Saturday, November 26, 2011
Sweet Saturday Sample: Excerpt Five from Ride to Raton
After several weeks of sore trials--including getting shot for being in the wrong place at the wrong time--James Owen is again on his way in Ride to Raton. Having come across someone with more misfortune than himself, James buries the man and decides to try notifying his family of his demise. He takes a leather pouch to give to the kin, and proceeds toward the nearest town, where he looks up a former Virginia neighbor.
The plank door opened inward, and Tom O’Connor’s thick body filled the space. He was bootless, and his large hands hurriedly hoisted suspenders over bare shoulders. Thrusting his head forward, he blinked in the sunlight, and his black brows drew together as he frowned. The woman’s voice coming from deep inside the room kept up the flood of sharp, foreign words.
It was evident that the man had been about some private business. James inhaled noisily and wished he could twist away like a wind spiral he’d seen whipping up snowflakes the day before. Then the scowl on Tom’s face changed to resignation, and he crooked his neck to turn his head toward the room.
“¡Cállate! Tenemos visitante,” he hollered. “We’ve got company, so hush up.”
“I reckon I come at the wrong time,” James muttered.
Tom’s face returned to view. “You’re Rod Owen’s son. James, isn’t it? How old are you, boy?”
James felt a creeping flush crossing his jaw, and hoped his beard was full enough by now to hide it. “Old enough to know I ain’t a welcome sight. I’ll be going.”
“No, you come along in. It’ll keep.” His right eyelid lowered in a slow wink. “But Rosalinda won’t like it. I reckon she won’t take to you right off. I been away for a while, and she likes my company.”
The man stepped back from the door and motioned for James to enter the comfortable room. “Come along in, now. Set down and rest your feet.” He walked James to the table and sat down. “Rosalinda, fetch some food. Comida,” he said, then turned his head toward the young man. “I’m teachin’ her English, now that I got some of her tongue learned. You’re hungry?”
“I came to say hello, not to clean out your larder,” James said. But he sat anyway—in a chair like any chair, yet foreign to his eyes—and took off his hat, rolled it between his fingers, then hung it on the chair back next to him.
He could see Tom had married a girl from a decent home, because the finish on that table he sat up to was slick enough to mirror every whisker on a body’s face. Right then, he looked more scruffy than polished, and shame licked at his gizzard like a flame searching for fuel.
“We’ve plenty of food.” Tom swiveled in his chair and shouted toward the fireplace. “¡Comida, mujer! Step lively.”
James fished in his pocket to feel the letter as the woman dropped a plate in front of him. Hush my mouth, she’s angry, he thought, jerking up his chin. As his eyes met hers, he knew he had offended Rosalinda
Of medium height, with eyes black and furious, tucking her white blouse hastily into the waistband of her skirt, Rosalinda backed off and shook untamed hair behind her shoulders. “I no am happy,” she declared.
He shook his own head to break contact with those hot eyes. Rosalinda O’Connor was a beauty, and seemed to give off crackles of lightning that sapped his strength. She was like no one he had ever met before.
One deep breath revived him. “Your wife is Spanish?”
“Mexican. Her family owns most of the land between here and the Apishapa River. Ain’t she purty?”
“You got to get you a stronger word, Tom O’Connor. I never laid eyes on anybody akin to her before.” James’s voice sank to a whisper. “Does she get riled like that regular?”
The blacksmith threw his muscled torso backward against his chair, barking out his laugh. “Ain’t you a caution. Eat up, James, boy. Your grub’s getting cold.”
Thinking it polite to eat, James listened with half an ear to Tom’s comments about the condition of horse’s hooves on the surrounding farms as he tucked into the food. From time to time he glanced up, keeping track of Rosalinda’s movements at the fireplace.
He had always thought of his own black hair as ordinary: crisp and curly, yes, but common enough. Rosalinda’s hair was straight, black as fireplace soot, and hung to her elbows.
Then a wonderment came upon him, a yearning to know how that hair would feel strung between his fingers like the mane of an unsaddled horse. Hair to be touched, he thought, then jerked himself upright in his seat. Hair to be left alone. She’s a woman wed. Like Ellen. Pain swept from his ears to his toes at the thought, and he felt his face creasing in a grimace.
Rosalinda startled James with laughter. “You no am happy, too.” She pulled down the corners of her mouth with her fingers, imitating what she saw on his face. Turning her back to dish up food for her husband, she laughed again.
“Tarnation! Is she pokin’ fun at me?” His hands balled into fists, and he breathed deep for a moment. “First she’s riled, then she makes a face and laughs.”
Tom chuckled. “You ain’t likely to meet up with another woman like mine. She’s got some moods, and they change three to the minute, but she can cook mighty fair, and she sure chased off the lonesome.” He looked up from his food and pursed his lips. “I reckon I’m a man needs to be married, and I’m right lucky to find her.”
James didn’t want to believe himself so mean spirited that he would begrudge Tom a bit of happiness after he’d been a widower for a couple of years, but his words touched fire down James’s spine. Something Tom had said burned hot into his soul, but the blacksmith went on speaking, and James couldn’t sort out his first words and pay mind to the rest at the same time. He decided to listen now and ponder later.~~~
Ride to Raton is available from Smashwords.com in many electronic book formats, and from Amazon.com in print and Kindle editions. Also available at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and Amazon.fr. Search term: "Marsha Ward"
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