Kellersburg #4
April 27, 2021
Indie Published
Available in: e-Book

Hometown Cowboy

Caroline Keller has recently returned to Kellersburg, her hometown, after spending nearly six years teaching the children of missionaries in Kenya. While there she lived through a horrific experience, and she feels broken and in need of healing. She hasn’t been able to share her hurt, even with family and friends, until she meets Wyatt Bayer, her old nemesis.

Wyatt has spent the last ten years on the rodeo circuit with a lot of success, but one mistimed ride on a bronc ends his career. He’s in need of healing and is doing rehab at a nursing home in Kellersburg where he grew up. He’s an angry man until Caroline walks into his room and tells him to be kind.

Can two broken souls help each other heal and find love?

Chapter One

B-beep. B-beep. B-beep. Someone had punched a Call button, and the sound echoed off the pale-yellow walls of the nursing home. Caroline Keller wondered whether she’d ever get used to hearing that noise. This was her first day on the job. Would she eventually tune it out, or would the sound make her want to run to the nurses’ station and stop the annoyance?

Although the facility was known for its excellent care, she didn’t know how that sound didn’t give the residents a headache. Caroline tried to block out the blare as she drew closer to the nurses’ station, where two nurses’ aides were in an animated discussion.

“I don’t want to deal with that man.” Maisey Norberg, a petite blond, frowned. Her blue eyes brimmed with anger.

Caroline gave Maisey a sympathetic smile. “Who’s the problem? Is that why this noise is giving me a headache?”

Maisey shook her head. “That’s Mr. Nash. He’s always hitting his Call button by mistake.”

“Does that make it hard to know when someone really needs attention?”

“Yes, but we deal with it. At least he’s not disagreeable.”

“Like the guy you don’t want to deal with?”

“Ms. Caroline, maybe you can soothe his ruffled feathers. Nobody wants to deal with him. Every time I enter his room, he’s yelling and complaining about something. When I deliver the food, he says, ‘I wouldn’t feed pigs that slop.’” Maisey huffed as she gripped the cart containing the evening meal.

“He sounds like a challenge.” Caroline imagined an older man with a sour disposition. “You still haven’t told me who this is.”

“Wyatt Bayer.” Maisey’s frown deepened. “Just because he’s some celebrity cowboy, he thinks everyone should bow and scrape to him. Not me.”

Caroline tried to hide a smile. Wyatt Bayer, rodeo champ. What was he doing in a nursing home in Kellersburg, Ohio? Sure he’d graduated from high school here in her class, but he’d gone away to college on a rodeo scholarship and hadn’t been back, as far as she knew. But then she’d been away at college, missionary training, and then teaching missionary children in Kenya for over six years.

Maybe she should save Maisey from the difficult patient. “If you don’t deliver dinner to that room, who will?”

“I don’t know, but it won’t be me. I’ve had enough of his foul mood and mouth. No one should have to take the abuse that man doles out every day. There should be a law against people who make life miserable for others.”

“I’ll save you from this dastardly man.” Caroline placed a hand on the cart. “I can deliver the rest of your meals and tell the residents about my new activities.”

“You will?” Maisey’s eyes grew wide. “You won’t tell my supervisor, will you?”

“It’ll be our secret.” Caroline winked. “I’ll tell him all about the programs I have planned for the residents.”

“You’re the new activities coordinator, aren’t you?”

“I am. Maybe I can get Mr. Bayer to join in. What do you think?”

“I don’t know, but thanks for doing this.” Maisey grimaced. “You are a brave woman.”

Caroline chuckled. “Brave? Questionable. Impetuous? For sure.”

“Best wishes.” Maisey waved as Caroline pushed the food cart toward the first room on the list for this hallway, the heels of her sensible pumps clicking on the gray tile floor.

Caroline delivered the meals with a smile, told the occupants about the new activities, and gave them each a flyer about times and places for each activity. She approached Wyatt’s room. It didn’t surprise her that Wyatt was trouble. He’d been trouble in school and had often given her a hard time, teasing her about being a goody-goody. He’d annoyed her from the time they’d been in elementary school until the day they’d graduated. She’d even been surprised that he’d managed to graduate. Now she was more surprised that he was in a nursing home.

