Courting Miss Hattie

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Authors: Pamela Morsi
Tags: Romance
can no longer remember them all!"
    She laughed, enjoying the game. "I've had a good many," she admitted. "But only one that I can recall who ever bored me to tears by talking about rice."
    "Bored you to tears!" He tweaked her nose. "You should have been taking notes, young lady. Every word from my mouth is an oracle most profound!"
    Her eyes widened in a semblance of awe. "Oh, do forgive me, Herr Professor. In the future I'll consider every foolish remark you make as if it were written on the stone tablets from Mount Sinai ."
    "You're getting downright sassy," he said, shaking a finger at her in teasing reprimand. "I've half a mind not to tell you."
    She giggled. "Come on, Reed. Confess. Which of my beaux have you recruited to work for Horseface Hattie?"
    "Bessie Jane."
    She raised her hands in a gesture of supplication. "Sorry, let me try again. Who is helping you out in Hattie Colfax's rice field?"
    "Harmon Leege ."
    Bessie Jane froze, and she was momentarily stunned into silence. Her face paled as she stumbled over words of reply. "Harm—Harmon Leege never called on me!"
    Reed was startled at the vehemence in her voice. "Well, I didn't mean—"
    "Do you think I would have allowed a junkman to call on me?"
    He could feel her trembling beside him, and worriedly tightened his arm around her. "Bessie Jane, I—"
    "My father sent him away immediately. I never … " Her eyes suddenly grew round with horror. "Did he say something to indicate he had spent time with me?"
    "No, Bessie Jane, he—"
    "What did he say about me?"
    "Nothing. We didn't even speak of you."
    "Oh." Flushing with guilt, she licked her lips nervously, as if suddenly realizing she had made too much of nothing. She attempted to counter her overreaction. "I wouldn't want any gossip being spread about me," she explained. "Sometimes gentlemen whose suits are not well received say terrible things to ease their pride. Just because I was not willing to walk out with a man who is obviously not my type, I shouldn't be the subject of slander."
    Reed patted her shoulder. "Of course not, sweetheart. And I would never let any man speak a word against you. I wouldn't worry about Harm, either. He seems like a very decent and upright fellow. I'm sure he would never spread untruths about you."
      "'Decent' ? ' Upright'?" Her tone was genuinely puzzled. "Daddy says he and his father are the most worthless excuses for human beings in this town."
    "Your father," Reed said, his jaw set firmly, "is sometimes harsh and a bit hasty to judge."
    Bessie Jane was surprised at this criticism of her father. She didn't always like Daddy's decisions, but she never considered that he might be wrong.
    "Certainly Old Man Leege is no sterling citizen," Reed went on. "But he's never harmed anyone but himself. And Harmon works hard and has managed to keep them both fed since he was a boy. I would say there's a lot to admire in him."
    "Do you really believe that? Do you really think there might be something to admire about that junkman?"
    Reed couldn't fathom her puzzled expression, and put it down to his comment about her father. "Yes," he answered, "I do think Harmon is admirable. You're very young, Bessie Jane. Try not to judge people so quickly. Just because Harmon Leege is poor doesn't make him any less important or worthy of our respect or our friendship. Only children and the narrow-minded measure the whole world by themselves. It's time for you to grow up a bit, sweetheart. Try to learn to look a little deeper into the people you meet. Treat Harmon Leege as you would any other man."
    He watched with curiosity the strange series of emotions that raced across Bessie Jane's face. He was about to question her further when the young woman got a grasp on her wildly scattering thoughts. In a ploy to distract him, she reached over and undid a button on his shirt, allowing her small hand to seek his tingling flesh. "Let's not talk about Harmon Leege ," she whispered. "Let's not talk at all."

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