The sun was so bright in Hannah’s seven-year-old eyes, she had to lift up one hand to block it even though she was wearing her bonnet like her mother told her to. There were children in the distance, children she didn’t know.
They were running around in the middle of the field, chasing each other. She liked the way they all laughed as they ran and wanted to feel that way, too.
She tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mama, may I go play with them?” She pointed at the kids. Her mother looked down at her and then at the children she was pointing at.
“Yes, of course, dear. You will need to make friends. We live here now. Go on. Be a good girl and be nice to everyone.
Joy filled Hannah’s heart, and she skipped away from her mother to join the children.
Hannah spun around to see a boy about her age running full speed toward her. She had to hop to the side so he wouldn’t run right into her. He dodged at the last minute anyway and ran to the side laughing.
“Who are you?” she asked. “What’s your name?”
“My name …” the boy replied, transforming into a monkey and hopping around with his arms crooked at the elbows. “My name is Robbie. Robbie short for Robert. Robert is my name. But you can call me Robbie because that’s what my friends call me. You want to be my friend?”
“I just moved here with my family,” Hannah replied, gripping her skirt with her hands. Her heart was thumping with excitement. She’d already made a friend!
“You never told me your name!” Robert said, hopping around her in a circle, his eyes never leaving hers. She slowly turned in place, rotating with him as he went around. “What’s your name?” He suddenly reached forward and poked the air in front of her.
If he had been a foot closer, he would have poked her in the chest. But he didn’t try to get closer to her; he just kept poking the air between them and repeating the question under his breath, “What’s your name, what’s your name, what’s your name.”
“Hannah Jane Simpson is my name,” Hannah announced proudly. “And you can call me Hannah, too, because I want to be your friend. Can you tell me what their names are, too?” Her eyes finally moved from his apish face to the other children, who were now kicking a ball between them.
“Of course. That’s Ellen and Mark and Tracy and …”
“Well, I don’t know who you’re talking about if you tell me over here,” Hannah pointed out, trying to keep her voice respectful. He must not understand that she didn’t know any of them, and he would need to point them out to her.
She remembered her mother telling her to strive to be as kind as she could be to everyone and remember that not everyone thinks the same way she does.
“I guess we should go over there then,” Robert responded. Still, he didn’t move from where he was hopping up and down; his arms spread out wide now like a bird in flight. He proceeded to run around her again, this time flapping his arms and cawing.
“You are very excitable,” Hannah observed, turning in a circle watching him.
He stopped and stood motionless, staring at her. “What’s that mean?”
“My mama says I am excitable. It means you move fast and do a lot of things quick and stuff like that.” Hannah tried to show him what she meant by lifting up on her toes and spinning in a circle with her arms above her head. She did a few other dance moves she’d made up and then bowed deeply for him when she was done, a very serious look on her face.
“You’re supposed to be very sad at the end of a dance,” she said soberly, lifting her eyes to him and pulling her eyebrows together to look extra sad. “See?”
Robert nodded. “I see.” He bowed low in return, placing one hand behind his back and one in front of his waist. “This is what my papa does. That’s the boy way.”
“Yes,” Hannah responded with a nod. “I saw my papa do that, too. And girls do this.” She curtsied, pulling her skirt out to the sides as she did so.
“You are very good at that,” Robert said admiringly.
Hannah felt a tingle of pleasure slide through her body. “Thank you.” She beamed at him.
“Come on,” he said, waving his hand to her. “I’ll tell you their names. They will like to meet you. You are friendly. Papa says it’s okay to be friendly to friendly people, but if people aren’t friendly, you shouldn’t be friendly to them because they might hurt you.”
“Grownups say weird things,” Hannah answered dismissively. “Sometimes I just don’t listen to them.”
Robert gave her a wide-eyed look. She wasn’t sure why but decided he was going to be her friend anyway.
She glanced over her shoulder at the adults when she heard a lot of noise. There were two men fighting. Fear made her stop in her tracks and stare at the men. Robert had heard the noise, too, and stopped. She felt him come up beside her, and they stood there side by side, watching the adults.
“That’s my papa,” Robert said softly. “Why is he fighting with Mr. Rosedale?”
