The Dawn of Christmas
thought Levi was compared to the man Lillian had just shoved in front of her face.
    Lillian returned to the wagon. “Beth is writing up an invoice for you.”
    Sadie wasn’t going to go inside the store right now. It was too much to pretend she was calm when she wanted to confront Levi. She put the last two boxes in Lillian’s arms. “Tell her I need to go. We can settle up later. Okay?”
    “You’re sure?”
    Right now, all she knew was that she needed to leave before she started an argument in front of everyone. “I’m sure. Denki.”
    Sadie climbed onto the bench of the wagon.
    Levi strode back. “You’re leaving already?”
    “I’ll ask you again. What have you been telling people?”
    “Nothing.” He shifted. “I mean, really, you know how people are.”
    This man right here, evading her questions and looking guilty, wasn’t anything like the Levi she thought she knew.
    “I think I’m beginning to understand how
are.” With the reins in hand, she then realized she hadn’t untied Bay from the post. “Do you mind untying my horse?”
    His phone rang again. He ignored it this time and did as she asked. “What did Lillian and Katie say?”
    “Oh, something about my being your girlfriend!”
    A myriad of emotions crossed his face, beginning with surprise and ending with resignation. “Ya, about that … It’s just people talking.”
    He had no idea how much she detested men who hid behind false behavior. It now tainted everything she’d thought or felt about Levi.
    “Maybe you’re new to how a woman would feel about what’s happening here, so I’ll clue you in. Honesty and an apology would be really wise moves about now. Anything less is just disappointing.” She’d hoped to see a reflection of the true Levi in his countenance, but instead he seemed annoyed.
    His jaw clenched. “I can admit I was wrong but not as bad as you’re making it out to be. You’re just doing the typical female thing. I saw Eva do that to my brother hundreds of times—make a mountain out of a molehill.”
    Once she’d asked about Andy’s wife, and he’d said she was gone. What sort of man bad-mouthed someone who’d died? Did Sadie not know Levi any better than she’d known Daniel?
    His phone buzzed again, and he simply stood there, staring at her as if they were strangers. Maybe they were.
    “Would you answer that thing already?”
    Levi pulled it from his pocket and pressed a button. “What?” He snapped the word out, and she startled. She’d never seen this side of him before. “He’s here with the horses already?” Levi frowned and listened. “Okay, I’ll be there soon.” He said nothing for a moment. “I said
.” Levi disconnected the call and shoved the phone back into his pocket. “I need to go.”
    “Fine. Go.” She tugged the right rein, steering Bay away from the hitching post. “Geh.” Bay started toward the exit of the parking lot.
    A few moments later Levi strode toward the horse’s head and grabbed the leather cheeks of Bay’s bridle, stopping her. His hand moved down the horse’s neck, probably subconsciously assuring the animal she was safe. Animals he understood, but he studied Sadie as if disappointed in her.
    Sadie’s heart pounded. She’d thought they were friends, had been absolutely sure she liked who he was. Sometimes her ability to see what she wanted to see in someone astounded her. “So you have nothing to say to me?”
    He shook his head. “I guess not.”
    “Geh!” She steered Bay out of the parking lot. Why had she ever come to Apple Ridge?

Levi could not believe himself. He watched as Sadie drove the rig from the parking lot and down the long road. Was he like an unreliable and high-strung horse that Sadie hated dealing with?
    She’d been really good to him and was probably the sole reason his rescue included thorough medical help, the kind that ensured he took proper care of his injured neck. And he actually liked her. He respected who she was

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