REMINDER: I write long stories. Many chapters don’t have naughty bits, but those that do will be way more fun if you read the others, too! Also, although TT2 is a stand-alone novel, it takes place in the same family as Texas Trio, so you might want to read that one first! -Stefanie
They were the oddest family Brody had ever met.
Since Kendall and Wilson had seen fit to allow it, Brody had begun dropping by the house to sit on the porch after supper two or three times a week, though he’d skirted their directive by not mentioning his true motivation to Becky.
He justified his reticence by reasoning that Becky had lived on this remote ranch for several years. She was inexperienced and would surely refuse to be courted out of fear alone. He thought once she’d come to know him and was more comfortable in his presence, she’d be more likely to consent to walking out with him.
His deeper reasons for withholding the information went without conscious mention, but peeked fleetingly from the shadowy corners of his mind. He wanted her, but he wasn’t sure he should have her. He wasn’t sure he deserved to have her.
Rebecca Connor was a respectable young woman. She wasn’t just a virgin: she was a virtuous woman from an upper-class family, reared in refined circumstances which surely allowed her little contact with the seamier side of life. Even if she possessed some general knowledge of human sexuality- which he doubted- Becky would be ignorant of dark desires like Brody’s own.
The more he came to know her, the more complicated and interesting she became. At the same time, sacrificing a piece of himself to be with her seemed a more and more reasonable proposition. If he was successful in his pursuit, he expected the missing pieces of his sex life would eat at him occasionally over the years, but he thought just being near Becky would make up for whatever the union lacked.
In order not to be detected, he behaved with perfect propriety toward Miss Connor and every other member of the family, on the surface paying no one more attention than the rest, he believed. And they were an unusual bunch, to be sure.
To start with, you could hardly tell the family from the hired help without resorting to an examination of their wardrobes, and even that would only place Mrs. Connor and Rebecca above the rest. On a daily basis, Kendall and Wilson didn’t dress any differently from any of the men working on their ranch. To some extent, everyone dressed for dinner, and on Sundays, the family went all-out for church. Even Kendall, who didn’t attend services, put on a formal suit before the family came home to dine later that afternoon.
Caleb did not dress for dinner or any other meal, but his sporadic presence at table illustrated what Brody found most extraordinary about the family, even more unusual than the three-way marriage at the head of it: the seemingly unconscious mixing of races. The only time anyone showed that they were cognizant of skin color being an issue was when they left the ranch for a trip into town.
Though folks in and around Liberty Falls reacted with varying degrees of disapproval and prurient interest to the concept of a woman with two husbands- it wasn’t the only such alliance in the state, after all; this far west men outnumbered women at least five to one- there was hardly any dissension when the topic came around to a racially mixed marriage, especially when it involved a white woman.
Kendall wasn’t Christian, so church wasn’t an issue, but he often chose to stay in the shadows at other events, as well, keeping an eye on things without alarming the citizenry. Brody knew all about it because the family wasn’t trying to keep it quiet. At home, it was a topic addressed with teasing and mock alarm, since Kendall thought having splinters driven under his nails would be more fun than plastering a smile on his face and listening to inane “conversation.”
Maybe the lack of attention paid to race was partly due to Kendall being half Indian, Brody thought, though from what he could tell, Kendall and Caleb were the two most racist people on earth. They had no problem with nationalities unilaterally despised by the rest of the country- Chinese, Mexican, African, and Irish- but tribal prejudices were apparently endemic to the Indian race. After the first few times Brody heard them talking like that, he stopped trying to figure out anyone’s ancestry or alliances.
And then there was Clancy. To Brody’s disgust, he soon realized that spending time with Rebecca put him in constant contact with the evil elf responsible for his most recent broken nose. The leathery, one-legged devil lived in the stable, where Caleb had slept before his marriage, but unlike Caleb, Clancy spent much of his time at the house, entertaining the children, keeping an eye on the ladies while the men were away, and volunteering to taste-test everything coming out of the kitchen.
Plus being loudly unhappy escort ataşehir with Brody’s presence, of course.
Kendall and Wilson grinned silently whenever Clancy gave Brody a hard time, unless Mrs. Connor or the children were around. Then one of them would snap their fingers in his direction and, unbelievably, Clancy would shut his voluminous trap.