Hannah didn’t know either of the men. She glanced over at Robert and then back to the adults, trying to decide which man was his father. She decided on one, and while they watched, she slid her hand into his and held on to give him comfort the only way she knew how.
Hannah let the horse walk idly through the middle of the dirt road, the main road that took her through the heart of Sand Trap, Texas. She was on her way to the blacksmith to order some items and get her horse reshoed. She was hoping Mr. Collins would do the horse right there while she was waiting.
She had other stops she wanted to make while in town, including the beauty shop. Marge had some new lotion in that she was dying to try. The most recent ones had smelled heavenly, and she’d gotten many compliments when using it.
Her younger sister, Greta, was supposed to do this run today, but Hannah didn’t mind doing it instead. Greta wasn’t feeling well and decided to stay in bed that morning. It was a Friday, and Greta didn’t have to go to the sewing shop where she worked for a weekly wage. Greta was going through a hard time since she’d been left at the altar by the man she’d thought she was going to marry.
Greta hated her job. Hannah, however, loved hers. She worked at the printing press, putting the letters in and proofreading all documents. She felt special, as one of the few women in Sand Trap who could actually read more than just the basic words.
Hannah was highly intelligent, a fact not lost on her father. He had taken her under his wing at a young age and taught her everything he could fit into her brain. He told her he believed she “absorbed” everything and that someday, it would all come in handy for her.
Hannah’s father had also taught her to be highly observant. She understood body language and the differences in vocal tone that signified how someone was feeling.
It had helped her significantly in her twenty-seven years, though she’d come off as intimidating and had yet to find a man who didn’t run from her the moment they found out she could hold a better conversation than most men.
Sometimes she wondered why he’d chosen to teach her those things instead of Greta or why he hadn’t done for her younger sister what he did for her. The years had answered her question.
Greta wasn’t interested in academics or learning. She was more interested in finding a husband. She had wasted three years courting a man who ended up leaving her at the last minute.
Hannah felt she was destined for greater things. She wasn’t keen on getting married, was happy with the job she had and felt that if there were a man for her, he would show himself eventually. She was content, and that was all that mattered.
She could see the blacksmith shop up ahead. On her most recent trips to town, she had seen him wandering around outside, sweeping the porch or arranging flowerpots to make the area look prettier.
She’d also seen him washing the front windows of the smithy, which told her he worked there. There was something familiar about him, but the feeling was so vague she couldn’t put her finger on it, though she’d been trying all week since she first saw him.
Hannah was intrigued by him, so being given the task to go instead of Greta wasn’t anything like a punishment. She was eager to find out his name and more about him. He was handsome and looked about her age.
“Good morning, Hannah!” she heard as she slowly rode by the church. She pulled the horse to a stop and smiled at young Colin Farmer, assistant to Pastor Henry Cavelle.
“Good morning, Colin. Out doing the Lord’s work early, I see.”
“It’s always a good time for doing the Lord’s work,” Colin replied. “And what are you about on this beautiful morning?”
“Well, it’s Friday, and Marge gets a new shipment of lotions every Friday, so here I am to claim mine!” She laughed and was gratified when he laughed with her.
“I also have to stop at the blacksmith to get a few things.” She eyed him, knowing the shop belonged to his father. “I see there’s someone new working there.”
“Yes, my brother Robert has returned with my father from Austin. They’ve been living there for some years now.”
Hannah lifted her eyebrows in surprise. “I didn’t know that. Then again, I don’t know a lot about you, Colin, do I? You and Greta went to the same grade in the schoolhouse, didn’t you?”
“Yes, we did, as a matter of fact. Robert and my father left Sand Trap long ago. I don’t think you lived here then. Might not have met them. He left me and my mom and our other brother here. You know Luke. He works at the steel mill.”
“I’ve seen him in church, yes,” Hannah replied. “I’m about to go to the smithy first. Is your brother a nice man? Should I be afraid?” She was only joking and smiled to make sure he knew that. He chuckled.
“He won’t bite you, I promise. He’s a nice man. He’ll help you out, no problem. And he’s skilled, so don’t worry about that. He’s been working with my father for years. He knows his stuff. He’ll do good by you.”
“Okay. Thanks, Colin. You have a good day now.”
“You, too. And tell Rob I said hello and to come by later for lunch.”
