The Ties That Bind – Warriors of St. Antoni – chapter 11

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first  of my new Portal Worlds Serials. The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.

On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.

Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.

With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life.  To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.

This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017

Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 11 The Ties That Bind  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

BETHANY’S wedding to Alexander McCaffey four days later was attended by the whole town.  Bethany wore a wedding dress especially made for her by Giselle with help from Lisette and Margo.  Jeanne and Iris both looked beautiful as bridesmaids.

Jeanne pinned on a bright smile whenever anyone looked at her.  Today she could not help reflecting that a wedding of her own was extremely unlikely.  Too many obstacles, too many people stood between her and Samuel Johnson.

The Johnsons did not attend the wedding.  When the marriage announcement and the engagement of Carlos Madonna to Iris had appeared in the town paper, Ira Johnson had abruptly remembered business up the river that required the presence of his two remaining sons. They had left on the regular steamboat that evening.

The wedding ceremony had been performed just after the evening service.  The family walked back to The Hotel afterwards and had a quiet celebratory supper. While Alec, Carlos and Michael had a drink in the bar, the other women escorted Bethany upstairs to help her out of her wedding dress.

When they had dressed her in a soft green nightgown and brushed out her hair, Margo produced a small bottle from her pocket and poured a minuscule amount of the liquid into the water glass.

Jeanne stared at the glass. “What on earth is that?”

“Brandy. To help her relax,” Margo explained.  She thoughtfully regarded her foster daughter.  “Did your grandmama explain what is going to happen?”

Bethany nodded mutely.

“It is better not to be afraid,” Margo explained to Jeanne.  “A good man does not like his wife to be afraid of loving.  There will only be pain the first time, Nina.  After that if you are persistent, you can teach him to help you enjoy loving too.”

Giselle kissed Bethany on the brow, and whispered, “It will be fine, you’ll see.”

Margo drew the girls out of the room.

Bethany obediently sipped her brandy, and curled up in the chair to wait for her husband.

Apparently Alec and Margo were of the same mind, because he brought up a bottle of champagne with him. He set the bucket of ice on the table, looking at her glass with surprise.

Bethany saw him looking at it and said defensively, “Margo gave it to me.  I guess she could tell I’m a little nervous.”

“Me too. I mean I’m a little nervous too,” Alec responded.

“You? What do you have to be nervous about?”

He succeeded in in removing the cork from the champagne bottle and poured two glasses. He handed one to her. “I’ve heard some real horror stories about wedding nights and I didn’t want this to be another one.”

Alec picked up Margo’s offering and sniffed.  “Brandy?” he inquired.

Bethany sipped cautiously at the champagne.  The bubbles tickled her nose.  “Yes. I must say, your remedy tastes much better than Margo’s,” she admitted.

When he held out his hand she allowed him to pull her to her feet.  To her surprise, he sat down in her chair and pulled her back down onto his lap.

“Relax,” he said, feeling the stiffness of her body against him. “Let’s just talk for a while.”

“What do you want to talk about?”

She tensed a little as she felt his hand begin to stroke her hair.

“Let’s talk about you. Did you spend much time out here growing up?”

“Not really, Gran came and got us when I was ten and took us back east. We came back to visit a few times, but mostly I lived with Gran. It was exciting traveling on the railroad.”

Under his gentle prompting, Bethany told Alec a great deal about her early life.  Insensibly she relaxed.  It was some time later that she realized her champagne glass was empty.  By this time, she was beginning to feel a little light headed.

When Alec pressed the first light kiss on her lips, she found it easy to kiss him back. Under her fingers, she could feel the trip hammer pulse of his heart. Tentatively, she slid her arm around his neck.  Alec made a soft masculine groan of satisfaction against her lips and his tongue thrust into her mouth, deepening the kiss. He cupped her breast in his hand. Bethany gasped with surprise and pleasure when his hand grazed her upstanding nipple.

He lifted his head so he could watch her face while he caressed her. “Unbutton my shirt,” he said hoarsely.  “I want you to touch me the way I’m touching you.”

Obediently, she undid the buttons and slid her hand inside to touch his chest. When she found the hard masculine nipples, and brushed them lightly with her fingers, he moaned, and caught her hand, bringing it to his mouth.

“Sorry, Darling,” despite his best effort, his voice was shaken.  “Bad idea.  I’ll never last if I let you touch me.  I want to make it good for you this time.”

