“I know.” And she found she did know. “The dolls were a practical joke, right?”
“Why… why were you kicking them?”
“Because I thought the joker was right—that I’d lost you forever.”
Mia bit her lip. She didn’t know if he’d lost her or not. “Don’t you think those so-called jokes are getting out of hand? Someone mailed Ned a See Spot Run book. Fila thinks you did it.”
“It wasn’t me. I promise you that. We talked today—Ned and me. I think we worked it out.”
“Good. Because I’m sick of Fila being angry at me. Anyway, I better go. I need sleep.”
“You sound tired.” His voice softened. “Mia, take care of yourself, you hear?”
“Yeah. I’m trying to.”
“Can we meet tomorrow?”
She thought about her schedule. She wanted badly to see Luke. She wished she could rest her head against his shoulder and close her eyes for a minute. She missed him.
Unfortunately, tomorrow she was supposed to meet Carl on her half-hour break. “Not tomorrow. The day after? Two-thirty at Linda’s Diner?”
Luke hesitated so long she thought he was going to say no.
“Sure,” he said finally. “I’ll see you then.”
The day after tomorrow. Two-thirty at Linda’s Diner.
Luke did the math. Mia must be meeting Carl again tomorrow, which was why she’d put him off until the following day. Did she want to hear what the millionaire might offer her before she made up with him? The thought made him clench his fists.
He slowly made himself unclench them. His temper hadn’t helped him so far. First things first. He needed to finish cleaning up the nursery. He’d already done the bulk of the work, but there were still details to tend to. It didn’t take long for him to touch up the scuffs and dings on the wall. He patched the one or two places where he’d put serious dents into the drywall. He’d sand the spots tomorrow and give them a coat of paint then.
He did his best to polish the furniture and get rid of the evidence of his temper tantrum. He’d have to take the torn curtain to his mother to fix. He hoped she wouldn’t ask too many questions. By the time he went to bed, the nursery looked fit for habitation again. Too bad it didn’t seem likely there’d be any babies to inhabit it any time soon.
The following day Luke was up before the sun doing his usual parade of chores. It was lunchtime before he could catch a break. He decided to bring the damaged curtain to the main house to see if his mother could repair it, but when he reached his cabin, an envelope with familiar shaky handwriting left on his doorstep brought him to a halt. He picked it up and after a moment’s hesitation, opened it.
Share the load.
He snorted. Who with? That’s what he’d like to know. He crumpled up the note and envelope and tossed them in the direction of the trash can in the kitchen. It missed by a mile, but he was already out the front door.
“Everything all right at your cabin?” Lisa asked when he handed the curtain over and sat down at the kitchen table.
She fetched her sewing kit and joined him. “But you and Mia are still on the outs.”
She shot him a look. “You’re letting it get to you.”
“I want to marry her. And another man’s trying to steal her away.”
Lisa paused. “What other man?”
“Carl’s back in town? Where’s he living now?”
Luke knew what she meant. Since Evan and Bella lived at Carl’s old place there wasn’t anything else nearly as big or expensive in town for the millionaire to buy.
“I think he’s at the motel. Someone said he was looking for property.”
“Hmph. I guess he’ll build another log mansion.” Her tone made it clear what she thought about that.
“A man that rich can do whatever he likes.” Luke frowned. “Except with my girl.”
“When do you have time to even see her these days? You’re working your fingers to the bone. I saw you out until all hours tilling those pastures yesterday.”
“She’s working too hard, too.” Luke sighed. “I don’t get to see her. That’s half the problem.”
“What’s the other half?”
“Me and my damned mouth.” When his mother chuckled, he grudgingly smiled. “I say something wrong every time we get together. If I talk at all.”
Lisa cocked her head at this last bit and considered it. “Maybe you should do less talking and more listening.”
“That’s what everyone says, but at some point I have to tell her what I think, right?”
“You and dad tell each other what you think.”
Lisa laughed. “I guess we do—for better or for worse. I’ve been telling him what I think about him building that extra house.”
“He’s still at it?”
“There’s a foundation in. Power. Gas. Water, you name it. But he won’t tell me what it’s for.”
“You’ve been married a long time, though. You two have done something right.”
“Well, now, I guess that’s because most of the time we have a common vision. We’re always heading in the same general direction. We might bicker a whole bunch on the way there, but that doesn’t stop us from progressing toward our goal. Do you and Mia have a common goal?”
Luke wasn’t able to answer that.
By the time Mia’s break rolled around, her back ached so badly she found it hard to walk the two short blocks to Linda’s Diner. She sat down in the booth across from Carl, leaned her head back against the wall and shut her eyes.
“Mia?” Carl’s concerned voice made her open them again. “You okay? You don’t look so good.”
“That seems to be the consensus these days.” She made herself lean forward and look at the menu that lay on the table in front of her, but all of a sudden she couldn’t force her eyes to make any sense of the words. As they blurred in front of her she had the feeling she was falling. She dropped the menu and braced herself against the table.
“Tracey? Would you get us a glass of orange juice? Hurry, please,” Carl called out.
Mia was dimly aware of Tracey rushing away and returning a moment later with a glass of juice.
“Drink it. All of it.” Carl pushed the glass in front of Mia. Mia picked it up. Considered its contents. She wasn’t sure she could.