Authors: Mary Eason
Kate rejected his offer immediately.
“No. I don’t need a doctor, Mr. Stevens, I’m fine. It’s just the baby. I should be going. I’ve taken up enough of your time already. I’ll be staying in town for a bit. If I may, I’d like to pick up my grandmother’s things whenever it’s convenient for you.” She drew in a deep breath. “Thank you. For being there for my grandmother. For everything.”
“Of course.” The words tumbled from his lips without thinking.
Kate was pregnant.
“Kate, wait.” He followed her
to the door. Something winged the edges of his conscience. He shoved it back with difficulty. He’d point her in the right direction of a good hotel and that would be the end of it. He'd do his good deed, for Rachel's sake.
She turned back to him expectantly. “Yes?”
“There’s only the Landmark Hotel in town, but it’s decent.”
She smiled for the first time.
“Thank you. For everything.” She walked out the door closing it quietly, and it was almost as if Rachel were there, leaning into his ear whispering,
Help her. Don’t let her go away alone. She needs you.
Kate fired the battered Jeep’s engine and it sputtered into drive. Matt stepped out the door, staring at the plume of dust left from the SUV and wondering about the peculiar, rusty feeling in his heart…the one that whispered that this woman mattered. She seemed to be opening a door he’d slammed shut so long ago.
Matt sat in his truck outside of Amy’s Diner where Kate had been working for more than two weeks
now. Since she’d left in a flurry of dust, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his head. He wanted to help her. His best friend Denny Hernandez, the town’s only doctor, had been happy to confirm the truth about Kate’s pregnancy. Matt knew he had to find a way to help Kate for Rachel’s sake.
done a lot of sweet-talking to convince Amy to hire Kate in the first place and to let her rent the empty cracker box of an apartment behind the diner. He’d almost been able to talk himself into believing he’d gone out of his way simply because she was Rachel’s granddaughter and Rachel had been so good to him. He owed her.
Sure, Matt, keep telling yourself that.
The second he walked into the diner
and spotted Kate he knew the only person he was fooling was himself.
When Kate glanced up from waiting on a customer and recognized
him, she turned on her heel and walked away.
Amy caught sight of him just a few seconds after Kate disappeared through to the kitchen.
He’d known Amy and her husband Herman since he was a kid. The couple had owned the local diner for going on thirty years. For reasons that escaped Matt entirely, Amy absolutely adored him and believed he could do no wrong.
“There’s my favorite boy. Matt Stevens, when was the last time you
stopped by my diner? Come on in, sit down, and have some coffee and don’t tell me you’ve had breakfast already because I’m not going to hear of it. Why don’t I make you some of my pancakes? They used to be your favorite."
Matt slid into one of the booths while Amy didn't miss a beat. "
I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see you back in church yesterday.”
because he wasn't sure how to respond to that. He still wasn’t sure how Denny had convinced him to going to church that morning. He’d almost bolted from the pew before the service started and then he'd seen Kate. She’d looked about as lost and unanchored as he did. Death had a way of shaking a person loose from their refuge. He’d felt that way after his son's death. And Rachel’s.
"She sure is a good worker," Amy was saying.
Matt glanced over at Kate, who was cleaning off one of the tables. She was still in the beginning stages of grief. She appeared numb. Shell-shocked. Matt still remembered those first few days after Sam’s funeral. He’d gone through the motions of living. He got up each day, tried to appear normal until the grief became crippling and then he’d retreated from the world of the living because it was just too painful to deal with anymore.
He nodded toward Kate. “How’s she
Amy wagged her head. “She says she’s
okay, but I don’t believe it. I think she’s barely hanging on.”
It was what he’d expected to hear, yet it still tore at his heart. He wished he could go through the suffering for her. “I don’t know what to do. I want to be there for her. Rachel would have wanted it that way. I just don’t know what else to do.”
Amy patted his hand. “You’ve done so much more than she realizes. Just try being her friend, Matt. She needs all the friends she can get right now.”
Matt nodded. If only it was that simple. Kate had secrets she didn’t want to share. She guarded them like precious gold. Earning her friendship wouldn’t be easy.
“How’s Herman doing? I didn’t get the chance to talk to him much on Sunday. He seems fit, even if he is still eating your cooking.” Matt listened to himself joking around and was stunned. When was the last time he’d teased someone?
“That man is as ornery as ever and you’d better stop by the kitchen to see him before you go.
But I’m guessing you’re here for more than just my pancakes this morning?”
He nodded slightly and she smiled. “I’ll send her over to you.”
Matt didn’t answer. There was no need.
Kate emerged through the swinging doors carrying a coffee cup. He hid his smile with difficulty as h
e glanced past her to see Amy winking at him.
Anyone seeing Kate for the first time would never guess she was three months pregnant. Yet, the difficulty of her pregnancy was reflected in
the pallor of her skin. Faint smudges beneath her green eyes made them appear like luminescent pools of light against her skin.
“Kate, can you sit for a minute? I’d like to talk to you.”
He had a feeling there were very few people Kate trusted. He could see it in the guarded way she watched him. What had made her this way? Rachel was the complete opposite.
“Please,” he added quietly.
Slowly she sank down to the bench opposite him, her focus on her hands in her lap.
was several minutes before he'd gathered his thoughts and rememberd why he’d come here. Rachel. He was here for Rachel. As Matt studied Kate's pretty face, she chose that moment to look at him.
was embarrassed. "It’s kind of busy right now. I should help Amy. What did you want to talk with me about?”
seem much better.” He said the first thing that came to mind. “Denny—Doctor Hernandez—said you’re doing well. I’m glad this job isn’t too stressful for you.”
