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Donna Hechler Porter
He let go of her arm as if he had been stung. “I am not an outsider.”
“I cannot do business with wayward Friends either.”
“Oh.” He drew the word out. “How strange. I do not feel lost.”
“Sister Mary, do you know what it cost me, personally, to come and ask thee to do them?”
Her throat tightened. What it cost him? Did he ever think of the humiliation it had cost her to listen to him request her to be a seamstress for his family?
Every time I see thee, it costs a part of me.
“’Tis just a job. You can find someone else.”
The deep furrow next to the man’s mouth twitched. He yanked the hat from his head. His fingers bent the straw to his will. The crunch grated into her ears.
“I will start cutting tobacco next week. I have to start work on the kitchen soon. I do not have time to find another seamstress. Surely we can work out something.”
“I do not think so.”
“I am seeking restitution. It will be handled at the next monthly meeting.”
“Is your daughter?”
“No, she is not.” His chiseled chin jutted forward. “If you will not work for her, will you at least do the work for the rest of us?”
“No. I think it would be best if you found someone else.”
“I have not the time.”
“Abigail has been gone for almost a year. You are the one who has not hired a seamstress.”
“I have been busy.”
“’Twas not busy. ‘Twas neglectful.”
“You can talk to me about neglect when your wife dies.”
Mary’s eyes widened.
“I mean husband,” he quipped.
It took him a minute to realize his mistake. Then, his face reddened.
He shot her a shy smile. Their eyes locked. Her heart slammed against her throat.
“Please, Mary. I need a seamstress, and I know you need the work.”
He had dropped the formal address of Sister. That, combined with the smile, was shattering. She lowered her gaze. The dark curly chest hair waved at her from between the folds of the loosened cravat.
That was no better. She took in a deep breath to still her nerves. “I would very much like to, but I just cannot.” She spun around before he could launch another protest.
She would have done almost anything at that moment to see that smile on a regular basis. But, she could not lose her girls.
And it should have been of little consequence other than the loss of the money. It was just a job she could not do. Amon Cayle was simply an employer she could not work for.
So why did she feel as if a piece of her heart had been cut out?