Home > The Harmony of Holly

The Harmony of Holly
Author: Liz Isaacson




Cactus Glover put on his left blinker and turned into a cul-de-sac. The teenagers in the back seat had fallen silent a couple of minutes ago, and he wasn’t sure what to make of that. He couldn’t believe he’d allowed Aurora Martin and Oliver Walker to come along on this little expedition in the first place.

He glanced over at Lincoln, who sat in the front seat. The boy pointed up ahead. “It’s that one on the left. The blue house.”

“All right.” Cactus pulled into the driveway of the appointed house, which stood two stories tall and could easily fit three of his houses inside. His brother, Bishop, and his fiancée, Montana, had started construction on the Edge Cabin. It would be another few months at least until the expansion and remodel finished, but Cactus had made peace with the dust.

Sort of. As much peace as Cactus could make with anything, he’d made it with the constant film of dirt in his house.

He worked all the time, so at least he didn’t have to be home with the hammering, sawing, and loud music Bishop liked to play while working on a project.

Their birthing season at Shiloh Ridge had extended into March this year, and Cactus frowned just thinking about it.

“You’re still gonna get the dog, right?” Lincoln asked.

“Yes,” Cactus said.

“We’re just sittin’ here,” Link said.

“We’re waitin’ for Grandmother,” Cactus said. He caught movement in his rearview mirror. A black truck eased in front of the blue house, kissing the curb as Cactus had taken the driveway. “There she is. Everyone out.”

He opened his door and got out of the sedan he’d bought so he could take Willa Knowlton to dinner. Aurora and Ollie got out on his side, and the teens immediately locked hands again. He swallowed back the pinch in his chest, as well as his annoyance, and stepped down the driveway.

“Donald,” he said, reaching to shake his mother’s boyfriend’s hand. “Mother.” He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, noting they reached for each other too. He turned away, telling himself that he’d see Willa soon. Hopefully.

He exhaled out and faced the white front door. “All right. Let’s go check out these dogs.” He reached for Lincoln so he’d have someone’s hand to hold, even if it was a nine-year-old’s. He also told himself he was thrilled his mother had found someone to spend good time with. Donald made her laugh and smile in a way Cactus hadn’t seen for a while, and he’d spent so much time observing everyone in the Glover family, he felt like he would know.

“Jace says they’re so cute,” Link said, trying to dance ahead of Cactus. “Are you gonna get the gray one or the black one?” He looked up at Cactus, pure wonder in his wide eyes.

Cactus loved the boy with his whole heart, and he smiled at him. “I’m not sure yet,” he said. “I want to see ‘em both again.”

“But we’re taking them home today, right?” Link asked. “And you said I could sleep over, remember, Cactus? So I can help with the puppy.”

“I remember,” Cactus said, trying to keep the dryness out of his voice. Lincoln had asked him about fifty times if he could sleep over to help Cactus with his new puppy, as if he couldn’t do it himself. Cactus had had a few dogs over the years, and he knew what to do with a pup, but he’d told Lincoln that of course he needed the boy’s help.

Cactus was almost forty-four years old, and if he didn’t have to take the dog out in the middle of the night, he was all for that.

Besides, Sammy and Bear—Lincoln’s parents—were expecting their baby any day now, and Cactus had agreed to be in charge of the boy. He could feed a child and make sure he got his homework done. Lincoln loved to come out to the edge and read to Cactus anyway, and he came almost every day as it was. Driving him to school would be the only thing Cactus wasn’t currently doing that he’d have to add to his plate.

That task got him to town, and he’d asked Willa if she might be able to go to breakfast next week.

Since Christmas Eve, when he’d gotten his cousin’s message and hurried to the barn because Willa was there, they’d been out a few times. Her schedule had changed, as she’d picked up her sermons again, and she’d taken a long-term substitute teaching job at the high school, leading all three choirs there.

Cactus had heard the woman sing, and she could take that position permanently and take the music department into the stratosphere. She possessed the voice of an angel, and her soprano voice melded well with his deep, bass tone.

He didn’t always get to sit next to her in church, but when he did, he sure did like it. She let him hold her hand—at least until she had to sign to Mitchell. Her son.

Since she’d regained custody of him, Willa had grown exponentially busier. Cactus still had cattle to monitor, and then branding sat right around the corner. Then he’d spearhead the breeding at Shiloh Ridge, and after that, he’d have to administer all the antibiotics for the year before they drove their cattle out into the nearby hills and wilderness.

If Mother Nature kept the rain to a minimum, summer was actually his easiest time. He worked a lot once birthing season started, and from about November to May, he seriously wondered why he loved maintaining a healthy herd so much.

He reached the front door first, and he rang the doorbell. It warbled on the other side of the door, and more than one dog began to bark. He looked down at Link. “I’m not takin’ one if they yap all the time.” That was the last thing he needed.

“We can train ‘im up real good,” Link said. “Benny doesn’t bark, because Bear trained him not to.”

“Yes, well, I’m not Bear.” Cactus had been living in his older brother’s shadow forever, and he normally didn’t mind. Bear wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but there were very few people or beasts who dared to defy him.

Cactus put on a spiny skin and barked out mean things to protect himself and keep others away, but he really had a heart of marshmallow. If he got a puppy and it wanted to bark, well, he’d probably let it.

The front door opened, and a little boy Lincoln’s age stood there. He looked up at Cactus with wide, round eyes, and then he looked at Lincoln. “Heya, Link.”

“Hi, Jace.” Link let go of Cactus’s hand and went inside the house. “Can we see the puppies? My uncle says he’s not real sure which one he wants.”

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