Why was he here?

Now he was a “celebrity cowboy,” as Maisey described him. Did his celebrity make him think he was entitled to special treatment? She braced herself for his caustic attitude as she paused outside his room. She’d saved his tray till last.

“Good evening, Mr. Bayer. I’ve brought you a delicious meal.” Caroline purposely didn’t look up as she pushed the cart into the room and opened the doors to retrieve his tray.

“It’s about time I got my food. You’re new. Where’s Maisey?”

“You frightened her away with your gruffness.” Still not meeting his gaze, Caroline put the tray on the rolling table that went over the bed and opened the dome. “Here you go.”

“Caroline Keller?”

“In person.” Caroline looked up. Her heart froze as she gazed into his chocolate-brown eyes and took in the five o’clock shadow that shaded his strong jawline. She steeled herself against the reaction. Ever since elementary school, Wyatt had been able to elicit a reaction from her, good or bad. But was this a reaction to Wyatt or a sense of alarm that had happened all too frequently since she’d left Kenya?

“What’re you doing here?” He ran a hand over his short dark-brown hair.

Caroline had been asking herself the same question. But this was a job until she could figure out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. “I could ask you the same.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” He pointed to the brace on his leg and a walking cast. “A horse fell on me and broke and crushed a lot of bones in my body. Thankfully, I’m just about ready to get out of this place.”

“I don’t know. I only deliver meals for frightened CNAs and lead the residents in activities, starting tomorrow. I don’t know your medical prognosis, but I do know you should be joining us for some fun.”

He looked at her as if she’d asked him to sprout wings and fly. “I’m not a joiner.”

“Is that why you stay in your room rather than eating with the other residents in the dining hall? You don’t look bedridden to me.”

A muscle worked in his jaw as he stared at her. “You don’t have a clue about me. The docs told me last week that I’ll never be on the rodeo circuit again. They’ve taken away my life after I’ve spent weeks going through rehab for nothing.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Caroline didn’t miss the resentment in his eyes. She wanted to tell him it wasn’t for nothing, but he probably wouldn’t accept her assessment.

He picked up the fork on the tray. “Now that you’ve brought me this so-called food, you can leave anytime.”

“Okay, but in the future, think about being nice to the help. They don’t deserve your wrath.”

“Someone does.”

“Not a sweet young woman like Maisey. Be kind. She’s only here to help you.”

Wyatt narrowed his gaze as he stabbed at the roasted chicken on his plate. “Leave and take your preaching with you.”

“All right then. Have a good evening.” Nodding, Caroline pasted a smile on her face.

She wished she could say she’d pray for him, but he certainly didn’t want to hear that. She’d still pray for him and all the people who had to deal with him. He was hurting, but hadn’t he always been hurting? He’d had a rough life as a kid, but hadn’t his success made up for that? Or maybe nothing could undo a terrible childhood.

Nothing could undo the hurt in her own life. She and Wyatt had more in common than she wanted to admit.

Caroline pushed the cart to the end of the hallway and found Maisey hiding near the door that led to the courtyard, where residents could sit outside on nice days. Today wasn’t one of them. Snow and ice covered the patio. January’s chill obviously did nothing to brighten the prospect of an encounter with Wyatt Bayer.

Maisey stepped forward. “Ms. Caroline, did you deliver the meal? Did he bite your head off?”

“I did deliver his meal, but as you see, I still have my head.” Caroline hoped she could talk to Maisey about Wyatt and help her understand his attitude.

Maisey laughed. “Ms. Caroline, you’re so funny. I remember when you used to teach my Sunday school class before you went away to be a missionary. I always loved how you made the Bible stories come to life.”

“Thank you. That’s nice to hear.” Caroline fell into step beside Maisey as they walked toward the nursing station. “Actually, I went away to college, then to missionary school.”

“What do they teach you in missionary school?”

