Sandstone barn


“Does humor shade everything you do?”

“Just about.” He moved off the tree and leaned the axe against the barn. “Life’s better that way. Why frown when you can smile?”

A breeze stirred. Loose blonde strands floated around her face as he approached her. Intent on his dazzling, dirt-smudged smile, she lifted the hem of her apron.

“You’ve conquered a dead tree, milord.” She grinned and wiped a dark streak off his jaw. “And smeared dirt here.” 

He stilled, his hazel eyes keen. Her apron snagged on day old whiskers. His chest worked…likely from his exertions, but a jolt shot through her. They stood toe to toe.

She was touching Lord Bowles. Again.

Her swiping hand dropped. “Silly of me. You’re not a child.” Stepping back she refused to look higher than his mouth.

Surely his face would reflect triumph. Or flirtation.

Lord Bowles stayed quiet, expectant. What was he waiting for? Deeper waters weren’t what she expected of a man known for wiling away his days and nights in pleasurable pursuits.

“What? No retort?” she asked.

“Give me time. I’ll be back in form.”

Humor laced his voice. Sweat trickled down his jaw. Her fingers itched to touch the salty bead, and the burnished curl stuck to his neck.

Touching him was out of the question, but playful teasing…

“I agree you accomplished much. For four men. To think, three women managed to clean fives rooms, an entry hall, your stairs,” she said pointedly. “And clear a good many weeds while dinner cooked.”

“Do I detect a challenge?