An Emerald Marks the Spot
© Copyright 2005 Kimberly J. Fish
Kali Cavanaugh led Brad Williams past the goat’s water troughs and beyond the gate leading to what she affectionately called the ‘back pasture’. Her nose searched for the calming scents of lavender and rosemary she knew were growing wild nearby, but with her nerves in a riot it was hard to focus on nuances. She sent a panicked prayer to heaven and hoped her jumbled confusion translated better via heaven’s instant messaging.
“So when did you buy this. . . farm?” Brad stepped carefully over heavy rocks and rutted paths. “Notice how I use the term loosely because even though the sign at the end of the road reads ‘Provencal Farms’ I don’t actually see livestock or agriculture.”
She disguised nervous tension with a stiff chuckle. “To the casual eye it may look like an abandoned countryside, but to those of us on tractor duty it’s a bounty in the making. I bought the land about four years ago and it’s taken this long just to clear out the dead trees and fortify the soil.”
“That must have taken a boat load of money,” he said slipping sunglasses over his eyes.
Kali felt no relief Ray Bans disguised his curiosity. His charm-encrusted scrutiny wasn’t intimated by glass. She chose to hide behind philosophy instead of answering his way-to-personal question. “What’s money compared to happiness?”
“Could be a lot.” Brad looked toward the river ambling beyond the cedar trees. “If you don’t have any to spare, that is.”
Kali glanced at his generic white polo shirt. “You were never hurting for money, as I recall.”
He shrugged. “Ranching is a funny thing. Once Dad died I found out owning thousands of acres does not equate to cash in the bank. But maybe fortunes will change here pretty soon.”
“When my aunt died, I used my inheritance to buy this farm, but the cheese industry is not the way to get rich quick. I’ve also planted a grove of olive trees, but it will take years before I can press for oil. So I’ve decided I must have a penchant for the slow road to success.” Kali walked toward a porch swing dangling from the arms of giant oak. “Don’t get me wrong, we’re just about to break even, but I long for the days when I can afford to hire a few more people or stash profits in better equipment.”
Brad sat on the swing next to Kali. “So you don’t have a little nest egg to supplement your expenses?”
Kali looked at him for a long moment before pushing the swing into motion. “That’s an odd question for a stranger to bring up.”
“We’re hardly strangers. If you remember I asked you to marry me.”
Kali remembered the rushing thrill ride that crashed two weeks before college graduation. “Asked and then thought better of it as I recall.”
Brad shook his head. “We were young and you had a glamorous future ahead of you. Or at least that’s what your aunt told me.”
“My aunt talked to you?”
“A few times,” Brad stretched his arm along the back of the swing. “She was set on you making your mark in Washington.”
“Yeah, well, too bad that didn’t work out,” Kali said thinking about her stint as a
Senator’s aide that was supposed to lead to a brilliant legal career.
“You didn’t become a lawyer?”
“Eventually, but the legal side of my brain melted when I took Aunt Annalise back to France.”
“I don’t follow.”
“My aunt developed lung cancer and wanted to return to Provence to die. Actually she said her family had a holistic approach to healthcare, but she and I both knew the tumors were too far spread to be healed by herbs and oil. The only good thing to come out of that year in France was that I learned how to make cheese.”
“So you gave up your future for her?”
“She took Lacy and I in when our mom abandoned us, why would I not be with her at the end?”
“I guess I understand,” Brad looked across the spiky grazing field dotted with honeysuckle and clover. “My mother is almost at the end of her battle with breast cancer.”
Kali sucked in her breath. “I’m sorry, Brad. I remember your mother as a very beautiful lady.”
“Pretty on the eyes, but not easy to live with,” he sighed, “that’s what Dad always said about her.”
“She was protective of you,” Kali said remembering the dinner when Brad introduced her to his parents. “She pulled me aside and grilled me about my parentage. When I didn’t have the appropriate answer to fill in the blanks she changed tactics. I think that’s when I first started hearing about the ‘perfect girl’ waiting for you back on the ranch.”
“My mother said that?”
“Yeah. Francine or something was her name. You were practically promised to her out of the cradle.”
“Francine? She ran off with a preacher boy and I think they’re somewhere in South America.”
“Yeah, but to hear tell Francine was willing to be a rancher’s stay-at-home wife and that’s just the kind of girl your mother wanted for you. She had some disparaging remarks about women choosing a career that would take them away from the stove and babies.”
“My mom was always a master of subtlety. It’s a wonder we ever knew how she felt.”
Kali chuckled. “It’s a good thing we didn’t spring our hasty engagement on her that night. She might have fainted right into her enchiladas."
Brad was quiet as he watched a blue jay dip between the oak branches.
“You never told her,” Kali asked, “did you?”
Dipping his chin toward his chest, he looked at her from the side of his glasses, “Didn’t seem necessary. I set you free, but you didn’t come back.”
Go Now to... Chapter 3
© 2005 Kimberly J. Fish
This is a work of fiction.
A Listing of All Chapters of "An
Emerald Marks the Spot"
Following in the tradition of the old radio broadcasts, an up and coming author is supplying readers with a serial story detailing a mysterious ring and a rekindled romance. Tune in weekly to read brief chapters chronicling the ongoing joys and frustrations of a thirty-something entrepreneur trying to keep her goat cheese farm from spoiling while she chases down a lost keepsake box hiding a secret engagement ring and the fortune necessary to save a dying man’s mother. Will making the hard choices bring closure to broken hearts or a second chance for love? You’ll have to click on weekly to find out. . .
Kimberly Fish, author of An Emerald Marks the Spot, lives in East Texas. When not popping chocolate kisses and Dr. Pepper chasers while she writes novels, Kimberly enjoys her family and friends and the occasional dinner out.
To contact Mrs. Fish, click <here...>
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