A Hot Montana SummerBy: Karen Foley
A Glacier Creek Romance
“You’re going to marry me someday.”
Rachel McCafferty spun around from the sink where she was mixing a pitcher of lemonade to stare at the boy sitting on the far side of the kitchen island. He watched her with solemn blue eyes, and his narrow face gave no indication he was joking.
Rachel smiled uncertainly. She didn’t want to crush the kid’s ego, but neither did she want to give him any false hope. He was, after all, just a kid. He had about as much chance of marrying her as a snowball had of surviving ten minutes in Hell. So why, then, did the expression in his eyes—unwavering and intense—cause such an odd tightening sensation in her chest? Abruptly, she turned her back to him. Reaching up, she took two glasses down from the cupboard.
“Well,” she finally responded, eyeing him cautiously as she poured a glass of lemonade and slid it across the countertop to him, “seeing as you’re only twelve years old, you’re expecting me to wait an awfully long time, aren’t you?”
Rachel set the pitcher down on the counter with a grin. “Fourteen years? I’ll be an old maid by then!”
“No,” he said quietly. “I’m not twelve. I’m actually fourteen. At least,” he amended, with a shrug, “I will be in another month. But since you mentioned it, I’m pretty sure in fourteen years, you and I will be married.”
Rachel stared at Jamie Colter, too taken aback by his brash confidence to know how to respond. He was small for his age, and skinny. His family had lived across the street for as long as Rachel could remember, and he and her younger brother, Dylan, had been best buds practically from the time they could walk. Jamie was almost a permanent fixture at their house, but Rachel paid about as much attention to him as she would any other piece of furniture. Still, he seemed like a nice kid, and the last thing she wanted was to hurt his feelings.
“Jamie,” she finally said, choosing her words carefully, “I’m flattered, I really am, but I’m sure in a couple of years—no, a couple of weeks—you’re going to forget all about me.”
“I’m twenty years old, Jamie. I’m almost done with college.” She slanted him a skeptical look. “No offense, but you haven’t even started high school yet.”
Jamie didn’t say anything. He picked up his glass and took a long swallow of lemonade, his eyes never leaving hers.
“Besides,” Rachel continued, keeping her tone light, “once school starts in the fall, you’re going to have so many pretty girls your own age to choose from, you won’t want anything to do with me.”
Jamie set his glass down and carefully wiped his mouth. “It won’t matter how many other girls I date between now and then. It’ll just be practice for the real thing.”
Rachel gave a bark of surprised laughter. “Jamie Colter! You’re unbelievable.”
“Who’s unbelievable? And how long have you been here, Jamie? Why didn’t you come upstairs and get me?” Dylan McCafferty’s tone was mildly annoyed as he slid onto a stool beside Jamie and reached for Rachel’s untouched glass of lemonade. “I told Lucas we’d meet him at the skate park to try out your new board.”
“Yeah, well, I stopped to talk with Rachel.”
Dylan’s face twisted in bemusement. “Why?”
Jamie grinned. “Because I like talking to her.”
Dylan snorted in disgust. “That’s only because you don’t live with her. Trust me, if she was your sister, you wouldn’t want anything to do with her.”
Sliding from the stool, Jamie scooped his skateboard up from where it leaned against the island and tucked it under his arm. “Which is why,” he said, slanting a wicked grin at Rachel, “I thank God every day she’s not my sister.”
Twelve Years Later
Jamie leaned heavily on his crutches as he thumbed through the mail, enjoying the morning sun on his shoulders and the dewy coolness of the grass beneath his bare feet. After a year in the Syrian Desert, he didn’t think he’d ever grow tired of the crisp mountain air and deep, cool forests that characterized his hometown of Glacier Creek, Montana.
“Honey, you should put some clothes on! It’s not that warm out.”
Glancing up, Jamie saw his mother standing in the open doorway of the single-story, ranch-style house where he’d grown up. A tall, attractive woman in her fifties, she was dressed for her morning Zumba class in a pair of yoga pants and a bright pink hoodie. In contrast, he wore only a pair of shorts. Getting a pair of jeans to fit over his leg cast was impossible, and he hadn’t yet gotten around to putting on a shirt. The day promised to be warm and dry, so maybe he’d just lounge in the backyard, like he’d done almost every day since he’d come home.