“I’ll do that.”
Hannah pressed her heels into the horse’s flanks to get it moving, flicking the reins softly. “Let’s go, Brute,” she said softly. The animal’s name was given ironically, as Brute was one of the gentlest horses Hannah had ever ridden on.
She got to the smithy and dismounted, tossing the reins over the hitching rail that ran along the front of the building above the water trough. She glanced down and let her eyes dance over the rippling water. It looked fresh.
She went up the three steps to the short porch in front of the smithy. She didn’t knock on the door but just opened it, poking her head in before her entire body.
“Hello?” she said, her eyes immediately falling on the young man, Robert, who was sitting at a desk to her right, writing frantically in a journal. He flapped the journal shut when he looked up at her.
Hannah was a little taken aback by his reaction to seeing her. At first, his face was blank, then curious, then his eyes softened and warmed over. His smile stretched across his lips, and he shot to his feet.
“Hello!” he responded, coming around the desk, holding his hand out to her. “Robert Farmer.”
“Hannah. Hannah Simpson. I, uh, I have some work for you?” Why did she feel nervous? Was it because he was even more handsome up close than he was at a distance? He made her heart pound in her chest. She swallowed and tried to get control of herself.
“Well, that’s certainly what I’m here for. What can I do for you?”
Hannah was still uncertain, a feeling of anxiety filling her chest. He was friendlier than she’d expected. As if he knew her. As if he expected her to know him.
“First of all, your brother Colin told me to tell you he said hello and to come by for lunch.”
Robert didn’t lose his smile. “Ah, yes, my brother, the aspiring pastor. Do you know him well?”
“I have had the chance to talk to him quite a lot at church, yes,” Hannah replied. “I was hoping he and my little sister Greta would take a liking to each other, but that didn’t happen.”
Robert’s face fell noticeably. “Aww. That’s too bad. And you? Are you attached?”
It felt strange to be asked that question by such a good-looking man. Hannah was actually glad she could respond in the negative. “No,” she said with a sigh, the word at least one octave above her normal speaking tone, “but it’s all right. I feel the man for me to marry will show himself eventually.”
Robert’s smile changed. He looked exceedingly satisfied. Hannah tried to use the skills she’d been taught to understand why he was so relaxed with her, as if he already knew her and cared for her.
Finally, he settled her questions with just one of his own.
After a brief pause, he said, “You don’t remember me, do you?”
Tingles lit up Hannah’s skin. He did know her. She struggled with her memory but would have sworn he had never been in Sand Trap before. She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I don’t remember you.”
Robert was only a little disappointed Hannah didn’t know who he was. He’d been gone for a very long time. He shook his head, pulling a handkerchief out of his back pocket to rub over his sweaty hands. “It’s fine. It was only once when we were really young.
I left town the day after we met and only returned for a few days at a time, mostly around the holidays. I never got a chance to meet you again. I did look for you, though. But after a while, I didn’t know if you looked the same.” His grin widened. “I see that you haven’t changed much at all really. Just grown up and beautiful.”
Her cheeks turned a delightful color of pink that set off the light red streaks in her blonde hair.
“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” he said quickly. “What can I do for you, Hannah?”
Hannah cleared her throat, obviously very nervous. He wondered if that was because she didn’t know him or she didn’t know if he was skilled to do that work.
“Don’t worry, my pa taught me everything he knows about blacksmithing. I’ve been running the forge at Austin for a couple of years now. By myself. Pa bought this place from Mr. Collins for me. Hence the name change.”
He gestured to a wooden sign that was propped up against the wall by the front door. Hannah turned to look at it. It said Farmer Blacksmithing in calligraphy, the words burned into the wood. It was a very attractive sign, in Hannah’s opinion.
“Oh, I like that very much,” she expressed her admiration and smiled at him. A tingle slid over Robert’s skin. He couldn’t help the size of the grin he gave back to her.
“So … what can I do for you?” he asked again.
“My father needs … needs …” Hannah sighed in frustration and reached to dig through her bag until she found a small piece of scrap paper. It was obviously torn from something else and had, at one point, been crumpled up into a ball. She spread it out between her gloved hands and tried to straighten it as she spoke.
