Teddy Weston's worn boots barely hit the three steps of the back porch before he ripped open the screen door and marched inside. Like a dog on a trail, he followed the delectable smell into the large kitchen.
His eyes popped at the sight of the long-time housekeeper, Florence, straightening from the oven, a steaming tray of cookies in hand.
He slapped his hands together. "I knew it. Oatmeal!"
Flo ignored him and slid the hot tray to a cooling rack. Even at twenty-six years old, Teddy hesitated before reaching for one. The older woman was lightning-fast with her spatula, and more than once the back of his hand had felt its sting. This time, however, she merely shook her head as he rescued one gooey-soft treat from the tray.
Teddy shoved it in his mouth, wincing at how hot the familiar cinnamon-oatmeal creation felt in his mouth. "God, that's good!"He closed his eyes briefly, then reached for another. "What's the occasion? It's not my birthday."
Florence shrugged and slipped another full tray of cookie dough into the oven. "Your brother asked me to bake them."
Teddy frowned. "Which brother?"
She brushed a loose strand of gray hair back and turned to the sink with the now empty mixing bowl. "Cord."
Teddy munched on a third cookie, a fourth in his hand, and started to respond, but one glare from Flo had him chewing and swallowing first. "Cord hates oatmeal cookies. Why would he want them?"He pulled a carton of milk out of the refrigerator and shifted his gaze to her. With her back to him as she rinsed utensils in the sink, he quickly lifted the carton to his mouth.
"Get a glass,"Flo ordered without turning around.
He smiled. "Just testing; wanted to make sure you weren't getting senile or something."Reaching in the cupboard, he pulled down a tall glass and filled it before setting the empty carton back in the refrigerator. "So, why'd Cord want the cookies?"
"I don't question. Cord asks for so little from me that I was glad to oblige."
Teddy rolled his eyes. His oldest brother was second only to God in the old woman's eyes.
"Does he have a new girlfriend who has a weakness for oatmeal cookies?"He paused as dread washed over him. Or maybe he was going to ask Teddy to do something that required some sweetening up first. The last time Cord had Flo bake special cookies was right before he told him he'd have to ride fence line in the pouring rain. He glanced out the window at the bright blue skies, but it didn't do anything to change his suspicions.
"Where's Cord? In the office?"
Florence nodded. "Yep, said to let him know when you got back."She gave him a pointed look.
Teddy shook his head. "You never saw me. I mean it, Flo, I wasn't here."He snagged three more cookies from the pile and hightailed it out the back door as if the devil himself were chasing him. He didn't stop until he was on the other side of the horseshoe driveway. Once safe inside the other house, the one where he and his three brothers grew up, he tossed his hat on the hook on the wall and clambered up the staircase to his bedroom.
Cord and his unspoken request were quickly forgotten as he sat down at the desk in his room to face his laptop. Maybe today was the day he'd get some news.
"My penis doesn't need any help. It's working just fine,"he scoffed, deleting all the junk e-mail. A quick glance through the rest of his inbox didn't reveal anything new since he'd checked last night.
Teddy sighed and pushed to his feet, the uneaten cookies left on the desk as he paced the room. Standing in front of his window, he looked out over the vast ranch yard. All the money and prestige of his family's name hadn't budged the adoption process--it continued to move at a snail's pace.