“Are you interested in being a missionary?”

“Not really. I want to be an RN someday, but it’ll take me forever because I have to work and go to school at the same time. I’m taking an online class right now, but it’s tough. Maybe I’m not smart enough to be a real nurse.”

Caroline laid a hand on Maisey’s shoulder. “You’re smart, and you’ll make a great nurse.”

“Really?” Maisey let out a big huff of air. “I’m not too sure after having to deal with patients like that cowboy.”

“Yeah, sometimes patients aren’t all that fun to deal with, but that’s any job. You have to deal with people, and people can be unkind. We just have to love them and pray for them.”

Maisey smiled. “I wish I could be as good as you.”

Caroline let out a halfhearted laugh, knowing she was far from good. She regretted not following her own advice. Her hurt ran deep, and forgiveness was hard to give. “Believe me. I’m not always good. It’s hard to follow the example of Jesus and love the unlovable.”

“Yeah, when they’re like Wyatt Bayer. Why is he so mean?” Maisey shook her head.

“He’s unhappy because he’s been told he’ll never be able to go back on the rodeo circuit.”

Maisey widened her eyes. “He told you that? How did you get him to talk? He just yells at me.”

“We’ve known each other since we were kids. He was kind of like that when he was a kid, too. A bit of a bully, but I always felt sorry for him and wished I could help him.”


“His parents were drunk most of the time, and he eventually went to live with his grandparents.” Caroline remembered how he used to follow her and her friends home from school and threaten them with rocks and curses. After he went to live with his grandparents on their farm, she didn’t have to worry about him while she walked home from school.

Maisey shrugged. “Maybe that explains his attitude. But he’s rich now, isn’t he? Shouldn’t that make him happy?”

Caroline shook her head. “Not all rich people are happy. Some are quite miserable.”

“I’d like to give it a try.” Maisey chuckled. “Maybe I could be one of the happy ones.”

“We’d all like to think that.” Caroline wondered how rich Wyatt was. Her parents had mentioned that he’d built a new house for his grandparents on their farm. That showed he at least appreciated what they’d done for him. His life had been more settled living with his grandparents, but he’d always been an outsider. He’d marched to his own drummer, being the only kid in their high school who’d taken an interest in rodeo, and Wyatt Bayer was still a mystery.

“Well, I’d better get back to work, or I won’t even have a paycheck, much less riches.” Maisey waved as she hurried down the hallway to one of the rooms.

Caroline hoped she could encourage the younger woman in her quest to become a nurse. Everyone needed a little encouragement, even Wyatt Bayer. But he didn’t want her advice or anyone else’s. What could she possibly do to help him? Maybe she could talk to his grandparents and find out what had happened and how he had come to be here in Kellersburg. On the other hand, maybe she should just mind her own business.

She wasn’t very good at that. She liked to help people whether they wanted it or not.


Wyatt finished the last of his rubber chicken and watery mashed potatoes, then tossed the fork onto the tray. Why did the food here have to be so bad? He longed for some of his grandmother’s good home cooking, but he probably wouldn’t get any of that either. He’d been just as horrible to his grandparents as he’d been to Maisey and Caroline today.

He closed his eyes and lay back against the adjustable hospital bed that had him sitting upright. He’d pushed everyone away, even the people he loved the most, his grandparents. They’d been there for him through all the ups and downs of his life, so why had he yelled at them and told them to stay away? He wished he could take it all back, but that wish hadn’t made him any kinder to the people who tried to help him here.

But it had all come to a head today when Caroline Keller had looked into his eyes and asked him what he was doing here and told him to be kind.

Why was he here? Where was his life headed? Who was he these days without his livelihood? He couldn’t answer any of these questions.

But Wyatt knew one thing. Caroline Keller had fascinated him since he’d been in the same first-grade class with her.

Caroline Keller. Perfect Caroline with her compassionate gray eyes and light reddish-brown hair pulled back in some sort of braid thingy. He’d like to unpin it and let it fall around her shoulders. He’d like to have her look at him without remembering the kid he used to be. He’d like for her to see beyond the cowboy he had become. But he was afraid to let her too close, even though that was what he wanted. Was he crazy?

