Copyright © 2006 by Leah Kelley




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 Part 1



     James shook his head.  He’d had a bad feeling about this visit, and it appeared he was right.  But Lacie had wanted so badly to come and it had been six months since she’d seen her family, the entirety of her life as a married woman.


    James warned her before they left.  He would hate to see six months of hard won progress spoiled with one week’s influence of her mother and sisters.  Lacie Jane was the youngest daughter of the family, but she was the only one married.  There was a good reason for that.  The shrill tongues of the other two ran suitors off before they’d hardly gotten a foot in the door.


     Lacie Jane Roberts had a way about her that attracted droves of suitors, even the most stubborn bachelors such as himself.  But he’d since learned the cute little laugh and dimpled smile that proclaimed innocence merely masked a willful nature that would take a stronger man than most to tame.  Thankfully he was that man.


     Lacie Jane had come a long way in six months.  She no longer threw tantrums and she did mostly as she was told.  She kept the house straight even when she didn’t particularly want to, and she never, ever threw stuff at him anymore.  But she had a way of disrespecting him with her tongue that she’d later say was only a joke.  They were still working on that.


     All those little faults, however, were on the surface.  Those things were easy to deal with.  It was the deeper faults in Lacie Jane that worried him, the ones that stemmed from living in a family with a mother who’d neglected to train her daughters in proper Christian conduct and a father who’d neglected to train their mother.


     Now James watched Lacie Jane, her mother, and her sisters put their beautiful blonde heads close together as they castigated yet another of their so-called friends.  James had already called Lacie down once.  He’d not do it again.  He’d just wait to see how far she’d go before she realized she’d gone too far, for in truth she already had.


     Lacie looked up from the circle, saw him watching her, and tossed her blonde curls, a feature he once thought was cute.


    “Why, James.  You look positively mournful.  Can’t you be a bit more cheerful, please?  For my father’s sake?”


     Lacie’s father looked up from his dinner.  “Lacie, sweetheart, James is perfectly fine.  I’m sure he’s got a lot on his mind.”


     “Yes, sir, I do,” James agreed, with a pointed look at his wife which she chose to ignore.  Her head went back into the knot.


     “Well, before I left she told me ...” Lacie’s voice began.


     “How goes married life, my boy?”  Mr. Roberts asked, raising his voice over the mean spirited whispers of his daughters and wife.


     “Fine, Sir.  Just fine.  Some days better than others I daresay.”


     “I’m sure Lacie Jane is keeping you entertained.  She’s a corker, that one.”


     “Yes, Sir.  She is that.  I have no complaints there.”  A bit of emphasis on the last word slipped in on him.


     “But you have other complaints?”  Mr. Roberts asked, truly dumbfounded that James could find fault with his youngest daughter.


     “Nothing I can’t handle,” James said.  “Just a few problems Lacie and I are working on.  She’ll be fine.”


     “Problems?  Do you care to elaborate?” His father-in-law asked.


     “ be honest, Lacie’s mouth tends to run away with her a bit.  As I said, we’ve been working on that...”


     “Ah...yes.  But she’s just so cute, she gets away with too much I suppose,” her father said fondly.


     James declined to comment.  Fact was, Lacie Jane got away with little as of late.  He took a sip of his drink.


     Cute little Lacie Jane must have overheard a bit of their conversation, for when he put down his drink he found her staring at him, the expression in her eyes worried.


     James crossed his arms and stared back at her.  She lowered her eyes.  “Lacie,” he told her, “if you’re finished, I think I’d like to have a word with you out back.”

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