He was amused to hear a slight tremble in her voice but didn’t let her see what he was feeling. “Two side gate hinges, two door hinges, a farm hoe, and new shoes for Brute out there.”
Robert leaned to the side and looked out the window at the horse. “Okay, not a problem. I can do the shoes today, but the hinges and farm hoe I’ll need a few days for. Do you know what kind of hinges he wants? Not all gate hinges and door hinges are the same.”
“Yes, he gave me these.” She dug through her bag again and produced two broken hinges. “This is the door. This is the gate.”
“Perfect.” He took the hinges from her and turned to set them on a shelf behind him.
“I’ll stay while you shoe Brute if you don’t mind. I’d … like to see your work.”
Robert raised his eyebrows curiously. He couldn’t help wondering if she knew anything about blacksmithing that would give her a clue whether his work was good or not. Still, he didn’t mind showing off for her.
He remembered the day they’d met as clearly as if it had been yesterday. In twenty years, he had never forgotten hopping around the pretty girl acting like a monkey, thinking it would impress her and make her like him.
It was the fight his father had gotten in that had interrupted them, leaving Robert to think about Hannah for over a decade, wishing he could just see her again.
When his pa had announced they were coming back to Sand Trap because the man he’d fought with had left town, Robert had nearly jumped out of his skin with excitement.
Finally, he was going home.
He’d been too busy to think about anything but settling into the new shop, getting his tools and everything else prepared for working, greeting longtime customers who were used to Mr. Collins and assuring them he knew what he was doing … much too busy to go searching for a pretty girl he’d met when he was seven.
But here she was. Right in front of him. After all this time. It was a blessing straight from God; he was sure of it.
“You can watch if you like. Frankly, I’d like the company. I don’t need complete silence to shoe a horse. Go on out and bring him around back. I can do it there.”
“Okay, thank you, Robert.”
Robert grinned at her, nodding. He watched as she went out to the horse. When she was out the door, he turned and gathered the nails, hammer, and new shoes he would need to complete the job.
Before he could go to the back of the building, however, a body stepped into the doorway, blocking all the light. He smiled when he saw his father had come in.
“Pa,” he said. “What are you doing here today? You feeling okay?”
Mr. Farmer nodded, stepping into the building and dropping into the chair Robert had been sitting in when Hannah came in. “Missing the work is all, son,” he replied. “Been workin’ steady all my life, and now I don’t know what to do with myself.”
“I know. I’m sorry about that, Pa.”
His father shook his head. “Nothin’ you can do about it. Ever since your mother died, it’s been the one thing that has kept me distracted. Well, that and making sure you boys are doing the best you can. She’d skin me alive if she thought I wasn’t takin’ good care of you boys.”
“You did a good job with all three of us, Pa. Don’t you worry. Ma would be proud.”
Mr. Farmer sighed, pulling on Robert’s heartstrings. In his heart, he ached for his mother, who had died when he was a few days shy of his nineteenth birthday. He went to his father and laid one hand on the older man’s shoulder. “I miss her, too, Pa. But trust me, she would be proud of you. And of all of us. We’re still a family. Just with one of us in Heaven.”
“Yeah, I know,” his father said. A pause filled the silence, and then he said, “What are you doing today? You got work?”
“Yeah.” Robert stepped away from his pa, recognizing the emotional time was over, and it was back to business. “I’m not having any trouble getting customers. It seems our family is well-respected in this town. Because of Colin, I suspect.”
“He’s a good boy,” Mr. Farmer replied, nodding. “He has done good by our family. Luke has too, but the church always looks good in society’s eyes, doesn’t it?”
“It sure does, Pa.”
Robert glanced toward the back of the building, hoping Hannah didn’t think he was neglecting her.
“You have a job back there?” his father asked, as intuitive as always.
“Yes,” Robert answered him. “Hannah Simpson has brought in her horse to be reshoed. I’m about to go back there and do it.” He eyed his father. “Do you want to give it a try? Just one shoe?”
His father grinned. “One shoe at a time, right?”
Robert chuckled. “Exactly.” That’s how his father had taught him to do it. When he was training, his father would tell him not to think about the other three shoes he would have to apply.
