Texas Trio Pt. 02 – Becky’s Debt Ch. 13
May 26, 2021 // By:analsex // No Comment
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REMINDER: I write long stories. Many chapters don’t have naughty bits, but those that do will be more fun if you read the others, too! Also, although TT2 is a stand-alone novel, it takes place in the same family as Texas Trio, so you might want to read that first! –Stefanie
Becky had only seen Mr. Easton twice from a distance since their encounter in the library. Though he’d tipped his hat to her the first time and to her entire family—in a wagon on their way to church—the second, she’d cut him both times, turning her head away instead of nodding politely as the other women did.
She didn’t want anything to do with Brody Easton.
So when Catherine sent her to answer a knock at the front door, the last person she was expecting to find on the other side was Mr. Easton. After the first few seconds of slack-mouthed shock at finding herself staring into those pale grey eyes again, Becky’s nineteen years of social indoctrination saved her from total idiocy.
Becky greeted Brody with a smile and a pleasant “Good evening”—at least that’s what she thought she’d said—and took his hat, then led him into the parlor. She didn’t even ask why he was at the door: clean clothing, a fresh shave and his hair combed back had already answered the question.
“Please have a seat while I fetch a drink for you. Would you like coffee or something stronger? We have ginger beer and rye whiskey.”
“Coffee would be lovely, Miss Connor.”
Her smile firmly affixed, Becky returned to the kitchen. “Catherine,” she said, as sweetly as she could with her back teeth clenched, “your dinner guest has arrived.”
“Who?” Catherine was folding napkins and didn’t look up, but answered her own question. “Oh, that’s right. I told Jeremiah to invite Mr. Easton for dinner. I don’t think he knows anyone in the area.”
Becky filled a china cup with coffee from the pot on the stove, placed it on a small silver tray, and waved one of the younger maids to her side. “Louella, would you please take this to Mr. Easton in the parlor and inform him that Mrs. Connor will be there directly?”
Cat looked up just as Louella departed. “Oh no–” she halted as Colt came in from the porch, carrying Jamie.
He interrupted his wife, ” ‘Oh no’ is right, my lovely.”
Cat hurried to take Jamie from him. “Where in the world–?”
“My wife will not be entertaining Mr. Easton in the parlor or anywhere else. Ever,” Colt answered Becky, his big hand resting on Jamie’s blond head. “You and I will go sit and talk pretty with him until Cookie calls us.”
He turned to Cat, who was looking up with a question on her face, while she held tightly to Jamie, who was squirming to be put down. “He was on the roof of the storeroom.”
Every woman in the room gasped and turned to stare at the little boy. The pantry, while directly below the nursery windows, was built at ground level, and the roof was at least a four-foot drop from the room above.
Jamie, who ceased wiggling immediately upon becoming the center of attention, stuck his index finger in his mouth and put his head down on his mother’s shoulder, looking for all the world as though he were about to drop right off to sleep.
Catherine gasped again as she realized the implication, thrusting Jamie back into Colt’s arms as she turned and sprinted for the stairs, her skirts aloft. Colt was right behind her, cursing, and Nanny behind him.
Becky hurried along in their wake, pausing outside the parlor, where Mr. Easton and Louella stood staring. She lingered, listening until the noise in the hallway above ended precipitously. After a few long moments of silence, she sighed in relief and went forward to join the others. Her smile came easily. “I apologize for the furor, Mr. Easton. My nephew escaped, and we were naturally concerned about the whereabouts of his twin brother.
“That silence tells me all is well.” Becky nodded a dismissal at Louella, who’d been gaping dumbly.
Everyone else would be back down soon, so she and Mr. Easton wouldn’t be without a chaperone for long. Although, if Nanny saw them first, Becky would probably get a pinch for the infraction.
She turned back to Mr. Easton, her earlier anxiety dulled by the emotional moment. Compared to the potential of her nephews being hurt, a touch of social awkwardness was negligible.
“Please, have a seat.” She gestured at the settee, claiming a chair nearby.
She struggled for a moment to find a neutral topic. The library was off-limits, of course.
Mr. Easton rescued her. “Do your nephews often . . . cause this kind of . . . .”
He was struggling to find a neutral word, too, Becky thought.
“Mischief?” she finished for him, smiling and earning a grateful one in return.
“Yes, I’m afraid James and Kent are adventurous, and that can be rather exciting for their parents and the rest of the family.”
