Mail Order Bride
( An Old Fashioned Romance)
She moved away from him toward the railing on the porch. It was a clear evening and the stars were twinkling above. "You have a beautiful place." Kasie said "…you and your brother built it yourself."
"Yes, we did. We sort of began on both as soon as we settled in with a wife. No better present for a wife than a beautiful home."
"Oh that's nice. And you are right, a home is very important to a woman. But yours….and his…are showplaces. Like something you see in a magazine. It is a pure pleasure to clean your home."
Tanka stared at her, soaking her words up, storing them somewhere while he tried to concentrate on ways to be rid of this beautiful creature before him, beautiful in a different way from Gina. Gina was dark haired and eyed, and full of life and mischief, whereas Annie was light and her innocence attracted him no end. Gina never seemed innocent. The word for Gina was exciting, exhilarating, fun. But what words could he identify Annie with, smart, honest, wholesome, and innocent. He certainly didn't like the fact that he was attracted to her, but he was. He'd have never guessed he would even notice a little blonde with a Dutch haircut and girl-next-door attitude. He'd have to play it smart; he couldn't afford to let his libido take over. Just because she was the nicest lady he'd met since Santa Clause did not mean he had to fall in love with her. Besides, he had had the best already, Gina.
"You're doing a great job with the girls, and they really like you Annie." He said with a sigh that was heavier than he intended.
"Well thank you, I didn't expect to win your favor so soon" Annie chuckled.
He stared at her with amusement. "My favor…why is that?"
"Mr. Amory." She turned to look at him, and then she quickly turned away. "I'm aware that you did not want me here. You've made that abundantly clear. Even if I hadn't known before I got here, I would have very soon. I am sorry that it was a total shock to you. That having a female, any female in your home, other than your wife is sacrilegious to you. I'm not a fool. But…on the other hand, I am good at my job and I know it. I have all the confidence in the world that I can do a lot of good here, if I'm permitted. So the compliment is appreciated. I love your girls, they are easy to love. Well mannered, obedient, and sweet as candy. However, don't play me. I know how you feel. And I don't blame you a bit. Had I had a relationship like you did, I might feel the exact same way. But please…understand, I aim to do a good job. I'm not here to steal your children away. I'm not here to take the place of a dead wife. I'm here to do a job. I aim to do it well. And we can help each other, once we quit battling to stay out of each other's way.
"You are a handsome devil and you know it. Your wife was gorgeous beyond belief. I've seen the pictures. Still…your wife is gone, Mr. Amory. She can't take care of the girls any longer, except to watch over them, which I'm sure she's doing right now. I am here, mainly because they invited me to do a job that I thought might help all of us. I lost something precious to me too, Mr. Amory. I lost a mother I adored. I was very close to her. I took care of her in her last days. And I miss her still, every day, as though she were still here. So I know what you feel in your heart for your wife. I'm no stranger to loneliness either. I'm healing myself.
"I came here and almost the moment I stepped into your home, fell in love with it. Who wouldn't, it's beautiful. The girls are beautiful too. And they want me here, they need me. I can feel their needs. Katie is on the brink of becoming a woman; she is going to need a woman's touch. And since you seem dedicated to living with your wife's ghost, what's the harm in me helping her. You aren't going to remarry anyway. You can't turn lose of the dead. So I'm no threat to you in any way. Don't you see that…?"
Her words stunned him into immobility. God help him, and she was smart too.
He hadn't expected her to have so much grit. The girl-next-door was not a simple case study. He hadn't counted on her common sense. Every word of it was the truth, and he felt a growing rage with every word she spoke, and yet, the truth was hard to face and she'd slapped him with it. Living with the dead? Was that what he'd been doing?
He turned away from her for a moment, shocked that her words hurt so deeply. How could someone he barely knew see the truth so easily and have the audacity to say it.
She stood rock still and was about to go back inside when he whirled her around to face him. Anger and something else drove him, as he brought her near him. He could smell the faint scent of some flower on her. His eyes went over her combing her. Her nearness affected him more than he wanted to admit. But the rage boiling inside him was hot and passionate, "What about you, Miss Annie. Aren't you using your mother as a barrier for not finding yourself a man. You are as afraid of living as I am of giving up the dead. You hide in someone else's house, with someone else's kids and are too afraid to reach out and take what could be yours. So perhaps we are two peas in a pod. Stuck in a rut… So maybe this will wake you up…" He gasped and before thinking, he acted. His lips came down on hers with the intention of punishing hers, but as they met, warmth so enveloping surrounded them that he pulled her into his arms and kissed her with such tender passion she swooned in his arms. He meant to assuage the hurt she inflicted, but it was forgotten when her lips melted against his own, and her arms grasped his.
When he finally turned her loose, she gasped for air.
Her face flushed and her eyes flashed. "Why did…you do …that?"
"Get in the house," he directed breathlessly. "Now!"
She stared at his angry face, and then ran into the darkness of the house.