For His Brother's Wife(2)

By: Kathie Denosky

Cole detected the compassion in her tone. One of her most compelling and attractive traits had always been her thoughtfulness for others and he realized she hadn’t changed much over the years. Paige was still the considerate, caring woman with a mile-wide soft spot for kids she had been in high school. It was a real shame that she hadn’t had any children of her own. When she’d married his brother, she’d been pregnant. Unfortunately, she had miscarried only a few weeks later and, to Cole’s knowledge, she’d never become pregnant again. He fleetingly wondered why, but he wasn’t about to ask. Cole had never been one to pry and he wasn’t about to start now. What had happened between Paige and Craig during their ten-year marriage was their business, not his.

Not knowing much about what little kids needed, Cole nodded. “I guess it’s important for them to feel that security.”

“I think we all need that,” she agreed, smiling sadly. “But especially after the tornado tore up everything familiar to us.”

“How are you doing?” he asked, barely resisting the urge to put his arms around her for a comforting hug. It had to be extremely hard for her to lose her husband at such a young age and in such an unexpected way.

“I’m okay,” she said, her gaze straying to the distant horizon. “In the past several years, Craig had had to go out of town on business a lot, so I’m used to spending time alone. But I always knew he would eventually be coming back home.” Turning to meet his gaze head-on, she added, “It’s knowing that won’t ever happen and that I’m truly alone in the world that’s the most difficult to deal with.”

“I know it’s been a big adjustment.” Cole stated the obvious.

He wasn’t sure what kind of business Craig had been involved in that would require a cattle rancher to make frequent trips out of town. But then he didn’t know much about his brother’s life beyond the fact that he belonged to the Texas Cattleman’s Club—the same as Cole and most of their friends. Cole had even convinced Aaron to join the Dallas chapter after they had become friends and gone into business together. The connections they had made through their involvement with the TCC, as well as their reputation for excellence in quality and value, had helped propel R&N Builders to become one of the premier construction companies in the state.

They remained silent for several long moments before Paige glanced toward his truck. “Did you bring your things with you?”

“No, I’ll just stay at the Cozy Inn,” Cole answered, shrugging. “I have to get up pretty early and I wouldn’t want to disturb you.”

When he’d returned to Royal six months ago, Paige had offered for him to stay at the ranch while he was in town, but he had declined. He’d told her that it would be easier for him to stay close to the job sites where his construction crews worked. But the real reason he had stayed in Royal instead of at the ranch was due to the attraction he still felt whenever he was around her.

Paige gave him one of those looks that a woman gives a man when she thinks he’s being overly obtuse. “Think about it, Cole. I live on a working cattle ranch. I get up before dawn every morning to give the hired hands a list of things I want done for the day.”

“Don’t you have a foreman to do that?” he asked, frowning.

“I do, but he’s still dealing with his injuries from the tornado.” She shook her head. “He was in the barn when the storm moved through and it’s a miracle he survived. I assured him that he would have a job once he recovered, so I’m taking over for him until he’s able to return to work.”

“Couldn’t you have one of the other men act as foreman until he recovers?” Cole asked.

“I could have, but with Craig gone I need to stay busy,” she answered. “Besides, I want to learn more about managing the ranch since I’m going to be running it alone.”

“You could always sell out and move into town,” he suggested.

She looked directly at him. “I did think about it. But this is my home now and I prefer the country quiet over the sounds of a busy town.”

Cole couldn’t fault her for that. He had grown up on the ranch and when he’d gone away to college, it had taken him most of his first semester to get used to the noise of a bustling campus. Now, living in Dallas, he spent most of his weekends in a fishing cabin on a nearby lake just to get a little peace and quiet.

“Living in town would be closer to the charities you’re involved in,” he said, shrugging.

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