Excerpt for Guardian Of My Heart by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Dr Jane Ann “Jennie” Truelove, Professor of Human Relationships Studies, was hot, tired and stuck in limbo while waiting for a ferryboat ride across the Mississippi River. With a mischievous grin, her best friend, Sara Beth, dared Jennie to stick her foot in the water of the Big Muddy. In fact, she double dared her! Sara Beth was bored, too, and knew Jennie couldn’t resist the challenge.

Jennie quickly realized she was in big trouble when she sank knee deep in muck and mud and felt the river’s strong current pushing against her unsteady footing. Clearly, she was on an unexpected downriver slide and needed to get on dry land fast. But much to her chagrin, even God didn’t seem sympathetic to her frantic appeals for help!

Super Bowl hero, Pete “The MAX” Maxwell couldn’t believe his eyes as he watched the beautiful woman walk down the landing ramp and into the river, but he didn’t hesitate to spring into action and save her. When he finally had the red-headed mermaid safely in his arms, he gave her a lecture about rivers and current and water and stinking mud. And then, because it seemed to Pete that a man should get some reward for all of his trouble and because he couldn’t resist her luscious lips, he kissed Jennie. She seemed to like it, so he did what any red-blooded male would do. He kissed her again!

But surprisingly passionate kisses that leave a lingering and wishful taste of what could be, and a big dose of independent female resistance, put Pete and Jennie on a collision course when they unexpectedly end up living next door to each other in the college town of Warrensburg, Missouri. Pete thinks he’s a “Done Duck” and Jennie thinks Pete is weird. Sara Beth thinks they’re perfect for each other. But they’ll have to write their own textbook of love and commitment before Jennie admits that Pete is the man she wants to be the “Guardian of my Heart.”

Guardian of My Heart

Samantha Goodwin

Dear Reader…

True friendship

True trust

True love

True commitment

True intimacy

True gifts

And…true thanks.

Samantha Goodwin


Come in the night

Come softly on the breeze

Song of my soul

Sing! Sing your love to me.

Melody of life

Passion’s joyous refrain

Guardian of my heart

Welcome home, again.

Samantha Goodwin

This is a work of fiction. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.

© 2017 No part of this material may be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author. Direct all inquiries to samanthagoodwin022@gmail.com

Table of contents

Book One

God Always Did Like To Fish

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Book Two

Secret Surprises

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Book Three

A Woman’s Choice

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Book Four

Quack, Quack,” Ducky

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Book Five

Good Golly, Miss Molly!

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Chapter Fifty-Two

Chapter Fifty-Three

Book Six

The Love of a Good Woman…

More Precious than a Sultan’s Ransom

Chapter Fifty-Four

Chapter Fifty-Five

Chapter Fifty-Six

Chapter Fifty-Seven

Chapter Fifty-Eight

Chapter Fifty-Nine

Chapter Sixty

Chapter Sixty-One

Chapter Sixty-Two

Chapter Sixty-Three

Chapter Sixty-Four

Book Seven

The Guardian…Forever and Eternity

Chapter Sixty-Five

Chapter Sixty-Six

Chapter Sixty-Seven

Chapter Sixty-Eight

Chapter Sixty-Nine

Chapter Seventy

Chapter Seventy-One

Chapter Seventy-Two

Chapter Seventy-Three

Chapter Seventy-Four

Chapter Seventy-Five

Book Eight

The Lady is a Winner…AGAIN!

Chapter Seventy-Six

Book Nine

The Missouri Sultan

Chapter Seventy-Seven

Book Ten

Epilogue…Texas Gene Maxwell

Chapter Seventy-Eight

About the Author

Book One

God Always Did Like To Fish

Chapter One

She shouldn’t have done it. She knew she shouldn’t have done it. But she did it anyway.

The hot sun of a late summer afternoon baked their world in its fiery oven, reflecting heat off the cement of the Modoc Landing boat ramp. Jennie and her best friend, Sara Beth, felt rivulets of sweat running down their sticky skin while they waited for their turn to ferry across the Mississippi River. Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, and the open road were on the other side of the Big Muddy, but right now they were stuck in limbo. And “limbo” was proving to be very uncomfortable.