Caroline had looked at him with compassion, but he didn’t want her pity. He wanted her to like him, but he had done nothing to change the way she had probably always looked at him. He imagined she saw him through the prism of his past bad behavior, or maybe his own insecurities made him feel that way.

Instead of saying something civil, he’d lashed out at her the same way he’d lashed out at everyone who tried to help him. Acting like that wouldn’t make her see him any differently. Why couldn’t he change?

He rubbed his forehead. Would an apology help? He had to admit things couldn’t get much worse. He’d alienated almost everyone he knew. Doctors, his few friends on the circuit who’d tried to reach out to him, the nurses and aides here, his grandparents, and finally the woman who had captured his interest since he’d been a foul-mouthed kid trying to get her attention by calling her names and throwing rocks.

How to win friends. Not his gift.

Social skills had eluded him from the time he’d tried to make up for his parents’ neglect. Struggling to live down the stigma of his parents being the town drunks had made him something he wasn’t proud of. He’d tried to overcome that in all the wrong ways. When he’d been forced to live with his father’s parents, he’d had a sense of abandonment. Despite his grandparents’ love, he’d felt all alone in the world.

His mother’s parents had never been in the picture, as they had died in a car accident when he’d been a baby. Maybe that was why his mother had traded him for a bottle of booze and dragged his dad with her. He hadn’t heard from them since he’d gone off to college. He’d made no effort to find them, and they had disappeared from his life. Had it been a mistake to ignore their existence? This injury and time in the nursing home had made him reflect on a lot of things in his life.

So many questions. No answers.

“Mr. Bayer?”

A timid female voice made Wyatt look toward the doorway. “Yeah?”

Maisey stood there, clinging to the doorframe. “Are you finished with your tray?”

“Yeah.” Be kind. Caroline’s words hammered in Wyatt’s head. He could do that. He’d let this injury take him back to his rotten childhood, but Caroline’s sudden appearance and her advice had reached him when no one else had. The old childhood dream of impressing Caroline Keller sat squarely in his thoughts.

He would change direction right here and now and show Caroline a better side of himself. He was pretty sure what he said to Maisey would get back to Caroline. He could be more than kind. He could take an interest in the young woman and find out about her life.

“Should I take your tray?” Maisey cowered as she gazed at him.

He had caused that look. Was there any way to make amends? Could he talk to her without setting up expectations in her mind? Was that being a little too full of himself? Probably, but he’d had enough women chase him over the years to make him more than cautious. “Yeah, you can take my tray, but first let me say I’m sorry for blaming you for the bad food. You only deliver it.”

Surprise registered in Maisey’s smile as she sidled into the room. “Thank you for that.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll try to do better.” Wyatt tapped his leg. “This makes me angry, and I should know better than take it out on you.”

Maisey placed the tray on the cart. “Should I remind you of that the next time you yell at me?”

Wyatt gave her a lopsided smile. “Sure. Tell me to be kind.”

“Did Ms. Caroline tell you to apologize?” Maisey wrinkled her brow.

Wyatt chuckled. “You’re a smart young woman. Yes, Ms. Caroline is very persuasive.”

Maisey nodded. “She’s such an encouraging person. She told me I should reach for my dream of being an RN, even though it may take me forever because I have to work and take classes at the same time.”

Everything Maisey had said about Caroline was true. She had encouraged him to be kind, and he wanted to please her. He had to think about her every time he was tempted to let his temper fly. “You should definitely reach for your dream. I think you’ll make a great RN. You’ve managed to put up with me.”

“Well, not exactly.” Maisey shrugged. “I have to be honest. I kinda complained about you. That’s why Ms. Caroline delivered your meal.”

Wyatt couldn’t help smiling. “Your honesty is refreshing. And thanks for sending Ms. Caroline my way.”

“Do you like her?” Maisey narrowed her gaze.

