“I want a word with you,
“Oh?” She glanced up to
see him looming above her, his face a study in controlled fury. Slowly
and deliberately, Harriet removed her spectacles and rose to her feet.
She was nearly five feet eight inches tall, but she had to look up to meet
his withering blue eyes.
“You know why I’ve come
don’t you?” he said coldly.
“I do. And I’ve spoken
with Will. There’ll be no more sneaking out at night to meet your
“You’ve spoken to
him!” Brandon Calhoun’s voice was contemptuous. “I caught your brother
in a tree, last night, talking to Jenny through her open window! If I
hadn’t come along, he’d likely have climbed right into her bedroom! If you
ask me, the young whelp ought to be horsewhipped!”
Harriet felt the rush of
heat to her face. “My brother is eighteen years old,” she said, measuring
each word. “I can hardly turn him over my knee and spank him, Mr.
Calhoun. But I do agree that he shouldn’t see Jenny alone. We had a long
talk last night after he—”
“A long talk!” He
muttered a curse under his breath. “You might as well have a long talk
with a tomcat! I was his age once, and I know what it’s like! There are
girls down at Rosy’s who’ll put him out of his misery for a few dollars,
and others in town who’d likely do it for nothing. But, by heaven, I
won’t have him touching my Jenny! Not him or any other boy in this town!”
His frankness deepened the
hot color in Harriet’s face. In the eight years since the death of their
parents in a diphtheria epidemic, she had devoted all her resources to
raising her younger brother. She had done her best to teach Will right
from wrong. But there were some things an unmarried sister couldn’t say
to a growing boy—things that required the counsel of an experienced man.
And there had been no man available.
With a growl of
exasperation, Brandon Calhoun wheeled away from her and stalked to the
window, where he stood glaring out at the autumn afternoon. Sunlight,
slanting through the glass, played on the waves of his thick chestnut
hair, brushing the faint streaks gray at his temples with platinum.
“Believe it or
not, I’m no happier about this situation than you are,” Harriet declared.
“For years, I’ve been planning for Will to attend college. He’s finishing
up his preparatory work by correspondence now, so that he can enter
Indiana University in the spring to study engineering. If you think I’d
have him jeopardize his future by getting mixed with some girl who doesn’t
have the sense to—”
“Jenny isn’t some girl
!” he snapped, cutting her off angrily. “And as for sense, she’s
every bit as bright as she is pretty! I want nothing but the best for
her, and that doesn’t include your calf-eyed, tree-climbing brother! By
heaven, she deserves better!”