Jennie lifted her heavy hair off the back of her neck and tried to cool off by flapping her blouse, but it didn’t do any good. The heat made it hard for her to concentrate, “What? What did you say?”

Sara Beth turned her head slowly so Jennie would get the full impact of her not too friendly glare, “I said that idiot people, who will have their own way even at the miserable expense of their best friend, are liable to end up in a sinking boat.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll live.”Jennie glanced away from the hypnotic flow of the river in front of them, “For heaven’s sake, Sara Beth! It’s just a ferryboat ride.” She couldn’t help a gentle reminder, “You didn’t mention seasick when we were talking about the Delta Queen.”

“True, but the Delta Queen is a far bigger and more stable boat. This looks like a choppy ride to me; I just know I’ll get seasick.” Sara Beth rummaged in her bag, “Maybe I’ve got a seasick pill somewhere in here.”

Dry, sarcastic amusement shaded Jennie’s speech, “You have my sincere sympathy. You know how sincere.” Hot irritated and tired, she tried to fan herself with an empty Fritos bag, “Sara Beth, I know I mentioned a boat ride on the Mississippi River and the Delta Queen, but I was just joking!”

Sara Beth wouldn’t give up her ire easily, “Well, I wondered how we could go on a Mississippi River journey when the river runs north-to-south, and we were going to travel east-to-west. But I had faith, Jennie, that if anyone could make it happen, it would be you.” She pursed her lips a little as she added an extra dig, “Just goes to show what you get from trusting your best friend.”

Jennie quietly watched the relentless and never ending motion of the river’s current, “I remember being in Cairo, Illinois, with my parents when I was about twelve years old.” Continuing as she turned to Sara Beth, “Did you know? At Cairo, there’s a point of land where you can see the Ohio River and the Mississippi River come together. They actually travel side-by-side for a while because the currents are too strong for the waters to mix.”

She smiled, suddenly happy with her thoughts, “Mother and I walked down to the riverbank to watch them blend together. Then we decided to stick our big toes in the water so we could feel the strength of the water’s flow.”

Sara Beth was surprised, “Your mother did this?”

“Well, we thought it was really neat! Can you say you’ve done that?” She snorted a little, “I doubt it.” Jennie sighed, “Everybody always thought mother was so careful with me, and she was! But she believed in living and doing the unusual when possible.”

Jennie saw Sara Beth’s look of disbelief, “It’s true! Mother used to say that once in awhile a person has to take chances. She always made even simple things seem so special and so much fun.”

Lost in long ago memories, her hands and chin rested on the hot steering wheel of the car. For a minute she saw another river, “Remember? The car wreck happened right after we got back from that trip. Mother was killed, and my life was never the same. It’s the last fun memory I have of her.” Jennie took a deep breath and sat back in her seat, “Odd, isn’t it? How stuff like that sticks with you…life’s special and unexpected gifts.”

Sara Beth didn’t move, and her voice was quiet, but her words were determined, “I dare you.”


“I said, ‘I dare you.”

“Dare me? What?”

Sara Beth’s chin rose up a notch as she nodded toward the river and narrowed her eyes, “I double dare you.”

Comprehension dawned, traveling across Jennie’s face, “You’re nuts! That was then, Sara Beth, and this is now.” Her voice was very flat and her words very final, “I don’t do silly stuff like that anymore.”

Conversation ceased after Jennie’s last remarks and both women refused to break the ensuing silence. Sitting in close proximity to Sara Beth, Jennie knew she was getting a blast of the coldest air she had felt in some time. It didn’t offer any comfort on the hot summer day.

Finally, Jennie couldn’t take the silence anymore, “Well, it’s no fun being in here with you. I’m going for a walk.”

She opened her car door to busy activity. All around them, people stood in groups talking, watching the river or calling out words of caution as excited children ran back and forth. Occasional dogs hung out of car windows to bark at the smell of the water. Everyone seemed appreciative of the reprieve. The busy world, arduous driving and close confines of vehicles were cheerfully ignored as journeys halted to wait at the river’s edge. Her modern day limbo teamed with action.

