Esther hadn’t cared a bit whether Reuben was her remote cousin or the Crown Prince of England. All through childhood, he’d been her chief tormentor. How he’d teased and taunted her, pulling on her long chocolate-brown braids, and sneaking frogs into her desk or dropping spiders in her hair!
And how he had laughed when she’d lost her temper, calling him a scrawny, good-for-nothing street rat!
But she’d never forget the summer when her family had traveled upstate to visit a genuine horse ranch.
Reuben had already graduated, and she’d envied his newly gained freedom. She certainly hadn’t expected him to tag along with her family, even though his younger brothers had been invited.
He’d already made it clear—in her hearing, anyway—that he was far too grown up for such childish outings.
But since he hadn’t yet found a summer job, and Levi and Benjamin had begged him to come (or so he’d claimed), she’d found herself reluctantly jammed beside him in their rusty old station wagon all the way there.
He’d been careful not to provoke her around the adults…but when the dozen-odd youngsters had been turned loose to ride sedate ponies one golden afternoon, he’d found ample chances.
The younger kids had thought he was funny. But Esther had been incensed by his snide comments and mocking sneers. It had seemed like all his nasty little jokes were aimed specifically at her.