The Baker of Brennan #8

“Why is this a big deal?” Kent picked up the lunch plates and took them to the wash basin. “He saved your life. Feeding him once is pretty close to the least thing we can do in return.”

Rose watched him continue to fuss over her, still annoyed. She should be doing the dishes, but he wouldn’t let her. It wasn’t as if she had a gimpy leg. That healer, Ryan, took care of the injury she never actually saw with her own eyes. A few hours in a blanket on the couch and some hot tea took care of the chill. Right now, she would rather be baking than spending her day as an invalid. This was boring.

“It’s a big deal because the minute we start getting to know him and liking him, he’ll fall on a poisoned spike and die. Or be eaten by a…a grue or something.” Someone knocked on the door and Rose jumped up to answer it before Kent could drop everything to do it for her. She pushed the door open just enough to see who it was, then opened it more and let the Sheriff inside.

Sheriff Ben Bryer
Portrait of a Bearded Man in Black by Corneille de Lyon

Ben Bryer, the Sheriff of Brennan, was everything his job demanded: tall, muscular, skilled with a blade, and stern. His short beard was caked with snow, as were his cloak, gloves, pants, and boots. He let the door smack shut behind him and didn’t come any further into the house. “Sorry to bother you, Rose. I know you had a rough morning.”

With great difficulty, Rose prevented herself from rolling her eyes. “I survived, and I’m fine. What can we do for you, Ben?”

His eyes flicked over her like he didn’t really believe her, then he shrugged and shook his head. “I just came over to let you know your bakery was damaged enough we’ll have to rebuild quite a bit. Same for the tavern. How much can you do from home? And would you be willing to let out the spare room I know you have?”

She sighed and crossed her arms. It was one thing to be pretty sure the shop was all but gone, but quite another to have that confirmed. The sturdy men of the town would put in the effort to get it fixed up as fast as they could, but it would still probably be at least a week. “Not much. I have space to make up all the loaves of bread the town needs, I think, but not the supplies. Whenever I can get over there to take some kind of inventory, I can answer that question better.”

“If you’re up to it, now’s as good a time as any.”

“She’s not going now-”

Rose waved Kent off. “Don’t be a nag. I’m perfectly fine.” Grabbing her cloak and boots, she dressed for the cold with relish. Her house was nice. It was warm and inviting. She didn’t want to be here right now. Stepping out for just five minutes would help at this point. “I’ll be back in time to help with dinner.”

Kent made a sour face, but he perked back up as Ben turned to escort Rose out. “We could let Scott stay in the spare room. He’s one of those survivors.”

“No, no, and no.” Under no circumstances was Rose going to let Ben think for even one second that this idea would be acceptable to her. “That man is not sleeping in this house.”

“Why not? Didn’t he save your life?” Ben fixed her with a stare designed to make her squirm with guilt. “Rose, we really do need everyone to take people in if you can. This is about being neighborly. I’m sure when you take a minute to think about it, you’ll realize you’d much rather have someone staying in your home that you’ve already met and has proven himself friendly than a random idiot intending to fling himself on a spear tomorrow.”

“He’s already coming for dinner,” Kent supplied, helpful as ever. “We should just let him sleep in the spare room.”

“That’s settled then. One down, a bunch to go.” Ben opened the door, letting in a blast of frigid air, and held out a hand for Rose to escort her through and away.

She glared at one, then the other. “Fine.” Ignoring Ben’s hand, she brushed past him and plunged into the snow. The thing that irritated her the most about the exchange was the part where they decided she didn’t have the authority to make decisions about her own house. It was hardly the first time and wouldn’t be the last, but knowing that didn’t ease the chafing.

The storm was over, the skies just now starting to clear. Small patches of sunshine glared off the two feet of fresh snow. Most of it was churned up and stomped down already, and people swarmed over the town. At least half the villagers were out and about, already cleaning up debris and clearing pathways. She waved with her mitten covered hands at people who noticed her and had to repeat that she was fine a dozen times on the short walk.

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