“How soon can you get here?”
“Depends on when we leave. Give me specific directions.”
Mitch told him exactly how to find him and sent the directions to Jasper’s cell phone.
“I’ll call you when we leave,” Jasper assured him.
“Great! I look forward to meeting her,” the older man replied.
They hung up. Jasper looked a bit sheepish. “Change of plans.” He shrugged, putting his hands in his pockets.
“You aren’t ditching her, are you, Jasper?” Marnie’s eyes flashed dangerously.
“No, no. Instead of a short drive, like I’d planned, Mitch needs me to come shoe some Mustangs.”
Hana looked disappointed, her lip threatening to pout despite her resolve not to. Marnie put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“Better luck next time, sugar,” Marnie said.
“She’s coming with me,” Jasper said, annoyance tinging his voice. “That’s if you would like to see a bunch of Mustangs up close and personal.” He raised a hopeful eyebrow.
“Really? I can go?”
“Of course. Mitch said come ahead. It’s a bit of a drive. We’re invited for the night, so you need to pack.”
“Oh, wow! What about Auntie?”
“Aunt Enid is in good hands right here. I’ll stay the night with her,” Marnie said, hugging Hana’s shoulders.
Jeff looked disappointed, but nodded. “You go and have fun. Marnie and I have it under control.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. We can’t disappoint Jaspy,” Jeff said, socking his cousin hard on the shoulder.
“I’d better go talk to Auntie.”
“I’ll come too,” Marnie hooked her arm through Hana’s.
“I don’t want to butt into your alone time,” Hana told her new friend.
“We’re not fooling around tonight anyhow. I’ve got my period. I refuse to deal with the mess involved. Besides, it makes him that much more appreciative later.” She hugged Hana’s arm.
Aunt Enid was thrilled for her to go. “I’m better taken care of here than I’d be in a hospital,” she assured her. “I’ve seen Mitch’s herd. It’s a thing of beauty that you shouldn’t miss.”
“Thanks, Auntie. I’ll miss you, though.”
“It’s only overnight, child! One thing.” She tugged Hana’s sleeve until she bent over. “Don’t do anything impetuous, Hana Belle.” She raised an eyebrow, cocking her head over her shoulder. “Beautiful men can be very persuasive.”
“We’re taking this slow, Aunt Enid. I promise.”
“As long as he feels that way too.”
“He does. We talked about it last night. If you’re sure, then I’d better go pack.”
“I’ll be fine. Call when you get there so I don’t worry.”
“I will, Auntie. I love you.” She gently hugged and kissed her great-aunt.
With Marnie’s help, Hana packed quickly and met Jasper outside the main house twenty minutes later. Everyone was out on the porch to see them off.
“Bring back pictures,” Marnie said. “And don’t misbehave.”
“Send postcards, write letters,” Jeff added. “Be a gentleman.”
“Be good,” Enid warned Jasper.
“Make good choices,” Jimmy did a complicated handshake with his cousin.
All of them hugged and kissed Hana as if she were family.
“We’re just going overnight,” Jasper said. “We do need to get going.”
“Patience is a virtue, son,” his mother said, kissing him. “Behave yourself.”
“Why does everyone tell me that?”
“Because we know you so well,” Jeff explained.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence. You’re gonna scare her off!” He gestured to Hana.
“It’s okay, I’m ignoring them,” she assured him as he climbed in his red SUV, giving her a kiss. “You keep kissing me like that, I’ll ignore them ’til doomsday.”
His kiss went longer the second time. “I’ll do my best to make you forget them completely.” His voice dropped nearly an octave, taking on a husky quality.
Hana shivered as delicious fingers ran up and down her spine. Have mercy! Can anyone really be this wonderful?
“Comfortable?” Jasper asked, adjusting the air conditioning.
“I’m great. Thanks.”
“Well, the drive I intended to go on would have followed the old creek bed. There’s a road along there that Grandpa had put in years ago. We keep it repaired. We can take it to the highway. It’s a little longer, but I really wanted to show you our new colts. We had three this spring.”
“I’d love to see them! I guess this is going to be a horsey couple of days, huh?”
“Yeah. Seems so. One of the new ones was fathered by Bastion. Cute little guy. He’s pretty mellow, all things considered. Gramps mated his sire with the most mild mannered mare. Seems her genes prevailed. We might even be able to ride this one.”
© Dellani Oakes 2022