Mr. Easton sipped his coffee, lowering his eyes as he did so, and bahis firmaları Becky abruptly knew exactly what he was thinking, as though he’d said the words aloud. She’d said “parents,” and he was wondering who the boys’ parents were. She suppressed a giggle and let her own eyes fall.
Even people who knew the family well had questions about that, since Jamie and Kent were born of the same mother, on the same day, but their looks could hardly have been more disparate. Jamie was tow-headed, with curls, freckles, and light green eyes, while Kent’s brown skin was halfway to being as dark as his hair and eyes. Lily was obviously sired by Colt, but the twins had stumped everyone.
Doctor Malone, the midwife, and the two oldest grannies in the county, who’d seen everything several times over, all came to the same quick conclusion independently: the boys weren’t technically twins. Kent, who was smaller, was an eight-month baby, conceived later and of a different sire, than James. Which made perfect, if shocking, sense.
Unfortunately for Mr. Easton, there was no possibility of Becky taking pity on him and offering an explanation. She smiled and glanced up to find Mr. Easton’s cup motionless, halfway between his mouth and saucer, while his eyes rested firmly on her lips.
Her secret smile faded as Brody’s eyes lifted to hers.
The silence grew. Neither moved or looked away. Mr. Easton’s pale silver irises glittered in the lamplight.
Grey eyes. . . what was that article about optical imperfections in light-colored eyes? If he’d stop staring like that, she’d be able to think . . . .
Becky began to feel dizzy and realized she wasn’t breathing.
Just then the front door slammed, and Jeremiah strode into view beyond the wide archway. He looked from Becky’s pale, unsmiling face to Brody’s stricken expression and came to an inevitable conclusion. “What the hell?” he yelled, leaping forward.
Waving a hand in alarm, Becky managed to stand and step into Jem’s path before he got within punching distance, but Mr. Easton stood, too, leaving Becky with only six inches of space on either side of her body, and two large, angry, heat-producing men looming over her. She fainted.
When she opened her eyes, she was lying on the settee with Catherine hovering above, fanning her face with a handkerchief. Jem and Colt stood outside the parlor, glaring at Mr. Easton, who now occupied the chair Becky had relinquished a moment ago. Becky tried to sit up, but Catherine pushed her back down, as Nanny hurried into the room with a glass of water in her hand.
No tray? Becky thought dumbly. Nanny must really be upset.
Cat put an arm around Becky’s shoulders and helped her to a sitting position while Nanny held the glass to her lips. After only a few sips, she felt better, and her head cleared. She tried to swing her feet off the settee, but Nanny stubbornly blocked the motion. Becky pursed her lips. “Oh, don’t be silly, Nanny. I’m fine.”
The older woman’s narrowed eyes told Becky her simple statement wouldn’t suffice, and Becky had come around enough by then to realize why Colt and Jem were standing all the way across the room. Catherine had banished them from the parlor before they could grind Mr. Easton into a fine heap of cowboy-colored dust.
She raised her voice enough to be sure they’d hear her confession, “I’m laced too tight.”
It wasn’t true, and Mr. Easton probably wouldn’t believe it, but her brothers relaxed, frowns fading, fists unfolding.
Becky didn’t look at Mr. Easton while Nanny helped her to her feet, Cat standing watch on her other side. She couldn’t look at him. It was too much. He was too much. The looks he gave her, the intensity of whatever it was that filled the space between them. Her. She herself was too much when Brody Easton was nearby.
Becky didn’t know what was the matter with her, but she knew it originated with him, and she didn’t want to feel this way. She resolved to act as though no one other than family were at home this evening. If Mr. Easton weren’t here, she could hardly be affected by his presence, now, could she?
She patted her hair, secured the amber combs which nearly matched it, then smoothed her skirt and smiled determinedly. “Please tell me dinner is ready: I’m famished!”
Nanny hurried to the kitchen while Cat walked Becky to the dining room, gesturing to the men to follow. She wouldn’t let Becky lend a hand, but with Nanny and Louella, plus the new girl, Cookie had plenty of help in the kitchen tonight, even with Yan upstairs safeguarding the boys and the family sitting down together.
At the oblong table, Catherine seated Mr. Easton to her right and Becky next to him. Colt and Jem sat across the way, leaving Nanny the end opposite Catherine, though her husbands usually fought for the seat at the head of the table until Nanny swatted one of them.
Becky kept her eyes on her plate and glass, or spoke to Nanny on her right, as Louella kaçak iddaa and the new girl served. Their first, semi-innocuous topic of conversation was, of course, Jamie.
