At that point Carson picked up his hat and walked out.
When Carolyn heard a car door slam, she ran out the front door and picked up her little sister in a big hug. “I’m so glad you’re here!”
Kimi was a tiny thing, six inches shorter than Carolyn, and a carbon copy of their mother. “I can’t believe you’re getting married. Let me see the ring.”
Carolyn held out her hand.
“That is beautiful! You are so lucky.” Kimi stood on tiptoe and peered over Carolyn’s shoulder. “So where is the man who stole your heart?”
“He’ll be here later.” That’s when Carolyn realized she hadn’t even acknowledged her aunt. She skirted the front end of the car and gave the stout woman a big hug. “Aunt Hulda. Thanks for coming.”
“Happy to be here. Where is everyone?”
“Dad and my brothers are working. Mom is inside. I thought you could stay in her room, if that’s okay?”
“It’ll be fine. After we have some lunch, let’s talk wedding plans.”
Her mother had dressed and joined them at the table. She and Hulda chatted easily, not like they hadn’t seen each other in three years since her aunt had last come to Wyoming.
“Kimi. How has your summer been so far?” their mother asked.
“Good. I don’t have the eye for detail that Carolyn does, so I’m mostly tending the gardens.” She smirked. “I still haven’t convinced Aunt Hulda to raise chickens.”
Hulda harrumphed. “And who would gather eggs, take them to town and feed those loud buggers when you’re back in school?”
“I told you I’d be happy to drop out of school,” Kimi said sweetly. “It’s not like I’m a top student anyway.”
“Your aunt is generous enough to pay for your schooling, so you will stick it out, Kimberly,” their mother said sharply.
Kimi raised her chin. “I go by Kimi now, Mom. And I’m fully aware who is paying my tuition and why.” She pushed away from the table and started clearing plates.
When their mother opened her mouth, Aunt Hulda shook her head. It occurred to Carolyn that in many respects their aunt was more their mother than Clara West. Did their mother resent her for that? Or after raising five boys was she secretly happy to hand off the job of raising her two daughters to her widowed, childless sister?
“We’ll get the dishes done and leave the two of you to visit.” Carolyn picked up the leftovers—there wouldn’t have been any had her father and brothers joined them—and headed into the kitchen.
Kimi had already started running the water and squirted in the soap.
“I’ll dry,” Carolyn said.
“But you always wash.”
“Yes, I always wash and dry when I’m home in the summer so it’ll be nice not to have to do it all myself.” She wrapped her arms around her sister and squeezed. “I’m so happy you’re here. Even if it’s only for a couple of days. And just think, next time you come back? You can stay with me.”
Kimi turned her head and grinned. “The West girls getting wild! So when do I get to meet my future brother-in-law? Geez. That sounds so weird.”
“I still can’t believe he’ll be my husband.”
“Bet you’re looking forward to the wedding night.”
Carolyn’s cheeks heated and she focused on drying the first plate.
“Holy shit, Caro, you already did it with him!”
“Ssh!” She threw a look over her shoulder. “Not so loud!”
“Oh, hell. It’s not like they can hear us.”
Kimi rolled her eyes. “So, I wanna know all about it. What it’s like. If it’s as—” she pressed the back of her wrist to her forehead and swooned back dramatically, “—rapturous as all the girls claim it is.”
The image of Carson staring so intently into her eyes as his body moved inside hers sent a blast of heat through her.
Then Kimi got right in her face, blonde curls shaking. “Aha! It is! You’re thinking about it right now!”
“Can we talk about this later?”
“Fine, but you know I ain’t gonna let this go.”
The phone rang and Carolyn walked over and picked up the receiver. “Wests.”
“How’s my beautiful fiancée?”
She smiled and sagged against the wall. “I’m good. Surprised to hear from you. Kimi and my Aunt Hulda are here. We just finished lunch. What are you doing?”
“I’ve actually gotta pick up a part. I wondered if you could meet me for a half an hour or so. I wanna run something past you.”
Carolyn glanced over at Kimi. “Is it okay if I bring my sister? She wants to meet you.”
“Sure. In fact that’ll work out because Cal is ridin’ along with me.”
“What time and where?”
“Say an hour at the Ice Cream Palace?”
“Me either. Later, sugar.”
“You are grinning like a cat licking cream, Caro.”
“He just makes me happy.” She wandered back to the sink. “Let’s get these done. I need to pretty myself up since I’m meeting my fiancé. Oh, and he’s bringing his brother.”
Kimi scrubbed a handful of silverware. “Go. I’ll finish this.”