Wyatt wished he hadn’t opened his mouth. “Of course. Who doesn’t like Caroline Keller?”

Maisey smiled. “Yeah. She’s a great person and easy to like. But I was thinking maybe you more than just like her.”

Wyatt shook his head. “As my gramps used to say, ‘Now you’ve gone to meddlin’.’”

Maisey laughed. “My grandma used to say that, too.”

“Guess grandparents have the same sayings.” After the way Wyatt had treated Maisey during most of his rehab here, he marveled that he was actually having a civil conversation with the young woman.

Maisey took a deep breath. “Well, I’d better get moving. I’ve got lots of trays to collect.”

Wyatt nodded. “I’ll remember to be kind the next time I see you.”

“Thanks.” Maisey gave a little wave as she pushed the cart into the hallway.

Wyatt lay back on his bed again. Would Maisey go running to Caroline and tell her about their conversation? Did he care? Yeah, he cared, but why? Did he want to show Miss Congeniality of his high school class that he could be congenial, too? Or was there more, as Maisey had suspected? Sure he’d always been fascinated with Caroline, but not in a romantic sense. They didn’t suit in the least. She was too refined for the likes of him. But he sure would like to find out how good it would be to kiss her.

Now that was crazy. She’d probably slap him if he tried something like that.

That first year on the circuit he’d soon discovered he could attract a woman without even trying. He’d learned quickly to avoid the buckle bunnies, women who hung around the cowboys. He didn’t want to be a one-night-stand kind of guy, not after his one terrible experience with a young woman that first year.

Now he looked at most women with distrust. But Caroline Keller was a different woman altogether. She had always seemed to have her life in perfect order. She had been generous and encouraging to people even when they were kids. Even him. She hadn’t tattled to her parents or other adults about his bad behavior. She’d just ignored him, and he suspected that she’d wished he’d go away. He had to some extent when he’d gone to live with his grandparents. Now he’d like to get to know her a whole lot better. Was this whole scenario taking him back to his childhood dream?

Before he could pursue Caroline, he had to figure out what he would do with his life once he hobbled out of this place. He’d still have recuperation and rehab after this. Maybe he should do some of that joining he wasn’t fond of. On the other hand, maybe he should get his head on straight and forget all about going after a woman who was definitely beyond his reach.


“That dress looks absolutely marvelous on you. It fits perfectly.” Caroline looked at her future sister-in-law, Melanie Drake. “Nathan won’t know what hit him when he sees you in it.”

Melanie smoothed the ivory satin of the lace-trimmed A-line skirt with the empire waist. “Thanks, but this destination-wedding thing has me a little nervous.”

“There’s nothing to be nervous about.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“Of course I’m right. Who doesn’t want to take off work and get out of this snow and cold to spend a few days where it’s warm?”

Pushing a strand of her dark-brown hair away from her face, Melanie gave Caroline a tepid smile. “Guess I’m an anxious flyer, because I’ve never flown before. And I can’t forget Nathan’s plane crash.”

Caroline patted Melanie’s shoulder. “That was a small plane, and besides, Nathan will be there to hold your hand.”

Melanie chuckled as she let Caroline unzip the dress. “That’s what he keeps telling me. Ryan and Andrew, on the other hand, can hardly wait to fly in a big plane after Nathan took them for a flight in his plane.”

“Your boys are so cute, and they certainly weren’t afraid to go up with Nathan after the crash.”

“They think Nathan can do no wrong.” Melanie’s expression indicated that she thought the same as she took off her dress. “Ryan and Andrew are so excited about standing up with Nathan.”

Caroline smiled at Melanie. “Nathan is so looking forward to being a dad to those boys.”

“They practically adopted Nathan the first time they met him.” Melanie nodded and handed the dress to Julianne.

“And he them.”

“For sure. And he’s so good about helping them remember Tim.” Melanie blinked rapidly as tears welled in her eyes. “I can hardly believe God has blessed me with two wonderful men in my lifetime.”

“God has blessed our family by bringing you and your boys into it.”

“Thank you. I’m blessed to be a part of your family.”

