Anything for Her - By Janice Kay Johnson


TOUCH DELICATE, Nolan Radek slid his hands over the broad slab of granite. He’d once been told he had the gift of “stone hands,” a description he’d liked. He closed his eyes, the better to feel instead of relying on sight. Silky The pads of his fingertips found a hint of roughness there.

Opening his eyes, he studied it, turned the sander back on and eased it over the spot, then tested again. Better. He stroked the entire slab, which would be a garden bench, and was pleased with the vinelike effect of the darker veins within a pale green base. Occasional splashes of rusty-red might be the flowers.

The client had asked for a bench that would appear part of the landscape, having the solidity of stone and yet surprising the eye when it picked the bench out from the surrounding greenery.

A diamond polishing pad added more gloss—not too much. Neither garden bench nor sculpture should have the mirror shine of a kitchen countertop, but it should be lustrous to the touch. Instinct and long practice told him when to stop.

The two massive chunks that would form the support had been left rough-hewn but for a few asymmetrical streaks of smoothed granite that highlighted texture and grain. He intended to polish only the part of the back that would come in contact with the human body. Contrasts in texture were part of nature.

Tempted to start work on that slab, Nolan reluctantly decided to wait until morning. He had a kid now, and it was time he put on dinner.

Besides, he was a little surprised that Sean hadn’t come out to the workshop since he got home from school. He was usually eager to help. Nolan supposed it wasn’t uncommon for foster kids to work hard to please in hopes they’d be allowed to stay.

Having removed his ear protection, Nolan ran his fingers through his hair and shook his head like a dog springing from the pond. Granite dust flew. He shed his coveralls, hanging them beside the back door, and used the utility sink to sluice off his hands and face. He checked to make sure everything was unplugged, turned off all the lights, then locked up and strode the short distance across the backyard to the farmhouse he called home.

After letting himself in the kitchen door, Nolan listened to the silence. Not that long ago, he’d been content to work alone all day, then go home to an empty house at night. No longer. But instead of calling for Sean, he went upstairs, lightly knocked on the bedroom door then pushed it open.

The boy was kneeling in front of his dresser. In a flurry of movement that seemed to hold alarm, he tried to poke something in the bottom drawer and shove it closed. His cheeks flushed.

“That your grandmother’s quilt top?” Nolan asked. He was careful to sound neutral, to pretend not to notice that Sean was embarrassed to be caught looking at it. Or had he been holding it, like a toddler with his blankie?

“Great-great-grandmother,” he mumbled.

“Right.” Nolan sat at the foot of the twin bed. “Do you mind if I take a look at it?”

He knew that it was damn near all this boy had in the way of a legacy from his family. From the sound of it, the only person who’d ever cared at all about Sean was the grandmother who’d taken him in when he was seven or eight, after his dad died.

He didn’t so much as remember his mother, didn’t even have a picture of her. Apparently she’d flitted off with some other man not long after her little boy took his first step.

The way Nolan had heard it, even though Sean’s grandma had been too old to raise an active boy, she had never considered consigning him to foster care. In death, she hadn’t had any choice. Unfortunately, his first foster placement had been a disaster. Nolan knew trust was going to be slow in coming.

The boy shrugged with exaggerated indifference. “Sure. I guess.” He pulled the drawer open again and took out the bundle of fabric, holding it up to Nolan, who checked to be sure he really had gotten his hands clean, then shook the quilt top out over the twin bed.

Like most men, he didn’t know much about quilts. But for some reason he knew he’d recognize a design called Log Cabin. He guessed it was a pretty common one, once upon a time. A woman could use just