Chandra Lynn Smith is a homemaker who loves her four sons and hates cleaning, a professional dog trainer who loves dogs and hates messy kennels, a country girl who loves bird watching, flowers and hates mosquitoes, a reader who loves books and hates when her story world is interrupted by real life, and a writer who loves writing. She's been training dogs professionally since 1984 and writes the weekly column, Letters from the Dog House, for The Hanover Evening Sun. She lives on a small farm in south central Pennsylvania with her family and pets. Her favorite things include spending time with her all of her boys, being outdoors, and books.
“Sorry, I’m late. Jasper wouldn’t stop fetching the snake.”
I’d been sitting with my cousin and her friends for ten boring minutes. The stunning brunette with the snake problem snapped me out of my stupor.
She cocked her head and stared at me. “Do I know you?”
Jane elbowed me. “Travis, meet my best friend, Stacy Turner.”
Stacy extended her hand across the table. “Glad to meet you.” While I enjoyed the warmth of her touch, her eyes widened. “Travis. I’ve heard about you. The BB gun in the shower?”
I pulled my hand away and glared at my cousin. “Jane . . . ?”
“I didn’t tell it all.”
Stacy laughed. The mischief in her eyes both annoyed and mesmerized me. “Nice to meet you, Travis.”
Jane had shared my most embarrassing moment, but the story made this gorgeous woman look at me with interest. Lose-win?
Stacy brushed her hair out of her face and winked at me. “Want to tell them about the BB gun?”
Jane shook her head. “Oh, let’s save that for another time. I want to hear about the snake fetching.”
Relief washed over me as I wiped my palms on my jeans. Palm sweat? Now? Well, no one should have to deal with a rattlesnake in a shower stall. Good thing I had the BB gun. Well, not for the snake . . . or my toe.
Stacy waved toward the counter, “Hey, Missy, can I get some coffee here?”
“Hold yer dogs or snakes.”
Jane leaned toward me. “That’s Stacy’s cousin. Missy grew up with her; they’re more like mischievous twins than cousins. They got into as much trouble as we did.”
Stacy tucked her chin and covered her lips with her palm. “Me? Whatever do you mean?”
“Travis, do you remember when I told you about my friend who tied up her cousin in the barn rafters overnight and told everyone she ran away?”
I steepled my hands and rested my chin on them. “That was you? Oh, yes, now I remember.”
Note to self: Stop sharing secrets with Jane. Judging by the daggers Stacy just shot Jane, she was thinking the same thing.
Stacy cleared her throat. “So, Travis, what brings you to our town?”
“I was recruited to manage the flight school at the airport. Could be a nice change from LaGuardia.”
“Or culture shock.”
“True.” But maybe I’d see her more.
“It’ll be great to have you around.” She smiled again. Green eyes, freckles, long brown hair—bet the curls drove her crazy. They did me.
The waitress came back to the table with more coffee and a plate of sandwiches. She pulled up a chair and joined us. “Eat up, everybody.” She bowed to Stacy. “The floor is yours.”
“I took the dogs out. A cute little black snake was sunning himself on my sidewalk. I told him he was too close to my house—”
I shuddered. “You call a snake cute and talk to it?”
“Well, yeah. Anyway, I picked him up and tossed him into the field.”
A chill crept up my spine, my stomach knotted. Touch a snake? A wave of nausea threatened to overpower me.
“You okay, Travis?” Concern knitted her brow.
What did I look like? “I don’t do snakes.” I cleared my throat and swallowed. Hard. “Go on.”
“Three times I tossed the snake into the field, and each time Jasper found it, brought it back, and placed it on the sidewalk at my feet. Poor snake.”
I squirmed in my seat.
She finished a bite of sandwich and brushed a curl from her face. “It was only a harmless little black snake. Jasper didn’t even care that the ‘stick’ in his mouth moved! I made him stay at the house while I carried the snake out to the field and let it go. Then he spent ten minutes searching for it. Finally, he sighed and brought me a real stick.”
The splatter of freckles across her nose begged to be kissed. When she caught me staring over my sandwich, I swallowed. Something about the sparkle in her eyes took away coherent thought. Speak, man, speak.
“Umm, Stacy, why not kill the snake?”
She dropped her fork and glared at me.
Jane laughed then everyone joined. “Stacy kill a snake? She can’t even kill a fly!”
“She’s right. I used to bring home every creepy-crawly thing I found. Mama made me empty my pockets as I walked in the door.” She paused. “Besides, black snakes keep the rodent population down at my farm.”
“Wouldn’t cats do that ?”
“I have plenty of them, too. You’ll have to come out sometime.”
Jane nudged me—again. “Why not today? I have to work. Then you won’t stay at my house bored all afternoon.”
“Sure, I’m just working outside all day.” Stacy pulled some money out of her pocket and placed it on the table. “Come on if you’re coming.”
“Well, uh, I-I guess I could. What about sna—” Ouch. Jane kicked me. “Never mind.”
I opened the door for her as we exited. She led me down Main Street and stopped at the school. “I love watching children. Honesty—before the world teaches them to hide.” She pointed to a group of girls. “See them? At their age boys are either pals or tormentors. I always had to protect my braids.”
She might soon have to protect that curl around her cheek that was driving me wild.
She pointed toward another group. “Those older ones pretty much wonder about one thing: When will they get the first kiss?” She paused and looked up at me. “It’s important.”
Her cheeks flushed then she shrugged. “Girls are silly that way.” She resumed the stroll.
“So, who was your first kiss?” Had I asked that? Too late, it was out there now.
“I tease her that one kiss from me sent him running to her. What about yours?”
She winked. “Turnabout’s fair play. Your first kiss.”
“Sally Noble. I was sixteen. She was older.”
Silence. What was she thinking? She stopped at the end of a long lane. “Here we are.”
“The family farm. Dad died last year, my brother lives in Charleston, so it’s pretty much mine. I’ll show you around.”
Her touch with the dogs, strength with the horses, and the way she lingered over a field of daisies intrigued me. I watched her repeatedly brush those loose curls from her face. She refreshed me like a summer day.
As we stood under the grape arbor, I reached down and brushed the curl away. “You never told me what women wonder about.”
She looked at the ground, then back at me. Her eyes darkened, she almost breathed the answer. “When they will get their last first kiss.”
I did the most romantic, or stupid, thing I’ve ever done. I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her. When I pulled back and looked in her eyes, I whispered, “That was yours.”