Jennie stood with the others, “Gosh darn it! I want to be on the water. I want to take the Delta Queen, to watch the river in real style from the deck of the boat, to feel like a female Mark Twain.” She sighed, “But this is the best cruise I can muster right now. So, here I am, waiting for my eagerly anticipated ferryboat ride.” Her lips twisted slightly, and she sighed again, “I’m impressed.”

Jennie heard a steadily increasing churning noise breaking into her thoughts. Looking up, she watched the Delta Queen pass by the ramp as it journeyed along the river. A groan came from the depths of her envious soul, “Talk about rubbing it in!” But she shared waves with the passengers on the boat’s deck and listened as the steam whistle tooted a ‘hello’ salute.

I dare you. I dare you,” repeated over and over in her mind in cadence with the movement of the Delta Queen’s paddle wheel. Suddenly, an unexpected determination propelled Jennie’s feet. She walked to the front of the first cars waiting on the ramp and then on down to the river’s edge, “By golly, I’m going to get something special out of this opportunity!”

The mud on the river bank seemed dry and crusted over. She carefully poked at it with her foot, cautiously taking step after step closer to the water. Finally convinced, she shrugged her shoulders, “Looks solid enough to me.” A deep breath brought forth a private pep talk, “Okay, go for it girl. Take a chance and live a bit. Mother would be proud of you.”

Putting her faith in the great unknown, Jennie took a giant leap toward the closest drop of the Mighty Mississippi’s water. Unfortunately, when she came down to earth, she felt an awful…absolutely awful…feeling of “squish” and her foot began to slide downstream in Mississippi River ooze.

She tried to withdraw from her predicament, but the river was tenacious; each passing second sucked her further into its slimy clutches. She had two choices: to immediately step in with her other foot and hopefully keep her balance or to execute a split-legged maneuver of Olympic quality in the river’s mud.

She chose a third option, “Oh God, I have a small problem here. Can you send help?” As desperate and unsuccessful entreaties passed her lips, she moaned, “No such luck. I knew He would get me for sleeping in and not going to church lately. I just knew it!”

She shook her fist at the sky, “You’re a male, okay. This proves it, and I hear you laughing. What am I? Your chuckle of the day?” Feeling totally irreverent by now, she dared to show her true feelings, “A female would have more understanding; show more compassion!”

But Jennie was headed for deep trouble as one foot followed the other into the muck. She gave up on supplications to God and decided she would look to a different source. Everybody on the ramp, and probably the Delta Queen, too, heard her piercing shriek as graceful hands joined sinking feet in slimy muck.

“Help! Somebody, please help me!”

Chapter Two

Pete watched the woman making tentative steps in the crusty mud of the riverbank. She had flaming red hair and the most beautiful legs he’d ever seen. They went all the way to the ground and then back up to her Sweet Heaven. “My God,” he thought, “No healthy male would miss the opportunity to watch a woman like her.”

His aviator lenses blocked out the sun’s bright glare, hiding his frown as knowing eyes narrowed in disapproval. He stood, hands on hips, shaking his head at the scene unfolding in front of him and talked to another man standing nearby, “I cannot believe what I’m seeing. She’s sure headed for trouble.”

His neighbor joined him with a conspiracy of “superior manhood” grin as they watched the girl. “She’s a beauty, all right, but I’m athinkin’ that butt of her’s is gonna’ be sittin’ in mud purdy soon.” The man laughed as he scratched a bare, hairy chest under his overalls bib, “I’m awantin’ to see thet.” He spit tobacco, narrowly but accurately, missing Pete’s shoe, “Wemen! Crawlin’ in the mud’ll be good fer her. It’ll teach her a lessen and serve her right fer bein’ so damn dumb.”

Sudden rage coursed through Pete’s veins as he glanced down at the filth that joined the dust by his shoe, “I don’t think so; nothing’s going to happen to this woman if I can help it.” He looked at the man, “She certainly isn’t going to crawl in front of slime like you.”

The man’s jaw dropped in surprise, “Now jest a minute, mister. You cain’t talk like thet to a man like me!”

Pete sighed as his hands clenched into ham-sized fists. He pierced the stranger with a look, “Go away while you can; you’re irritating me. If you’re still here when I’m done helping the lady, you’re going to be the one crawlin’ in the mud.”

