“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that Louisa is a strong woman who has survived a lot. She will be your equal in all things. Remember that and you’ll have a joyous marriage.”
My brother came out to greet us in the driveway in front of his cottage. Louisa had not stopped fiddling with the ribbons in her hat the entire drive over from the big house. I knew she was nervous and had tried to reassure her that my brother and Shannon would be great company.
“Hello, welcome,” Flynn said as he opened Louisa’s door.
“Thank you.” Louisa’s glance darted toward me before she stepped out of the car.
Flynn led us up to the front door. Bushes and flowers were in full bloom in their well-kept front yard. A bunny peeked out from under a rhododendron but quickly disap
peared again. Pots spilling with flowers hung from the rafters in their front porch. My brother had said his wife had a green thumb, and it appeared to be true.
As we entered the hallway of the cottage, Shannon appeared, wiping her hands on her apron. Her black curls were tied back from her face with a pink scarf that matched the pink in her cheeks.
“Ah, there you are.” Shannon held her arms out to me. We embraced. “Welcome home.” She turned to Louisa. “I’m so very sorry to have missed your father’s memorial. He was very good to us when my dad died. How’s your mother?
“Thank you. She’s doing as well as can be expected.”
“I remember how my mother was,” Shannon said. “Don’t you wish you could do something?”
“I do.” Louisa handed her a small package. “Something for the baby. Mother made it, not me. It’s a yellow cap. Knitting helps her, so I expect you’ll get a matching sweater to go with it before the baby comes.”
The rapidity with which Louisa was speaking told me how nervous she was. Shannon, however, was as easy and charming as she always was. If she noticed Louisa’s nerves, she didn’t show it.
“How kind of her,” Shannon said. “Please thank her for me. Now, come outside. Flynn’s built an area for us to sit and have our supper outdoors during the warm months.”
She escorted us down the hallway past the sitting room and through the kitchen to the backyard. Flynn had erected a covered patio area on the other side of the grass. Wooden chairs with brightly colored cushions were arranged in a circle with a table amid them. A neatly trimmed hedge provided shelter, making the space seem as intimate as any indoor sitting room. Potted geraniums and begonias decorated the corners.
“The place is looking good,” I said as I clapped him on the shoulder. “You’ve been busy.”
“Keeps me out of trouble,” Flynn said. “Summers out at the lodge are slow, so it gives me a lot of time to spend here at home.”
“You as a homebody.” I wanted to tell him how busy the bar had been but decided it was too risky. I didn’t want to fight with my brother in front of the ladies. “Never thought I’d see the day.”
Flynn glanced over at Shannon with a look of pure adoration. “When you have this one waiting for you at home, well, I can’t wait to get back to her.”
Shannon smiled back at him but quickly turned her attention back to her guests. “Sit, please. I have iced tea or lemonade. Which would you prefer, Louisa? Flynn has bottles of beer as well. Somehow my clever husband figured out how to make beer in our basement. I worry the sheriff will come any moment and arrest us both.”
“That’s not going to happen in Emerson Pass,” I said.
“A man should be able to make what he wants in his own home,” Flynn said.
“I’ll have a lemonade, please.” Louisa sat in one of the chairs. I took the one next to her.
“I’ll bring you a beer,” Flynn said to me before sprinting back toward the house.
Shannon poured two glasses from the pitcher and handed one to Louisa. “I hope it’s not too sour. I can’t seem to taste things accurately since…” She trailed off and tugged at the front of her apron. “Well, you know.”
“It’s common for your sense of smell to be a little off,” I said.
“This whole thing has been tiresome. I’m looking forward to the baby, but this sickness has been terrible.” Shannon flushed. “Oh my, listen to me complaining. I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about,” Louisa said. “I’m glad you’re better.”
“Thank you. I woke up a few days ago feeling like my usual self.” Shannon shifted slightly to look in my direction. “Theo, I have to thank you again for helping my mother. She’s feeling better today than yesterday.”