Saturday, February 23, 2008
Excerpt from Silverhills
The ramrod absently smoothed his mustache. Something wasn’t right. The boy was hiding something. He could smell it. And the last thing he needed was trouble on this drive.
Cookie glanced at the foreman’s set face and the boy’s belligerent one and interjected hastily, “You know, Mr. Wade, I could sure use some help.”
The foreman’s eyes bore into the youth. The boy stared back, his thumbs hooked in his belt. The silence stretched between them, broken only by the lapping river and the monotonous croaking of a bullfrog on its banks.
He’s one of the handsomest men I’ve ever seen, Alexandria thought irrelevantly. The man was well over six foot with wide shoulders and a hard-muscled body that his shirt and chaps did little to disguise. His face alone would send a spinster’s heart aflutter, with thick tawny hair and cool green eyes. A mustache accented his thin lips.
Finally, Brandon said, “What’s your name, kid?”
Alexandria paused for a heartbeat then extended her hand and gave him her childhood nickname. “Alex, Alex O’Malley.”
The foreman gripped it, his hand engulfing hers. If Wade noticed the brief hesitation, he kept it to himself. “Those hands are a bit on the small side, soft too. But I guess as long as they can hold a rope, they’ll do. Pay is thirty-five dollars a month.”
“Thank you, Mr. Wade,” Alexandria said in her husky voice, as Brandon dropped her hand.
The foreman slapped a mosquito on his neck then jerked his head toward the cook. “Thank him. He’s the reason you’ve got the job.”
Brandon pierced his cook with a sharp gaze. “The lad’s your responsibility. Keep him out of trouble.” Without waiting for a reply, the foreman strode on toward camp.
“Well, boy, looks like you got yourself a job.” Cookie grinned from ear to ear.
Alexandria, who had been staring after the foreman, watching his long-legged easy stride, blinked, “Appears I do.” She turned back to the cook and dealt with the matter at hand. “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble my dog and I would purely love some grub.”
As if on cue, Mongrel barked and thumped his tail against the dusty trail.
“And I thankee for getting me the job,” Alexandria added, remembering her manners.
“You might not be thanking me after you’ve been at it awhile.” His brows drew together as he scowled at her. “You gonna complain about my cookin’?”
“In that case, I think I can round up some beans for you and a hambone for your dog.” Cookie clapped her on the back then, with his slightly bowlegged gait, started back toward camp.
Leading Dancer, Alexandria fell in step behind him. Mongrel jumped up and trotted ahead, waving his plumy tail from side to side.
Alexandria let her breath out in a long sigh of relief. Everything was going to be okay. She had fooled them. Even the foreman, whose gaze was so penetrating it felt like he could lift her secrets right out of her head. And at least for now, she was safe, safe from the monster chasing her.