His neighbor sized up the opposition and wisely melted into the background.

Pete began to concentrate on the real problem at hand. Sitting down on the ramp, he quickly took off shoes and socks and started to roll up his jeans as far as possible. But suddenly the woman was shrieking and yelling to God for help! He saw all arms and feet stuck and sliding in muck, rump high in the air, and white short shorts showing everything to best advantage. His pants forgotten, Pete “The Max” Maxwell headed for action in the Mississippi River.

Jennie felt two bands of iron muscle slide around her middle and breathed a sigh of relief as her downward slide was halted, “Thank you, God. Thank you! You are truly compassionate, and I appreciate your kindness.” She managed a small smile, “I knew you wouldn’t let me down. I’ll bet you are a woman after all.”

“Don’t worry, Miss. I’m not God, but I’ll help.”

Jennie felt warm breath as a voice of masculine velvet moved closer to whisper in her ear, “And, although I can’t exactly say about Her, I am most definitely male. If God is a woman, She might be kind of surprised to have arms like mine.”

A buzz of humiliation washed over Jennie as her rescuer started pulling against the strength of the river. It seemed he talked incessantly the whole time they fought for release from the mud. “Of all the dumb, female, idiot explorer moves to pull, this has got to be the damnedest one I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. Lady, haven’t you got enough sense to realize that rivers have water in them and their banks are liable to be muddy?”

The conversation didn’t get any better as Pete heaved and tugged on her middle until the Mighty Mississippi released them from its clutches with loud, gooey slurps. Instinctively, he held onto the woman as he backed up the ramp with staggering steps. Suddenly, he lost his balance, taking her with him as they went down on the hot concrete. Pete winced and grunted when her bottom landed squarely between his legs.

A strange warmth permeated Jennie’s chest as unknown arms wrapped around her middle pulling her back against engulfing heat. Somehow, her stomach was being squeezed against her backbone, but it didn’t seem to mind.

Momentarily stunned, they both sat there for a second before his breath found her ear again, “I feel like Tarzan coming to the rescue of his Jane. Welcome home, sweetheart.”

Confused, Jennie looked down to see her breast gently cupped in a wonderfully firm hand. Liquid desire exploded from her ear to her breast and regions below. Bemused, she whispered to herself, “This is the way it’s meant to be...bliss; pure bliss.”

Pete felt her reaction. He moved his fingers a little, squeezing and milking her nipple to pebble hardness, “Like it, do you?”

“Uh huh.”

His other hand started to travel, “It can get better, babe.”

Suddenly, his reminder of her vulnerable position pushed and throbbed against her bottom. Jennie quickly realized she was sitting in a very masculine lap. “Take your hands off of me!” Still out of breath from her exertion, she exploded out of her warm refuge. Muddy feet propelled her back across the ramp as rough ridges in the concrete scraped her legs and burned her tender skin.

Pete winced, turning to protect his body from the assault of the wildly kicking woman, “I’m sorry, lady. I’m sorry!” He grinned, “It’s just a reflex; you’re beautiful, and I’m male. Who could blame me for trying to get in a little action?” He couldn’t resist adding, “After all, I did pull you out of the river.”

“I’m not your babe, ‘Babe’!” Jennie ignored her muddy state as a red tipped finger attached to a graceful hand and tanned arm pointed toward him, “Coming to my rescue doesn’t give you the right to cop a feel or ‘reflex you action’ against me.”

Pete raised his hands in defeat, “I understand, and I apologize, again. It’s obvious you’re a real lady. My mother raised me better, I swear she did.”

But her distressed wails continued to rend the air.

“What’s the matter now, lady?”

“My shoes!” Jennie looked at her feet in dismay, “You idiot! You made me lose my new shoes. I loved those shoes.” Her shrieks turned angry, “Oh, why didn’t you just leave me alone?”

Innocent righteousness won over compassion as Pete continued to sit on his section of the ramp, “Huh? You think I’m responsible for you losing your shoes?”

“Well? They’re certainly not on my feet, and you’re the one who tugged me so precipitously out of the river.”

