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Courtship of the Recluse


companionship - his kind. She was beginning to relax when he launched the question.
“Would you be interested in minding my place?”
She gaped at him. “Your place?”
He nodded. “It’s an heirloom of sorts; a big old house - too much for me to take care
of and work the ranch as well.” He paused, watching her expectantly. “I don’t know what
kind of wages you draw here, but I’d be willing to pay you a hundred a week plus room
and board.”
Slowly the facts were beginning to seep through the layer of shock. He was offering
her a job as a live-in maid. The wages weren’t all that great, but deducting rent, utilities
and groceries from her present salary, it wound up being a good deal more. Was it
merely coincidence that her lease would be up next Friday and the landlord was raising
the rent? She gnawed at her lower lip. But staying out there alone with a man?
“Are there neighbors near you?”
He shook his head. “I have over three thousand acres. It’s isolated and lonely and
I’m gone most of every day. In the winter the landscape is bleak and the house is drafty.
The house sits more than a mile off the snow plow route, so sometimes I’m snowed in
for a week or so.”
She wrinkled her nose. “You make it sound so attractive. How could I refuse?”
He stared at her for a moment. “Are you accepting the job?”
It was hard to tell whether the sarcasm had gone over his head or he simply wasn’t
amused. She sighed.
“Not yet. What would my duties entail?”
His expression was bland – his voice unemotional, as if he were discussing the
weather.
“Laundry, dishes - general housekeeping - cooking my meals. I eat breakfast at six
in the morning and supper at six in the evening. Sometimes I come in for lunch and
sometimes I’d expect you to pack me a lunch. The rest of the time you’re free to do as
you please. I have some horses you can ride and there are several creeks, ponds and
even a small lake on the land.”
She rested her elbows on the table and cupped her chin in her hands, staring out
into the night. The last sentence was the clincher. Riding horses was one of her favorite
pastimes, and the country out that way was gorgeous - winter or summer. Best of all,
she could save a substantial amount of money for a down payment on her own place. It
all seemed to be tailor made to her preferences - all but the part about staying alone in
the house with him. Of course, Mr. Cade hardly seemed the seductive type and she
certainly wasn’t going to encourage it. Finally she met his patient gaze.
“Let me think about it for a while. Okay?”
His nod was nonchalant.
“Fine. I’ll be in next Friday. If you decide to take the job, have your things ready
then.”
He gulped the last of his coffee and stood.
“Thanks for your time.”
With that he turned and left the diner.
The walk home was quiet, but hardly relaxing. In fact, she was so keyed up when
she reached her apartment that she decided to call her best friend with the news.
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