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Kathy W

 

 

A Whirlwind Courtship

The following was written for the January 2020 song challenge on Lancer Writers.  The song that it is paired with is Rhianna’s Only Girl (in the World). The story, as well as the song, could be considered PG13 for adult situations.

There had been others since Catherine, of course. Financial transactions mostly, encounters that left him feeling even emptier when they were over.

Murdoch looked to the woman sleeping beside him. Her raven hair was splayed across the pillow, her soft caramel skin still glistening from the warmth of the room and their earlier activities. He still couldn’t believe it, the way that this young, girl really, had managed to turn him inside out and upside down in such a short period of time.

He had been in Matamoros more than two months now, off and on. Three months away from his Lancer. It had started, strangely enough, as a search for better bloodlines to strengthen his lackluster herds, cattle too puny to withstand the rigors of a longer drive. Texas seemed like his best option. Then came Joe Barker, a young green sheriff from Abilene, desperate for help. The money that was offered to pin on a deputy’s badge was enough to lead him on a ragged path to the Mexican border.

Once he had seen her, dancing in the cantina now below them, he was lost. Bewitched his seanmhair would say. Her smile lit up the room like nothing he had ever seen. More and more that smile turned to him, which was amazing in and of itself. Him, a big awkward galoot of a ‘gringo’ at a time when relations between Mexico and the US were still quite strained.

Maria had a grace about her, the way she moved, a coiled energy barely contained, looking to explode—into what he wasn’t quite sure. What he did know was that he had to find out.

And find out he did. In the end, he approached her, feeling more like an errant schoolboy than the mature, settled, responsible man that he was. She swept him up into her dance, and into her life. He couldn’t believe the effect that she had on him. He was mesmerized by everything about her, from the sparkle in her eyes, to the waves of ebony hair flowing down her back.

He should have been the one to take the lead when they took their relationship to the next level, but she brought a vitality to their lovemaking that left him dazed. Murdoch had spent nearly four years married to his beloved Catherine, and he still missed her every day to the depths of his soul, but their relations had been demure, with a modesty about them that left little comparison between the two women.

For the last two months, he had spent his evenings watching her dance, drawn in by the way she worked the room and the small crowds that gathered to see her. By night, she belonged only to him. They retired to her tiny room above the cantina, shedding their clothing before they were even through the doorway. Maria had shown him a world of pleasure he never even knew existed.

Tonight, he had come to say goodbye. A twenty-dollar gold piece was burning a hole in his pants pocket. His pants that were…somewhere laying in a puddle on the floor where they had been hastily discarded.

The money had been Joe’s idea, pressed into Murdoch’s hand. “Tell her to find some back alley bruja, Murdo, and get rid of it. Don’t you see, it’s the only way. You have that ranch in California you need to be getting back to, and what about that boy of yours back east? That’s what you should be thinking about, not some cantina…”

“Don’t! Don’t say another word, Joe!” It came out more sharply than he intended, forcing Joe to take a step back. “Maria’s not like that, and you know it.”

The truth was his head was reeling. What was he thinking? The answer was that he hadn’t been thinking at all. Lancer was his chief concern and had been since signing the deed. He had nearly a dozen families depending on him for their livelihoods. Paul was no businessman. He could only be counted on to hold things together for so long, even with Cipriano and Isadore to help him.

And Scott! My God, how could he have he forgotten so completely about his responsibilities to his son? Other than the letter informing Murdoch that they had arrived safely in Boston, there had been nothing from Garrett. No response to his many letters asking for information on Scott. It was only through the good graces of Jim Harper that he even knew his son was alive and seemingly thriving. Yes, Scott needed to be his priority, and that meant getting back to the ranch, building up the herd and capitalizing on the opportunities that the gold strike had created. The cattle market was soaring right now, and here he was, sitting around in Matamoros, missing out on it. He needed to get started back home, the sooner the better.

Then there was Marcie to consider. Nothing had been stated explicitly, but he knew the young woman had more than a passing interest in him. She was a fine upstanding young lady, yes, Marcie would make a very acceptable stepmother for his son.

“Mi amor,” Maria snaked her hand across his waist and turned to face him. Her glowing face a portrait of innocence staring up at him through coal black lashes. So very different from the face of passion she had shown him last night.

“Querida,” Murdoch murmured along with a brief kiss to her forehead. “You should be resting.” Murdoch’s large form took up most of the narrow bed, and he shifted to accommodate her.

“Absurdo, we have much to do today before the cantina opens for the evening.” Maria slid gracefully from the bed and spun around the tiny room before she began pulling on a loose blouse and skirt.

Murdoch sighed. Maria’s energy and disarming lack of inhibition still never failed to amaze and delight him. He could feel himself stirring once again at just the sight of her. No, not this time. Murdoch rose from the bed and began pulling on his own clothes.

“And what is it that is so important today?”

“Today is market day,” Maria snuggled against his chest, “as you should know well by now.” She slapped him lightly on the arm. “You promised me we could go. I wanted to look for some new jewelry. And material, red this time I think, you know I’ll be needing some new material. I want to make a new dress, one that will have all the senioritas green with envy.”

“Maria,” Murdoch started hesitantly, “we need to talk.”

“Talk? Talk about what my love? That the sun is shining, and the birds are singing, and you’ll have the prettiest girl in Matamoros on your arm when we go to the marketplace?” Maria stepped back and held him at arm’s length. She looked him up and down with an appraising glance, and for the first time Murdoch saw a flash of displeasure slide across her features.

“Maybe we should talk about…” Murdoch slid his hand to her abdomen. Was it his imagination or did her waist seem a little thicker than it had once been? Her breasts just a wee bit fuller?

“So, I’m a little late,” she shrugged. Her mouth tightened into a frown. “I have been late before; it is sin importancia.”

“I think it might matter a very great deal,” Murdoch protested, “we have to accept the real possibility that there might be a bairn on the way. And then there’s the ranch…”

Maria placed her fingers across his lips. “Your silly rancho! Is that what you really want to talk about when we have the whole day ahead of us?”

“Maria,” Murdoch sighed. He dropped down until he was seated once more on the side of the bed and took Maria’s hands in his own. She was so delicate; her tiny brown hands and nimble fingers were easily swallowed by his. “I have responsibilities.” My God, he hadn’t even told her he had been married, or about his son! How had he let things get this out of control?

“Psss,” she dismissed him with a wave of her hand. ” Your only responsabilidad is to make me as happy today as I have made you. Or are you saying you are not pleased with me, mi amor?” Maria grinned slyly, confident in the answer that would follow.

“Of course, you’ve made me happy, my love, very happy.” In truth the weight that had been crushing his soul since the loss of Catherine and the abduction of Scott had finally been lifted, all due to this improbable slip of a girl standing in front of him. Maybe that’s what love was. It was different from what he had with Catherine, but he had to face the reality that Catherine was gone, and he still had a life to live. And she did make him so very, very happy when they were together. Murdoch could scarcely recall their nights in the slim bed without a blush coming to his cheeks. After a brutal two years which had left him helpless and impotent, he was finally beginning to feel like a man again.

They would have their challenges, no doubt. He’d never even contemplate such a union if he made his home in Texas where bitterness and bigotry from the war still smoldered on both sides of the Rio Grande, but California was…better, more enlightened, more tolerant. And she would have Cipriano and Elena, Isadore and Maria to help. She would see that Lancer was the prettiest place in the whole world. Maria would come to love it as much as Catherine had. It would be fine. He was sure of it.

Murdoch slid down until one of his knees was resting on the floor. On one knee they were almost eye level with one another, that’s how petite she was. He recaptured her hands with his own. “Maria, listen to me,” Murdoch cleared his throat. “Listen to me. I want you to come to California. Maria, I want you to be my wife.”

~~~~

“Murdoch! Hey, Murdoch!”  Johnny waved his hand in front of his father’s face in a vain attempt to get his attention.

“Hey, Old Man,” Johnny continued when it seemed like he had finally been heard. “Where were you? You look like you’re about a thousand miles away.” Johnny perched himself on the corner of the desk and folded his legs up beneath him in a single graceful movement.

Murdoch straightened in a foolish attempt to regain some of his dignity. He could see it was a lost cause by the sparkle in Johnny’s eye and the broad cheeky grin on his face. Johnny’s smile lit up the room like nothing he had ever seen.

“Something like that, Johnny, my boy, something like that.”

 

 

 

~end~
January 2020

 

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