Out of Her Element, Chapter Fourteen

Out of Her Element cover artMaggie acted up a few times when Mira started walking her around the arena, but she settled down after a few turns. After about twenty minutes of working on lead training, Mira ended the session on a good note and led the horse through the gate Josh held open.

“It looks like she remembers what she learned yesterday,” he said as the docile mare walked past him.

“She does,” Mira said as they headed toward Maggie’s stall. “And now that she learned it again today, hopefully she’ll remember it tomorrow.”

“I’m sure she will.”

They put the mare in crossties to groom her. While they brushed the happy horse, they talked about the coming evening and the events during the rest of the busy week. Josh made everything sound so simple and non-threatening, but Mira couldn’t deny the flutter of nerves as she considered meeting the Montaignes’ relatives and being included in their dinner party.

A little after four, Mira and Josh hung their coats in the mudroom and stepped into the main part of the house. Tabby rushed down the hall, appearing almost frantic.

Out of Her Element, Chapter Thirteen

Out of Her Element cover artTabby bounced into the kitchen, her excitement showing on her animated face. “Janet, Paul, and Shannon are all coming. We’re going to meet here about five and figure out where to go for dinner. After that, we’ll go to the theater and see what’s playing.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” Josh said.

Bill gave his seat to his daughter. “I’ll let you kids talk.”

As he left the kitchen, Tabby turned to her brother. “So, who are you going to invite?”

“Probably Adam and Ryan.”

“That will be so perfect!” Tabby squealed and clapped her hands. “We’ll have four guys and four girls.”

“So we will.” Josh looked like he wanted to laugh. “Why don’t you tell Mira about your friends while I call mine?”

Out of Her Element, Chapter Twelve

Out of Her Element cover artA sense of warmth and comfort woke Mira. Heat radiated through her right leg, and she found Frank stretched out against it. Every trace of its earlier ache had vanished. She sat up and reached toward the cat to pet him. He stretched and curled into a ball, giving no sign he ever awakened.

After doing some stretching of her own, she went into the bathroom and splashed some cool water on her face. Pain like that, especially mixed with the high emotion of looking through her photo album, was exhausting. A nap always cured her, but they tended to leave her feeling a little groggy. She pulled her hair into a loose ponytail at the base of her neck and returned to the bedroom. As she passed the bed, she paused to rub the contented cat’s soft side.

“See you later, Frank,” she said and left her room.

Silence filled the second floor as she headed for the stairs. Maybe everyone was downstairs, or they could have gone out with friends. She hoped she could find someone to talk to, however. The last few days of being around people all the time had made her realize how much she’d missed having regular conversations while she lived in her lean-to.

Out of Her Element, Chapter Eleven

Out of Her Element cover artMira’s gaze darted to her legs, but they were covered. She turned to Della, puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“You’re limping, dear.”

“Oh, that.” She retrieved two mugs from the cabinet. “It’s nothing. I’ll be fine.”

Bill gave her a doubtful look. “A person doesn’t limp from nothing.”

Ben cleared his throat. “It’s an old leg injury, sir, that’s acting up because of the snow moving in.”

Bill ignored him and stared at Mira. She finished pouring the coffee and handed one cup to Ben. He smiled his thanks and took a sip. After taking a sip of her own coffee, she returned her attention to Bill.

“Ben’s right. The explosion in Israel hurt my legs pretty bad. Sometimes when the weather changes, my right leg can ache something fierce. The coming snow is what made it hurt this time.”

“And the horse liniment?” Bill said, waving his hand at the bottle.

“It helps.” She shrugged and leaned back against the counter to drink her coffee.

The Montaignes went back to their breakfast, and Ben stood beside Mira silently drinking his coffee. Discomfort rolled off him in waves, and she spoke in a whisper.

Out of Her Element, Chapter Ten

Out of Her Element cover artShortly before sunrise, Mira went in search of food. She found Charlotte and Anita sitting at the kitchen table, dressed in casual clothing instead of their usual uniforms as they enjoyed cups of coffee. Charlotte shifted to stand, but Mira waved her back into her chair.

“Sit down and finish your coffee. It’s your day off, and I’m perfectly capable of finding my own breakfast.”

“All right.” Charlotte resumed her seat with a shrug as Mira walked to the pantry.

She returned with the container of oats they had labeled the previous evening. After measuring water into a small saucepan, she rinsed off an apple from a bowl on the counter and cut it up into the pan as the water came to a boil. She tossed in a handful of oats and stirred it with a wooden spoon. While the oats cooked, she searched through cabinets and drawers until she found a bowl and spoon. Once her oatmeal was in the bowl and she’d run water into the pan so nothing would stick, she carried her breakfast to the table and sat down.

Charlotte studied her with something that bordered on amazement. “I do believe you’re the first person I’ve seen eat oatmeal here, other than the employees.”

