May I have this Dance Chapter 26

Chapter Twenty-Six

Brooke was embarrassed when she walked into the office on Monday and Darrick greeted her. He was usually cold and wore a scowl when she came in, as if afraid to be friendly to her. This morning, he could hardly hide a grin.       ·

“Good morning, Brooke. How was the John Wayne movie?”

She knew she was blushing, and decided she might as well relax. His amusement wasn’t going to go away any time soon. It was nice to see a real smile on his face, even if it was at her expense.

“I always enjoy watching El Dorado. And playing pool.”

“Yeah, I heard you’re a pretty good pool player. I stopped in at my mom’s house yesterday. I texted first, just so there would be no surprises.”

Now her blush deepened, and she didn’t know what to say.

His expression turned serious. “You know, I was wary at first of Chase dating you, since you’re working for us. You’ve really changed him, Brooke. I’ve never seen him as happy as he has been lately.”            ·

It was the same thing Baylee had told her. She waited for the warning not to break Chase’s heart.

Darrick didn’t say it. He turned and walked into his office. That was the end of the discussion. No more jokes or even a grin were forthcoming from him the rest of the morning.

That afternoon, Brooke prepared a lasagna for supper. Maddie was coming home with Brinley after school again, so they could bake more cookies. This time she’d make sure Maddie had time to rest and play before supper, so she wouldn’t be as tired.

            After school, Devon took his apple and water bottle and went right up to his room, as usual. Maddie and Brinley sat at the kitchen table and ate their apples and peanut butter and honey dip. Brooke made sure they washed their sticky fingers. When they went upstairs to Brinley’s room to play, she sat down and savored a cup of coffee and one of the hot baked cookies.

            She was surprised about twenty minutes later to have Maddie come down the stairs crying. Brinley followed her, saying, “It’s okay, Maddie. You can play with it.”

            Brooke met them at the bottom of the stairs. “What’s wrong, girls?”

            Maddie sniffled and didn’t reply.

            “She wanted to play with my prize horse, and I didn’t want to let her. It’s my special one.”

            “Brinley, that wasn’t nice. You need to share all of your toys with Maddie.”

            Brinley looked regretful. “I know that, now. I didn’t think it’d make her cry.”

            “Are you going to be okay, Maddie?” Brooke asked.

            Maddie hugged her around the waist. “I want to go home.”

            “I’m sorry. I didn’t know Brinley wouldn’t share.”

            “I will share, I promise, Maddie. Let’s go back upstairs and play.”

            “How about you sit down and watch a movie on Netflix, instead,” Brooke suggested. She patted Maddie’s head. “Is that okay, Maddie?”

            Maddie stepped back and nodded. “I guess so. Can I pick the movie?”

            “Yes.” Brooke turned on the TV and offered Maddie a few choices. Brinley for the most part sat quietly and let Maddie choose. She was excited when Maddie chose one of her favorites.

            Brooke’s coffee was cold. She put it in the microwave and warmed it, then stood by the counter, looking out the window at the back yard. This was the first time since the girls had met that they’d gotten into a squabble.

            When Chase arrived, the girls were back upstairs playing. Josh went upstairs to say hi to Devon before supper.

            Brooke told Chase about the fight.

            He looked thoughtful but didn’t say anything right away.

            Brooke spoke first. “Brinley is a very demanding child. She always has been. My mother-in-law gave in to her demands, but I’ve tried to break that habit since we moved here. I guess she still likes to have her way.”

            “So does Maddie,” he said. “I’m afraid I’ve spoiled her, and my mom has, too. With Josh being older and a boy, they don’t have to share toys or agree on TV shows. When I moved my big screen into the basement, we put the smaller TV up in Josh’s room, and Maddie has the one from our old bedroom. They pretty much get their own way.”

            “So this could be an ongoing problem,” Brooke said with regret.

            “Does this change anything between us?” Chase raised his eyebrows and looked carefully at her.

            She smiled and shook her head. “No. It just adds a challenge that we will have to work out.”

            He looked relieved. “I agree.”

            Maddie came into the kitchen, followed by Brinley.

            Maddie didn’t say anything about the fight, but Brinley did.