Springing to his feet, Pete ignored her yells as he towered over her, “Say that again, ‘Babe’, and I’ll throw you back in the river!”

Stunned, Jennie sat there covered with mud and shoeless, feeling her face flame as red as her hair. She looked up, up, up forever, it seemed...well, she was starting at ground level, after all...at the biggest man she had ever seen, “What do you think you’re doing? Let me tell you, you’re not making any points with me. I do not appreciate being manhandled, lectured, ogled or intimidated!”

Pete looked into green eyes that were spitting fire, “She’s a fighter,” he thought. “Boyo, boyo, Pete. She’s a fighter.”

He walked a step closer, “Lectured? Lady I’ll lecture you all I want. Are you nuts, walking into a river like that? There’s awful stuff in that water and mud. Don’t you have a brain in that beautiful head? What were you thinking?” He pointed to his muddy feet and legs, “Now I’m a mess, too!”

Jennie glanced at the man’s clothes and did have the grace to look a little sheepish, “Well, I…” Her chagrin didn’t last long as the man continued his tirade. She watched him notch an opinionated thumb toward a low-slung sports car waiting in line. Just like the man standing in front of her, it was lean and mean...and radiated power. “I do not appreciate having to put this dirty body into my fine driving machine. I take a great deal of pride in that vehicle.”

“Humph! What is that thing, anyway?” Jennie raised her nose in the air, “It sure does look ‘different’.”

Pete couldn’t believe his ears. This insult was just too much to ignore, “Different? Of course it’s different. It’s a Bugatti Chiron for God’s sake!”

Jennie wasn’t going to let him know she was impressed, “Well, I sure haven’t seen many around.” She couldn’t resist adding a low voiced comment she knew only he would hear, “Trust someone like you to go for the weird, I guess.” Her thoughts were a little more dangerous and private, “Ha! I gotcha’ that time. I can hear your teeth gnashing together.”

Pete gulped and shut his eyes to block out his agony. The Chiron was a long awaited, forever wanted, hard to come by, splurge of joy that cost him a very nice bundle of greenbacks. He had picked it up while in New York, and the back roads seemed a pleasant way to really become acquainted with the ‘driver within’ as he returned home. The sticker price was close to three million dollars, but what the hell? He could afford it; he wanted it; and he didn’t squander money very often...especially that kind of money.

“Ya’ know, lady, I could really grow to dislike your attitude. You need to learn to appreciate the finer things in life.” Pete looked at Jennie’s car with total disgust, “You seem to have a different standard of neatness and pride in your transportation.”

Jennie sprang to her feet, “How dare you insult my Matilda. I certainly hope she didn’t hear what you said, because that car is very temperamental.” She jabbed Pete’s chest with another pointing finger, “If I start having car trouble, it will be all your fault.”

Totally ignoring her words and pointing finger, Pete watched Jennie’s mouth, “You have the most kissable pair of lips I’ve ever seen.”

Jennie’s hands flew up in exasperation, “Oooh! Why, you insufferable ape!”

In a flash, Pete swept the woman into his arms, “I don’t go for name calling and don’t insult the animals.” He gave her a little squeeze, “I like pointing fingers even less.”

Jennie yelped with surprise, instinctively keeping her hands out so she wouldn’t get either of them even muddier.

Pete grinned, “I figure a guy is entitled to some form of compensation for his trouble. Especially,” he added, “from an ungrateful female.”

Chapter Three

“What are you doing? Put me down this instant!” Pete winced as Jennie’s voice went up another notch, “Lady, did anyone ever tell you that you’ve got a shriek from hell?” He looked into her confused eyes, “No, I don’t think I will put you down. You’re barefoot and too much of a mess to make it back to your car by yourself. Besides, I have plans for keeping you right where you are a while longer.”

Shocked, Jennie started struggling with him. She wiggled around in his arms, and Pete “oompfed”, but he held onto her. Things were definitely getting interesting, “What’s your name?”

Surprised at his question, Jennie stopped struggling and answered truthfully before she even thought about it, giving her professional title. “I’m Dr. Jane Ann Truelove, Professor of Human Relationships Studies at the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg.”

There,” she thought, “That ought to take the wind out of his sails.”

