Touching the Sky
biscuit. “Planning this wedding is taking all of my time.”
    “Still, it is important for a wife to understand her husband’s livelihood to a certain degree. I just thought perhaps you knew if he was enjoying his work.”
    “He seems happy enough,” Carissa replied and took a bite of the biscuit.
    Laura shrugged and sliced into the melon. “I saw him in town a while back when Mother and I were shopping. There were several men with him and they seemed to be . . . well . . . rather focused on something.”
    “No doubt they were,” Carissa said, still not at all interested. “Laura, do you think I should wear my hair in curls for the wedding?”
    “I suppose you could.” Laura immediately went back to her questions regarding Malcolm. “So it doesn’t concern you that when Malcolm should have been working at the mill, he was in fact elsewhere?”
    Carissa put the biscuit down and shook her head. “I swear you should have been born a boy. You worry about the silliest things. Men will be men and do whatever interests them. I have no desire to put myself in the middle of that. Malcolm has friends and dealings that do not interest or involve me. You would do better to put such thoughts aside and be . . . well, be more feminine.”
    “I hardly see this as an issue of femininity,” Laura countered in offense. “I just thought you’d want to know that your husband-to-be appeared to be up to no good.”
    “Oh, pshaw. How would you know what he was up to—whether good or bad? You simply saw him in town with his friends. There’s no harm to that. Perhaps you are jealous.”
    “Jealous?”
    Carissa gave her a sympathetic gaze. “Yes. I know this is hard on you. I know you expected to marry first. Even so, you have Captain Reid now. If you will conduct yourself properly, you might soon receive your own proposal. Then you won’t have to be jealous of my plans.”
    “I don’t have any plans for proposals at this time,” Laura said, shaking her head. “You misjudge me.”
    Carissa pushed back her plate. “I don’t think so. I think you are just out of sorts, sister. From what I understand, there have already been many suitors who have called to pay you court and now there’s Brandon. You needn’t fear being a spinster for long.”
    Laura rolled her eyes. “This is impossible. I’m not concerned about being a spinster. I’m concerned for your welfare. If your fiancé is up to no good, you should know that.”
    “I’m only a woman and can hardly judge whether his actions are good or bad. Now, let’s put this unpleasant topic behind us. I want to talk about the wedding.” She smiled and got to her feet. “Come. I think we should have Carlita work with our hair and see what style would best suit.”
    “I haven’t yet finished my breakfast,” Laura said, feeling a great sense of frustration. “You go ahead. I know that’s all you care about.”
    Carissa gave a pout. “It isn’t all that I care about. But this is my wedding. I’ve dreamed of it my entire life. You could at least pretend to be happy for me.”
    Her words brought immediate guilt to Laura’s heart. Abandoning her food, Laura went to Carissa and took hold of her hands. “I am happy for you. I’m also quite worried. You and Malcolm haven’t known each other very long. I simply want you to be certain that this is the plan God has for you.”
    Carissa’s expression lightened. “I say my prayers same as you, so it must be God’s will.” She gave Laura’s hands a squeeze. “Now, please come with me and tell me what style will look best with my veil. I think curls will be the most charming.”

    Malcolm Lowe inspected the barrels with great interest. Black powder from Mexico hadn’t been easy to secure, but it was slowly trickling in. His men had been able to smuggle a few barrels in over the last couple of weeks, but he knew they would need a great deal more if they were to accomplish all that they wanted.
    “How soon can

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