Mrs. Connor’s kindness was surely a huge part of the family’s equitable attitude, Brody thought. From her arrogant husbands right down to the meanest cowhand among them, practically everyone on the ranch loved Mrs. Connor. She treated Nanny as her mother, Yan as a daughter, and even had the nerve to swat Caleb’s hand away when he stole sweets before dinner. Nanny was the only other person who could get away with something like that without losing the hand. Even the children were cautious around Caleb, and those three had no native fear of anything at all, as far as Brody could see.
That was another check-mark in the column marked odd . . . the children.
Lily was obviously Kendall’s child, but the boys were a mystery. Everybody referred to them as “the twins,” but Brody suspected one of them was the child of a mistress, who Mrs. Connor had generously taken in to raise as her own. After watching for a while, though, he’d seen no difference whatsoever in the way she treated them, and at times, Brody thought he saw bits of her in both boys, and small resemblances between them.
Despite the novelty of a wholesome household stemming from such an unconventional alliance, he didn’t spend much time thinking about it, but Brody was damned curious about the two boys, he admitted to himself.
At first Becky was determined to maintain a cordial reserve with Mr. Easton. She seemed unable to handle his advances with aplomb, and she wanted to avoid any repetition of the awkward looks that had passed between them in the library and parlor. Soon, however, she came to believe he’d taken either her slap or her brothers’ threatening glares to heart. He paid no particular attention to her, and gradually her aloof manner relaxed into something closer to acceptance. She tried to look at him as merely another of her sister’s strays. His presence was inconvenient, since she’d rather forget him altogether, but unimportant in the long run.
She couldn’t help hearing what he said, however, and learned quite a bit about him during marathon interrogations conducted by Lily and the twins. Adults tended to progress rapidly from quizzing one another about their backgrounds to making shallow small talk as they became more familiar, but children were unfamiliar with the entire world: their introductory phase lasted forever. Brody obviously didn’t know much about kids, but he quickly adopted a practical approach to answering their endless litany of questions with short words and gentle humor.
Why? Why? Why?
Why do dogs chase rabbits?
Why don’t you have a mom?
Why don’t you have a dog?
“I like Topper better than any other dog; I come here to visit him instead of paying good money for a second-rate dog.”
Why don’t you play the fiddle?
“I tried to learn piano back in Ohio,” Brody answered, “but I couldn’t get the hang of it, so I learned to sing instead. My tongue doesn’t trip as much as my fingers did.” Then he taught them a funny song about a lady who kissed a bear. Mr. Easton had a lovely voice, Becky learned.
“Your eyes are a funny color,” said Jamie.
Nanny hissed at that, but Mr. Easton had already begun to answer, “I know! I always wanted purple eyes, but I got these boring grey ones! What do you think I should do?”
The children offered suggestions- pulling his hat down further being the least impractical.
Brody put his hat on like usual. “Like this?” Jamie and Kenny took turns trying to pull and push it down past his eyebrows, then tied his neckerchief across the bridge of his nose, and the whole family laughed at that. Except Colt and Clancy, of course.
Becky couldn’t help enjoying his sense of humor, and his stories were often disgustingly informative.
He told the children of a “great island” near Africa and the strange, monkey-like creature he’d seen there, with the mask and striped tail of a raccoon, but thumbs like a child. Mr. Easton mimicked a few of the animal’s many calls, including a hiccuping sound and a yodel.
While the children practiced their yodeling, Becky and Brody discussed evolution, and Jeremiah fetched a taxonomic reference from his lab to show the children pictures of a lemur.
Brody didn’t know nearly as much about science as she or Jeremiah, but Becky discovered he was interested in a great many things. She often found herself talking about plants or animals with him, though she tried to stay away from her favorite topic- geology- since she’d been in so much trouble lately over her explorations.
After several weeks of Mr. Easton’s visits, however, kadıköy escort their sporadic discussions of evolution led Becky inevitably to Lyell’s theory of stratification.