Out of Her Element, Chapter Nine

Out of Her Element cover artAfter Tabby left to meet her friends, Mira wandered into the kitchen and found Charlotte and Anita studying her deerskin bags. They looked up, and Charlotte waved her hand at the bags.

“Do you know what all this is? I only ask because they arrived the same day you did.”

“It’s food I dried over the summer and early fall,” Mira said as she joined them by the island. “There’s also some herbs for healing and some for cooking and teas.”

Charlotte gave a little laugh. “Now I understand why Miss Della had me go buy a bunch of storage containers and spice jars.”

“Do you want some help putting this stuff in the containers?” She hadn’t meant to create more work for the cook, especially since she could put it away just as easily. Maybe more so, considering she’d had to read the labels for Lucas.

“Yes, you’d better help.” The glance Charlotte cast toward the bags told Mira she’d guessed right about the woman’s inability to read Arabic. “Then you can label it so I know what it is.”

Write out labels the average American could read?

Out of Her Element, Chapter Eight

Out of Her Element cover artDella and Tabby took Mira into Dayton for a shopping trip after lunch. Mother and daughter had cornered Mira and forced her to reveal the contents of her wardrobe. When she admitted to owning two pairs of overalls, a pair of sturdy cargo pants, a sweater, a long-sleeved shirt, and two T-shirts, they planned the afternoon of shopping. Mira wasn’t sure she needed more clothing. After all, she’d survived this long with what she had. But the Montaigne women wouldn’t take no for an answer.

During the short drive into the city, Della told Mira the events of the coming week—the week of Thanksgiving.

“On Monday evening, we’re hosting a dinner party for some of Bill’s business associates and a few close friends of the family.”

Mira had never seen a dinner party, never mind participated in one. “I’ll stay out of the way and out of sight.”

“Oh, no, you won’t. You’ll be in attendance just like the rest of the family.”

“But I’m not family.”

“You’re close enough. While you’re living with us, you’ll be treated as one of the family.”

She didn’t know how to respond. A lot of the people she’d met since moving to the United States hadn’t even treated her as a friend, let alone family. And attending a dinner party? There had to be a way out of what was sure to be an awkward evening. “I don’t have a dress.”

Out of Her Element, Chapter Seven

Out of Her Element cover art“Lucas, please put the whip somewhere out of sight,” Mira said in English before switching back to Hebrew for the horse’s benefit.

He did as she asked, and she soon had the horse calmed again. Just like Harley’s horses, this one appeared to have had a bad experience with a whip.

“Can you show me to the arena?”

“Why don’t you let me take Maggie?” Lucas said, reaching for the lead rope.

She kept a firm grip on it. “I’ve got her. Just keep the whip out of sight, and we’ll be fine.”

“I put it behind a bale of hay.” He didn’t look happy, but he led her to a side aisle in the center of the building.

She continued to speak soothing words to the Thoroughbred prancing nervously alongside her. Lucas opened the gate to the arena and stood to the side as she led Maggie through. He started to follow, but Mira stopped him.

“The fewer people in here, the better. Just close the gate and don’t worry.”

Out of Her Element, Chapter Six

Out of Her Element cover artSomething soft and furry pressed against Mira’s face. She swatted it away, but it came back and pushed harder. Opening her eyes, she found bright green eyes staring back from a fluffy gray face. A loud purr and a soft meow accompanied another round of head butting.

“Good morning to you, too.” She scratched under his chin as she glanced around the dark room. “Frank, I’m not sure it’s morning yet. Move over so I can see the clock.”

She gently shoved him out of the way. The glowing red numbers from the digital clock on the nightstand stared back. Frank rubbed his head on her nose, blocking her view again.

“Okay, you win.” She sighed and sat up. “Six o’clock is morning, but this time of year it sure doesn’t look like it.”

The cat meowed again and looked pointedly at the door.

Out of Her Element, Chapter Five

Out of Her Element cover artThe front door opened and Mira and Tabby came downstairs. A tall young man stepped inside, and Mira slowed her steps. Could that be Josh? His hair was the same shade of brown she remembered, but the wire-rimmed glasses were new. Tabby launched herself down the stairs and wrapped him in a hug.

“Hi, Josh! You’ll never guess who’s here.”

He stepped back with an indulgent smile. “Why don’t you tell me, Tabby?”

“Look on the stairs.”

He turned his green eyes upward and studied Mira for a moment as though trying to place her. Then recognition flashed, and he smiled as she finished coming down the stairs.

“Mira, is that you?”

“Hey, Josh.” She’d always thought he was kind of cute, but he’d become even more handsome with age.

“No one told me you were coming.” He gave her a welcoming hug and stepped back. “So, how long are you going to be here?”

“I, um, don’t know.” Why did he have to ask such a difficult question before she had a chance to see if he was still the same accepting guy she remembered?