Concentrate on the one he was doing right at that moment, his father said, and he would do it right instinctively. Robert felt like it was a skill that ran in the family, though, because he’d seen some shoes that had been applied terribly, thereby injuring the horse and making it useless for a farm or ranch or even riding.
“No,” Mr. Farmer answered, “I’m not good enough for it anymore. Can’t grip the hammer tight enough. Those days are over for me. I’ll just have to watch you and supervise. Tell you what you’re doing wrong.”
Robert heard his father’s sarcasm and laughed, tilting his head back. “I better get back there, though. She’s waiting for me. Probably thinking I ran off and left her here to do it herself.”
“Somehow, I doubt she is thinking that. But yes, you go tend to your customer. I’m heading over to the Dog and Pony. You come over when you’re done and have a beer with me.”
“Okay, Pa. Colin wants me to have lunch with him, too. You want me to get him before I meet you?”
“Invite him, yes. I’ll see you there.”
His father was a large man. When he hefted himself off the chair, it scooted back. He patted his son on the shoulder as he went by.
Hannah was waiting for him in the back patiently. She had seen his father go in, surmising it was Mr. Farmer by the similarity in facial features to both Robert and Colin. She looked around the barn-style area.
Hay was scattered across the floor, and two large hay bales were set against the wall under a huge glassless window. A screen was draped over the window to keep the bugs out, hindering most of the light that would have come through.
Robert stepped down from the main building into the “barn”, clutching his tools in one hand and the four horseshoes in the other.
“All right, I’m here,” he said, hurrying over to her. “Sorry about that. My pa came in, wanted to talk to me. He didn’t realize you were back here waiting for me.”
Hannah shook her head. She was enjoying resting her eyes on his handsome face. Just his presence made her blood run quicker, and her heart pound faster. “It’s quite all right,” she replied, keeping her voice even. “I am not on a schedule. My time is my own.”
“That must be nice. You don’t have to work?” He moved to the horse and began to work on one hoof, lifting it up and using a tool to dig out some of the dirt around the shoe that was already there.
“I do work, actually, in the printing press.” Hannah couldn’t help the pride that came through when she spoke. “I put the letters in and proofread before the paper is printed.”
“How interesting! However did you get into a job like that?”
“My older brother, Aaron, is the newly elected sheriff, you know. Before he was elected sheriff, he worked there. Now I do the job he did before.”
Robert nodded, not looking at her as he continued to do his work. Hannah watched the gentle way he treated the horse, even though he was hammering new shoes into the hoof. Every so often, Brute would jump or jerk, probably from being tickled or poked, he told her, and he would speak soothingly until the horse was calm again.
“You do have a way with horses, don’t you?” she said. “I’m very impressed. Brute is a gentle horse, and my pa gave him that name ironically.”
Robert chuckled. “I can see why.” He lifted one hand and patted the horse on his back flank. “He’s a good horse, he is. I love horses, and they love me. It’s always been a gift.”
Hannah had to catch herself before she asked if he wanted to go horseback riding sometime. It would have been exceedingly embarrassing for her to do something so forward. It didn’t matter if she felt like she’d known him his entire life and they were supposed to be together. That was probably just fantasy thinking because she was so attracted to him.
He looked up at her and did a double-take. She wondered what expression was on her face to make him look at her like that. She just smiled at him, hoping she was hiding her nervousness at least a little bit.
Robert continued to work on the horse until all four shoes had been replaced. Hannah listened to him as he talked about his family.
“My pa taught me how to do this while we were in Austin,” he said. “I think I told you that earlier. But he really drilled it into me. Everything he knew. And I am good at it. I guess it’s a good thing he didn’t take Colin or Luke with him to Austin.”
“Why did he leave?”
“There was a man here,” Robert replied. “He was the mayor back fifteen years ago or so. He and my pa were good friends. They had a fight, and the town council decided to rescind that man’s mayorship and banish him from Sand Trap altogether.”
“Oh my. I can’t imagine what he must have done to have that happen.”
“I guess it couldn’t have been anything illegal, or they would have just put him in jail.”
“Maybe it was something he did morally wrong. As the mayor, he would have had to keep himself clean of scum and scandal. He must have done something to break the trust everyone had in him but not done so illegally.”
