The Baker of Brennan #17

“I had an interesting conversation with the Sheriff this afternoon.” Scott picked at a chunk of bread from one of the first loaves made with the new flour. His plate sat empty, cleaned of even the juices from Kent’s vegetable concoction by that very piece of bread. The man ate like a horse, downing easily three times as much as Rose. At least he wasn’t picky.

Rose reached over and stacked her own empty plate on top of his as a reminder he promised to wash up after dinner. He may have meant it just for last night, but she chose to interpret it as an ongoing, long term sort of thing. She picked up Kent’s plate and did the same with it. “Do tell,” she said, giving him a smile that dared him to object to his given chore.

Scott smirked and stood up, taking the plates to the kitchen. “He offered me a job. Said he’d been paying attention, and could use some help dealing with the sometimes unruly folks that wander through town. Something about him getting older and slower in there, too.”

Giving Kent a smug grin, Rose stood to gather the leftover bread and store it for the night. “Did you take it?”

Kent grinned back at her and picked up the butter to put it away.

“I said I’d think about it. Need to decide if I want to stay for sure or not.”

“Is that something you have to think really hard about?” Rose tucked the bread into her breadbox and sidled up beside him while he worked the water pump.

Like the good little brother that he was, Kent stashed his burdens and slipped out in silence.

“Well, there’s this girl.” He grabbed the soap and a rag. “Actually, that’s not true. She’s a woman, not a girl. Girls are twittery things with little sense, and obsessed with silly things. This one is most definitely a woman. Wise and strong, and not overly concerned with looks. I don’t mean hers, of course, because she’s probably the loveliest creature I’ve ever seen. Fairly well glows when she’s angry, it’s enchanting.”

Rose arched an eyebrow at him, her lips quirking into something between a grin and a smirk. He had something to say, though, and she found no real fault with it so far. “She sounds special.”

Scott nodded, his eyes on the dishes. “I didn’t think so at first. In fact, I had every intention of not getting to know anyone in this town at all. My friends and I are wandering adventurers, you know. We travel around together and slay monsters that happen to be terrorizing people. Usually for money, but not always. Until I came here, I actually thought I had everything I needed. Then I met this woman. It didn’t happen immediately, mind – none of that love at first sight nonsense. It was sort of a gradual buildup over the past few days. I think I realized I might want to settle down and spend my life with her when she slapped me.”

Despite how long she went without being interested in a man for anything other than carrying heavy things or reaching high shelves, Rose’s heart fluttered. All thoughts of pushing him away fled her mind as if they’d never appeared. “I can do that more often, if you like.”

He laughed. “No, thank you. Once was enough.” Finally, he met her eyes. “Rose, I’m not going to make promises. I haven’t lived in one place for a long time. I don’t know if this life will suit me, and I don’t know if you and I will work out. I just know I’d like to give it a try. Will you give it a try with me?”

She had a thought to be coy, but he showed her so much raw honesty, she couldn’t do it. “You can stay in my house for as long as you want.” Her smile felt sappy and stupid and dopey. His looked about the same. “If you can survive the rest of the winter here without wanting to kill me and survive the spring without running off to chase monsters, then this just might work.”

“At what point will it become acceptable to kiss you?”

She tore her eyes away from his to check the dishes. Just the main pot left, and it would be easier after it soaked for a while. “When your hands are dry.”

He grabbed a towel.

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