Ripples Along the Shore

Ripples Along the Shore by Mona Hodgson Page B

Book: Ripples Along the Shore by Mona Hodgson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mona Hodgson
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical, Christian
tell you what to do. I’m not even listening to myself anymore.”
    Anna giggled. “What about you, Jewell? You’re married. What do you think I should do?”
    Jewell looked at the road, then back at Anna. “If you don’t know for certain it’s what you want to do, I think you best not be rushing your thinking.”
    Anna blew out a long breath. “I—”
    Mary twisted onto her knees. “I know.” Her little hands grasping the back of the seat, she peered at Anna with big green eyes. “Does he have a horse?”
    Anna startled. “I believe he does, and a wagon.”
    “Marry him then.”
    When Anna’s shoulders began to shake with laughter, Caroline could no longer hide hers behind her hand. She remembered those childhood days … when everything seemed so simple and matter-of-fact. Days when she and Jewell skipped through grassy meadows and dreamed of dressing up like lovely princesses to marry charming princes.
    Those days were gone. So were the dreams.
    Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up .
    Recognizing the words of Scripture that echoed in her heart, Caroline folded her hands on her lap. Show me how, Lord. Show us all how .

Sixteen
    S aturday afternoon, Caroline was the acting shopkeeper while Mr. Heinrich went to the bank. She pulled a tin of peaches off of a high shelf behind the counter and dangled it for her customer to reach. Concern creased Oliver Rengler’s brow.
    “You shoulda let me do the climbing, ma’am.” He set the tin on the counter and steadied the ladder.
    Her knuckles white, Caroline planted her booted feet on one wrung, and then another. She didn’t wish to lose her footing. Nor did she fancy tangling the heels of her boots in her skirt with two men nearby.
    She’d counted two more steps when Oliver held his hand out to her. She gladly accepted his assistance onto the solid floor.
    “Thank you.”
    He nodded, but didn’t let go. Caroline glanced at her hand in his, which looked like a teacup inside a serving bowl.
    His face tinted red and he jerked his hand to his side.
    Caroline smoothed her work apron and returned to the ledger. A lot of folks were using store credit to gather provisions for their trip west, planning to pay off their debt after they’d sold their property and belongings. The Rengler brothers were counted among those. She picked up the pencil and continued listing their supplies. Like she and Jewell, the brothers were as different as a pencil is from a hammer. Owen favored the costume of a city businessman while Oliver seemed content in sailcloth trousers.
    Oliver added a poke of tobacco to the pile they were accumulating at the end of the counter. “A lady like you, Miss Caroline, should be sipping tea in a parlor.”
    She smiled. Oliver’s flattery was different … innocent. “I like the way you think, Oliver.” A parlor in San Francisco . “But sipping tea doesn’t pay the rent.”
    “No ma’am.” Oliver chuckled. “Playin’ checkers and gulpin’ old man Heinrich’s coffee don’t neither.”
    Owen set a sack of dried beans in front of her. “Looks to me like my brother’s sweet on you, Miss Caroline.”
    Color flooded Oliver’s face again. Was he sweet on her? No. Everyone in the store was friendly, that’s all it was. He was simply being sociable.
    Oliver met his brother’s impish gaze. “That ain’t the way it is, Owen. I’m tellin’ the truth, is all.” Hooking his thumbs on the suspenders holding up his trousers, he turned to face her. “Unless you’d like that, ma’am.” His eyebrows arched, his childlike expression sweet. “You want me to be sweet on you, Miss Caroline?”
    Her mouth went dry.
    “Wouldn’t do either of you any good, Ollie.” Owen clapped his brother on the back. “Miss Caroline is staying in Missouri.”
    Oliver sighed. “You were at that meeting about the wagons. With Hattie and Miss Anna.”
    She nodded. “I went to the meeting, but I won’t be going west.” And right

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