In her back yard, Brenda raked up fallen branches and leaves leftover from autumn until the raindrops began to fall steadily. Inside, she shed her damp clothes as a shiver raised goose bumps on her arms. She lit the fireplace and brewed a fresh pot of coffee. Propping her feet on the raised hearth, she warmed her toes. The hot liquid thawed her insides. She sipped her coffee and listened to the wind splatter rain against the windows.
For the umpteenth time, she'd trusted Buddy and he'd suckered her. Staring into the dancing flames, she contemplated revenge on her brother. Maybe the nuclear option. Sugar in his gas tank. No. That would be too mean. He'd only pranked her. A knock on the door interrupted her evil designs. She jumped up, nearly tipping over her empty cup. She snatched open the door and glared at --
"Is this a bad time?" He stepped back.
"I'm so sorry. I was plotting against Buddy and thought it might be him. Although, he knows better than to come anywhere near me right now." She opened the door wide. "Come in, come in. It's pouring out there."
He slipped off his sodden rain jacket, holding it with one hand.
"I'll hang it in the bathroom. Drips won't hurt the tile floor."
Brenda arranged the wet jacket over the shower door. Out of sight, she fanned herself with her fingertips. David was seriously handsome. Dark hair sprinkled with gray, enough to look nicely mature but not old. Chocolate brown eyes. Well-muscled biceps revealed by his T-shirt. Feelings stirred, feelings she thought were gone forever.
She shook her head to dispel silly thoughts. David was just a friend. But ... she couldn't help thinking that it might be interesting if he was more.
* * *
David scanned the inside of Brenda's camp. The layout was basically the same as his--like all the original camps. This still had pine paneling in the kitchen and living room, now mellowed with age, from when her father built it. The stone fireplace, flanked by two windows, a warm, homey design. Something to consider if he wanted a new house plan.
A couple of old family photos and a pleasing watercolor of the Circle hung on the walls. Really nice space.
As Brenda reentered the room, he noticed how attractive she was. Whoa. Had he noticed how attractive she was when they were growing up? Now, he more than noticed. Mostly gray hair, attractively styled. Her youthful face belied her sixty-something age.
His pulse beat faster, and it had nothing to do with the work he'd just finished. Time to reconsider the whole dating thing. Having someone special in his life again--now, there's a thought.
Especially someone he'd known for years. Like Brenda. Easier to avoid that awkward getting-to-know-you stage of the first dates.
He'd known Brenda since they were kids and always liked her. But when he'd met Ellie in college, there was never anyone else for him. After his wife's sudden death, Brenda had dropped by now and then when they'd both been at Campfire Circle, joining the constant parade of casseroles and desserts that kept him going for months.
Something to think about. "Not to be rude, but --"
She pointed to the fireplace. "Go stand and warm up. I'll get you that cup of coffee I offered."
"Thanks. It's too damp and cold out there for April."
"Cream and sugar?" [
"Please." He warmed his backside while he waited.
She returned with a tray and handed him a steaming mug. "Have a seat." She settled on the couch, facing the fireplace.
He sat beside her, fixed his coffee and cautiously sipped it. "That hits the spot." He took another swallow. "I don't think we've talked since the Winter Fireworks."
"No. I haven't been able to get away from work."
"Busy?" He leaned back.
"Lots of babies have decided to be born on the weekend these last couple of months, so I've been working double shifts."
"Sounds tiring, but in a good way."
"Yes. I really love my job as a labor and delivery nurse." She set her empty cup aside. "Helping babies come into the world warms my heart."
He smiled. "I know what you mean. It's rewarding when my company finishes a house and a new family moves in."
"How's your business going?"
"Better. Housing starts are up, and I've been able to hire some of my crew back."
"That's great." Her wide smile lit up her soft blue eyes.
He drained his cup. "Yeah, been kinda hanging on by my fingernails." It had been a long time since he'd felt this relaxed.
She glanced toward the ceiling as the rain pounded on the roof. "Sounds like it's a good thing you got your roof covered."
"That downpour would have found the leak for sure. It's raining cats and dogs."
She stood and reached to put more wood on the fire.
"Here. Let me do that." He placed a couple of logs on the glowing coals.
"How about some lunch?" Brenda collected the empty mugs.
"Sounds good. Can I help?
"No. I'll just open some spaghetti sauce I canned from my overabundant supply of tomatoes and we can have some kind of pasta thing."
"Sounds good." Anything he didn't have to cook was a bonus.
He admired her graceful movements as she crossed the room and opened the cellar door. He followed her to the top of the stairs in case she needed help.
Just as she reached the bottom, she yelped and stomped up the steps.
"Darn it." She held up her foot, clad in a dripping fuzzy slipper. "The wretched sump pump has stopped working."