Deep in Georgia’s farmland, crops are dying. In panic over their future, local men try to determine a way to stop the drought. Grasping at straws, they believe if they refrain from kissing their wives, their crops will thrive. Thus begins The Anti-Kissing Club. A spoiled, wealthy young man from New York travels to Georgia to help his ailing uncle and falls in love with a local.
Giving an unladylike snort, Esther Taylor said, “Leila Hooper is your mother? No one’s heard nary a word from her since she ran off with that Englishman and now she’s sending you to help?”
Standish straightened his shoulders. “Yes, ma’am. Leila Standish is my mother, and that Englishman is my father.” His hostility toward Esther Taylor’s words showed clearly on his face.
To deflate the tension in the room, Millie handed him more items. “If you would place these on the counter, we’ll have your order filled in no time.”
She faced Mrs. Taylor. “You know where the material is Miz Taylor. If you see something there you like, I’ll be with you as soon as I’m finished with Mr. Standish.”
But the woman didn’t move, just watched Standish walk toward the counter.
Hoping to draw the stubborn woman’s attention away from Geoffrey, she asked, “Are you making a new dress for Sunday’s social this week, Miz Taylor?”
Since the woman was not only the banker’s wife, but the town gossip, Millie had no doubt that within the hour everyone in Napierville would know Leila Hooper’s son was in own.
“Yes, dear, I am. You’ll be there, too, won’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am, wouldn’t miss it.”
Millie drew the ladder along the track and climbed up several rungs to reach for two bags of coffee beans. The weight of the second bag threw her slightly off balance. Before she steadied herself, two strong hands grabbed her waist. As if she weighed no more than a feather, those same hands lifted her and placed her safely on the floor.
He turned her and peered deeply into her eyes. “You okay?”
Millie couldn’t speak. Just nodded and stared up into those eyes. Eyes as blue as a Robin’s egg.
Storming over, Mrs. Taylor pulled her away from Standish’s grasp, then spun on him and wagged her finger in his face. “Young man, did your mother teach you no manners at all? It’s not proper to touch a young woman you don’t know. We’re not some small backwards town. We have manners down here, unlike what I hear about people who live in large cities.”
For several seconds Standish only stared at her. Then a smirk edged his lips. “I’d probably know her a lot better by now if some nosy busybody wasn’t in the store with us.”
“Well, I never!”
“No, ma’am, I imagine you haven’t. I’ve been in town less than a week now and I’ve already heard about the ridiculous Anti-Kissing League. No wonder everyone’s disposition is so sour in this one-horse town.” He quirked a brow at the older woman. “Or are y’all always this rude to people?”
Mrs. Taylor sputtered. “Well I…I…I should have expected no less from Leila Hooper’s young’un. Anyone that would run away with some foreign traveling salesman and leave her family without a word is no lady.”
Standish’s eyes narrowed, but his voice remained level. “Ma’am, I suggest you not say one more derogatory word about my mother. If you don’t like my behavior now, you certainly won’t like it if you continue.”
He shifted to face Millie.
“Miss Millicent, I believe it’s best I leave now.” He reached for the bags of flour and sugar. “I’ll take these for now, then be back tomorrow for the rest of the supplies and to settle Uncle Henry’s account.”
Without another word, he crossed the store and strode out the door.
Millie hurried to the window and watched the material pull taught across his thighs as he eased himself up to the seat on the wagon. Before he flicked the reins to start the horse in motion, Geoffrey Standish winked at her.
And then he was gone.