The Carpenter’s Inheritance
Laurie Alice Eakes
Publisher: Heartsong Presents
Lucinda Bell wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps and practice law. But in 1893, the state of Virginia won’t allow a woman lawyer. So she leaves her family and fiancé and buys a dying practice in Massachusetts, determined to prove herself capable of succeeding at the profession—if she can find acceptance and safety as Loveland’s sole lady lawyer first.
Quiet, handsome Matthew Templin, a local carpenter with a questionable past and a potentially dangerous need for a lawyer, is captivated by Lucinda. But he also knows she’s above his touch—and that a hidden truth may destroy her career and possibly his own life.
As ambitions collide, Lucinda faces a choice whether to give up her dream—or give up the love of her life.
Hand shaking, Lucinda dropped her pot onto the table and fled into the kitchen. She yanked open the back door, but a blast of wind, laden with more ice than snow now, slammed into her face, reminding her she wore neither coat nor hat. No matter, she could get home two blocks without them.
A hand fell on her shoulder, holding her in place with firm gentleness. The door was pushed out of her hold, the bar dropped into place.
“Why are you running away from us and into that?” Matt steered her toward the stove’s heat. “You’ll be a block of ice before you reach your rooms, if you even get that far and don’t fall down and break something on the way.”
“Would anyone come to my rescue if I did?” The instant she said the words, she wanted to pull them back inside. “That was childish. I’m sorry.”
“You should be. You know I would.” He turned her so her back was to the blazing stove and she faced him. “Are you letting them scare you off? The lady who moved hundreds of miles from home to a strange town so she could answer the calling of the Lord?”
“Perhaps I was wrong in that. Perhaps I wanted to be a lawyer and the Lord doesn’t want me to be one at all. People here don’t like me.”
“The women like you. Their husbands are a little afraid of you.”
“Me? But I’m so—so—”
“Sweet. Kind. Strong.” He rested his hand on her cheek and lowered his voice. “Pretty.”
“Pretty useless as a lawyer.” She stared down at the toes of her boots peeking from beneath the hem of her serge skirt. If she looked at him, saw the same tenderness in his eyes as she heard in his voice, felt in his hand, she might weep. Worse than weep, throw herself against his chest and sob. It was such a solid-looking chest. She shook her head to try to clear that thought, noting as she did so that her hair was coming loose. “I can’t even afford to live someplace where I can cook a pot of hot soup on a cold night.”
“But God’s given you neighbors to rely on when you need that hot soup, hasn’t He?”
“I’ve never had to ask for anything in my life.”
“Including the Lord?”
She sank her teeth into her lower lip.
He nudged her chin up with gentle pressure from his thumb. “You’ve had everything handed to you, haven’t you? A fine education, admittance to law school in spite of being a female, and then things got harder.”
“I’m sure I’m supposed to practice law, but if people here don’t like me, they won’t come to me.”
“Sure you’re supposed to practice, but why do you think you should be wholly independent in doing so? Let others help you.”
“How?” Almost absently, his thumb stroked across her lower lip, and he smiled. “Don’t be so secretive about walking out with me. Go to church with me.” He raised his other hand to her face. “Go to the Christmas ball with me.”
“I. . . How. . .?” The right question eluded her. Blood roared through her ears. Her heart raced. She raised her hands to push him away but clung to his lapels. You cant. Not here. Not now. Surely she said those words, yet no sound emerged.
And then she couldn’t talk, for his lips covered hers. His scent of fresh-cut wood and fresh air filled her senses. The floor must have vanished from beneath her feet, for surely she floated on air, with only his hands on her face and her fingers gripping his coat keeping her from banging her head on the ceiling beams.
The thunderclap of someone clearing her throat brought the floor slamming into Lucinda’s boot heels. She would have leaped backward if Matt hadn’t held her in place.
“The stove is behind you,” he murmured, then looked past her shoulder and smiled. “Are we in your way, Gertie?”
Only Gertie. Good.
Except she stood with the door to the cafe wide open and half a dozen lingering patrons able to see straight into the kitchen.
Gertie was grinning, though. “About time.” “About time for what?” Lucinda asked. That broke the paralysis of the coffee-drinking audience. They burst into laughter. A couple of men called encouragement to
Lucinda ducked beneath his arm and darted to the counter out of sight of the dining room doorway. She needed the chill away from the stove to cool her heated cheeks, steady her charging heart. Matthew Templin had just kissed her. She had just let Matthew Templin kiss her. She had welcomed it, perhaps even invited it. Goodness, what was she thinking?
The same thing she’d been thinking when he met her at the door—that she’d fallen for him, that she might even go so far as to say she loved him.