The cool October wind whipped through Johnny Lancer’s being as his beloved Barranca galloped gracefully across the beauty that was Lancer, en route to the white hacienda that he had finally come to call ‘home.’
The anticipation inside him grew as he journeyed closer, knowing that once there, he would be sharing a very special moment with the young woman who had become an important part of his life.
When he and Teresa O’Brien learned that Murdoch Lancer and his oldest son, Scott, would be attending a Cattleman’s Association Luncheon on this Thursday afternoon, and that Teresa would be alone in the mammoth ranch house, an automatic agreement was made between the youngest Lancer son and his father’s ward. An agreement that on this day, they would share in what they secretly referred to as their “Afternoon Delight;” a happening that had occurred once before when they found themselves alone, and was anticipated with eagerness by both of the parties involved.
As Johnny brought Barranca to a gentle trot, he wondered where the ‘delight’ would take place this time. The first time it had occurred at the dining room table, and he frowned as his mind went back to the time Murdoch gently told him that is where Pardee’s bullet was dug out of his back. Johnny cringed every time he ate there; a distant memory of pain and fear, of being held down so he couldn’t move or breathe. Of gentle voices telling him he would be all right.
But that memory was overshadowed when a few weeks later, the other event happened there. One of joy and laughter. And for him, the beginning of a feeling of. . .belonging. Of love.
It was during his recovery from said bullet that the first ‘delight’ had occurred. Johnny was feeling stronger every day, but everyone, from that mean doctor, Sam Jenkins, to his newfound father and brother, forbid him to do anything strenuous. A short walk was about all he was allowed to do, and the fact he couldn’t ride the golden horse that had recently become a part of him depressed the young gunfighter. Oh, he could go visit Barranca. Even brush him. But the gruff voice of his Old Man ordering him to ‘not even think about riding that horse’ kept Johnny Madrid’s feet firmly on the ground.
And underfoot. Teresa’s feet, to be exact. The young gunhawk was bored, and with his father and brother gone all day, riding the wide open range where he was forbidden to go, he had nothing to do. But talk to Teresa. In the kitchen. In the great room. In the barn. Anywhere she went, he would follow her, for conversation, for reassurance. And maybe. . .for knowledge. For Teresa knew things about life at Lancer, and about his mother, that he knew he would never hear from his Old Man.
Finally, out of desperation, he asked her if she had something, anything, he could do. “But nothing too strenuous,” he sarcastically moaned.
“Why, yes I do have something for you. Follow me. . .to my room.” Johnny followed Teresa into her bedroom, and chuckled to himself. It was a girl’s room, all right. Very frilly, he mused.
“I’ve been wanting this shelf hung for about a year. My father was going to hang it for me. . .but he never got around to it. Murdoch said he would, but then, well, everything happened. Anyway, it’s been sitting here for the longest time.”
Johnny studied the wall, and the shelf. “You got any tools?”
“Yes, in the shed. Follow me.” He dutifully followed.
When they returned with the tools, Teresa sat on her bed and watched, amused, as Johnny measured. And drew lines. And measured again. “Does this look straight?” he asked.
“A little to the right, please,” she giggled her response.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” she teased.
“No, not really,” he replied flatly.
Finally, the shelf was hung and Teresa placed her little knick-knacks on it. “It looks good. Thank you, Johnny.”
“Any time, ma’am,” he smiled. “Anything else you need done?”
“Well, the potatoes need peeled. . .” she meekly responded.
So for the rest of that afternoon, Johnny Madrid, feared gunfighter, sat with Teresa. And peeled potatoes.
That night at dinner, Johnny commented to Teresa that he liked the brass tea set that sat on the hutch in the dining area. “I’ve never seen a brass one before,” he quietly said.
Murdoch chuckled, and Teresa sighed. “It’s not brass, Johnny. It’s. . .silver. It just hasn’t been cleaned in over a year. With everything going on, neither Maria nor I felt like polishing tea sets.”
So the next morning, after Murdoch and Scott had left, Johnny asked Teresa for the ‘cleanin’ stuff.’ “I’m gonna make your tea set pretty again,” he advised. And for the rest of the morning and a good part of the afternoon, Johnny Madrid dipped, rubbed, polished, and shined the tea set, carefully cleaning each groove, restoring it to its original, shining beauty. Teresa was so impressed, she gave Johnny the silver candelabras and the silverware to clean. Even Maria ran to her own little house, retrieving the silver tray Murdoch had given her and Cipriano on their 25th wedding anniversary. Johnny shined them all.
“I didn’t think. . .you. . .would know how to do things like that,” Teresa quietly commented.
“Well, I’ve had lots of practice. I shine my Colt a lot,” he grinned, lovingly patting the gun that was forever at his right hip.
Teresa looked at him warily, but then couldn’t help but smile. “Well thank you. Everything looks. . .wonderful.”
“Anytime, Miss Teresa,” he replied.
The next day, the bored gunhawk helped Teresa fold clothes. “It’s awful quiet around here. Where is everybody?” he inquired.
“Well, today is Maria’s day off, and Rosita and Anna went into town.”
“Oh. So, we’re here alone?”
“Yes.” She paused, then added, “I used to like to be alone here. When my father and Murdoch were working, and Maria and everyone was gone, I used to pretend I was the lady of the house. I felt so. . .grown-up. But ever since my father. . . .well, I don’t like being alone here anymore. This house can get kind of. . .creepy. . .sometimes. .”
Johnny smiled slightly at that statement.
Teresa quickly changed the subject. “Dr. Jenkins will be here tomorrow. I bet you’re glad,” she commented.