            “I wasn’t nice to Maddie earlier, and I made her cry.”

            “It’s okay, Brinley,” Maddie said.

            “Is everything worked out between you?” Chase asked, his eyes focused on Maddie to gauge her feelings.

            “Yes, Daddy.”

            “Good.”

            The timer of the oven went off. Brooke took out the lasagna and set it on the stove.

            “Oh, lasagna!” Maddie’s face brightened.

            “One of our favorites,” Chase admitted.

            Josh and Devon came downstairs. They fixed their plates first and took them into the living room. Brooke could hear the theme song to Star Wars start up. Chase heard it, too, and she could tell by the look on his face that he’d like to watch it.

            “Why don’t we all go in the living room tonight,” she suggested.

            “With lasagna? You’re kidding me, right?”

            She shrugged. “Brinley can sit on the floor with hers.”

            That worked out well, since the boys were already on the couch. Chase sat down on the end of the couch closest to Josh, and Maddie sat down on the floor beside Brinley. That left the stuffed chair for Brooke, which was all right with her. The couch was an old one that’d seen better days, but the chair was an antique one which she’d reupholstered. She didn’t really want to risk getting tomato sauce on the paisley fabric.

            In spite of the vegetables she’d tried to hide in the lasagna, Chase and his kids ate it as though they really enjoyed it. Her heart felt light. She could almost envision them as a family. A blended family, to be sure, and there’d be challenges. But she could see it as a possibility someday.

            If Chase didn’t break her heart first.

***

On Wednesday, it was the last night of hunting class. During the course, Devon had learned the basic hunting laws, how to clean, load and shoot a hunting rifle. He was excited when he came home after class. Devon talked for almost an hour about hunting, and it was wonderful to Brooke to hear him so animated.

            “Chase said the best thing for me to do is to go over on Friday night and spend the night, so I can be up and dressed early, without you having to get out at four-thirty Saturday morning and drive me over there.”

            Chase had talked to Brooke about this. “How do you feel about doing that?”

            He shrugged. “I’m okay with it. He thought Maddie might prefer to spend the night here with Brinley.”

            They’d talked about that as well. It’d be Maddie’s first sleepover—ever. Brooke was a little afraid that Chase’s daughter would decide not to stay when it came time to sleep in a strange bedroom.

            “If Maddie gets scared and wants to come home, call me and I’ll come pick her up,” Chase had told Brooke.

            Focusing back on Devon, she asked, “What do I need to pick up for you to wear?”

            “Chase said he has all the gear I need, including mud boots. Trevor outgrew his stuff this year and bought all new, so they’re letting me use his.”

            “Well, that all works out pretty good for us,” Brooke said.

            “He’s going to let me use a rifle that Dustin used to use. Josh uses Chase’s old rifle.”

            For a moment, Brooke thought of the rifles that she and her mother-in-law had sold after the funeral. At the time, Carl’s mom had wanted to get rid of everything that reminded her of the accident, and since it was a hunting trip, that meant rifles, deer mounts and any article of clothing. Now she wished she’d have saved one of Carl’s rifles for Devon.

Who knew how things could turn out in life? When she moved back to town, getting Devon involved in hunting didn’t even figure into her plans.

            She had Chase to thank for Devon’s excitement about a sport that Carl had been excited about. There were times when Carl would dream about the future he’d have with his son, and that included hunting and fishing trips when Devon hit his teen years. He’d also talked about teaching Devon how to play basketball. One of the first things he’d planned to do when they settled into their new home was put a basketball hoop in front of the garage. He’d put it off, and when she sold the house there was still no hoop.

            She planned to sign Devon up for middle school basketball when the season started. But there were things that Devon was missing out on by not having his father in his life.

Chase was stepping into a father role with Devon on this hunting thing. She’d never asked Chase to be a part of it. Or to allow Devon to join him in hunting. It’d been all Chase’s idea, his offering to take him to hunter’s safety classes, to let him join his brothers and son hunting on their land.

She hoped Chase was aware of how highly Devon regarded him over this whole thing. If Chase hurt her, she’d manage to live with it and grow from it. But she didn’t want him hurting her son.

Come back next week for Chapter 27 of May I have this Dance.

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