He reacted all right, but Jennie didn’t understand the oddly pleased look that crossed the man’s intense face or his answer. They weren’t what she expected at all. “Jane,” he finally said, “I should have known.”

Stammering a little, Jennie added, “My friends call me, ‘Jennie’.”

Pete ignored her explanation, “Nope. You’re ‘Jane’ for sure.” Suddenly he smiled, “Well, Jane, you better get ready because you’ve just met your Tarzan.” Pete couldn’t believe the corny words had come out of his mouth, but his gut knew they were true. He looked down at the mass of stinking Mississippi mud and femininity in his arms, “I’m a ‘Done Duck’.”

He held Jennie closer, waiting for her green eyes to look up at him. Then he spoke softly, “I’m going to kiss you.”

“The hell you are!” Jennie started squirming so much that Pete was caught by surprise. She finally managed to push away from him, running for more distant and solid ground.

Long legs were making tracks for safety, but Pete was having none of it. He reached out to grab Jennie’s wrist, pulling her back to him. Then he simply lifted her under her arms as he would have a small child.

“For Gawd’s sake,” she whispered, “I’m dangling!”

Pete perused and caroused her to his heart’s content. Jennie heard him talking to himself saying something about ducks. “Yep, I’m a ‘Done Duck’ with a capital ‘D’. You’ll do.”

Jennie didn’t understand, “Ducks? What’s ducks got to do with anything?”

But Pete didn’t answer her question. Leaning back a little, he shook his head in seeming defeat, and then he kissed her. When he pulled away, he watched as Jennie’s luscious lips formed a perfect circle of astonishment. Green eyes softened, and confusion clouded their rich depths.


Triumph radiated from Pete, and he kissed her again...very slowly, very thoroughly and with great masculine satisfaction.

At five feet, ten inches, Jennie considered herself to be a good-sized girl. Suddenly she realized her feet were still swinging through thin air, “Good grief, Charlie Brown! How can he be doing this?” But he was, and seemingly for as long as he wanted. Jennie spoke carefully and clearly even though she was gritting her teeth with frustration. Watching to make sure the man heard each and every word, her instructions were simple; she wanted no mistakes, “Put me down. Now!”

Pete smiled, but he didn’t release her. Instead, he raised her up in the air a few more inches, “Oh, no, not quite yet. I’m not done with you…yet.” His eyes turned dark, intense, as they touched every possible inch of her. Head-to-foot and everywhere in between, he didn’t miss a spot. He even turned her a little side-to-side to take a look at her muddy backside. Finally, his eyes moved back to her face, “What does a Professor of Human Relationships Studies study at the University of Central Missouri?”

“Listen, mister, I’m not a student. I teach!”

“Oh yeah?” Pete wasn’t impressed, “Well, then, Ms. Teacher, just what do you teach?”

Fury erupted in Jennie’s veins, the result of the mischievous gleam in the man’s eyes, “I know what you’re doing. You’re pushing me on purpose.”

Pete managed to look confused, “Pushing? No, Jane. I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. To me, ‘pushing’ means to make someone or something go away.” Incredibly, he raised her a few more inches, “Personally, I would say I’m helping you go up in the world.” His voice was a low growl, “Now then, Ms. Teacher, I’ll ask again, Just what do you teach?”

Jennie was desperate and furious. The quiet menace in the man’s voice sent shivers through her soul, “All right; I’ll tell you. I teach SEX!

Pete couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing at her brave answer.

Jennie snorted with disgust, “Well, Ms. Teacher, you certainly made the guy hesitate!” She knew her chance was brief, “Act now, Jennie, while you’ve got the element of surprise.” Using the good training her brothers had given her, Jennie doubled up her fist and popped Pete “dead center” in the schnoz. It was obviously quite a “pop” considering the amount of blood that immediately gushed out of his nose. Her eyes gleamed as he sucked in air and blood streamed down his face. She smiled with complete satisfaction, “Gotcha, ‘Babe’.”

Pete certainly reacted strongly. He dropped Jennie so suddenly her teeth clacked together, causing her to bite her tongue. Grabbing his face, he started a war dance like a chicken on a hot plate. “Why did you do that,” he shouted at her, “You broke my nose!”