Bethany regarded him under lids made lazy by a combination of desire and champagne.  “I feel good now.”

Alec stood up with her in his arms and walked to the bed. “You’re going to feel even better,” he promised, letting her legs slide down him. He caught the hem of the gauzy green nightgown and pulled it up as she sat down on the bed. The gown had been made for a wedding night and slipped easily over Bethany’s head, leaving her body bare.

He stood holding the gown, mesmerized by his first sight of his prize.  Her skin was creamy white, the full breasts ending in upstanding pink peaks, sweeping down to a narrow waist. Her legs were long and white, crowned by a fiery thatch at the apex of her thighs. Alec closed his eyes and swallowed. He imagined those long thighs wrapped around his hips and had to resist the urge to throw himself on her and bury himself in her body.

She was a virgin, he reminded himself. He mustn’t frighten her.  She was willing now, but if he scared her she might not be, and he realized suddenly that he wanted her to be willing. He wanted that sweet response she had showed him earlier.

He opened his eyes and smiled at her. “Get up in the bed,” he said, softly. “I’ll join you as soon as I get undressed.”

Obediently, she lay back against the pillows and eagerly watched him remove his clothes.  The champagne had removed her inhibitions; she felt no embarrassment about being naked before him. She was conscious only of the ache between her legs and the way her breast still tingled where he had touched it. When he was naked, she could see the heavy muscles in his chest and shoulders, his small round buttocks, and powerfully muscled thighs and calves. She couldn’t help a gasp of surprise however when he turned around and her eyes fixed on his engorged shaft. A sharp answering thrust of pleasure lanced in her groin.

Misunderstanding her gasp of surprise for fear, Alec quickly gathered her into his arms, hiding his shaft from her sight. He smothered her mouth in an endless, aching kiss, his hand sliding down to cup her buttocks and press her against himself. She clung to him, thrusting her tongue into his mouth, delighting in the feel of his smooth skin under her hands.

His mouth left hers and began a trail of fire down her throat to her breast.  When he took her engorged nipple in his mouth, Bethany moaned and bucked against him, and her legs parted involuntarily.

“Easy, Darling,” he whispered, his voice shaking.  “We’ve got all the time in the world.”

His hand slid into the red curls, seeking and finding her small bud of pleasure. “O God, you’re already wet for me,” he moaned.

His fingers thrust inside her and she lifted herself against his hand. “That’s right, come for me baby,” he encouraged her, thrusting in and out against her nether tongue with his fingers.

When he bent and took her nipple in his mouth again, Bethany went over the edge, moaning in pleasure as she climaxed. It was too much. When he felt her fluttering against his fingers, he hurriedly pulled his hand out of her.  Rolling between her legs, he thrust hard into her still quivering channel. Dimly, he was aware of her pleasure turning into a gasp of pain, but he was too far gone, thrusting in and out of her with frantic need. “I’m sorry,” he gasped. “I can’t wait. O God, I’m going to come now.”

Bethany had been jerked back to reality when the sharp pain of Alec’s penetration hit her, but his frantic movements lubricated her channel, and she began to feel a thrumming echo of her earlier pleasure. There was not enough time for the feeling to come to fruition; Alec was stiffening and moaning as his seed pumped into her.

Afterwards, he lay like an exhausted log on her, his face buried in her neck, as his breathing finally slowed.  When his weight began to feel uncomfortable, she pushed tentatively at his shoulder. Obediently, he rolled off her, but pulled her with him so she was lying half on him, one of her legs across his hips.  There was a dull ache between her thighs, and she could feel wetness beginning to leak back out, but a vast feeling of contentment washed over her as she remembered the pleasure that had preceded the pain. I think I’m going to like being married, she thought drowsily.

He turned his head to look at her.  “Are you alright?” he asked.

“Mmhum,” she answered sleepily content.

“I’m sorry it hurt.  I wish there was some other way,” he said tentatively, giving her the opportunity to rail at him if she wanted to. He vaguely remembered the girls at Madame Tousands saying that new brides were always angry after their first experience with sex. He was answered by a soft snore. After a moment, he reached down and pulled the covers up over them

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Courtship – Warriors of St. Antoni chapter 10

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal Worlds Serials.The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.

On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.

Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.

With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life.  To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.

