Excerpt

“I want a word with you, Miss Smith.”

“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 daughter.”

“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!”

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