story is somewhat of a sequel to "For the Best."
"Hey, where's the birthday girl?"
"I don't know, Johnny. When I got up this morning, she wasn't in the kitchen. Maybe she decided to sleep in."
"Not Teresa. She knows us working men need a big breakfast."
"Well, perhaps she thought that just this once you could get your own?"
"Of course, I could, Boston. I'm real handy in the kitchen. Now let me see--I think I'll make myself a stack of flapjacks."
"Flapjacks? Are you sure you know how to do that?"
"'Course. They're just ike tortillas, only fatter!"
"Oh, uh, why don't you stick with toast and coffee?"
"I am hungry, Brother and I want flapjacks."
"Yeah, I suppose you do. Uh, say what did you get Teresa for her birthday?"
"Didn't I tell you? You remember last month when that travelin' salesman came through Morro Coyo? Well, he had all kinds of books on his wagon so I bought a cookbook for Teresa."
"A cookbook? Don't you think she might that's an insult?"
"Nah, this has got all kinds of unusual stuff in it. I figured she'd appreciate knowin' some new ways to cook beef."
"Well, I suppose you do have a point."
"There's only one thing. How do you spell Echo?"
The blond's eyes narrowed as he studied his brother's serious expression. "Echo?"
"Yeah, you know them things that Madeline tried to get me to eat. Those things in shells."
"That's it! I want to make sure there aren't any of them in the book. I don't want Teresa to cook any of them!"
"Where is this book? I'll check it out for you."
"Here it is. I was going to wrap it right after breakfast. By the way, Scott do you have any wrapping paper? I don't want to put it in just plain paper."
"I think I have some left from the package I wrapped."
"Great. Just put it on my bed, willya? Then after I make my flapjacks, I'll wrap it."
Scott stood there perusing through the cookbook. "Hmm, Johnny, you know there are some pretty fancy recipes in this. I'm not sure Teresa will be interested in making all of them."
"That's okay. Just as long as she doesn't make echoes."
"Well, as a matter of fact, I just found a recipe for them right here."
"What? Tear it out and throw it in the fire!"
"Johnny! It's her present!"
"I don't care. I'm giving it to her so I can rip it out if I want to." Gingerly, with his fingertips he ripped out the page and tossed it into the fire of the cast-iron stove. "Now, I'm safe."
**Yes, you are, Little Brother, especially considering that was a recipe for tripe.** Scott Lancer definitely did not like tripe.
"Well, I'd better get going, Johnny. Remember that Murdoch wants us to finish those fences on the South Range so after breakfast, meet me out there."
"Sure, sure. I'm going to make my flapjacks and wrap Teresa's present, then I'll head out."
minutes later the blond Lancer reached the South Range. It was a beautiful
morning with the sun already making itself known. Taking off
his hat to wipe his brow, Scott could see a small figure in the distance. Riding over, he found Teresa O'Brien seated under a tree with a sketch pad. "Teresa, what are you doing out here?"
"Morning, Scott. Sometimes I like to get up early and sketch the mountains."
"It is a pretty sight. Happy Birthday, by the way."
"Thanks. I guess I'd better get back to the house. I have to bake my cake for tonight."
"Why don't you let Maria make it? You shouldn't have to make it yourself."
"Oh, it's okay. Besides if I don't, Jelly might take a notion to make me one. D you remember that one last year?"
"I certainly do. I never did figure out what he did to it."
Laughing, the young woman replied, "He told me later that he didn't know cakes needed something in them to make them rise."
"Well, it sure was flat, almost like one of Johnny's tortillas."
"But it was sweet of him to try. It's too bad Malcolm isn't here. I'm sure he'd be able to make a beautiful cake."
"You mean he can make something besides stones?"
Both laughed at the memory of Johnny's persistent reference to scones as stones.
Just then an especially bright beam of sunlight reflected off the ornate comb in Teresa's hair "Say, is that new? I don't remember seeing it before."
"As a matter of fact, it's a birthday present. It just arrived yesterday."
"Well, it's beautiful just like you."
Teresa blushed. "Thank you, kind sir. I must admit it's a little bit gaudy to wear for church, but I think it will do for going out."
"Wait until Steve Henderson sees you in it. He'll probably pop the question."
"Now, Scott, you know Steve doesn't want to rush me. I want to see something of the world before I settle down."
"Oh, I always thought Lancer was the only place for you."
"Well, it is, but I'd like to see places like New Orleans and New York just like you have. Stephen understands."
"Maybe you could go there on your honeymoon?"
"Scott Lancer, are you trying to get me married off?"
"If you want the truth, Murdoch's been making noises about grandchildren and I thought if you got married, he might leave me alone!"
"That I am. I leave the romancing up to Johnny."
"As I recall, you were engaged before you came out here."
"And what a mistake that was! No, I suppose I'll get married one day, but I'm in no hurry."
"I know what you mean. There's too much at stake. I keep thinking about what happened between my mother and father."