“On the roof?” Jem asked incredulously, echoing the general response, after Catherine told him where they’d found the boy.
Colt nodded without looking up from his soup bowl.
Jem laughed half-heartedly. “It’s bad enough we have loose cattle,” he said, referring to the trouble-maker still snipping fences around the ranch, “now we have loose boys to worry about, too.”
Assuming, from past experiences, that the incident would be repeated, everyone but Becky and Brody discussed strategies to keep the boys from harm. Even Louella pitched in as she refilled their beverages. “My ma useta tie a bell to my sister’s wrist, so as to hear her up at night.”
That suggestion had merit, they all agreed, but the boys would no doubt figure out how to untie a string.
“How ’bout shackles?” Colt joked, flinching theatrically as Nanny threatened to reach right past Jem’s nose and whack him with her spoon.
“Maybe it’s time to add a wing.” Jem directed his comment to Colt. With three children in the nursery now, the room was too crowded for Yan’s cot, which led to a lack of direct night-time supervision, which led to children on the roof.
He was occupied fending Nanny off with his napkin, but Colt nodded in agreement. If he hadn’t been distracted, he would have stopped there, but he added, “Weren’t we talkin’ about it . . .?”
Colt’s voice trailed off, and everyone but Brody froze.
Catherine went back to her soup immediately, but Becky could hear the shaky little breaths her sister took as she wrestled for control. It had been more than a year since baby Andrew died, but that was an event from which no mother ever truly recovered. They all exchanged emotional glances, ranging from near-panic (Colt’s) to sad resignation (Nanny’s), but no one said a word.
Brody broke the silence. “This consommé is delicious, Mrs. Connor. Is that celery root which gives it such a rich flavor?”
Catherine huffed in amusement, then blotted the corners of her mouth to cover the faux pas. “No, Mr. Easton, I believe Cookie uses mushrooms in her stock.”
Everyone sighed in relief and returned to their dinner.
“Are you a chef, Mr. Easton?” Catherine asked.
Brody cleared his throat. “No, ma’am, but I’ve been told I make truly excellent toast.”
Even Becky smiled at that, though her face was tipped down and hidden from Mr. Easton by the tilt of her head, and she was stubbornly trying to ignore anything he said.
“My husbands tell me your family comes from South Carolina originally. Becky and I have some distant cousins in Columbia: I wonder if you might know the Brentwells?”
“No, ma’am,” Brody replied. “I was very young when I left Greenville, but I highly doubt my family would mix in the same social circles as your own. I come from a long line of hungry, unlucky land-owners.”
Becky was so attuned to the conversation that she could hear the absence of a reply while Catherine thought out what she wanted to say.
“Pardon me for asking, Mr. Easton, but how is it that you learned of consommé and Charles Dickens under such difficult circumstances?”
Brody chuckled, apparently unoffended, and shifted his weight to one side while Louella and the new girl exchanged their bowls for plates of the same Staffordshire flow blue.
When the girls finished serving the main course, Mr. Easton answered, “My foster mother was also from a poor family, but her ancestors were scholars rather than farmers, and she encouraged me to read as much as possible. I suspect I would have been in much more trouble as a youth were it not for her influence. I may have climbed from a few windows myself.”
The ladies laughed, and Jem chuckled under his breath, but Colt’s icy stare didn’t soften.
Becky quickly curtailed a giggle, but her amusement lasted longer than it should have due to her brother-in-law’s bristly attitude. He’d been darting sharp looks at the man to her left all evening long, arrows of hostility and suspicion. If she didn’t know better, she might be scared of him herself, but he’d been in love with her sister when they met, and Becky had always known Colt as a loving, humorous husband and father—though she’d once seen him beat a cowboy half to death for mistreating a mare. Mr. Easton should feel fortunate to be the recipient of only a few vicious glares.
Nanny picked up the reins of quizzing the newcomer. “Miz Cat says you live way out west.”
Brody nodded. “Yes’m. San Francisco.”
“And that city is right on the water, like Galveston?”
“Yes’m,” Brody repeated, “but instead of being flat, it’s built mainly on the sides of steep hills overlooking the ocean and bay.”
“You have rooms right in the town?”
“You live alone, Mr. Easton?”
Becky thought she did a good job appearing kaçak bahis unconcerned while Mr. Easton finished chewing.
He wiped his mouth before answering. “Yes, ma’am.”
