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Finding Our Forever(6)

By:Brenda Novak

Thank you, Jill. “He is hot, but...”

“What does he look like?”

Cora pictured the dark-headed, rather intimidating man who’d shown her around the ranch. He didn’t say too much, certainly didn’t waste words. But those blue eyes were laser-sharp. They didn’t miss a thing. Truth be told, he made her uncomfortable. “Sort of like...a pirate.”

Her mother opened another cupboard and started packing the plates. “A pirate? That’s a positive association?”

“In this case it is.” Mostly... When it came to his physical appearance, anyway.

“How tall is he?”

Cora put her salsa maker, which she’d barely used, in one of the boxes she planned to take with her. If she was going to live in the country, she was going to attend a farmer’s market occasionally and make homemade salsa. “Really tall. And built.”

“He sounds perfect.”

“Not perfect exactly.” That was what she found most compelling about him—that he was a little rough around the edges. “He’s got a fairly big scar on his face.” She indicated the line of her jaw. “Right here.”

“What’s that from?”

“I didn’t ask.” And now that she’d read the article chronicling some of the abuse he’d suffered, she wouldn’t. “As far as I know, he’s already married.”

“Did you see a ring?”

“I didn’t look,” she said, but that was a lie. She had looked—and seen no ring. She’d been curious about Elijah from the first moment they met. But she’d also been apprehensive about the fact that she’d had an ulterior motive for applying at New Horizons, had known he probably wouldn’t appreciate that she wasn’t being fully transparent.

Her mother grinned at her. “You should have.”

“Matt and I barely broke up, Mom. I’m not ready to start dating again, especially in a place where I don’t plan to stay.” Besides, she wasn’t sure she’d be capable of taking on a man as complex as Elijah. There was no telling what kind of scars his upbringing had created, and she wasn’t referring to the one on his face, although that could easily be part of the legacy his parents had left him.

“So you’re only staying there a year?” her mother said.

“That’s right.”

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear it’s temporary.” Lilly bent to give her a hug. “I love you, you know.”

Cora did know. And she was grateful. She could easily have gone to a family who weren’t so kind and accepting—a family like Elijah had known. “I love you, too,” she said and tried to ignore how selfish she felt for doing what she was doing in spite of the fact it would hurt Lilly if—or when—she found out.

* * *

Elijah Turner was brushing down his horse when Aiyana found him. At the sound of her footsteps, he didn’t need to turn in order to see who it was. If he didn’t come for dinner when she invited him, she tracked him down. She always acted as if she had some official reason, some business question to ask him, but he knew she was simply assuring herself that he was okay. Whenever he complained that he was too old for that kind of coddling, she’d say it didn’t matter, that he’d always be her boy.

“How was your ride?” she asked.

He lifted Atsila’s foot and used a pick to gently clean his horse’s front left hoof. “Relaxing.”

“Cora Kelly arrives tomorrow.”

“I know.”

“Is the cottage ready?”

He moved on to the other front hoof. “Of course.”

“Are you ever going to explain that decision to me?”

“What decision?” he said, but he knew what she was going to say before she explained.

“To hire Cora Kelly. You knew, as well as I did, that Gary Seton, from right here in Silver Springs, was waiting for that job to open up.”

“I interviewed Gary, too—gave him a chance.”


“I thought Ms. Kelly was better suited for the position.”

“She’s pretty.”

“That had nothing to do with it.”

“Let’s say that’s true—you’re not worried that she might be a distraction to the boys?”

“You’re saying I should’ve discriminated against her because she’s attractive?”

She gave his shoulder a little shove. “Stop it.”

“You were talking about her looks!”

“Because I wanted to see if you agreed with me.”

“That she’s pretty? I’d have to be blind not to see that.”