Sumner's Garden by KC Kendricks

 Runaway. Drifter. Andy Pulaski made choices.

Fate can rule with a gentle hand, and one bright summer day she deposited Andy Pulaski in Sumnerville. Needing to work to earn enough money to get to the next stop in his journey, Andy hires on with Tom Sumner to help the older man on his homestead. Andy may be a drifter, but he’s frequented public libraries and educated himself. He looks at every stop he makes as an opportunity to learn. Things are looking up and Andy may stay longer than the agreed two weeks.

Rafe Sumner isn’t too happy about his Uncle Tom hiring a scruffy drifter. He’s been Tom’s helper all his life even if he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with his uncle. He doesn’t get along with his mother, either. He knows his father’s last name wasn’t Sumner and he knows the truth is out there somewhere. He just can’t find it.

Andy and Rafe develop a grudging respect for each other while working for Tom. It could be that what they’re seeking is right in front of them. All they have to do is look beyond what happens between them at night.


Rafe settled his lips over mine in an almost chaste kiss. It registered in my stunned brain how warm and soft they were before I fully processed what he’d done. He pulled back and smiled at me.

“I can get the tractor in pretty far. Ground’s solid right now. We can do this.”

I blinked at him, brain fogged. “We, um, can do what?”

The little smile morphed into a huge grin. “I’m talking about reclaiming the pond. Do you have some other activity in mind?”

I snapped out of the surprised haze I’d spiraled into. “Nope.” I held up my index finger and pointed it straight at his nose. “Don’t ever do that again, Rafe. I’m not some amusement you can play with for the summer.”

He grabbed my hand and held on, squeezing my finger tightly enough I couldn’t pull away. “I know you’re not so take a chill pill.” He released my hand and walked past me. “C’mon. Let’s go see what Tom thinks of your idea.”

Scurrying to catch up, I fell into step with him. “Maybe we should wait until we get his garden situated. That’s his priority right now. Let’s slow down and think this through. Make a plan.”

Rafe stopped and met my gaze. Yeah, that man wanted to make a plan, but not the one I was talking about. His smoky gaze traveled from my eyes to my knees and back up to my eyes. He didn’t need to speak for me to know exactly what he was thinking. Then he switched off that man-on-the-prowl look and grinned at me.

“Okay. You’re on to something there. He might get pissed if he thinks we’re going to slack off the important stuff.” He checked his watch. “If we hustle, we can get the other three raised beds put together before supper. After supper, we can brainstorm.” He leaned in close. “And maybe you’ll let me kiss you for real tonight.”

Privately, I might – might – give him points for being a persistent fellow, but I’d never confess that to anyone. I took a long step back to put some distance between us. “No. I’m not available, Rafe. I’m asking you to respect that.”

“Tom’s watching us. Let’s go see what he needs.”

Oh, great. Had he seen Rafe kiss me? I didn’t want to discuss it. If cornered, it might slip out that I wasn’t offended in the least and, truthfully, wouldn’t mind if it happened again.

What the hell was wrong with me? I was in a safe place here. I’d work hard, sure, but this was also a place for me to rest for the next little while. I didn’t want to screw it up with sex. Nor did I want Rafe to discover I found him…interesting.

Tom called out to us as he turned to walk away. “Come up on breezeway, boys.”

“Where else were we going to go, old man?”

Jeez. Rafe’s mouth was going to get him in hot water. The next thing Tom did might be worse than the coffee caper.

“You boys are fixing supper while I rest a spell.” Tom paused. “Before you do, you two bring the old chair out here for me.”

Rafe nodded, and I followed him inside to the living room. The room was comfortable, and decorated in warm tones of red, brown, and cream. A fieldstone fireplace dominated the room, but I thought it was great. Most of the furniture was in good shape but stashed in the corner was a very old, very tattered navy blue recliner on wheels. Rafe pointed at it.

“He puts that on the breezeway every summer. I don’t know how old it is, but he won’t part with it. Says it’s fine for outside.”

I stepped behind it and started to push it while Rafe guided it around the other furniture. Tom snickered at us when we had to turn it onto its side to maneuver it through the door.

“Boys, I got that inside all by my lonesome last fall.”

We flipped it back up onto its wheels. Rafe dusted off his hands. “Sure, you did, old man. What are we cooking tonight?”

Tom dropped onto his chair with a satisfied sigh. “Cook’s choice, boys. Rafe, you go find something in the freezer whilst I have a word with Andy. Go on, with you.” He waved Rafe away.

I was surprised Rafe turned and walked meekly away, and not very happy he’d left me to face Tom alone. I feared Tom was going to tell me there was to be no hanky-panky with Rafe.

That thought should not have bothered me and it bothered me that it did.

Tom motioned at one of the deck chairs, so I sat and waited for him to speak. It didn’t take him long.

“Andy, I’ll get straight to it. I saw my nephew kiss you and I saw you backed away from him. Now, you’re both all grown up and what the two of you may or may not get up to at night in the barn is your business. Makes no difference to me if you do or don’t. What I want to know is do I need to tell Rafe to let you alone?”

The sincerity in Tom’s voice touched me deeply. We were virtual strangers and yet he cared enough to offer to advocate for me. It was a gift I didn’t feel worthy of receiving. I shook my head.

“No, sir. I’ve handled men worse than Rafe.”

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 KC Kendricks

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