A Cowboy’s Honor

A Cowboy’s Honor by Lois Richer

Book: A Cowboy’s Honor by Lois Richer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lois Richer
dessert, which turned out to be an apple for each of them, polished to a high sheen.
    Funny how much Dallas wished Gracie would hug him like that.
    But he couldn’t have been prouder of Misty’s success. He cleaned up the kitchen while Gracie helped Misty prepare for bed. Twice he heard the sound of stifled yawns, proof of Misty’s overtiredness. His fault.
    “Can I help?” He stood in the doorway of Misty’s room, noting the weary slope of Gracie’s shoulders. She was running on nerves. “How about bedtime prayers?”
    “I already said them. It’s time for a story. I always have a story before bed, but Mommy says not tonight,” Misty told him, pouting.
    “Would it be okay if I sang a lullaby instead?” Dallas offered, longing to be a part of their ritual.
    “Sing?” It was clear his wife had forgotten his love of music, something he’d only recently discovered himself.
    “I don’t have a guitar, but I think I can still carry a tune. Shove over, kiddo.” At least Misty seemed excited.
    Dallas thought for a moment, then began a ballad that had been in his head for the past several days. He heard a muffled sound behind him, saw Gracie rush out.
    What now? Something from the past, no doubt.
    He was weary of these land mines. If he could only remember.
    Misty pressed him to continue, and he did. In fact, he made it halfway through the second verse before her eyelids dropped and she sighed, snuggled into her pillow and fell fast asleep.
    Dallas eased off the bed and pulled the covers up to her chin. He bent, brushed his lips against her porcelain skin.
    “Good night, sweet Misty.”
    The night-light was already on so he left the room, and prayed for wisdom when he saw Gracie hunched over on the patio, her cheeks shiny with tears in the bright moonlight.

Chapter Six

    G racie knew the moment Dallas left Misty’s room. She heard his light-footed tread, the swish of the patio door, his quick, soft inhalation before he stepped outside.
    Every movement made her nerves tighter.
    She’d chosen to sit in the patio swing beside the door. Dallas sat down beside her, touched her chin so she had to look at him. Her blood traitorously sang at his touch.
    “What did I do wrong?”
    “Nothing.” She summoned a smile. “It’s just…hard. You know?”
    “Because you’ve been her world for so long and now I’m butting in and taking over.”
    She blinked at him in surprise.
    “I’m not trying to push you out, Gracie. But we’re both her parents. That’s the way God created families. She needs both of us. We bring balance to her world.”
    “I know.”
    “I saw the way she handled making the pizza and the salad, Dallas. I know I’ve shielded her too much.”
    “Misty learns so quickly. She could do so much more for herself.” If you’d let her.
    “I didn’t intentionally stunt her growth, you know.” Anger flared, red-hot. “I don’t know why you persist in seeing me as some kind of domineering witch who cages her daughter. It isn’t like that. I give her as much freedom as I can, but I also have to be mindful of her boundaries. Just because you have her doing new things doesn’t change my role or make my decisions wrong.”
    “Gracie, I’m not criticizing you.”
    “It sure seems like it.” The memories of his song and its promise ate at her composure, but Grace hung on, struggled to refocus on what she needed to say. “For five years I’ve had to gauge every decision, make sure I didn’t press too hard, ease forward, with no idea if I was doing the right thing or the wrong. I’ve put everything on hold so that Misty can develop at her own pace. It hasn’t exactly been easy and I’ve questioned my choices many times.”
    “You’ve done a wonderful job with her.”
    “I couldn’t afford the extras she should have had. I did what I could but—” She bit her lip, refusing to break down now.
    “Gracie, you did everything right. Look at Misty, really look at her, and you’ll

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