Becky managed a breath and a bite before Catherine added, “You haven’t a sweetheart or anxious bride awaiting your return?”
Becky kept her eyes on her plate, fighting a less severe wave of dizziness than the one to which she’d succumbed in the parlor.
“No, ma’am, I don’t.”
Becky’s vision cleared, but Nanny wasn’t through with him yet. “Now, how’s a good-lookin’ boy like you kept yo’self free of wedded bliss this long, I wonder?”
Jem snorted at her phrasing.
Brody’s gaze fell to his plate and stayed there as the silence lengthened. Finally he spoke. “I haven’t, ma’am.”
Colt, Catherine, and Jem all froze with food halfway to their mouths, waiting for him to continue. Becky carefully unclenched her teeth, allowing her fork entrance.
“I was married young, back in the Dakota Territory. My wife and babe died in childbirth.”
After an awkward pause during which Colt and Jem darted concerned glances at Catherine, everyone went back to eating in silence, except Becky and Nanny. Nanny felt bad for askin’ the boy somethin’ that obviously hurt him to talk about. Becky had heard the pain in his voice and been stricken by a sharp desire to put her hand on his arm to comfort him.
Nanny went back to eating.
“I—I’m sorry, Mr. Easton.”
Brody and her brothers looked to Becky in surprise.
Brody lowered his fork. “Thank you, Miss Connor,” he said sincerely.
He held her eyes for a minute, before both resumed eating more slowly.
Nanny and Cat exchanged a flitting, satisfied glance.
Catherine spoke. “Mr. Easton, we read in the Dallas Herald that San Francisco has more cable cars than any other city in the world, save only Chicago, Illinois, and Melbourne, Australia.”
“Well, Mrs. Connor, when I left, there were already so many cars it was hardly possible to keep track of their numbers. One left the Ferry building every other minute or so, so you could hardly hear your own voice down on Market Street.”
“But aren’t they powered by remote steam plant?” Becky asked, forgetting her earlier vow to ignore Catherine’s unwelcome guest. The only streetcars she’d seen were the horse-carts in New York City and the mule-powered ones in Austin. Her last visit there was over a year ago, but she didn’t remember the street-cars being any noisier than regular wagons.
Brody’s eyebrows rose slightly. “Why, yes, they are, Miss Connor, but the clatter of all those steel wheels in their slots makes a racket nonetheless.”
“And the city itself?” Catherine asked.
Brody finished chewing the bite of corned beef in his mouth and drained his coffee cup before answering. “Well, shortly before I arrived in San Francisco, the Palace Hotel opened, with seven stories, six hundred beds and rising rooms that can lift you right up to your floor without climbing a single stair.”
He slipped back into the present tense as he went on. “We have half a dozen daily newspapers, two hospitals, a library, and a club for every immigrant group and art medium in the world, I’d wager. Saloons everywhere serve free meals three times a day, as long as a man is willing to pay for his liquor. It’s noisy and crowded and vital and corrupt. It’s truly wonderful, on its way to becoming a world metropolis. I’ve missed it–“
Brody paused to scan the borders of the room as though seeing the countryside beyond.
“–but I must admit, I am developing a fondness for warmer weather and wider horizons.”
Every woman at the table stopped eating or drinking to smile at him, and Colt rolled his eyes in disgust. Cat kicked his ankle under the table, and his frown slid easily into amusement. She was so pretty, Colt thought, wondering how mad she’d be if he leaned over there right now and kissed her. He winked, and she blushed, which was almost as good, having a wife who knew what you were thinking and could still blush after doing it a thousand times.
Colt noticed the table was quiet and turned his head to find Brody staring at him in confusion. He frowned and bent to his plate, shoveling a forkful of corned beef into his maw. Nanny got up to refill his cup and petted his head like a favored puppy before she sat back down, confusing Brody further. In the presence of his family, Kendall was a disconcertingly different man, tender instead of threatening, with a sly sense of humor that Brody would have enjoyed, were he not so wary of his employers.
He jerked his mind back to the present, where Nanny’s young apprentice, Yan, was carrying the littlest Connor child around the table for good-night kisses. Before tonight, Brody had only seen Lily at a distance, and he’d had the impression that she might be the daughter of the Chinese nanny and a white father. Seen up close, though, Lily could not possibly have been the child of anyone but Mrs. Connor and Mr. Kendall. She had Kendall’s black hair and sapphire eyes, with the fair skin and delicate features of her mother. She was going to be a great beauty someday, just like her aunt.
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