“Before we get back to your car, I want to know when I can see you again.”

“This date isn’t over and you already want another one?”

“Of course. What’re you doin’ tomorrow night?”

“I don’t have any plans. Why?”

“You do now. Can you meet me at the rest area outside of Moorcroft at seven?”

“Sure. What are we gonna do?”

Carson kissed her nose. “It’s a surprise.”

Chapter Five

Carolyn

The day had been a scorcher.

By the time she’d hung all the clothes on the line, the first ones were already dry.

Her father and Thomas came home together. They set their lunch pails on the counter and each grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator. Even if her dad couldn’t give her more than a grunt of acknowledgment, he did spend time with his wife every night.

“So what’d you do all day?” Thomas asked. “Bake cookies?”

“When it’s nearly a hundred degrees? No. Which also means we’re having cold-cut sandwiches for supper.” She faced her brother. “I need to borrow your car tonight.”

“Where you going?”

“Over to Beverly’s.”

His eyes turned suspicious. “Why can’t she pick you up?”

“Because she always picks me up.”

“Why can’t you take Mom’s car?”

“Because the left rear tire is almost flat.”

He sighed. “I suppose you want me to fix that too?”

“You or someone else. I can’t go to the store without a car, and if I don’t get to the store, no one eats,” she said sweetly.

“Good point.” He swigged his beer. “Stu will be around tonight so we’ll get it handled.”

“Thank you.”

“Leave the keys on the hook when you’re done. I’m taking my car to work tomorrow instead of riding with Dad.”

Carolyn sensed he wanted her to ask why, but Stuart wandered in. “I hope there’s a good game on TV tonight. I’m beat.”

“We gotta fix the tire on Mom’s car first,” Thomas said.

Stuart groaned.

“Supper is ready and on the counter. And somebody please remember to put away the leftovers.” If there were any.

“Where are you goin’?” Stuart asked with suspicion that equaled Thomas’s. “You’ve been gone a lot lately.”

“As long as I feed you, wash your clothes and pick up after you, why does it matter?”

He patted her on the shoulder. “Have fun.”

She never fixed herself up to go to her friend’s house and doing so would cement her brothers’ suspicions. So she shoved her makeup and change of clothing into the bottom of her big purse. Butterflies flapped in her belly, making it impossible to eat. As casually as possible, she strolled out of the sun porch toward the front door.

“Where do you think you’re goin’?” her father asked, or rather, more like he shouted as an accusation.

“To Beverly’s.”

Lying about meeting a man? Next you’ll be sneaking out of the house to meet him.

If she had to. She wanted to be with him. She’d do anything to see him again. Luckily, after talking to Beverly today, she’d agreed to cover for Carolyn—even as she warned her to watch her step with the notorious Carson McKay.

Her father said, “I don’t think you need to be out tearing around on a Monday night.”

Carolyn slowly turned around. “What will I do if I stay here? I’ve already cooked, cleaned, done the laundry and looked after Mom.”

“You don’t need to get smart with me, young lady.”

“I’m not.” She started toward the door again.

“Be home by ten. Not a minute later.”

He’d be snoring away in his room by nine-thirty and wouldn’t know what time she rolled in anyway—but the smartest thing to do would be to smile and nod her head.

But that rankled. She was an adult. Her brothers didn’t have a curfew.

“Carolyn,” her father said sharply. “Did you hear me?”

She started to retort but Thomas jumped in. “Geez, Dad, I don’t think you have to worry about Carolyn. Now if it was me…?” He laughed. “I’d most likely roll in just as we were hopping in the car to go to work.”

Thank you, Thomas.

It was hard to meander out the door when she wanted to run. When the wheels hit the pavement she let out a loud whoop—sweet freedom!—turned up the radio and rolled down the windows.

The heat of the day lingered even as twilight approached.

She pulled into a roadside rest area and dug her clothes from the bottom of her purse. Making sure the coast was clear, she switched her short-sleeved floral blouse for a sleeveless black western shirt with pink piping on the collar and placket, leaving the top two buttons undone. She ditched the drab gray skirt and slid a tight black knit skirt up her thighs and over her hips. She wished she could’ve stashed a pair of pink kitten heels in her bag, but she was stuck with the white canvas shoes she’d worn all day.

Her hair was a wild tangle after having the windows down in the car, but it’d look messier yet when Carson got a hold of it. She’d nearly screamed in shock yesterday after catching sight of herself in the mirror following their picnic. She’d scraped her hair into a ponytail, praying her brothers and father wouldn’t notice her hairstyle change in the hours between when she left for church and when she’d returned home.

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