Meanwhile, Jennie covered her mouth with the palm of her muddy hand and started her own dance. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and she wasn’t at all sure about the state of her dental work or poor tongue. Prudence won out over pain, and she took off at a dead run for her car. But she stopped long enough to yell back at him, “Your nose isn’t broken, it’s just bleeding.”

At the car, she turned around to yell again, “You’re weird, ya’ know that? You got a thing for birds or something? I promise you, mister, that I will break your nose if you ever touch me again. Jennie quickly jumped into the driver’s seat, locking the car door as she fumbled for her keys, “Where are they, Sara Beth? I left the keys in the ignition.”

Squirming around in her seat, Sara Beth sat up a little straighter, “Oh! I took them out because I got in the trunk for a minute. I think I put them back in my purse. I’ll look”

Jennie moaned and hit her head on the steering wheel, “Sara Beth, looking in your purse is like looking for the tip of a needle in the proverbial haystack.”

Sara Beth handed the keys to Jennie with a triumphant look, “I guess we’re lucky for once. They weren’t too far toward the bottom.” She watched the angry man heading toward their car, “Jennie, a locked door with a lowered window won’t do us much good.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Jennie frantically started the ignition and raised the power windows just as Pete got to her door. Safely inside the locked car, she smiled through the glass, and waved a fluttery goodbye as her car rolled forward on the ramp.

Pete grabbed her door handle without success and then pounded the car’s roof with frustration, “I’m not through with you. Come back here!”

The ferryboat had come in while Jennie and Pete were having their conversation. It was her turn, so she carefully drove Matilda onto the deck and parked where indicated by the man directing traffic. The ferryman held up his hand to signal no more cars would fit on the deck. Pete’s car, the last on the ramp, was left behind as the ferry churned away.

Sara Beth looked out the window at the lonely figure left standing on the river’s bank, “That man sure is mad, Jennie. He’s still standing there yelling.” She glanced back again, “Now he’s shaking his fist at you.”

Suddenly Jennie rolled down her window and yelled back toward the shore, “Thank heavens this will be a once in a lifetime experience, never to be repeated!” She shuddered and crossed her arms to hug herself a little. Nervous reactions set in, and her hands shook when she wiped wet hair out of her face. A muddy finger, stuck in her mouth, carefully checked out her tongue and teeth, What a disaster!” But she forgot her pain as she watched the man in the rear view mirror.

He was holding a big, white and very bloody handkerchief to his nose and his voice floated across the water to them, “That’s what you think, Jane. This Tarzan’s not through with you.”

Jennie didn’t hear him softly add, “What a woman! I’ll never be through with you.”

Chapter Four

Worn out from all the excitement, Jennie leaned back against her headrest and shut her eyes, “Yes, I know he was mad, Sara Beth. So what else is new?”

Sara Beth couldn’t help a slight snicker, “Well, for one, you’ve got quite a crowd of admirers on this boat.”

“What?” Startled, Jennie opened her eyes to see the other passengers on the ferry standing by their cars, talking, and pointing at her.

One lady yelled, “You go, girl!”

“Oh, God,” Jennie slid down lower in her seat, unsuccessfully trying to hide.

“Would you…” Sara Beth started to speak and then shut her mouth. Seconds later, she tried again, “Would you mind telling me, your very good friend who knows you so well clear from second grade at Frances Willard School, what happened back there?” She waited impatiently, muttering under her breath, “It’s not that I’m curious or anything. Wouldn’t want you to think that. But I surely would like to know what caused that ruckus.”

Her hands drew pictures in the air, “I mean...you don’t ever put out on a first date...and all of a sudden you’re hot-to-trot with a complete stranger? What happened, Jennie?” She couldn’t help addressing the other obvious question, “What were you doing down there anyway? Don’t you realize that rivers have water in them and their banks are liable to be muddy?”

Jennie’s face flamed red heat as she gritted her teeth, “Yes, Sara Beth, I understand about mud and water. He asked me the same dumb questions. And I didn’t put out.”

“Really.” Sara Beth’s raised eyebrows spoke volumes, “Ya’ coulda’ fooled me.”

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(Pages 1-22 show above.)