“Okay, ladies. I’m sorry I have to break up this gabfest, but Caroline needs to try on her dress now.” Julianne Frey, Caroline’s cousin and manager of the local variety store, took Melanie’s bridal gown and placed it on the nearby hanger. “I’m so glad your dress is a perfect fit. No alterations needed.”

“Me, too.” Melanie let out a happy sigh as she put her pink dental assistant’s uniform, covered in dancing toothbrushes, back on. “Now it’s Caroline’s turn.”

Julianne held up a navy-blue chiffon dress with a glittery sparkle of silver. “Caroline, you will look marvelous in this dress.”

Caroline manufactured a smile as she thought about all the bridesmaid dresses hanging in the closet of her childhood room. Thankfully, she’d been out of the country for a number of family weddings, or she feared there might have been more of them. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. Wasn’t that the old saying? Maybe that was her role. Never to be a bride. And now there was even more reason why she probably wouldn’t be one.

“It’s a beautiful dress.”

“Yes, it is. Now let’s get you in it so I can see if it needs any alterations.” Julianne held up the dress.

In seconds Caroline stood on a platform in front of the triple mirror and surveyed her reflection. Only weeks ago she’d been the bridesmaid in Ashley Hiatt’s wedding. Her good friend from missionary training had found her true love. Caroline had caught the bouquet at the reception, and Ashley was sure Caroline would find her true love waiting here in Kellersburg. But Kellersburg wasn’t exactly a hot spot for eligible bachelors. With the secret she carried, one she couldn’t bring herself to share with anyone, being single was probably best, even though the eligible bachelor count had increased by one with the presence of Wyatt Bayer.

She didn’t even know why she was thinking about him. She shouldn’t judge him on her past experiences with him or even the day she had delivered his meal, because she didn’t really know him anymore. Besides, even though Wyatt was definitely an eligible bachelor, he was all wrong for her.

Or maybe she was all wrong for him, or any man. She wasn’t wife material. Her life was broken, and she couldn’t even talk to her parents about it. God was her only confidant, but the incident that had changed her world had made Him seem far away. Somehow she had to get her life back together.

She definitely shouldn’t judge Wyatt just as she didn’t want to be judged. It wasn’t her place. She should take her own suggestion and be kind, but she had avoided him since the day she had delivered his meal and given him unsolicited advice. She didn’t know whether he’d been kind to Maisey or whoever delivered his meals. Maisey hadn’t complained since that day. Even after Caroline’s prompting, he hadn’t joined any of the activities, and she hadn’t gone looking for him.

“You look lost in thought.” Julianne’s statement shook Caroline from her musings.

Caroline gave Julianne a halfhearted smile. “Thinking about work.”

“How’s that going?”

“Okay, I guess. I haven’t been at it long enough to evaluate my success.” Caroline shrugged. “I’m looking forward to Elise having her students come to the nursing home to sing. I’m pretty sure the residents will enjoy it.”

“For sure.” Julianne took a tuck in the fabric at the back of Caroline’s dress. “Looks like this one little alteration is all you need. The length is good. So you can take it off.”

Caroline stepped out of the dress and handed it to her cousin. “Thanks. I’m looking forward to enjoying some much warmer weather in Florida.”

“We all are.” A male voice sounded from the other side of the drape covering the opening to the dressing room.

Melanie raced to the doorway and peeked out to the other side of the drape. “Nathan, why are you here? I thought I was going to meet you at the bank.”

“Am I in trouble?” he asked with a laugh.

Melanie laughed in return as she stood, holding on to the drape. “No, but you aren’t supposed to see me in my dress until the wedding, and Caroline is changing.”

“I don’t see a wedding dress, just a flash of my favorite pink uniform.”

Melanie glanced at Caroline “Should I let your brother in?”

“Yeah. Let him in.” Caroline grabbed her purse from the nearby table and slung it over one shoulder.

“Caroline said okay, but if you’d come just a few minutes earlier, I would’ve had my dress on.”

