She and Enid went to the big house for breakfast. Jasper was working the morning shift again, this time on the griddle. He came out when they sat down and flopped down at their table.
“How are my two favorite women today?” He kissed Enid’s cheek. Turning to Hana, he smiled, his eyes lingering, admiring.
“Better, now that you’re here,” Enid said, patting his hand. “What are you cooking today?”
“Fluffy flapjacks for the two most beautiful women at the Lazy J.”
“Sounds good,” Hana smiled, leaning toward him.
Taking the hint, he kissed her longingly.
“I’ve got a hell of an idea,” he said softly. “I have the rest of the day off. How about you and I go for a ride. That is, you do know how to ride a horse, right?”
Hana laughed. “State Western Barrel Racing Champion, three years running.”
“Reckon that’s a yes, huh? Barrels? I’d have pegged you for dressage.”
“That’s what Aileen wanted,” Enid smiled. “Barrel racing was my idea.”
“You’re plain evil, Miss E.”
“Indeed I am.”
“What about Auntie? I don’t want to leave you on your own.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll find something to do.”
“Already taken care of,” he told her grandly. “Aunt Janine has made arrangements. There are several group activities today, all things Miss E. enjoys. Also, therapy with Dad. She’ll be well looked after, I promise.”
“I’ll be fine, Hana. You have fun on your ride.”
“What time do you want me to be ready?”
“Around ten. Oh, and cover up more. Jeans and a long sleeved shirt, boots and a hat. You’ll also want your sunglasses and some sunscreen. You’re too fair to be out without it at midday.”
“Yes, Papa, I promise to dress warm.” She winked at him.
He ducked his head, not meeting her eyes. “I just want you safe, Hana Belle.”
She took his hand, squeezing his fingers gently until he looked at her. “I know, I’m just teasing. You’ll have to spend more time with me so you can learn to tell the difference. About the only way my family knows how to communicate, is with sarcasm.”
Jasper chuckled, glancing at Aunt Enid. “Oh, I’d never noticed the sarcastic bent. Must come from your mother’s side.”
“I’m sure that’s where she gets it. It couldn’t possibly come from a sweet, old thing like me.”
“I’ll come get you at the cabin at ten,” Jasper told her. “I have to get back in the kitchen now, or Mom will come looking for me.”
He kissed her hastily. He started to leave, then leaned over kissing her again, longer and deeper.
Enid cleared her throat pointedly and nodded toward the kitchen. “Back to work, boyo! They’ll send out a search party for you!”
He trotted back to the kitchen as Marnie made her way to the table with the coffee pots. She topped off their cups, doctored Enid’s and walked around checking on the other guests.
Their food came out shortly after. Jasper brought it out personally, kissing Hana before setting the plate down in front of her. There were several new guests and one of the women asked Marnie if everyone got the same treatment by the kitchen staff.
“Sorry, ma’am. That’s his girlfriend. Special treatment for her.”
“Pity. It looks like a great way to start your meal,” the older woman pouted, but her eyes were sparkling.
After breakfast, Hana took Enid back to the room. She got her aunt settled in the living room while she found the clothing she needed for the day. Hana got out a pair of jeans and a blue cambric shirt which she layered with a tank top. She pulled her boots out of the closet and found a pair of thick socks to wear with them. Her hat and sunglasses were in the living room.
It took her several minutes to find the sunscreen, but finally located it in the bottom dresser drawer. She didn’t remember putting it there, so it must have been Marnie. She rubbed it on all the places she could reach, but couldn’t reach her back. She knew from experience it was easy to burn through a garment, so she took the bottle to Aunt Enid. Her aunt was asleep, so she decided to ask Jasper when he arrived.
She sat down to watch reruns of Monk on USA when there was a knock on the door. It was too early for Jasper, so she wasn’t very surprised to see Marnie on the porch. She slipped out, closing the door softly behind her.
“Auntie’s sleeping,” she explained. “Let’s sit out here for now.”
“Sure. I just came to tell you my exciting news! Jeff asked me to marry him. He’s loved me like forever, and just didn’t want to say anything for fear I’d say no!”
“So, you’re engaged?”
Marnie grinned and raised an eyebrow. “I’m making him sweat,” she admitted slyly. “He kept me dangling for three years, I figure I’ll give him a day or so of trying to persuade me and then say yes.”
“Make sure he persuades often.”
“Trust me, I intend to be persuaded at least three times a night.”
Hana hugged her new friend. “I’m really happy for you, Marnie. You better invite me to the wedding!”
©2022 Dellani Oakes