her focus to her task as the water started to boil.

It was clear—he didn’t. Or wouldn’t.

Movement near the door to the dining room gave her pause. She turned in that direction, but it was only Amanda with baby Oliver in her arms. The tune she hummed to soothe the little one was pleasant, but it did nothing to calm Dorothy’s worn nerves. Still she offered the younger woman a smile.

“Naptime?” Dorothy took a moment from her vegetables and stepped toward the mother and child.

Amanda nodded and sighed. “He’s fighting it.”

“Oh, not this one.” Dorothy peered into the sweet angel face of the newest addition to the household. Then she glanced at Amanda, the weariness shown around her eyes. No matter how well her features could disguise it—Dorothy knew. “Still not getting a lot of sleep?”

Amanda drew in a deep breath. “Is it that obvious?”

Patting her friend on the shoulder, Dorothy gave her what she hoped was an encouraging smile. “Only to someone who knows you well. And cares deeply.”

The younger woman nodded, but didn’t say anything. “I…”

“Yes?” Dorothy prodded when Amanda’s next words were not forthcoming.

“I just…”

Dorothy squeezed her arm. “I know, dear.” But she didn’t. She’d never been in Amanda’s place. But that couldn’t stop her from trying her best to sympathize and support her friend.

Amanda’s gaze caught Dorothy’s. “And Brandon, he…tries. He really does.”

Dorothy nodded.

“But…I don’t know. It’s just not the same.”

“Yeah, those Miller men.” Dorothy let her own emotions simmering underneath the surface show for a minute. “They have a stubborn streak indeed.”

Amanda nodded and looked back at the child, whose lower lip poked out and brow creased. He would be squalling soon. She bounced the bundle gently. The babe did not relent.

“Even this Oliver here, it comes natural.”

Her words were not helping. That was obvious. Was she too stuck in her own troubles with Owen? This wasn’t about her and Owen. This was about Amanda and what was happening with her.

Dorothy put a hand on the child’s light curls. “They mean well, though—our Miller men. Can’t fault ‘em one bit for their good intentions. They got buckets of that.”

Amanda did not take her eyes off Oliver or slow her rocking motions, but her demeanor seemed to lift. Dorothy’s words coudn’t change that the baby needed her throughout the night, but perhaps they helped her perspective on some of Brandon’s behavior…whatever was happening there.

“Oh, I think he’s settling,” Amanda whispered.

Dorothy looked down. “So he is.”

“Thank you.” The words were mouthed as Amanda turned toward the hall.

Dorothy watched her go, hoping the woman would grab some sleep for herself. Yes, those men of theirs were tiresome and frustrating, but their heart was always in the right place. And that included Owen.

She frowned. Did that mean she would have to be patient and understanding? Maybe give him space to show her that his intentions were good?

Blast it all!

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][wyde_icon_block icon=”flora-icon-arrow-4″ size=”large” style=”none”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Dorothy directed the horse’s movements home. Not that her efforts were necessary. The horse knew the way. Most certainly. But it gave her a sense of purpose. Even when Owen was at the reins. He needed direction, too. That man would have them halfway to California if she wasn’t watching him closely.

But as she neared the cabin, she was determined to be understanding. Determined to be patient. No matter what. Whether he was home. Or not.

After all, if he wasn’t at the cabin there must be a good reason.

She had to trust him.

And she did.

Didn’t she?

This just wouldn’t do. She did, for goodness sakes. It was up to her to quiet this crazy backtalk her mind was giving her. Or was it her heart?

As she pulled the cart to the log structure, she didn’t wait for Owen to come out for the horse and wagon. She maneuvered the animal toward the barn, put the mare in her stall, and secured the cart for the night.

Then she headed into the cabin. She entered to lanterns set dimly. Still it was light. Was Owen home?

“Owen?” she called.

“Yes?” he answered from the back, sectioned off area that made for their bedroom.

“You all right?” Her concern teetered on worry, but she managed to keep it in check.

“Yeah. Just getting this old body a-movin’.”

She let out a breath. At least he was home and whole. They’d managed his troubles with his hip rather well. And she refused to think what it might be like if they got worse.

As she moved toward the stove, the floors creaked. She needed to warm something for dinner. Maybe they could have something cold. It had been a long day. The need for coffee was great, but the desire for a good night of sleep overruled it.

No sooner had she put a pot on the stove then the hunkering steps halted behind her.

“Well, hello.”

She turned. “Hello?”

With nothing further, she went back to pulling the few things together for a sauce.

“That’s it?” Owen’s voice was more gruff than usual.

“It?” She didn’t look up from her work. Was she tired? Or just keeping her emotions in check? Besides what could he mean? Was he cross about something?

“Let’s see…last I saw of you, you were accusing me of smokin’ too much or lyin’. Then, if memory serves, you stomped off and slammed the door.”

