Emmie’s cries filled the kitchen.
“Her breakfast is in the fridge. Warm it up in the microwave for about eight seconds, Laredo.”
Laredo shot out of his chair, anxious to do whatever he could to appease the screaming baby. “Shh, sh,” Frisco told Emmie, but the red face didn’t un-scrunch long enough to listen. “Hurry, dammit, Laredo!”
Laredo had his head in the fridge. “I don’t see a baby’s breakfast.”
“It’s the bottles on the side door,” Delilah instructed. “Just take one out, take off the cap, put in a glass of water to warm—never mind. Watch this. You’ll know how to do this next time.” She got out a glass, filled it with water part-way, then set it in the microwave for a few seconds. When the timer dinged, she took out the water and dropped the baby bottle into it.
“How’s she supposed to drink it like that?” Frisco asked, ready to surrender the aggravated baby. “She wants it now!”
“Patience,” Delilah told him. “Are you going to feed her?”
“Not if she’s going to be mad like this.”
She raised a brow at him. “If you big strong menthink you can handle this baby, either as a pack or individually, I can cook breakfast. If you can’t, then I can feed Emmie myself, and breakfast can wait.”
“We’ve got it under control,” the men agreed, Frisco eyeing the eggs that were set out on the counter and the butter already melting in the skillet.
“Excellent.” She tested the bottle, then stuck it out toward the brothers. “Which one of you wants to be Emmie’s best friend?”
“I’ll take her,” Annabelle said, walking into the kitchen. “Thanks, everybody.”
“Are you feeling better?” Delilah asked.
Frisco looked at Annabelle with surprise. “I didn’t know you weren’t feeling well.”
He really was a handsome man, Annabelle had to admit. She felt much more comfortable around him in her blue jeans and sweater than she had in a bathrobe, non-descript and modest as it was. When he looked at her with those brown eyes, staring out from under dark brows and nearly-black hair, it was enough to make her heart beat a little faster. His expression was intent, as if he truly cared about her well-being. But she was wary enough to recognize how much she needed that sense of someone caring right now.
“I only needed some sleep,” she said, taking Emmie from him. “Thank you so much for looking after my daughter. Delilah, you’re doing my job.”
“Didn’t you say you can’t cook?” Frisco asked.
“That’s right. But I can kick three grown men out of the kitchen and set the table after I feed Emmie.” She sat down on the plank bench, making sure she didn’t disturb the baby from her bottle.
Delilah turned to the counter, stirring some canned chili. The three men hovered in the doorway, as if uncertain as to how they should react to being evicted from their own kitchen. “It’s okay,” Annabelle said, looking up. “It’s our way of earning our keep.”
Frisco drew his brows together. “We don’t charge for one night’s lodging.”
Annabelle smiled at him. “Well, there were nineteen of us, plus Jerry. So we must earn our keep.”
“Where is Jerry?” Frisco asked, with a quick glance at Delilah.
“He bunked with the other men at house number two. Isn’t that how you have the addresses set up? House one, two and three?” Delilah answered.
Frisco didn’t look certain, and Annabelle decided the Jefferson men had never had need for addresses before the Lonely Hearts women had come along.
That was all right. They’d be gone soon enough.
The front door blew open, then slammed as Jerry came into the hallway, stomping his boots on the entry-hall rug. “Gosh-a-mighty, it’s cold out there!”
“Come get a cup of coffee, Jerry,” Delilah called. “It’s on the entry table.”
“Just what a man needs after chopping logs!” He came into the kitchen, offering red, chapped hands to Frisco and the twins to