"Don’t worry about my leg." She tapped on the cast with her fingernails. "I feel quite ready for more fresh air and an invigorating ride down the beach. I should like to go all the way to Astoria."
He barked with laughter, his heart swelling with love. Her exuberance was a breath of lightheartedness. "I do believe we could try."
"Perhaps another time." She lowered her lashes, enticing him closer, her hands fluttering softly in her lap. He would like to hold her hands in his, feel their smoothness against his roughness.
"Perhaps. Now," he looked at her thoughtfully, "you will need a shawl. The wind might be chilly." He meant to make this ride perfect for her.
"A shawl would be fine and perhaps a blanket for my legs. I am feeling somewhat old and decrepit." She smiled a crooked smile that sent cupid’s arrows straight to his heart.
In return, he shot her a puzzled glance and the merriment shining in her eyes surprised him. "You little tease," he said half-reverently and half-angrily. She mocked him and he had only her best interest at heart.
As if embarrassed, she lowered her lashes and stared at her fingers. "I know. I thought perhaps..."
"That I would like to hear you laugh? I would, you know." He lifted her chin to see into eyes that weren’t quite as bright as they were a second before. "I’m sorry," he said quietly. "The last thing I wanted was to ruin this outing for you."
"Don’t be sorry." She held out her hand to his. "And the ride will be fun."
Her hand in his was exactly what he yearned for. He accepted the gentle intimacy, closing her small fingers within his, absently caressing her wrist with his thumb. He delighted in the unexpected shudder that swept through her, the response unmistakable.
"I’ll get the buggy." He kissed the top of her hand, his steady gaze never leaving her face and her eyes.
He intended to do just that. The thought of a few hours of privacy lightened his step. He bounded down the porch stairs and set off for the back of the house and the barn.
The place he meant to take her was a vivid picture in his mind. Expectations ripe, he whistled a tune from the old country. A detour to the kitchen and a quick word with Helen produced a picnic lunch before he could finish readying the buggy.
"Now you take care of her," Helen chided him. "I want her back in one piece." Helen rested her arms on the railing overlooking the barn and handed him the basket.
Helen was a delightfully eccentric old lady and full of surprises. She had once recounted her tale of the trip around the horn to meet her husband, a man she’d not met but had been betrothed to by a cantankerous old man that called himself her father. The trip had been long and full of misadventures but the lady had enjoyed herself and recounted the months on board ship fondly.
"Don’t you worry. I’ll take good care of her," Misha promised.
"See that you do." Helen puffed on the long stemmed pipe she smoked, her tone filled with a subtle promise that didn’t go unnoticed.
He winked at the elderly woman who gave him a knowing grin.
"We might not be back until dark so don’t send a search party."
"No shenanigans in that carriage, you hear me. The lady has a broken leg."
But Helen handed over a blanket and the basket held a vintage bottle of wine along with a large assortment of food. Enough food, he thought wryly, to last several days.