What’s happening: Linn Sparks has come face to face with her former love, Ed Ferguson, after an absence of seven years.

This time, she must speak up. She would not allow him to upset her. Before looking at him, she tightened her grip on the reins, then lifted her chin to face the man. “Please, Ed, don’t call me by that childish name. “I’m not Linnie Mae any longer. I’ve grown up now.”

“I’ll say you have.” He rubbed the back of his neck, and grinned again. But then, his grin turned stiff, almost cold. His eyes narrowed, their color darkening to gunmetal gray. Ed stepped back. “What am I supposed to call you?” he asked, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “Who are you now?” His unyielding gaze swept her from head to toe.

“Linn. Just Linn.” She turned her head away. Usually, she enjoyed being the center of attention— especially masculine attention— but she felt oddly uncomfortable with the way Ed now scrutinized her.

Like she was a stranger.

Like he knew nothing about her.

Like he no longer cared.

Of course, who could blame him if he hated her? She deserved it. She ran her fingers over the leather traces, worn and smooth from years of use. The motion calmed her. Her troubled thoughts faded.

Linn brought a practiced smile to her face and looked up again. “It’s been nice seeing you, but I really need to get out to the farm.”

She lifted the reins, prepared now to move on and prove to him once and for all that she no longer needed him, no longer wanted him, no longer felt even the slightest emotion being near him.

But the wall of lies crumbled around her when she saw Polly Washburn hurrying toward Ed. Linn cringed as the woman reached him and took hold of his arm.

“Sorry, I’m running a bit late this morning.” Her high-pitched voice grated on Linn’s already-frazzled nerves. Polly smiled at Ed, then turned to flash a brilliant smile toward the wagon and its tight-lipped occupant. She lifted a hand and waggled her fingers.

“Bye now, Linnie Mae.”

“Get up, there!” Linn squeezed her eyes shut and flicked the reins, giving the old mule its head. It didn’t matter where she went. She didn’t care how fast or how far. Any place would be better than the middle of Main Street watching Ed and Polly walking away… together.

Ed? With Polly? Her mind reeled at the thought.

One thing, at least, had changed in Brookfield. And Linn didn’t like it.

Her chin trembled, and her lips quivered. Tears threatened to fall. She was about to lose control. She could not allow that.

Get hold of yourself, Miss Sparks.

A sharp voice inside her head— a voice that sounded very much like the one that belonged to her manager, Clarence Gray— brought her up short. Clarence had a way of quickly snapping her back to attention whenever her mind wandered, a way of helping her re-focus her thoughts on things that really mattered.

Returning to her senses, Linn drew back on the reins. She stopped the wagon, then shook her head, resisting the urge to turn and look behind her.

“You didn’t need him then, and you most certainly don’t need him now.”


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