Flour, glorious flour. Rose wanted to rip one of the sacks open and run her hands through it. “Never really notice how great a thing is until you haven’t got any,” she muttered, patting the sack.
“Rose,” Kent’s voice called down, “I’m going to tell the Sheriff we got the stuff. You want to come along and see how the rebuilding is coming?”
Did she? She looked around at her stocked cellar and thought about it. “Yes, actually, I do.” Hurrying to and up the stairs she gave him an approving smile. “Good thinking. Thanks for asking.” She ignored Ada’s knowing grin as she tossed her cloak on and stepped into her boots. “Get some regular bread dough started.” That would keep her busy.
“Sure, no problem.” Ada winked at her, the minx, and headed for the cellar.
Rose pushed the door open and stomped out with Kent right behind her. In town, she saw the walls had been repaired now, and they worked on the roof. Scott sat up on the top next to Hardy and Gin, both farmers with nothing better to do in the winter. All three hammered away at the roof, setting up the frame to keep the thatch in place.
Sheriff Ben sidled up with a steaming mug in his hands. Kent told him the Countess had been by with supplies. He nodded his understanding and turned to Rose. “Did you want to see the inside and make sure we’ve done it right?”
“Yes, absolutely. Is it safe?”
“Sure. Biggest worry is a hammer falling on your head. That Scott seems to be pretty handy.”
Rose glowered at him. “I’m sure.” With his reassurance of relative safety, she strode forward to take a look inside. Almost everything looked like it should.
“The table got repaired, along with the ovens.” He came in behind her. “Finley replaced the shelves and bins, and the roof should be ready for tomorrow morning’s baking. We added some extra protection for your flour bin, in case there’s ever another disaster like this.”
She inspected the heavy wood lid over the box, both much more sturdy that the original bin. The lid’s weight didn’t slow her down right now, but she could easily imagine it as a chore towards the end of her baking day. “Ada’s going to need a lever to lift this.”
“I’ll get that set up. Anything else?”
The wash basin was the only other thing to attract her attention as different. After staring at it for a few seconds, she realized why. “The pump handle’s broken. Someone needs to fix that.”
He smirked at her. “No, actually. Verne upgraded it.” Reaching over, he pushed the handle down and got water running out of it without pumping the handle. “We thought you ladies might appreciate doing a little less work for your water.”
Rose gave it a try, finding the lever too difficult to raise up again. “It’s too tight or something.”
Sheriff Ben cranked it up and frowned. “Yep, sure is. I’ll get that seen to. I swear he demonstrated it and the thing didn’t stick then.”
“Rose, hi,” Scott called down. He hefted his hammer and smiled at her.
She waved up at him, not wanting to crane her neck back only to look up at his britches and boots. “If the roof falls again, I know who to blame.”
Scott laughed. “And you know where to find me, too. I guess I’d better do a good job.”
Rose waved him off and decided she approved of the ovens. These men hadn’t tried to ‘upgrade’ it, they just fixed it. “Sheriff, if Scott does decide to stick around, would you give him a job?”
His brow raised and he looked up at the man, then back at her. “A job? Doing what?”
“Chasing squirrels.” She rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Ben, why would I ask you if I meant something other than Sheriffing?”
He laughed. “I knew he’d tickled your fancy.”
“He hasn’t tickled my anything, thank you very much, Ben Carder. I’m only asking because of things he’s said. Being neighborly. He’s living under my roof, so I’m doing my piece for him. And for you, too. How many times have I heard about you wishing you had someone else you could trust to fire a bow straight to help you out with those damned poachers?”
Sheriff Ben rubbed his chin. “You’ve got a point. I’ll ask him if he’s interested.” He waggled his eyebrows at her. “Should I ask Moira about setting up a Handfasting?”
She punched him in the shoulder. “If I wanted a damned Handfasting I could take care of that myself. I don’t need you to ‘handle’ it for me.”
“Did I hear something about Handfasting?”
Rose cringed at the voice behind her. Damn Kent for not warning her. “No, Dad, I’m not getting Handfasted, and neither is Kent.”
They had the same eyes. Everything else about Rose came from her mother, Goddess rest her soul. Except, perhaps, her stubbornness. Kent, on the other hand, looked a lot like his father. The man stood there with a smug, pleased smile. “But you’re talking about it. Ergo, you’re thinking about it.”
“What are you doing here, Dad? Aren’t you afraid Ben’ll put you to work?”
He shrugged and grinned at Sheriff Ben, who smirked back at him. “Bah, he knows it’s not worth the effort. I stopped by the house to see if you had anything for Catherine this afternoon. Kent brought some things by this morning, and it went over well, but it wasn’t enough. Ada said you were here.”
“Isn’t she helpful,” she muttered. “No one’s got enough, Dad,” she said louder, “that’s why everyone is working so hard to get the bakery back together. Your wife’s just going to have to feed all your little darlings herself.” That came out more shrill than she meant it to. There was no reason to be rude about her father’s second wife, or about their kids. After all, she liked Kent well enough to rescue him.
“Oh, Rose, you’re so sour.” He put his arm around her shoulders. “I wish you would think about Handfasting more. Might loosen you up.”
She shrugged out of his grip and went to inspect the ovens more closely. “Your opinion has been delivered, so you can leave now.”
“Dad,” she heard Kent say, “I’ll see what I can bring over later. The kitchen is kinda small, so it won’t be much.”
“That’s my boy. You know, your mother would like to see you more. She misses you.”
Rolling her eyes at this exchange, Rose walked back over and broke it up. “Quit it. He has a job, and she knows where it is. We don’t do home deliveries. Come on, Kent, I’ve seen enough, and it’s still cold out here.” She pulled him away, pushing past their father on the way.