The work on the old barn was finished and they were all very pleased with the areas made ready for the women to spin and card the wool. The old weaving loom was made ready and the women were anxious to begin. The cobbler even had the back corner to work on the very badly needed shoes. Anna was to have the middle space by the big wood stove to teach the children. She was still in awe of how little she knew about the simple way people worked in their everyday life as to just make fabric for a simple shirt. Never before had she thought about the material that went into the clothes. She had always just simply went to the seamstress and ordered a dress from the bolts of material that they presented to her.
Meg had her in the kitchen that afternoon teaching her how to make black berry jam. They had spotted the blackberry bushes when they went for a dip in the creek. It was another very hot day and she secretly wished that they could just go back to the creek. That evening when John joined them for dinner they all enjoyed the new jam on the hot bread that some how Meg magically made in between everything else.
John told her that tomorrow she could start teaching the children at the barn. He figured there were nine kids that were between the ages of five and nine. He told her to be sure and add slates to her list of items to purchase when they went to town in the fall, the children would need them to write on and until then she could just read to them.
It was long after she had turned her lamp off that she lay there trying to find a cool place on the mattress that she still shared with Meg for she still had not gotten around to asking John for a small cot. Finally she did what she knew that was becoming a habit each night by slipping out and going to the stable.
She welcomed the breeze that the long gauze gown permitted by letting the air circulate around her warm body. She giggled when she stepped out of the stable and there was Storm with his head stretched over the to rail waiting for her touch. He too was getting use to this nightly meeting.
This night she not only stopped for the apple but she found a brush that she had seen MoJo use when he brushed the mares. She climbed to the top rail then she sat there and talked softly to the big stallion and then slowly and gently she brushed his neck and back, which he seemed to enjoy instantly. When she would stop, he would nudge her as if to say---more--more. After giving his back several more rubs, she hiked up her gown and slid one leg over onto his back all the time she kept talking to him.
John leaned forward pressing his head hard against the window. He could not believe what he was seeing. Anna st there on Storms back with her gown pulled high and her long creamy legs draped on each side of the horse. The horse stood there for several minutes and he could see that she leaned forward and seemed to be talking to him as she stroked his neck. Slowly he started walking and he appeared to stop now and then, look back at her and she would pat him on the neck and then he would walk again. The woman and the stallion moved as---one.
Maybe MoJo was right and she had this thing he called---gris-gris. Sleep did not come for some time because the misery that his body was going through as he imagined how it would feel to have those, long creamy legs wrapped around him.
The next morning after they had eaten breakfast he asked her if she was ready to be a school teacher today, for he knew the children were anxious. She told him that she planned on reading them some stories for the first few days so she could get to know them better.
She noticed the puzzled look on his face and asked what was wrong?
"Anna I don't believe that I have any books in my library that have stories for children that I know of."
She giggled. "No you don't but they don't know that and all they will see is that I have a book in my hand. I think that will make them more anxious to know what great things are in---books."
He sat back in his chair and laughed, just shaking his head at the wonder of this woman that sat there before him.
She was taken by his rich deep laughter. She had seen his charming smile several times now but his deep laughter was pure and genuine and it made her take a deep breath as if to hold on to it.
"Well, actually Meg gave me the idea," she said.
He looked over at Meg with a questionable look. "Sir, you see I never learned my letters either and there were so many times I would stare at a book on a shelf and wonder what was in it?"
"Yes Meg---I see what you are saying and it is a brilliant idea, for especially the young minds of a child. Now I also see that I don't have to worry about this teaching, for you two have it well in hand."
Minutes later as she made her way to the barn, she passed by John and some men clearing brush near the barn. They were all stripped to the waist. She stepped back from full view. There was something exciting and---raw about seeing him exposed that way. He was an attractive man, not like the fine dressed and perfumed men that she knew in London. His shoulders were wide and powerful, his arms heavily muscled. She wondered what it would feel like to explore the man in a different manner, then brought herself up short at the thought and wondered what was wrong with her. She had never had this kind of thoughts before about any man.
