Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 45 pages
Heat Level: 1
eBook Price: $.99
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 45 pages
Heat Level: 1
eBook Price: $.99
Jessie Selkirk has a mission — to take care of every stray cat she finds. They are her life, her sole reason for being. But when Baldwin Rutledge steps into her barn looking for a cat, she develops a whole new interest. One in which she must continually remind herself there is no future. No. Best to hope for nothing beyond friendship and spare herself a broken heart.
Baldwin Rutledge is desperate to stop his aunt from trying to find him a wife. So he decides to distract her by procuring a second cat for her. His plan is working beautifully, until he meets pretty Jessie Selkirk. Now marriage is the only thing he thinks about. He’d like to be more than acquaintances, but convincing her of that might take some doing.
Baldwin Rutledge frowned at his aunt. “But I do not wish to marry any of those marriage-hungry women. And this is far from the first I’ve said it.”
Aunt Esther waved a hand dismissively. “Nonsense. You need to marry someone. Do you have any idea how old you are?”
A single raised eyebrow was his answer.
She leaned forward on her high-backed chair. “Well? Do you?”
“Aunt Esther, I’m fully aware that next month I will be nine and twenty.”
“Then you see my dilemma.” She sat back.
“Your dilemma. You feel somehow affected by my birth milestone?”
“Of course, Baldwin. If you do not marry, you do not have a legitimate heir. And if you do not have a legitimate heir, I have no great nieces or nephews. Preferably a nephew first, but we can discuss that later.”
Laughter sat just behind his lips on the edge of his tongue, begging, pleading to escape. But his dotty aunt was serious. Poor dear had no problem saying whatever thought popped into her white-haired head. “I’m pleased you feel you have some control over the gender of a child I may or may not someday father.”
“Don’t be obtuse. Of course I have no control. It’s just a firmly ensconced wish. Without children of my own, I will never have grandchildren.”
“True.” Baldwin winced at her loud exclamation. Too bad she didn’t know how to control her volume.
“So the nearest thing I can have are great nieces or nephews. Preferably—”
He held up a hand. “I know. A nephew first. But we can discuss it later?”
“Now you’re getting it.” She clapped her hands, the sound not unlike old pieces of parchment rubbing together. “Thought you’d never come over to my way of thinking.”
Her cat, Agatha, strolled in as if a queen on coronation day. Head held high, tail straight in the air, surveying her kingdom and the serfs who carried out her wishes. Esther tapped her lap, and Agatha hopped up. Seeing them together gave Baldwin an idea. His aunt needed a new interest to keep her mind from marrying him off to someone he hated. Perhaps if he could give her something else to focus on…
Baldwin folded his hands in his lap. “Aunt Esther, how old is Agatha?”
His aunt raised her gaze from the cat. “She’s ten years. Why?”
“That sounds awfully old for a cat.”
“Oh, I think not. Look at her. In her prime.” She held up one of Agatha’s paws and waved it at Baldwin.
“But she’s looking, oh, I don’t know…” He lifted his shoulders in an exaggerated shrug.
“What? Do you see something amiss?”
He lowered his eyebrows. “No, not amiss.”
“Then what are you carrying on about?”
“I was just thinking that perhaps Agatha might like a companion.”
“She has me.”
“Oh.” Esther bent down and stared at her cat. “Would you like that? A little sister or brother?”
Baldwin fought hard, very, very hard, not to roll his eyes. “And what does she say?”
His aunt pressed her ear to Agatha’s face. “She’s purring, so that’s a yes.”
“Wonderful.” Now maybe she’ll stop asking about—
Esther smiled, pushing her chubby cheeks into dimples. “When do you suppose you can get the new cat?”
“Me?” He hadn’t thought this through, obviously.
“You don’t expect me to do it, I’m sure. And Agatha can’t drive the carriage.”
What would normally have been a joke, wasn’t. His aunt had no sense of humor. But sometimes, the things she said and did nearly caused him to double over with mirth. The woman would seem to outsiders as absurd. Though to him, she was just his loveable Aunt Esther. Always trying to look out for his best interests, though her methods were suspect, at best.
“Will it occur by the weekend?” Her large brown eyes widened.
“Will what be… pardon?” He’d lost all sense of her logic. But that was common.
She huffed out a breath. “Baldwin Rutledge, you know perfectly well what I’m talking about. I’d like to have my new cat by the weekend. That way, they could enjoy the tea party together.”
“Tea party.” He rubbed the back of his neck.
“Honestly, do you not pay attention? Every other month on the third Saturday, Agatha and I have a tea party.”
“I’m not sure that you do. It’s no fun to wear our hats if there’s no party.”
Ah yes. The hats. His gaze strayed to the portrait on the wall directly behind Esther. Agatha was posed in a regal position on a red satin pillow. With tassels. Not on the pillow, though. No, the cat wore a bright yellow bonnet with dark green tassels hanging from the brim. She looked like a furry lemon that had sprouted green leaves.
Baldwin focused on his aunt. “I’m sure that’s true, although having no personal experience, I’ll take you at your word.”
She smiled. “What a wonderful idea.”