This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017

Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 10 Courthship  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

IRIS WASN’T in the goat barn and she wasn’t down in the cheese-curing cellar. When she had run out of the den after the discussion with her father concerning their engagement, she had said she needed to check her on cheeses. Carlos and King George eyed each other over the sturdy gate enclosing the goat pen. George reared up and put both front hooves on the gate giving Carlos an assessing stare. He was large enough he could see over the top of it if he stood on his hind legs. Briefly Carlos wondered if the damn animal was deciding if he was worthy of his mistress or not.

“Where do you suppose she is George?” Carlos said aloud. He was wondering if Iris was avoiding him.

“I hear you want to do business,” said a voice from behind him. Carlos turned to find Henry Miller regarding him thoughtfully. He had heard about Henry from Mike. After Iris had left, Mike had suggested he hire Henry to investigate the high grading at the mine.

“I need an investigator,” Carlos agreed. “Someone familiar with how shifts at a silver mine work.” He walked over to a stone bench under the fruit trees, indicating the older man should join him. “Let’s talk.”

Peeking around the corner of the goose cote, Iris saw the two men talking with every appearance of comfort. Obviously, Carlos hadn’t tried too hard to find her, she thought to herself or he would have checked in here too. She jumped as Lulubelle, Jeanne’s pet goose nipped her upper thigh from behind. Angrily, she slapped at her and Lulubelle hissed back in retaliation. She would have to leave the cote before the bird become more aggressive.

Why was she hiding in here anyway, she thought resentfully. So what if Carlos was on the patio. She would just ignore him and walk across the patio to go up to her room.

As she started across the patio, she heard Carlos say, “You can start whenever you feel is right. I’ll tell the day shift supervisor to expect you.”

She had almost made it to the door when Carlos caught up to her. “Where were you?” he asked.

“I was looking for Jeanne,” Iris said. “I thought she might be in the goose cote, but she wasn’t. Was there something you wanted?”

“Yes,” he replied. “I thought we might go for a ride this afternoon.”

Iris hesitated, “I don’t know if I can. I need to make sure Gran doesn’t need my help with the Wedding reception arrangements. She said something about driving into town to talk to Georges Coudoual about them.”

“Let’s talk to your Gran,” he said, smiling. “If she wants to go in, I’ll drive the both of you in the buggy. We can stay at the hotel tonight. It will be a good chance for the two of us to spend time together.”

“I have to do the morning milking—” she began.

“Oh, I’m sure your helpers can handle it for one day,” he said. “I know how much you like to be involved in the day-to-day stuff, but if we are going to spend more time together the way Mike wants, you’ll need to train a supervisor to handle stuff for you.”

Giselle was in the parlor waiting for lunch to be ready. Accurately reading Iris’s flushed face and Carlos’s amusement, she  threw herself into the plan to stay in town overnight. Directing her granddaughter to tell Lisette to pack for both of them, she sent Paco to tell Iris’s head milkmaid she would need to be in charge the next day. She smiled conspiringly at Carlos as she demolished Iris’s excuses for not going into town.

That evening when it was time for dinner, Giselle pleaded a headache and declared her intention of going to bed to sleep it off.

“I’ll stay with you,” Iris said.

“No, Lisette will do all I need. The pair of you go eat in the dining room. I intend to have a bowl of soup sent up and then take my powders. They will put me to sleep almost instantly.”

Iris opened her mouth to argue, but Giselle cut her off. “Please dear,” she said. “I need the quiet.”

Once she had shooed the pair out the door, Giselle collapsed into one of the comfortable chairs in the sitting room.

“You are a sneaky old woman,” announced Lisette coming out of her bedroom.

“Yes, I am, aren’t I?” Giselle agreed with some satisfaction. “At least the boy is finally courting her. I was thinking he didn’t have the gumption. Did you order dinner?”

“Yes. We’re having cold melon consommé, roast chicken with mashed potatoes and new peas. I asked them to send up a bottle of that bubbly wine.”

“Do you think it will work out between that pair?” Giselle asked her longtime friend.

Lisette shrugged. “They have further to go than Bethany did. Iris needs to see him as a real man, not some character out of a book and Carlos needs to see her as a woman to walk beside him, not a fragile doll.”

Georges Coudoual the Hotel owner came to their table  during dinner, to give them tickets to the revue held on Monday and Wednesday nights. The revues were a place where families and courting couples could have a night out. Coudoual set up chairs and tables in there for guests, sold tickets and during the breaks between skits made lot of money selling refreshments to the crowd. The entertainment was a little risqué but still suitable for families and his black clad servers kept any singles from causing too much of a ruckus.