Dorothy stopped her vegetable chopping. “Oh, that.”

“Yeah. That. Is there something we need to talk about?”

She met his gaze. There was not anger there, but confusion and concern. She didn’t have time for that.

Her focus returned to the cutting board. “No. I was just…in a mood.”


She kept cutting.

“Well…” His voice trailed off.

Then nothing.

Heat crawled through her. Would he just stand there and stare at her? What was in his head?

She shot a glare at him. “Owen Miller, I declare! If you have something to say, I’d rather have you get it out.”

Even as she continued to stare him down, she flinched. This wasn’t at all how she thought this evening would go…how she wanted this evening to go. What was she doing? She had determined to be gracious and peacemaking. No matter what the old goat did to earn her ire.

“I…” he started.

She folded her arms across her chest. Why was she putting up such a front?

Owen held up his head. “I just wanted to ask you to the Valentine Dance on Saturday.”

What had he said? The Valentine Dance? Was he asking her to the Valentine Dance? Right now? He really was a mystery.

He stood his ground, eyebrows raised.

Was he truly waiting for an answer?

She had never wanted to full out sass a man in her life so much. Really give him a piece of her mind.

But something in her held back. Something that was still softened by her conversation with Amanda. The part of her that knew Owen better. That knew his heart was always in the right place when it came to her.

“I…would like that.” She managed to get out.

“Now don’t go doing me any favors.”

“You know better than to think such a thing.” She almost cracked a smile. “Go on and set out a couple plates. If you want to eat tonight, that is.”

He was mess. Her mess. Somehow she’d have to figure out what to do with him.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][wyde_icon_block icon=”flora-icon-arrow-4″ size=”large” style=”none”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

It had come—the Valentine Dance. Dorothy didn’t know what to expect. Owen had been especially distant the rest of the week. Hardly home…and when he was, he had been tired and overall non-responsive. Once again, she found herself wondering what might be going on with the man.

But it was no matter. Every couple married more than two years or so had their better times and their worse. That was the whole reason for that part of the vows, right? Must be.

Dorothy situated her mama’s cameo pin at the base of her neck and played with the buttons of her bodice once more. But there was nothing more to be done with her appearance. It was what it was, take it or leave it.

Shaking her head, she forced a smile as she looked in the hand mirror. What did Owen see when he looked at her? What did she want him to see?

She put the reflective piece down. Best leave well enough alone.

Grabbing for her shawl, she took a breath and opened the bedroom door. She stepped into the great room to find Owen sitting in his chair. Just waiting for her as he always did, that contemplative look upon his face—so deep in thought his eyes were closed. Was he thinking of the things that had passed between them these last days? Or thinking on…

A great snore erupted from him.

She scowled. How rude! Had he no concern after these things at all?

Stepping to his chair, she reached down and pinched his arm.

He startled awake. “Wha—?”

She put on her most innocent front. “Did I wake you?”

“Naw.” He rubbed his eyes. “I wasn’t sleeping.”

She rolled her eyes, but caught a glimpse of him rubbing the spot near his shoulder where she got him.

He looked toward his upper arm as if he could see it. Thankfully, it was well out of visual range.

“Shall we go?” She pressed into the moment.

“Oh.” He looked up from his musings, stood, and opened an arm wide for her to pass. “Yes. I’ve got your chariot ready.”

She nodded and passed in front of him, working to keep her feelings in check. No need getting all emotional. She would just have to see what this evening brought.

Moments later, they were perched on the wagon’s bench and Owen spurred the old mare into action. They traveled in relative silence, with the exception of the times she needed to help Owen stay on track. What would become of that man if she wasn’t there to assist him? How did he ever manage to get from the Miller Ranch to Wharton City and back without her?

They arrived at last to the small town that was still very much alive with merrymaking for this special occasion. After securing the horse and cart, Owen escorted her to the cafe where the festivities were in full swing.

They spent the first several minutes greeting those they knew, catching up on who had done what over the last couple of weeks, who faired well, and who needed to be looked in on. Such was the stuff of this small town life.

Dorothy found herself deep in conversation with the mayor’s wife, her eyes straying often to the twirling of lace and fabric nearby as ladies moved about on the arms of their partners. How she wished Amanda could have made it tonight. But she knew that if the woman could have respite for an evening, she would likely use it for sleep. There was little doubt in Dorothy’s mind, however, that Brandon had planned a Valentine evening plenty special for her.

Yes, those Miller men were crafty…and sweet at their core. Even if they needed minding.

As her thoughts turned in that direction, she shifted her focus toward Owen. But, as she spun, she could not catch sight of him anywhere.

“Excuse me,” she said to the woman who had continued to chatter on. “I don’t want to be rude, but I seem to have lost my husband.”

