Courtship of the Recluse (Chapter Nine, page 1 of 13)

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In the week that followed, they drifted further apart. Their friendship had been destroyed by one night of passion. Their innocence replaced with guilt. Why had they allowed themselves to completely lose control? Had it meant anything at all to Cade, or was it merely a moment of desire? Was it the first time for him? It shouldn't make any difference, but it did. Cade was the man of her dreams, but was Mary the woman of his? Had he given himself to the wrong woman? Was that why he was so remorseful?

She stabbed the spade into the flowerbed and gazed off into the distance. It was such a beautiful ranch, so quiet and secluded. A hawk made a wide swing across the grassland and suddenly dived, jerking up at the last second, its great wings straining as it pumped back into the air with added weight. A rabbit writhed in its claws, screaming in terror.

She shuddered. One moment things could be so tranquil and then the next... She sighed. It depended on how a person looked at it. For the rabbit, it was a bad day. For the hawk and her young, it was a good day.

A shadow fell over her and she turned into the sun, shading her eyes with a gloved hand. Cade was standing over her, a puzzled expression on his face as he contemplated her work.

"What are you doing?"

"Digging up these bulbs. I noticed they were getting crowded. I'm going to move some of them over there." She indicated a cultivated area not far from where she was working. "I hope you don't mind."

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