Iris had a good time. She had been nervous at the idea of spending time with Carlos while he was supposed to be courting her. She was focused on Carlos so she wasn’t aware she had caught the attention of one of the handsome men leaning against the refreshment bar.  The skits were funny and the singing surprisingly good. During an interval when Carlos obligingly went to get them two glasses of wine, a man sat down at her table uninvited.

Taken aback, she told him. “I’m sorry, but that seat is taken.”

He smiled at her. “Such a lovely lady as yourself should never be left alone.”

Her eyebrows rose. “I’m not alone, and I don’t believe I know you. So, if you don’t mind—”

“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said with a flourish. “Mike Franks, at your service, lovely lady.”

Despite herself, Iris was amused.  “How kind of you. All the same, I assure you I am in no need of help from you. Any services I need, I am sure my fiancé can provide. And that seat is taken.”

“Yes, it is,” Carlos growled, stepping between her chair and the one Franks had taken as he set the two glasses of wine down on the table.

Franks grinned up at him before rising with a great show of reluctance. “Oh, it’s yourself, is it Madonna? I’ve seen you around. Don’t you run the Lucky Strike for this lovely lady’s father? How clever of you to become so well acquainted with your boss’s daughter.”

She saw Carlos’s back stiffen and recognized the signs. Several times when they had been children, she had seen his hot temper in action. It had usually ended with Carlos on top of the other boy beating the tar out of him. With a lively dread of being thrust into a public brawl, Iris intervened. “Oh, Carlos and I have known each other since we were children, Mr. Franks. I’m afraid you will have to excuse us now though; the music for the next act is starting.”

She tugged on Carlos’s sleeve. He resisted but two of the black clad servers had come up. “I’m afraid we need to ask you to sit down, sir. You are blocking the view of the stage,” one of them said politely, stepping between him and Franks.

Franks hesitated but decided he if he persisted it would ruin the impression on Iris he was trying to make, and he walked away.  Carlos sat back down.

“How did you meet Franks?” he demanded sharply.

The tone was so at variance with the one he usually used with her that Iris looked at him in astonishment. “He came up and introduced himself,” she said, amused. “I assure you he isn’t the first man to do so. It’s nothing.”

His mouth tightened, but the couple at the next table made shushing noises at them. He would take it up with her later, he assured himself. For the rest of the evening he continued to brood about the fact that his fiancée seemed to attract men like flies to a honey pot. He had always thought Iris was a pretty girl, but it had dawned on him when he had seen Franks flirting with her that she was beautiful enough for him to have to compete with other men for her affections.

Iris had dismissed the encounter from Franks. As she had told Carlos, Franks hadn’t been the first man to flirt with her. If the man kept his attentions polite, the attempts usually just amused her, and Gran had seen to it that all her granddaughters knew how to deal with less than polite attempts to court them.

She had never associated Carlos with that type of crude behavior, so when they came upstairs she startled to find herself pinned against her room door and thoroughly kissed. Carlos held her head still with one hand and his mouth crushed hers, demanding a response, forcing her lips apart so he could thrust his tongue inside. She could feel the carved panel design on the door flattened against her back, and his other hand gripped her buttock pulling her against the hard bulge of his arousal. Iris had bred her goats for years; she knew what was pushing against her lower body. What she wasn’t prepared for was her own answering excitement and need. An aching, tickling sensation started between her thighs. Hardly aware of her own actions, her body softened against his.  She freed her hands to slide them up around his neck. Carlos was beyond caring that her grandmother was sleeping inside the room on the other side of the door, or that they were still in a public hallway.  He was conscious only of his need to assert his claim on her and have her accept it. He might have taken her in a scrambling tumble against the door if a raucous laugh from down the hall hadn’t jerked him back to his senses. Abruptly, he pushed away from her and turned the key in the door. When it opened, he shoved her inside and pulled it closed.

Iris stumbled over a footstool when Carlos thrust her into the darkened sitting room. She caught herself from falling by grabbing the back of a chair that scraped noisily as it moved several inches on the polished wood floor. Vaguely, she heard the key he had used to open the door hit the floor near her foot as the door closed behind her.

She stood unsteadily for a moment, her heart still pounding, her breath coming out in gasps before walking toward her own room. Gran had left one of the gas lamps turned on low for her. Turning it up, she caught sight of herself in the mirror and gulped. Her hair was coming down; one sleeve of her dress had been torn and her breast was almost hanging out. Her lips were swollen from being kissed and there was an unsatisfied ache in her groin.

