Dakota stood on the back porch, the afternoon sun soaking into her skin. She had spent so much time outside now that her skin was starting to bronze just like Logan’s. She wondered what Meredith would think of her if she could see her now— barefooted, bronzed, and soaking up the beautiful weather.
Sometimes, Dakota missed her sister, and wished with all of her heart that she could be there, sharing in whatever moment Dakota was experiencing. Now, though, she could think of her sister without dissolving into tears. Sometimes, she just felt a dull ache in her heart. Other times, she felt a sadness in her throat. Dakota didn’t think she would ever be able to fully release the special bond she had shared with her sister.
“Whoa, there!” Dakota heard Logan shout from far off.
Her eyes flew open, and she squinted past the barn to see what Logan could be doing. A team of two horses guided him past the edge of the field. One of them tried to go toward the barn, but Logan got the horse back in line and turned it in the other direction.
Past Logan were field hands picking the ripe radishes and carrots. Dakota would be happy to never see another radish again, but she had gotten used to eating a lot of carrots. Whatever didn’t sell at the market was used to furnish their table as well as Aunt Vivian’s.
Even though Logan had field hands working for him, he always got right in there and participated in the work just as much as they did. He treated them more like equals than Dakota had expected.
Instead of going around the field to check on the field hands somewhere else, Logan turned the team toward Dakota. Dakota hurried inside to get a glass and pump it full of cool, fresh water.
Logan swept his straw hat off his head and wiped at his forehead. “Sure is hot out here,” he said, accepting the glass of water from her.
“I bet it is, working in the direct sunlight. I think it feels great, though, here on the back porch.”
“Are you taking a break from your sewing?”
Dakota nodded and sank onto one of the back porch steps. “I’m not feeling well this afternoon. The warm sun seems to help. How are things going in the fields? It looks like everything is being picked on schedule.”
Logan took off in a detailed explanation about the crops and how the field hands had managed to pull off their proper growing schedules, despite a slight delay in the planting in the spring.
“I’m glad that the whole situation with them trying to force you off of your land didn’t affect the whole planting season.” Dakota placed a hand on her stomach and wrinkled her nose. She hated it when the feeling of nausea came over her out of nowhere.
“I don’t know how things would have turned out if you hadn’t shot that troublemaker.” Logan shook his head, and Dakota saw his features cloud over as they always did when the situation with the ranch was mentioned.
“It’s over now,” Dakota reminded him.
“And thank goodness it is. I don’t know how much longer we could have continued to fight against their dirty tricks. There’s something to be said for playing clean. I guess it does get you the right results in the end.”
The sun now seemed to sear into Dakota’s skin, changing from a warm glow to a hot burn. She scooted backward on the step so that the sun only fell on her legs.
Logan sat next to her and placed a hand on her back. “Do you feel sick to your stomach?” He seemed to just notice the way she was clutching her stomach.
Dakota thought about it for a moment, but the feeling seemed to be clearing up. It was strange how it came and went like that.
“No, not any more. I’ve been nibbling on some crackers, and that seems to help. I don’t know if I can prepare supper, though. The smell of meat keeps—” Even mentioning it made Dakota’s stomach turn a little.
Logan rubbed his hand up and down her back. “That’s okay. I’m sure Aunt Vivian will feed me if I ask her to.”
“I’m glad she’s here nearby. It really helps when I’m not feeling well. Do you think she’s starting to suspect something’s up?”
“Maybe so.” Logan pulled Dakota close to him and squeezed her shoulder. “She has had four kids, you know.”
“I think we should go ahead and tell her,” Dakota touched her stomach. “I could really use some advice. It’s not as though I can ask my own mother.”
“If you’re ready to tell her, then I’m happy to do so.” Logan kissed the side of Dakota’s head. “I’ll have her bring some of their supper over here, and we can tell her then, without all my cousins running around.”
“I don’t know why I feel strange telling someone. I think that will make it more real. Right now, it’s just something we’ve talked about, but if we tell her, then . . . it’s really happening.”
“It’s really happening whether we tell anyone or not,” Logan said with a smile.
“I suppose you have a point there.”
Dakota didn’t know how to explain it. She had heard back home about different ways of telling for sure that you were pregnant, but all of them were experimental, and she had never trusted in anything that bordered on witchcraft. She touched her stomach. It didn’t feel any different, but the uneasiness that had been plaguing her for weeks couldn’t be denied.
“I think I’m going inside to lie down,” Dakota decided. Her stomach was starting to feel sick again, and she wanted to sleep.
“I’ll come check on you later to see if you need anything,” Logan told her.
Dakota nodded and braced herself on the porch rail to stand. Logan clutched her elbow and helped her inside. Once they were behind the walls of their cabin, he bent down and kissed her gently on the lips. “I love you, Dakota,” he said.
