The Widow’s Rancher- 22

DIGGORY pondered her question for several more moments.

“Well, what do you want to do?”

A week ago, Nadia had no other thoughts or wants but keeping her homestead together. Even yesterday, all her concerns centred on whether Diggory intended to court her or not. But in less than 24 hours she had gained a new husband, new sons, a new home and the beginnings of a new life.

“I want to be useful,” she began.

One side of his mouth twitched.

“I’m sure you’re capable, but I’d prefer it if you let my men plough my fields and do the heavy ranch work.”

She gasped and then laughed at his playful joshing.

“With pleasure. I hate ploughing.”

He reached out and skimmed the pad of his thumb over her jaw.

“Why don’t you describe your perfect day?”

She didn’t hesitate in answering. Able to reveal the hidden wishes inside her, ones she’d had no choice but to put aside for so many years.

“Cooking, cleaning and tending my own garden. I haven’t had much time to enjoy any of those chores for so long. I love growing vegetables and flowers. I truly adore flowers, but there is always so many other things to see to like the crops or the animals. Last summer I rebuilt the barn, but I’d really prefer to do some knitting – I can’t recall the last time I did any. And I miss it, Diggory. I realise it sounds silly to you.”

Curiosity and a touch of annoyance lit up Diggory’s gaze as he studied her. “But that’s all women’s work.”

She bristled and frowned at him.

“Well, I am one, you know.”

“But I figured you’d want to help out around the ranch. Not the heavy stuff, just the light chores.”

Disappointment settled in her stomach. So much for a new start. She jerked her hand from his.

“Don’t you have enough men to help you? Is that why you married me? For an extra pair of hands on the ranch?”

Diggory shook his head and laughed.

“No, but I did worry I’d have to force you not to wrestle some of the work from my men.”

“What?” she asked, dumbfounded.

“Rumour has it you work harder than most men. I thought you might have plans for continuing that way around here. I’m relieved to hear differently.”

“You think I did all the chores at the farm because I liked doing them?”

“You’ve a reputation for being independent, Nadia. I don’t know what I thought or expected.”

She sighed, annoyed that he obviously viewed her the same way as everyone else.

“I only did the work because there was never anyone else to do it. Henry was the laziest man alive. He spent all his time in town. When we settled here, I either did the farm work or starved. I like a full stomach and no-one else was going to help me fill it. So I did what I needed to.”

“And you don’t want to do it anymore?” he finished for her.

She glanced down at the pretty blue and grey patchwork cover and shook her head.

“Not unless you want me to. I’m willing to pitch in when needed, but I’d like the chance to just be a wife.”

Diggory grabbed her hand back with a relieved chuckle.

“Then that is exactly what your role will be. I thought I was going to have to fight you over this. Truth is, I don’t want my wife working out in the heat of the day, getting filthy and tired caring for my ranch. I have sons and men to help me. What I do want is for you to do exactly what you want, whatever takes your fancy. As long as you’re happy and waiting here when I get home then it’s fine with me.”

“So you don’t mind if I do all the normal things like cooking the meals and caring for the home? Unless you already have someone who does those things?”

“I do, but I’m certain they’ll happily let you take over. As long as you don’t turn into a simpering, whining bride,” he joked, “I

think I can bear it.”

This time she laughed.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!