Outside in the hall, Carlos stood with one hand braced against the closed door, out of breath for several minutes, before he straightened up. He walked back down to the regular bar and ordered a stiff drink. He downed it in one gulp and ordered another.

“You okay, son?” inquired Henry Miller who had come up to the bar. He, studied the young man curiously

“Yes. I’m fine,” Carlos bit out. “Did you have something to report already?”

Henry gave him the fish eye. However, he was familiar enough with the behavior of young men in love to keep his thoughts to himself. “I made connections and picked up some rumors,” he said.  “Let’s go sit at that table in the back. We can talk there without being noticed too much.” He turned and threaded his way through the crowded room heading for a table in a darkened corner. After a brief hesitation, Carlos followed him.

A Pan-full Of Trouble – Warriors of St. Antoni Chapter 9

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal Worlds Serials. The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.

On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.

Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.

With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life.  To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.

This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017

Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 9 The Highgraders  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

DAWN WAS just breaking when Iris entered the dairy goat barn to be greeted by eager bleats of welcome. She had a small dairy herd, only about twenty grown nanny goats and King George. There was a larger herd kept for meat and wool up in the hills. But these were hers. She knew every one of them by name and their quirks. Evolution on St. Antoni had taken a slightly different track than it had on earth. Iris’s goats were larger and hairier than those of earth, and both sexes carried heavy horns curving alongside their faces. She braced herself when King George butted her playfully as she went by. Despite her fragile appearance she was sturdy enough not to stagger when the large animal knocked against her. She opened the milking stalls as she moved into the barn and each nanny goat went to her favorite one. King George followed her up to the gate that separated the milking stations from the feed bins, bleating at her imperatively. She loaded up several buckets with feed made from native grass seeds and walked along the line scooping some into each bin. When she reached the end, she sat the bucket down and allowed the King of the barn to scarf up what remained in the pail. She then dumped an armful of hay made from native grasses in the bins. The spiced cheeses she made from the milk her goats produced were highly prized.

By this time, Patrice and her assistants had arrived to help milk. One man checked the separation tank to make sure it was clean and that all the drains leading into the other two tanks were shut. Another of them started the fire under the small homogenizing tank below the separation tank. The milk produced from her goats would be run through a separation tank to pull out most of the butterfat and then through the homogenizer tank before being poured into glass bottles and sent down to the deep cold cellars to chill. This evening when it was cool enough to travel, the milk and butter products would be loaded up and taken into the town icehouse where they would be stored for sale to the town or loaded onto a steamer to be taken into one of the larger city-states for the same purpose.

As soon as each goat finished being milked, Iris let her loose to run back out to the enclosure. She had just finished supervising the scrubbing of the tank for tomorrows milking when she heard Paco scream a welcome to the man who had just arrived.

She felt a sharp stab of excitement and took a deep breath before she turned to face the new arrival. Paco’s cousin, Carlos Madonna was a figure out of the romances she liked to read. He was a tall, well-built man with a shock of curly dark hair and melting brown eyes. Although Carlos spent much of his days inside the Lucky Strike in his role of supervisor, he worked outdoors a lot checking the progress of the miners who share-panned for gold on the St. Vyr claims along the river and streams in the mountains above the ranch.

Carlos set Paco down and moved towards Iris who was drying her hands on her apron.

“Good morning,” he said, filling his eyes with her.

“Good morning,” she responded, willing her voice not to squeak. “Did Margo know you were coming?”

“Probably, since Mike sent for me,” he said. “Do you know what he wants?”

Just then, King George, tired of being ignored, butted Iris in the behind. Surprised, she stumbled and would have fallen if Carlos hadn’t stepped forward and caught her. For just an instant, she rested against him, feeling that strong lithe body against hers. With a gasp, she caught her breath and pushed away from him.

“Thanks,” she said. She turned and smacked King George smartly on his nose in retaliation before opening the gate to the goat pasture just outside the walls. All the dairy goats except George streamed out into the pasture where they would spend the rest of the day.

“I suppose Papa just wants a report,” she said hesitantly in response to his question as she closed off the indoor gate. George bleated in protest at being left behind.

“Hush up,” she told him. “You know you aren’t allowed in here until the flowers have quit blooming!”