He had told her before, several times, that he loved her, but that didn’t make it any less special with repetition. Dakota snuggled into his arms and enjoyed the feeling of being wholly and completely loved and accepted.
“I love you too,” she told him, finally coming back out of his arms. “But I really need to lie down now.”
Logan walked her to the bed, where she settled beneath the covers before he moseyed back to his horses. She didn’t feel well, but when she lay down, she felt even worse. She tossed and turned, trying first one side then the other. Her brain wouldn’t turn off, and she couldn’t get any sleep, even though she felt so tired when she sat out on the porch.
After trying to fall asleep for half an hour, she rose, found a comfortable chair in the living room, and began reading a book there, one that she had already read with Logan. She kept encouraging him to purchase new books, but it took the books a while to arrive in Utah. She would have to be satisfied with reading the same ones over until the new ones arrived.
Her eyes felt heavy, but Dakota continued to read by the light from the window, not wanting to risk lighting a candle, then falling asleep while holding it. Dakota hadn’t even realized she was dropping to sleep with the book on her lap until the back door thumped open.
Dakota startled awake and saw Aunt Vivian coming in with a hamper of food. Logan was right behind her.
“Why aren’t you in bed, darling? Logan told me you weren’t feeling well. I made chicken soup. That always helps me when I catch the summer fever. You go right to bed and lie down this moment. I’ll take care of feeding your husband.” Aunt Vivian was scolding Dakota, but Dakota could tell that there was genuine concern in her voice.
Dakota didn’t have the energy to even get up from the chair, let alone walk to the bedroom. She yawned slowly and tried to decide if she would be able to stomach the soup or not. It sounded good, but sometimes, her stomach had other ideas.
“Thank you so much for cooking for us,” she said, stretching from her place in the chair. “I know Logan appreciates it.”
“Are you saying you don’t appreciate my cooking?” Aunt Vivian teased.
“I appreciate it,” Dakota rushed to add. She tried to catch Logan’s eye. Was it time to tell her now?
He was busy unloading the hamper of food at the kitchen table and didn’t seem to notice her question. She tried to get his attention, but she didn’t want to be too obvious either. Besides, trying to distract Logan from food was going to be almost impossible.
“Are you going to eat right there?” Aunt Vivian asked. “Do you want some bread with your chicken soup, or would that be too heavy for you right now? Logan didn’t tell me if you have a fever or what’s wrong with you.”
This time, when Dakota tried to catch Logan’s eye, he nodded to her. It was time to tell Aunt Vivian, to speak aloud the secret they had been sharing for the last month. She answered Aunt Vivian’s question first.
“I think just the soup would be fine. I’m not too hungry right now.”
Logan rounded her chair with a bowl of soup and handed it to her. Then, he stayed there with a hand on her shoulder. Dakota had imagined telling Aunt Vivian for the last month since they had suspected her pregnancy, but now, it seemed impossible for the words to leave her mouth.
She took a deep breath, and Aunt Vivian frowned at her, clearly suspecting that something was happening. Dakota wasn’t sure why it was so hard to tell her the good news. She finally forced herself to spit it out.
“Aunt Vivian, I’m . . . going to have a baby.”
Aunt Vivian stared at her hard for a moment as though she hadn’t understood her words, then her face broke into a smile.
“Oh, darling! I’m so happy for you! I’m so happy for both of you!”
Aunt Vivian rushed forward and hugged Dakota, almost knocking over the bowl of soup that Logan had brought her. Then, she embraced her nephew.
“That’s excellent news! How have you been feeling?”
“Very tired,” Dakota punctuated her answer with a yawn.
“I’m sure you are. Have you known for long?”
Dakota shook her head. “I’m thinking the baby will come in the winter, maybe February or March.”
Aunt Vivian squeezed her hand excitedly. “Well, I just want you to know that I’m here for you, and I’m happy to help you in any way you need. I remember those first few months of pregnancy, it’s an exhausting time.”
Dakota nodded in agreement. “I just feel tired all the time.”
“Well,” Logan cut in, “as you women discuss pregnancy symptoms, I’m going to enjoy my supper.”
Aunt Vivian shooed him away comically, before continuing to talk with Dakota about symptoms. Dakota closed her eyes and answered her questions as best as she could. It felt great to have someone able to share her experience, someone who knew what she was experiencing.
“Do you think I should see a doctor?” Dakota asked. “I wasn’t sure what the process was here.”
“There’s not much a doctor can do, unless you start feeling badly. Just rest, take it easy, and make sure that you’re eating lots of food.”
“Like this excellent chicken soup!” Logan chimed in.
They all laughed, and as Dakota leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes, the exhaustion seeping over her again, she was happy that she had found this family and made it hers, even if she was never supposed to come to Utah in the first place.
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