Saturday, June 26, 2010

"To Stand with Angels": Excerpt of Chapter Six




The rain was coming down in a dreary drizzle on the eighth morning of Bradyn’s stay in their home. He had apparently decided that he no longer needed to rest, and had settled himself at the kitchen table for breakfast after making himself a pot of coffee. Rian had been stiffly polite and Kendall, ecstatic. Breakfast had been mercifully quiet, though not without its awkwardness.

After all of her regular chores were finished, Rian decided it was about time she altered some of Jackson’s clothes to fit Bradyn. Or at least sewed him a shirt. It was the kind thing to do since his only clothing was the clean, but torn, jeans he’d shown up in. The memory of Bradyn in Jackson’s clothes brought an unwilling smile to her lips. They hadn’t fit him worth a lick.

Rian announced her plans to fit Bradyn over a late lunch later that day. “I think I’m going to start sewing a few things for you to wear,” she told him as she spooned mashed potatoes onto Kendall’s plate.



Bradyn raised an eyebrow, as if he saw reason why going about shirtless and in his own torn drawers would be unacceptable, but he simply replied, “Thank you.”

“You’re gonna make him some new clothes?” Kendall asked around a mouth full of bread.

“Yes, Kendall,” she said. “Please do not speak with food in your mouth.”
Kendall swallowed and took a gulp of milk before asking, “We don’t have much cloth left for sewing clothes, do we? What’re you gonna use to make him clothes?”

Out of the corner of her eye, Rian caught the curious look Bradyn passed her. “I’m going to alter a few of your father’s shirts for him, honey,” she answered. “I think that we can afford to share with Mr. Preston, don’t you? We can’t allow him to leave with nothing on his back, can we?”

Kendall frowned and rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand. “You’re leavin’, Mr. Bradyn?” he asked, his eyes reflecting disappointment. “Can’t you stay a little longer?”

“Mr. Preston is welcome to stay on for awhile, but sooner or later, he will have to be on his way, honey. You cannot expect him to give up his life and stay here forever. Isn’t that right, Mr. Preston?” She turned to look at Bradyn, a stiff smile cramping the corners of her mouth.

Bradyn cleared his throat, about to answer, only to be interrupted by Kendall.

“Why don’t you like Mr. Bradyn?” he asked her.

Rian coughed nervously. “I like Mr. Bra--, I mean, Mr. Preston, Kendall. I just know that he isn’t going to want to stay around here indefinitely. We have to be realistic about these things, sweetie.”

“But he saved us from the bad man!” Kendall protested. “What if more bad men come and he’s not here to save us?” The little boy turned to Bradyn. “Why don’t you stay with us for awhile, just in case?” he entreated, his eyes wide and pleading.

“Well, I don’t know,” Bradyn put down his fork and rested his elbows on the table. “I’m not sure your aunt wants me around here. I’ll only stay if she asks me to.” He caught her eye and winked.

“You’d let him stay, wouldn’t ya, Rian?” Kendall begged. “I know you don’t like him, but I really want him to stay with us.”

“Kendall,” Rian said uncomfortably, “I like Mr. Preston. He’s a fine person, I am sure. Now please go feed the chickens,” she said before either of them could interject to add their own thoughts. “And see about gathering up those eggs. You neglected to do that this morning.”

“But—”

“Kendall!” she scolded, instantly regretting the harsh tone of her voice. “I asked you to do something, young man. Now you go feed those chickens before the rain gets any heavier. We’ll discuss this matter later, is that understood?”
Kendall nodded and scurried out the door without a sound.

“Harsh.”

Bradyn’s voice set her teeth on edge as she watched Kendall through the kitchen window. She could hear the laughter in his tone, even though he must have thought better of letting it escape his lips.

She rose from her chair and glared at him. “What’s that supposed to mean, exactly?”

“You make a very bad liar, Miss Keene,” he replied, standing up too.
“I would not pride myself on being a liar, either good or bad, Mr. Preston,” she snapped, folding her arms across her chest. “Perhaps being able to deceive someone is a trait you admire, but I think that defrauding and misleading people speaks to a flawed nature.”

“And yet you just told your nephew that you like me. A lie, and quite an obvious one, since we all know you don’t like me one damn bit. How do you justify lying to the kid?” His question, along with his raised eyebrows, was seemingly offered in good natured humor.

Rian didn’t take it that way. Feeling quite cornered, she bit her lip and didn’t answer. She owed him no explanation. Irritated, and a little embarrassed that she’d trapped herself in her own argument, she started past Bradyn on her way to find the measuring tape and chalk. But he caught her by the arm.

“Rian,” he said quietly. “It doesn’t take a smart man to see what’s going on. You’re hiding from something out here. Something pretty big from the feel of it.”
She pulled her arm free and looked down. “Mr. Preston, please—,”

Bradyn put up a hand. “It’s all right. Your past is none of my business and I’m not asking you to explain it to me. But I did happen to notice this morning that you’re low on coffee and pretty much every other staple in your pantry. That boy is in need of some new clothes and just now he mentioned that you’re nearly out of cloth. Tell me something, how have you survived out here for this long?”

Rian closed her eyes for a moment. “Jackson used to make a trip into Laramie once a year for supplies. When he was killed last spring, I didn’t know how we’d manage. I’ve rationed everything as best I could, but…” It was one of her greater, yet less dwelt on, fears. She had no idea what they were going to do once everything ran out. “I guess I just figured we would have to learn to do without a few things,” she murmured.

“Tell you what,” he said. “Make up a list of everything you need and when I leave, I’ll send back your supplies.”

“No!” she exclaimed sharply. “You can’t send anyone to this house. It’s bad enough that you know where we are!”

“Look, Rian,” he said. “I have an old friend over in Cheyenne. He ain’t much to look at, but I can trust him with my life. He’ll bring you everything you need and he won’t tell a living soul about you or Kendall or this place. You have my word.”

She blinked, suddenly unsure of how she should feel about Bradyn Preston. “I don’t understand, you’re offering to help us? Why?”

Bradyn sighed. “You saved my life. I owe you. Besides, you’re the only one who offered safe hiding to me when I needed it. I feel like I should return the favor.”

Rian pondered that for awhile. She wondered if he had an ulterior motive, or if it was just true kindness that had inspired his offer to help. “Thank you,” she said at length.

He studied her for a moment; his piercing blue eyes seemed to read her thoughts. “Sure,” he replied, heading for the door.

“Where are you going?” Rian asked.

“I need some fresh air,” he answered. “I’m gonna see about helping Kendall with those eggs.”




"To Stand with Angels" on sale now at Amazon (Print & Kindle edition) & Eternal Press (EBook Format)

5 comments:

  1. Great excerpt. Really gives a peek into your voice. *sigh* Of course, it also adds to my ever-growing list of "gotta reads". Thanks for sharing, CJ. :)

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  2. You're welcome anytime, Maeve!

    xoxo

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  3. You know what I think!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Email me and let me know how that weekend is going!!

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  4. I'm with Maeve - this was a great excerpt and now I need to know what happens, LOL

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