For His Brother's Wife(7)

By: Kathie Denosky


“Thank you,” she murmured as Cole sat across the table from her.

He shook his head. “I’m the one who should be thanking you for making all of this. Everything looks and smells delicious.”

“I love to cook but rarely take the time anymore,” she said as they filled their plates. “Cooking for just myself isn’t as much fun as it is when I’m cooking for others.”

“You don’t have someone to do the cooking and cleaning?” he asked, taking a bite of his potatoes.

“After your father passed away, Maria stayed on as the cook and housekeeper for a couple of years before she retired,” Paige answered, smiling fondly as she remembered the sweet older woman who had helped her early in her marriage and had taken care of the house and helped raise the twins after the boys’ mother had died when they were five. “Craig wanted me to hire someone to replace her, but I talked him out of it.”

Cole frowned as he took a drink of his iced tea. “Why?”

“I’m not the type to spend a lot of time on the tennis court or golf course,” she said, trying not to notice the play of muscles in his forearms as he used his knife and fork to cut into the steak. “And until the tornado came through, my charity work only kept me busy a couple of days a week.” She shrugged one shoulder. “I had to have something to do to keep me busy.”

She wasn’t going to mention that she had hoped to fill her hours taking care of her children. But it didn’t appear that she was going to have any. And it was too emotionally painful to think that she might never have a child of her own.

They fell silent for a time before Cole asked, “Do you still paint? If I remember correctly, you used to be a fairly good artist when you were in school.”

“I hadn’t put a brush to canvas in years,” she said, surprised he remembered her love of art. “But I recently started painting again and thought I might turn Craig’s den into a studio.”

“Isn’t that room a little too dark?” Cole asked, frowning. “I thought natural light was better for painting.”

“It is,” she agreed, smiling. “Craig converted the sitting room off the family room into his office.”

“That would be a good place for a studio,” Cole said, taking a bite of his steak. “With that wall of windows on the east side, the lighting should be perfect in the mornings.”

“I thought so, too.” His genuine interest made her smile. It was nice for a change to have a conversation while she ate, instead of dining alone in silence. “Craig gave me your father’s den for my office when he converted that room and since I don’t need two, I think it’s the obvious choice for a studio.”

Cole looked thoughtful. “You know, the lighting would be even better if the south wall was all windows, as well.”

“I thought about that, but I wasn’t sure it was structurally possible,” she admitted. “What do you think?”

“It would need to be braced up in the attic since that’s a load-bearing wall and a couple of beams added for support where the two walls meet in the corner, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.” His smile caused her pulse to flutter. “I’ll check it out for you before I head back to Dallas and let you know for sure just what would need to be done.”

“I’d really appreciate that,” she said, excited at the possibility of having an artist’s studio with the perfect amount of natural lighting.

When she rose to cut them each a slice of apple pie, Cole carried their empty plates to the sink, rinsed them and placed them in the dishwasher. “No more work than I think it would take to make those changes, if you’d like, I could have my work crew get that done for you before we go back to Dallas.”

“Really?” she asked, her excitement for the project rapidly building. Craig hadn’t discouraged her love of art, but he had never encouraged it, either. “It could be done that soon?”

“Sure.”

Cole’s smile made her feel several degrees warmer. How could a man look sexy as sin with nothing more than a smile?

“There’s no reason not to go ahead if that’s what you want,” he continued, seemingly unaware of the effect he was having on her. “The work crew will be here, and even if it takes a couple of extra days, I doubt they’ll mind. It will just add to the small fortune Aaron and I have paid them in overtime and travel expenses over the past six months.”

“Thank you so much, Cole.” Thrilled that she was actually going to have her own art studio, she turned and, without thinking, wrapped her arms around him for a hug.

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