“But I didn’t—”
“Yes, of course. Why didn’t I come up with it myself?” Esther patted Agatha’s head.
“I’m not sure what you—”
“You can procure the new cat on Saturday morning and bring it here for the party.”
Heat filled his face. “But…”
“Oh, naturally you’ll want to stay. I wouldn’t hear of anything else.”
This cannot happen. And under no circumstances will I wear a blasted—
“I have just the party hat for you, too.”
Someone please rescue me. Will it be a pink top hat? A purple sunbonnet?
“So Agatha and I will anxiously await your arrival with our newest family member.”
Baldwin sighed. It would be pure futility to argue further. He’d known Esther long enough to realize when to give up. “Are there any specifications for said cat?”
“Of course.” She stroked Agatha’s head and again leaned toward her. “What do you think? Any suggestions, dear?” Loud rumbles of purring ended with a squeak, which seemed to please Esther. She straightened and peered at him. “Does that answer your question?”
He frowned. “Well, I…”
“She said she’d like a female with long hair. A cat who resembles a tiger. But younger and smaller, of course, since Agatha will want to be in charge. Although, I suppose she was speaking too softly for you to hear. It’s her only flaw.” The cat’s ears flattened at the last word. Esther scratched her under the chin. “Now, now, we’ve discussed this before. You know I love you. Don’t be so sensitive.”
Something that sounded much like a grumble came from the cat. Baldwin thought he would go mad if he had to sit and watch the interaction between the indignant cat and his aunt much longer. He stood and reached for his hat beside him on the settee. “Aunt Esther, I must take my leave. Much to accomplish today.”
“About my new cat?”
“Oh, yes.” He coughed. “Certainly.”
“Splendid. I look forward to seeing you both Saturday, then.”
Baldwin stepped closer to his aunt and leaned down to place a kiss on her cheek. He stood and turned.
“Wait, Baldwin. Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Must I do this every visit? Turning back, he forced a smile. Reaching down, he lightly patted Agatha on the head and was rewarded with a haughty sniff.
With a wave and a bow, Baldwin hurried from the room. And not a moment too soon. If he’d tarried much longer, Esther and the cat would have challenged him to a game of whist. The last time it had happened, the cat had won.
Baldwin strode toward the door as the butler opened it. “Good day, Boswell.”
“Good day, sir.”
Once outside, he was relieved to see Adam had returned from his errand. Baldwin didn’t mind in the least that his driver used the carriage occasionally for personal reasons. He never asked often, and Adam was so dependable and trustworthy, Baldwin never had a qualm about granting it.
“Good day, Mr. Rutledge.”
Baldwin nodded. “Adam.”
“If I may say so, sir, you seem a trifle down.”
“You may say so and yes, I suppose I am. Or at least, perplexed.”
“Ah.” Adam glanced toward the house and back.
“And you are correct in your assumption that my perplexity has to do with my visit with my sweet aunt.”
“Anything I can do to help, sir?”
Baldwin climbed into the carriage. “Only if you know where I can get a cat on short notice.”
With a laugh, Adam nodded. “That I can help you with.”
“You don’t say?”
“My sister happens to be quite fond of cats.”
“It could be said that she is somewhat…”
“Somewhat…?” Baldwin rotated his hand in a clockwise circle, trying to help Adam finish his thought.
“Obsessed with them.”
“Sounds like my aunt. What is your sister’s name?”
Adam slumped down in his seat. “Jessie.”
“Hmm. As in…?”
“Jessie Selkirk. That’s right.”
Baldwin raised his eyebrows. “I should have made the connection by surname.” What serendipity. Perhaps she would have one that would fit Esther’s, and Agatha’s specifications. “Then I can’t think of a better place to visit, can you?”
“No sir, I cannot.” A grin stretched his driver’s mouth wide.
“Why are you smiling, Adam?”
Adam bit his lip. Trying to hide his reaction? “I’m just pleased, that’s all.”
“That I’m getting a cat for my aunt?”
He bobbed his head. “Yes. Of course. What else could I mean?”
“That’s a good question.” Baldwin eyed his driver but didn’t pursue it. “Let’s go there now. My aunt has given me strict instructions to bring her the cat on Saturday morning. I want to see what cats your sister might have available in case I don’t find what I need and have to search elsewhere.”
Ruth J. Hartman spends her days herding cats and her nights spinning sweet romantic tales that make you smile, giggle, or laugh out loud. She, her husband, and their three cats love to spend time curled up in their recliners watching old Cary Grant movies. Well, the cats, Maxwell, Roxy, and Remmie, sit in the people's recliners. Not that the cats couldn't get their own furniture. They just choose to shed on someone else's. You know how selfish those little furry creatures can be.
Ruth, a left-handed, cat-herding, Jeep driving, farmhouse-dwelling romance writer uses her goofy sense of humor as she writes tales of lovable, klutzy women and the men who adore them. Ruth's husband and best friend, Garry, reads her manuscripts, rolls his eyes at her weird story ideas, and loves her in spite of her penchant for insisting all of her books have at least one cat in them. Or twelve. But hey, who's counting?