In fact, Iris was almost sure a general report wasn’t all Michael St. Vyr wanted, but she wasn’t about to say so. “Have you had breakfast?” she asked.

“No, I left too early for the cooks to be up,” he admitted. “Come and join me in the kitchen, I’m sure Tia Margo will be awake and cooking.”

She lifted her hands. “After I clean milk and other less savory stuff off, I’ll be there.”

After breakfast, Jeanne, Bethany and Alec departed for River Crossing and Michael St. Vyr summoned both Iris and Carlos to the Den.

“Why do you suppose he wants both of us?” Carlos asked her as he opened the door.

“Come in and sit down, both of you,” Michael said genially.

Iris sat with her hands folded tightly in her lap and her lips pressed together. She was a tall woman, but the oversized chair made her seem delicate and fragile. Carlos cast a curious look at her face before he too sat in one of St. Vyr’s massive chairs.

Michael steepled his fingers together and regarded the young couple over them out of narrowed eyes. “The doctor was out here last week,” he said. “That bullet in my spine moved since the last time he looked at it.”

“Papa why didn’t you say something?” Iris exclaimed. “Are you in pain?”

“What else did he say?” asked Carlos. “Is it dangerous?”

“The answer to both questions is yes. The pain is increasing and if it moves closer to the spine, it could cause my lungs to shut down and I will die.”

“He’s an old quack!” Iris cried, coming to kneel by his chair. “We’ll go into Junction City and get another opinion—”

St. Vyr reached out and stroked her bright hair. “No darlin’. That won’t help, I’m afraid. I wouldn’t have told you, but you need to know why I want to get this done as soon as it can be.”

Carlos frowned at him. “Get what done?”

“I need to be sure my girls are safe,” St. Vyr said simply.

Carlos’s frown grew. “Surely you don’t doubt that I will stand by them?”

Mike smiled at him. “I know that boy. Just as I know you don’t need what I’m about to propose as an incentive to do that. But you see, I regard you as the son I never had and I want you to be taken care of too. If all my girls marry other men, it might be their husbands wouldn’t feel that way about you. That’s why I want the two of you to get married.”

Iris jumped to her feet and stepped back from her father. “I’m not a side of meat!” she cried.

St. Vyr tried to hide his exasperation. He said, “I know that girl. But the pair of you have been making goo-goo eyes at each other for the better part of a year and neither one of you seems to want to do a thing about it. I’m just pushing it along a little.”

Carlos too, stood up. “Michael,” he drawled, “I won’t do this if Iris is opposed to it.”

“That’s the whole point,” St. Vyr said. “I don’t think she is opposed to marrying you. I think she’s just being—a woman. They take funny notions.”

He turned to his daughter. “Iris, let’s have the truth now. Do you dislike Carlos here?”

“No of course not,” she said. “But—”

St. Vyr held up a hand to stop her. “Wait, I’m not finished. Are you afraid of him for any reason?”

“No, I’m not afraid of him. In fact, I think he’s a fine man. But that isn’t the point. He doesn’t care for me that way, and I don’t want to be married to a man who—”

“You’re saying he’s never courted you,” St. Vyr pursued ruthlessly.

His daughter made a frustrated noise. “Papa, you don’t understand.”

“I understand better than you think,” her father retorted. “I’ve been married three times, remember.”

He looked at them consideringly. “All right, here’s what I propose. The two of you will announce an engagement and spend time together. That ought to keep the wolves away for a little while. If after three months, you still aren’t convinced, I’ll drop the entire matter. Hell, I may be dead by that time anyway.”

He looked at Carlos who had been watching him in silence. “Is that agreeable to you?”

“Yes.”

“Iris?”

“Oh, all right Papa it will be as you say,” she said submissively. “Was there anything else? If not, I need to turn over my cheeses.”

At St. Vyr’s nod, she practically ran from the room. He looked over at the man he regarded as a son. “You will have to court her to convince her that it’s her you want and not the third of the mine and ranch. Think you can do that?”

Carlos chuckled. “It won’t be hard—I always loved her, you know. How much of that story you fed us just now was the truth you old rascal? Did the Doc give you the long face?”

“Not really, but he said the bullet had shifted,” he admitted. “You got any problems at the Lucky Strike?”

“Some. My biggest problem is I’m not two people. I can handle the High-graders and the crew scaring our people off the placer claims but not at the same time. I have a good idea who is behind the scare tactics. I think it’s Max Franks and his gang. The high-graders are a different kettle of fish. I need an investigator to find out who is behind it; because I’m sure it isn’t just a few men slipping a little dust or nuggets into their pockets. It’s too organized, and the amount that seems to be missing each night is too consistent for that.”