She took what he said the wrong way.
“It’s not. It’s a good job. I enjoy working for Amy and Herman. They've been supportive. I’m truly blessed.”
“I wasn’t criticizing. I was only saying you
seem much better and I’m glad, that’s all.” What made her so defensive?
Kate blew out a sigh. “I’m sorry. Thank you, but it really wasn’t necessary for you to come all this way to tell me I’m
looking better.” Kate broke off when she heard Amy coming down the aisle.
set the pancakes down in front of Matt. “I sure am grateful you recommended Kate for the job. She’s been an answer to prayer, that’s for sure.” Amy walked off with the smallest of pats to Matt’s shoulder.
, he thought.
Kate’s brow crinkled with confusion. “I thought Denny was the one who recommended me to Amy.”
He hadn’t intended for her to know he'd been the one. “Amy is a good friend and I knew she needed the help.”
shook her head. “Was it you who paid my bill at the Landmark as well?”
Matt didn’t answer.
Her hands clenched the edge of the table, eyes closed tight. “Why would you do that? I don’t want to be indebted to you because I don’t know when I can repay you.”
She was worried about paying him back.
“Kate, I promise you don’t owe me anything and I certainly don’t expect you to pay me back. I did it because I care what happens to you and your baby--” He forced himself to take a calming breath before continuing. “I care. Maybe because Rachel was my friend, I don’t know. I just care.”
Sure, Matt, that's it. You care about someone.
was close to tears.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to
mention your grandmother. Please don't cry.”
She brushed her hand over her eyes. “I’m not crying, I never cry.
" She blew out a sigh. "I suppose I'm just emotional because of my grandmother and everything that’s happened. I miss her terribly.”
“I know. I miss her, too.
That’s one of the reasons I stopped by. I still have some of your grandmother’s things. Maybe you can come over to the cabin sometime and choose what you want to keep?” Matt listened to himself inviting Kate into his life with a detached sense of shock. He’d chosen to be alone. It's what he wanted, wasn't it?
“I’d like that very much, thank you.” She glanced over her shoulder at the group of loggers who’d just entered the diner. “I really should get back to work. Herman needs help with the lunch special.”
Matt took a bite of his pancakes, suspicious of his own motivation. He simply needed to clear out the cabin. But his heart was telling another story. He felt protective of Kate. Just like he'd felt protective of Rachel. That was all.
Kate headed toward the kitchen, her thoughts churning into overtime. She didn’t know what to make of Matt Stevens. Her traitorous heart wanted to believe perhaps he was being sincere and that he really did care about her and the baby.
When she reached the kitchen, Herman
was preparing the lunch special of the day while listening to a game show on the small television he'd mounted above his workspace.
“You come to lend a hand? Sure you feel up to it?” He glanced her way just long enough to see her
grin before handing her a knife and some of the potatoes he’d been chopping. “Matt still here?”
Kate nodded, then sat down on the stool
he'd pulled out for her and started to work.
“He’s a good man.
’Bout time he remembered that for himself.” With those few words, Herman let the subject drop as he placed the meatloaf into the industrial size oven to cook.
It was a relief not to have to explain what was going on between her and Matt
especially since she had no idea herself. She couldn’t see the two of them becoming friends so where did that leave them. Kate was still chopping furiously when Matt walked into the room and gave the older man a hug.
“Herman, I see you’ve recruited help.
It's about time.”
Yes sir, I sure have. Don’t tell Amy, but I kind of like this one.” He pointed his knife in Kate’s direction and winked at her. “She doesn’t talk my ear off like my wife.”
rumble of laughter made her even more aware of him.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell her you said that. I’ll see you on Sunday
Herman. I’ll talk to you soon, Kate.”
For the rest of the morning and throughout the busy lunch crowd, Kate was able to ignore most of Amy’s not so subtle attempts
at finding out more about Matt’s visit.
After the lunch crowd cleared out
, Amy and Herman usually left and Kate went back to her small apartment behind the diner to rest.
Kate had never mentioned anything about how she’d ended up at Matt’s house
, but after his visit, Amy was more than her usual persistent self.
At last, Kate gave in and told her everything.
Amy shook her head. “Um, um, um. Ever since that accident, the one that killed his wife and son three years ago, Matt hasn’t been the same person, bless his heart. The poor man has just about disappeared into total seclusion in that big, empty house of his. Shut himself off from everyone who loved him.
“The only people he cared about seeing was the doctor friend of his, and your grandmother
. He adored her. I don’t mind telling you I was just about ready to lose all hope for him when he showed up for Sunday service. I pray to God that he’s come back for good this time.”
Kate glanced up from counting out the deposit of the day. She couldn't believe what she'd just heard. Matt had lost his wife and son. She couldn't imagine coming back from such a tragedy.
How dreadful. I didn’t realize he was even married.”
, yes,” Amy acknowledged. “Although I don’t believe it was a happy marriage. There wasn't much love between Matt and his wife. Caroline Stevens never came to church, not once. But Matt, well, he never missed a service and that boy of his...” Amy’s eyes softened. “That boy was always there with him. Matt adored little Sammy. He was so proud of him and it was obvious the boy worshipped his father. It sucked the life right out of Matt when Sammy died. It was such a tragedy.”