Irish Breeze by Sharon Harris by Sharon Harris - Read Online

Book Preview

Irish Breeze - Sharon Harris

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1

IRISH BREEZE

CHAPTER 1

Anna Stevenson was hard at work, chopping weeds in the corn field. It was mid-May and the corn was only about four inches high. There was a cool breeze blowing, but the afternoon sun was hot. Her brown hair was tied in a loose bow with wisps blowing across her green eyes. She stopped to wipe her brow, scanning the countryside as she rested. Suddenly, she reached for her rifle, which was propped against a stump, and held it across her body as she warily watched the rider approach.

The lone rider stopped within a few feet and held up a hand in greeting. 'ello! he called. Me name's Seth Donavon. Me family just moved in over da 'ill, dar. Just wanted to introduce meself, he called, cheerfully. If he noticed the rifle in her hands, he didn't make mention of it. He started to climb down from the saddle and Anna raised the rifle.

Stay where you are, she called.

Seth grinned at her with a twinkle in his blue eyes. Yes'um. I don't mean yah no 'arm, mum. Just a friendly visit. He settled back in the saddle and looked around at the surrounding buildings. Are ya alone 'ere?

No, I ain't. My pa's out riding the fence, she called.

Seth sat comfortably on the horse. He had an easy smile that was disarming and Anna relaxed her guard just a little. She wiped her brow again and looked longingly at the water pump. Finally, she walked out of the field and pulled the pump handle, allowing the cool water to run. She glanced up at Seth again to make sure he hadn't moved and propped the rifle within easy reach, then quenched her thirst.

Seth's horse whinnied and tried to move closer to the cool water. Do ya mind if I water me 'orse? It was quite a ride 'ere.

She replaced the ladle and picked up the rifle. Get down slow and lead her over, Anna consented as she stepped back.

Seth slid out of the saddle and led the roan mare to the trough. While the horse drank, he dipped his hat in and poured it over his short blond hair. He pumped the handle and took a sip of the cool liquid, then slung the water out of his hair. T'ank ya, Mum, t'was quite refreshin'. He sat against the water trough and fanned himself with his wet hat. It's already mighty warm for May.

Anna just stared at him, holding tightly to her rifle.

All right, so much for small talk, he stated. Anyway, I just wanted to introduce meself and say 'ello.

Anna glanced over her shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of her father, but he was no where to be seen. She really didn't feel threatened by this charismatic young man with the heavy Irish brogue, but it would not be proper for them to be alone.  I'm sorry to seem so unfriendly, but it wouldn't look right for us to be alone without my pa here.

Seth smiled easily. Well, at least can ya tell me yahr name?

Anna Stevenson. My pa is Arlis Stevenson. Anna allowed a smile to touch her lips. Why don't you bring your family around Sunday about dinner and I'll lay out a table for you?

Seth stuck his hat back on his head and swung into the saddle. He touched the brim and shot Anna a toothy grin. I look forward to it, Miss Anna. His Irish accent made her name sound more exotic, like Ahn-na, and she liked the way it rolled off his tongue.

She watched the horse disappear over the hill, out of view, then trudged back to the field. She worked another two hours, until the sun was just beginning to touch the top of the Western tree line, then walked back to the horse trough. She glanced around, assuring herself she was alone, then stripped her blouse off. She pumped the handle and immersed her upper body into the stream, gasping a little as the water gave her goosebumps. She washed the sweat and dust off, then pulled her blouse back on. There was still no sign of her father when she went in to start dinner.

***

Dinner was cold and Anna was getting worried. There had been reports of rogue Indians in the surrounding areas, not to mention cougars and bears. Her father was usually home long before now. She tried to busy herself with her mending, but she pricked her finger with the needle and swore in a most unlady-like fashion. The dim lantern light made it difficult for her to see what she was doing, but with the threat of Indian attacks, she dared not turn the flame up . She huffed and threw down the sewing in frustration. Dammit, Papa. Where are you? She knew she had to stay put, but she really wanted to go looking for him.

Well after darkness had fallen, she finally heard the creaking of the buckboard rolling up to the cabin. She grabbed the lantern and hurried to pull the door open.

Arlis Stevenson was a burly man, standing about a head higher than most men in the area and he outweighed most by forty to fifty pounds. His hair and beard were red and he had pasty skin with red freckles dotting his torso, but years of working the land had turned any part of his body that was exposed to tanned leather. He was a fair and just man, but demanded respect for himself and his possessions, including his only child.

Anna put her hands on her hips when she saw him. Well, it's about time! she called from the doorway. But her father didn't move. Papa? Are you all right? she called again.  Still no answer, no movement.

She stepped out the door and held the lantern over her head so she could see. Arlis finally turned his head to look at her and she could see the dried blood streaking down his pale face. Oh, Papa! What'd you do? She climbed up on the step and held the lantern close to his face. His blank eyes stared out, but didn't seem to see her.

Come on, Papa. Let's get you down from here. She tugged his arm and he finally looked at her instead of through her.

Anna? he whispered, weakly. He seemed a bit confused.

Come on, Papa. Let's get inside, she said, softly.

Arlis finally stood, a little unsteadily, and climbed down from the buckboard. Anna helped him keep his balance and get off the wagon, then helped him across the few feet to the house. Once inside, she turned the flame up and pulled her father's coon-skin cap off. There was a lump about the size of a walnut with a three inch gash on his forehead, over his left eye.

Oh Papa. What did you do? she asked.

Arlis rubbed his achy head and winced. Something spooked the horse and she bolted through some trees. I dodged when I should have ducked.

Anna handed her father a mug of whiskey that he kept for medicinal purposes, and quickly warmed some water to clean the wound. She gently cleaned the dried blood around the wound, then dabbed the cut with Arlis moaning and cursing the whole time. Once she had the dried blood off, the wound began to ooze again. She frowned and pressed the cloth to his head. I'm going to have to stitch this, Papa, she told him.

He shot his whiskey and she poured another. Do what you got to do, Girl, he said, gruffly.

Anna readied her supplies and handed the lantern to Arlis. You'll have to hold this so I can see.

Arlis's hand shook and he cursed as Anna stitched the gash. She had sewed him up several times before, so this was nothing new. When she was done, she took the lantern and inspected her handy work. Not bad, if I do say so myself. She put her sewing kit away and cleaned off the table, then set her father's supper before him.

Arlis bowed his head, then crossed himself and began to eat. Did you get the corn finished today? he asked.

Nearly. It won't take long in the morning to finish up. We had a visitor today, Papa.

Arlis frowned. Who come calling while I was gone?

We have new neighbors. They're Irish, I think. I invited them for Sunday supper, Anna explained.

What'd you go and do that for? her father complained. We barely have enough to feed ourselves.

I'll go get a couple of squirrels or rabbits and use just a little flour to make dumplings and I'll make a  rhubarb pie. That don't take too much sugar. We been alone here for four years, Papa. We need to be neighborly. If something happens, they'd be more willing to help, if we're friendly to them.

Arlis looked into Anna's green eyes and smiled sadly. He knew she was hungry for companionship. Living isolated like they did, was hard on grown folks, so it was