 

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This Is My Land – Warriors of St. Antoni chapter 8

Warriors of St. Antoni is the first of my new Portal Worlds Serials. The book is still being written and edited, so what you read today is subject to change without notice in the published version.

On St. Antoni you got tough or you died. The only defense is a gun; your security is your ability to use it. This is the story of three sisters and the choices they make to survive on St. Antoni. Bethany marries a mercenary warrior to shield her family from a predatory neighbor. To protect her sister, Iris chooses between an arranged marriage with a beloved friend and an outlaw. Jeanne and the son of her greatest enemy defy both their families to find love.

Technology to find and open gateways to alternative worlds was found on earth in the late 21st century. Those expecting to get rich off the tremendous resources on these new worlds controlled Access to them. People talk though, and it wasn’t long before the new technology became common knowledge and unregulated Portals cropped up. Illegal settlers passed through Forbidden gates looking for new places to live and find adventure and liberty.

With only the technology they could carry or build from raw materials on St. Antoni they built a new way of life.  To survive they must rely on themselves. The learned to master deadly plants and animals. On St. Antoni, Adventure was a one-way trip to a hardscrabble life and Freedom meant relying on yourself for food, a roof over your head and safety.

This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is unintentional and accidental. © Gail Daley 2017 All Rights reserved. Any duplication of this work electronically or printed, except for brief publicity quotes, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author. Cover Art © by Gail Daley’s Fine Art 2017

Serial Chapters are posted on Fridays. Check in next Friday for the next chapter of Warriors of St. Antoni

Click below to Download a PDF copy and start reading Chapter 8 This Is My Land  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GailDaleyWriter/

MICHAEL ST.VYR assembled his riders at dawn the next morning.  St. Vyr had already mounted Redbird With the help of Stevens, the out of work miner he had hired to help him with mobility issues. He looked over his hands from the back of his red-striped tricorn.

McCaffey wasn’t yet mounted because unless he was mistaken, he was going to have to take on a couple of challenges from the hands before they left this morning. For the most part, the ranch hands were young; the life they led on St. Antoni was a young man’s game.  All of them wore guns; some McCaffey knew, would even be good with them.  Three or four of them wore the wide sombreros, short jackets and big spurs marking them as vaqueros. They all eyed McCaffey suspiciously.  He was on trial and he knew it.

“Boys, this here’s Alec McCaffey.  He and my daughter Bethany are going to be getting married come Sunday.  You’re all invited to the wedding of course.  In the meantime, McCaffey here is going to be leading you against Johnson in my place.  Any questions?”

“Yeah, I got a question—who the Hell are you?” The speaker was a tall, strapping redhead.

“I’m the man who’s going to lead you.  Any questions?”

The redhead spat out a chaw of the flax seed some of the men chewed instead of tobacco.  “I hear you’re a gunfighter.  I bet you ain’t so tough without that gun.”

McCaffey unbuckled his gun and handed it to St. Vyr.  “I’m not wearing my gun now.  Still think I’m not so tough?”

With a grin of pure joy, the redhead came in swinging. McCaffey ducked under the strike and hit his opponent in the belly with a hard left.  Red gave a grunt of pain and swung again with his right.  McCaffey caught the fist at the end of the swing and busted Red over his hip into the dirt.  Red sat there shaking his head to clear it until he realized the laughter and catcalls he heard were directed at him.

Mad now, he came up off the ground in a rush, intending to wrestle the smaller man to the ground where he could maul him properly. McCaffey ducked under Red’s flailing arms and delivered a hard uppercut to the chin.  Red went down and stayed down.

A bucket of water from the tricorn trough restored him enough to hear McCaffey asking if anyone else had questions. No one had any questions.  Red worked his jaw gingerly to make sure it still functioned before he spoke.  “Well, I guess you are pretty tough without your gun.”

“Now that’s settled,” St. Vyr said briskly, “we got some range grabbers to run off out at Ruby Canyon line camp.  Mount up.”

They headed south along the foothills towards Ruby Canyon.  The spring at Ruby Canyon had been part of the Velasquez Ranchero that St. Vyr had renamed the Golden Tricorn when he had purchased the place more than thirty years ago.