Since Brody knew nothing about geology unrelated to the practicalities of removing gold from rock and water, she began by explaining how multi-colored stripes in the rocks were formed. The limestone layers in nearby cliffs and canyons, for instance, had been created by the deposition of millions of dead sea creatures, layer upon layer upon layer, over aeons. Brody was silent for such a long time after her description that Becky began to think maybe he was one of those stupid, stubborn people who automatically regarded any radical, new knowledge as impossible. Or maybe he just doubted the veracity of intelligence imparted to him by a woman.
Then Brody started asking questions, and she forgot all that. Every answer she gave raised another question in Brody’s mind, and half his questions raised a question in hers, too.
How did sea creatures come to be in cliffs this far inland? If Texas was underwater at one time, how was it not underwater now? If fossils were formed in layers of stone, why weren’t there fossils in metals? He’d seen a lot of gold straight from the mine, and he’d never heard even a rumor about anything like that. What about quartz crystals? There weren’t any fossils in that, either, and it was rock, too, wasn’t it?
Their conversations about geology were so stimulating that Becky lost all her reservations about being around him. She forgot she was pretending he didn’t exist. One particular evening, she even forgot to go to bed. They talked so enthusiastically and at such length that everyone else drifted away, and Becky barely heard herself bidding them goodnight. One by one they slipped off to bed, until only Jem and Colt were left on the porch with Brody and Rebecca.
Finally, Becky paused to sip her drink, hoping to soothe a throat made sore by talking, and surprised Colt and Jem staring at her and Brody with a mixture of apprehension and amusement.
She looked from Brody, to Colt, to Jem, and back to Brody.
After a long moment spent absorbing the shock of her brothers’ suppositions, she flushed and stood so abruptly that she nearly knocked the drink from Brody’s hand as he hurried to rise, as well.
“Well, good night, gentlemen,” she said evenly.
Without looking at Brody, Becky fled into the house, leaving Colt and Jem grinning from ear to ear. Both men stood to face him down.
Colt stuck one thumb in his belt. “Guess you got no choice now, Easton. Ask her or don’t, but Becky better tell me she wants you settin’ on our porch before I see you out here again.”
He turned and went inside.
Jem lifted the lantern from the hook by Brody’s shoulder and followed his partner, leaving Brody alone in the dark.
Two days later, Becky was in the barnyard feeding chickens when Brody appeared, as though she’d conjured him with the confusion she’d been feeling since that night.
“Miss Connor.” He removed his hat, squinting in the afternoon sun. “I was wondering if I might have a word?”
Becky latched the door in the fence surrounding the chicken coop- they’d been having a grey fox problem recently, and the chickens were temporarily imprisoned until someone shot the fox. She turned toward the house without another glance at Brody. “I’m very busy today, Mr. Easton: perhaps some other time.”
Brody caught Becky’s hand, and she was forced to stop, her eyes flying to his face. She tried once to tug her hand from his grasp, but saw right away that was useless and stopped tugging.
“Mr. Easton-” she began.
“Miss Connor-” Brody interrupted, still holding her hand and standing much too close.
In the sun, Brody’s eyes sparkled like smoky quartz dotted with flecks of biotite and diamond. He studied her solemnly from his greater height and Becky couldn’t find the will to speak again. Only the soft scratching and clucking of the hens broke the silence between them.
Why couldn’t she cut him? Becky wondered. Not once since that day in the library had she been able to put him from her mind or put him in his place. She knew exactly how to handle men behaving in a forward manner. Girls of her social stratum learned it early and put it to use a dozen times each year, but Becky couldn’t muster the strength to give Brody Easton a chilly look and yank her hand away. Not a single searing comment rose to her lips. Instead, she waited, her heart fluttering and her hand in his, as his eyes ran over her face like a caress.
“Miss Connor, I’d be honored if you would allow me to call on you this evening.”
Becky’s lips parted enticingly, but no words came.
Brody was so close he didn’t even have to move his feet; he just shifted his weight from one to the other, and suddenly he was much, much closer, looming over her.
Slowly, so she had plenty of time maltepe escort bayan to protest, he bent his head. His grip on her hand gentled, but he didn’t release it or move to embrace her.
On a gasp, Becky drew in the air of his last exhalation, a second before his lips touched hers.
