Above the roar of the storm, a horse neighed.
Looking out into wall of the raindrops, she squinted and managed to make out the shape of a rider moving toward her. Lily held her breath. The rider’s body sat hunched in the saddle against the elements and his head bent down so low that the rain collecting on the hat poured in a stream onto his unlucky mount. She turned and gazed back into the cabin at the body upon her kitchen table. He was supposed to protect her. Lily could feel a surge of panic wrapping around her heart.
Gathering her wits, she tried to think of what to do. To keep her secret safe, she pulled the door closed and stepped to the edge of the porch. Using the wash pan as a shield, she held her tongue and watched his approach. More than drenched--waterlogged seemed the better term for there was more sea than cactus to him or the poor beast, whose misfortune it was to be out on a night like tonight. The animal seemed to take notice of her long before its master. It came to the rail, paused, and nickered softly. Lily watched as the rider slowly lifted his head.
“Evening.” His deep Texas twang rang over the ever-falling rain.
“Evening,” she mumbled, wondering why she even bothered to hold a conversation with the drifter in the first place. Yet, she knew. It had been so long since she heard the sound of another human voice. The craving passed. She grew angry with herself and clutched the pan tighter against her damp cotton dress. Be strong, she chided and stepped up to speak. “No free meal here,” she said. "Now, go on your way."
His eyes blinked in surprise. The sound of the rain now deafening, he shifted in the saddle. Pulling his leg over the cantle, he stepped down into the sea of mud. She watched his boots sink in the liquefied ground. The mud swallowed his footwear nearly up to his ankles, yet he did not acknowledge her words.
Her anger rose. “You deaf? I said there was no free meal.”
He stood, shoulders bunched, beside his mount, his eyes focused on his saddle leathers, ignoring her completely.
“I asked you a question.” Her voice rose shrilly.
The horse coughed. The rider flipped the stirrup over the pommel, loosening the girth. "Ma'am, it is late. I am dog tired."
She edged closer to the steps that led down into the yard and away from the protection of the porch roof. In disbelief, she watched the man ignore her words and go about his business with the saddle. The audacity of his actions made her stare.
Over the drumming of the drops on her wash pan, his words were calm and surprising. “That your barn?”Coming in June from Passion In Print - Saddle up and be ready to ride!