Under Montana Skies
Darlene Graham

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Laura frowned at him. Was this man, who petted the dog, teased the cook and toasted his neighbors, the same man who’d been so gruff with her? Since the mood was relaxed, maybe this was a good time to bring up the subject of the attic bedroom. She twirled a strand of her hair, considering this while Katherine ladled a delicious-smelling soup into bowls.

There was also the sensitive subject of a bath or shower. Before supper she’d tried to fix herself up, washed her face and brushed her hair until it made a halo around her face, but it needed a good washing.

She wondered where the shower was, wondered if there even was one. She was almost afraid to ask. Would he direct her to that icy creek, for heaven’s sake?

“Laura?” Katherine touched her arm, trying to hand her a basket of fresh-baked whole-wheat rolls.

“Thank you.” Laura folded back the napkin and lifted a roll, then passed the basket to Adam on her right, avoiding his eyes as he took it.

“I was wondering—” she directed her question to Doc and Katherine “—if you and Doc might be more comfortable in the upstairs room. That alcove seems so small.” She glanced toward the antique bed crammed in there.

“That’s nice of you, dear,” Katherine answered, “but Doc’s arthritic knees bother him. Climbing those steep stairs would aggravate his condition.”

Ah, yes. Adam had told her that. Now, how could she possibly mention that she didn’t appreciate Adam coming into the attic while she slept there? Maybe it wouldn’t happen again.

“Anybody seen Morton today?” Doc injected cheerfully.

“He showed up to eat right on schedule,” Katherine said.

“Who does Morton belong to?” Laura asked pleasantly.

“He doesn’t belong to anybody,” Doc said, after a few moments of silence. “He’s very independent.” His answer seemed like an evasion.

“He sprawls around wherever it suits him.” Katherine raised an eyebrow at the dog, who was lying by the fireplace, soaking up warmth.

“Digs in the garden,” Doc complained.

Adam finally spoke. “Actually, he’s mine.”

“Well, he’s a great dog,” Laura said, not understanding the undercurrent of emotions she sensed.

“He sure is.”

She took in Adam’s slightly narrowed eyes. He looked as if he was remembering something sweet—and very sad.

When dinner was over and Adam got up to leave for the stone house, Laura noticed that Morton trotted along after him. In the kitchen Katherine poured water from the big white enamel kettle into a dishpan set on the chopping block.

“This is the first time I’ve lived in a place without hot running water,” Laura said.

“Hot water? Up here there are lots of houses that don’t have it. How long have you been in Montana?”

“Four years. I trained as a physical therapist in Missoula, and of course I’ve done a lot of camping since I moved up here. What I mean is, I’ve never actually lived like this.”

Katherine’s kind eyes smiled over her reading glasses. “It is rustic, but at least Adam has a phone and electricity now. He didn’t at one time. We’ve put a few more amenities into our house because we live there full-time. I think Adam wants to keep this place primitive.”

“Where does he live when he’s not up here?” Where does he work? Why has he chosen to recuperate way off in the depths of a national forest? Laura had so many questions about Adam Scott that she hardly knew where to begin.

Katherine took her time answering. She finished scraping leftovers into a large cast-iron pot—for Morton, Laura assumed.

“It’s hard to say where Adam lives now. He sold his beautiful home in Seattle immediately after he lost his family. He has another one in California, but it’s cold, a kind of villa. I don’t care for it.”

“Is that where he’s from? Where he works? Seattle?”

“Oh, not really. Adam can work where he pleases. He’s not tied to any one place. He has a house down in Aspen, too.”

Laura was amazed. “What exactly does he do?” she pressed.

Katherine snatched up a big battered pot and put it under the tap. After two nights of rain the water pressure was high and there was quite a din as the pot filled.

“I sure made a mess cooking that big dinner. We’ll need lots of hot water for scalding.” She had to raise her voice to be heard. “When you’ve finished washing, I’ll dry. I know where everything goes.” She turned off the noisy tap.

Laura wanted to quiz her some more about Adam’s work, but Katherine had already hefted the large pot full of water and was heading for the main room.

“This’ll heat up faster in the big fireplace,” she explained over her shoulder as she disappeared.

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