For the first time in her life, Becky’s wits completely failed her. No, not failed her, she thought later . . . deserted her altogether. When she’d first seen him in the library, Becky had been stunned into silence by his sheer good looks, but when Mr. Easton kissed her, it wasn’t only the power of speech which deserted her. When Mr. Easton kissed her, Becky’s brain packed a trunk and lit off for parts unknown.
Brody kissed Becky and everything else in the world was drowned in the swirling, kaleidoscopic sensation of his lips on hers. Her eyes flickered and closed, a roaring sound filling her ears. He was gentle, barely pressing his lips to hers, but the kiss was devastating. He ended it before she thought to, but Brody didn’t move away, and Becky stayed in exactly the same position, her eyes closed, her head tilted back, and her lips parted.
She felt as though the seas which had once covered this part of Texas had suddenly returned, flooding familiar settings, leaving her adrift on a watery landscape where nothing looked the same.
Having spent so much time sitting on the porch with her, Brody had come to know not only the depth of Becky’s passions but the will with which she clung to her standards. Becky could be swayed from her beliefs by reason and logic, but she wasn’t one to be budged from her chosen path by the push of another person’s casual desire. Since her actions last night and her answer only a moment before made it clear that Becky wasn’t interested in his attentions, he expected her to pull away. When that didn’t happen, he expected an outburst of anger, maybe another slap. When she simply stood silently, her lovely face flushed and upturned, Brody had no choice in the matter: he kissed her again.
He felt her sway, so Brody dropped her fingers and drew her into his arms. Hers wound themselves naturally around his neck. His kiss, which had been gentle, deepened when he felt her surrender. He drew her full bottom lip between his own, tipped his head, and parted her lips with his. Once, twice more he kissed her, letting his tongue play lightly across the delicious pink flesh just beyond her lips. He made himself keep his hands light and quiet on her back, when he wanted to hold her so closely not even air could come between them.
Scared, Brody told himself. She’s a virgin. She’ll be scared and shy.
Gently, he straightened, brushing the fine, soft curls away from her temple. For the first time, he noticed the deep, square scar near the edge of one eyebrow. His own brows dipped inward momentarily, but Becky’s lashes fluttered open, and Brody released her, forgetting the scar.
Becky swayed again, and he reached out to steady her, but this time she evaded him.
She stared for a few long moments, her normally expressive face empty of emotion. She stepped back and, without lowering her eyes, spoke calmly. “I’m flattered by your interest, Mr. Easton, but I don’t think that would be wise. Thank you, and good-bye.”
Unhurried, she turned and walked away.
He barely remembered riding Bear back to the bunkhouse or putting him up for the night. He didn’t undress, but did pull his boots off before falling backward onto his rough cornhusk mattress. He lay staring up at the ceiling, listening to twenty snoring cowboys, and felt nothing. He was empty.
Brody was no longer worried about whether his sexual needs could be accommodated within the confines of a traditional marriage. He didn’t give a shit about his sexual needs. Sometime between waking up with two black eyes and arguing with her about fish in the desert, Brody had come to the conclusion that he was falling in love with Rebecca Connor. After their kiss, he was sure she felt it, too, but for some reason, Rebecca Connor wanted nothing to do with him.
Brody lay awake most of the night, staring at nothing, his eyes and mouth dry, and his belly full of stone. Around dawn, he seriously considered pulling his gun from beneath the pillow, cocking it, and blowing the head off the man sleeping in the next bed, which would end Billy’s horrendous snoring, but might precipitate an even more violent episode of flatulence.
Fortunately for Billy, Brody drifted off without making a decision.
The foreman kicked his bunk an hour later, and Brody went back to work. For several days, that was all he did: work. Occasionally, he’d drink a cup of coffee, take a piss, or eat some beef and beans, but he didn’t bathe, didn’t speak, and he tried like hell not to think at all.
On the fifth day, Herman Arnold spit on Brody’s boot and got his arm broken in return, along with a split lip, a cracked tooth, and two black eyes. It took four men to break up the fight, but only one of them was holding Herman. Finally, the foreman cocked Brody in the head with the butt of his rifle, knocking him senseless. He gestured to Brody’s crumpled form. “Throw him in the creek, but don’t let him drown.”