“Mr. Miller?” the woman asked, her features contorting.

“Yes. He was just here, I’m sure of it.”

“Why, yes, he was. He probably just went to take his place for the next song.” The woman’s concern seemed to fall not on Owen’s disappearance, but on Dorothy’s confusion. Why was that?

“Pardon? His place?”

“Yes. He has a part in this next song.”

“A part?” Dorothy was more befuddled than ever. What was this woman saying? Surely she was mistaken. Owen had not a musical bone in his body. What could he possibly—?

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the mayor announced.

Everything stilled and everyone turned their attention to where the man stood in front of the small band.

“Thank you all for coming out to celebrate with your sweethearts.”

There were excited murmurs throughout the crowd.

Dorothy had a difficult time following along. She continued to scan the area for Owen, her worry spiking. That man had another thing coming if she got ahold of him. Wander away and scare her like this! Had he gone soft in the head?

“We have the specific honor this evening to share a gift one of the well established citizens of our town wishes to bestow on his sweetheart.”

Dorothy vaguely heard the words, but couldn’t process much of what was happening. A cold sweat trickled on her skin. Was he well? Was he somewhere…hurt and unable to call for help? Was it his hip?

“…turn it over to Mr. Owen Miller.”

What? She jerked her head around so fast, she felt a twinge in her neck. But there he was—Owen—stepping into the mayor’s place. What was he about?

But his eyes were on her.

“I have wanted to give my Dorothy something this Valentines Day that went beyond some knick knack or trinket that, let’s just say it, neither of us need. So I thought on it. And, at my age, the ideas don’t come as often as you’d think.”

Laughter filtered around her. But she didn’t laugh. She couldn’t decide what she felt—so many emotions coursed through her. And so fast she wasn’t sure she could lay claim to one.

“So I decided to surprise my Dorothy, my bride. Her father was a banjo player. And she loved that about him. In her family, gathering around and singing and dancing to his banjo playin’ was what they did. I think it spoke love to her.”

Dorothy froze. And she remembered those evenings of listening to her father’s stories and music filling their tiny home. She always felt safe, cared for, and a part of something during those times. Her chest tightened.

“And I knew then…I had to learn to speak love to her.” He picked up a banjo.

What was he doing? He didn’t play. Had never played.

He lifted it into position as the band behind him raised their instruments. True, he seemed a bit awkward at first. But the world fell away when he began to play her favorite tune from her childhood. And then his deep baritone filled the space with the melody.

He was singing…to her.

What was holding her up? Her heart clenched and beat harder at the same time. And warmth filled her whole being.

“That’s a mighty fine man there.” The mayor’s wife was at her side still.

Dorothy mumbled something. Seemed incoherent. Her focus was on Owen.

“How he learned that in just a couple of weeks I’ll never know.”

She turned to look at the woman. “What?”

“Yes. He’s been coming into town, sitting with my husband for two weeks. About every day I reckon. Trying to get this song just right.”

Dorothy’s gaze fell on Owen again as he let the last notes of the tune fade.

His eyes found hers in the midst of the crowd and he gave a slight bow.

The audience cheered.

Owen nodded and backed behind the band.

“Thank you, Mr. Miller,” the mayor said, stepping forward. “That was some fine pickin’, don’t you think, folks?”

But the words dulled in Dorothy’s ears. She maneuvered past the mayor’s wife without excusing herself. And then seemed to float around and through the remaining gathering until she faced her husband.

Once she was toe to toe with him, she lost her words.

“Did you like it?” he asked. His eyes gleamed like a schoolboy’s.

She opened her mouth, but couldn’t speak. So she nodded, reaching for his hand.

“You all right?” His brow furrowed.

She nodded, looking down before meeting his gaze again. “I never expected…that is, no one has ever done something like that for me.”

He pressed his free hand to the side of her face. “I ain’t no one, Dorothy. I’m your husband.”

“So you are.” She smiled and choked back a sob. “And I’ve been so wrong. I thought…well, it doesn’t matter what I thought. I was wrong. I should have trusted you. I do trust you. I just let my mind play tricks on me and I—”

“Wait. Say that again.”

“I trust you,” she said, squeezing his hand. “And I do. I won’t doubt again.”

He stepped closer, a grin widening his features. “No, I mean the part before that.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You mean the part when I said ‘I was wrong’?”

“That’s it.”

The urge to slip back a step and let him have it filled her. But the playful glint in his eye melted her. “You get to have it this time, Mr. Miller. I was wrong.”

He kissed the tip of her nose. “And it don’t matter. If possible, I love you more.”

This man…he made no sense. He must be crazy. But she embraced him and thanked the Lord that they had years left to be crazy together.

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][wyde_icon_block icon=”flora-icon-arrow-4″ size=”large” style=”none”][vc_empty_space][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]