The children were excited and eager to learn. They had been scrubbed and what few clothes they possessed were on their backs and clean. She opened the book and told them how wonderful it would be for them when they learned to read and write and to open books and find out that they could travel and meet people all over the world on the pages.
It didn't take long before she noticed that their mothers who were spinning and weaving near by were apparently listening to her reading.
As she walked back toward the house for the noon meal she got a glimpse of a small carriage coming down the entrance lane to the house. When she stepped into the kitchen she could see Meg was scurrying around and informed her that the widow Abigail Hedrick had unexpectedly dropped in and John asked that the meal be served to both of them in the dining room.
She was nervous because this was the first time she would be asked to perform this task. Although she knew what the proper way to serve at the table and this is what she had told John that she did that day on the ship. She was also curious about the woman---Abigail Hedrick.
When she entered the dinning room with the tray laden with food that Meg had somehow prepared with that extra touch. She stopped and almost lost her grip on the tray as she observed this beautiful woman looking up into Johns face as he pulled her chair out for her to sit in.
"Oh here is Anna with our food now," he said as he seated himself at the other end of the table.
He did not have the slightest idea why Abigail had taken this time to make a visit but Abigail was not known to be discreet or polite in this or any other type of manners. He smiled and motioned for Anna to serve.
"Oh John, I see that you have a maid now." She looked Anna up and down and then very obviously dismissed her and looked back at John.
John did not directly answer her statement and she did not seem to notice for she was being very dramatic with her hand gestures as she told him about the trouble that they were having with one of their slaves. It seemed that he had ran off and she wanted her neighbors to all stop their field work and go out to look for him and a women and child that was with him. Although she did admit that she did not have any legal papers showing the ownership of them she still felt strongly about them being captured and made an example of for the others.
"I just don't understand what has gotten in to every one, because no one seems to be interested in helping me in this matter and after all I am just widowed and one would think that ones neighbors would be there for them. So far only Tobin is out there with a few of my men looking for them."
Anna glanced down at her as she pretended to wipe at a tear. She had served the main dishes and it was when she reached to fill her glass that Abigail's dramatic gesture bumped the glass and it spilled onto her lap.
"Oh look! what you have done you clumsy idiot," she yelled as she jumped up and raised her hand to hit her.
John's big had reached out and grabbed her hand. "Abigail, there is no need for that," he said sharply as he promptly pushed her back into her chair.
"What do you mean? This woman should be whipped."
"Abigail it was an accident! now just calm yourself down and set us enjoy our meal."
Anna promptly left the room and found that Meg was standing out side the door and had taken it all in. She only smiled and told her that it was nothing to worry about and Mister John would take care of the high and mighty Abigail.
About an hour later she viewed from the up stairs window as John helped Abigail into her waiting carriage but not before she pretended to slip and fall conventiently back as John naturally reached out and caught her. She could see Abigail smiling up at him but she could not hear what was being said.
Some how she could not see John being interested in the likes of this woman---although she was very attractive and she had seen some men pursuing this type of women for what ever reason---even the ones that were married and she did not know what type of woman this John Blake would be attracted to. Quickly she stepped back from the window and pulled the drape. After all John Blake was just her employer and that was---all. Now, she wished that she had spilled the glass of water in her pretty face.
That evening she slipped out and almost ran to the stable. Storm neighed quietly as she approached him as that seemed to be his greeting. She quickly climbed over the top rail and started to brush him as he munched on the apple that she had given him. He would sometimes lift his head and pitch his ears forward for in the far distance you could hear the faint baying and barking of dogs in chase of something.
John sat there in the darkened room and sipped a glass of brandy and watched the woman and the stallion work their magic of understanding. He hoped that gauze gown was the only one she possessed for he was getting very fond of it especially on a moon lit night. He leaned forward when she lifted it up so she could straddle the back of the horse. A quick gulp of brandy only increased the ache deep within.
To be continued: