This is my very first story which I did not submitted for fear of retaliation from Johnny lovers who could not see him involved with another. Well, he does eventually. Read on if your curiosity is strong. Stop if you can’t handle Johnny falling in love. Excuse my mistakes while I typed up my daydream. Hope you enjoy!
During a beautiful early evening the full moon was starting to light up a glistening scene which normally would turn dark and mysterious. Johnny walked his horse instead of riding it, giving Barranca a chance to regain his breath after a long hard ride prior to reaching town. He enjoyed the beauty of an early evening. A light breeze caressed his cheeks. He wanted to take pleasure in those few minutes of solitude before having to complete an errand for Murdoch.
Picking up his ‘Pa’s’ guest from town wasn’t exactly how he wanted to spend his evening; he’d rather be playing poker, relaxing with his chums, and drinking his beer. Yet at that time, the thought of him sitting in a saloon filled with musty air and loud noises gave him the shivers, especially now as he enjoyed his time alone. ‘Had forgotten how tranquil a night like this cans be.’ he thought to himself and let loose a deep sigh of content.
As he approached a water hole (pond) near town, he heard a splash; Uncertainty and habit had him reaching for the handle of his gun. He then slowly nudged his way closer to the water hole. Barranca snorted a bit. Johnny dismounted and left him behind. Unyielding as usual, he quietly crawled on all fours. Johnny maneuvers himself bit by bit without causing a sound.
Reaching the edge, he was taken aback by the most amazing sight. He smiled and thought, ‘Didn’t think this night could have gotten any better.’ Resting his hands under his chin he relaxed and gazed with delight. He observed the flowing manner in which a young lady savored the cool waters with her body. The swanlike gracefulness had him mesmerized. .
Immediately coming to terms with his non-gentlemen like ‘stalking’, he purposely broke a branch to get the attention of the girl. She quickly turned her head as the moon lit a glimmering shine on her face. Johnny could not help but exhaled a grunt of approval at what he saw.
The young lady yelled out. “Who’s there?”
‘Oh, oh, careful Johnny boy.’ He quietly stepped out and responded in a calm soft drawl, “Please excuse my intrusion ma’am. I heard a noise and thought that someone might be in trouble.”
Irritated that her swim was interrupted, she coldly snapped, “Since when is swimming quietly sound like trouble?” She swam closer to the edge.
He beamed, “Thought maybe a fish might o’ jumped out of the water thinking the moon light was a continued stream from the water hole. Couldn’t let that happen?”
Wadding in the water, “Oh, so you are a savior of fish?”
Moving closer, “No ma’am, just a savior of God’s creatures - when they need saving.”
“Well, do I look like a fish that needs saving?” She moved about closer to the edge.
Slanting his head and looking up to the sky, he responded, “Well, you are wet.” Then he looked down at her and grinned, “But I can’t rightly see if you have a tail. Who knows…” He added an impish step forward and leaned in a bit. “You’re not one of those mythical mermaids they write about, are you?” He did not disconnect his sight from hers.
Her boldness almost had him vault back as she walked out of the water in her skimpies without any signs of embarrassment.
She stopped and glared at him. “Seen enough… Sir!”
“Sorry ma’am. Just didn’t expect to… ”
She interrupted him. “Didn’t expect to what… ” Then huffed out, “…gawk?” She stumbled her way to the bushes, reached for her clothes, and gruffly asked, “Could you gawk in another direction while I get dressed?”
He shyly smiled and turned away. He could hear the rustle in the bushes as she attempted to quickly get dressed.
As she finished, it became obvious to her that getting out was going to be a struggle so she unwillingly asked him for help. “Could you please lend me a hand?” Each step over a muddy spot would definitely affect her balance.
Johnny couldn’t help but chuckle, walked over to her, and reached out. His forward attitude sent a sense of annoyance up her spine. He caught a mischievous glimmer in her eyes, but was a bit too late to react. She grabbed hold of him, maintained her balance, and pushed him into the water!
“There…. that should cool off your gawking needs!” And she stomped off.
Wide-eyed and amused, Johnny just laughed and yelled out, “What did I do to you?”, then splashed around a bit as he sat in the shallow waters with a smile of pure delight.
Out of the blue, he heard his horse whine. He jumped up and out and dashed towards his stallion thinking she was taking off on him, but all he saw was the young lady walking faster than a roadrunner up the road towards town. He hooted “Whoee!” and then shook the water off. Barranca was a true gentlemen’s horse as he just stared at his partner waiting to see if he was going to offering her a ride. “Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me!”
Mounting his steed, he galloped up next to her grinning. Touching the rim of his hat, he nodded. “Ma’am couldn’t help but notice you might be heading in the same direction I am. Could I offer you a ride?” Just then Johnny started to feel slightly uncomfortable, so he proceeded to shake some more water off only to have muddy drops land on her face.
She stared up at him, huffed, wiped her face, and brushed her long skirt to one side, and walked even faster.
‘Oops!’ He shrugged. “Suit yourself. Thought I’d make up for my ‘intrusive gawking’ by offering you a ride. Sides it beats walking with the wet clothes clinging to your body.”
“Huh!!??” she stopped and stared at him intensely. “Haven’t you had enough regarding my body…?” And off she strutted, hard!
“What? Geez, lady, I am just trying to help you out. Didn’t realize you were going to be so…” He knew he was going to stir up some more trouble by finishing his statement, but, oh, how he enjoyed watching her expressions. It was all he could do not to jump off the horse, grab her and kiss her hard!
“Didn’t realize you were going to be so… fishy about it? It’s not like ‘em baiting you in any way.” he ended with a smirk.
She looked like she was ready to belt him as he bit his lips.
Stopped again, she hissed. “Why you just think you are real cute, don’t you?”
“No ma’am, I am just trying to be hospitable; Seeing how you were reel good at taking a dip near town, thought I’d just cast out my neighborly manners.” He followed it with a short snort.
She looked at him suspiciously. “Ppfftthh.” Finally deciding that she needed to get to town fast, she reached up to accept a lift and then she stopped and pulled away.
Johnny looked at her curiously and leaned against the saddle horn. She glanced down and up again.
“Look, as ‘hospitable’ as you seem, you are a complete stranger who just happened to have seen me swimming in my…um…less than appropriate attire and now you, a complete stranger, is offering me a ride on your horse, sitting behind you with my arms around you….” She stalled a bit and in a disgruntle tone added. “Just what kind of girl do you think I am?”
Johnny’s was dumbfounded. “Wha-a-a-t?” He shook his head in disbelieve.
“Look lady, I just…”
She held her hand up palm facing him and stopped him then continued, “I mean if you had a daughter my age and your daughter did what I just did…the swim… and accepted a ride from a stranger, would you approve? Huh? ” Eyebrows skewed upwards, she tilted her head waiting for an answer.
Johnny swung his leg over the horn, looked at her, and answered in a very soft drawl. “No ma’am, No I wouldn’t.” He took a momentary look out towards the road. “Guess I’d be awfully upset at my daughter, very, very upset as a matter of fact.”
“See there…” shaking her head, she continued to walk up the road.
Straightening himself up, he nudged Barranca up, “But…” adding, “I’d be even more upset to have my daughter walking alone in a strength place with the possibility of encountering a dangerous or unfriendly stranger.”
“Yeah, well that’s you all right!” She didn’t stop her stride.
“What… dangerous or unfriendly?” He just kept trotting alongside her.
“Ppfftthh, unfriendly? Ha! Too friendly, if you ask me!” She glared at him, “It’s the other one I am not sure of.”
“Ah, I see. You think I am dangerous?” He gently caressed his gun and smirked.
She glanced up and huffed out, “Need I define the word ‘stranger’? I don’t know you. Dangerous? I DON’T KNOW YOU!”
Stopping his horse, Johnny offered a suggestion. “Alright then, let’s take care of that now.” He rested his arm on the horn of his saddle and looked down at her, “Good evening ma’am. My name is Johnny and I’d be pleased to offer you a safe ride back to town.”
She paused and looked at him again. Johnny had a sincere look on his face as he spoke to her. She sighed, reached up again and Johnny flung her up onto the horse. She carefully placed her hands on his waist when she felt compelled to direct his attention her lady like demeanor.
“Please understand that just because you used the word ‘safe’ when offering me a ride, doesn’t in the least indicate that you are not dangerous. You probably are, in ways I don’t care to discuss with you.”
He chuckled and bit his tongue to avoid a rebuttal.
She continued. “I am not usually this forward or acceptant of strangers offering me a ride, but I am in a hurry to get back into town and meet with my father, whom I might add, raised a very respectable daughter!”
He just nodded, but had to say something as he nudged his horse forward. “I am sure he did raise a respectable daughter.” He hesitated, tightened his grip on the reigns and added. “So… then I can assume that you have a sister?” Chuckling, he forwarded the horse into a gallop.
She grabbed his shirt wanting to throw him off, but the sudden jerk of the horse’s gallop caused her to wrap her arms around his waist for dear life.
She made it back to the hotel where her father waited in the lobby. Nervously and rapidly, she washed off any signs of a nightly swim or riding on horseback and dressed herself appropriately for a delightful evening. It took all of fifteen minutes. Adjusting her dress and hair, she scurried down the stairs. As she reached the bottom, she caught her father’s eyes. He proudly smiled at her and turned to signal a man standing next to him.
“Ah, here she comes, the angel of my life, my daughter.” Taking hold of her elbow, he added. “Murdock, this is my daughter.”
She reached out and shook Murdoch’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you sir. My father has spoken so highly of you that I already feel a kinship towards you.”
Murdoch returned the hand shake. “Now I know why your father glows every time he speaks of you.” Then with just as much pride as his friend displayed, he said. “But now I’d like to introduce you both to my son, who is doing us a favor by driving you to our ranch in the horse carriage.” He looks over his shoulder searching for his son. He spots him standing by the frame of the door, catches his attention and signals him to walk over to them.
“Henry and Valeria, this is my youngest son Johnny. Johnny these wonderful people are Enrique Valez and his beautiful daughter Valeria.” Johnny moved around from behind Murdock and quickly took notice of the ‘mermaid’ he had previously encountered. He smirked and she gasped.
Her heart started to palpitate fast and her eyes widen; then she felt faint and got paler than a ball of cotton. Holding her father’s arm tighter, she took in a deep breath and prayed real hard that Johnny would not give her away.
Johnny reached out to shake Henry’s hand and then slowly turned his body towards Valeria. With a sly look, he reached out to shake her hand. “It is a real pleasure to meet such a respectful young lady… Valeria, is it?”
She bit her lip and between her clinched teeth answered, “Yes, MR. LANCER, it is Valeria,” she gripped his hand and shook it firmly. The ill-behaved expression on his face just made her angry, but he would not release his firm grip.
Henry and Murdoch both cleared their throat simultaneously watchful of their children’s behavior. After a scrupulous pause, they guided them outside. Murdoch asked Johnny to load the carriage and ride with Valeria because he wanted to take the time and show Henry something on the way home. Of course, Johnny gladly accepted. Valeria just frowned in disbelieve.
The smiles of his blue eyes sparkled like the sea when first lighted up by the rays of the sun. In his taunting manner, he acted the real gentleman as he assisted Valeria onto the carriage.
She nervously turned to her father. “Father, please don’t take long. I’ve missed you today and I’d like to spend more time with the man who protects his ONLY daughter against dangerous encounters.” She sneered at Johnny.
Her father released a befuddled chuckle then assured her he would see her soon. Murdock offered his reassurance as well informing her that she couldn’t be in better hands then with Johnny.
Johnny pompously nodded in agreement with his father then turned and tipped his hat at Valeria, “Ready ma’am?” Climbing onto the carriage, he whipped the carriage reigns causing Valeria to buck back as her legs flew up ever so lightly. Her irritation only amused Johnny more.
She straightens herself on the seat and looked intently at the road ahead. “Hum, looks like you need lessons on handling… a carriage.” She managed a complaining mumble.
“Oh, I can handle a carriage… as well as other things.” He scoffed and turned to look at her. ‘Oh Lord!’ He found himself mesmerized by her softness despite her brusque behavior. His smile softened all the while sneaking glances at her. He wanted to absorb the sight of her hair, her face and her silhouette against the moonlight.
He took in a deep breath and then cleared his throat. “Maybe we should start again. I mean, from the beginning, as if we had never seen each other.” He reached out to shake her hand, “Hi, my name is Johnny Lancer and I am very pleased to meet you.” His voice sounded soft and sincere which made Valeria turn and look him in the eyes. She immediately fell into a trance when she looked at his handsome face.
She ogled for a brief moment then shook his hand. “Nice to meet you Johnny, I’m Valeria, Valeria Valez.” His hand felt so warm, strong and nice, real nice.
They held hands and stared at each other as their breathing became in sync. It was a magical encounter which was interrupted by a rough bump on the road. Val let out a small but funny squeal. Johnny could help himself and laughed.
She huffed. “I am SO glad to be amusing you tonight.”
“Ah come on now. We just met. Be nice.”
“Fine.” Looking around, she questioned. “So this is what I have to look forward to?”
“What do you mean?”
“We might be moving here and the Lancers will be our neighbors. You’re what I have to look forward to as a neighbor?”
“Could be worse… could be a pack of wolfs, cougars, or a…herd of buffaloes.” Acting nonchalant, he kept his sight ahead, but looked at her through his peripherally.
She couldn’t help but smile at his comment.
“Oh, so you do smile?” and then added. “It’s a nice smile, a sweet smile.”
She glimpses at him. “Thank you, Johnny Lancer, neighbor and savior of God’s creature.”
Both chuckles as the ride started to go smoother.
Their conversation changed from likes to dislikes and just about life in general. They formulated questions for each other depending on previous information that was spoken. He couldn’t believe how easy it was to talk to her. They talk about their fathers each expressing pride in their relationships. Johnny realized that he had never spoken so much about Murdock. He enjoyed sharing this with her.
The night was young and enchanting. The moon was smiling and illuminating their path. Soft laughter could be heard from a distance only to catch the attention of small furry animals making their rounds. It was a pleasant trip back to Lancer.
After the Fact
Back at the hacienda, it seemed that Valeria’s father was eager to get his plan going. During Cattlemen meeting, Henry would sit and discuss ranching business as usual, but he’d managed to get a members enthralled in a conversation about family and especially sons. He latched on to Murdoch as he started to develop an interest in the Lancer boys. His nature was to pry for more information and pry he did until he was satisfied he was making the right choice.
Murdoch did not have trouble talking about both his boys. He was equally proud of both. Each for their own uniqueness and ability to handle the ranch business, but he’d mostly ranted proudly about his boys relationship, respect and love for one another, given that they had not been raised together.
With all the information he was listening to, Henry’s mind keep targeting one Lancer in particular, Scott. He would ponder how ambitious it would be for his daughter to marry someone with Scott’s background? He could envision that refined young man with a prestige education as his son-in-law.
Standing under the porch of the veranda, Henry twirled the drink in his hand looking about while contemplating the size of Murdoch’s empire. ‘Mine won’t be this big at first, but with a strong son-in-law and hopefully grandsons it might just get there.’
Johnny and Valeria rode closer to Lancer and they seemed to be enjoying their company with every passing moment. She started to get a bit anxious the closer they got to the hacienda. This did not go unnoticed by Johnny.
“Is there a problem? You suddenly seem nervous.”
Valeria just looked down in deep thought. ‘Should I tell him?’ She liked him, a lot and did not want to jeopardize this new friendship, so she just shook her head. “No, guess I’m just tired suddenly.”
“Fine, if you say so.” Johnny couldn’t help but wonder if he had said something to upset her, but decided to leave it be.
Taking a deep breath, she shouted out. “Ok, yes, YES, there is something wrong!”
He practically jumped out of the carriage at her outburst and chuckled. “OK, do you feel like sharing?”
Feeling ashamed of what she had to say, she answered. “NO, but I will.”
All he could do was shrug his shoulder and wait for her to talk. “Take your time. We’re still a few minutes away.”
“You have a brother named Scott right?”
“Well, my father just keeps harping on about him. Scott this, Scott that, wait till you meet Scott; he’s a Lancer; he can do no wrong, blah, blah, blah. So, I suspect that… my father…. wants me… wants to... you know.” She giggled shamefully.
Annoyed he told her, “No I’m sorry I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me what your father wants you to do…?” He was now getting perturbed at the implication that something was going on between Valeria and Scott. ‘When did she meet him?’
She did not continue and remained silent for a minute or two, but it seemed like forever to Johnny. “Are you going to tell me more?” He voice was sterner than he had intended. “Sorry, do you want to tell me more?”
“Oh Johnny it isn’t anything to get all upset over, really. My father has good intentions when it comes to me. He is dying for me to meet him.” She sat up straight. ‘There, I said it.’
“How does your father know so much about Scott?” Changing his stance and becoming quieter, he opted to listen to her.
“Apparently, during the Cattlemen meetings, your father talked and talked about Scott. Well, naturally that provoked some interest on my father’s part. Now he wants me to meet him.”
“Meet him? Why Scott and not… ?” Head bowed, he stopped himself.
“Oh, I’ve met you Johnny, in more ways than not.” She giggled. “Murdoch and my father have known each other for some time. They always get together whenever there is a Cattleman meeting and catch up on old times. Murdoch told my father how he had finally gotten you both back. Well, my father can be a bit nosey about something or someone he is interested in and Scott was the one, so here we are. He has made it so obvious though. It’s almost embarrassing.” She nodded and shook her head while letting out a deep sigh. “Why he thinks Scott is the perfect marrying type for me, is beyond me!”
After listening to her go on and on about meeting Scott, it was evident that Johnny was getting even more annoyed by the ‘Scott’ conversation; plus, he was disturbed and wondered if Murdoch had even mentioned him in those conversations.
Valeria just kept rambling on and on. “I really do not approve of what my father expects from me with Scott. Honestly, I don’t foresee anything coming out of this, but my father is determined for me to meet him. I can’t see any harm in testing the waters.”
Johnny flinched at the last part and gripped the reigns tight. ‘Testing the waters!’ He was livid and moved his hat over his eyes.
She glanced over at him and gave a devilish grin. “I mean, it’s not like it’s an arranged marriage or anything like that.” Mr. Johnny Lancer was about to explode and it amused her to no end. “Yet… Mrs. Scott Lancer does have a nice ring to it. Don’t you agree Johnny?”
He grunted the response. “I am sure Scott might want a say in this.” He turned away and mocked. “After all he hasn’t seen you all wet like a fish!”
She just frowned then smiled, “Hum, I can’t imagine how he would have reacted. Seeing his future wife… all wet and … hum.” then snickered. This struck a nerve with Johnny.
She slapped her knee. “Well, I just want the adventure of starting a new life in this part of the country. This is beautiful country!” She swung her arms out and threw her head back. “Why it is great place to raise… Lancer children! You just never know, do you?”
His knuckles were turning white and his face was turning red.
Too bad it wasn’t all she had to say. “Johnny…?
Between clinched teeth, he asked. “W h a t?”
“Is Scott a good looking man?”
‘That does it!’ Johnny hit the reigns hard causing her flip back over into the carriage basket.
“HEY!” She hit Johnny on the arm, so he turned the carriage a bit and she lost her balance falling back, again. She tried to regain her composer and finally succeeded in climbing back into the seat. “Take it easy or… I’ll tell Scott you hurt me.”
‘Oh for the love of…’ Johnny glared at her and made the horses go faster, but this time she held on tight and won’t give into the discomfort of the rough the ride. Her hair and dress was blowing every which way in the dust, but she held tight.
Scott was not even aware of his involvement with Valeria, but poor Johnny couldn’t help himself. He felt something special for her and it infuriated him especially since he thought Murdoch didn’t even bother to mention him to Henry.
At last, they got to the ranch; she was no longer that well groomed young lady her father had left in Johnny’s care. Frankly, she was a real mess. They came to a full stop in front of the hacienda. Johnny jumped off and proceeded to help her down off the carriage. He looked at her, smiled and said, “Looks like you need another swim to clean yourself up.”
She pushed him out of the way, “Watch it buddy!” Then she stormed up to the veranda and quickly came to a halt when she spotted her father. He stared at her. Surprised to see how messed up she was, he asked. “Honey, what happened to you?” She just walked past him and grunted. Murdock glanced at her walking into the house and looked at Johnny, “Johnny, what’s this all about?”
He looked down. “Dust twisters. We got caught in some dust twisters.” He brushed some dust off his clothes and he stormed into the house. The two fathers just glanced at each other embarrassed for the way their children were acting.
Murdoch cleared his throat, “Those dust twisters can be a real problem some times.” Shrugging his shoulders, he quickened his pace to walk into the house.
Scott was standing at the end of the living room eagerly waiting to meet this lovely young lady he had heard so much about. His mouth fell open when he saw her messed up with an expression that could scare off a wounded cougar. ‘Surely this can’t be the young lady I’ve heard about?’
He gave a nervous smile when their eyes met. She just twisted her lips in an effort to acknowledge him and took a deep breath as she adjusted her dress and waited for her father to take care of the introduction.
Johnny walked in right behind her. He looked at Scott, nodded his head to greed him, and stood at the end of the dining table with his arms crossed.
‘Oh boy, Johnny is definitely upset about something. Wonder what happened?’ Scott stood still and observed his little brother’s face. Teresa and Jelly joyfully walked in from the kitchen when they saw the two figures standing crossed arms looking like something out of a flour sack. Their mouths gapped opened in shock. Johnny gave them a ‘What?’ look. They shrugged and moved next to Scott who titled his head insinuating ‘Don’t ask me!’
Murdock cleared his throat, “Well, seems everyone is here now. Teresa I believe our guest are almost ready for dinner. God knows I am famished. Uh, Johnny, why don’t you get cleaned up first while the rest of us take out seats.”
He looked up and smiled. “Sure Murdoch.”
As he walked by his father, Murdoch patted his son’s shoulder and looked at him questionably, then offered him a smile. He then spoke to his ward. “Teresa, would you mind showing Valeria where she can get cleaned up as well?”
What a splash!
Teresa was getting ready to direct Valeria when Johnny spoke up. “Murdoch, why don’t you let me show her the way? I am sure Teresa has a lot to do to get dinner on the table. You wouldn’t mind showing me where you can get cleaned up, right?”
Oh, she just glared in a most daring manner. “No, Johnny, please show me where I can get cleaned up!”
Scott couldn’t hold the snort and quickly covered his mouth. ‘I need to tell Teresa and Maria to hit the knives.’
Everyone else just stood still waiting for the next round. Johnny scooted to one side signaling Valeria a passage to go out. She brushed her dress to one side and slightly pushed past Johnny almost forcing him against the side of the arch way. He stared down and politely forced a smile. Both walked outside leaving a small trail of dust with every step.
Murdock, Teresa, Scott and Jelly raised their eyebrows knowing that the area to get cleaned up was not outside, but no one dared mention it, especially to Henry. The only decent thing to do was to smile at him and they did, all at once. He just nodded not knowing what else to do.
Scott shimmed closer to Teresa and whispered. “I’m sure Johnny knows what he was doing.” She puts her hands over her mouth to hold back a chuckle.
The beautiful moon offered it’s salutation to both angry youngsters as Johnny walked Valeria out towards the barn area pointing to where the horses drank water. “Here is where we get cleaned up.” He stepped to one side offering her to go first.
“Oh please, after you Johnny.”
Placing his hands behind his back, he swayed and he took baby steps up to the trough. Graciously glancing at Valeria, he bent down and slowly proceeded to splash water over his face. Before he could straighten up, he felt a strong shove against his back which made him loose his balance was submerged face first right into the water trough. With a disconcerted reaction, he quickly turned on his butt and saw Valeria standing there arms crossed frowning at him.
“Think I don’t know that this water is for horses!!”
Johnny stood up fast, shook himself off, reached over, and managed to grab Val from the wrist. Before she had a chance to react and pull away, he drew her into the water with him. Val let out a scream and landed on Johnny’s lap.
“Arghhh, you horrible… horrible brut. You’re terrible carriage driver. You, you,….”
Johnny started to laugh. Her face was distorted as strands of wet hair dripped down and somewhat dirty water streamed along her side. Her expression was priceless.
Valeria looked at him and grunted as she thrashed about attempting to get up off his lap, but then Johnny quickly and gently grabbed her face and looked into her eyes. His touch and blue eyes made her feel as if she was melting and she stopped struggling. He then kissed her gently on the lips. Valeria relaxed more onto his lap keeping her eyes closed.
Placing his forehead against hers, he added. “I’ve wanted to do that ever since I first saw you swimming.”
She straightened up a bit. “Just remember, I am a respectable lady.” Then she wrapped her arms around his neck and returned his kiss.
When they both came up for air, they heard a cough and a throat clearing. Slowly, they both looked up and saw everyone staring at them. Henry was appalled and embarrassed and the others were just smiling.
Johnny lifted Valeria up and both stood in the trough dripping wet. Teresa walked over and grabbed Valeria by the hand, “Let me show you where we do get cleaned up.” Shyly and quietly, Valeria stepped out of the trough and followed Teresa into the house.
Johnny just stood still and felt Murdock look peering right through him. He shuffled his way out of the water and shook his feet still looking down. He finally mustered up the courage to glance at Murdock, then at Henry. Henry huffed, turned, and walked away followed by Scott and Jelly, who wrapped their arms around each other and laughed all the way back. Murdock just stayed put, waited and stared.
Johnny felt compelled to talk first. “Murdock, I swear I didn’t plan this. It just happened. She, she just….”
“Forget it for now Johnny! We’ll get the entire story at dinner. Do you need me to show you where you can get cleaned up?” With eyebrows tilted up, he waited.
“No Murdock, No, I think I can find it myself.” Murdock turns and starts to walk away. Johnny couldn’t help himself and added, “…But thanks for offering.” Murdock stopped cold in his track and did not move an inch. He then heard the jingling of spurs as his son ran. Shaking his head in amusement, he then continued to the house.
After getting cleaned up, Johnny joined his family. Johnny noticed that Valeria and her father were not with them. “Where are they?”
“They are having a family….discussion outside.” Murdoch responded with an ‘are you happy now’ tone. Johnny just looked down and started to walk towards the French doors, when he heard his father’s stern voice, “SIT, JOHN LANCER, NOW!”
“Yes sir.” Embarrassed and somewhat ashamed, he sat, but deep inside he was full of joy.
The outside door opened and both guest walked in. Valeria was a bit self-conscious with the whole incident and Henry looked at Murdock, “Children…what do we do with them Murdoch?” It was all he could say for he was more embarrassed than not, he just nodded and mused.
Murdoch surely understood how he was feeling. “We can only try to keep one step ahead of them, Henry. Come join us.”
Valeria walked up to Murdock. “I wish to apologize for my unlady like behavior.” Mulling over for some wise words, she added. “Circumstances were just...” she took a deep breath and looked at her father, “They were….”
Murdock interrupted, “That’s quite all right sweetheart. It takes two to tango!” He glared at Johnny, but smiled on the inside. “Let’s just all sit down and eat our dinner.”
Johnny stood and helped Valeria into her seat. He then looked at Henry, “Sir.” as he signaled him to his seat. Murdock and Scott were engrossed in his effort to please.
The rest of the evening’s dinner was quite pleasant, though Valeria avoided eye contact with Johnny throughout the meal. Conversation began politely, mostly amongst Murdoch and Henry. Scott would interject occasionally, about land and business. Johnny would eat and glance over to Valeria, but she continued to avoid eye contact. Dinner was finally over and Valeria offered to help Teresa clean up. The rest made their way to the great room for coffee.
While in the kitchen, Teresa and Valeria looked at each other and started to laugh. Johnny walked in, “What’s so funny?” Teresa spoke up, “Nothing of interest Johnny. Do you need anything?”
“Murdock was wondering if there was anymore coffee?”
“Sure, I’ll take some to him in a bit.”
“Well, I can take it if you get it ready. I don’t mind waiting. I can help clean up while I wait.”
“You, Johnny Lancer, help clean, in the kitchen. That’s a first.”
“I’ve been know to clean up a mess or two in my life.”
“Surely not in the kitchen, am sure!” Valeria snickered a retort.
“Ah, now…be nice, Valeria. Remember what happened when the circumstances got….a bit wet.”
“Ok, you two. Here Johnny takes the coffee to Murdoch and thanks for offering to help. Here now go.” Teresa handed him the tray and scooted him along.
Johnny left and Teresa turned to Valeria. “You like him don’t you?” she asked smiling.
Valeria just smiled back.
“Are you in trouble with your father?” asked Teresa.
“No, not really, he was more upset about my disrespect of Murdock hospitality.”
Still, I don’t get it. Johnny is so….”
“Adorable?” Teresa laughs and continues. “He is a great person with a heart of gold and easily carries his feelings on his shoulder.” There was a tone of warning in her statement.
“What are you saying Teresa?” Valeria stops what she is doing and looks at her.
“All I am saying is that Johnny’s been through a lot. I love him like a brother and I don’t want him to get hurt… with matters of the heart. That’s all.” Teresa remained quiet thinking she might have overstepped her boundaries with Valeria.
Teresa was surprised when she heard Valeria response. “He is lucky to have a sister who cares enough to be upfront with me. Thank you.”
Valeria reaches out and hugs Teresa and adds. “I would never intentionally hurt Johnny or any other member of the Lancer family. I wouldn’t do onto others what I wouldn’t want done to me.”
Teresa assures her, “Johnny gives himself fully and would never hurt you or your father.” They finished up their chores and decided to join the other in the great room.
Johnny and Scott had stepped outside for their brotherly discussion.
“Well ladies, thanks for joining us.” Murdock acknowledges their presence.
Henry added, “Teresa, honey, that dinner was absolutely delicious. Now that Valeria and I are going to be neighbors maybe the two of you can share recipes and continue to treat us to more delightful nourishment.”
Valeria looked at her father. “Oh Father, you’ve decided?”
“Yes, honey, we are making this country our new home. I sort of enjoyed tonight’s excitement and watching you light up like your mother used to when she was….uh, a bit feisty assured me that she’d only want your happiness.” Valeria ran up to her father and practically jumped into his arms. “Whoa, there child!” He swung her around laughing.
Scott walked in and caught the tail end of the conversation. “Congratulation Sir. You are going to love it here I’m sure.”
“Yes, it’s not like in the big city. You know, Murdock, I could see her spirit leaving her. I couldn’t bare to watch that special light die out. I had to reignite it and it seems to me that your boy, Johnny, managed to do just that!”
Valeria hugged and whispered to him. “Daddy you are embarrassing me.”
Her father just let out an enormous laugh. “A bit late for that don’t you think!” The rest expressed their amusement as well. Valeria’s face turned beet red and she hid her face in her father’s chest.
“Something funny? What’d I missed?” Johnny entered after he finished contemplating his brotherly discussion.
“Well son, it seems Henry has decided to make this beautiful country their home.” answered Murdock.
“And that’s funny?” Johnny looked perplexed.
Everyone else chuckled some more then followed it up with a toast. Johnny just squatted down and knelt by Murdock chair looking at him with inquiry. Murdock snickered and placed his hand on Johnny shoulder. “Later son.”
“OK, I think it is time we retired. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow as we will be helping out our new neighbors get settled in to their new home. Henry you know you can continue to stay here until you get your house set up.”
“Murdock, I am most grateful, but the house just needs our presence. I am sure we’ll be fine.” One by one, they said their goodnights and retired for the evening.
Johnny looks at Henry “Good night sir.” Then he looks at Valeria. It was obvious that both wanted to have more time together.
Henry interrupts their affectionate moment. “Valeria honey, we must go to our rooms now.” She does not remove her sight off Johnny and slowly moves closer to her father. “Ok, father, I’ll be right there.”
Murdock noticed their longing looks and offered a suggestion, “You know, Henry, this is a beautiful night. Why don’t we let Johnny and Valeria sit on the porch a spell. They don’t seem tired.”
Henry fidgeted at the thought of his daughter alone with Johnny.
Murdoch added. “You and I can sit here and have one more drink to discuss tomorrows plan.”
Henry was more at ease with the second suggestion. “Now Johnny, I expect you to be the gentleman your father says you are.”
“Yes sir.” Johnny eagerly guided her outside and whispered to her. “And I expect you to be the perfect respectable young lady.”
Part Six - Epilogue
Not wanting to be at earshot of their fathers, they opt to walk for a bit. Johnny held his head down, yet had a small skip to his steps. Valeria just walked and looked round enjoying the moonlit sights. “This is beautiful. Are all nights like this?”
Johnny hooted, “Nope… no, not like tonight.”
“Oh stop, you know what I mean.” She flicked him on the arm.
“Yes ma’am I do.” He reached for her hand and stopped walking. “Well, what are we going to do now Miss Valeria?”
“Accept the inevitable, I guess.”
“Yeah, and what is the inevitable?”
“You tell me, Mr. Lancer.”
He reached for her face and brought her closer for a kiss. Johnny took in her face once more admiring it in the moonlight.
“The moon light makes you….” and he caressed her cheek, while brushing strand of hair out of her face and sighed. “I don’t know what you did to me back at the water hole.” He kissed her softly. “All I know is that I am hooked.”
She smiled and snuggled into his chest. “Well if this is the beginning of the inevitable, it feels delightful. I don’t want it to end.” They kissed again and again.
“I’d better get you inside before they send out a posse.” They slowly walked. Before entering through the French doors, he kisses her on the forehead and says his goodnight. She leans on the door and opens it slowly as he gradually releases her hand. She walks in and floats towards her room.
Johnny walked in right behind her with smile that could light up the darkest corner. ‘Damn this feels so good.’
He then hears a deep voice. “I hope you were a complete gentleman.”
Johnny looked up and saw Murdock in the hall. He beamed at him, “Yes sir, I surely was!” Then walked up to his father, stood right in front of him, and patted his stomach. “Goodnight… Pa’.” Murdock felt a deep warm tingle down his spine. ‘My baby boy is glowing. She could be the one.’
With new relationships bonding, life at Lancer was great!
The Lancer Littletons Arrive