“Whew. I just missed a disaster.” Nathan brushed a hand across his forehead as he stepped into the room filled with clothing racks, mirrors, mannequins, and sewing paraphernalia on tables. Melanie glowered as she tried to hide a smile. “You are not funny.”

“I’ve never been accused of being a comedian.”

“Nathan, what’s going on?” Caroline approached, now dressed in navy pants and a cream-colored turtleneck sweater.

Nathan stepped into the room and put an arm around Caroline’s shoulders. “Little sis, I just came to see my bride-to-be. It’s hard being away from her.”

“Seriously. You never leave the bank this early.” Caroline frowned.

“Seriously. I missed Melanie, and we have an appointment to see one of my favorite clients.”

“So it is bank business after all.” Caroline grinned. “I knew you’d be all about business.”

Nathan put his other arm around Melanie and pulled her close. “Melanie, tell my sister that I’m not all about business anymore.”

Melanie’s gaze flitted between Caroline and Nathan. “Sweetheart, you wouldn’t want me to tell your sister a lie, would you?”

Nathan let out a big belly laugh. “I can see where this is going. Two females ganging up on me. Julianne, vouch for me.”

Julianne held up both hands. “I’m staying out of this.”

“Okay. I can see when I’m beat.” Nathan kissed the tip of Melanie’s nose. “You have to admit I’m working on getting better.”

“I’ll give you that.” Melanie nodded as she turned to Caroline. “Be kind to your brother. He deserves it.”

Be kind. The same words Caroline had said to Wyatt. She wasn’t really being unkind to Nathan, just teasing him, wasn’t she? “Okay, big brother. I won’t tease you about working too much.”

Nathan shook his head. “I think that was still a backhanded way of saying I spend too much time at work, but Melanie will stick up for me.”

Melanie kissed Nathan on the cheek. “I guess I’ll defend you against your sister.”

“Somehow I’m coming out on the wrong end of this conversation.” Nathan laughed again and grabbed Melanie’s hand. “Let’s go to the nursing home and visit Wyatt.”

“Wyatt Bayer?” Caroline’s mind couldn’t wrap around a connection between Nathan and Wyatt.

“Yeah. Wyatt’s the client I was talking about.” Nathan stood there holding Melanie’s hand. “Does he attend your activities?”

“No. He told me he wasn’t a joiner.”

“So you have seen him since you started working at the nursing home?” Nathan gave Caroline a curious look.

“Yeah, on my first day. I had no idea he’d been so severely injured.” Caroline shrugged. “But then, I really never followed his career.”

Nathan narrowed his gaze. “You and Wyatt were in the same class, right?”

“Yeah, but we didn’t run in the same circles.” Caroline had no idea why discussing Wyatt was so uncomfortable, but uneasiness floated through her mind.

“You should come with us.”

“I just came from there, and my workday is over. Unlike you, I know when to clock out.”

“Yeah, but this isn’t about working. It’s about visiting someone who needs some encouragement. It’s always nice to have visitors when you’re in a nursing home or hospital.” Melanie’s kind smile matched her words.

Shame for her attitude joined the uneasiness as Caroline stared at her future sister-in-law. Caroline wasn’t going to tell Nathan and Melanie about her run-in with Wyatt. How could she get out of this visit without appearing to be unkind? There it was again. Kindness. She needed to practice what she preached. “Okay. You’ve got me there.”

“Great. You can ride with us. No need to take more than one car. We’ll drop you back by here to pick up your car on our way home.” Nathan jangled the keys in his pocket as he motioned toward the front of the store. “We’d better get out of here. Julianne’s probably ready to close up shop for the day.”

“I am. See you all later, and Caroline, I’ll give you a call when the alterations are done so you can try on your dress again to make sure it fits.”

“Okay. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.”

Caroline wanted to know why Nathan considered Wyatt one of his best clients, but it probably wasn’t any of her business. She just had to remember to be kind. But would kindness work on a man who appeared bitter about his present circumstances? Kindness hadn’t worked when they were kids—he’d mocked her all the way through high school. Why should things be any different now?

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