Luke and Mrs. Gaitland

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His gaze dropped to her mouth.

Her heart began to pound.

A soft pressure on her lower lip as his finger traced a line across it caused her entire body to heat, suggesting that, at any moment, she could burst into flames.

“Is it gone?” Exactly how she’d managed to form the query escaped her.

“Is what gone?” he asked above a whisper, as if he’d suddenly entered the conversation.

She swallowed. “The mess you dabbed from my face.”

A nearly undetectable nod served as his answer.

“Then perhaps you should release me.” Even to her own ears, her suggestion bore an audible resemblance to a question.

Luke’s expression shifted from scorching to composed. “Of course.”

At some point during their private exchange her appetite had fled. “I need to clean this up.” She made to stand, but Luke rose before she could.

“Allow me,” he offered. He took the cauldron handle in one hand and his bowl in the other, and headed towards the creek.

She could only stare after him, not knowing what to think of the situation. Lord, she’d known him for no more than three hours and would be happy to have his company on a cold night.

Where in the world had that thought come from? She stood abruptly and took a step to the right, then reversed directions and took two to the left.

Most likely from the fact that he nearly kissed you just now, a voice in the back of her mind answered.

In all her adult life she’d never been one to swoon or faint over a handsome face, and she wasn’t about to let him bewilder her in such a way now. Squaring her shoulders, she marched into the tent, realigned the benches, doused the lamps, and tied the flaps down, chastising herself along the way. By the time she finished, Luke had returned with a clean cauldron.

“Thank you for the assistance tonight, Luke,” she offered while dusting off her hands.

He set the tripod and cauldron into the wheelbarrow. “Glad to be of service, ma’am. However, I have one more thing to do.”

Her heart quickened its pace. “And that is?”

He looked down at his boots for a moment then back up to her face from underneath the brim of his hat. “Walk you home.”

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Until next time —

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