"Teresa, you'd never leave a child."
"No, I wouldn't, but as much as I care about Stephen, I'm not sure I want to spend the rest of my life with him."
"You've got plenty of time to decide."
"I want to do it right the first time. I'm not like my mother."
"What does that mean?"
Twisting a strand of hair, the dark-eyed girl glanced at the tall blond. "You might as well know. The comb came in a package from San Francisco. With it was a note from Angel. She's going to remarry."
look of surprise on Scott's handsome face, she reassured him. "I met the
man when you took me to San Francisco that time. He's not like
Carl. He's older for one thing. Evidently, he saw her perform and fell in love with her."
"I see. And how does Angel feel about him?"
"She told me that she's fond of him. I think he represents security to her."
"It's all right, Scott. I'm trying to understand. I think she's afraid of being alone as she gets older."
"I think Carl's manipulation opened her eyes."
"Maybe but I think my mother did love him. I've realized that not everyone loves the right person. My father loved Angel, but it was a mistake. Angel loved Carl--another mistake. Hopefully, this time it isn't. She may not have been a good mother, but I don't wish her ill."
"I know you don't. You're a remarkable woman."
Teresa moved over to embrace the slender blond. "Thanks. You know, Scott, I don't think I've ever told you and Johnny how much you mean to me. Even though I had my father and Murdoch to love, I always regretted not having brothers or sisters. Now, I've got the best brothers in the world."
The older Lancer squeezed the slim girl gently. "Johnny and I feel the same about you."
"Well, now I'd better head back to Lancer. I've got so much to do before tonight. By the way, what did you get me for my birthday?"
The cerulean-eyed Lancer started to reply, then caught himself just in time. "Teresa, that was underhanded!"
"After being around you two, what else could I be?"
"You'd better watch it, Miss. I believe there's still the tradition of the birthday spanking in this country."
"You just try it, Mister, and you'll never see another cherry pie again!"
"Ooh! Now that is low!"
Teresa grinned as she mounted her horse and waved to Scott.
**Well, I'd better get to work on these fences since Johnny seems to be delayed--again.**
An hour later, the gunfighter did appear looking like he'd been caught in the middle of a snowstorm,.
Taking in the white powder all over his brother's clothing, Scott inquired, "Johnny, what the hell happened to you?"
"It wasn't my fault! Teresa shouldn't keep the flour in such big bags. I tried to get some out, but the bag slipped."
"Oh, oh. Did you get it cleaned up before she got home?"
"No. She walked in and found me in the midst of a flour cloud. That damn straw broom wouldn't even get it up!"
"She ordered me out of the house. She wouldn't even let me clean up! That little girl has one fiery temper!"
"I would say that she was provoked. Now let's get these fences done so you'll have time to clean up when we get back."
"Did you say something, Brother?"
"No! Let's just get the job done! Some of that flour got down my back and it itches!"
his smile, the older Lancer broke out the shovels and other needed tools.
celebration of Teresa's birthday went splendidly. All the gifts were much
admired and best of all, Teresa did not make one mention of
the flour fiasco from the morning. Johnny had held his breath until Murdoch had gone to bed. If Teresa had a temper, Murdoch Lancer's was even worse!
Teresa had kissed the four men and thanked them for their thoughtfulness. Then she too had gone to her room, intending to write a letter to her mother.
had headed to his room as well. Dawn seemed to come extra early at Lancer
and the young man was tired. Just before he turned the light
down, Johnny entered. "Say Boston, I really think Teresa liked that cookbook, don't you? She even appreciated it that I marked all of the chocolate cake recipes."
"I'm sure she did, Johnny."
"There's just one thing I wanted to ask you."
"That silver-handled mirror and brush you got her. Why'd you write TOE on it?"
"Yeah, you know--a small T and E, then in the middle a big O!"
"That's a monogram of her intials: Teresa Ellen O'Brien."
"Oh. Oh sure, I knew that. Hey, that's pretty fancy. Do you suppose you could get me something with my mon...mono--whatever it is--on it?"
"Well, I suppose. Hmm! Let me think. I've got it--the perfect thing!"
Eagerly, the dark-haired Lancer moved towards his brother. "Really? What is it?"
"And I won't even have to send away for it. I can do the carving myself."
"Carving? You don't carve silver!"
"Silver? Who said anything about silver? I plan to carve J.M.L. on the broom handle."
Johnny's mouth dropped open. "Broom handle? You're going to be sorry for that!"
The younger Lancer grabbed one of the feather pillows and started to hit his brother with it. Scott immediately retaliated. Soon the bedroom was filled with soft white feathers, reminiscent of snowfall on the nearby mountains.
After knocking over most of the furniture in their titanic struggle, the two combatants were joined by the two other residents of the hacienda who stopped at the bedroom door.
Appalled by what he saw, Murdoch was speechless. Finally, the older man found his voice. "And I thought I wanted grandchildren!"
giggled, then grabbed a pillow and joined in the fight.