Excerpt from Chapter 5: Peach Blossom Rancher
FREE THROUGH BLACK FRIDAY
By Ada Brownell
As soon as John Parks opened the gate to the north pasture and lifted the new leather bridle off the sleek animal’s long quivering neck and nose, the black stallion galloped away, stirring the wind
Pinions scented the cool breeze in the early morning light.
The horse came to the white three-rail fence at the north end of the pasture, pivoted abruptly, and rounded the pasture again at a full run.
Bile filled John’s stomach and tongue. Would the formerly abused animal jump the fence?
The mare grazing nearby in the green field tilted her head toward the galloping stallion and neighed.
The regal horse swung toward her.
John and Abe walked a distance away to let them get acquainted.
Weariness seemed to spread in John’s young bones as he walked. He felt the weight of caring for the people in his home. How long had it been since he’d had a good laugh and no worries?
He sighed, and Abe turned and looked at him.
“The young mama we found in the barn is lots better now.” Abe puffed a little and sounded out of breath as he climbed up the hill. “The babe doesn’t cry as much, either. What you gonna do with ’em? Polly said you was a prayin’ ’bout it.”
John rubbed his cheek. The scar seemed to be shrinking some. “You know I wish God would talk to us out loud. Abe, how do you know what to do when it comes to making hard decisions?”
Abe blinked his dark eyes. The fluttering lashes now had grown white, like most of his curly hair. “Oh, God speak to us all right.” He patted the area near his heart. “Sometimes I hear ’im right here. Other times, when I’s reading the Bible, his will is loud and clear. Right regularly when the preacher gets wound up on Sundays, he say things straight from God. The main thing is to decide to do God’s will even before he shows it to you. Then when things develop a certain way, you know what ya s’pose to do.”
“I think I need to do more readin’ and prayin’.” John trudged toward the house.
After John cleaned up for dinner, his gaze followed Bellea Peabody as she brought the baby to the table and sat down shyly, tipping her face downward, letting the light show freckled skin as pale as a bucket of milk. Her shabby dress clung close to her body, and he guessed her bones filled out the garment.
Abe prayed another powerful prayer for each person around the table, and goose bumps raised over John as he whispered his own prayer before lifting his head. Tears pooled in Bellea’s eyes but didn’t spill onto her cheeks.
“My daddy used to pray.” Soft and shaky, her voice barely broke the stillness. “Thank you for praying for me and helping me. But I must be going. I can’t keep eating your food forever.”
“You’re welcome to stay here until you find a job.” John didn’t even need to think about it.
“I … I don’t know if I can get a job with little David Jonathan to care for.”
A horse and carriage rumbled into the yard. Taking another gulp of coffee, John stood. A woman in a fancy black hat and velvet cape hopped down and charged forward like a rooster ready to flog.
Bellea gasped and ran for the bedroom, leaving her plate.
A fist or a foot rattled the door.
“I heard you have a young woman and baby here.” The red-faced woman barged through the door. “I’m Mrs. Davenport. I have reason to believe you harbor a girl who used to work for me. The boy she delivered is my grandson. I’m not leaving the child for a trollop to raise. I want the babe.”
John stared at the woman until he realized his jaw hung open. He closed his mouth tight.
“She enticed my son, and now she can bear the consequences. Besides, she has no money to care for the boy.” Her voice rose to a higher pitch. “Let me see him. Where is he?”