Of course, the fact that St. Vyr legally owned title to the land didn’t mean he could keep it unless he could defend it.  Three weeks ago, Johnson hands had moved a small herd of cattle into the canyon, driving out any Golden Tricorn beasts they could find, and taking over the line shack.

McCaffey had seen the place on the map in St. Vyr’s study, now he dismounted and walked forward examining the location in person.  The line cabin had been designed to repel raiders looking to steal whatever they could find. The cabin was set too close to the sheer walls of the canyon to be attacked from that side, and the broadleaf trees surrounding it had all been cleared, giving the hut a good view of the circling area.  Like many buildings on St. Antoni, it was made of clay bricks so it wouldn’t burn easily.  A thin trail of smoke wafted skyward from the chimney. McCaffey looked up at the angle of the sun thoughtfully.

“We’ll wait until dusk,” he said.  “Everyone take a break and clean your guns. Red, you can have the first watch.”

It was cool under the trees. The soft carpet of leaves made no sound as the men moved around. McCaffey and Stevens helped St. Vyr down from the saddle, steadying the older man as he sank down against a tree.

“You making it alright?”

St. Vyr grimaced.  “Bottle’s in my saddlebag.”

McCaffey fetched the brandy for him and waited in silence while he drank it. After a few minutes, St. Vyr let out a long sigh.

“You did good with the men this morning.  If you can do as well with Bethany, I’ll be able to die a happy man.”

McCaffey made a rude noise.  “You’re too mean and cantankerous to die, St. Vyr.”

The older man smiled mirthlessly.  “That’s a lie, but thanks anyway son.  Suppose you tell me what you’ve got in mind for this evening?”

It wasn’t too hard to sneak up the cabin in the dark.  The three men Johnson had left to guard the cattle were so sure St. Vyr was too crippled up to mount an assault on them that they hadn’t posted a guard.  McCaffey, Red and a big handsome vaquero named Durango stood on each other’s shoulders and threw a blanket over the top of the chimney.

About five minutes later, three would-be land grabbers came staggering out the door, their eyes streaming from the smoke, coughing and spitting to be confronted by the Golden Tricorn riders.  It was no contest.  Even three very tough men, and these men were tough, were too smart to offer resistance when confronted by twelve armed men just spoiling for a fight.

“You reckon we should hang them?” inquired Red innocently.  “I hear that’s what they do to cattle thieves down south.”

“We didn’t steal no cattle!” one of the men protested.  “Those steers are legal! And we work for the man what owns them!”

“You know, Amigo,” Miguel remarked, “Maybe they are right.  I think they are trespassers.  Maybe we should tie them on the cattle and send them all back to the owner?”

All three men were patently horrified.  It was obvious being tied to a wild cow was not their favorite form of entertainment.

McCaffey let this rough joshing of the prisoners go on until St. Vyr joined them.  An involuntary silence fell.  St. Vyr’s men were waiting for his judgement; the three hired guns were awed despite themselves. There was something about that tired, crippled old man that inspired fear.

St. Vyr sat his tricorn, his big hands resting on the saddle horn.  “Reckon you boys haven’t met my new son-in-law.  Come say hello, McCaffey.”

McCaffey stepped into the light cast by the oil lamp from the open door of the cabin. He ignored the three captives.  “I’ve been listening to a lot of interesting suggestions about what to do with these three, St. Vyr.  While I enjoyed the ideas, I think we ought to be proper law-abiding citizens and haul these three gentlemen (and I use the term loosely, very loosely) into town and charge them with trespass.  Them and their boss.”

St. Vyr laughed out loud.  “Son, you got an evil mind.  Did you know Representative Lancer is coming to River Crossing next week? I heard Johnson is trying to get in good with him.”

One of the captives suddenly peered at McCaffey.  “Hey, ain’t you Alec McCaffey?”

“Some people call me that.”

“How come he called you his son-in-law?”

“Cause he’s marrying my daughter Bethany come Sunday,” St. Vyr announced with satisfaction.

One of the men looked at McCaffey.  “I’d sure hate to be in your shoes when Emery Johnson hears about that.  He’s done got that little filly picked out for himself.”

McCaffey backhanded the man across the face, knocking him down.  “That’s Miss St. Vyr to you.  If I hear you refer to my future wife in such a disrespectful manner again, I’ll put a bullet where your mouth is.  Understand?”

“Geeze, you’re touchy! Sure, I understand,” the prone man said hastily.