WHEN GISELLE and Iris arrived back home without Jeanne, Michael, as Giselle had predicted, had a fit.
Calmly sipping the tea Margo had brought her, Giselle waited until her son had stopped yelling, before she attempted to explain matters to him.
“Are you done?” she asked, when he paused for breath.
“Where is my daughter?” he demanded.
“Your daughter Iris is sitting over there,” she pointed to where Iris, who was making a good attempt at being invisible, was sitting. “I believe Bethany went out to the racing stable.”
He glared at her. “You know those aren’t the girls I’m referring to! I can see Iris and I had breakfast with Bethany this morning! Where is Jeanne?”
“By now she and her new husband are in Azure City setting up housekeeping on my farm there.”
“Mother, you know I had plans for Jeanne. Plans that would keep the ranch, the mine and the railroad holding safe for the family.”
Giselle set her cup down and added more tea to it. “I know you did, and I agreed with most of it. However, Jeanne didn’t want to marry the man you picked out for her, and forcing her would have been wrong. You know that.”
“I wasn’t going to force her,” he protested. “Any more than I forced Bethany or Iris. If she didn’t like the first man, we could have found another—”
“Jeanne had already found her man,” his mother told him gently.
“So why not bring him to meet me? What is wrong with him?”
“As far as I could tell, nothing is wrong with him except his family, and he gave them up to be with her.”
Michael’s eyes narrowed. “What is his name?”
“The marriage license reads Tomas Clancy.”
“Stop stalling mother.”
She took another sip of tea. “Your daughter Jeanne was married to Samuel Johnson two weeks ago in Junction City.”
“What?” her son howled. “Are you out of your mind? You just handed all our holdings over to Ira Johnson!”
“No, I have not. I have—”
“Mother,” he said, carefully controlling his voice, “I see that you wanted Jeanne to be happy. I do too, but once Johnson finds out about the marriage—”
“If he finds out before matters here come to a head, I have a power of attorney, signed by Jeanne, turning all her shares in your properties over to her sisters. In the event of anything happening to any of us, she revokes any interest in the ranch, the mine and the railroad shares. I have the same signed by Samuel as her husband. His has a rider that under no circumstances is control ever to be turned over to his father or his brother.”
Michael St. Vyr made a disgusted sound. “Do you really think that is going to stop Johnson? Don’t play the fool Mother.”
She nodded. “That is why Jeanne and Samuel are going to be living under assumed names.” She shrugged, “The boy isn’t his father, Michael. Jeanne trusts Samuel, and I have never known your daughter to make a mistake judging men. I agree a few pieces of paper won’t stop Johnson, but that is why you brought in Alec and Carlos as husbands for Bethany and Iris isn’t it?”
At this, Iris sat up with a jerk. “What about Carlos? What do you mean?”
“Quit fretting girl,” her father said. “Carlos took a couple of men up into the hills to hunt claim jumpers. He’ll be back in a couple of days.”
“What?” his daughter cried. “That’s dangerous! He could get himself killed!”
Her father spared her a glance. “No, he won’t. You got a lot to learn about your husband, girl. Get your head out of those romance books. Carlos can handle himself.”
He frowned over at his mother. “You’re not telling me everything. What are you leaving out?”
“Mike Franks saw Jeanne and Samuel getting on the train in Junction City. We need to take the fight to the Johnsons soon. I had Franks sent upriver with some boatmen, but they plan to let him go at the end of their northern run. At best, we will have only a few months to remove Johnson as a threat before Franks returns and tells Johnson about the marriage.”