This is the final episode of Blown Together – A Campfire Circle Story. We hope you have enjoyed this serial romance. If you missed any episodes, visit www.TheWindhamEagle.com on the entertainment page.
When her gray eyes turned smoky, Brad swallowed hard. He shouldn't be noticing. She was Richie's little sister. Well, not really little, but just the same ... Besides, she probably didn't want to hang around a man with a ready-made family. His relationship karma was seriously busted.
Taylor was the first to speak. "I'll, um, go check out the window."
"Good. Great. Ah. Good idea." What was the matter with him? Babbling like an idiot.
"Papa. Where can I play?"
A perfect distraction. "Right here in the living room is fine. Maybe in the corner by the stairs." She'd be protected there in case glass started flying. He carried the toy box over, then unlatched the cover.
Faith shucked off her Dora the Explorer backpack, settled on the floor and began pulling out all her favorite pink princess stuff.
Brad was aware of Taylor the minute she returned wet again. He struggled not to race over to her. "Need any help?"
"Nope. Just a broken pane." She smiled. "Nothing in there will get hurt by a little water. When it stops raining, I can fix it."
Taylor brushed against him, and he nearly spun her around. To do what? Take her in his arms and kiss her? Not a good idea.
She walked by and the moment passed. Leaving him with thoughts of staying here tonight, with her, until the storm was over.
His daughter's voice snapped him to his senses.
"What, sweet pea?"
"I think Misty needs to go out."
* * *
Taylor focused her attention on Faith. Misty was just the excuse she needed to put some space between herself and Brad. A good walk in the rain might cool her down. Wash away any fantasy thoughts about him. "What's Misty doing?"
"She's been going back and forth to the kitchen door."
Taylor crossed over and ruffled Faith's hair. "You're such a smart girl. That's exactly what Misty wants." She grabbed the leash.
"Can I take her out? Please."
Taylor shook her head. "That's not a good idea. It's really stormy out there."
"I'll hold her leash very tight."
Taylor looked at Brad.
"No, Faith, you stay in here and keep dry with me."
Faith pushed out her lower lip, but nodded.
"I'll be right back." Taylor clipped on Misty's lead.
Back in the kitchen a short time later, Taylor removed her rain gear and Misty's leash.
"Is it still a bad storm?" Faith's little brow was furrowed.
"It's not as windy." Taylor knelt in front of Faith. "Are you worried about the storm?"
"A little. It was scary when the tree fell. But I'm a big girl."
Taylor wrapped an arm around Faith and looked up at Brad. "She's being a really brave girl."
Faith nodded, freed herself and returned to playing with her toys.
Brad stared at Taylor for a moment, as if he wanted to say something important. "You're good with her."
Taylor stood. "Thanks. Probably comes from dealing with a roomful of kiddos not much older than her."
"It's more than that. You seem to like her."
What in the world did he mean?
He glanced at her, then looked away. "After Faith was born, her mother refused to marry me. Said she wanted to return home--to France. It wasn't the right timing for her to be a mother."
Taylor rested a hand on his arm.
He scrubbed his face. "Look. It's getting darker outside and it's not even supper time. Maybe we should light some candles."
Taylor accepted the change of subject. She wouldn't press him further. He'd tell her more when the time was right. "I keep candles in the bottom drawer in the bathroom. Faith, can you get those, please? Brad, you'll find oil lamps on the mantle. And I'll get the Aladdin Lamp."
Brad helped Faith with the candles after lighting the lamps.
Faith clapped her hands together when Taylor lit the lamp. "Wow. That is really bright."
Taylor smiled. "It is, isn't it? It was my grandmother's. When Grandpa first built Brookview, they didn't have electricity."
Faith wrinkled her brow. "How did they run their computer?"
Taylor laughed. "No computers back then."
"That's right. I forgot. Papa's told me about the old days."
Brad groaned, a sheepish grin on his face.
"The old days, huh?" Taylor teased. He was so--such a hunk--when he was embarrassed. Her gaze caught and held his for an eternal moment. Without even trying, he rocked her world. Obviously, nothing had changed since that mortifying day when she'd decided to flirt with him.
Faith tugged Taylor's sleeve, breaking through her memories. "Can we eat? My tummy is grumbling."
Brad laughed. "We'll have to light a fire."
Just as well they had a pint-sized chaperone, Taylor decided. Misty wasn't going to be any help. She wouldn't stop Taylor from planting a kiss on Brad's delectable mouth.
Faith had a puzzled look on her face. "Why do we need a fire?"
"So we can cook supper."
"Just like when we go camping."
"That's right. Come on, sweet pea. I need some help."
While Brad and Faith built the fire, Taylor made the patties.
By the time they cooked hamburgers in a cast iron skillet and finished eating, night had fallen. It was still raining, but the wind was gone.
"Let's play a game," Faith suggested.
"Of course." Brad looked at Taylor and rolled his eyes.
"I'd love to. I've never played that one."
Faith looked at Taylor like she'd come from another planet. "You never played Candyland?"
Taylor shook her head. "Not the Princess version."
"You'll love it."
Taylor smiled at the absolute assurance in Faith's voice.
Her eyes began to droop just as they finished the first game.
"Come on, sweet pea. Time for bed." Opening Faith's backpack, Brad helped her put on pajamas and brush her teeth. "I assume there are two bedrooms upstairs--just like my camp?
While Brad put Faith to bed, Taylor stirred the embers, added another log to ward off the chill and curled up on the couch in front of the fireplace.
Only a few minutes passed before Brad returned. "She was practically asleep before I finished tucking her in."
Taylor patted the cushion beside her. "Saving Misty tuckered her out. Have a seat."
He settled beside her, heaving a sigh. "This has been a crazy day."
"It has, but I'm glad you were here. Made it more of an adventure than an ordeal."
"And you're great with Faith." He slid his arm along the back of the couch, stopping when his fingers grazed Taylor's shoulder.
His slightest touch tantalized her. She fought to keep her hands off him, refused to make a fool of herself again. "She's an adorable little girl."
"And you're an adorable big girl." He moved closer. Putting a finger under her chin, he tilted her head and caressed her lips with his.
Heat splintered through Taylor. The wind could have blown away the house and she wouldn't have noticed. Her wish from that long-ago day on the dock had come true. Brad had finally kissed her.