“I won’t be glad ‘til he gives me the all clear. I don’t like him. . .he’s mean to me,” Johnny pouted.
“Oh, he’s so mean to you, Johnny. He was so kind and gentle with you when you were sick. You just don’t remember, that’s all.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t care what he says, I’m gonna ride tomorrow. And no one will stop me.” The dejected look on Johnny’s face brought a feeling of sweet sorrow to Teresa. She had to do something to cheer him up.
“Follow me,” Teresa ordered. And Johnny did. And he realized that for the past week, whenever this 5’3, 90-pound girl ordered him to follow, he did so, like a lost puppy. Hmmm, have to do something about that, he sighed.
He followed her to the dining room table. “Sit down,” she commanded, pulling out the chair and pushing him into it. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”
Teresa disappeared into the kitchen, and Johnny waited, with a feeling of puzzlement and amusement. What is she up to?
When Teresa came out of the kitchen, it was then that the two of them experienced their first ‘Afternoon Delight.’ It was totally unexpected, unplanned, and a deliciously wonderful experience for both of them. A great way for a man and woman to get to really know each other.
Johnny’s bond with Teresa had formed. . . . .
Johnny made his way to the barn, and in an unaccustomed action for him, gave Barranca to one of the hands to care for. “I’ll be back later, Amigo,” he softly said to his beloved friend.
He wanted to clean up a bit before meeting Teresa, so he used the back stairs and made his way to his bedroom. He freshened up, putting on some of the ‘sweet smellin’ stuff’ that six months ago he never would of thought of wearing. But Teresa had bought some for him and Scott as a little gift, shortly after their arrival home, and he had to admit to liking it. Just a little.
As he changed his shirt, he wondered what Teresa had planned. She said she had something new planned, but I don’t know how anything could top the last time, he smiled as he remembered the feeling of satisfaction he gained from their last ‘delight.’
He came down the stairs and Teresa stood, waiting for him at the dining room table. She looked lovely. Her hair was long and flowing, and she wore a simple blue dress that was perfect for the occasion.
“You sure we’re alone?” he inquired.
“Yes,” she softly replied.
Smiling, he asked, “It will be here? At the dining room table?”
“Yes. Come, sit.”
Johnny made his way to the table and began to sit at his seat.
“No, here,” Teresa said, motioning for him to sit in “the” chair. Murdoch’s chair. She gently pushed him into it. “What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” she whispered wickedly in Johnny’s ear. He felt the hairs on his neck stand on end, and a shiver ran through him.
Her warm breath sure feels good on my neck, he sighed.
“I’ll be right back,” Teresa advised, and at that, disappeared into the kitchen. The anticipation in Johnny Lancer rose. The excitement, the pure ecstasy, of what was about to happen overwhelmed him. If she didn’t hurry up, he was sure he would explode with the energy he possessed.
Finally, the young woman emerged from the kitchen. Her smile lit up her beautiful face and her brown eyes sparkled as she walked toward Johnny. She placed the dish and glass in front of him, then handed him the fork.
“Enjoy. . .” was all she said.
He took the fork and took a bite of the rich, chocolate cake Teresa had placed in front of him. The sounds coming from the handsome ex-gunhawk were of pure joy.
“Mmm-mmm, Teresa. . .this is. . . .God, this is. . .wonderful,” the words came from a mouth full of the rich, chocolaty creation Teresa had made. Just for him.
“Here, wash it down with the milk. It’s nice and cold,” she advised.
Johnny drank the milk, and Teresa couldn’t help but laugh at the ‘milk moustache’ around his mouth.
“Join me, please,” he said, pulling the chair out for her to sit. She took a bite of the cake, and the same delightful sounds came from her.
“Mmmm. . .have to admit, this is pretty darn good. . . .” came the mumbled words from the otherwise ladylike Teresa. When she was able to speak clearly, she advised, “I tried something new with the recipe. I used a little more cocoa and a little less milk, I read it would be richer that way.”
Johnny’s full mouth spit out words once again. “Well. . . .this is. .really rich. It’s great, Teresa. Didn’t. . . .think anything could top the last time. . . .”
Teresa and Johnny ate their cake and drank their milk. And talked, with mouths full, just like two kids. They laughed, too.
In other words, Brother and Sister enjoyed the company of one another.
As Johnny started on his second, smaller, piece of cake, he commented, “I’m surprised Murdoch don’t like chocolate cake. He has sort of a sweet tooth. . .”
“Oh, he likes cake. Just not this rich. And he prefers a small piece to the rather. . .large. .pieces his son likes. . . .”
“Yeah, and Scott and his apple pies. .” Johnny laughed. “Hey, have you and Scott ever. . .you know. . .had a delight with pies?”
Teresa laughed, and eyed her brother wickedly. “No, Johnny. Seems like you and I are the only ones that share this ‘guilty pleasure.’ ”
“Yeah, kind a like it though. Kind a like our little secret. . . .that no one else has the right to know about. It was when we did this the last time, you know, when I was still kind of. . . not all together. . . that I really got to know you. And, well, began to accept you as my sister. . .” he said, quietly and thoughtfully.
Johnny’s words brought a tear to Teresa’s eyes. “I know. That day, I found out just how sweet and kind you really are, Johnny Madrid Lancer. . . .”
“Hey, don’t let that get out. Got my reputation to consider, you know. . .” Johnny laughed.
And for the rest of the afternoon, Johnny Lancer and Teresa O’Brien enjoyed their cake. And milk. And each other. And their special time together; their special secret. They enjoyed their. . . . . .
Written for the Lancer Convention Fan Zine