Robert nodded, fitting a new shoe on Brute, eyeing it closely as he moved it slightly from side to side until it was in the right place. “That’s what I’m thinking.”
“Did you ever ask your father about it?”
“I have a few times. He doesn’t like to talk about it.”
Hannah enjoyed finding out about Robert’s family. She knew Colin fairly well but had rarely, if ever, talked to Luke. Not because she had anything against him. They just didn’t ever meet up anywhere. Even at church, they were talking to the folks they were friends with already.
She was curious to know why Mr. Farmer had left the two boys there when he took Robert away at such a young age. She didn’t feel comfortable asking him that, though. What if it was a sensitive topic? She didn’t want to embarrass Robert in any way.
“If the mayor left, why did your father leave? Why didn’t he just stay here?”
For a moment, she was hoping the leading question would get Robert to reveal why he alone went with his father, leaving Colin and Luke behind.
“I don’t know,” Robert answered, his eyes on the horse’s hoof in his hands. “Pa never told me. I just know we were here, and then we left. The day after I met you.” He smiled up at her.
Hannah immediately bit her lower lip, a tingle sliding through her chest, tingles sliding over her arms and the back of her neck. She thought for a minute her heart might come directly out of her chest.
She couldn’t help admiring the muscles in his arms bulging when he moved. Whenever he flexed to swing the hammer, she felt a little thrill.
Hannah was hoping beyond hope he would ask to see her again socially before she left that day. She knew if he didn’t, she would be thinking about him non-stop. At that point, she would be thinking about him regardless, but at least she would have something to look forward to.
“I wish I could remember that,” she remarked, feeling ashamed of herself. That day, that meeting, had obviously meant so much to Robert. He hadn’t forgotten about it in twenty long years. Growing years at that, where he should have had much more on his mind than a girl he met when he was a child. “Did you have any women you were interested in, in Austin?”
“No.” He said it so plainly and bluntly, Hannah knew he had to be telling the truth. “The women there are different. You would think I would be used to it because I grew up there. But I recognized they were … less caring, I thought.
They were so focused on money and making it and finding husbands who could afford them … I wasn’t interested in impressing any of them. They were only interested in what I could give them materially anyway. None of them wanted love. They wanted security.”
“So you did have an opportunity to see some of them socially?”
“I had lots of opportunities,” Robert replied. “Just never found anyone interesting. They found me interesting. But I felt like they were using me. I didn’t like it. I never felt anything genuine from any of them.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re back,” Hannah said boldly. “I think it will be nice having you and your father back in Sand Trap. Maybe he can run for mayor.”
Robert let out a sharp laugh, and when he turned his head to her, it became more genuine.
“I don’t think that will ever happen. It’s a funny thought. I think I’ll bring it up to him at lunch. We’re going to the Dog and Pony when I’m done here. I’m going to meet him there after I go get Colin.”
“Does Colin drink beer?” Hannah asked, surprised.
“He sure does. Not to excess. But he says the Lord made us smart enough to make it, so he’s going to drink it. He’s also fond of saying Jesus drank wine and even made it out of water so people at a party could have a merry time.”
Hannah laughed. “Your brother is delightful.”
Her eyes settled on his handsome face as she thought, And so are you.
“Her Kind Heart’s Tender Savior” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
The fiercely independent Hannah Simpson has fought for the happiness of her community but has neglected her own. As she approaches the age of 27, the prospect of a strong love to take her breath away becomes dimmer and dimmer… When a mysterious, but eerily familiar man arrives in town, her life takes an unexpected turn. As favorable circumstances bring them closer she can’t help but wonder – could he be the one?
A glimmer of hope appears on the horizon…
Robert Farmer is delighted to be back home and in charge of his father’s blacksmith shop. During his long absence, Hannah, his school sweetheart, has been the one person he has missed the most. Looking into her eyes after all this time, he only wants to stay loyal to his old promise to protect her, at any cost. Sadly, a cruel turn of fate suddenly threatens to ruin his bliss…
In the thought of losing her, his heart shivers…
When tragedy strikes and Robert is found in the eye of the hurricane, their relationship will be tested in a way they could never foresee. Can love save them at this heart-breaking moment, or will their hope for a future together go up in flames?
“Her Kind Heart’s Tender Savior” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.