Once Bitten, Twice Shy (Chapter Four, page 1 of 10)

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The pre-dawn was unnaturally quiet . . . and cold. The stove must be out again. She pulled the warm blankets over her head. Why didn't Katie take some initiative to get the fire going in the dairy? Or even in the house? She threw the covers back and rolled out of bed, gasping when her bare feet hit the cold floor. It wasn't Katie's farm and this pity party wasn't getting the chores done.

Muffled steps hurried down the hall toward her door and Katie pounded on the door.

"Carmen, get up. It snowed again - and I mean snowed."

Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Carmen trudged across the room and drew the curtains back from her window. It was still snowing - huge flakes that lit softly on the heavy blanket of snow on the ground. The cedar tree was bent over with the weight of a heavy load of wet snow. It was beautiful.

She grabbed her jeans as Katie beat on the door again.

"Carmen? Did you hear me?"

"I heard you," she answered testily. "I'm getting my clothes on. Did the stove go out again?"

"Yes, but don't worry about it. I'll get Alex."

"Don't bother him . . ." but the answer was an echo of footsteps, retreating down the hall and thumping up the stairs.

Poor Bill. Did he have any idea what he was getting himself into? She dressed hurriedly and was tugging on her boots when Katie returned.

"He's not up there." Her voice was approaching panic. "He's not anywhere in the house. I hope he didn't freeze!"

Carmen jerked the door open. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Katie. I'm sure he has enough sense to come in out of the cold. He's probably in the barn."

Katie gave her a sour look. "Who, pretty boy?"

Carmen grinned. "Are you still in a snit about that?"

Katie shrugged. "I wasn't mad." She turned toward the kitchen. "I'll fix breakfast while you go check on him."

Carmen slipped into her coat and stepped out on the porch. Snow had drifted across the steps and onto the porch. There must be a good twelve inches on the ground already. She carefully felt her way down the steps and pushed a trail across the yard to the barn. Had Alex spent the night in the barn, or had it snowed this much in a few hours?

The dairy was warm, a fire burning brightly in the home made wood stove. Alex was here . . . and he knew how to light a fire. The door to the kidding stalls was open and she stepped through, moving swiftly as she checked each stall. She paused at the last stall and smiled. In the hay beside their mother, lay two tiny bodies, soft and clean. And propped against the wall, breathing softly in sleep, was Alex.

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